Guns & Ammo
5 Calibers For Self-Defense | Self-Defense Firearms
Find the best self-defense calibers that will fit your needs and preferences.
RELATED: Self-Defense Tips for Living in a Post-9/11 America
In this article:
- Choose a Firearm That Works for You
- My Top 5 Self-Defense Calibers
- Energy, Weight, and Availability
- Other Options to Consider
- Picking Your Ammunition
Calibers for Self-Defense | Weigh Your Choices
Caliber Definition: The measurement of the diameter or bore inside a barrel of a gun. It can also refer to the diameter of the bullet or the projectile the gun fires.
Choose a Firearm That Works for You
What is the best caliber for self-defense?
These days, it seems everybody has an opinion. It seems all it takes to be an “expert” is to read one article or handle a few weapons.
With all the information available at the tips of our fingers, I prefer to speak to people and gain firsthand experience on what it is I am seeking knowledge about.
Take, for example, the current subject of the best self-defense gun and bullet.
Now, I am sure lots of people have some self-defense training and wisdom in this field. I like to give you some personal references based on experiences with firearms over the last 38 years.
You need to be as comfortable with your choice of a firearm as you are with your clothes. It won't do you good to have the “best” firearm if you can't control it, handle it, and carry it every day.
I can preach all day about benefits, calibers, numbers, and pressure. If you're not comfortable with your firearm, though, then it won't be worth a dime to you.
What I would like to tell you about is what works for me and why.
My Top 5 Self-Defense Calibers
My top 5 calibers for self-defense are 380, 12 gauge, 9mm, 40 cal, and 357 mag. In no particular order, I will explain these selections:
I listed 380 because it's a light and easy-to-handle smaller-bodied pistol ideal for most people.
It can fit into your pocket. It also allows you to carry without needing an additional holster.
2. 12 Gauge
The 12 gauge is excellent if you want a home defense shotgun or if you need to carry a weapon in your vehicle.
The reason I chose this for the home is for its energy. It does not pass through drywall very easily.
When you use the right ammo, you can use it as a scattergun. You may also use it as a close-quarters combat weapon and a barricade breaker if necessary.
Also, if you buy a shotgun without a pistol grip, you can utilize it as a weapon without switching your grip.
If the intruder gets close enough, you may need to swing rather than fire.
A 9mm is what I am rather comfortable shooting, and the ammo is the cheaper of the bunch. It allows you to practice and be more familiar with your firearm.
4. 40 Cal
The 40 cal is what I carry on most days. I have a Ruger SR40C, which is perfect for my hands and my grip.
It fits me, which I believe is the most important aspect of choosing a self-defense caliber and weapon.
5. 357 Mag
Last is my personal favorite, as well as the one I sell the most of. It is the good old-fashioned revolver called 357 mag.
There is a good reason why I chose this weapon. It offers the option of shooting three different kinds of ammo in the same weapon.
It is reliable, and you have less to think about under stress. You can just aim and pull the trigger.
You may not always have the luxury of being able to check to see if you chambered a round before using a firearm. This is where a revolver is great because it's a simple pull-and-squeeze gun.
RELATED: Caliber Wars | .380 ACP VS 9mm: Which Is Better?
Energy, Weight, and Availability
When we talk about ammo, there are several things to consider.
As far as home self-defense weapons go, I like the double buck for the shotgun. There will be 9 balls that are 33-caliber in size coming out of the barrel.
It gives you enough options with regard to trajectory paths.
They will leave the barrel around 1,100 to 1,500 fps depending on the load and the brand you choose. This gives you a great amount of stopping power.
Even without a vital hit, it should slow or stop whatever it is you are trying to disable. You can also use this as far as a car gun or even a hunting round.
When you get into handgun rounds, options, and weights, the 380 is a great choice for a pocket carry or even a waist holster.
The average pocket pistol can average between 9 ounces for the Ruger LCP and up to 29 ounces for the Hi-Point.
When you have a pistol that fits in your pocket, it is hard to beat the Ruger. It is small, light, and easy to handle.
It also gives you 8 shots and an excellent option for personal defense. It's also less than 1-inch thick and only 5 inches long.
It's hard to beat as a pocket-carry weapon.
Other Options to Consider
You do have other options such as 9mm defense ammo and 40 cal, but they are bulky and heavy than the 380 option.
I have a Ruger SR40C, which is my personal favorite to shoot. The shorter clip with the thumb extension is perfect for my hands.
I have large hands, and the fact it's perfect for me is why I chose it to be my favorite.
I also have the Ruger SR9C. It is the exact same thing as the 40 when it comes to weight, size, and handling.
It has a smaller barrel and a few more in the magazine capacity.
The 40 holds 15+1 in the large clip and 9+1 in the smaller one. The 9mm, on the other hand, holds 17+1 in the larger clip and 10+1 in the smaller clip.
These are good options as holster carry.
They are both over 24 ounces and 7 inches long, though. It’s hard to find a pocket that will fit these.
I am obviously a Ruger fan, but there are many other excellent options out there. All manufacturers make great weapons that can be better than nothing in a bad situation.
With all these options available to you, there is no excuse for not being able to offer protection to yourself or your family.
Picking Your Ammunition
With all the options in firearms, there are just as many for ammo that goes in each.
Hornady, Winchester, and Nosler are a few that offer a great variety of self-defense ammunition. Hornady critical defense gives us a very impressive spec sheet to go along with it.
The 9mm has a 135-grain bullet that leaves the barrel around 1,100 fps. When I am thinking personal self-defense techniques, I am not as concerned with speed as I am with impact.
I want a bullet with more stopping power than trajectory.
When in a critical situation that involves pulling out your weapon, the speed of the bullet is not on my mind. I am only trying to eliminate the threat, and I want some stopping power.
The Critical Duty ammo has a flex tip, which allows for consistent expansion. The jacketed bullet bonds itself with the core.
It provides a stronger bullet, thus, giving you great penetrating power if necessary. They, along with all the other ammo producers, have a wide variety of options.
My picks may be different from what you prefer or what you use.
The point behind this is to give suggestions and direction for you to start or maybe to change your mind.
Check out this video by The Daily Shooter on why the 12-gauge is great for home defense:
When I was heavy into selling firearms for a national chain of sporting goods stores, people often asked me about the best and perfect weapon and caliber.
Always remember, what fits me may not fit you. I encourage you to get out and shoot more calibers.
Be familiar with what you like to use.
Where I live, there is a shop that offers used handguns and firearms for sale.
You can take the used ones into their range for a small fee. You can then try to see if it fits you and what you are looking for.
This is a fantastic choice for people who have not been around firearms much.
Find a firearm you find comfortable to handle and carry. It must be within your desired weight.
Practice, be proactive, and be safe to everyone around you. Keep in mind it may not always be just your life you are protecting.
Do these 5 calibers for self-defense make it on your list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
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July 10, 2021 at 5:41 AM
Notice every gun he mentioned was his “favorite?” Really? The “clip” thing was annoying but we all know what he’s talking about. Older guys (like myself) call the. Clips because the term “magazine” didn’t become popular till the 80’s
June 20, 2015 at 10:12 AM
let’s see ,gun store employee calling magazines ”clips” ,your credibility sucks bad air. i think you’re the ”expert” in your first paragraph,you sound like all the other phony sidewalk commandos out there,maybe you can blame it on your editor,or the proof reader
June 17, 2015 at 1:06 PM
Why do you call magazines a clip?