EVALUATION: Which is Better For CCW, 9mm or .380?

For the ultimate in concealment and also comfort, a small-framed handgun is great, but consider caliber selection carefully. Here are a few thoughts on a common debate…

Jeff Johnston, NRA Family

9mm vs .380

So, you want a gun for concealed carry, but you can’t decide between the venerable 9mm and the handy .380 Auto. While I’m not going to solve the debate for everyone, I will provide you with some facts and insights to make your choice easier. Before we get started, however, there are some points you should know:

Water capacity is the standard measurement for case capacity comparison, because powder volumes vary.

Due to the laws of physics, any given cartridge will produce less perceived recoil if fired from a heavier gun, while a lighter gun will result in more.

Less recoil, in general, means more accurate shooting and faster followup shots. Gun writers call this “shootability,” although it’s definitely a very subjective term.

9mm Luger
The 9mm Luger (aka 9mmX19, 9mm Parabellum) is likely America’s most popular handgun cartridge because it offers a balance of power, shootability, reliability and concealability. Because of these traits, the cartridge has become so popular that it has gained another advantage: options. If you choose 9mm, you are immediately granted myriad options in loads, handgun models and accessories for your new gun.

A 9mmx19 cartridge features a bullet that is 9mm, or .355 inches in diameter. Bullet weights range from 80 to 147 grains with 115- and 124-grain bullets being the most popular. Its case is .380 inches in diameter, 19mm long and can hold a maximum of 10 grains of water. A typical 9mm Luger load contains about 6 grains of powder used to propel a 115-grain bullet to 1,000 feet per second (fps) out of a 2.75-inch barrel. (Velocities increase along with barrel length.) This produces approximately 255 ft.-lbs. energy while generating 5.36 ft.-lbs. of recoil energy from a pistol weighing 1 pound.

Walther CCP
9mms are available that are just about as small in size as .380s, like this Walther CCP, but keep in mind that the smaller and lighter the gun, the harder it’s going to kick.

.380 ACP
Firearms chambered in .380 Automatic Colt Pistol (aka, .380 Auto, 9mmx17, .380 Browning Court, 9mm Short, .380 Corto) are continuing to grow in popularity. That’s because the cartridge, with its very short case, can be made to function safely and efficiently in extremely small-framed guns. Because the pressures produced by the little cartridge aren’t excessive, the guns don’t require pounds of steel reinforcement, like, for instance a .44 Magnum. Yet the cartridge is more powerful than other small-framed guns such as .22 LR, .25 ACP and .32 S&W. Yet even in a lightweight gun such as the 10-ounce Ruger LCP, recoil is mild thanks to the .380’s modest ballistic data. Consider the following specifications:

The .380 Auto features the same diameter bullet as the 9mm and the same diameter case, yet it is shorter at 17mm in case length. It can hold a maximum of 5.3 grains of water. A typical load carries roughly 3 grains of powder that propels a 95-grain bullet at 845 fps to produce 151 ft.-lbs. of energy from a 2.75-inch barrel. It produces about 2.76 ft.-lbs. recoil energy from a 1-pound firearm.

So, when compared to the 9mm Luger, the .380 is smaller, lighter in recoil but not as powerful when it strikes a target. Now let’s take a look at the numbers in more detail.

The venerable Walther PPK is a well-proven and very concealable .380 that still maintains great shootability.

Head to Head
While 255 ft.-lbs. of bullet energy from the muzzle of a 9mm Luger is not a lot in the firearm world — consider that an average .30-06 deer rifle produces around 2,500 ft.-lbs. energy — a 9mm’s energy is far greater than a .22lr’s piddly 105 ft.-lbs. and many other smaller calibers. It has about 68 percent more energy than the .380 Auto. The question then: Is this extra power worth the 9mm’s extra weight and recoil?

If all things are equal, more velocity means greater penetration. A 9mm Luger typically out-penetrates .380 Auto bullets, but not as much as you might think. That may be due to the fact that the 9mm’s extra energy causes its bullets to expand to a slightly greater diameter, and expansion retards penetration due to greater surface area. But if two bullets penetrate the same distance, the one that has greatest surface area is best because it produces more tissue damage. No doubt, due to its advantage in velocity and energy, the 9mm Luger is the clear winner in terminal performance.

But for the same reasons, the .380 wins in shootability, with one caveat. Because the .380 has 94 percent less recoil (if fired from an equal-weight gun), it’s easier to shoot. But, you must consider that 9mms are typically a few ounces heavier than guns chambered in .380, and so the extra weight reduces that 94-percent figure considerably. Also, the smaller the gun, the smaller its grip and the more recoil it has. So a .380’s advantage in shootability is somewhat negated when fired from the smallest guns available in that chambering. You should also remember that “shootability” isn’t everything, or we’d all carry peashooters. Carry caliber choice, until the laws of physics are altered, boils down to finding a tradeoff between shootability, gun size, and power that works for you. It’s important to remember that the bigger gun you get, the tougher it is to conceal, but the easier it is to shoot.

