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  1. #1
    s1mp13m4n is offline Junior Member
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    Where do I learn more about caliber for personal protection?

    Hello everyone. I do not own a firearm yet and I am still trying to learn. Now I keep hearing that for an EDC handgun you do not want to have a caliber any smaller than a .380, .38, or 9mm depending on what you read. I also see the .22 put down a lot for a concealed carry gun. Why is this? I went to the Remington website to look at ammo and they have ballistics charts for what they sell, but how does that information translate into real world carry and effectiveness? I understand that "knock down" power is a myth and that stopping power simply means the ability of a round to stop and attacker from harming you further or stopping the fight. Why is a .22 not sufficent for concealed carry? I am curious and trying to learn.

  2. #2
    VAMarine's Avatar
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    Re: Where do I learn more about caliber for personal protection?

    I would start reading here:
    An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power

    As for the .22, while any bullet can kill if certain variables are met, instant, or even timely stoppeage of an attack are not traits of the.22.

    If you look at the study listed and then look at the "failure to incapacitate" of the .22 you will see it ranks pretty high for not getting the job done, even when compared to .25 and .32 calibers if I'm not mistaken.

  3. #3
    s1mp13m4n is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks for the link to that article. This part of the article stood out to me "The results I got from the study lead me to believe that there really isn't that much difference between most defensive handgun rounds and calibers. None is a death ray, but most work adequately...even the lowly .22s. I've stopped worrying about trying to find the "ultimate" bullet. There isn't one. And I've stopped feeling the need to strap on my .45 every time I leave the house out of fear that my 9mm doesn't have enough "stopping power." Folks, carry what you want. Caliber really isn't all that important." If this is true, then what matters is being able to place your shots on target and being able to follow up with extra shots if need be. No round had a "one shot kill" as it seems that it took 2-3 rounds of any ammo to get the job done. In that case I would rather carry a smaller gun with less expensive ammo rather than a full size gun with rounds that cost $.50 each while at the range just having fun. Being a newbie I have heard things such as "a few good shots with a .22 is better than a shot in the leg with a .45acp". From this report that theory seems true.

  4. #4
    sgms is offline Member
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    Correct, shot placement is the most critical part of a shooting stop. In my opinion the selection of the pistol and the amount of training put into learning how to use it is more important than is the caliber used. Now having said this I also believe that for defensive use, carry and use the largest caliber you can use very well. On a marginal hit bigger holes work better at faster stops, through bleed out if nothing else.
    And before anyone piles on, yes there are a number of situations where largest is not best but for general rule of thumb this is a good starting point.

  5. #5
    Leo's Avatar
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    I suggest you go to the range to rent as many pistols as you can in various calibers and shoot them to see which caliber/gun you can shoot and like best then purchase a decent gun in the caliber you are most comfortable with to practice. You will learn better that way than just only imagining things that you read. Also, the more you practice, the faster and easier you will understand what you read.

    I agree with VAMarine that any bullet can kill but don't go with a caliber that's too "small". That's the reason Texas DPS requires a minimum of a .32 ACP pistol must be used for the Concealed Handgun License range qualification. I love the .45 ACP round but many times I could only conceal a subcompact .380 or 9mm because of the hot weather in TX. Carry what works best for you, the most important thing is to practice with it to be proficient.

    This is also a good article to read: Choosing the Right Self Defense Handgun Caliber for You

  6. #6
    s1mp13m4n is offline Junior Member
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    Thank you all for the help. I have been watching Hickok45 videos on FaceTube as well. I do know that I like the full-size 1911 in 45acp to shoot, but that gun is seriously large and also after about 50 rounds of recoil...I am done. I prefer less recoil and for now I flinch knowing that "slam" is coming when I pull the trigger.

  7. #7
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    I like to compare muzzle energy, ME, as a guide to what is needed for PP.
    they say 380s are the minimum and their ME is 200. Well for long time police used 38spl 158gr round nose bullet and their ME was 200. If you choose a cartridge with too much ME you will have over penetration thru walls. I don't know your neighborhood but injuring a neighbor is a big liability. Thus we have the jacketed hollow point bullets, JHP, to help stop that. Still there are many variables and there are web sites that document penetration data. American Rifleman Sept issue was latest to document penetration data
    So happy hunting a handgun that feels good in the hand and definitely go rent guns to understand the variables
    Oh and read a lot of posts on this forum

  8. #8
    SouthernBoy's Avatar
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    In the simplest terms, you should select the most powerful cartridge with which you can consistently, accurately, and confidently deliver rounds to target. If this happens to be a 9mm, then that's fine. If it turns out to be a .40S&W or a .45ACP, then that is also very good. The point is, a handgun is not the best firearm to use against an adversary who is bent on doing you serious harm. However when viewed in the light of other choices, practical and otherwise, it actually does turn out to be a very good weapon for your personal defense.

