handgun ammunition ammo
Dan Z. for TTAG
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By Eric J.

So, which carry handgun caliber is the “best”? After exhaustive research of the comment sections of various blogs and online forums, I have determined which cartridge is the best for defensive carry. Behold, the classic argument has now been settled for all time.

The .380 ACP is admittedly weak but it’s totally worth it if the only gun you can carry is a small one. But if you’re going to carry something that size, you might as well go for the reliability and versatility or a .38 special revolver.

Then again, .38 special itself is wholly inadequate as a service/defense cartridge when using traditional lead round nose bullets and is downright anemic compared to the .357 magnum.

The .357 magnum is fantastic, but has fairly stiff recoil and of course a revolver only holds 6 rounds, so you should go with the lesser recoil and higher capacity of 9mm Luger automatic.

The 9mm Luger is perfectly acceptable and has a good track record, except if you think it doesn’t or it isn’t manly or you use 147 gr ball, in which case the .40 Smith & Wesson is a good round, combining larger diameter than 9mm Luger and more energy than .45 ACP with less recoil than a hot .45 ACP load.

Of course if you’re going to step up to .40 S&W from 9mm you might as well go to .45 ACP because it is larger than .40 S&W and has less snappy recoil and is more manly/patriotic; besides which, contrary to what I just said the .40 S&W really combines the worst of .45 ACP and 9mm Luger, as it has higher recoil than 9mm Luger and smaller diameter than .45 ACP.

But .45 ACP bullets don’t go very fast and are overrated because what really matters is hydrostatic shock, which is where the .357 SIG comes in: less recoil than .40 S&W and .45 ACP and terminal ballistics like .357 Magnum.

Unfortunately, .357 SIG is kinda snappy and has intimidating flash and blast; it’s also super-expensive so maybe 9mm Luger is a good choice for gentle recoil, low expense, and lower muzzle blast.

And none of this matters if you won’t carry the gun, and that is where a small subcompact automatic in .380 ACP comes into its own and [RETURN TO BEGINNING]

(And if you, dear reader, happen to have an opinion on this matter, I’m sure you’ll be so kind as to educate us all in this post’s comment section.)

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  1. You might have walked on the water, but your sense of humor fell in and drowned. That was some funny loop-de-loop going on!

    • Yay! The which-caliber-is-best convo. But I don’t see 10mm mentioned?

      For best overall availability and use in semi? 9mm
      For best overall availability and use in revolver? .357 Mag
      For best protection during this COVID freakout? .9mm virus killer

      • The list is not complete without mention of the .327 Federal Magnum, period. In my mind, and many others, the best all around cartridge. Try it, you’ll like it.

    • BREAKING: Slow Joe picks Kamaltoe Harris for Vice! Who ia surprised? Look for a massive ass-ault on the 2nd Amendment…

    • Grenades…
      That reminds me of a story a fellow oil and gas worker told me. He was in Nigeria and his police escort jumped in the car with him. He asked the police escort, “where’s your gun?”; and the police escort displayed a grenade.

  2. Best gun is working in hand when needed so yeah pretty much covers calibers without going into splitting hairs.

  3. Gee, Eric- nice of you to actually take a stand on the “best self-defense handgun round…”

    And you could’ve added even more if you spoke about shot placement, ease of racking the slide/loading the cylinder, sights, trigger… Very comprehensive.

    So I’ll commit: I’m carrying a Sig 365 loaded with Hornady Critical Defense 115 gr bullets. So far I’ve never had to draw it in my own defense and probably never will but it’s always on me, even here on the deck as I type.

  4. Given the fact that you can purchase 13+1 capacity, 9mms that fit in your pocket, the conclusion to carry a 380 is stupid.

    • Doesn’t seem like there should be much difference intimidation factor, but the wife hates the bark of the 9mm, but she’ll shoot 380’s until the gun bag is out of ammo. While I’m not a fan of the 380, I have confidence she actually carries the 380 and is comfortable with it. Sure beats the 22LR she’s been carrying the last couple of years.

      • First of all “Fits in your pocket” is very subjective. Second “fits in your pocket” and “comfortably rides in your pocket all day er day” are definitely not the same thing.

        The lightest 9mm pocket pistols out there still weight nearly double the lightest .380s available. Not to mention shape matters in pocket carry. Early on in my carry journey, I traded a “bigger, heavier” 38 revolver for a “smaller, lighter” 9mm that didn’t pocket carry well at all. One is shaped very organically, the other is shaped like a piece of 1×6 cut to Look like a gun in your pocket.

        Having said that, a small 9mm strong side iwb, works well for the average male in this country, that’s willing to sacrifice a little bit to gain peace of mind. It’s a good balance of power, reliability, and carry ability.

  5. I’ll stick with my 45’s, they might be slow but I’ve never seen anything outrun one. & the nock down power is important to me.

