The Best Handgun Caliber

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There’s this debate that has been going on for quite some time now. It is about which is the best handgun caliber. Is it the revolver or the trusty autoloading pistol? Let us narrow it down.

Would you go for the 9mm or the? 45 ACP? The truth is, there is no right answer. But what we can do is share our thoughts on our choice of handgun calibers. This will help you in making an informed decision. Read on as we guide you in your quest for the best handgun caliber.

RELATED: 5 Awesome .45 ACP Handguns You Must Have

The Best Handgun Caliber

The revolver versus autoloading pistol debate got resolved in the 1940s. The Second World War played a huge role in this decision. Autoloading pistols were the future of handgun caliber. During this time, revolvers were obsolete. It no longer has the stopping power needed in the frontlines.

The Luger was also introduced at this point in the war. The Luger then was an advanced weapon. It is a self-loading pistol. It was far more reliable than the revolver or any handgun caliber, for that matter. 

The Advent of The Autoloading Handgun38 Revolver open ready to put bullets | handgun caliber

Yet, the clamor for autoloading pistols in World War II was huge. Production could not keep up with the demand. This explains why revolvers were still provided in the rear units. It was a stop-gap measure.

The United States law enforcement took thirty years to catch up with the rest of the world. After three decades have passed. America finally was able to arm its military with modern handgun caliber. The modern autoloader finally won over the revolver. 

There is this common notion among many gun users. The belief that revolvers are more reliable than self-loading pistols. They maintained that the revolver’s chamber more powerful calibers like the popular .357 Magnum.

But how often do you see gun users carrying .357 magnum these days? In reality, there is no established evidence about this notion. The notion that an autoloading handgun caliber is less reliable than a revolver. The superiority of the .357 Magnum is now challenged by the .357 Sig or even the 10mm. 

There are different criteria in choosing the right defensive caliber. One of the top criteria is lethality. It is all about the capacity of the handgun caliber to kill. It all boils down to stopping power. The bullet should be able to damage the target’s vital organ.

Gun Owners Handbook

The bigger the damage, the more effective the gun is. There is not much difference between a 9mm or an 11.44mm hole. A 1.4mm shot won’t compensate for poor shot placement. And what about “knockdown power”?

People get caught up in this myth. The truth is, “knockdown power” is impossible to express in mathematical terms. In short, it does not exist at all.

Handgun Caliber Considerations handguns in a row on the black background | Handgun Caliber

Want to know the truth? The truth is, no handgun caliber is better than the other when it comes to soft tissue damage. The 9mm’s velocity makes no difference to that of the .45 ACP in this aspect. The velocity of a bullet shot from a rifle is strong enough to inflict severe damage.

It may cause massive trauma and result from hydrostatic shock. But it is not the same as a 9mm, .45 ACP, and other conventional calibers. A rifle bullet is capable of destroying the muscle right from the bone. Conventional calibers can only poke holes. These small holes will only result in the least soft tissue damage.

This is fact-based on reliable medical experts in treating handgun wounds. According to them, shot placement plays a huge factor than the caliber used. 

So, what now? Where does this lead us to? There are crucial elements you need to consider in choosing the best handgun caliber. Below are six of the most important ones that may help you in your decision making:

6 Important Factors in Choosing the Right Handgun Caliber Relax on the shooting, a woman shot with a Glock | Handgun Caliber

Penetrating Power

Bullet penetration is the primary factor in deciding which handgun caliber to choose. This is the amount of human tissue the bullet can pass through. These include fat, muscles, bones, and organs. As a rule, large and heavy-grained bullets have a superior penetrating power. It inflicts massive tissue damage and very optimal to stop the target on its tracks.

Permanent Cavity

The permanent cavity is the size of the hole created by the bullet in the body. Every bullet can leave behind a permanent cavity. This is measurable. A good rule of thumb is, the bigger the permanent cavity or hole, the better is the stopping power. Simple as that.

Kinetic Energy

In simple terms, kinetic energy is the bullet’s energy shooting from the firearms’ muzzle. Motion and acceleration cause it. It maintains the kinetic energy of the bullet until a change in velocity occurs.

It changes as far as it travels. In a nutshell, a bullet’s kinetic energy lessens during flight. Generally speaking, a bullet with a heavier grain moves faster. A bullet with stronger muzzle kinetic energy can inflict more body tissue damage.

