Ammunition > Handgun

Choosing the Best Caliber for Self-Defense

The right caliber is the one that you can comfortably handle.


As an NRA instructor, I always enjoy teaching beginners. I typically get a lot of couples and families who sign up for beginners classes. Invariably, the question always comes up, “what is the best gun,” or “what is the best caliber?” Of course, the answer is “it depends.” That’s like asking, what is the best mode of transportation?

These first-time shooters are actually asking a very good question and with good reason. In the case of a couple or a family, the primary concern is most often personal protection inside the home. That is not difficult to address since the rule of thumb is generally to use the largest caliber gun you can comfortably handle.

When routine concealed carry is not a primary concern, then the size of the gun is less of an issue. Basic physics teaches us that force (the amount of energy a bullet carries when fired) is the result of the mass of an object (the weight of the bullet) multiplied by the acceleration (speed in feet per second of the bullet). Here is an easy-to-use online kinetic energy calculator that provides the ft.-lbs. of energy for a particular cartridge as long as you know the weight of the bullet and its velocity.

The more force a bullet has, the harder it hits, the more it penetrates and the more it transfers force—all good and necessary for personal protection. However, the second rule of Newtonian physics teaches us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, the more force a bullet has going forward the more force the gun has going backward (recoil).

The more mass a gun has, the less acceleration (perceived recoil) a particular cartridge will produce. So, in home defense, a full-size gun helps recoil-sensitive shooters handle more powerful calibers with a higher level of comfort and accuracy.

The second concern is the catch, however. Guns constitute a significant expense for many people, and in these tough times, a family may not be able to or be interested in purchasing different guns for each family member. One gun in one caliber may often have to fit the needs of everyone in the household.

Focusing on just the most popular personal-protection calibers, presented here are some of their differences and their relative strengths.

Special Note: What about the .22 LR, +P ammunition and expanding bullets? The .22 Long Rifle, or .22 LR, cartridge is everywhere. It is super cheap, fun and easy to shoot with almost no recoil. However, while it is perfectly lethal, and any gun is better than no gun, it does not produce enough energy to reliably stop a threat in short order and is not considered suitable for self-defense. It is, however, excellent for target practice, and if more than one gun is in your budget, a .22 for training would make a good choice.

Most ammunition manufacturers sell cartridges in all calibers designed specifically for personal protection. These are intended to provide the maximum energy for a given cartridge and use bullets that will produce the most effective terminal performance. Ammunition can be found in standard pressure varieties as well as +P or +P+, which produce higher-than-standard pressure and velocity. This higher-pressure ammunition should only be used in guns rated to handle the extra forces, and it will produce more recoil.

Likewise, the shape and weight of the bullet affects both terminal energy and performance. A heavier bullet carries more force but is slower, and velocity has a much higher multiplier effect on force than does mass. Most self-defense ammunition is designed to expand on impact in order to have the maximum effect on the target. It is for this reason that different types of expanding ammunition are so popular with law enforcement, as well as those interested in personal protection.

.38 Spl.: This cartridge is considered by many experts to be the minimum necessary for adequate personal protection, along with the .380 ACP listed below. For decades, this was the standard round for law enforcement and it served well, even using the plain round-nose lead ammunition. Anyone who chooses this soft-kicking cartridge today will be even better served thanks to the availability of specialized self-defense ammunition.

.357 Mag.: As the name implies, this is a powerful cartridge with a reputation for producing one shot stops against two-legged predators. That power runs both ways and it can be tough to handle for some. One notable benefit here is that, since this is just a .38 Spl. with a slightly longer case and a lot more power, revolvers cambered for .357 Mag. can be loaded with .38 Spl. for recoil-sensitive family members. The reverse, however, does not apply.

.380 ACP: Long popular for small semi-auto pistols in Europe and countries where possession of military calibers is restricted, the .380 ACP (or 9 mm Short) cartridge has taken America by storm in the last few years. This is thanks to the increased popularity of concealed carry and the ability of this cartridge to fit very small guns. Much like the .38 Spl. above, it is considered a minimum self-defense cartridge, but was used for decades by European police officers and, most famously, by James Bond.