Some of the smallest and most concealable guns made –which still maintain the prerequisite features for serious carry consideration — are chambered in .380 Auto due to the cartridge’s diminutive size. Examples are the 8.3-ounce Kel-Tec P3AT, the 9.97-ounce Kahr P380, and the 8.8-ounce Diamondback DB380. (All these guns weigh just under a pound when fully loaded.) On average, 9mm versions of these guns weigh 4 to 5 ounces more. Five ounces doesn’t seem like much, but for most people it’s the difference between a true pocket gun that you can wear in your front jeans or shorts pocket without it pulling down your pants, and a 20-ounce (fully loaded) gun for which you probably need a belt and a holster. In terms of pure concealability, the .380 is the clear winner.

For options and choices, the 9mm wins again. More gun models at all price ranges, holsters, ammo and accessories can be found for it than perhaps any handgun (with the possible exception of the 1911). One notable option here is ammunition. The 9mm, because of its larger case capacity, can be downloaded to a .380’s velocity if needed, or uploaded to +P status where it can produce velocities of 1,200 fps and energies nearing 400 ft.-lbs. if called for.

Lastly, while there is no discernible difference in reliability between the cartridges themselves, bear in mind that, in general, lighter-weight guns are less reliable than heavier guns of equal quality. So, if you choose a .380 in a 10-ounce gun, while it shouldn’t jam often, it will likely experience more malfunctions over time than a full-sized handgun would. That’s just how it is.

Hornady .380 ammo.
With a round as small as .380 ACP choose the ammo wisely. The newer breed of specialty loads such as the Hornady Critical Defense series adds some security to a decision to choose a smaller handgun for defense. See Midsouth offerings HERE.

60 thoughts on “EVALUATION: Which is Better For CCW, 9mm or .380?”

  1. Great comparison, thanks. I have owned and carried Walther PPK/S models starting back in the ’80’s, both from Interarms and Manhurin, (the latter made on the original German machinery sent to France after the war). Also a nice Beretta Model 84, which was a good hi-cap .380. (See Death Wish II :-))

    Problem at the time was you had to find a decent load, and I settled on Super-Vel HP, believe it was 95 grains, but realized if you’re going to go that hot you might as well step up to the 9. Loved those pistols though, and zero reliability issues.

    {FYI, other names for the .380 are 9mm Kurz (German), and 9mm Corto (Italian)}

    That being said, I think a slightly heavier compact or sub-compact 9 is the answer, say a Glock 19 or 26. Easy to carry, good capacity, and good power in 124 or 147 grain loads. I’m partial to the 124 grain.

    Thanks for another interesting article.

    1. Had a friend with the 84 and I owned a ppks. Both fine guns. I have a TOP and a bodyguard now. Also have a CM9 and the extra 4 oz makes a huge difference. I carry the 380 more because it fits in the average pocket much better than even the Kahr

    1. Steven Parker: Well said, if you go to the trouble of CC and extensive training to do so properly and lawfully why not carry something that will do the job without having to fire so many, frequently in the double digits, rounds to do the job?

      1. keep in mind that it’s called ” self defense” Not combat
        every criminal bent on harming you will, without exception, run and hide after just one or two shoots.

      2. Cause it won’t fit in my pocket. Derp. Do you even get the point? I guess not..

    2. Yeah. As if that will fit in my front pants pocket and not pull my pants down. Why even comment?

  2. Thanks for the article, it confirmed a lot of info but I look seeing the numbers side too. I have been considering this very topic recently. I have a m&p 9 full size. The only holster I have currently is a little one from crimson trace that came with the laser grips I bought. Not really good for concealed carry. I want to get a smaller more concealable gun, considering the shield in 9 or 380, and a good holster for it and my m&p. So many choices it’s almost overwhelming and I don’t want to end up with a drawer full of holsters. Too bad there’s not a way to try stuff out for free or small fee. Hmmmm …. maybe that’s a business idea.

  3. I have seen a ganbanger who took a .380 to the forehead. It did not penetrate and did not even knock him out. It just went around under the skin to the back of his head. A .22 would have done more damage.

  4. I carry a Ruger LCP in a Recluse holster during the summer. I can put it in my back pocket, and it allows me a 2nd magazine.

  5. I tend to think that when you are in a situation when you have to use your carry gun to defend yourself, you will not even remember the recoil. Therefore, the big thing is not just are you going to hit your target, which is no doubt only a few feet away and getting closer, but is your bullet going to have the stopping power and knock down power to save your life. That is why I carry a .45 ACP. No pistol is going to be perfect for everyone, but for me, I like the .45 for the above reasons. My Colt Defender is light enough that I don’t even remember that I am carrying it, although I would remember real quick if I needed to, and it hits hard and makes big holes. Also, lately I have been shooting at two 25 yd. bullseye targets at about ten yards and have found that I can draw and hit both in the black in about one second. I suspect that if they were two bad guys trying to do me damage, I could do it even quicker, but I hope I don’t have to find out. So, everyone to his own liking, but that is mine.