Factors that affect bullet performance are design, weight, type, energy, velocity, and distance. This is about its kinetic energy. Handgun calibers do not have enough kinetic energy transferred to the surrounding tissue.

Fragmentation

This is how the bullet disperses as it separates into smaller fragments when shot. Bullet velocity and design are two important factors that determine fragmentation. Fragmenting bullets won’t over-penetrate.

This is crucial since penetration is an utmost priority for handgun caliber users.

RELATED: 5 Best Handguns To Carry Daily | Mid-Size Edition

Ammo Ballistics and Gun Characteristics

This is about gun and ammunition design, rated muzzle speed and, rated muzzle energy. It also includes bullet weight grain, cartridge type, and barrel length. Control and accuracy vary from caliber size. Felt gun recoil has a huge impact on these aspects.

Skills and Knowledge

The final element is about the techniques and rudiments of shooting. The aim is to achieve safety and accuracy. A handgun user should put focus on these elements as much as they would on the type of equipment they want to use.

Your ability as a shooter at shot placement is important. It is paramount in making the handgun caliber work in your favor. 

Conclusion

Guns and ammunition are tools. Your equipment is only as good as its handler. Whatever handgun caliber you use, it is your ability as a shooter that would make it effective.

Revolver or an autoloading pistol, you should be able to shoot at a target with accuracy. Permanent cavity wounds and penetration play an essential role in incapacitating your target. In fact, these factors are very critical for handgun caliber users.

To be effective, you should achieve a least 12-inch penetration for the chosen bullet. A bigger permanent cavity enables best bleeding ergo faster incapacitation.

For self-defense purposes when using a handgun, this is paramount. All type of bullets expands with varied temporary holes.

More often than not, ammunitions with better expansion capability penetrates less. Experts designed the fragmenting bullet to avoid over-penetration. It is less to penetrate better for self-defense purposes.

Another point to consider is the choice of bullet weight and grain. Bullets may be of similar weight or grain but may perform with different results. Usually, bullets that could expand less have the capacity to penetrate a lot deeper. 

It Is All About the Skills and Not The EquipmentAttractive soldier woman practice shooting with two gun and gun point aim to attacker-handgun caliber-ss

And we cannot stress this enough. Your capability to place shots with accuracy and consistency is essential. It exceeds the importance of a caliber’s stopping power. According to research, there is not much difference between 9mm and .45 ACP cartridges.

This is true as long as you use quality high-power ammunition. Considering all these factors, we can say that the 9mm handgun caliber is the best. But, it should be with +P load, HP ammo, and 124-grain weight.

There is a legal liability depending on the ammo and caliber you choose. Court rulings may vary from state to state.

Consulting a legal expert would help. Knowing your way through specific legislation on guns is important. There are also various sources available online. This crucial in the event of carrying self-defense circumstances.

You should be aware of this particular technicality. This article provides variables that you need to test in making a caliber decision. For the sake of your life and safety, it is best to be rational and logical before you take the next step.

Watch this video of Rational Preps on The Best Handgun Caliber – A Real World Study:

So, are you ready to choose the best handgun caliber that would suit you best?

Which do you think is the best handgun caliber?

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22 Responses to :
The Best Handgun Caliber

  1. steve says:

    there is no .40 MM handgun

  2. Roger Knight says:

    As an old combat infantryman with the US Army I am going to have to stick to the 1911 Colt 45 caliber semi auto pistol. I love the stopping power and reliability of this weapon.

  3. Kenneth Maynard Miller, Jr says:

    The best hand gun is the one you have in you hand of the incident requiring a hand gun. You may not have the luxury of getting to the best gun stored by the front door. You may be onthe pot with 25.

  4. Anonymous says:

    .45 cal makes a big hole and the
    bigger the hole the faster the bleed out

  5. Rich A. says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only person to catch that. It’s designated the “.40 S&W,” American Gun Assoc.!!!

  6. Larry ( The Shadow ) says:

    Its S & W 40 cal, just got my New Glock 22, 4 1/2 barrel 40 cal. $550 dollars what a steal at today’s prices. A new addition for my gun collection.

