5 Best Calibers For Self-Defense | Self-Defense Firearms

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Having the best caliber for self-defense in your defense arsenal only means more preparedness and adaptability.

Check out this roundup of the five best in the market.

In this article:

RELATED: Top 15 Tips for Self-Defense Shooting

Calibers for Self Defense | Weigh Your Choices

What is a Caliber?

Number of large-caliber ammunition | types of ammunition

It is the diameter or bore inside the barrel of a gun. It can also refer to the diameter of the bullet or the projectile the gun fires.

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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 our fingertips tips, I prefer to speak to people and gain firsthand experience of what I am seeking.

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” gun 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:

Person is hiding a handgun | self defense calibers

1. 380

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 its energy. It does not pass through drywall 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.

3. 9mm

A 9mm is what I am 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 crucial 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. It is a 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 gun.

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 excellent 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.

Gun with ammunition on wooden | Best caliber for self defense

As far as home self-defense weapons go, I like the double buck for the shotgun. There will be nine balls that are 33-caliber in size coming out of the barrel.

It gives you enough options as far as trajectory paths go.

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 significant amount of stopping power. Even without a vital hit, it should slow or stop whatever 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 an excellent choice for pocket carry or even a waist holster. The average pocket pistol can average between nine ounces for the Ruger LCP and up to 29 ounces for the Hi-Point.

When you want 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 eight 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.

Related: Taurus Judge Ammo Types: Top 9 Best Types of Ammo Used in Taurus Judge

Terminal Ballistics

Terminal ballistics refer to how a bullet performs upon impact. Factors like penetration, expansion, and energy transfer influence the caliber's stopping power. Understanding terminal ballistics helps you choose a caliber that meets your desired level of effectiveness.

Effective Range and Accuracy

Each caliber has its effective range and accuracy capabilities. Considering your intended use, whether it's close-quarters self-defense or longer-range engagements, is crucial in determining the appropriate caliber.

Other Options to Consider

You have other options, such as 9mm defense ammo and 40 cal, but they are bulky and heavy than the 380 option.

Man with owner choosing handgun | Best caliber for self defense

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 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 for 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 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 offering protection to yourself or your family.

Related: Pink Handgun | Top 9 Pink Handguns for You

Picking Your Ammunition

Hornady, Winchester, and Nosler are a few that offer a great variety of self-defense ammunition. Hornady's critical defense gives us a very impressive spec sheet to go along with it.

Heavy hunting bullets and prepared casings Best caliber for self defense SS

With all the options in firearms, there are just as many ammo that goes in each.

The 9mm has a 135-grain bullet that leaves the barrel around 1,100 fps. When I think of 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 a weapon, the bullet's speed 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 variety of options.

My picks may be different from what you prefer or what you use.

It's okay.

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:

Which Calibers From The List Are You Looking To Get?

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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 that's comfortable to handle and carry. It must be within your desired weight.

Practice, be proactive, and be safe with 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!

Best Calibers For Self Defense

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30 Responses to :
5 Best Calibers For Self-Defense | Self-Defense Firearms

  1. Jason Seikel says:

    Why do you call magazines a clip?

    1. cptphilb says:

      You don’t….a magazine completely enclose the rounds…a “clip” holds the round in a metal “clip” or “strip” by the base of the cartridge case, and the rest of the rounds are exposed.

  2. bobonitt says:

    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

    1. cptphilb says:

      If you were using the 1903 Springfield, or the M1 Garand…those WERE clips….IF you were using the M1 carbine, the M-14 or later…they’re Magazines!

    2. Anonymous says:

      than you were in the company of idiots who didnt pay attention during boot camp.

      1. Jack Turner says:

        Almost any caliber will stop someone. Know the vital parts. When in doubt, use what I call the zipper method. Let recoil and physics work to your advantage.Start at the privates and shoot a line up to the neck/head. Its that fast. Shock alone can and will kill them before they hit the ground. Proven and true, and has saved my life a few times when I was stationed overseas. Also the throat, heart , privates….and between eyes.

  3. Shannon Arnold says:

    I like this site. It is very awesome in my book. I own a tp45 verynice handgun perfect for home defense.