    1. RG. I fully agree with your fore thoughts on method and practice. Especially one that suits your needs.

  6. .45 is just a weak handgun cartridge in the world of all cartridges. Read the article. Also, the difference between .45, 40, and 9mm is miniscule in real life. Especially with new cartridges that’s why the FBI has gone back to 9mm.
    .45 fanboys are probably compensating for shortcomings elsewhere.

  7. There are a great number of variables to ponder when deciding what caliber and gun to carry for self defense. One of my biggest concerns if I lived up north would be penetration, specifically in the winter. It may sound silly to some, but layers of clothing or heavy clothing can have an adverse effect on caliber, and bullet performance especially when your talking about the more anemic offerings.

    I’ll stick with 40 S&W since it has a balance of capacity and power. As for ‘shootability” when the metal meets the meat the extra felt recoil, and sharp report of your gun wont factor in a whole lot. Why? once the adrenaline begins to pump recoil magically becomes more controllable, and you hardly notice the noise until the smoke clears and your ears are ringing.

  8. Browning’s 1911-380 is 250 FPS chambered in .380 ACP. It weighs 18 ounces which considered heavy for the segment however the shootability is amazing (personal experience however I am a .45 ACP guy). You also get all the wonderful benefits of shooting a 1911 in a mini platform.

  9. Just a few notes: 9mm is available up too 158gr., though I prefer 124’s like many. In 380 I like the 102gr Golden Saber, 99gr HST, or 90gr Gold Dot on the lighter end. As for the LCP, it’s actually a wicked little gun without the recoil absorbing Hogue grips. Mostly due to its narrow profile. It is however quite reliable and accurate for it’s small footprint and weight. It is one of the only polymer firearms I carry on a semi-regular basis, and mostly due to it’s ability to be concealed under anything or close to nothing. Worn it to weddings, Christmas parties and the beach. Given a choice though, it will usually be a 9mm, 40 or 45. Just depends what I am wearing and what the activity is for the day. It’s something in Steel or Alloy frame.

    1. Never seen a 9mm bullet (.355) heavier than 147 grains. All 158 grain bullets I’ve seen are for .38/.357, and are .358 diameter, too large for the 9.

      Yes, .45 will do a better job, but there’s nothing anemic about a 9mm defense load, and a more compact 9 or .380 is better than the larger 1911 you left at home, and a lot easier to carry.

      1. !! No, I’ll take your word for it. Learn something new every day. And subsonic is undoubtedly quieter as well. Thanks for the info!

  10. I just got a LCP. Shot it with Hornady. Full. Metal and Liberty civil defence best of all! that ammo is half the weight half the recoil twice the penetration. recoil was nothing. More accurate

  11. A 9mm does you no good if it’s left in the car due to size and weight. And the new ruger LCP2 is a joy to shoot and carry in my standard shorts, t shirt and flip flops attire.


  12. Good article, although I would have liked to have seen a comment about weight and it’s effects on accuracy. Weight is terribly important when it comes to delivering a bullet to where you want it to go. Example: I once owned the tiny featherweight Kel Tec .32 auto. You hardly knew it was in your hand. Unfortunately, it was near impossible to keep from limp-wristing it. Just flexing your eyelids would sink the deal. Ok, I’m kidding about the eyelids, but any flexing in your shooting hand threw the bullet on the wrong path, and oftentimes, failure to cycle. That pistol is one that, if you want a defensive pistol, you plan on stuffing it up the bad guys nose before you fire. So weight is very important. Only sacrifice the ounces necessary, and don’t get caught up in light-weight hysteria.

  13. I frequently carry a Beretta 84 when I’m riding my bike. I like having 15 rounds and the easy shooting .380. I’m more concerned breaking down and pushing an 800lb bike along a dark highway and having no place to duck into when coyotes or a bigfoot…Kidding on bigfoot …get curious. I also have a couple .32acp Beretta’s that are hi cap and easy to carry. I don’t carry hollow point .32s though. I don’t think the HP .32 penetrates enough. I carry +P+ .380 in my Beretta and 2 lower power FMJ at the end of each mag that give enough feedback to let me know when the mag is done. That’s a free shooting in the dark tip.

  14. Daniel Schitkovitz has it about right. What I carry depends on the situation and can vary from the 380 to a 45. My favorite is the officers model size 1911 but in reality it’s usually a sub-compact polymer 9mm due to ease of carry. Oddly, with that said, if I’m extra concerned I’ll actually carry a Glock 23 due to it’s combination of power and capacity. For some reason I just don’t notice the 40s reputed bad recoil or whatever the complaint is. The little P3AT gets to go for walks, etc.

