Ideal Calibers for Personal Defense Weapons

Eric (Iraqveteran8888) and Chad talk Personal Defense Weapons, aka “Get off me guns!”, ideal calibers for PDW applications and a bit of history, usage and theory.

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • Doug January 10, 2015, 4:58 pm

    What a waste of time.

  • Harold Workman January 4, 2015, 3:19 pm

    I am a 74 year old Vietnam Vet who has had guns since age 6. I have recently selected my final firearms for our home protection after many hours in the field and a the range. The keepers are – Saiga 12 ga. Shotgun, AR-57, P-90 and the FN 5.7×28 Pistol. Hollow-point 5.7×28 rounds from the AR-57 go through 1 1/2″ ballistic glass. With a properly designed vest you may also carry more the 1,000 rounds of 5.7×28 ammo.

  • LARRY TOOMEY January 1, 2015, 8:12 pm

    any VIETNAM vet knows (( 2 IN THE CHEST AND ONE IN THE HEAD ))

  • Gary January 1, 2015, 1:26 pm

    anything you can put a few repetitive shots in the head, as criminals do not wear body armor on the head. As the population gets better armed there are more times now the in invaders are getting soft armor for the lessor calibers. Even a couple 22 lrs in the skull will put a rabid person down quickly.

  • Mrdan January 1, 2015, 1:19 pm

    Michael is correct, and gives the best synopsis. I have shot Everything. I shoot Expert. For a handgun I feel totally confident only with my match grade .45 it is 14 + 1 On my weak side I use a .40 16 + 1. I have Never had an enemy return fire after being hit with the 1911 .45. The .45 was designed for extreme blood pressure drop from 1 shot. In a real firefight give me the .45.

  • Jerry Dellafera January 1, 2015, 12:39 pm

    would love to see or hear your take on the 22 TCM.

  • Michael January 1, 2015, 11:49 am

    I too was raised on the .45ACP (USMC 1971 – 1993 (although we were issued the M9 Beretta in ’84 and our beloved .45 was taken away from us – drats! All of our qual scores went up but our faith in the 9mm wasn’t very high). For all the reasons “Rocky” already stated, the .45 ACP in the proper bullet configuration is a real man stopper. And that doggone 1911 fits my hand so well! However, in its usual configuration it has a grip safety and a hammer safety, both which are really not desirable in a civilian self defense weapon. When the adrenaline flows, someone may forget that they have to click off the safety and that mistake may mean the difference between life and death. So, if one uses a sidearm that has an external safety, train, train, and train some more! (might I suggest one of the Glock models chambered in .45ACP?). Regardless, the key to this whole issue of using a handgun for a self defense weapon is: Put rounds on your target quickly (at least quicker than the other guy or gal), shoot accurately (hit the bad guy/gal), and use an adequate caliber round (9mm or larger). If any of these critical items are missing you are dead. Shoot fast with a .44 Magnum, but miss your target – you are dead. Shoot slow with a .45 ACP and the other guy shoots faster and accurately – you are dead. Shoot accurately and faster than the other guy but using a round that allows your opponent to return fire with his .45 ACP and he hits you – you are dead. So all three of these components are critical. One without the other does’t work. So pick a decent round in a hollow point configuration, learn to shoot it quickly and accurately, and you have a much better chance of coming out on the winning side of a gunfight.

  • skeet January 1, 2015, 11:15 am

    Not into much of this tactical stuff etc..but most of y’all have never been in a gun fight. It is not a very nice thing. And if you think a guy will want to lay down and whimper just cause he’s been shot a little…you’ve never seen a drugger hopped up on something strong. Yeah..he may go down at some point..but maybe not right away… No matter what ya think..bigger is better. I carried 2 45s in SE Asia.. Also had a suppressed Swedish K in 9mm. Most SMGs are not the most accurate but work up close and personal..A shotgun is better. I will tell you that in a gun fight if you have a lick of sense you want to find a place to hide. If that option is not available..then BIGGER is truly BETTER. Still guys..even a 22 is better than throwing rocks. And that is a direct quote from my hand to hand combat instructor….all those many years ago.. He also told me that if ya have to get in a knife’re gonna get if at all possible..shoot the SOB..that is why I carried 2 45s.