  4. Roger says:

    When I grew grew up a mag was called a clip so, they’re both correct

    1. vocalpatriot says:

      no, they’re not both correct. a magazine is a magazine and a clip is what you use to hold your girly hair up.

      1. Doubleace says:

        Wow! Get up on the wrong side of the bed? Call it what you wang and if it works for you, that’s all that matters.

      2. oldvet says:

        My old Garand M1 used clips to hold the ammo before loading. It wasn’t fancy. Only held 5 rounds. Bolt action, but if you took good care of it it was reliable and accurate. They never jammed on me or on any of us, even in heavy firefights, or lousy wet muddy conditions.
        You young whippersnappers think you know everything and can dump on anyone.
        My M14, in later years of service, used a magazine to hold the ammo in the rifle like the M16s and AR 15s that you kids know today.

    2. Scott says:

      A magazine is designed as a device that holds ammo to be fed into the chamber of a firearm. A clip is designed as a device to hold ammo together to be ready to load into a magazine or cylinder of a firearm. … A magazine feeds rounds into the chamber, and a clip feeds rounds into a magazine.

  5. Dan says:

    Why didn’t a 45 make your list?

  6. Fred Rowlands says:

    A clip is used to hold ammunition and assist in loading the magazine. Magazines hold ammo for storage before use.
    There are many clips available on the market today. Stripper clips, moon clips etc but all serve the same purpose, ie helping get the ammo into the magazine.
    Just because everyone used the term doesn’t mean it is being used correctly. And yes it does detract from someone’s credibility. To bad because the article had some thoughtful points but the “clip” ruined it.

  7. Paul Rockhold says:

    A magazine is external, a clip is internal.

  8. herb siderman says:

    no comment at this time

  9. Leon Soren says:

    I do not know why 22 mag is not a considered caliber. You need to check the ballistics on that caliber. It is far superior to 380 and you can carry more ammunition (lighter weight). That said, my personal favorite is 357.

  10. cptphilb says:

    A .38 is an OK round, although most police departments have left that far, far behind. While in the Academy, heard about the NYC PD officer who put 6 rounds in a perp who STILL was able to cross a bar room and sink a knife into the officer’s chest. Also, if you’re confronted by more than two….you’re going to want to have enough stopping power and also be able to reload very quickly. I usually carry my Colt .45 ACP with 8 round mags. one in the pistol with a round in the chamber, and two extra mags. It’s heavy, but after packing for over 25 years as a police officer, I’d rather STOP the threat than worry about how heavy that pistol is on my hip…I’ll just wear suspenders! I recently purchased a Remington RP45. It holds 15 rounds in a staggered mag. The grip is a bit wider, but I have fairly large hands and have no problem hanging on to it. It’s also a “striker” type, so has no hammer to snag.

    1. jay says:

      Police and military have different goals and seek different outcomes than civilians. Their goal is to kill or apprehend the threat. Civilians are looking for neither. Instead, the goal is to break contact, create space, and retreat if possible. The probability of armed conflict with civilians is low and that calls for a different “tool”. To use police or military experience as a guide to caliber size, number of rounds, and type of firearm for civilian use is simply comparing apples to oranges. They are not the same…nor should they be. It is poor advice to suggest a civilian need arm themselves as a police officer or military personnel. It completely misleading and wrong!

  11. NolanR says:

    I have been to many gun shows that would have a marked “clip” table and on said clip table would be all kinds of magazines. Good enough for gun shows, good enough for me.

    1. Steven Wilson says:

      The people who are complaining about clips and magazines are tards, they are the type that will drive you from the room they are in. Getting so angry over something so trivial.

      1. Anonymous says:

        That is true. What difference does it matter , we know what they are used for.

  12. Jon says:

    I have to disagree with much of this article. For one, modern firearms use magazines and not “Clips” which is what most people who don’t own any firearms call it. Also, the 9 mm made the list and the reasoning being that is what you are comfortable shooting is definitely a good reason as if you can’t hit the target the caliber being used is irrelevant. However, you then went on to contradict yourself a bit by saying that in a home defense situation you would prefer stopping power over velocity. Which makes me wonder why the .45 ACP didn’t make the list? It has a long history of being very effective and is considered to have great “stopping power” while having much less of a possibility of over penetration.

