Self-Defense Calibers

Exurban Kevin notices that what’s considered to be a good self-defense caliber has been getting ever smaller. When I first started carrying, back in 2002 or so, .380 was considered where self-defense rounds started, but 9mm was the generally popular self-defense caliber. Then everyone said it had to start with a .4 or it wasn’t good enough. The .40S&W became pretty popular, especially among law enforcement. Now we’re back to the smaller calibers being popular again. My guess is because more people are carrying, and it’s just much much easier to carry and conceal smaller firearms. I tend to think anything is better than harsh language. The best caliber is the one you’ll carry. A pocket .380 you have is better than the .40S&W left at home.

14 thoughts on “Self-Defense Calibers”

  1. This could be taken further back in history with the various vest guns and pocket revolvers and the like.

  2. I’m sure your guess is correct. But I believe another significant factor is technological advancement in bullet technology. Projectiles from a range of diameters and weights can now be manufactured to meet very specific terminal performance criteria, such as penetration and expansion. Since 9mm bullets that meet FBI or IWBA specs are readily obtainable, there are doubtless those who would prefer to have more rounds in the magazine instead of fewer that start out with a larger caliber.

    Phrased somewhat differently, assuming premium 9mm, .40 and .45 bullets are all going to do about the same thing inside the target, the focus tends to shift to preferences in the delivery platform rather than the caliber.

  3. A .25 ACP is better than no gun, though not something to voluntarily choose without compelling reasons why larger calibers are unacceptable…

    1. I have a 25 ACP I rarely carry, but it’s nice to have in the pants pocket when anything bigger would draw attention. Think summertime at a amusement park…….

  4. I dropped a 300 pound hog with a .380 from a small pocket gun.

    Caveats: it was point blank between the eyes. I used Federal HydraShok. It was my hog, and I moved up to .380 after the .22 didn’t insta-kill the previous hog. The .22 stunned (which is humane when you cut it cleanly right away, which I did), but the .380 killed instantly. Autopsy (of sorts) proved it: bullet into brain mass. Done.

    After seeing the results, I would have no qualms defending myself with a good .380 round at close range. I may even get the new Glock .380, as long as it is smaller than my other carry guns. I also have no doubts that the quality of the round counts more on the lower end of the caliber scale than at 9mm and above. But I am no expert, blah blah.

    So there you go.

    To those lurkers out there: please save me the drama about killing the hog on my own. Long before factory USDA plants, farmers and hogs met on cold days to feed the family. That’s what I did to the tune of more than 500 pounds of natural pasture raised Berkshire Pork. First time I’ve enjoyed chops in a long time.

  5. The renewed interest in .380 is because of the revolution in .380 guns. When I first got interested in shooting in college 15ish years ago, .380s were blowback operated autos like the ppk or sig 230. You could conceal them, but their relative size was similar to a Kahr 9mm only with less stopping power. The guns are traditionally respected, but kind of suboptimal for their size and weight. The only exception to this rule was the colt mustang pocketlite which was out of production.

    Then the P3AT came out. Suddenly you had small locked-breech .380s that could fill the role previously relegated to .22s, .25s, and .32s. .380 became a common pocket gun caliber and in the role it is really attractive.

  6. Uh… [citation needed]

    In the casual user market? Sure. But those people have made .410 revolvers popular, too.

  7. When I had to go into Graterford Prison for my job I often spoke to inmates there. Not one of them ever said it mattered what they were going to be shot with, NONE of them wanted to be shot, period.

    ANY gun with you is better than any gun at home in the drawer.
    I am and always will be a 380 guy. My Walther PPK is my first weapon for carry. (Bond, James Bond.)

  8. I’ve always said, small lead on target is far better than big lead off target. Carry what you shoot well.

    Unfortunately that’s mostly 12 gauge for me, but I practice with others :)

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