  15. Personal experience has taught me that in an imperfect world shot placement would be the optimal situation for any caliber including larger calibers. Due to the number of shots required to stop an attack with the 9mm Luger and the .380acp. I prefer a little extra weight and recoil of .40 cal pistol or larger (exceptions being the .357mag or Sig). While in a heightened state of action shot placement may be less than you might have expected. Where as hitting your target may be more assured than that perfect shot. A larger caliber would decrease the number of center mass shots needed to stop an attack. I prefer and would recommend a controllable caliber that fits your needs.
    While I would never turn down any caliber for self defense if that is all that is available. I would never choose the 9mm or .380acp for personal defense especially in CQB because too many variables make these two calibers unacceptable to me as a first choice and their only use would be as a back up.
    Again with that being said, the 9mm Luger would always be my choice between these to rounds. But my preferred choice of calibers would be the .10mm (FP) .45acp or .357 Sig in that order. I do realize everyone is different and their needs and abilities vary as they are different also.

    1. The “21 foot rule” is real. Within that distance lost of your life and/or serious injury is very real. So practice, train and perfect your Gungfu!

    2. Fine, but we’re talking about viable concealed carry pistols; that pretty much rules out the 10 mm completely, and a lot of 1911’s except for Commander size on down, or a mid-sized Sig or XD, etc. I agree on the .357 Sig, or a compact .40, but for truly comfortable small lightweight concealed carry a compact 9 or small .380 is hard to beat.

      With the advent of better performing 9 mm ammo more and more PD’s are dropping the Glock 22 standard and going back to hi-cap 9’s with good defensive HP ammo, and are getting a higher percentage of hits and the same percentage of stops, because of less recoil and greater controllability.

      9 mm ammo isn’t like it was back in the day when Jeff Cooper hated it, with light loaded 115 grain FMJ’s that would zip right through a bad guy and he would keep coming after 6 or 7 thru and thru hits. With modern 124 grain and 147 grain defensive loads it can do the job in a gun that needs to be concealed.

      1. I’ll agree to disagree. I will also reiterate “Personal experience”.
        A .380acp or 9mm will not stop most attackers within 21ft especially when the norm is less than half that distance.
        Scenario: Two at six feet and two point blank to vitals, only then was there subsidence. No thru and thru, even with FMJs. An attacker with a cutting edge weapon and/or additional gun can deal you quite a fatal wound. Whether they are on drugs or adrenaline.

        Only a head shot will accomplish what you wish these rounds to do. I am quite sure that stray misses are not your intent and training dictates center mass hits. My suggestion is to carry the most powerful round that you can competently handle in any concealable platform.

        Also in most cases with the .380acp or 9mm. It will almost always take four or more rounds to drop the bad guy. I would highly suggest a larger cal. ‘viable concealed carry pistol’ or definitely nothing smaller than a 9mm with +P Hollow Point ammo or reliable specialty bullets, i.e. extreme defender, hst, gold dot, hornady defensive rnds, etc.

        I understand that concealment is the main point here between the two calibers but my wish is to help with advice that will save lives with the least amount rounds fired in shortest amount of time. There may be more than one bad guy.

        My other wish is that none here will never have to be placed in harm’s way to find this out. But to be properly prepared.

      2. According to published statistics, you’re quite correct, the .380 or 9mm will not provide a “stop” immediately. Neither will .45 or .40, nor .357. They are ALL relatively very weak loads, designed for handguns.

        I have no issue with you calling 9mm “weak”, just so long as you’re not calling .45 or .357 “powerful”, because they are not. (Note: refer to the article we are commenting on…)
        Also see: https://www.buckeyefirearms.org/alternate-look-handgun-stopping-power

        Note how, in these carefully compiled events, .380 is equally effective to .357 in “one shot stopping power”
        Is clear that many rifles and shotguns are “powerful” and that handguns are not.

        Please don’t fool yourself by carrying a .45 or .357 or 10mm and thinking that the extra weight and recoil and blast is worth it. Anecdotal evidence is useless because sample size is too small. The survey linked to above provides the actual facts.

      3. Ahhh! How did I know this was coming.

        You know what they about ‘statistics’. “There are Lies, Damned Lies and there are Statistics.”

