Handguns are the go-to self-defense firearms of choice for millions of Americans. If you’re looking for a handgun, here are some tips to find the best self-defense caliber handguns.
In this article:
- Which Handgun is Suitable For Each Situation
- What Matters When Stopping an Assailant/Attacker?
- Master Your Handgun
- Learn the Caliber Differences
- Great Calibers for Self Defense
Choosing the Best Self Defense Caliber Handgun
Which Handgun is Suitable For Each Situation
Not all handguns are alike, and many folks believe that bullet caliber plays a big role in how suitable a pistol is for a self-defense situation.
But before we get into choosing the best self-defense caliber handgun, here are some things to know first.
What Matters When Stopping an Assailant/Attacker?
To really answer what is the best self-defense caliber handgun ideal for self-defense situations, you have to consider what factors actually matter in such a scenario. Picture the following event:
- an attacker has broken into your home
- it’s a man, and he’s 220 pounds or something similar – likely fairly tall as well
- he is armed with a hand-to-hand weapon (i.e. a knife)
So, there are already a few things to consider if you were to try to stop this attacker or burglar.
Strictly speaking, three things will affect how fast a guy goes down:
- shot placement
- bullet stopping power
- bullet penetration power
The last two aspects are similar but also a little different. Bullet stopping power is more accurately described in this case as destructive damage.
Bullets that spread or shatter on impact will produce more stopping power since they’ll do more immediate damage to the attacker’s flesh upon impact.
They’re also more likely to stay inside your target’s body.
Bullet penetration power affects how well a bullet goes through your attacker.
This does play a role with initial stopping power as well, as bullets that can penetrate more easily might get through a tough leather jacket or other thick materials he might be wearing.
But which of these aspects matters the most? It’s definitely accuracy.
While bullet caliber and other bullet attributes can play a big role in a self-defense situation, accuracy (your shot placement) will matter more than any other factor.
If you can nail an attacker in the head from 20 yards away, it doesn’t matter what type of bullet you’re using – he’ll go down.
Master Your Handgun
So our first piece of advice would be this: become an expert marksman with your chosen self-defense handgun.
This will almost guarantee you’ll be able to drop anyone who gets into your house no matter what cartridges you have loaded into the weapon.
A side note: shotguns and rifles are almost universally better for self-defense in terms of actually stopping attackers.
They carry heavier cartridges on average and produce more stopping power by virtue of their bullet velocities.
However, since we’re focusing on handguns, the emphasis on shot placement matters even more.
Learn the Caliber Differences
A bullet’s caliber essentially describes its size and weight.
Larger calibers mean bigger bullets, which mean either more penetration power or more stopping power.
Such bullets may or may not be faster than smaller caliber bullets, depending on the powder loads contained in a given cartridge.
Caliber does matter for stopping attackers, certainly. For instance, if you have a high-caliber pistol, even a glancing shot is likely to stop a burglar and send them running.
A small glancing bullet from a .22, on the other hand, might not even register in your attacker’s mind in the heat of the moment when adrenaline is coursing through their body.
Great Calibers for Self Defense
All this is to say that you should generally stay away from small game or varmint hunting cartridges like .22 or .25 ACP cartridges. Larger cartridges are better for their stopping power and killing potential.
Great examples of the best self-defense caliber handguns include:
- 9 mm. These bullets are typically fast and relatively small but offer good penetrative power. Most importantly, these bullets don’t produce a ton of recoil, so maintaining excellent shot placement is easier.
- .38 special. These rounds are ideal for use in revolvers and don’t affect your accuracy too much.
- 10 mm. This is a great caliber if you can control the recoil of your handgun. The cartridges offer plenty of power and expansion (i.e. damage to your target).
Ultimately, the best cartridge for your handgun is the one you’re most comfortable with because that’s, in theory, the cartridge you will be most accurate with.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 24, 2020, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.