    My list in no particular order would be –
    1. 12 Gauge
    2. .45 ACP
    3. .40
    4. 9mm
    5. 357

    The 380 can still be a great caliber, although as far as being strictly a home defense firearm I don’t see the importance or benefit of a smaller pistol like a .38 special. With only 5 rounds ( Which should be enough with proficient marksmanship) but not for all situations. I personally would want more rounds and mags for faster reloading if say I was defending myself/family against a home invasion with multiple intruders. I’d personally want a 12 gauge along with either a .45/.40 or a 9mm if those two weren’t accessible.

    The .45 acp is just far superior for home defense compared to the 380 in every aspect IMO. If talking about CC then that is a whole different topic. But other than that it’s a solid list, I’m just really curious why the .45 wasn’t included? I would have it at or near the top of my list personally but to each their own! Everyone has their own preferences.

  13. A says:

    Granted 5 is better than none but… If you happen to get into the rare shootout with 5 rounds, all the practice in the world wouldn’t be of much help or 3 armed robbers leaves you with only 2 times to miss. Even if they are in the open and you have a clear line of sight you get shakey with adrenaline pumping. There’s many other scenarios (no matter how small the chance may be) that could happen that I think about. IMO, it’s better to have a few more and not need it. Either way, no matter what you carry, I am glad you carry to protect yourself, your family and friends…and maybe even mine one day. Take care and be safe.

  14. David says:

    My personal favorite for home defense is the Mossberg 935 semi-auto in 12 gauge. 5+1 capacity with 3 1/2″ magnum BB is a destroyer, and the 24″ barrel makes it a very maneuverable in tight quarters. I haven’t experienced jams with mine but have practice and am proficient in clearing if required. Besides, all you should need for home defense with this round is 1.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I prefer a380 – it’s big enough to stop a bad guy but it doesn’t shoot through walls very good and kill your 3 year old daughter sleeping in the next room. If it was always about having more power – everybody would use a 50 cal for home defense.

  16. Some dude named Joe says:

    Are we all going to ignore the top picture of a guy pressing the trigger with the gun in his pants?!? Hahaha!!

  17. D Gray says:

    Wow!! I am nowhere near an expert and am just going from experience. I am 75 years old and what is
    called a magazine today was called a clip in my youth. That being said, I am referring to firing an M1 in basic training and my instructors referring to the clip, then firing an M14 when instructors still called it
    a clip. Possibly the instructors, being older than I at the time, were brought up with clips and really didn’t care what it was called as long as you could get it in the weapon, fire and hit the enemy and change them out rapidly and effectively when the time arose.

  18. Shaughnessy says:

    This article is opinion only and not based on any scientific fact. So I’m going to give my opinion. The .380 is a completely useless round, I personally can’t hit the broadside of a barn with it. Put a 9mm .40 s&w .45 acp .38 or .357 in my hand and not only can I hit my target but at a further distance. I believe you should use a gun you can shoot accurately but handle with confidence. We have to remember that the emotional and physical effects of shooting at someone who is shooting at you is probably the biggest factor to over come. So you want to have a gun and caliber you are comfortable and confident handling.

    Oh, and there are magazines and clips. My SKS uses clips or striper clips, so stop being so trivial and childish about the whole subject. And stop listening to these dip ***** on YouTube. Some of the biggest idiots on there. Opinion ONLY.

  19. Greg says:

    I know that it is not a popular round. I know that it is hard to find and expensive. That being said, where is .327 Federal Mag, on this list? If we are talking about best self defense round, expensive, popular, and readily available or not, .327 is getting shunned for reasons that make no sense to me. Round size, recoil, muzzle velocity, penetration, expansion are all appealing (and deadly) on this round. We can debate all day on the merits of a .327 against .40, 9mm, and its big brother .357. But, to suggest that .380 is a better “self defense” round than a .327 fed mag, in nuts..

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