  7. Wapitihunter says:

    There is NO best handgun caliber. There are many different task that a hangun is used for. Not every time I fire a handgun is in self defence or practicing self defence. I hunt with a rifle and Bow and a handgun. I have taken a lot of game with a 44 magnum ranging from whitetail deer, wild hogs,coyotes to bull frogs. I am closing the gap with the 41 magnum and 10 mm. I love shooting the 327 mag. It is light on recoil and the muzzle blast is not nearly as bad as the 357. The 22 & 22 mag is perfect for rabbit and squirrel. For self defence and concealed carry I like the .45 and the 40 but would not feel under gunned with a 38 super or 9mm with the propper ammo. SO there is no perfect handgun caliber just as there is no perfect handgun. I would not choose a 22 to hunt deer just as I would not normally choose a 44 to hunt bull frogs.
    The left thinks there should be no handguns but it’s okay that their bodyguard has one.

  8. Anonymous says:

    40 cal. can be used with pistols and rifles. Hard to get 9mm and 45 cal. rifles. With the 5.56 pistols now on the market, that seems like another good option if one does not need a pistol that will fit into a holster.

  9. joe bidet says:

    I love the .45 for it’s shear power to stop a hoard of democrats in their tracks, but the .22 is more fun and accurate as hell with a good gun.

  10. GomeznSA says:

    steve – I was gonna do an ‘eyeroll’ comment along the lines of ‘oh yes there is – I overheard a gun shop person trying to sell one to a customer once’ – never mind I almost got thrown out of the shop for asking to see the magazine for that beast 😉
    Seriously, I didn’t even finish the article after the early bit equating caliber with type of action. AFAIK the most powerful handgun round is in a revolver. Who writes this stuff and even more so, who edits it and approves it.

  11. Guest says:

    I always considered sectional density as the element to stopping power. The larger the diameter the more the impact. Consider poking someone with your finger compared to hitting them with your fist.

  12. Anonymous says:

    My preference does not matter, it’s what you can shoot the best and control, and not be scared to pull the trigger, the range is from a 22 LR to a S&W 500. What works for you!!

  13. Tim says:

    For me I have fired most every caliber of handgun, I can say the best handgun is the one you fire quickly under duress and accurately. Most people like the large caliber pistols but when put in a situation that requires them to be accurate a whole lot of ammunition is fired. In the military I preferred the 9mm over the .45 it was easier to shot far more accurate and I would rather fire 3 times and hit my target each time rather than hoping I would hit my target with the piss poor ammo we were given. As the mission changed a laser sighted .22 is all that was needed. For personal protection that is my choice also. It may not kill easily but you can get several key shots from the hip that will cause enough pain and damage to make most attacckers run away.

  14. David Earnst says:

    The best handgun caliber? Depends on what you want to do with it. If you’re shooting targets in your basement, probably a 22 short. If you need to stop an angry bear or a drugged up bad guy, the biggest thing with which you can hit where you point.
    For hunting I think the 44 mag with at least a 6″ barrel is minimum.
    For concealed carry I think a 45 ACP compact is good but probably too much too handle if you don’t have good grip strength.
    Overall, the best one is the one you can put into action the quickest, meaning: if you need a handgun and it is in your safe at home but you aren’t at home, that gun is useless.

  15. Bryan Gann says:

    I shoot an old school 45 long colt revolver. Trust me. It hits you solid you fly about 6 ft backward. Argument over!!!

  16. Dick Campbell says:

    I have all of those pistol/revolver guns. I prefer the .40S&W for general daily protection, it is just right for bedroom protection, not to hard to handle and powerful enough to make an intruder hate his mother! Revolvers are the most reliable some say, but I’ve shot 2000+ rounds thru my SigP226 without a failure, so I feel confidant that one more round is going to fire and expend that 160 grain Black Talon into the poor soul who made a bad mistake by entering without knocking! IMHO
    Dick C.

  17. Lee says:

    I would have voted for 40 S&W, based upon the failure of the 9mm in the FBI shootout in Miami in the 1980s and the handgun ballistics testing that came down on the side of a downloaded 10 mm and provided the ballistic model that led to the introduction of the 40 S&W, but that option was not offered. Currently, I would vote for the handgun that the majority of shooters can learn to shoot well, and, taking into consideration the essential need for available ammunition and the current ammunition shortage, I would choose the 9 mm, but if available, I would load it with heavy expanding subsonic ammunition such as the 140 grain hollow points that would challenge the 40 S&W for effectiveness.

  18. Trent says:

    As a LEO we’ve gone from the Glock 21 45ACP to the Sig P320 9mm hopefully I’ll never have to use it other than the range.

