You can’t really expect American Rifleman to tell its readers what caliber to carry in their self-defense gun. For one thing, American Rifleman is an NRA publication; the gun rights org gets big bucks from ammunition suppliers. For another, it’s a Miller Lite-type dilemma: great penetration or more expansion? Blowing a hole through the bad guy’s vitals or causing maximum tissue damage (“pain”). Field Editor Richard Mann continues the caliber wars by gelatin-testing some 100 rounds for velocity, penetration and expansion (excluding my chosen .45 carry Hornady Critical Defense). Mr. Mann provides all the raw data in a few charts that studiously avoid ranking the rounds. [Click here to view.] He sums up the “result” this way . . .
So, should you carry the combination you think will cause the most pain or the one you think will penetrate through to the vitals no matter the shot angle and regardless of what gets in the bullet’s way? Common sense should tell us that the failsafe, penetration, is our first priority; if pain fails to stop the attack—and it might—we have to rely on the bullet’s ability to drive through vital organs. The ability to inflict the maximum amount of pain should be our second goal. This makes choosing the handgun/bullet combination simple—you want the combination that penetrates to a sufficient depth and damages the most tissue in the process.
Yes, but what about the shooter’s ability to handle a given round’s recoil and, thus, place his or her shots accurately? And how about the concealability factor, which precludes carrying, say, a .50-caliber (Action Express) Desert Eagle? The cost to practice? Magazine capacity restrictions?
Hey Nick, maybe we should create an algorithm, plug-in this data and tell the truth about self-defense calibers? It’s a tough job . . . .