The “Best” Pistol Caliber for Self-Defense

Meta: A lot of our readers ask us what caliber they should use for their concealed carry gun, and we’ll answer that over the course of our guide. Read on to find out.


Whenever gun nuts discuss handguns, you know that someone is going to start arguing about caliber at some point in the conversation. There have been endless debates about the effectiveness of various bullets for self-defense, and we’re going to explore some of them today.

Instead of looking at each kind of ammo one by one, we’ll instead go over the characteristics that are most important in a gun for self-defense and discuss ammo choices for each of them. This will help both beginners get an idea of what they should focus on so that they can defend themselves properly, should the need ever arise.

Availability and Price

The most important thing to consider when choosing the right handgun caliber is whether or not it will be available for a reasonable price around you. The last thing that you want to resort to is paying for overpriced ammunition because you thought it would work better in a defensive scenario.

If you’re going to use a certain kind of ammo for concealed carry, then you’ll at least want to be proficient with it. Opting for ammo that’s hard to get means that you’ll be able to practice less unless you want to bleed your wallet dry. Availability and low cost are the two main things to consider, so pick a more common kind of ammo like 9 mm or .45 ACP.


Up next, you’ll have to consider the capacity of your chosen ammo type, as certain bullets are physically larger than others, meaning you can fit less in a magazine. In this area, 9 mm usually comes out on top because of its smaller diameter when compared to rounds like .45 ACP and 10 mm.

The number of shots that you have in your magazine will determine how much you can shoot before you need to reload, but if you concealed carry, then it’s unlikely that you’ll have another magazine. This means that what you have loaded in your gun is often the only thing that you’ll get to shoot in the vast majority of gunfights.

The Myth About Stopping Power

Whenever the discussion about pistol ammo types comes up, there is always a side that mentions the matter of stopping power. There are many proponents of slower, heavier bullets like the .45 ACP because of this perception, but for most people, getting shot with a 9 mm is the same thing as getting shot with a .45.

Unless you’re planning on taking your concealed carry weapon out with you hunting where you may have to put down a charging animal, stopping power won’t make much of a difference in self-defense. You are often far better off going with something like a 9 mm since you can have three or four more shots per magazine.


As you can see, the best kind of ammo for your pistol depends on what’s available around you and how many of them you can fit into a magazine. Stopping power is typically far less of a concern for self-defense. We would recommend something like 9 mm for most concealed carry weapons.

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