  19. Gary says:

    I agree the 45 is a very versatile caliber and when you put them in a colt 1911 , you have reached perfection.

  20. Rundark says:

    This is still a topic of debate? Or even just a topic itself? I guess the AGA doesn’t do a lot in terms of research, or proof reading/spell check, 40mm! I’d hate to cross barrels with the Gentleman that could carry that literal cannon around without anyone noticing, lol.

    I say this not to be glib, or flippant but to segue into bringing up the fact that there is verifiable, and obtainable empirical data on the effectiveness of each caliber. And many may find the results to be uninspiring. In fact the data collected and the results of that data is why LEO’s were issued 9mm again. Because the percentage differences of the different calibers effectiveness were in fact negligible. With only about 2-5 points between them, it came down to the matter of cost efficiency.

    So it is now back to where it all really began, the preference of what one choses to use. My experience differs from a lot of what I read in the comments, so I’d like to start out by saying, these are my experiences, and my opinions based on those. I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was saying they’re wrong or calling them out, I follow the unwritten code of conduct of being a gentleman. And like all gentlemen, we know there is nothing gentle about us, lol. So I make this comment with as much respect I can show through text and cyberspace.

    I’m not military personnel, but I am T.C.K. the latest nomenclature for “Army Brat” and I have worked for a private military outfit in the past. I’m not law enforcement, but I do wear a badge and I’m armed as I drive around my districts in the worst areas of where I live. A requested I made when interviewing for the position, To which I was asked “why?” from a man with utter confusion and disbelief in both look and tone. To that I simply replied, “Because it’s where I do my best work”. I’ll spare you the events that took place afterward as I just want to give anyone reading this a peek behind the curtain that is me, so to speak.

    Obviously I had to undergo some training to work in the industry I’m in, and I got it through the same institution the police get there’s from, just significantly less than what they go through. Before that however I have spent a bit of time operating various firearms of both rifle and sidearm varieties. I quickly became adept to the rifle, and I discovered an uncanny ability to drive tacks with a handgun from the hip, the trade off for that I suppose was the fact I couldn’t group for $#!T looking down the sights. To the outside observer it must have appeared absurd, but it is what it is. I now simply apply what I can do from the hip, holding the weapon out in front of me, problem solved, and from what I’ve been told by those I’ve trained under, a distinct time advantage as I don’t find it necessary to line my eyes up with the sight radius.

    So through all that I felt that the handling characteristics of the .45cal. and the 9mm were about the same in recoil and target reacquisition. The real difference I noticed between the two was the trajectory curve, being that the 9mm was much flatter than the downward slope of the .45. I own a pair of sequential serial #’rd .45 caliber handguns, and I love them, but when I’m on duty, I carry my .40cal. even though it’s been my experience that it is quite a bit more unruly than the afore mentioned calibers. I still finish my qualifiers with time left on the clock, and the predictable trajectory and added force behind it just makes me feel better, I guess.

    And because like most of those commenting here, I too like the bigger caliber for the bigger hole philosophy despite any evidence that might be contrary to how I feel. If you read this far, I thank you, and apologize for any tangent I may have gone off to. I enjoyed reading the comments by the other posters, and I thank you for sharing your experiences. Keep your heads on a swivel, and your powder dry fellow patriots.

  21. John says:

    this is the most asinine article I have ever read. You started out with “There’s this debate that has been going on for quite some time now. It is about which is the best handgun caliber. Is it the revolver or the trusty autoloading pistol? Let us narrow it down.” The person who wrote this article and the person who edited this article should both be terminated. This article shows complete ignorance of the subject. Revolvers and autoloading pistols are NOT calibers.

    A revolver “no longer has the stopping power needed in the frontlines. The Luger was “far more reliable than the revolver or any handgun caliber, for that matter.” These are ridiculously stupid statements.

    Revolvers are much more reliable than autoloaders.

    A .50 S&W magnum has 1000 times more stopping power than a 9mm Luger and the revolver that shoots it is much more reliable than a Luger.

    Please don’t write these articles when you don’t have a clue what you are talking about. Someone could be badly injured or killed because of the misinformation you are spreading in these articles.

  22. TheTruthBurns says:

    I agree with the comments that refer to a gun that fits in your hand, you can shoot easily & rapidly without excessive recoil – it is very personal. Having said that the .22 has killed more people than any other in history. Bang Bang – You’re DEAD!

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