      • Where have you been? Bought mine summer of 2018! It even came with bonus .300 Blackout & .50 Beowulf conversion barrels. I’ve heard through the rumor mill that the new version coming out later this year includes all three calibers in the same gun and has a selector lever. It’s supposed to be the same dimensions as the 9mm SAS version and carries 19 rounds of each caliber! So much for “which round is best” when you can have them all!

        • I heard the same thing. It’s going to use Sig’s proprietary Changeable Linear Iris Technology to change bore size. Don’t waste your time trying to look it up, it’s virtually impossible to find.

  6. .45 ACP is my choice.
    Makes a big hole.
    Ammo can usually be found at reasonable prices, by today’s standards.
    It’s also manly, patriotic, historical with military significance, and it worked for grandpa.
    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    • you may only get one chance…one shot…under those circumstances it’s pretty hard to argue against the effectiveness of the .45…..

    • This article is the CNN of caliber comparisons, completely leaving out Best MM to avoid hurting the feelings of those lesser calibers.

    • Self defense not obliteration, joking aside great round would love a carbine in it and a long barrel pistol but probably not my top 5 for carry choices.

      • I had a 10 mm S&W FBI gun for a while after the LA riots. Lots of uncontrollable power in a pistol with poor machining and a horrible grip. I could barely hit a target up close and was wondering what the Hell was wrong since a pretty young girl in the next lane was eating my lunch by punching multiple shots into nearly one hole. I was tempted to trade guns with her and laugh while she tried to hit straight with the monstrosity I was saddled with. I rarely trade guns I like but that thing was traded ASAP for something that you could actually aim and hit what you aimed at. Probably would make one Hell of a carbine round when loaded hot.

      • i’ve thought so for a while too. now i’m leaning towards .30 carbine for that role, a round i’ve poopooed for decades.

        • I think between the two it would come down to availability and ease of reloading for me and not sure where that will be when I get around to that niche

        • tsbhoa.p.jr

          I was trained on the M1 Carbine by the Air Force once upon a time. I used to think of it as a popgun, albeit very pleasant to shoot. But now I have an Inland repro, which I couldn’t resist purchasing. Anyway, as a home defense weapon, I think it makes good sense and would have mine at the ready, were I to find myself in the midst of a civil uprising.

    • Only needed if your neighborhood is overrun with grizzly bears. In which case calling in tactical RT fire for effect seems a good idea.

    • millimeters are for commie pinko faqs*

      Not that there’s anything WRONG with commie pinko faqs, of course.

      *was about to hit the “post” button, when I remembered that the PC crowd might censor faq with a “g”

    • I’ve done extensive testing and research on 10mm. It really is the perfect self-defense round once you stack all the variables. It allows for high capacity and as long as your pushing at the least 1150+fps 180gr 200gr it’s difficult to match it. Trust me I tried!
      It removes a lot of variables when shooting different layers and materials where other cartridges lack.
      Again, we are talking about an all-round best option.

      • right, but are you going to ccw a 10mm? no. therefore it’s not the perfect self-defense round because that’s what you do with self-defense rounds.

        answer: .40 S&W

        • I gotta tell ya, I’ve been carrying the Springfield XD-M 10MM as my concealed carry gun, 4:00 IWB tuckable PJ Holster, every day. I forget it’s there most of the time. It’s a great gun. It doesn’t hurt to be a really big guy when carrying a full size frame and spare mag. Scale-wise, it’s the exact same as Richard Simmons with an LCP. So, I suppose the author’s right. 380 is the best caliber for CC. 10MM just happens to be my 380!

  7. Praise the LORD that you did not mention satan’s handmaiden, 9×18 Makarov. Godless commie caliber, which is obviously carried by every commie, Democrat bastard, Antifa child eating liberal.
    Should hang them from every lamppost with nooses fashioned from their own intestines for the unmitigated gall for having a view point that differs from mine and the other three individuals that think like me in this God-blessed country.
    Should make it a line on the background check to state your political affiliation and religious beliefs so whenSHTF happens we can more easily track them down.
    And record their ammo purchases, 9×18, 7.65×25, find those foreign commie pistol carrying heathens

    • Actually, I’ve always thought 7.65×25 looked like an interesting round; never owned a gun that fired it, though.

      • Never owned a gun that fires it either but, I have a box of the ammo. Read somewhere once that you know you are a gun guy if you have ammo for a gun you’ve never owned – guess I’m that guy. I don’t even remember where I got the ammo.

      • The Russians didn’t even keep that round for front line service after WW2. Says a lot when they don’t want to use something, from the same people who are using a 100 year old rimmed rifle round and linked metal belts from a Water Cooled Heavy Machine-gun from the 1900’s.

        • I got 1000 rounds of PPU 7.62×25 hollow points. I’m impressed with them. I would have no problem using them for self defense.

