Pistol calibers (courtesy ammoland.com)
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“A gun that fits the hand and the biggest caliber that the shooter can manage are what matters, not the brand or caliber chosen,” NRA Instructor Don McDougall concludes in his ammoland.com article  First Time Gun Owners Guide to Choosing a Pistol Caliber. Good advice! I reckon new shooters should start with .22, move on to 9mm, then figure out what gun and caliber they prefer. My favorite caliber is . . .

9mm, for its controllability, price and youcanloadloadsability. After that I love me some .45, for the way the big boy bullet feels when you shoot it and its ability to drop an NFL linebacker mid-charge (metaphorically speaking and not during the national anthem). What are your TWO favorite pistol calibers and why?

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  1. Ditto 9 for practice occasion carry.
    45acp for when it counts and some practice.
    For pure fun 22LR I have to add.

    • A gun you can manage, in the biggest caliber feasible…

      I went for the smallest gun I could manage in a caliber I considered adequate..ended up with a Sig P938 (9×19).

      If size isn’t a consideration, then my first pistol choice was a 5″ 1911 (.45 ACP). I bought the 938 when I got tired of carrying the 1911.

      • I have a .41 Magnum, love it, but it’s expensive to shoot and even load for, so it didn’t make it into the “2”, but it’s a close 3rd…

        • .41 will always be the middle child in the magnum family.

          .327 may catch on yet. It makes more sense to me to pack a 6 shot .327 over a 5 shot .38 or .357. S,R&Co seems to be supporting their love-child mini-magnum more lately. They just brought back the 3″ SP101 in the caliber and they’ve got it in the LCR and LCRx in 1-7/8″ barrels. I’d probably buy a 2-2/4″ SP if they come out with that.

      • For years my dad insisted he had a .41 Magnum revolver that I could just never seem to find around the house anywhere. Pop was a fisherman though, perhaps she went down in that fateful boating accident.

        He also had a .41 Magnum lever carbine with a little 2x scope on top that was very much real, as my poor adolescent molars could have told you any day after I brought it to the farm dump — err, outdoor range.

    • .25 acp and .41 AE… just to be a dork.
      .44 special and 9mm parabellum if we’re being serious. 🤠

        • I call it Seriously Compensating.
          If my .44 magnum Vaquero can’t solve my handgun needs then I should have brought a rifle.
          I’m right there with you with the .327 – I really hope it takes off… lots of potential there.

        • Yea, I’ve said for a long time that if a .44 won’t do the job you need a butt stock.

          That doesn’t keep an X frame off my wish list though. Gotta be one Smith on the list.

  2. 45 Auto and 357 Magnum. Thank goodness for two choices, cause I can only decide which one I like more when I’m shooting or reloading it.

  3. 10 mm and .45. I would love to try some of that .9 mm the press keeps reporting, but I can’t find it around here.

    • Couldn’t have said it better. Love .45 and 10mm (I wonder if anyone makes dastardly .10mm, the smallest, most lethal cartridge around) and long to try a .9mm…

    • That’s nothing. I once read an article where it was claimed a miscreant was caught with a “40 mm handgun.” Made by Bofors, I guess? LOL

    • ^^This. I’m just an old-fashioned revolver guy. I carried a 1911 in the service, but it never was my favorite handgun.

  4. I like .22 LR and 9 mm but I’m thinking about switching to .9 mm for concealability and inexpensive reloading. Anybody know where I can find used .9 mm brass? And I’m having trouble locating primers.

    • ” Anybody know where I can find used .9 mm brass?”

      At most pistol ranges.

      Bring a Hasting’s triplet jewler’s loupe to find it…

    • How big were those $4.95 mail order revolvers in the early 1960s, .12″ or so?

      All I can remember for certain was that they were smaller than .177 and the cartridges cost more than .22LR.

    • Primers are easy – just pick up a case of those WSSP (Winchester Super Small Pistol) primers!

  5. .45 ACP, 9mm, and .45 Colt.
    9mm great for plinking and the wife’s carry piece.
    .45 ACP cause screw those damn japs and krauts! Also for those strange bumps in the night.
    .45 Colt cause Sam Colt said so! Also just in case those damn Cherokee get any funny ideas.

