Factors in choosing a caliber

Factors in choosing a caliber

This is a discussion on Factors in choosing a caliber within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I think that many of the "caliber wars" disagreements stem from differences in the factors we use to evaluate different calibers, rather than disagreement about ...

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Thread: Factors in choosing a caliber

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array Blackeagle's Avatar
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    Factors in choosing a caliber

    I think that many of the "caliber wars" disagreements stem from differences in the factors we use to evaluate different calibers, rather than disagreement about the calibers themselves. If it were just a matter of terminal ballistics or one-shot-stop figures, there would be a lot less disagreement. However, there are a lot of other factors that go into choosing a caliber (and a handgun to fire it from). The force-on-force course I recently attended has led me to reevaluate the factors I use to choose what caliber to carry. These new factors haven't actually caused me to change my mind on what caliber I carry (though it is probably going to lead me to change my carry gun), but it might change the advice I give to others.

    All things being equal, I'd say that a bigger caliber is always better. The problem is, all things are never equal. If they were, we'd all be carrying guns chambered for .50 AE or S&W .500 Magnum. While that might work in the movies, in reality we've got to deal with a lot of other factors.

    I've generally favored the idea that a person should carry the biggest caliber they can shoot well. Essentially, the two most important factors for me were power, and shootability. Concealability came in at a distant third, and capacity was way out there in fourth place somewhere. Now, this doesn't mean I would recommend that everybody carry a single shot derringer, but I always figured that anything in the 6-8 shot range would be fine (particularly in an autopistol since it could be reloaded quickly). Getting some experience in force-on-force has really changed that.

    Now I should say that I've always been a proponent of the "shoot them to the ground philosophy". If someone is trying to kill me, I'm not going to fire two shots, then stop to asses their condition. I'll keep shooting until they no longer present a threat. So I've always expected that I might have to expend quite a few shots on each target. However, still I figured that my 8 shot mags would be OK. That would probably be enough rounds to deal with an adversary or two, and I carry two backups so if I ran dry I could always shove a fresh one in. Taking the force-on-force class convinced me that I really needed to think about a higher capacity magazine, particularly in a confrontation with multiple BGs. The speed at which the force-on-force gunfights developed really surprised me. It convinced me that if I ran dry while the fight was still on, I'd stand a good chance of getting shot unless I was behind some good cover, and cover isn't always available. I want enough rounds to finish the fight without reloading, even when facing multiple BGs.

    Thanks to my newfound appreciation for hi-cap mags, my new advice to someone choosing a caliber would be, "Carry the biggest caliber that you can shoot well in a pistol with a high-capacity magazine. The most important factors for me now are power, shootability, and capacity. Concealment is a factor, but in my mind it's less important than the other three. As I said at the beginning, this change in view is pushing me towards another pistol (one with a high-cap mag), but it hasn't led me to change calibers. I've got hands big enough to wrap around a large-caliber double stack. However, if someone's hands weren't big enough to wrap around the 2x4 sized grip of a large-caliber hi-cap pistol, now I would recommend going to a smaller caliber hi-cap, rather than carrying fewer rounds of a larger caliber.

    Well, that's how my philosophy has changed. I'd like to know what factors others consider most important when choosing a caliber. However, I don't want this to turn into another "caliber wars" thread. You'll notice that I got all the way through this post without mentioning what caliber I actually carry. I know it's a lot to ask (given the religious fervor of the caliber debate) but I'd really like this discussion to focus on the factors that you use to decide on a caliber, not the caliber itself; the why rather than what.


  2. #2
    Ex Member Array Pete's Avatar
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    So are you looking at getting a double stack 1911?

    I think then a new issue would be added to the mix, that of reliability.

    I had a Para Ordnance Tac Four that regularly jammed regardless of ammo and/or smithing. I know this isn't a fully representative sample but it spooked me.

    I changed to a .40 caliber full capacity polymer pistol. I will get a .45 caliber polymer soon enough.

    I agree that capacity is a primary concern. But I am happy with anything 9mm or above.