9 mm: Consider the perennial European cartridge, the 9 mm is fast, straight shooting, light kicking, easy to find and cheap to shoot. It is equally at home in full-size guns as in small concealed-carry ones. It is for these reasons that it is in such widespread use among modern law enforcement agencies and militaries (including ours) worldwide. It is more than sufficiently powerful enough for self-defense with proper ammunition and easy for beginners to master.

.40 S&W: Is it better to have big, powerful rounds or more of them? This is America, so why not both? The .40 S&W cartridge is a less-powerful version of the 10 mm, and it offers heavy bullets with a lot of velocity, while remaining comfortable for most to fire with magazine capacity that is close to that of a similar-sized 9 mm pistol. The .40 S&W is a favorite among many law enforcement agencies and individuals focused on self-defense, and for good reason.

.45 ACP: This is the American cartridge: big, loud and powerful. Nearly half an inch in diameter, hollow-point ammunition resembles a flying ashtray as much as a bullet can. This heavy, slow-moving cartridge was the standard for the U.S. military for over 70 years and served on every battlefield (and still does) where Americans have fought. While it has stout recoil, it feels more like a push that a jab, and with practice, it is manageable by most and preferred by many.

In the end, the key is to get out to the range and try out a variety of guns and calibers to find the one you like best. Just like buying a car, if you are only getting one to share, it is always best to test drive it and make it a family decision.

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57 Responses to Choosing the Best Caliber for Self-Defense

Jordan wrote:
September 04, 2014

I've seen a lot of comments on this subject and I see a lot of valid points. It all depends on the situation you forsee being put in the situation to use the gun. If I had advanced warning a shoulder fired 12 ga would be py preference in the house. I own and am very experienced with most of the calibers mentioned in these posts. I am also an experienced combat veteran. In my experience, the best gun is the one you have on you at the time, and there is always room to improve. My preference is a 45acp. I own different models in different sizes and I load them according to what I think is appropriate.

New River Valley Outdoorsman wrote:
August 07, 2014

What? Nothing about the .44 Special? Not easy to find in stores but available through mail order; and in a compact revolver--such as the Charter Bulldog, which is the same size as a J-frame .38--has more horsepower to weight than anything else on this list.

Robert Findley wrote:
June 21, 2014

Bond did not carry a .380; he used a Walther PPK in 7.65 mm, aka .32 ACP. While Americans tend to ignore smaller calibers, the .32 is both more accurate and less prone to jam than the .380, and with little more recoil than a .22LR, with sufficient practice it is quite possible for this round to serve quite well for defensive work. That said, for the average person who realistically isn't going to put in many hours of practice achieving pinpoint accuracy, it's probably too light a round to make an ideal choice. But given the .380s propensity for stovepipe jams, I'd take a .32 over a .380 every time. Better still for the relative novice just seeking a home defense gun, buy a revolver. Fewer shots but MUCH more reliable. Autos are really for people willing to put in the time to gain real expertise with their specific weapon...