      • Tik Tok Tik Tok.

        It is a nice round. Fast moving, light shooting, and it ticks off the ‘Murica crowd as seen above. I have a Yugo M57 and the mortal remains of an old Czech spam can of the stuff. Lotsa fun. And you can make more by cutting down those red, white, and blue .223/556 casings.

        • Highly doubt it ticks off anybody, nobody cares what you shoot. Seems to make you feel good about yourself, though.

    • Well crap. Now I have to chunk the Russian Nagants, CZ52’s, E.German Makarov, Walther PP Super, SKSs, AKs, Mosin Nagants… And… everything that chambers that evil 9mm developed in Germany and used by enemies/nazis in two world wars. Luckily I never got a 98 Mauser to have to melt down now. If I lump every gun that originates from a now or former nazi/socialist/communist country into one pile I’ll have all my bases covered. And talk about all that ammo I have to destroy! Man I could have saved the $$ and bought a high end car or truck. Now I’m sad. 🙁

  8. Whomever wrote this drivel should be fired. This essay appeals to the people that are fat, wear cargo shorts, flip flops, have a goatee and they’re chin bulges past it. All that to say, carry a 380 because it’s easy.

    • You forgot the balding head with combover, cheap sunglasses, and camo fanny pack for that tacticoolness..

    • And who fart all the time, at inappropriate times in front of people they’re trying in vain to impress.

    • It’s a joke article. Anyone who spent any time in gun discussions heard all these arguments in never ending “caliber wars”.
      I chuckled couple of times reading it. I may have couple of extra pounds stored around my waist, I wear cargo shorts, sometimes even flip flops. I do have a goatee, but I’m definitely not chin bulges past it. (That’s what you wrote).

        • Yeah, that’s one caliber that CCI skipped straight over with shot. Sort of says something, I think. Still, good snake rounds for the tackle box extra pistol. Never had call for using it, only bad encounter I had was a random Cottonmouth falling out of a leaned heavily over the water tree we were fishing under into the boat. Broke an oak paddle on that bastard, and ruined the underwear of my Grandfather & I.

          Not an everyday occurrence that nature throws a venomous snake at you, lol.

    • The .25 ACP in the right pistol will kill a moose if you hit the moose between the eyes with it. The pistol should be shaped like an axe and just as heavy

  9. Caliber : The caliber you choose needs to be one you can afford to shoot enough to acquire and maintain the level of skill you are willing to bet your life on.

    Performance: The bullet you choose needs to be properly constructed defensive bullet.

    NOTHING ELSE MATTERS! (remember that what can afford may not be what someone else thinks you should shoot. IGNORE THEM) Your budget trumps their opinion.

    My choice is 9MM.

    My carry load is Federal XM9001 115 grain JHP.( It will stop a gun fight and cheap enough to buy in bulk.)
    My practice load is a Berry’s 115 grain plated TMJ over 4 grains of my favorite powder powder.

    • FMJ in a carry pistol is not what I would do, budget be damned. Over penetration and not big enough holes for the caliber turn me away from them. I would find a way to save somewhere else and get couple of boxes of quality defense ammo. Or just some good hollow point bullets, since I load my own ammo.
      But you do what you think is best for you.

  10. For EDC, state laws permitting, a 12 gauge barrel from the wrong end sure sends a big message. Of course, you have to live somewhere where people carrying a shotgun seem normal!

    • when you only have a handgun it’s pretty hard to argue against something like the Judge…that defender is pretty intimidating looking, as well….

  11. I’ll stick with the 45-70 SA. Why just last month I had a rather vicious individual begin to attack me at 1200 meters. He advanced so quickly that he was on top of me causing physical harm at 900 meters. Luckily my trusty SA took down the rogue and spared my life by a narrow margin only allowing minor wounds to myself. I know the 380 would have been able to make the shot but I’m glad I had the extra oomph of the bigger cartridge.

  12. I won’t give any credence/respect to a handgun ammunition review that does not include the wunderbar .9mm round.

  13. How about old school cool… EAA Witness Carry Comp 45Super conversion ,loaded with 255 grain flatnosed hardcast @ 1075 fps. Around 650 ft. lbs. and not at all bad to shoot, only occasionally fails to lock open on an empty mag. When I need all day carry, it’s an utterly reliable (gen 1) Taurus 24/7 pro 45 acp…. let the bashing begin.

    • Not me…I had one on layaway. Newtown happened and I was afraid I couldn’t use a 12round mag in ILLinois. Got my $ back(and an eternal customer-Blythes,Griffith,IN).

  14. My 3 personal self-defense choices
    .12 gauge pump w/ 18″ barrel – when at home, what I grab if something wakes me up at 2am.
    .45 ACP – what I travel with.
    .308 AR-10 – if we have to fight another civil war.

