These days, it seems like everybody has an opinion. It seems that all it takes to be an “expert” is to read one article or handle a few weapons. With all the information that is available to us at the tip of our fingers, I prefer to speak to people, and gain a first-hand experience on what it is that I am seeking knowledge of. For example, the current subject of what is the best caliber for self defense.
Now, I am sure that there are a great number of people with a lot of wisdom in this field, so I would just like to give you some personal references, along with some knowledge that I have gained over my 38 years around firearms.
It is my experience that you need to be as comfortable with your choice of firearm as you are with your clothes. It doesn’t do you a bit of good to have the “best” firearm according to the leading expert, if you cannot control it, handle it, and carry it each and every day. I can preach to you all day about benefits, calibers, numbers, pressure, etc., but if the gun is uncomfortable to you, or to small, large, whatever the reason is that you can’t use it comfortably, then it is not worth a dime to you. What I would like to tell you about is what works for me, and why I have given these reasons.
My top 5 calibers for self-defense are 12 gauge, 357 mag, 9mm, 40 cal, & lastly, 380. Now, in no particular order, I will explain these selections. I listed the 380 due to a light and easy to handle smaller bodied pistol for most people. It can fit into your pocket, & allows you to carry without needing an additional holster or piece of equipment on your person. The 12 gauge is simply for home defense, or perhaps an in the vehicle carry weapon. The reason that I choose this for the home is for energy reasons that it does not pass through drywall very easily, and when you use the right ammo, it can be used for a scatter gun, a close quarter’s combat weapon, and a barricade breaker if needed. Also, if you buy a shotgun without a pistol grip, it can be used as a weapon without switching your grip if the intruder gets close enough that 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, which allows you to practice & be more familiar with your firearm. The 40 cal is what I carry most days, and the reason is that I have a Ruger SR40C, which is perfect for my hands, & my grip. It just fits me, which as I said earlier, I believe is the most important aspect of choosing a self-defense caliber & weapon for you. Lastly, my personal favorite, as well as the one that I sell the most of, the good old fashioned revolver, 357 mag. There is a reason that I have chosen this weapon, and that is because if you choose this revolver, you now have the option of shooting 3 different kinds of ammo in the same weapon. It is reliable, and under stress, you have less to think about, but rather just aim & pull the trigger. You may not always have the luxury of being able to check to see if you chambered a round before you may need to pull & use your firearm. This is where a revolver is great, because it is simply pull & squeeze.
With that being said, let’s talk about the energy, options, weights, & the availability of what you need.
When we talk about ammo, there are several things to consider when choosing what to use & when to use it. As far as home defense, I like double ought buck for the shotgun. There will be 9 balls that are 33 caliber in size coming out of the barrel. That gives you enough options as far as trajectory paths. They will leave the barrel around 1100 to 1500 fps depending on the load & what brand you choose. That is giving you a great amount of stopping power, and even without a vital hit, it should slow or stop what-ever it is that you are trying to disable. You can also use this as far as a car gun, or even a hunting round. The problem is, that is another time.
When you get into handgun rounds, options, & 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, 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, as well as easy to handle. This also gives you 8 shots, and a great option for personal defense. Not to mention less then 1” thick, and only 5” long, hard to beat for a pocket carry weapon.
Now, there is another option, which is the 9mm, and the 40 cal, but in any manufacture, they are bulky & heavy compared to 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, so the fact that this is perfect for me is why I choose it to be my favorite. I also have the Ruger SR9C, which is the exact same thing as the 40 as far as weight, size, & hadling, just a smaller barrel as well as a few more in the magazine capacity.
The 40 holds 15+1 in the large clip, 9+1 in the smaller, while the 9mm holds 17+1 in the larger clip, 10+1 in the smaller clip. These are a great option as far as a holster carry, but since they are both over 24 ounces, and 7” long, it’s hard to find a pocket that will fit these.
I am obviously a Ruger fan, but there are many great options out there to choose from. All manufactures make great weapons that can be better than nothing in a bad situation. With all these options available to you, there is not a good excuse you can have for not being able to protect yourself, or your loved ones.
With all the options in firearms, there are just as many for ammo that go in each. Hornady, Winchester, Nosler, are just a few that offer a great variety of self defense ammunition that preform very well. Hornady has a line called critical duty, & it has given us a very impressive spec sheet to go along with it. 9mm has a 135 grain bullet that is leaving the barrel around 1100 fps. When I am thinking personal defense, 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 just trying to eliminate the threat, & I want stopping power.
The Critical Duty ammo has a flex tip which allows for consistant expansion, and the jacketed bullet bonds the jacketed bullet with the core. This provides a stronger bullet, and thus giving you great penetrating power if needed.
They, along with all the other ammo producers, have a wide variety of options for you to choose from. All the option that I have given you may differ from what you prefer, or what you use. This is ok, because the point behind this is to give suggestions, as well as direction for you to get started, or maybe to change your mind.
When I was heavy into selling firearms for a national chain of sporting goods stores, I was always asked what was the best & perfect weapon & caliber for them. I will tell you what I told all of them, and that is that what fits me, may not fit you. I would encourage you to get out & shoot more calibers, and become familiar with what you would like to use. Where I live, there is a shop that has used handguns & firearms for sale. The ones that are used, you can take into their range, & for a small fee, you can try them out & see if it fits you & what you are looking for. This is a fantastic option for people who are not sure, or have not been around firearms much. Find a firearm that is comfortable to handle, carry, & is an appropriate weight for what you want, & for where you are going to hold it daily.
Please practice, be involved, & be safe to everyone around you. It may not always be your life that you are protecting.