Robert VanElsberg wrote:
January 25, 2014

Back in the early 1980s I began reading 'The Armed Citizen' column in the 'American Rifleman' magazine. Being interested in self defense, I paid particular attention to the caliber of the firearms citizens used to protect themselves. What surprised me was how often citizens successfully protected themselves with .32-caliber handguns. As I read those accounts I noticed a common thread -- the citizens fired multiple shots until the assailant went down. Normally that meant either dead or completely incapable of taking any further aggressive action. Rarely did they leave the scene wounded. For decades we have argued 'what is the best defensive caliber' or how many one-shot stops does such-and-such caliber provide. The citizens I read about who used .32-caliber handguns were probably not firearm enthusiasts interested in these discussions. They simply chose a handgun they could handle in a crisis and kept shooting until the threat was eliminated. As best as I can recall, I don't remember any of these assailants absorbing several hits and continuing their aggressive actions. I have read of that with other more popular calibers, such as the .380 ACP. Why does the .32 ACP work, even (or perhaps especially) in its FMJ loadings? I have tested European-made .32 ACP ammunition (German RWS -- GECO) against American-made .380 ACP, both loads in FMJ. The .32 penetrated 25 percent deeper and tumbled end-over-end in the process, increasing the amount of damage. In self-defense situations, .32 FMJ (and I favor the European loads -- RWS Dynamite Noble, Sellier & Bellot and Fiocchi for their increased velocities and hitting power) the .32 ACP will penetrate deeply enough to reach the vitals, tumbling during the process. I am confident that my FEG AP 7.65 copy of the Walther PP will be sufficient should I need it. The FEG's four-inch barrel helps maximize the ballistics of the hot European ammunition I use. I hope I never have to shoot anyone. However, if an assailant threatens me or my family, I have no doubt I can fire accurately to stop the assault. During the 20th Century, more handguns were produced in .32 ACP than any other caliber. People don't buy something that doesn't work -- especially if their lives are on the line. That should say something about the validity of the .32 ACP for self defense.

JTACtual wrote:
August 15, 2013

12ga. Short barrel with 00 Buckshot best house gun for all.

jessejames wrote:
January 12, 2013

The new guncrafter industries .50 Cal GI is similar to the recoil of any standard 45 ACP. The surface area of an impacted projectile(bullet) is .992 inches. Yes almost an inch. If stopping power is what you want this is the weapon to purchase. Unsurpassed impact. DEVASTATING ROUND. Not cheap. Impact surface measurements taken from a discharged Copper Hollow Point.

Turkey load wrote:
January 05, 2013

870 with 5 turkey rounds stands next to my bed

Julian wrote:
December 25, 2012

Guys, I am not a pro, but regarding stopping power - if the attacker is close enough to hit you with a baseball bat, would it not be more advantageous to hit them with all 8 rounds of .22 caliber, rather than trying to shoot something much more heavy with a lot of recoil? Few people can keep coming at you with a bullet in their thigh... On the other hand, if they are SHOOTING at you, they may continue to do so even when hit multiple times with a .22... in which case a bigger gun with more bullets wins. I think smaller calibers may win in terms of hit accuracy, which is also a factor; plus some are 8-shooters, which gives you 2 more chances to hit the target if you are NOT that well trained. Am I right?

dave wrote:
December 11, 2012

i live 20 miles from keltec armory and even applied for a job there. those cheep weapons are the baddest in the world to me. i hate waiting for the mail to have problems fixed. you just drive over there and wait. i gaurentee you they got every single thing you need. they got a bulpup shotgun and a 302 bullpup and a high capacity 22 mag pistol and of course the 3at and the thinnest 9 mil on earth. try some of their stuff. every cop has 3 or 4 of their stuff. ive had over 10 guns from them. as far as home defense. a little loud dog and a keltec gun. just dont use something too small.

Rand wrote:
November 12, 2012

Different from duck hunting, I like my 870 sawed off, with the first load #6 shot, second 00, and the third a slug. The first punches and scares. The second punches harder. The third will drop a bear.

paco the dirty mexican wrote:
November 09, 2012

no. actually james bond used a potatoe gun, n fired only fresh idaho potatoes in it. He also used 460 magnum and a 10 gauge pump sawed off shotgun. He was of mexican decent and loved burritos.

Matt wrote:
August 19, 2012

I prefer the .41 mag. Not to difficult to handle and plenty of joules to stop any attacker.

DENNIS wrote:
May 16, 2012


jeff.smith wrote:
March 21, 2012

I imagine most of these comments come from people that have never faced a violent intruder in the dark at10 feet or less, i have,make mine a revolver that handles 410 buckshot!

