Why We Need To Stop Arguing about Pistol Calibers for Self-Defense
Updated: Feb 25
Nothing inspires quite so much controversy in the firearms community as handgun caliber choice. You can’t go to a shop, range, or internet forum without hearing something about caliber choice. Most of it is poking fun for some laughs, but there are a few that take it much too seriously.
The reasons why we need to stop arguing about handgun calibers are:
Most popular service pistol calibers all meet or exceed FBI standards,
There is more to defensive handgun choice than terminal ballistics
Pistols pale in comparison to long guns.
The FBI has established a standard for pistol terminal ballistics based on analysis of shooting incidents. The FBI determined that there are four different components in a wound channel; the permanent cavity, the temporary cavity, fragmentation, and the depth of penetration. Fragmentation is usually not seen in pistol wound channels because fragmentation doesn’t reliably occur below 2000 feet per second (fps). Since pistol rounds usually don’t exceed 1500fps, they generally don’t show traits of fragmentation. The most important factor in pistol wound characteristics as determined by the FBI is the depth of penetration. The depth of this penetration needs to be twelve inches at a minimum, with eighteen inches being favorable. When looking at wound channels of different pistol calibers, you’ll be hard pressed to visually determine the difference.
The second reason we need to stop arguing about caliber choice is there is more to think about in a pistol than just what caliber it is. You need to think about things like size, capacity, recoil, weight, comfort, etc. The main reason we carry a pistol is because it is not convenient, or socially appropriate to carry a long gun with us. In the same regards, sometimes the largest, easiest to fire pistol gets left in the safe more than it’s carried, or a tiny pistol, that’s easy to carry, but too tiny to be proficient with. So, a balance needs to be determined for all areas that fit your needs.
The last reason we need to stop arguing about pistol calibers, aside from popular service calibers being mostly comparable, is pistols pale in comparison to the terminal ballistics of long guns.
They are also less accurate and require more skill to use than long guns. As the old adage goes, “Use your pistol to fight your way to your long gun”.