  • Brian January 1, 2015, 11:06 am

    Years ago I was a Special Deputy, which generally meant that when the solitary deputy for our remote section of the county was lonely and wanted someone to ride along, he called a volunteer Special. There were times when I was asked to assist with the most dreaded situation- a domestic quarrel with possible firearms, and without fail from the professional deputies, State Patrol and other LEO the prayer would be, “Oh Lord don’t let it be small caliber.” I finally asked a State Patrolman why they said that and he said that if shot with a 22 you would bleed out faster, large caliber caused enough trauma that the body would shut down blood loss to more survivable levels. I never got shot to prove or disprove the theory….. I’ve concluded that the bottom line is regardless of caliber, shot placement will determine the damage and stopping power.

  • mike January 1, 2015, 9:50 am

    Like a friend of mine said [ I never seen a man that wants to keep fighting once hes been shot in the face with a 22]

    • Jimonthebeach January 2, 2015, 12:03 am

      He’d be less inclined to fight once he has been shot anywhere with a .45. I have pistols in every standard caliber from a .22 magnum to a .45ACP, and I normally carry the biggest caliber I can conceal under the clothes I am wearing at the time. Here in Florida, that’s frequently a smaller caliber then I’d prefer, but any gun is better than no gun in a fight.

  • Dave January 1, 2015, 9:36 am

    When the thugs choose you, the .45 in your sock drawer is useless; the .22 in your belt can save your life.
    Smaller calibers require different tactics, but no dependable gun is useless. I’ve carried .45, 9mm, .357 mag and .380. As long as the firearm is reliable and concealable, I’m alright with almost any caliber.

  • Walter Brown January 1, 2015, 9:18 am

    I like the old python .357, I used it in the nam and it did the trick, but now I’m leaning towards the Taurus Public Defender where u have the option of either using a .410 shell or that cowboy long colt .45. Because nothing equals a shotgun for close up and personal.

  • SmokeHillFarm December 16, 2014, 3:49 am

    As usual I’m the odd man out — I still won’t give up my Ruger .357 magnum revolver, though I am also partial to my Colt Anaconda. I like the idea of having six GUARANTEED shots available, something no semi-auto can promise, especially if you’ve been rolling around in the mud or dirt with some dirtbag, and also perhaps if your grip may be less than optimum — important in a semi, but not in a revolver.

    I consider the .38 to be the minimum carry load, but I prefer something a bit hairier, .38 Special or bigger.

    In semi-auto, I wouldn’t want to carry less than a .40, though short-range shots can be murderous with smaller calibers.

  • ed robinson December 15, 2014, 6:01 pm

    MINI 14 ?

  • Rocky December 15, 2014, 2:03 pm

    As an older shooter, who was weaned, by his Uncle (Sam) on a M1911A1 .45ACP, I have a real problem with some of these lighter rounds, (in FMJ) currently popular. As our military has found out, repeatedly, over time, you just can’t beat a large diameter bullet (in FMJ) for putting a hurting on you enemies, in a close quarter combat situation. In Iraq, facing radical Muslims determined to win their ’72 virgins’ NOW, the 9x19mm just wouldn’t cut it. The same for the Moro Muslims in the Philippines, a century ago, with the .38 Special. They simply refused to cease and desist, unless hit in a vital spot, with these smaller rounds.
    Enter the .45ACP. End of problem. Nuff said.
    In WW2 the Nazis were deathly afraid of our Thompson .45ACP sub machinegun. It worked wonders in the Pacific theater against suicidal Japanese, as well. As did the cheaper, slower firing .45ACP M3 ‘grease gun’, in both instances.
    While hydrostatic shock does, indeed, enter into the consideration, we are talking, herein, about a personal defense weapon, at short to medium distances. In the civilian world, those distances are usually between 3 – 10 feet, the distances at which most gun fights occur. In such cases, in a rapidly developing scenario, you really don’t even have much of a chance to aim, so the first shot is critical and in such a case, the .45ACP still reins supreme, in my book, especially in a hollow point configuration.
    BUT, if your 1911 doesn’t like JHP rounds, then you might as well use a 9mm in JHP, instead, or even a .40 cal. It makes about the same size (or bigger in the case of the .40 cal.) hole and you can load a whole lot more ammo, into a single magazine.
    In the final analysis, you have to shoot what you have, so practice is of paramount importance, no matter what you’re planning on defending yourself and your loved ones with. Shot placement is the overall most important consideration when you’re down to brass tacks.