    All proven. No hip fad calibers here.

  15. 410 revolver loaded with buckshot…. or whatever is comfortable enough to carry everyday. Whatever you have on you is better than the “best” that is at home in the safe or the nightstand.

  16. 380 auto ain’t no bone breaker but if all you armchair commandos only (____________)!@###. 1st Shot placement, shotplacement, shot placement! Shot em in the crotch or head, if you can be first to shoot and calm enough and conditioned enough (that meens alot of practice at drawing and shooting) and assuming your in the right to do so. 2nd the right ammunition to perform the task. 3rd if you can carry the 380 as a very discrete backup as they are more potent than the most of the line up behind, 22 short, 22 lr, 22 mag in a pistol small enough for edc, 25 acp, 32 in all forms except the 327 fed mag.
    Today body armor isn’t much of a worry for most as most bad guys ain’t wearing it yet. But if they are 380 and up will be more effective with the crotch or head shot as they won’t usually bounce off of bone as easly as the rest of those sub calibers. And their are not many, male or female thats going to stand up and shoot it out with you after getting their goodies blown off. And if they do I’ll bet you’ll have time to pop them in the brain pan.
    Yea I know alot of 380s have triggers that suck, but practice, practice, practice makes better, and guarinteed that in the shoot to save yourself or your loved ones the adrenal glands will be pumping so hard that sucky trigger will not even be noticed.

    • That is why I originally bought .380 S&W. But since then 9mm is nearly as small with even more ammo. I agree with the shot placement. Once they are shot in the face the tendency is to put your hands up to protect your face so to continue shooting after that would be abnormal except for an extreme psycho.

      • But if they’re wearing a mask that will protect them, so you have keep on shooting till you hear a click (if you can hear anything after all that shoting).

      • But if they’re wearing a mask that will protect them, so you have keep on shooting till you hear a click (if you can hear anything after all that shooting).

  17. You did all that and didn’t mention the 10mm? Ya know, the one that can be hotter than a 357 magnum factory load for the same length barrel but doesn’t really recoil any more than a 45 since it is really rare to see it in anything but a semiauto? The one if you are really feeling froggy will let you shoot your leftover 40 S&W rounds since everyone sold all their 40’s since they aren’t cool anymore. Oh yea, forget all the 5.7 x 27 stuff and just carry a Kel Tec PMR30 in 22 magnum if you are in the light and fast crowd. Don’t forget your backup slingshot with pepperballs.

    • 40 S&W is still cool with me because that is what I bought after the crappy S&W 10mm FBI gun. HK USP in 40 S&W is awesome and controllable with Hogue grips and much more controllable than poorly made 10 mm pistols. The HK USP in 9mm with Hogue grips is a tack driver. With modern 9 mm rounds that would be my first choice because of comfort, round count, accuracy and lethality.

  18. .357 magnum. Still the best. Capacity doesn’t matter if you hit the target. When you draw the revolver, pull back the hammer at the same time. First shot will be with the single action trigger. Practice that, and be confident.

    • Sig 229 in .357 Sig or .40 S&W are excellent for close-in fights of 10 to 15 yards or closer. Hot loads of .357 Sig in this small pistol are as devastating as 357 Mag in a small package with a high round count.

  19. I’m torn between the concealability of the famous .9mm and the awesome destructive power of the 45mm. Both are highly regarded by the modern media.

    • 45mm is one serious caliber. May as well move up to a tank, which may be useful when open war starts with Antifa/BLM psycho trash.

      • Nah, I was referring to the 45mm pistol that media morons love to write about. I think it was invented by John Moses Whiting (we cannot use his former name because it’s cultural appropriation).

  20. .22 CB Cap in a circa 1871-1877 Iver-Johnson Defender.

    Of course, if you can find .22 Short in blackpowder, load that in your Defender.

    I miss that old gun ….

    • CCI “stinger”…35 grain penta-point hollowpoint is best in the mini’s…seems to work everytime, as well…nasty little sucker!…..

    • Not necessarily so! I once held off a small child yelling at me with the extreme halitosis I have diligently cultivated by falling asleep in my armchair and forgetting to brush my teeth.