  6. I can’t rightly say. I love .22, 5.7, .40, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and 45 Long Colt. It’d be like asking which of my children I want to keep. Not fair!

  7. “Question of the Day: What Are Your TWO Favorite Pistol Calibers?”

    .45ACP and .357 Magnum…
    1) Both readily available in a variety of loads…
    2) Both heavy hitters…
    3) I carry both(at the same time)…

  8. 9mm in a semi-automatic pistol. .357 in a wheel gun. Yeah, Okay, the .357 can be downloaded to .38 Special. The 9mm is soft enough to train most any shooter.
    After the training, .357 and .45 ACP

  9. I challenge the assertion that you should carry the biggest caliber you can handle.
    I can handle a .50 AE, but I can’t squeeze off four rounds of it in under a second and get center mass hits. The same is still true for more practical carry loads, like .357 Mag or .40 S&W. But I can do that with 9mm.

    Not all calibers that you can manage are equally manageable. The superior manageability of 9mm over .40 S&W or .45 ACP could make it a better choice for some shooters, while the superior muzzle energy of the latter two rounds might make them superior choices for others.

    • there is an old quote, I wish I could remember it verbatim with attribution.. but it is like
      ‘No amount of massed rapid fire can make up for a poorly aimed first shot’
      translates, for me, into ‘if you need more than one, yer doin it wrong’.

  10. .357 magnum and in turn .38 Special. If you want to count light loads of .357 separately, I would secede to 9mm because of the 32-20 or 38-44 principle of “caliber usable in rifle or handgun.”

    If this is a semi auto only question e.g. “pistol,” I would say 9mm I’d really like to get my .45 converted to .460 Rowland.

    If I could only have ONE hand gun caliber period it would undoubtedly be .357 magnum.

  11. 1) The biggest damn thing that I can control

    2) Something slightly smaller than #1. For those days when you feel a little lazy.

  12. I’ll do it:

    5.7×28 and the 7.5 fk brno:

    5.7 seriously ..the other is a impulse I’m having a hard time staving off!

    • Bingo. . . . I was thinking the same thing on the 5.7x28mm.

      Started using and learning about this recently and it’s a pretty slick cartridge. And I appreciate you can load 20 rd in a pistol mag.

      Only problem. . . . hardly any weapon systems use them. 🙁

  13. 9mm and 7.62×25

    9 – because it’s cheap and easily reloadable
    tok – because soooo much power in a little package and full size pistol easy to conceal

    • An AR pistol is a handgun.
      My AR pistol self-identified as a rifle. It would wear a Sig Brace as if it was a stock, and place itself against my shoulder, just like a cis-rifle. Finally it went through the transition, and it is much happier as an SBR.

  14. 9 millimeter pistol for self defense
    357 & 38 Special P+ Ruger revolver
    22lr Ruger SR
    Ruger GP (2) .357 4” barrel
    Gave 1 of the GP to sister in law, lives on a cattle ranch with Cayotes & Bobcats. Has small dogs & a number of cats. One of the cats got mauled pretty bad, $500.00 Vetenarian bill. None of the outside cats declawed. That kitty gave as good as she got to the Cayote. Have had some feral cats go missing 😳

    • Sorry, but I cannot imagine a cat worth $500. Or even $5 for that matter.

      Five bills will get you a mighty fine dog with plenty left over for chow, treats, and a used Glock.

        • Your cat may be smart enough to crap in the box, but dog owners are smart enough not to have to get down and fish out the crap.

          Really, best is to have both. Cat craps in box and dog eats it then goes outside.

        • “Really, best is to have both. Cat craps in box and dog eats it then goes outside.”

          Made me laugh because it’s true!

        • dogs have owners
          cats have servants

          day in the life of a dog:
          8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing!
          9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing!
          9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!

          day in the life of a cat:
          Day 983 of My Captivity
          My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.
          The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet… etc

  15. Metaphorically, dropping a linebacker in mid-charge is quite potent, however, hitting him with ANY caliber while he’s kneeling for the national anthem is hardly sporting.

