5 Best Calibers For Self Defense

Having the best caliber for self-defense in your defense arsenal only means more preparedness and adaptability.

Check out this roundup of the five best in the market.

In this article:

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Calibers for Self Defense | Weigh Your Choices

What is a Caliber?

It is the diameter or bore inside the barrel of a gun. It can also refer to the diameter of the bullet or the projectile the gun fires.

Choose a Firearm That Works for You

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What is the best caliber for self-defense?

These days, it seems everybody has an opinion. It seems all it takes to be an โ€œexpertโ€ is to read one article or handle a few weapons.

With all the information available at our fingertips tips, I prefer to speak to people and gain firsthand experience of what I am seeking.

Take, for example, the current subject of the best self-defense gun and bullet.

Now, I am sure lots of people have some self-defense training and wisdom in this field. I like to give you some personal references based on experiences with firearms over the last 38 years. You need to be as comfortable with your choice of a firearm as you are with your clothes. It wonโ€™t do you good to have the โ€œbestโ€ gun if you canโ€™t control it, handle it, and carry it every day.

I can preach all day about benefits, calibers, numbers, and pressure. If youโ€™re not comfortable with your firearm, though, then it wonโ€™t be worth a dime to you.

What I would like to tell you about is what works for me and why?

My Top 5 Self-Defense Calibers

Person is hiding a handgun | self defense calibers

My top 5 calibers for self-defense are 380, 12 gauge, 9mm, 40 cal, and 357 mag. In no particular order, I will explain these selections:

1. 380

I listed 380 because itโ€™s a light and easy-to-handle smaller-bodied pistol ideal for most people. It can fit into your pocket. It also allows you to carry without needing an additional holster.

2. 12 Gauge

The 12 gauge is excellent if you want a home defense shotgun or if you need to carry a weapon in your vehicle. The reason I chose this for the home is its energy. It does not pass through drywall easily.

When you use the right ammo, you can use it as a scattergun. You may also use it as a close-quarters combat weapon and a barricade breaker if necessary.

Also, if you buy a shotgun without a pistol grip, you can utilize it as a weapon without switching your grip.

If the intruder gets close enough, you may need to swing rather than fire.

3. 9mm

A 9mm is what I am comfortable shooting, and the ammo is the cheaper of the bunch. It allows you to practice and be more familiar with your firearm.

4. 40 Cal

The 40 cal is what I carry on most days. I have a Ruger SR40C, which is perfect for my hands and my grip. It fits me, which I believe is the most crucial aspect of choosing a self-defense caliber and weapon.

5. 357 Mag

Last is my personal favorite, as well as the one I sell the most. It is a good old-fashioned revolver called 357 mag. There is a good reason why I chose this weapon. It offers the option of shooting three different kinds of ammo in the same gun.

It is reliable, and you have less to think about under stress. You can just aim and pull the trigger.

You may not always have the luxury of being able to check to see if you chambered a round before using a firearm. This is where a revolver is excellent because itโ€™s a simple pull-and-squeeze gun.

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Energy, Weight, and Availability

Gun with ammunition on wooden | Best caliber for self defense

When we talk about ammo, there are several things to consider.

As far as home self-defense weapons go, I like the double buck for the shotgun. There will be nine balls that are 33-caliber in size coming out of the barrel.

It gives you enough options as far as trajectory paths go.

They will leave the barrel around 1,100 to 1,500 fps depending on the load and the brand you choose. This gives you a significant amount of stopping power. Even without a vital hit, it should slow or stop whatever you are trying to disable. You can also use this as far as a car gun or even a hunting round.

When you get into handgun rounds, options, and weights, the 380 is an excellent choice for pocket carry or even a waist holster. The average pocket pistol can average between nine ounces for the Ruger LCP and up to 29 ounces for the Hi-Point.

When you want a pistol that fits in your pocket, it is hard to beat the Ruger. It is small, light, and easy to handle. It also gives you eight shots and an excellent option for personal defense. Itโ€™s also less than 1-inch thick and only 5 inches long.

Itโ€™s hard to beat as a pocket-carry weapon.

Related: Taurus Judge Ammo Types: Top 9 Best Types of Ammo Used in Taurus Judge

Terminal Ballistics

Terminal ballistics refer to how a bullet performs upon impact. Factors like penetration, expansion, and energy transfer influence the caliberโ€™s stopping power. Understanding terminal ballistics helps you choose a caliber that meets your desired level of effectiveness.

Effective Range and Accuracy

Each caliber has its effective range and accuracy capabilities. Considering your intended use, whether itโ€™s close-quarters self-defense or longer-range engagements, is crucial in determining the appropriate caliber.

Other Options to Consider

Man with owner choosing handgun | Best caliber for self defense

You have other options, such as 9mm defense ammo and 40 cal, but they are bulky and heavy than the 380 option.

I have a Ruger SR40C, which is my personal favorite to shoot. The shorter clip with the thumb extension is perfect for my hands. I have large hands, and the fact itโ€™s perfect for me is why I chose it to be my favorite.

I also have the Ruger SR9C. It is the same thing as the 40 when it comes to weight, size, and handling. It has a smaller barrel and a few more in the magazine capacity.

The 40 holds 15+1 in the large clip and 9+1 in the smaller one. The 9mm, on the other hand, holds 17+1 ย in the larger clip and 10+1 in the smaller clip.

These are good options for holster carry.

They are both over 24 ounces and 7 inches long, though. Itโ€™s hard to find a pocket that will fit these.

I am a Ruger fan, but there are many other excellent options out there. All manufacturers make great weapons that can be better than nothing in a bad situation.

With all these options available to you, there is no excuse for not offering protection to yourself or your family.

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Picking Your Ammunition

Heavy hunting bullets and prepared casings Best caliber for self defense SS

With all the options in firearms, there are just as many ammo that goes in each.

Hornady, Winchester, and Nosler are a few that offer a great variety of self-defense ammunition. Hornadyโ€™s critical defense gives us a very impressive spec sheet to go along with it.

The 9mm has a 135-grain bullet that leaves the barrel around 1,100 fps. When I think of personal self-defense techniques, I am not as concerned with speed as I am with impact.

I want a bullet with more stopping power than trajectory.

When in a critical situation that involves pulling out a weapon, the bulletโ€™s speed is not on my mind. I am only trying to eliminate the threat, and I want some stopping power.

The Critical Duty ammo has a flex tip, which allows for consistent expansion โ€“ the jacketed bullet bonds itself with the core.

It provides a stronger bullet, thus, giving you great penetrating power if necessary. They, along with all the other ammo producers, have a variety of options.

My picks may be different from what you prefer or what you use.

Itโ€™s okay.

The point behind this is to give suggestions and direction for you to start or maybe to change your mind.

Check out this video by The Daily Shooter on why the 12-gauge is great for home defense:


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When I was heavy into selling firearms for a national chain of sporting goods stores, people often asked me about the best and perfect weapon and caliber.

Always remember, what fits me may not fit you. I encourage you to get out and shoot more calibers.

Be familiar with what you like to use.

Where I live, there is a shop that offers used handguns and firearms for sale.

You can take the used ones into their range for a small fee. You can then try to see if it fits you and what you are looking for.

This is a fantastic choice for people who have not been around firearms much.

Find a firearm thatโ€™s comfortable to handle and carry. It must be within your desired weight.

Practice, be proactive, and be safe with everyone around you. Keep in mind it may not always be just your life you are protecting.

Do these 5 calibers for self-defense make it on your list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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