Coach Jim wrote:
March 16, 2012

Jimmy Bond carried the 32ACP not the 380 - both rounds although concealable are at the very bottom of "save your life" ammo - if you are going to take protection seriously - buy a well made weapon, shoot it often and carry it always-

LanceManyon wrote:
January 11, 2012

I don't mean to be a prig, but: The bullet's mass x the bullet's speed is called Momentum, not Force. The bullet cannot "carry" force. However, when the bullet impacts the target, it's speed CHANGES to zero, meaning it has accelerated (in this case negative acceleration to a velocity of zero), and thus, a Force has acted upon it. Sorry, just tired of seeing this bungled by many article writers. The word "force" cannot be used interchangeably with either kinetic energy or momentum.

Mel Steiger wrote:
November 14, 2011

The article says energy is the weight of the bullet by the acceleration---should be velocity squared. The example shows the acceleration due to gravity, that should be bullet velocity. Gravitational acceleration only affects the amount the bullet will drop in flight.

JohnS wrote:
September 22, 2011

I have found a 510 MINI (.410) for indoor use, self-defense is a good choice for those who either don't like handguns or can't handle them efficiently enough. There are several "defense" rounds for the .410 (multiple pellets) but if you prefer...a 1/5oz slug fired from a 16 inch barrel carries over 570 lbs of force at 10 ft and that's from a 2.5 inch shell. Not bad and very easy to handle.

Fred Smith wrote:
September 03, 2011

.45 is the ultimate home defense round, as long as you can handle the recoil. I use a 265 grain soft lead hollow point for home defense, with the logic being there will only be one story to tell.

Popeye wrote:
August 29, 2011

there is no better calibers, just good spinach...

Jerrry wrote:
August 27, 2011

.45 ACP 100 years of putting bad guys to peaceful sleep. I have a nice 24/7 12+1 with a Nice bright light on it,It"s all I need. Though my 12 defender is nice and best defense gun It's the mess it leaves.

David wrote:
August 21, 2011

The best defense gun? There probably isn't one, but a pump shotgun would rate pretty high. The sound is distinctive and may well be all the discouragement that is needed.

Jonathan wrote:
August 10, 2011

Good comment jim. My 20c I carry all day everyday. I have 15 rounds of hot fire. I feel sorry for that guy.

Pat Cavanaugh wrote:
July 28, 2011

Best home gun is a single shot 20 guage. Easy to shoot and learn. For serious home defending 1911 with some serious training would answer all questions. What ever caliber you shoot the training hours will pay off when you have to fire a shot. Nothing works like two to the center of mass and one in the head.

Jim Mullin wrote:
July 25, 2011

Why would the author not mention two of the best pistol cartridges out there? One that equals the 357 mag and one that exceeds the 357 mag in discouraging even the most determined badguys, the 357 SIG and 10mm auto.125 gr 357 SIG@1450,135 gr 10mm@1600.Gun authors and salesmen tell readers and customers not to bother with the 357 SIG and 10mm auto because the ammo is expensive and hard to find.Online you can find ammo for both calibers at comparable prices to 357 mag ammo.Most people that i let try out my Glock 20c like the experiance of shooting the 10 full power loads.A lot of elite police units and top Fed agencies are buying 357 SIGs now.try them,you'll like them.Jim

Rob wrote:
July 12, 2011

I have to agree with Stu. XDM in 40 cal. is also good.

D.L. Thomas (Life Member) wrote:
June 18, 2011

Common sense usually has little to do with selecting a defensive cartridge. Most people tend to choose, in my considerable experience, a gun based upon emotion (the fantasy that this handgun cartridge has a stopping percentage not even a 30-06 can achieve)or a preference for a firearm that will not take up much room in their pocket/purse or require a change of wardrobe.

George wrote:
June 13, 2011

Hey John, IMHO the Buffalo Bore 158 gr LSWCHPgc Heavy 38 +P is THE gold standard of .38 ammo. It fires a soft lead hollow point bullet that delivers 350-400 Lbs of energy depending on Bbl length. It mushrooms beautifully and penetrates 13-15 inches in Gel. It's expensive but it's GREAT stuff!

