What Is The Best Caliber For Self Defense Shooting?

What Is The Best Caliber For Self Defense Shooting? by: Eve Flanigan for Off the Grid News

Few topics can light up a range-side or gun store discussion like handgun caliber. Most every long-time handgun owner feels strongly about one caliber or another being the best. When speaking of self defense use, the term “stopping power” almost always enters the discussion. Is there a best caliber for self defense shooting? This article looks at both professional opinion and conventional thinking to answer that question.

Lets talk primarily about the differences between two common choices for a self defense handgun. The 9mm Luger and 45, whether it be the ACP, Long Colt, or any other sub-category of 45.

What Is the Goal of Defensive Shooting?

To defeat a common myth from the start, self defense shooting does not have killing as its purpose. The sole purpose of a lawful self defense shooting is to stop the attack. Despite what movies and TV would lead us to believe, only one in six people who sustain gunshot wounds die. Also counter to typical media portrayals, a single round fired from any caliber handgun has less than a 25 percent likelihood of stopping an attack. Odds go up substantially—to about 63 percent—with two shots.

Bullet Selection

It’s important to distinguish defensive ammo—including hollow point, jacketed hollow point, and newer variants (HP)—from target ammo, typically with full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets. FMJ is made to penetrate in as straight a line as its speed and mass will permit. HP is made to expand in size, after impact with solid tissue, and sometimes fragment into smaller projectiles. The wider the expansion, the more dramatic the fragmentation under ideal conditions. I’m referring to a center mass shot on a typical 12-14-inch thick critter, whether two-legged or four. Miss slightly, and that round may sail through muscle and exit the other side, not even slowing down the subject.

Performance of the smaller calibers like 9mm and .380 ACP HP has come a long way in recent years. Loads considered insufficient for penetration of clothing and fat are better dialed-in for self defense shooting. Lots of shooters like 45 for the confidence-producing big hole it makes. But in some cases, this slower-moving projectile (typically around 850 feet per second as compared to in excess of 1,000 fps or more from 9mm), can produce less penetration and fragmentation.

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