        The scenario mentioned is real and unfortunately very much true. BTW it was the attacker’s gun used of which he was properly relieved. His intention was robbery and murder also he did have an accomplice, unknown and unfound. (.380acp (a 8-9 shot Kahr?) with FMJs was his choice for committing the crime). Also his choice was to continue confrontation. First two rounds the subject just blinked. As he did after the previous serious throat blow (seemingly unaffected), the subject was able to cross the 6-5ft to me, giving me no other recourse but to fire twice again into his heart point blank. After a brief struggle it still took 30-60 secs. for him to subside. There was no thru and thru for the four shots fired nor was there any back spray or noticeable outpouring of blood. Not one LE officer on the scene had ever used their weapon. I’m glad for that because taking a life is not easy on the soul. It’s not like the disconnect when hunting deer or wild boar, etc. Personally I do not have that disconnect either. I realize the sacrifice of the animal is the nourishment on my table.
        I hate to use a quote from a movie “but when you take a life, you also take away everything they had or will ever have”.
        If you wish to choose STATISTICS over REAL LIFE. Than use the advice that you consider best for you. Again, I would personally never choose to CC any handgun less than a 9mm with +P ammunition not unless a smaller cartridge was absolutely necessary due to unavoidable constraints, i.e. hand size, warm weather, thin clothing, shorts.
        Also you are wrong on the statistics. The FBI statistics show that the 10mm, .45acp and .357mag/Sig indicate that three rounds or less which is one less round needed when compared lesser powered .380 or 9mm rounds needed to stop forward movement during an attack. All shots were DT’s. Again, only a head shot and more explaining why, (heads move more than the body’s center mass, with a higher probability of missing) will accomplish what you wish of the .380 or common 9mm. There will be a lot explaining to do many times over and over again. Especially in the Blue States.

        Also when things get hot you will feel no recoil nor will you hear any loud bangs or blasts from the rounds fired. Your own adrenaline will take of that for you. Only real combat experience and action will allow you to control adrenaline at that level. Most will shake uncontrollably and will miss.

        I really hate having to state this here BUT as I said,
        “I understand that concealment is the main point here between the two calibers but my wish is to help with advice that will save lives with the least amount rounds fired in shortest amount of time. There may be more than one bad guy (there’s a possibility you’ll need those rounds).

        My other wish is that none here will never have to be placed in harm’s way to find this out. But to be properly prepared.”

        Yes! I was ‘Justified’. Same situation, I would do everything again the same way.

        P.S. This incident lead me to more bench-rest shooting which unknowingly affecting my handgun technique. Which is very much corrected now.

        Maintain the proper alert level always. As for the this subject. I am done. Discussing it was unwanted but I felt was very much needed. You are never as safe as you may believe. Paranoia aside of course.

      4. I have provided statistical evidence, which you dismiss as “damn lies”. Only thing is, there’s​ a lot of truth in that study. Not only is your .357 very marginally stronger than a .380 but it’s much harder to control with recoil and ear ringing blast.

        You are probably an expert shooter and I don’t deny that. Expert Shooters aren’t who I’m writing to, because they already know how hard the .357 is to handle for a newer shooter or for many people even if experienced – and for very minimal gain.

        Just concerned people are buying 45s and 357 and thinking they’re protected because of stopping power. This is a myth.

        You’re better off with a .380 that you have a scientific practice program with, that you’re actually improving as a shooter, gaining confidence and skill.

        All handguns are relatively weak and your ability to handle the gun and place shots on target quickly and accurately is key … a somewhat smaller caliber is much better for a beginning shooter or even intermediate shooter.

        Forget the so-called “powerful calibers” and get yourself lots of practice instead with a .380, 38 snub, or 9mm.

        The shooter is the weapon, the gun is only the tool. And large caliber handguns are a difficult tool to handle and give minimal benefits in return.

      5. I was having a ‘little stevie’ fun with you kid. Go love your wee links and post them all over.
        But that book 30+ odd years ago had small hole in the front and lot wood in that gaping hole behind. Go around your neighborhood, cross the thin blue line with murderous criminal intent. Then report back us.

        ***I must however state that I condemn and do not recommend such behavior as your wee link also states: Opinions belong to their authors. Nothing in this website should be considered personal legal advice. Privacy and Security Policy. Oh! ✌️ Not the Mao type.

      6. Trying to keep this debate on a high level but you keep lowering it. Here’s what people who debate at your level say in response: “why don’t you come to my shooting range and stand in front of a few .380s to the chest to prove how wimpy it is”.

        But, back to a higher level: people, do research, please. Don’t listen to two old guys arguing on the internet! Test fire guns at the range, (rent them). Get something you can carry comfortably, and shoot quickly and accurately, and don’t worry about “stopping power” in a handgun… it’s a myth.

      7. I’ve resisted the urge to get drawn into this thread, leaving A. White to try and carry the load, but this last bit below essentially equating your “‘pinion” with his was too much. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. If stopping power is a “myth” then why did the US adopt the .45 ACP after the failure of the .38 S&W in the Phillipines?

        If stopping power is a myth, then a hot loaded .357 mag 125 grain HP at 1400 FPS generating 550 ft lbs has only a marginal advantage over a 95 grain .380 producing 150 ft lbs? Uh, yeah, sure…!