  3. #3
    Ex Member Array azchevy's Avatar
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    My take is:

    I am not LE so I do not plan into getting into a running gun battle with multiple armed BG's.

    If I do I will bring my main battle rifle not my sidearm.

    I do not go to malls, schools, or other public events, I keep to myself and I stay away from large groups so no threat of terrorist attack there. I shop at 1-2am, I work from home 80% of the time and I live rural.

    I would like to see stats on citizens encounters, how many BG's faced, and how many shots are fired. I bet it is significantly less that the LE encounters.

    All I see is stats on LE gunbattles which of course are worse. These guys are shooting at cops for christs sake. When a citizen encounters someone they are attacking because the BG feels you are weak and an easy target, not a well armed, well trained, body armor wearing LE.

    That being said I will stick with my single stack 1911 in good ole .45 or my double stack .45 Taurus BUG

    If SHTF and it becomes gang battles in the streets then I will pick up my 40rd cap rifle and deal with that threat as I see fit. Until then I am not going to run out and buy large capacity round handgun/mags.
    Last edited by azchevy; May 10th, 2007 at 02:51 PM.

  4. #4
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    for the most part , I agree with azchevy's assessment. How many BG's are gonna stay and fight if you fight back with a lethal weapon?
    I feel confident I can fight with a 8 shot pistol , because I am much more likely to carry it, than a hi cap(larger gun). CC is a compromise of the best option vs. concealability , as well as comfort.
    We all need to assess our own risks and plan accordingly.
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    Good points, blackeagle. These are indeed the factors we should be considering, though how each factor is weighted will obviously vary significantly from person to person based on - among other things - their perceptions of the threats they face, their definition of "power" as it applies to handgun rounds, their ability to conceal a given handgun, their hand size and comfort factor, and so on and so on.

    To add to your list (which I agree covers the Majors), I would add these:

    Cost - Lower cost equals more shooting for the same amount of money, or, same amount of shooting and more professional training. I think all of us here will agree that being better trained and more proficient is the number one thing that will increase your chance of survival, and platform/caliber/capacity are all secondary to that.

    Availability - A round that is difficult to find, rare, or otherwise obscure could cause problems in a worst case scenario...
    A man fires a rifle for many years, and he goes to war. And afterward he turns the rifle in at the armory, and he believes he's finished with the rifle. But no matter what else he might do with his hands - love a woman, build a house, change his son's diaper - his hands remember the rifle.

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    Senior Member Array jeep45238's Avatar
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    1. Can I shoot it and land all rounds 9 ring or better rapid fire?

    2. Does it hold at a minimum 10+1 rounds? (I'm currently looking at 10, 12, and 16 round capable guns as a replacement for mine, prior to reading this post)

    3. Can I afford to practice with the gun, and maintain/improve my proficiency with it? Can I afford the gun to start with?

    4. Can I buy ammunition off the shelf anywhere?

    5. Is the platform concealable/psuedo-concealable?


    Those are my requirements in no particular order.

    And no, I don't care if it was bright pink. If the bright pink cartridge, or gun, did the job, reliably, sign me up.
    ~Mike F.
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  7. #7
    VIP Member Array Blackeagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 0.02 View Post
    So are you looking at getting a double stack 1911?

    I think then a new issue would be added to the mix, that of reliability.

    I had a Para Ordnance Tac Four that regularly jammed regardless of ammo and/or smithing. I know this isn't a fully representative sample but it spooked me.

    I changed to a .40 caliber full capacity polymer pistol. I will get a .45 caliber polymer soon enough.
    I've heard some of the same things about the double stack 1911s. Currently all the pistols I'm looking at are combat tupperware.

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    VIP Member Array Blackeagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by azchevy View Post
    My take is:

    I am not LE so I do not plan into getting into a running gun battle with multiple armed BG's.
    My take is a little different. If I'm going to face a violent crime, I think the odds of there being more than one BG are pretty good. After all, the BGs aren't looking for a fair fight. One way for them to make the fight as unfair as possible is to make it two on one, or three on one.

