What is the best caliber for self defense? 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 self-defense gun and bullet. Now, I am sure there are lots 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 I have gained over my 38 years around firearms.
Calibers for Self Defense
Choose a Firearm that Works for You
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, but if you’re not comfortable with your firearm, then it won’t 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 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 the 380 due to a light and easy-to-handle smaller bodied pistol ideal for most people. It can fit into your pocket and allows you to carry without needing an additional holster.
The 12 gauge is simply for home defense, or perhaps if you need to carry a weapon in your vehicle. The reason I chose this for the home is for energy reasons. It does not pass through drywall very easily. When you use the right ammo, it can be used for a scattergun, 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, 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.
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 just fits me, which I believe is the most important aspect of choosing a self-defense caliber and weapon.
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 good reason why I have chosen this weapon. It is because it offers the option of shooting 3 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.
Energy, Weight, and Availability
When we talk about ammo, there are several things to consider. As far as home defense goes, I like the double 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 and the brand you choose, which gives you a great amount of stopping power. Even without a vital hit, it should slow or stop whatever it is that 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. This also gives you 8 shots and a great option for personal defense. Not to mention, it’s less than 1” thick and only 5” long – hard to beat for a pocket carry weapon.
Other Options to Consider
There is another option which is the 9mm defense ammo and the 40 cal, but they are bulky and 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, and the fact that it’s perfect for me is why I chose 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, 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 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 manufacturers 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 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 goes in each. Hornady, Winchester, and Nosler are just a few that offer a great variety of self-defense ammunition. Hornady critical defense has given us a very impressive spec sheet to go along with it.
The 9mm has a 135-grain bullet that leaves 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 and I want stopping power.
The Critical Duty ammo has a flex tip which allows for consistent expansion, and the jacketed bullet bonds the jacketed bullet with the core. This provides a stronger bullet, 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 I have given you may differ from what you prefer, or what you use, but it’s okay because the point behind this is to give suggestions, as well as direction for you to get started, 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, I was always asked what the best and perfect weapon and caliber for them was. Always remember, what fits me may not fit you. I would encourage you to get out and shoot more calibers and become familiar with what you would like to use. Where I live, there is a shop that has used handguns and firearms for sale. The used ones can be taken into their range, and for a small fee, tried out to see if it fits you and what you are looking for. This is a fantastic option for people who have not been around firearms much. Find a firearm that is comfortable to handle, carry, and has your desired weight. Practice, be involved 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 in your list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published in April 2015 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.