    I suggest you do a lot of reading and research on this topic because if you just rely on website heroes, you could very well be poorly served. This is not to say that there are some excellent folks out there who will give you honest and valuable information. What it does mean is without the knowledge base to filter out the BS for the facts and good stuff, you are ripe for the picking.

    Most folks who are serious about carrying a self defense arm and who have done this for many years (yes, I fall into that group), have learned a thing or two and generally are going to impart information that will serve you well. But do spend the time and effort doing your own research.... which also includes asking, just as you have done here.

    Hope this helps you along and if it means anything to you, I usually carry a pistol chambered for the .40S&W, although on occasion I also carry ones in 9mm. But I prefer the .40S&W. I have also been known to carry a .357 Magnum and a .45ACP.

  9. #9
    SouthernBoy's Avatar
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  10. #10
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    Ditto to the advice above. One additional, you may start out with a .380 or 9mm and be able to shoot it very proficiently and suddenly one day you discover a used Wilson Professional in .45 ACP that is screaming your name and you try something new. Nighthawks, Ed Brown's, Les Baer's can do this too. You may want to try something esoteric such as .38 Super, don't feel that you are stuck with only one. You have to start somewhere but you will evolve if you do any practice at all. Good luck on whatever you choose - it will be the right choice, for now.

  11. #11
    Steve M1911A1's Avatar
    Steve M1911A1 is offline Senior Member
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    My mentor used to say that you could easily kill someone with a needle, but his death would take a while, and he could do a lot of damage to you during that time period.
    On the other hand, he said, you could use a large sledgehammer. It might not kill your opponent, if you didn't hit his head, but it certainly would quickly stop him from doing you any damage.

    I suggest that the most usual effect of using a .22 rimfire cartridge for self-defense would be like that needle. Yes, it would certainly kill; but instantly stopping your opponent is not very likely.
    However, using a big, slow bullet that stops within your opponent's body, and therefore delivers all of the energy that it carries, is much more likely to end whatever he's doing right away.

    As SouthernBoy has already written, "you should select the most powerful cartridge with which you can consistently, accurately, and confidently deliver rounds to target."
    To that, I add: Choose something that delivers a big, heavy bullet that moves slowly enough that it will not over-penetrate. The bullet must stop within your opponent.
    An added advantage to that mantra is that most of the big, heavy, slow-moving bullets used in practical self-defense cartridges also deliver more manageable, "slow-push" recoil impulses, rather than harder-to-control fast jabs.

    You can go too far with this, too.
    The British used a very heavy, very slow-moving, .38 bullet in their standard-issue, WW2 military pistols. It turned out to be too slow-moving to do the job: It carried too little energy along with it.
    Their bad example was, essentially, our .38 S&W cartridge firing a 200-grain bullet at less than 700fps.

    Our better example would be a .38 Special cartridge firing a 158-grain bullet at a minimum velocity of 900fps.
    (The "classic" .45 ACP cartridge puts out a 230-grain bullet at 850fps. It works very well indeed.)

  12. #12
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    Don't concern yourself with caliber at this point. Caliber counts only AFTER you have the proficiency to put your rounds on target. If you're flinching now, get back to a .22 LR and practice, and with a center-fire, UNLOADED handgun, dry-fire a few thousand times, with a dime balanced on top of the barrel/slide.... the object is to dry-fire, and not let trigger pull cause the dime to fall.

  13. #13
    SouthernBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by usmcj View Post
    Don't concern yourself with caliber at this point. Caliber counts only AFTER you have the proficiency to put your rounds on target. If you're flinching now, get back to a .22 LR and practice, and with a center-fire, UNLOADED handgun, dry-fire a few thousand times, with a dime balanced on top of the barrel/slide.... the object is to dry-fire, and not let trigger pull cause the dime to fall.
    This is a test I use with new guns I have purchased and with which I intend to carry. The only difference I make is to lay the dime on the front sight... assuming the sight's shape and angle will allow this.

  14. #14
    SouthernBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve M1911A1 View Post
    My mentor used to say that you could easily kill someone with a needle, but his death would take a while, and he could do a lot of damage to you during that time period.
    On the other hand, he said, you could use a large sledgehammer. It might not kill your opponent, if you didn't hit his head, but it certainly would quickly stop him from doing you any damage.

    I suggest that the most usual effect of using a .22 rimfire cartridge for self-defense would be like that needle. Yes, it would certainly kill; but instantly stopping your opponent is not very likely.
    However, using a big, slow bullet that stops within your opponent's body, and therefore delivers all of the energy that it carries, is much more likely to end whatever he's doing right away.

