Selecting Your First Handgun: Caliber Wars!

“They all fall to hard ball!”

“.45 puts em down everytime,”

9mm is a .45 set on STUN.”

“If you can’t hit your target in 5 shots or less, then you shouldn’t have a gun.”

Go into a gun store or on an internet forum and you are bound to hear these tropes invoked at some point in time. Those statements are grounded in half-truths but do not consider every aspect of defensive handgun use.

Pistol Cartridges are not Klingon death rays!

Pistol bullets move relatively slowly compared to rifle bullets and this reduced speed means that the lethality of a pistol bullet comes from the weight and related mechanical disruption of tissue.

Felt recoil or “kick” is a function of bullet weight and is also impacted by the size of the gun

This means that the heavier the bullet weight, the more felt recoil there will be.

Smaller guns will also have more felt recoil since there is less gun to absorb the energy from firing the gun. This is part of why I do not recommend “pocket rockets” to beginners.

Felt recoil can impact your ability to hit what you are shooting at. The larger the cartridge, the more you may need to practice and acclimate yourself to disregard the felt recoil.

Capacity is critical when facing multiple bad guys or particularly determined/doped up bad guy

Smaller cartridges like 9mm and .40 Smith and Wesson offer you a higher capacity gun in a smaller package than a Sig 220 or a 1911 or a Glock 21.

You need to be able to place fast and accurate hits to effectively stop the threat.


Carry the largest caliber in the highest capacity in what you are most able to comfortably shoot.

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Posted in Ballistics, Handguns
3 comments on “Selecting Your First Handgun: Caliber Wars!
  1. lwk2431 says:

    For a first time handgun owner it is not a bad idea to get a .22LR pistol. Learn the basics at the range without recoil. Then go to a .380 or 9mm for self defense.A person can learn a lot of bad habits buying too big, and too hard a kicking gun before they have a little experience.

    If a person has friends with handguns it is fun to go to the range together and get to shoot a wide range of revolvers and pistols that way. Basically I think a really sound principle is don’t get anything bigger or more powerful than you are comfortable with.

    Eventually if a person can handle a 40 S&W or .45 Auto then by all means go for it. I have owned handguns since 1970 and have had some hard kickers, but am perfectly happy with a Glock 26 in 9mm for concealed carry today.

    As they say, “fast is fancy, but accuracy is fatal!” 🙂



    • It totally second that!

      Having worked at a gun store, I have seen way too many guys come in (by themselves) and want to buy their girlfriend a Glock 27 in .40 SW without having shot it themselves first or gotten her up to speed on a medium to full-size pistol as opposed to a subcompact (which is harder to control).


  2. […] Selecting Your First Handgun: Caliber Wars! ( […]


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