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What is the Best Handgun Caliber for Self-Defense and Concealed Carry?

Posted 11/02/2014 5:11 am by


“What is the best handgun caliber for self-defense?” is the most talked about topic among shooters and most confusing for new shooters. In fact if you Google this there are millions of pages and forum posts and varying opinions on the topic. Many of which are very heated debates on the issue. In reality the best handgun caliber for you may not be the same for me or the situation I am likely to find myself in. This article will take a very rational approach to the topic and look at the factors you need to consider when selecting your preferred calibers. This is meant to be informative and thought provoking to all preppers and shooters no matter their background on this topic.


Any Bullet is Better then No Bullet.


Yes every bullet can kill someone. A .22lr is just as lethal as a .50 Action Express(AE) with proper shot placement and conditions. In an SHTF scenario a person would use any round they can get their hands on. That’s why such products as 12 Gauge barrel adapters exist to allow someone to use any cartridge they can scavenge from a single gun. For a prepper this debate is pretty much geared towards what to stockpile and what caliber firearms you should own. The question “if you had to bug out with only one handgun what would it be?” also comes to mind because lets face it most gun owners treat guns more like fashion accessories and have one for every occasion. That said it’s important to get some reactive shooting targets and go the range and working on being a good shooter with any caliber or gun not just you preferred. That way in SHTF you are effective no matter what you have at that moment.


So why does handgun caliber matter?


Each Caliber has unique properties and limitations. Some are better for concealment like a 380 ACP. Some are better for taking down big game like a 44 Magnum or 10mm Auto. Some are more economical to shoot and carry like 22lr or 9mm. So when you approach the debate as they are all good in different conditions there really isn’t a single “best handgun caliber”. The question becomes “which one is best for me and my situation?” Which the rest of this article will attempt to address.


Removing The Stopping Power Bias


Many discussion on this topic focus solely on “stopping power.” While I believe we should give stopping its due respect we should also keep an open mind. Yes the ability to stop a target in it’s tracks is very important factor. This factor has a lot more to do with the type of ammo you carry over the caliber with the key being hallow points. And even though .22lr has a low stopping power compared to many rounds you might consider that fact that a 22lr round tumbles and bounces around inside the body makes it more lethal in many ways. Stories of police facing attackers on drugs like PCP have brought the topic of stopping power to the forefront of other factors. The ballistics principles of stopping power focus on the amount of damage inflicted on the body by the energy transferred from the bullet. This along with hydro-static shock make up the modern day concept of stopping power. This basis is still simply a guideline given that persons of shear willpower have been known to fight long after they should have been dead from their wounds. The key is to make sure under stress you can accurately deliver one or more shots to the heart or head with your chosen caliber.


Balance of Factors


When picking a caliber and gun you should balance number of factors according to your situation, your needs and your ability. Carrying a “man-stopper” caliber like .357 and 45 ACP means nothing if you can’t hit your target under stress. The following I believe are the key considerations to selection.



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