    As SouthernBoy has already written, "you should select the most powerful cartridge with which you can consistently, accurately, and confidently deliver rounds to target."
    To that, I add: Choose something that delivers a big, heavy bullet that moves slowly enough that it will not over-penetrate. The bullet must stop within your opponent.
    An added advantage to that mantra is that most of the big, heavy, slow-moving bullets used in practical self-defense cartridges also deliver more manageable, "slow-push" recoil impulses, rather than harder-to-control fast jabs.

    You can go too far with this, too.
    The British used a very heavy, very slow-moving, .38 bullet in their standard-issue, WW2 military pistols. It turned out to be too slow-moving to do the job: It carried too little energy along with it.
    Their bad example was, essentially, our .38 S&W cartridge firing a 200-grain bullet at less than 700fps.

    Our better example would be a .38 Special cartridge firing a 158-grain bullet at a minimum velocity of 900fps.
    (The "classic" .45 ACP cartridge puts out a 230-grain bullet at 850fps. It works very well indeed.)
    I completely concur with this, Steve. You'd be amazed, and I suspect you have probably seen, the number of postings on some other websites where people have strenuously argued that the .22LR is not only a viable self defense cartridge, but is actually a better choice than the calibers we commonly see used. One has to wonder where they get this idea. My responses to this have been along the lines that they will know whether or not they have taken the right decision if and when the time comes they ever have to use their sidearm. And even then, they will only know how well it worked for that instant situation. While this can be said for any caliber/load, personally I would rather trust my life to something that is going to do what you have stated: stop the aggressor(s) as quickly as possible before they can do bad things to my body.

  15. #15
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    I'm of the opinion that most aggressors are not trained inthe use of firearms, do not expect ANY form of retaliation, and most certainly not retaliation in the form of a handgun... REGARDLESS of caliber. Using the largest caliber you can control, and are proficient with (as already posted) is terrific advice... but.... not everyone can control or become proficient with a 1911, although 1911's recoil less than some snubbies, and airweights.

    Use what you're comfortable with.....

    by the way...

    You'd be amazed, and I suspect you have probably seen, the number of postings on some other websites where people have strenuously argued that the .22LR is not only a viable self defense cartridge, but is actually a better choice than the calibers we commonly see used. One has to wonder where they get this idea. My responses to this have been along the lines that they will know whether or not they have taken the right decision if and when the time comes they ever have to use their sidearm. And even then, they will only know how well it worked for that instant situation
    Respectfully sir, I'd guess that this young man made the right decision when he employed his BB gun. The aggressor in this case WAS stopped, the potential victim was protected... win-win

    11-Year-Old Fends Off Mom’s Attacker With BB Gun - ABC News

    I know ladies that can empty a 10 round .22 cal magazine into a softball faster than many non-competitive shooters can empty 8 rounds out of a 1911.... While it can certainly play a part, I don't believe caliber to be the ultimate qualifier.

  16. #16
    SouthernBoy's Avatar
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    "I'm of the opinion that most aggressors are not trained inthe use of firearms, do not expect ANY form of retaliation, and most certainly not retaliation in the form of a handgun... REGARDLESS of caliber. Using the largest caliber you can control, and are proficient with (as already posted) is terrific advice... but.... not everyone can control or become proficient with a 1911..."

    I agree with this and that is why I mentioned that caliber notwithstanding, the primary focus is what works best for the user.


    "Respectfully sir, I'd guess that this young man made the right decision when he employed his BB gun. The aggressor in this case WAS stopped, the potential victim was protected... win-win"

    We can find and cite extraordinary cases as is our wont, but would you really want to bet your life on a BB gun.... or a .22LR? Especially when you have the option of using something better? I'm not going to speak of the young fellow with the BB gun because that is not what the OP was wanting to address. He asked a good and proper question and it is incumbent upon us to do our best to answer his questions to his satisfaction and increased knowledge. I will say that in a dire situation, you are going to use what's immediately available be it a baseball bat, a chair, or a letter opener.


    There are a few times when I carry a mouse gun in .380ACP but I keep those to a minimum and my alert antenna really go up when I do. If a .45ACP or a .40S&W is a bit too much for someone in a semi-auto, then their next best option is most likely the 9mm. If they train with a good 9mm to the point where they can draw and hit targets under varying conditions consistently and confidently, then that is the caliber for them. I know people who do just that with the 9mm and would certainly feel warm and fuzzy to have them at my side should anything bad go down. I train a lot with a 9mm as well, and am confident in my abilities with my chosen pistols in this caliber.