  21. Eric J. I see what you did there! Caliber wars serve little purpose and are only written/spoken about to further the debate…IMHO, all men were not created equal…that is why we have tests! If you shoot a .32ACP because you are arthritic and do not have the strength to pull the slide on a larger firearm, have at it! My daughter can shoot a S&W M10HB with 148gr WC like a laser, she is uncanny…that is what she has at home for protection..
    Me? I have a little bit of everything but tend to carry either a 9mm with 124 Hydra-Shok or .38Spl with Nyclad 125gr bullets that I have been told are discontinued…I used to carry .45Auto, 230gr Hydra-Shok and CCI 200gr HP…but have started to shoot the .45 with light recoiling loads due to joint issues…carry what works best and use your best skills…

    • Pretentious? Moi? Say it ain’t so! This highly informative and highly serious article is a public service to help you, the gun buying clientele, decide which personal artillery piece to attempt to conceal about your corpulent body. We have heard about the infamous 45mm all way down to .25 calibre. Frankly, anything over .22 Magnum will limit your walking range to a half mile or less, and will probably knock you back on your ass should you decide to actually shoot it. Don’t forget reload time, as you will want to stand your ground, no matter where you happen to be. Fleeing the scene will obviously be in slow motion in your elderly Buick, because modern cars just aren’t well made, dammit! Just don’t forget to vote for Trump before any of these young whippersnappers tried tried to persuade you otherwise. And don’t leave your gun in any of the public rest rooms you will need to visit as you venture out. Come to think of it, safer to stay home after all.

  22. In all seriousness: I chose a full-size handgun chambered in .40 S&W for my everyday-carry handgun — and I carry it loaded with 180 grain bonded hollowpoint bullets. I chose it for the following reasons:
    1) Larger holes and/or deeper penetration than 9mm Luger.
    2) Better intermediate barrier penetration than all other handgun calibers except for .45 ACP.
    3) Superior magazine capacity over handguns chambered in .45 ACP.
    4) Ammunition availability even during ammunition droughts.
    5) My body shape/size enables me to conceal full-size handgun chambered in .40 S&W.
    6) My follow-up shots with .40 S&W are just as fast as I shoot 9mm Luger.
    7) I have no trouble at all racking the slide.

    Nevertheless, all handguns (with the possible exception of the Magnums with light-for-caliber bullets and stout loads) are “underpowered” — thus I could find that my everyday carry platform does a poor job promptly stopping an attacker. There are no guarantees in life.

    Carry the largest caliber firearm that you can operate and shoot safely, accurately, and quickly. If that is a semi-auto chambered in .22 LR, so be it — it sure beats harsh words or a sharp stick.

    • This is great reasoning. .40 is wonderful in dealing with barriers (read CARS), when stepping outside ones home. Nearly all .40 is effective, even “old school” hollow point tech. Just use full size auto and pick ammo you can handle best. If you can’t decide, pick a Glock 22 and get yourself a 9mm conversion barrel.

      • when I worked for the feds, back in the day…all they issued us was model 10’s in .38…not even plus “Ps”…the boys next door at the Federal Reserve with deeper pockets and unlimited funds carried Glock 21’s…quite a contrast….

      • Pat,

        The excellent ability of .40 S&W to defeat vehicle doors and windshields (especially when shooting a windshield at an extremely oblique angle) is the primary reason that I choose .40 S&W over 9mm Luger.

        And I chose .40 S&W over .45 ACP because full-size handguns chambered in .40 S&W are thinner and have greater magazine capacity than .45 ACP.

        The fact that ammunition always seems to be available is a bonus.

  23. i like offensive handgunm’s, however i’m having a hard time with which ones offend the most? perhaps a gold plated nambu with pearl grips

  24. When I recently discovered just how racist America is I went on out and purchased some slaves.

    Now they haul my Mark 7 around for me. Grains? Nah, a 1900lb Mark 23 at 2690fps makes it the ultimate single shot.

    816″ sight radius and a range of 24 miles. Reloads are a bit slow but you never actually need them. You talk foot pounds, I talk kilotons.

  25. I asked all the dead thugs which one they considered the best self defense round. I got all kinds of convoluted answers.

  26. I’m amazed that anyone who writes for TTAG is still spewing about”hydrodynamic shock” making any particular cartridge more effective effective. Hydrodynamic shock occurs only when a projectile is traveling faster than the speed of sound for the medium that the projectile is traveling through. Many handgun bullets exceed the speed of sound, but only while traveling through air at Standard Temperature and Pressure. It is presumed by the uneducated that these bullets remain supersonic while traveling through a human body. However; as any ultrasound technician can tell you, the speed of sound in most human tissues is about 1,500 meters per second or nearly 5,000 feet per second. Almost no one owns a firearm that fires projectiles at one mile per second. The speed of sound in dense bone, such as a human skull, is 4,000 meters per second or 13,000 feet per second! Not even I own a firearm that fires a projectile at that velocity. ( I’ll take the Fifth on any electromagnetic mass drivers that I might have built.)

    Velocity combined with mass does dictate the momentum and kinetic energy of a projectile. (The two teams are not sinonymous.) The momentum per unit area is an indication of how much soft tissue that a projectile can travel through. The energy of the projectile is an indicator of how much bone a projectile can penetrate and shatter. The energy required is proportional to the new surface area of bone created by the projectile impact. (Sorry, I can’t recall what the fracture toughness of bone is.). Aside from breaking bone which tends to incapacitate an assailant, especially if you shoot them in the pelvis or vertebra, the broken bone fragments become shrapnel which cause more soft tissue damage. It should also be remembered that the hydrodynamic pressure insider the cavity of a hollow point bullet that is expanding the bullet is proportional to velocity squared. More velocity = more expansion = greater wound volume.

