I have been instructing Home Firearms Safety classes for many years and a common question we get is “Which handgun caliber is the most practical for self-defense?”  Let’s start this conversation by saying all handgun ammunition sucks for self-defense.  A bold statement that I will clarify in this article.

If we are at that point in an incident where we are justified in using deadly physical force and draw out that handgun, what is our goal?  It’s not to kill the person, because that is illegal!

It’s to STOP THE THREAT, nothing more and nothing less.  If the outcome is death then so be it, but it’s never our intention to kill another person.

So back to the question at hand

What caliber is best at stopping the threat? I would say the Zeliska 28mm revolver will no doubt stop the threat the fastest.  After you finish your google search on that gun you will quickly realize that it is completely not practical to carry for self-defense!

I have been involved and have seen what pistol ammunition can do and does not do to a human body.  There are so many factors that are involved in answering this question: How big is the target? What are they wearing? Are they motivated? On drugs?

If you were faced against an unmotivated bad guy could a .22 short revolver going off and missing, stop the threat?  Yes absolutely.  On the other side of the spectrum could you shoot a motivated bad guy with a .45acp Federal HST center of the chest only wearing a t-shirt and he continues fighting?  Yes, I have seen it firsthand.  I have also seen one shot from a .22lr kill a grown man.

But are we going to rely on luck and shot placement?

So what’s the answer? 

When posed this question in class my response has always been, anything .380 acp – .45 acp will be a good option.  People will disagree with going as low as a .380acp, but you must take into consideration the BIG PICTURE.

The big picture is this, you must carry every day, you must know without question what you are capable of (you will fall to your level of training, you won’t rise to the occasion), you MUST know what’s most important to you.

local self defense training

You must carry every day…

To accomplish this can you honestly say that you will no matter what, walk out of your house with your high capacity Glock 19 with extra mags?  If you answered yes I will say you are disillusioned.  Why?  Because it’s not practical.  You are not fighting ISIS or taking out bank robbers when out for a jog or at the grocery store. You are carrying BECAUSE you are protecting yourself and your family, that should be your only concern.

If you do not have a handgun that is comfortable to conceal in all outfits then you need more handguns to choose from.  I carry a Smith and Wesson 638 with a clip draw to the gym and I carry a Glock 21 w/TLR1 to the mall/movie theatre.  There is not a one gun or one caliber handgun that will solve all the problems that are thrown at it.  That’s a good thing…..more ammunition to tell your wife/husband when you want a new gun!!

You must know without question what you are capable of

This may sting a little, but there is no place for ego when talking about potentially saving or not saving your own life or the life of a loved one.

If you are of the belief that because you are carrying concealed that you now have this magical talisman that makes you special, you are wrong.

All you have done is brought a weapon into the fight that may have not been there before.  What if it’s not a gun day?  Have you trained to re-holster?

What if you don’t have a holster that you can re-holster?  Are you going to shoot a person that is going to punch you?

This rabbit hole could go so deep I must stop it here.  If you are going to carry, seek out as much training as you possibly can and know your limitations 100%.

You MUST know what’s most important to you

One of my mentors would always say “If you are going to daydream, daydream with a purpose.”

What does that mean?  Well, it’s simple, you can not take your body where your mind hasn’t been.  Now add in the fact this is probably going to be the most stressful encounter of your life.  Do you believe you will have time to think it through?

We can help ourselves by running through scenarios in our heads and how we would respond.  For example, after you finish this article you decide you need to numb the pain so you head out to grab some beer from the local shop and rob.  When you walk back into the beer cooler you hear a male shouting loud demands at the clerk.  You turn and see a male pointing a gun at a small female behind the counter demanding money.  She’s crying and begging for her life.

  • What do you do?
  • Do you have your gun?
  • Are your kids with you?
  • What’s the backdrop?
  • Is there an exit?
  • Can I get my kids or loved ones out of this situation?
What’s most important to you?

How I will react will be determined by who I am with.  My family is everything to me and I will do anything to protect them.  If that means not saving someone else because I put my family higher on the priority scale then so be it.  But I have pre-made this decision already for my most stressful day….have you?

So I will end with this…..caliber should not be the main concern.  Buy a 9mm or a 45acp or a .380…..it does not matter.  What does matter is that you have enough money left over to get some training, go to the range and get comfortable with the gun.

Do something today that your future self will be thankful for, Keep Training!

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