        Or a .45 ACP with a solid 385 ft lbs compared to the same .380 load? And I’m not even talking .44 mag territory.

        Marshall and Sanow already did all this research for us in the ’80’s and determined that the highest percentage of one shot stops came from the 125 grain .357. The .380 wasn’t even in the running, but I still carried one because I didn’t have a larger caliber at the time.

        As for larger caliber handguns being “difficult to handle,” that is the myth. I’m an NRA Certified Instructor in Basic Pistol, and after starting her with a .22, in a month I had my 12 year old daughter hammering targets with a 2.5″ S&W Model 19 .357. Please don’t project your personal limitations onto others.

        I like and have carried several .380’s as I’ve stated, and think a good nine in the right hands with the right ammo is as good as or better than a .40, but the .45 does have a better edge, and the .357 mag, .357 Sig, and .44 Spl / Mag are hands down superior. The full house 10mm blows all but a hot .44 away, and you don’t need a Desert Eagle to shoot it in an autoloader.

        In addition to indicating your ignorance of this reality, citing a single obscure study to reinforce your individual biases, and by posting this additional nonsense, you also are shouting to everyone the fact that your “knowlege” comes from everything but real world experience. That no one wants to waste their time educating such an obvious noob is why you don’t have more than a few frustrated replies from Mr. White to your uninformed pronouncements here.

        The only “myth” is that your opinion on this subject is at all valid, or should be given any credence here among people who actually know the difference between these calibers and their real-world performance.

      8. First, I Frankly missed the post by RG and the idiotic ill-informed reply.

        But you are correct L.T.! I did not mention the .40 S&W because it technically a shortened (but still powerful) 10mm round. I will not even begin start with hydro-static energy of the larger power rounds. The 9mm has a little but it’s as you said the more powerful controllable calibers have more effectiveness due to their stopping power.
        Most Police around the nation started with the reliable wheel guns. The first being the .32 S&W in the early 20th century then moved to the .38 spec, .38 spec +p then finally the .357 rem mag (some the .41 mag and the .44 mag still to this day). Before the crossover to semi’s. The 357. mag, 2&1/2in snubby (a Ruger) she was my first. I still bang my head for having sold that beauty of a beast, it was a tac-driver. I also use to own the Walther PPK pictured above in SS/SA only when they were made Virginia long ago.

        I have had a gun pointed at me more than 12+ in my life. All perps wanting something that did belong to them and one time is one time too many.

        (This is not a rule of thumb, to say.)
        There are signals that perps unintentionally signal what harm that they are intending to do to you. Most say they will shoot you if you do not comply. If they say they will kill you then you are definitely in a more much more serious predicament. Especially if that perp knows you, is unmasked and being video recorded with an unknown number of assisting perps. (As was my case.) To all Business Owners, Managers and Staff. If you are the target, the perp will have been watching you at distance to catch you at a moment of distraction. LEO’s I am sure are aware of this because of the disrespect for the jobs. Most recently of the gladly departed B.O. admin and their fomenting hatred towards them.

        All being said, be aware and maintain the proper alertness level always.

      9. Your 12 year old had fired a .357? Congratulations to this young lady! So did my son at that age. But many adults are uncomfortable with this round and nearly all cannot it back on target as fast as something lighter. It simply recoils harder. You can’t repeal the laws of physics.

        You can name-call me, but it doesn’t change the fact that newer shooters should rent and try these loud, more-recoiling rounds at the range before owning. They should also be aware that ALL those foot-pound numbers you cite are literally tiny compared to a hunting rifle (again, READ the article we are commenting on)….

        There’s no benefit to giving people false sense of security that that .357 is going to drop that crazed zombie in its tracks. In fact, over 90% of the time when a gun is drawn in self defense, it is not even fired. In that most- likely case, caliber doesn’t matter at all.

        I’m not going to argue Ford-Chevy-Ram with you either. Any truck will carry the load. But with a bigger caliber handgun, the shooter is carrying the load, in more ways than one.

        It’s your right to carry around a heavy .357, (or a lightweight .357, that even professional shooters say kicks hard). But, you guys who are worshipping at the religion of big caliber handguns are too caught up in your emotional investment to give good advice.

        Of course this is going to bring a personal attack upon me in response. Whatever… fire away.

        Folks, read the article. Realize that shot placement is much more important than caliber – and that this fervor for certain calibers is not helpful.

        Get something you can shoot quickly and accurately. In a self defense emergency, a .380 in the chest of your attacker is much better than a .357 through the wall.