John wrote:
June 10, 2011

I have a S&W 38 spl +P that I keep loaded for personal protection. Like many, I hope I never have to use it for pers. prot. but if I do, I want the best bullets. Any recommendations?

George wrote:
June 08, 2011

There is plenty to debate here. I wonder why the .357 Sig was left out of this discussion. It hits hard, shoots flat, works against intermediate barriers well, has the same balance of power/capacity as the .40 , has better than feed reliability than a straight walled cartridge and it's laser accurate. Yes, it's as close to an all around self defense caliber as we will likely see until the Star Trek era comes.

Stu wrote:
June 05, 2011

Remington 1100 with 00 Buckshot for home defense has plenty of knock down power. 9MM Springfield XDM 19x1 with a 3.8" barrel for concealed personal protection.

Austin wrote:
May 29, 2011

I have several guns but my choice for defense is my Glock 23 , just plain awesome !!!

Hanshi wrote:
May 27, 2011

The .38spl and .45acp are my favorites. An old S&W M15 and Kimber Ultra Carry my favorite sidearms. The Walther PPKS .380 is my most ccw arm and I love it.

Thor wrote:
May 23, 2011

I agree with those before me - in house protection pistol grip pump 12ga with bird & sabot alternating. Carry I use LCR 357 with 38s, PPK/S 380, in winter compact 1911 in 45 ACP (looking for a 1911 in Super 38)

Tom wrote:
May 22, 2011

John, in reference to your question about the best 38 Special +P ammo for personal protection. I highly recommend the Winchester 125 grain silver tips. They have been around for a long time and are still one of the best revolver cartridges on the market.

Ming Bucibei wrote:
May 17, 2011

I used to carry a ppk in 380 concealed ; now switched to a mini glock 29 in 10mm (more rnds and much more power--(<90% one shot stopps)i use fullpower loads ie win silvertips at 1250fps recoil is no problem Ming Bucibai

John wrote:
May 14, 2011

I have a S&W 38 spl +P that I keep loaded for personal protection. Like many, I hope I never have to use it for pers. prot. but if I do, I want the best bullets. Any recommendations?

Kevin Rasmussen wrote:
May 14, 2011

Another vote for the 357sig(9mm bullet in a .40 case). No shortage of 357 sig ammo on the web. 10mm for winter carry. Both best in Glocks IMO

Lamar D. wrote:
May 14, 2011

It doesn't matter what you carry if you don't hit what you're shooting at it an effective location. My wife and I have Sig 226's in 40 S&W for the home and cars. Her concealed carry is a S&W Chief's Special in 38 cal with +P. Mine is a Sig 332 in .380 (effective and conceals easily). There are Kimber .45, Benelli 12 gauge tactical shotgun and a couple of other shotguns, a Ruger Super Blackhawk in 44 mag, a M&P AR-15, and others around the house. These all make frequent trips to the range and are handled in the dark for familiarity. Have a good gun, but only if you can use it in adverse circumstances quickly and accurately.

james dulin wrote:
May 14, 2011

i carry a .357 in a sp101. i also have at least one of every caliber mentioned, plus a few more. other than the .380 and below, i trust them all. but i sure wouldn't want to be shot with any of them.

Robert Perry wrote:
May 13, 2011

My condealed choice is smy Berretta 92FS 9mm, 357mag under the Pillow and my 38Sp in a hidden spot also the sane for my 12 Guage pump near my Bed. I like the 9mm and still feel more rounds is better as it was intended in the first place. I am considering a 45 as an alternate side arm to carry and fill it its up to the carrier on his or her take down choice. I'm pretty good with the 357mag so thats why I'm considering the 45. I like James Bond but didn't keep up on his side arm choice.