    • Then he should have been on his feet and ready to get things done, because easy points are easy points and still added to the sum total.

      I guess my favorite 2 are 45 ACP & 357 magnum. If I absolutely positively had to choose only 2 to live out forever with…..I couldn’t do it! . I would have to add a 22 as a third. That’s a good sm, m, lg assortment.

  16. .45 ACP, and a tie between .357 and .44 magnum. Might give the edge to the .357 because I don’t own a .44. Yet.

    • Ditto, although I’d give the edge to the .357 Mag because of its versatility and all-around usefulness.

      I do own a .44 Mag however, a blued 7-1/2″ Redhawk with a 2X scope. But other than fun at the range (which it certainly is), I just don’t have much use for a revolver that large besides deer hunting, which I haven’t done for a few years.

      But would I sell it? Hell no, I love that Redhawk!

  17. .30 Mauser for my 1896 Broomhandle… for its very early semi auto design (I will be generous and include the slightly less powerful .30 luger for the same period.

    but far out in front of them is the .45 Colt for the Single Action Army of 1872

  18. 9 & 40. Price, cheaper guns and EZ to get. For stopping power 12gauge(is there a useable 12ga. pistol?)…

    • I’ve always wanted a Mad Max pistol grip double barrel 12ga with leg holster, but I’m told that owning one (legally) would involve moving to another country.

        • Probably prefer just to get a coach g un and forgo the holster.

          I’m assuming that the pis tol grip is OK (legally) as long as the barrels are over 18″ and the overall length over 26″. So theoretically I could take a 20″ coach g un and cut off the butt stock?

        • “(5)The term “shotgun” means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger.”
          (18 USC § 921(a)(5))
          That’s a shotgun. Note the shoulder bit.

          As for cutting the buttstock off a coach gun, keeping the barrels over 18″ and OAL over 26″ should be OK, but I’m not a lawyer. (I have an 18.5″ barrel, over 26″ shotgun that is, as best as I can tell, legally a shotgun, but as I say, IANAL.)

          On a side note, I was at the Phoenix gun show last week, and I am surprised at what many people think is a coach gun. Any double barrel SxS seems to be thought of as a coach gun. I’m of the belief that if it doesn’t have external hammers, it’s not a coach gun.

        • I’m not a lawyer either, but I’d think that if you can legally put a pistol grip on a pump gun you could do the equivalent to a SxS.

          A true coach gun probably would have exposed hammers because (I’m supposing) that internal hammers weren’t around until people stopped riding stage coaches. I’d probably go with the Stoeger since they’re relatively cheap, which has internal hammers but Stoeger still calls it a coach gun. For my purposes I’d call any SxS with a 20″ or shorter barrel to be a coach gun. I’d also want the double triggers, because at some point I’ll just have to break down and ‘give ’em both barrels’.

        • Gov: “For my purposes I’d call any SxS with a 20″ or shorter barrel to be a coach gun.”

          Since there’s no official definition of a coach gun, that’ll work.
          Personally, I’d set the barrel length as a 20″ minimum, not maximum, because what I think of as a coach gun was a black powder gun, and they like longer barrels to get maximum velocity. Not as maneuverable, but more effective.
          But I’ll stick with external hammers.

          I was talking about this with a friend, and he said they weren’t effective, because in the movies, they never stop a holdup. He was joking, though. 🙂

    • Would you consider the shockwave by mossberg a pistol? It’s as much a pistol as an AR pistol in my opinion.

      • Depends on the state..
        Here in the People’s Republic of Kalifornia, it is considered a short barrelled shotgun and is not legal.
        Mossberg does have the blessing of the ATF calling it a ‘non-NFA’, so don’t need to pay all the extra fees and bribes.
        I think it was recently declared legal in Texas.

  19. There are many fine, fun, and effective cartridges out there, though, ranging from purpose-built to more general use. For the shooting that I like to do, and for the shooting that I would most likely ever be called upon to do, 9mm and .22lr by far span the most territory for me.

  20. .30-30 Win and .45-70 gov in my BFRs…
    Nothing matches needing to ice your arm after a few cylinders of booms. I tried to two-hand mojo them once. Only once.