      10. Boy! This azzhat doesn’t no when to quit even when he’s no being spoken too either!
        There’s youtube vid that I would search for anyone here but you because you can go do it yourself. I concerns over-penetration of the Lehigh Defense’s Extreme Perpetrator. Many had believed because of statistical gelatin (some have that for brains, you know) shots showing one result and an actual boar kill demonstrating another. Meaning in the gel tests there appeared to a high probability of over-penetration. But… (not your kind of butt) close range hog kill from a broadside did not go thru&thru but only traveled little more the HALF the distance as demonstrated in the aforementioned gel test with a 10mm.
        Why… because gel test only statistically show want penetration maybe. Whereas animals and man may or may not have both tough hide, dense muscle and sinew.
        Any COMPETENT shooter will know what’s on the other side of their shot(s) and would most certainly prefer over-penetration (because two holes are better than one) to under-penetration and sub-performance. It matter if you miss your target. Did not your girlfriends tell you this.

        P.S. As for me and I’m sure that I speak for most others here that we will no longer respond to any more asinine comments posted by you. You’ve had enough attention kid! Pull your head out, stand up straight and run along now.

        I will state for the author’s story sake that we all here understand (well except for you that is) that statistical is relevant where it’s purpose serves best as in Better Hand/Reloading Practices and to Better One’s Shooting Skills & Techniques.

      11. I appreciate your kind offer to stop your illiterate responses.

        One “last time” (assuming you are a man of your word) – handgun caliber is a minor part of self defense.

        .380, and 9mm will do the job in the hands of a competent shooter. If you’re incompetent, then a .44 mag won’t help.

        Handgun “stopping power” by caliber is mostly fantasy. Have a nice day!

      12. I’m not an ‘expert’, but I DO have combat experience. I’ve used by .308 and 45 ACP against the enemy. None of the enemy EVER got up and told me that I shot him with a pea shooter. Although both of you (and you know who you are) have valid points, neither one of you is going to change any shooter’s (who is following this thread) mind. I, for one, think this dead horse has been beaten into a grease spot.

      13. Paladin: I totally agree with you. But this you does have combat experience. That is how I could tell the other you was to young and inexperienced. No one wants to brag of kills. So the best scenario that I could give was a post service incident that unfortunately involved a loyal customer of three plus years. Memories you do not want to rehash.

        My apologies to all (but one). I wasn’t trying change minds. Surely not to bicker with a fool. My original opinion still stands start with a 9mm for self-defense and good reliable ammo for your gun of choice. The .45 acp is no pea shooter. Glad you’re still here brother to offer advice.

      14. Paladin (Only): It’s was quoting statisticians. Like those in offices sitting safely back home lining their pockets with kickbacks from gov’t contracts that set me off. Sending us whatever suits their needs for $$$ sake. I’m saying to myself, this person is giving info that get some newbie to f/a killed if taken in context too seriously. Chris Kyle was killed by someone he thought he could trust (helping out, in a good way) but did not know well. I turned my head after greeting a known person (not an enemy in the line of duty) only to turn around to see a pistol pointing at me. He repeatedly threatened to kill me for more money after he had all that there was in the drawer. I tried to talk the fella down but he wasn’t having it and came over the counter. A mistake for him, a fortunate blessing for me. His gun was not only loaded but he had one chambered or he himself would never had been shot. Living in a blue ‘may issue’ state. I could not legally CC not that it would have helped without a prior set-up under the counter. Those up-teen times of having gun pointed at me also occurred post service. The .380 is fine also but with the right +p ammo. As for me it would only be use it as a back up. Inside a business. two to the thorax and one to the head would have placed me in front of a grand jury. My choice is proper penetration and a massive energy dump.
        Again, my apologies to everyone (-1).

      15. I carry a full size XDm .40 with me everyday. If I go it goes in my Wilderness Safepacker. I’ve taken it with into establishments who “do not allow firearms”, and have never been challenged. Due to the piece of mind of having a larger caliber, and hi-cap magazine I have no problem with toting around the extra weight. I also carry an extra mag in the packer, knife, Streamlight Scorpion, a few extra loose rounds of ammo, and I have an XML light mounted on the gun.

      16. I agree the Safepacker adds a whole new dimension. I have one and carry a full sized Glock in it, but concealed about the body for me requires more thought and preparation, so I tend to go to smaller guns in that situation.

    3. Anecdotes carry no weight here. Also, if you want to call statistics “lies”, then run from the debate, I don’t really care. Handguns are ALL weak. Get something you can fire quickly and accurately. Leave the “big calibers” for those who feel they need them.

      1. ‘Statistical Opinions’ can be manipulated either intentionally or through erroneous compilation of the data. Main point being, there is one statistic that is missing and is very important. The overall number of shots fired, number of misses. It’s because of the high number of misses, the inability of all individuals of different sizes to properly handle larger calibers (the lowering of standards in the military and gov’t agencies to lesser able individuals to be accepted) is what has lead to the 9mm use and higher mag capacity to compensate for poor target acquisition or just plain poor shooting ability. The ‘excuse’ that you use per say is a minuscule difference in various handgun power is a lie. Even the statistical data that you quote from the writer says, “I would skip carrying the “mouse gun” .22s, .25s and .32s.” Then the .380 and low powered 9mm would be “rat guns” compared to power of larger rounds. As both occupy the lower end of medium and large caliber rounds. So if you have small hands or weak wrists. Under these circumstances I would definitely advise against the larger calibers.

