Thoughts On Caliber Selection

You can probably infer from my use of this image how I feel about the whole topic of caliber selection. But, recently, I have read a lot of postings elsewhere that make this topic rather hard to understand.

Personally, I prefer to stay out of the “.45 versus 9mm” argument. That’s why I include that in my Pledge.

Having said that, here is what I tell people who ask me which gun they should buy, or which caliber they should pick.

The purpose of a handgun is to make holes in an aggressor, and, hopefully, make them stop doing whatever it is that is threatening me or my loves ones. Handguns aren’t going to blow anyone across the room, or rip anyone’s arm off, no matter what the movies or the trolls on the interwebz want you to think.

The purpose of shooting someone, then, is to put holes in them. How big do the holes need to be? This big? (    )  Or this big? (     )

Personally, my plan is to make as many holes as I need to, which will let blood out, which will make the aggressor stop, either by breaking their will to continue, or by making their brain stop working. I will leave how big the holes are to the coroner.

So, it then comes down to how many holes I can make, in an area that will cause the aggressor to stop, and how fast. Thus, the defining specifications in a handgun, for me, becomes magazine capacity and recoil control.

Thus, everyone should choose their handgun based on how well they can control the gun, and how many shots they can deliver accurately and quickly. For me, my .45ACP Glock 21SF is as easy to control as my 9mm Glock 17 or my 9mm Glock 19. That isn’t to say that the recoil is the same, or less. Quite the contrary. But I don’t have any problem controlling the .45ACP round, because I’ve shot it enough to get good at it. Actually, I find I shoot the G21SF more accurately than either 9mm, because I pay more attention, and use better trigger control.

But, my G17 holds 20 rounds, while the G21SF holds 14, and is about twice as heavy, and about twice as expensive to practice with. So, for me, that makes my G17 and G19 a better choice.


Interestingly, this debate isn’t limited to handguns. For some time, the merits of the .223 rifle cartridge versus others, notably the .308, has been beaten almost to death.

I found this account in Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries (Vol. 5, No. 1, January 1997) that I thought was interesting:

We have never been enthusiastic about the use as a battle round of the 223, which is essentially a varmint cartridge, and our view is shared by most of the people who have used the M16 in close combat. However, we ran across an amusing anecdote from Vietnam which suggests that there are two sides to most questions. It appears that this marine sergeant became involved in a short-range daylight firefight in which his people were supported by two M48 tanks mounting 90 millimeter guns. As things developed the sergeant noticed a gook a short way off armed with a bazooka (RPG), which was aimed precisely at one of the supporting tanks and well within rocket range. The sergeant assumed a classic offhand firing position, right elbow high, left elbow under the piece, and with his weapon placed properly in the semi-automatic mode, he squeezed off his single round. At precisely that moment, the other tank, having noticed the same gook, touched off one round of 90 millimeter main battery ammunition, but there was so much going on at the time that the sergeant was not aware of the tank round. The gook was totally scrambled, and our marine looked wonderingly down at his little poodle shooter in amazement.


Finally, for more on stopping power and caliber specifications, check out this article in American Rifleman and the website Ballistics 101.

If you want to base your decision on some other factors than I do, that’s okay.