  21. Does “pistol” mean auto cartridges only? If not, then:

    — My favorite is .40 S&W for its versatility,* modest price, and ubiquitous availability.

    — My second favorite is .44 Magnum for its versatility and ubiquitous availability.

    * Cartridges are available with 135 grain bullets approaching (sort of) .357 Magnum muzzle velocities. Or you can step up to 165 grain bullets with respectable velocity and penetration. And you can step all the way up to 180 grain bullets with decent velocity and excellent penetration. (Note: although not widely available, can even get “specialty” cartridges with 200 grain hardcast lead bullets for feral hog and black bear self-defense.)

  22. For versatility: 9mm NATO and .357 magnum.
    Those two chambers allow you to also shoot .380 (single shot at least), 9mm Luger, .38sp, and .38+P

    That’s my way to cheat your silly 2 caliber rule 🙂

  23. .40S&W and .40S&W

    Not sure why this caliber gets so much hate. Yes it kicks more than a 9mm. It kicks WAY less than any magnum revolver cartridge. I think it’s the sweet spot between a 9mm and a .45ACP The .357Sig is neat, but the cost of ammo makes regular practice unlikely. 10mm is cool, but the guns typically have a much larger frame size. I’m a bit of a Glock guy and I’d rather grip a 23 than a 29.

  24. .45 and .40.

    .45 just has a nice roll to it in most pistols and I don’t get the “snappy” part of .40 to me it’s a nice compromise between the capacity of 9mm and the power of a larger cartridge.

    In the woods that all goes out the window though.

  25. My favs have changed as I’ve gotten older. 10 years ago it was .45 and .40 without a doubt. Once recoil started to matter to me, the .40 was the first to go…dropped down to 9. Now that more years have passed and I officially qualify as a geezer with minor arthritis, it’s 9×18 and .380.

    I’m actually old and feeble enough that I can see switching to revolvers in another couple of years due to an inability to rack the slide. That will obviously change the favorite calibers yet again. Adapt and adjust.

  26. If I absolutely had to choose, .357 magnum and .45 Colt. .357 because it’s so versatile, and .45 because it’s so fun (also with the right loads, it can go from plinker to showstopper)

  27. Define pistol.

    I say that b/c there seems to be a debate about whether or not revolvers are pistols.

    If they are, .357 Magnum, .45 ACP

    If they are not, .45 ACP, 9mm

    • Well, ATF defines ‘pistol’ has having the chamber integral to or permanently aligned with the bore. A revolver is a ‘pistol type’..

  28. For me, it’s 40S&W (the do-all round) and the 22 Magnum (the pocket protector.) I thusly summon forth the comments of dissent! 😁

  29. 380, .38 special and a .45 acp. If you need more than the 45 it’s time to grab a rifle or at least an m1 carbine. That being said big power revolvers will always have a soft spot in my heart.

  30. 9mm for cheap fun and practice. Then .357 Sig hands down for when it’s time to take care of serious business.

  31. Out of the two listed…

    .22lr for survival and storing tens of thousands of bullets easy.
    9MM for the service pistol and getting to the rifle I shouldn’t have set down.

    I’m not one to try and spit rifle loads out of a pistol, unless its a bear stopper, in a state were I can’t carry a rifle or shotgun.

  32. I am interested to see that 9 mm topped the list
    I was surprised to see so few votes for .380 ( 9 mm short)
    Like a lot of the people here on TTAG I carry a gun every day
    My rotation includes a couple of .380’s in addition to my 9
    There are a LOT of pocket pistols in the .380 caliber
    Since size is the biggest factor when it comes to daily carry many people choose a .380
    Plenty of small nines out there now
    That was not the case even a few years ago

  33. No handgun caliber is better than the other and all are under powered. And no caliber is the “end all” caliber. Shot placement is more important than caliber or round count. Arguing over which caliber is “best” is pointless because what may be best for you may not be the best for someone else. What matters most is what caliber and/or weapon you shoot the best, the most accurate, and is the most comfortable to shoot. So pick a weapon and caliber that FITS YOU and practice practice practice.

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