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    Ex Member Array azchevy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackeagle View Post
    My take is a little different. If I'm going to face a violent crime, I think the odds of there being more than one BG are pretty good. After all, the BGs aren't looking for a fair fight. One way for them to make the fight as unfair as possible is to make it two on one, or three on one.
    Like I said I would like to see some solid stats on BG's attacking civilians. Not LE shootouts lumped into the equation.

  10. #10
    Distinguished Member Array Bob The Great's Avatar
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    For me, it was a balance between caliber and capacity, in a compact frame gun that felt like an extension of my own hand, and would not break on me.

    I don't think any of us plan on encountering more than one BG at a time, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. If I were planning to meet BG's, I would bring my AR and my USP, whether there were one or ten of them.

    Two or three-on-one attacks have happened in the past, just as SHTF situations have happened. I feel equally justified in preparing for both, without statistics that say either one is especially likely to happen to me.

  11. #11
    VIP Member Array obxned's Avatar
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    I choose the size/weight pistol that I can easily carry in the clothing I would normally wear at that time of year. My clothes should not make me stand out from the rest of the people.

    After size and weight dictates what possibilities willl work, the bigger the hole in the muzzle, the better. Naturally, in the real world, price, availability, and reliability are also very important.
    "If we loose Freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the Last Place on Earth!" Ronald Reagan

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    Senior Member Array jeep45238's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by azchevy View Post
    Like I said I would like to see some solid stats on BG's attacking civilians. Not LE shootouts lumped into the equation.
    Going by all the recent reports around campus, every incident has had at least 2 BG's, with more and more of them being 3 in a group on one victim with a get-away-car-driver separate.
    ~Mike F.
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    Senior Member Array Shizzlemah's Avatar
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    1) Reliability with carry ammo. If it works only with ball, carry ball and see #3!
    2) Accuracy (maybe not x-ring, but cosistent)
    3) Power / Caliber

    Then it's a matter of concealability and capacity.
    Last edited by Shizzlemah; May 10th, 2007 at 11:18 PM. Reason: -

  14. #14
    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackeagle View Post
    All things being equal ... The problem is, all things are never equal.
    That's about right.

    Thoughts.
    Your best weapon is your brain. Don't leave home without it.
    Thoughts: Justifiable self defense (A.O.J.).
    Explain: How does disarming victims reduce the number of victims?
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    VIP Member Array farronwolf's Avatar
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    Ok,

    Here is a page, although it is a bit dated from 1992 to 1998. There are lots of facts about crime and victimization. Way down on the 8th page is one sentence that says over 75% of the victims say that there was only 1 attacker. But lots of good data about crime and victims in here. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/ivc98.pdf

    That being said, my primary reason for carrying what I care is the ease of concealability with my daily attire. I wear Levi's 501' and a tucked in polo type shirt almost daily, weekends it is a tucked in t-shirt. That is why I carry IWB strong side tucked. I have not come across a pistol so far that is going to conceal as the one that I have choosen. Unless you happen to see the bottom of the J clip, against the bottom of my black belt and know what it is, you will never know that I have a pistol on me. Smart carries don't work for me, front pocket definately doesn't, small of back is a pain, and tears up car seats, most any other form requires a cover garment or untucking shirts.

    Some may think the caliber is small, but I can live with it. I carry 7 in the pistol and an extra mag of 7 in my tuck this holster. All are either corbon or speer gold dot, they feed reliably and have good penetration and expand well from my test and all the tests I have seen. If I find a larger caliber pistol that I can conceal as easy as my bersa, I might think about changing, but have yet to find one, even the larger caliber bersas. When I carry my 1911 I am forced to wear a vest, and here in Texas is not practicle for about 10 months of the year.

    I am not going to stick around and have a prolonged gun battle with anyone. My intention is to put the rounds in the target where they need to be. As my signature states, quality is much better than quantity or power for me. I will leave the long gun battles to the paid law enforcement people.
    Just remember that shot placement is much more important with what you carry than how big a bang you get with each trigger pull.
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