    • Russ December 16, 2014, 12:18 am

      Hey Rocky, old school calibers are great. See what happens when Old School meets New School.
      Are you familiar with the KRISS?——- I love it, but is worthless in California?
      Hearing your perspective on caliber makes me think this firearm is all you.
      Check it out—->
      Just for fun—–>
      I can’t wait till I get out of this state so I can enjoy my favorite PDW’s

      • Crusty January 2, 2015, 12:37 pm

        Do revolvers still exist? As an old time cop the .357 & .38 came thru time and time again. I still carry a .38 sp +p.

    • Doug January 1, 2015, 4:39 pm

      “The same for the Moro Muslims in the Philippines, a century ago, with the .38 Special.”

      Actually, it was the .38 Colt, not the .38 Special. The .38 Special has a little bit more power, but it wouldn’t have been adequate either.

  • imthegrumpyone December 15, 2014, 11:26 am

    The one that works for you, I don’t go anywhere without one of my .40s, enough said.

    • Russ December 16, 2014, 12:22 am

      I hear you Grumpy, My WALTHER PPQ M-1 .40 goes to bed with me.

  • Dave Hicks December 15, 2014, 10:29 am

    It depends on what you feel you can handle in a caliber and action ,training is the key.What I use my not work for someone else.

    • Russ December 15, 2014, 12:04 pm

      Your right, (P)dw.
      I love the FiveseveN pistol & it’s companion; P90.
      I love it for the cartridge and the capacity in these firearms.
      I would own them both if not for the fact that I’m in California with a 10 round max law.
      It’s a shame we have to neuter all the great firearms the rest of the country enjoys.
      So (personally) I go more cost effective, and consider my AK74 a PDW.
      We’re all different people living in different places.
      Train, & have some fun doing it.

      • Don January 1, 2015, 12:20 pm

        You know FN makes a version of the 5.7 pistol that comes with 10 rounds mags?

        • Russ January 1, 2015, 3:31 pm

          .Ya Don Thanks,
          I do know they have those for us, but that’s kind of what I’m bitching about.
          What a great carry it would be if you could have 60+1 rounds with you instead of 30+1
          That’s the loaded pistol with the double mag carrier, for about a thousand bucks.
          So 60 rds. ya, 30 rds. naaa.
          I may still get one some day because I think the 5.7x28mm has some ass kicking qualities.
          But I have a few other firearms I want / need 1st
          I got a feeling I’ll move from CA before I buy all the great firearms I want.

      • Don Holmes January 1, 2015, 8:25 pm

        TO THE PEOPLE OF CALIFORNIA: If all you people would stop complying with these unjust laws you would be able to own any friggen gun you want. Any gun law is null and void . God gave us the right to defend, The Declaration of Independence includes it for America and It’s guaranteed to us by the second. And there is NO exemptions for California. The Federalists Papers tells us that the government cannot over power the people, therefore , you can legally own and use any gun the military has. It only takes courage to take your State and Country back as we did in Washington State with our I Will Not Comply rally’s. We will not let any Government in the world to rule us as a Democracy like you in California. Until California resends from the U.S. and becomes a sovereign nation, you all live in a REPUBLIC. The word democracy has been the key word used while “indoctrination” has replaced “education” in our schools and it is now the norm. You people are not using the Constitutional right to throw off a tyrant government, in fact it orders you to.
        Google , Wash State I-594 and Gavin Seim then follow our lead. As Judge Napolitano said , “just do not comply” a (gun law) is a unjust law which is a non-existing law. Now put on your big boy pants and take your state back. I will not comply , not now ,not ever.

        • Dannyboy January 2, 2015, 6:25 am

          Disobey the laws and you get locked up. You need to take your meds and stop the rhetoric.

        • Onager January 2, 2015, 7:46 pm

          How much $ would a person ned to overcome the illegal gun laws in CA. ? More then I have and the support may or may not come from the rest of the folks out there. I prefer to remain a grey man. I’ll surface when the time is right and assert my rights.

          • jr November 24, 2017, 10:56 am

            Wait until “The time is right ” and watch it never happen. The right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed in the Constitution.

        • Bruce April 28, 2018, 1:18 pm

          “Better to be judged by 12 than carried by six”

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