Gerry wrote:
May 13, 2011

Firearms preferences are as varied as ones preferences regarding watches and jewelry, especially when it comes to personal defense. I believe in the old adage that, "He who has the biggest with the mostest, wins." On the other hand, my wife, a "little person," will only carry a small, light-weight firearm in her bag (Lady Smith Airweight .22). The .45 ACP first came on the scene at a U.S. Army generals request for a handgun that could "founder a horse" with one shot. That's my choice. I also recall the incident in which President Reagan and I believe three other men were incapacitated, each with one shot, from a .22 caliber handgun. As always, the debate will continue but will always come down to ones personal preferences based upon a number of factors. Bottom line: Any firearm is better than no firearm when it comes to self-defense.

Tom wrote:
May 12, 2011

Sorry guys, I can't see any reason to discuss James Bond's choice of weapons. First of all he's a FICTIONAL character. More important, there are some mistakes in Fleming's books that show he's not a real expert in combat weapons. Remember when Jame's 25 peashooter was taken away, he was issued both a PPK and a 38 Spl J-frame S&W. The 38 was the "heavy" weapon that "delivered like a brick through a plate glass window" if my memory serves. One thing I noticed in this article is that the discussion was strictly about caliber with no attention paid to ammunition. Many very good defense calibers were not mentioned like the 357 Sig, 44 Special, 10 MM and even the big old 44 Magnum. While some of these calibers are a bit overwelming in standard loads, light weight pre-fragmented bullets not only drastically reduce recoil but eliminate worries of over-penetration. The Glaser Safety Slug in a heavy caliber like 357 Mag, 10 MM and 44 Mag will stop an attacker "dead in his tracks" without the danger of over-penetration. Glasers will also improve the performance of milder calibers like the 38 Special and 9 MM. While expensive, this type of ammo can be used strictly for the "real thing" and light loaded target ammo can be used for practice.

madderhatter wrote:
May 12, 2011

@ Bill - I agree with you on the Judge. The wife carries a Public Defender with the 4 pellet 000 buck loads. Up close and personal encounters are what this gun is designed for. My carry gun is a Bodyguard .380 and home defense varies from a few .45 ACPs scattered around the house in "hidden" locations and a 12ga w/00 buck and tac light beside my bed. Wifey has a 20ga with 00 on her side of the bed. :o)

HOG wrote:
May 12, 2011

A hole in the head is a hole in the head. If the first one doesn't work, the second ond will. --HOG

PTMcGuire wrote:
May 12, 2011

When I was a kid, I heard a story that the US Army used .38's in the Phillipines but they wouldn't stop someone when they were shot. They learned that the .45 ACP would knock them down and they wouldn't get up. I don't know how accurate that story was but ever since then I have carried nothing but .45's, either a 1911 or a Springfield XD45.

JT wrote:
May 12, 2011

Its been awhile since I last read an Ian Fleming's James Bond novel, but as I recall his .25ACP Beretta was replaced with a .32ACP Walther PPK. I don't remember seeing a .380ACP anywhere in there (and yes, I'm using American nomenclature - Ian always used the European metric names). Having said all of that, I purchased my first American manufactured PPK/S in .380 because of the "Bondness" of the gun. It has remained my "black tie" weapon of choice.

Dave S wrote:
May 12, 2011

I second the .357 sig, Very manageable, straight, flat shooter, compares best to the .357 mag but yet was not mentioned. This is my everyday primary and I carry a .380 bu. This is not a dead cartridge.

Olie wrote:
May 12, 2011

Good article. Bird shot from a 12GA is adequate for home defense, and a J-Frame in the back pocket, is good enough on the street.