    I find it ironic that after commenting on most common handgun cartridges, you ignore the one cartridge that is arguably the most effective cartridge (excluding the impractical cartridges such as .50 AE). I am of course referring to the 10 mm cartridge.. The 10 mm is to the .40 what the 9mm is to the. 380 or the .357 is to the 38. The 10 mm has lots of cross sectional area plus enough velocity to generate reliable expansion of a hollow point bullet, or penateate and shatter bone. The 10 mm also tends to penetrate inconvenient obstacles such as car bodies better than the vast majority of handgun cartridges.

    Of course none of these handgun cartridges can equal the effectiveness of my trusty 12 gauge shotgun when loaded with buckshot or slugs. General Paul Tibbets kept a 12 gauge shotgun in his home for self defense. If a Fudd Gun is good enough for the man who had no remorse or regrets about killing 50,000 people at Hiroshima, it is good enough for me.

    • Don’t disagree with a word you said, but . . . (and there is ALWAYS a big “but”),

      The most effective self-defense option for any INDIVIDUAL is the one they can:

      1. Afford (not just the platform, but the ammunition to practice);
      2. Carry (fits them and is reasonably concealable);
      3. Shoot (quickly and reliably but lead on target, including follow-up shots);
      4. Use (fits their hands, they can handle the recoil, controls are useable).

      If you are a tiny person, or a person with severe arthritis (getting old is a b****), or otherwise incapable of handling the recoil of a larger pistol? If .22lr is literally what you can carry/shoot/use? I’d rather have a .22 than nothing. But I’d MUCH rather have a .22 that I feel comfortable with, than a 9mm that makes me flinch. What was it Dirty Harry said? “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” When I was 40, 10mm, .40S&W, .45acp, .357 magnum didn’t bother me a bit. Now I’m 67, my arthritis is kicking in, and I am honest enough to admit that I cannot make follow-up shots as quickly and reliably with those calibers as I can with 9mm. So I carry 9mm. Are there “more effective” self-defense rounds than 9mm? Sure – for me when I was 40. Today? Not so much. I am MORE EFFECTIVE with 9mm. I have a friend, my age, who is about 5′ nothin’, and weighs 90 lbs. soaking wet. A .380 might be the best option for her. If she preferred .22lr, that’s on her.

      Pick the round/gun that you can afford, shoot regularly, carry comfortably, use easily – and the rest of the “caliber Karens” can ESAD.

    • Also my pick , 10mm Rock Island Armory 1911 A2 6″ barrel , 16+1 , Tactical Ultra Match . All steel no plastic w/G10 grips. Loaded with Underwood 200gr XTP Jul ,1250fps. One word, awesome. It will stop a bad guy no problem. GREAT for hunting , anything foreign or domestic !

  27. There are only a few .380’s I ever cared to own. With so much that can easily be carried, I see no reason to go with this. I’m more likely to go with 9mm and 40S&W but .357 and .45ACP works good.

    Lots of good stuff out there. Carry the largest caliber you can shoot well.

    • .380’s in the MAC-11 work really well though…and can be suppressed down to next to nothing…doesn’t even sound like a gun when fired…more reminiscent of a singer sewing machine…sews a mean stitch though!….

  28. No love for .38 Super? All the convenience of 9mm with muzzle velocity like .357 mag?

    Yeah, it is a little much for a smaller carry piece but still… nice round.

  29. 9mm, but only because that’s what feeds the dual Uzi’s that Chuck Norris carries in ankle holsters.

  30. The Answer is clearly that the best calibre or gun for self defense is the one you have with you when you need it. Not in the safe at home or in the trunk of the car. Silly wabbits…

  31. The only gun topic discussions dumber than those rationalizing a 380 for defensive carry or preaching the unquestionable superiority of 45 ACP, are the discussions involving virtual small arms experts hating on whichever brand of gun the don’t like, is too expensive, or not expensive enough. These dumb@$$ discussions usually include asinine statements like “I don’t like _________’s because they don’t really fit my hand”, “the ________ subcompact pocket pistol is no good because the short grip doesn’t fill my hand”, or “I choose ______ caliber because of it has proven one shot stopping power. Many of these virtual small arms experts seek knowledge from expert sources such as pawnbrokers, the dude working the gun counter at Academy or Cabela’s, or other virtual small arms experts.

  32. I love my G19 but a recent incident indicates I need something bigger, or a lot more bullets. Of course, like everything else I want, I simply don’t have the money for it.