        “Handguns are ALL weak”, really. I am quite certain everyone here would disagree. Unless you’re comparing them to high-powered rifle rounds only.

        Please explain why African Plains Hunters sought larger and more powerful rifle rounds for the ‘Big Four’ if they had not discovered that smaller rounds were getting hunters injured and/or killed. Maybe, just maybe, that is why why most countries will not let you use anything smaller than .375 bore with the most common being .416-458 bore.

        So, I’ll make my point again from REAL experience. Man is no mouse or rat. Underestimating that and what will bring an adversary down will cost you and hopefully only you your life.

        Since I did not realize or assume that we were in a debate. Do you care to debate more or do you care to really help because Joe Smo’s compilation of data states this or that. Compiled statistical data of bad, poor, somewhat good and the perfect shot determines the true outcome providing that giving up the ghost will prevent you yourself from being mortally injured. Giving Casper company is by no means anyone’s intentions including yours… I hope. You sound of those who, wish to have or want to kill and will unload in a closed space without care of who or what’s around you as long as you get to walk away with collateral being of no consequence whatsoever.

        There are too many variables to place your life on statistical data alone, be it the FBI, Military or the aforementioned ‘Joe Smo.’
        Next you’ll tell us all that the .223 is just as powerful more devastating than the .308.

      2. I will let readers judge for themselves. “Debating” with your non-facts is not really a serious discussion.
        Read and learn all you can if you are going to carry. Peace ✌️

      3. I really hope everyone fact checks your statements against that info link you posted for this subject.

        Fact: Long ago I once used a 1x6in. board backed by a statistics book. They did not hold up to the .357mag rounds that penetrated them both. The book got lot of wood in the large gaping hole left behind.

      4. I hope everyone fact-checks as well. There’s tons of different opinions, and disinformation, as well as good information, all on the internet.

        We agree on that. Do your own research! Look at all sides. Good words of advice!

  16. If I am forced to defend myself I want the largest caliber I can
    carry comfortably. For me that is a Kimber Micro 9 in 9mm.
    It is also a fun gun to shoot. I considered a 380 but decided the
    little extra size and weight wasn’t a big deal for me anyway.
    I like the extra power of the 9mm round also. However a gun
    left at home does you no good so buy one that is comfortable
    for you. A small 380 is far better than nothing.

    1. I said earlier that I usually carry a Ruger LCP in the summer. Just to be perfectly clear, my other summer carry gun is a Sig Sauer P938 9MM with 124gr Hornady XTP. If I feel the need, I can carry one of the two 1911’s I have.

    2. Kimber Micro 9 is a great choice. They were almost too small for me, but the older Colt Mustangs and Pony’s were the ultimate concealable .380’s. I still love the DA reliability and simplicity of the Walther PPK/S though.

  17. A lot of good info in this article. For me its a G27 or a G19 in 357Sig. Both not the easy to conceal Sig 238 or938 carry guns but both will do the job with ONE round to center mass. I found that relying on double taps of lesser calibers while under extreme stress is not in my best interest. IMHO

    1. G27 .40 in .357 Sig works, but you can’t run a .357 Sig barrel in a G19. If someone knows you can please chime in, as I’ve had a G19 since 1989.

      I have a G23, and did get the Sig barrel for that.

  18. I hate to pick nits, but the average muzzle energy of a .30-06 is not 2500 ft. lbs., it’s more like 2800 to 2900, with 3000 ft. lbs. not out of the question with handloads.

  19. Perhaps of interest…….

    Wild Bill Hickok of old West fame used Colt 1851 Navy .36 caliber revolvers. Per Wikipedia: “The .36 caliber (.375–.380 inch) round lead ball weighs 80 grains and, at a velocity of 1,000 feet per second, is comparable to the modern .380 pistol cartridge in power..”

    This was his choice for carry guns even though considerably more powerful firearms were available to him at the time. Note that he was killed by a .45 caliber Colt Single Army when a coward shot him in the back of his head.

    Also per Wikipedia, ‘”Famous “Navy” users included Wild Bill Hickok, John Henry “Doc” Holliday, Richard Francis Burton, Ned Kelly, Bully Hayes, Richard H. Barter, Robert E. Lee, Nathan B. Forrest, John O’Neill, Frank Gardiner, Quantrill’s Raiders, John Coffee “Jack” Hays, “Bigfoot” Wallace, Frederick Townsend Ward, Ben McCulloch, Addison Gillespie, John “Rip” Ford, “Sul” Ross and most Texas Rangers prior to the Civil War…’

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