    The handgun is not the best defensive arm one can muster for protection. Shotguns and rifles do a much better job at stopping someone who has you in his sights to do bad things to you. But we all know that going about our daily business and affairs does not lend itself to the carrying of a long gun, so that leaves us with a quality and reliable handgun as the next best tool to employ. If someone is of a mind to carry a .22LR then that is their decision to take. Prudence would dictate they could be making a serious mistake, but then again... it IS their decision.

  17. #17
    s1mp13m4n is offline Junior Member
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    I can across this via a Google search and it was an interesting read.
    Best Choices for Self Defense Ammo
    I will not say it is the absolute go to manual but for a newbie it does help add pieces to solve my puzzle.

  18. #18
    SouthernBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by s1mp13m4n View Post
    I can across this via a Google search and it was an interesting read.
    Best Choices for Self Defense Ammo
    I will not say it is the absolute go to manual but for a newbie it does help add pieces to solve my puzzle.
    As a general rule of thumb, a high velocity expanding handgun bullet is not going to penetrate as far into the body cavity as a slower bullet of the same design. This is pure physics. The resistance to its travel is magnified as its speed is increased because expansion will take place sooner and more over a shorter distance traveled in the body. This presents a larger front and therefore greater resistance so it slows down quicker. There are a few exceptions to this in some bullet designs such as bonded bullets and solid copper.

    The current school of thought supports deeper penetration coupled with good controlled expansion and minimum shedding (loss of bullet material). One way to imagine this is to spot a rather large man with a large, barrel chest. Now picture this man wearing a jacket or coat and wanting to take your head off. Will your chosen caliber and load penetrate deeply enough into his body to reach vital organs and blood vessels and do it in time to save your skin before the last thing he does is to plunge a knife into your chest?

    Some of the BG's out there are large and need some serious medicine to take them down. In post #15, usmcj mentions that he is of the opinion that, "most aggressors are not trained inthe use of firearms, do not expect ANY form of retaliation, and most certainly not retaliation in the form of a handgun" and he's probably right for most BG's. But you must always err on the side of caution and common sense and this means to work backwards from the worse case scenario. Otherwise you will be behind the curve if attacked (you most likely will anyway since attacks tend to come at you quickly).

    Stopping the aggressor is what it's all about and the quicker you can do this, the less chance there is you will suffer injury... or worse. There are people out there who have no compunction about killing you for your wallet and keys. The thing that gets good and decent folks injured or killed is that we don't think like these people. We don't want to hurt anyone... they have no such feelings of compassion. So we hesitate, wishing it will all go away when what we really need to be doing is hitting center mass with extreme prejudice. This is the hardest thing for good people to learn to do... unless they have done similar things in the past (think combat or previous attacks).

    Good that you're looking around out there. Keep that up and you'll do fine.

  19. #19
    s1mp13m4n is offline Junior Member
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    I do not want to fall into the trap of being bias. My cousin is a 1911 fan and a 45acp fan, so talking to him about a handgun I get the bigger is better response. I like the 1911, I really do but the gun is big and heavy. There are those who will say that a gun should be comforting not comfortable. I disagree, I think you can have both. I am not trying to buy special clothes to conceal my gun or so called specialized belts, etc. LOL I tried his XD in 45acp and that gun with a loaded mag in it is very heavy. Talking to my step dad, uncle, and cousin....they all think the .380 or 9mm is a girly round. I am not interested in advice like that from them. LOL I would much rather shoot a 9mm well than maybe hit an attacker with a 45.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by s1mp13m4n View Post
    I would much rather shoot a 9mm well than maybe hit an attacker with a 45.
    If that is the conclusion you have reached (for now), I agree.

    The 9mm is adequate if fired accurately...the same criteria that makes a .40 S&W or .45 ACP adequate. Attackers have been stopped with almost every caliber/chambering, but by the same token, attackers have also continued their attacks after multiple hits from almost every caliber/chambering, including .44 magnums. You have to hit something vital, regardless, and maybe multiple times. A .22 can be used in a pinch, but rimfire ammo generally has a higher failure rate, and you must hit something vital to stop a determined attacker before he can get to you...not easy with any handgun, especially when you are probably shaking like a dog crapping peach seeds.

    Having said all that, I prefer a single-stack, striker fired .45ACP. I started with .45, switched to a .38 Special revolver, four different 9mm's, then a .380, and finally a .40 S&W...before finally coming full circle back to the .45 ACP. The point here is that our confidence levels and threat level evaluations change all the time. Carrying a lethal weapon is a big decision for the average person, and most people second guess themselves continuously. Find something you can shoot that falls into a power range that the general consensus approves of, and get to work becoming proficient with it. You can always change it.

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