    I walked right into the middle of a herd of feral hogs that had been trashing my lawn and took them on. I don’t know how many I hit while they ran everywhere in chaos, but I left with a hog of ~100lbs and three spare bullets. I didn’t have my machete with me so I felt the need to save a few bullets.

    I think my 9mm succeeded only in pissing off the one of the bigger hogs since either I was missing left and right, or the cartridge wasn’t doing anything. I use 115gr loads and stagger my ammo between ball and hollow point. The hollow points are for defense against people, softer animals like bobcats, and the ball ammo is for hogs. Before anyone knocks it, I’ve taken plenty of animals with my dinky pistol, but hogs seem to need something bigger.

    Coyotes didn’t seem to want the one I left for them and it attract a lot of buzzards for a few days. The hogs haven’t come back yet, so I guess they figured out that destroying my lawn isn’t worth it. I also haven’t heard my yote packs in the last few months and I’m over run with rats, mice, and rabbits now, so it could be that ignorant people who don’t even live here decided to killed them off for amusement and leave me to pay for it; I’ll probably never know.

    The article may be for carry around town, but don’t overlook the needs of people who carry in the sticks. Maybe this Christmas I’ll be able to afford my 300AAC pistol. 🙂 The best cartridge is the one chambered in the pistol you have in hand; and in lieu of a pistol, whatever improvised weapon you have.

    It’s purely my opinion but If I need to step up from a 9mm pistol, I probably need a rifle. Since SBRs are still held up by that unconstitutional non-law called the NFA and has a plethora of thugs to enforce it, I’ll have to settle for a pistol brace work-around. 🙂

    • 9mm, in any load, really isn’t appropriate for animals of any considerable size. It just doesn’t have the energy or mass for something like a hog. For a hog you really want to be in .357 mag territory at a minimum.

  33. It is mentioned in the article that the .40 and .357 SIG’s recoil is “snappy”.

    What if, do to an overconsumption of soy, one finds every handgun round’s recoil to be snappy? (This would include air guns and starter pistols.) What if even the act of dry firing a handgun makes one flinch?

    Asking for a friend.

    • Defensive shooting is about throwing as much lead downrange as possible as fast as possible with acceptable accuracy. (distance, target size and what is behind the target determine that for a given shooter)

      The reality is that most people do better with something that recoils less. Their shot to shot splits are faster and/or their follow up shots are more accurate with lower recoiling calibers.

      This is especially true in the subcompact guns that are offered in both 9mm and .40. Many people don’t even notice but the gun shifts in their grip under recoil. A decent instructor will immediately notice that they regrip the gun between shots.

      In a defensive situation the person will either slow down to regrip, or more likely will continue shooting with a compromised grip.

      If it was all about power and not about shootability, we’d all be carrying 20 ounce scandium .44 magnum revolvers.

  34. The .380 fills the roll of the “Always Gun” for me. My Kahr P380 is so small and light that there is never an excuse to not carry it.

    Its never too heavy, its never too bulky. I carry it when I run or ride my bike. About the only activity it doesn’t come along with me on is when I do an open water swim.

    Sure I carry one of the new 10/11 round micro 9mm pistols often. I even carry my G19 with a red dot optic once in a while.

    But like the truism says: a .380 in your pocket is better than a .45 in the safe.

    For me a small, reliable .380 is my most valuable carry gun. Simply because I can carry it the most.

  35. Folks. One last thing. If you have to use something like 9mm or .380 against a larger animal, check out Leheigh Defense extreme penetrator.

    literally a dozen YouTube gelatin videos show it to create a wound channel far larger than ball ammo while still penetrating like 30 inches in gelatin. Its a great round for an underpowered gun.

    Also, one of the companies that loads really hot ammo (Buffalo Bore, Underwood) is not making a fairly hot round using this projectile.

      • Thank you Don, common sense, although many here have been convinced that they need 15 rds with three extra mags. That is what the FBI or local LEOs need. I don’t expect to fight off a gang of bank robbers or have to shoot through cinder block walls for self defense, I don;t worry all night if my round will penetrate car doors. Most muggers or petty thieves will run when I pull out my little pocket .380, if they don’t then they will have to laugh themselves to death after getting shot by a critical defense load. I am not a cop and I don’t pretend to be one on TV. Hope I didn’t hurt any feelings.

  36. With Lehigh defense ammo, .380 performance matches that of most 9mm loads.
    .38, .39 whatever it takes.

    Personally I have a dislike of 9mm, probably due to being restricted to carrying one for 20+ years. It has no panache, flare, totally boring, insert yawn here when anyone extols its virtues as it is a politically correct, compromise of we want to only wound you round loved by all NATO but not kill you kinda round unless i shoot you at least five times kinda round.

