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The Best Handgun Calibers for Self Defense

Handgun Calibers for Self DefenseCONSIDERING THIS ARGUMENT HAS BEEN RAGING since handgun bullets were invented, this article won’t help in settling it.

Handgun caliber is a religious choice, and each caliber has many adherents.

Terms like knock down power and punch are bandied about by armchair experts and have been for years.

The argument from a home defense weapon standpoint is somewhat incomplete by just simply looking at bullet sizes “ in order to compare different calibers of handgun ammo, many factors need to be looked at.

Woman Shooting GunShot Placement is Just as Important

First and foremost, it goes without saying that a miss from a .500 S&W Magnum is still a miss.

Unless you hit what you’re aiming at with your handgun, it doesn’t matter what caliber you are using.

Similarly, unless you hit what you’re aiming for in a vital area, you won’t stop the threat.

Vital areas are clearly upper torso and head shots “ sure, you might get lucky and clip a femoral artery or something similarly vital, but we’re talking mainly upper torso and headshots here.

Handgun Bullet SizesBullet Size Explained

If all you’re doing is saying that a .50 caliber bullet is better than a .22 caliber bullet, you are only partially correct. There is some truth to the bigger is better angle from a kinetic energy standpoint.

A larger bullet simply brings more energy to bear on a target when compared to a smaller one.

A crude comparison would be that of a moving vehicle. If you were hit by a motorcycle traveling at 50 miles per hour while standing in the street, you’d probably be seriously injured, but not necessarily dead.

How about a Mack truck traveling at the same speed? They would be cleaning up your remains with a sponge. The bigger vehicle imparts more kinetic energy due to the mass it has. Similarly, a 9mm bullet will impart less kinetic energy than a .45, plain and simple.

Bullet VelocityMuzzle Velocity

But wait, there’s more! We haven’t yet spoken about velocity. Muzzle velocity is the speed that the bullet is traveling from the moment it departs the muzzle of the gun.

Muzzle velocities can vary from approx. 350 ft/sec to more than 4,000 ft/sec with modern high powered rifles.

With velocity, let’s look at the motorcycle versus Mack Truck example. This time, the Mack is moving at 10mph and the motorcycle at 200mph ¦.guess what “ the motorcycle is now a moving scalpel.

In the case of the 9mm vs .45 debate (nay, endless debate), one thing most people comparing the two bullet weights notice is that the 9mm has a much higher velocity than the .45 “
it’s running at 1300fps depending on barrel length, while the .45 is around 800fps “ a huge difference.

Does the .45 impart more kinetic energy? Yes, velocity aside, it still does. Does this necessarily mean that it more lethal than the 9mm? No, they are equally lethal.

There are urban legends out there that go something like They emptied a full clip of 9mm into the guy “ just made him angrier  Yeah “ right.

A vital shot with a 9mm will be a kill shot. The room usually goes silent when you mention that .22 Long Rifle kills more people annually than any other caliber combined.

Handgun magazineMagazine Capacity

In people’s large caliber fixations, they also tend to forget about capacity.

Modern 9mm handguns can carry as much as 30 rounds of ammunition in a single magazine “ while the highest capacity .45 is approximately 14, and you really have to go out of your way to find one with that capacity.

Whichever way you slice it, more ammo is better. If it wasn’t that way, the military would be using all .50 caliber projectiles.

There is a reason why the military moved to the 5.56 NATO round “ it weighs almost exactly half of what a .308 round weighs, meaning an individual soldier could carry double the ammo.

This isn’t to advocate smaller, lighter bullets for home defense. There are times when you can’t get away from larger bullet weights. They are necessary for big game hunting, sniping, and various other applications.

Plus, if you live in a state where ammunition capacities are limited to ten rounds per magazine, you may as well go for the bigger bullet caliber since it won’t hurt.

Federal Hollow PointsDon’t Forget Hollow Points

Don’t forget to consider hollow point bullets for your self defense ammunition.

No matter what caliber weapon and ammo you choose, you definitely want to use hollow point bullets for your self defense kit. Yes, they are way more expensive than range ammo and only contain 20 per box. But isn’t your life worth the few extra dollars?

Bottom Line

What it all boils down to is which caliber works best for you. Women and small framed people do best with small calibers and can place follow up shots better due to their being less recoil.

Keep in mind that when you pull the trigger on that .44 magnum the recovery time to get your sights back on the target is considerable no matter what your physique is like.

In that extreme example, a guy could fire off two or three rounds in the time it takes Dirty Harry to fire one.

A final word on calibers is to shoot what’s available and don’t go off the beaten path with strange pistol calibers as they cost too much to practice regularly with and they aren’t available everywhere.

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About Art

Art R. has written 128 post in this blog.

Art researches and writes about guns, gun holsters, and gun accessories, and a variety of related topics within the Hunting and Shooting Sports industries.

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