Don Schwarz wrote:
May 12, 2011

It is true that Bond's famous PPK was not a .380, but in fact a 7.65mm (.32 equivalent). It is absolutely remarkable how few people have any real knowledge of ballistics. Having a famous spy, as well as several of the Bond villains using a .25 auto; is commical inasmuch as the very worst, most under powered round ever made was the .25 auto. A .22 LR actually has more punch than a .25 auto. I've been shooting since the 60's & have been an NRA instructor since the 70's. I agree with the author that the .38 & .380 should be the least powerful round used for self defence. However, even those cartridges should only be used in the +P configuration. Many shooters don't understand, that it's not killing power. It's about STOPPING power! It will give you slight satisfaction that your attacker died 15 minutes after you shot him if he was still on his feet, long enough to fracture your skull with a baseball bat before he went down. When picking a cartridge, "bigger is better."

Mike F. wrote:
May 12, 2011

Another good caliber is the .357Sig. In the right gun, it is manageable and a good stopper. I carry it in my Sig Sauer P229.

Bill wrote:
May 12, 2011

I think a few comments concerning The Judge series from Taurus is in order. This series of handguns can be loaded with .45LC or 2½” 410 shot loads. The 410 loads are ideal for close-in self defense, and in the event that you miss the perpetrator, there is a much lower incidence of collateral damage. This would be especially important if the shooter is in an apartment or condo, where neighbors could be placed in jeopardy. The newer Public Defender models are smaller and lighter, but still have the capability of using 410 loads. With a little practice, one can become very familiar with any of them.

Gene wrote:
May 12, 2011

one source of info for Bond's guns

TomW wrote:
May 12, 2011

Just to throw a couple of others into the ring, I have an UltraLight Titanium Taurus revolver in 45 Long Colt that I carry in a car and isn't too large to conceal on your person. It never jams when I pull the trigger unlike some semi-auto 45 ACP's and the bullet size is larger than 45 ACP. I have 260 grain hollowpoints but ammunition is also available in this caliber up to something like 400 grains. Don't know the relative velocities. I just got a 38 Super on a 1911 frame and am about to go to the range with it. I haven't gotten into ballistics yet but understand that it's a "hotter" caliber than 9MM. The ammuntion is not available at a lot of retailers but it's out there.

JJ Swiontek wrote:
May 12, 2011

My son owns and loves his 5.7x28 FNH rifle and FNH pistol. However, at almost 1,900 fps, even with the standard expanding bullet, there is a great deal of wall-pass-thru. Price is also a consideration. The FNH brand name is a little expensive. Ammo is about $0.40 per round. Simple rules of thumb: Home-defense = shotgun. Pistol grip for easy handling. Pump style for low cost and reliability. 20 gauge is easier use by women. Buck-shot for penetration. (BB's at least.) The new over-hand pump shotgun called the Chainsaw is ergonomic. Not sure if it comes in 20 gauge yet. I hope this helps.

RyanSF wrote:
May 08, 2011

Thank you for this article. I've been meaning to study up on ammunitions and this article points out a few interesting points. However I found a couple of things puzzling. I found a slight error in your mention of F=MA. Acceleration is measured as velocity squared. So it should be feet per second squared not feet per second as you wrote in parentheses. This fits into your treatment later in the article regarding the mass of the bullet and its contribution to force versus the acceleration (velocity). You state correctly that velocity contribute to force at a greater multiplier, in fact exponentially because acceleration is velocity squared, versus mass contribute to force linearly. This is where I found the subject puzzling because while everything you said is true, ammunitions of the same calibre can be bought with varying grains and bullets. It's really hard to tell where one calibre's range of stopping power may or may not overlap another calibre's stopping power given the choices available. I guess where I'm going with my own study is where I was hoping you could lead me to - that is a table chart showing exactly what the force could be generated by the different variations of bullet types and grains on a calibre's stopping force. Lastly I like to hear your opinion on a calibre like the 5.7x28mm that has been written about as having short range for penetration power and thus would be suitable for close quarter defense without penetrating walls for collateral damage for instance, and of course cost of the FNH pistol notwithstanding.

Pete wrote:
May 05, 2011

James Bond used .25 ACP (Beretta), .38 Special (Colt revolver and later Smith & Wesson), .45 (Colt long barreled revolver), and eventually .32 ACP (Walther PPK). He never used .380 ACP.