    135 JHP in .40 @ 1,350+ fps nearly matches .357 mag 125g JHP in one shot stops. Not knocking the .45 acp, or sig .357 they are great rounds also, i prefer the “footy” over anything else, but will carry a .380 before a 9mm. Especially if its 98 degrees, so its gym shorts and t-shirt day, an LCP or keltec .380 weighing 9 ozs in iwb suede or leather lightweight holster is right on. Or, you can wear jeans, a long sleeve shirt or better yet a vest on a 98 degree day to conceal your glock 19, or full-size 1911, the choice is totally yours.

    I only carry my 88 magnum when I want to impress the ladies.

  37. Given that the overwhelming majority of defensive gun uses do not involve actually firing the weapon, let alone killing or even striking the assailant, caliber choice is even less deserving of debate than at first thought.

  38. I see all these articles and one thing drives me crazy so many will praise the 38 special yet in the same breath call the 380ACP week and anemic despite the muzzle energy ratings inch per inch the 380 is up to TWICE the energy of the 38 special, this is true across all makers of ammo. (Reference Ballistics by the inch)

    The true “perfect” cartridge is the one that is CARRIED!

    • “The true “perfect” cartridge is the one that is CARRIED!”

      And… under certain circumstances that might be a .38 special.

    • This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen posted by anyone ever.

      Exactly ONE round out of the 15 tested in .380 ACP met the “acceptable” threshold for both expansion and penetration: https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/self-defense-ammo-ballistic-tests/#380ACP

      Meanwhile 8 out of 19 of the .38 Special rounds met both the penetration and expansion thresholds.

      Please don’t spout fudd-lore on here. Especially referencing “ballistic energy” like it actually matters on real world performance, or using downright inaccurate math.

      • Dear busybeef : Pudding head, lets examine what was said NOT what you A$$umed. the ONLY test gun used in your ballistic test was Glock 42. with a barrel length of 3.25 inches That was it! However, if you look at the .38 special 2″ & 4″ being a guy you may not think and INCH makes any difference, laughter, snicker and finger pointing but it does, they even provide you with nice pictures no FUDD needed to see the difference there in expansion. Math is pure number from science. p.s. do NOT confuse poor design by manufacture by not living up to MATH. the quote was simple the 38 special vs .380 inch per inch has half the kinetic energy. p.s. you must be a psedogun guy since your don’t believe in Kinetic Energy OH yeah that is one of those MATH things! Go ahead and just poo poo math and science. The only thing the LUCKYGUNNER TEST showed is the average 380 self-defense ammo is poorly designed. OH AND LETS NOT FOR GET that the average 380ACP will never equal 9mm BIG DUHH!!! THERE!!! If you look at well designed ammo such at Hornady critical defense in both calibers the .380 outperformed the 38 special (the used plus p)! FUDD that.

  39. All I know is .40 is still on the shelves. I have more Speer Gold Dot and Hornady Critical Duty/Defense than ever before. I’ve never owned any Winchester rounds in .40, but I keep seeing them and their expansion is great, so maybe next time I’ll pick some of those up too. At this point, I could almost use EDC ammo at the range lol!

    Just sayin…

    But TBH, if there were more 5.7’s around, I’d be all over those. I’d love to see a SIG or Glock in 5.7. All this talk about “over penetration” lol. Don’t care. I care about penetrating deep and fast. Like through vehicles, through mob’s.

  40. Soooo…. I’m the author of this. I wrote this a few years back when they had the P320 contest. Looks like they nuked the comments and recycled it. It provoked a reaction back then too.

    For those who haven’t figured it out, it’s tongue-in-cheek/satire, making fun of caliber wars.

    And for those attacking me, or those who’re curious:

    I live at a remote Alaskan salmon facility. There’s (no exaggeration whatsoever) probably 20+ bears within a 200 yd radius of where I sit typing this. So what do I carry?

    1): general purpose/open carry, not carrying a long gun: Ruger SR1911 in 10mm Auto in a hip holster

    2): discreet / in town / around tourists: Sig P365 (9mm) (pocket or IWB carry)

    3): handgun hunting, going somewhere in my skiff: Smith and Wesson 629 classic, 6.5″, .44 magnum, open sights, chest holster

    4): really discreet (rarely needed in remote Alaska): Taurus 738 TCP (.380 auto), no holster, no round chambered, in a pocket

    5): as often as not, bears or no, no gun at all

    • ” a few years back” Holy cow, looking back it was June 2014! 6+ years ago… time flies. I thought it was like 2 years ago.

  41. Why would I carry a 380 when I can carry a SIG P365 with 10+1 Federal 124 gr HST and a spare mag? For a backup I’ve got a Seecamp 32 acp and a couple knives.

  42. To borrow from the left… the best caliber is not a finite number, it is “a spectrum”. From my .308 –> to my ARs –> .357 lever gun –> shotty –> full size 9s –> pocket pistols.

    Yes there are some gaps in my “spectrum”, but it spans enough for my needs.

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