It makes little difference what you carry, if a politically motivated prosecutor wants to vilify you, (s)he will. "Yer honah, tha defendant was obviously lookin' for an excuse to pull out his 'Dirty Harry' .44 magnum and mete out some ole time 'vigilante justice'..."
OR"Yer honah, tha defendant shot the victim nine times! We all know that it doesn't take nine lethal shots to stop an attacker, so it is quite obvious that the defendant was 'enjoying' his 'vigilante justice' by shooting the victim again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and AGAIN! That's nine times!"
Reasonable force? Using a firearm (regardless of caliber) is considered "deadly force" and requires you to be in imminent danger of death or grave bodily harm
... period. If the criteria are met for use of a firearm, the caliber is unimportant. And no matter what the caliber, a politically motivated prosecutor can make you sound worse than Hannibal Lechter... (Even if you only shot as a complete last resort to protect yourself and your family from a gang of drug-crazed serial rapists/murders.)
Now that the pessimism is out of the way, here's some reasoning on carry calibers:
If you carry a 9mm, .40 (liberty
), .38 special, .357 magnum and it becomes an issue, try this reasoning:"The reason I chose to carry a XX caliber handgun was simply because I talked with law enforcement personell to get their opinions. That's what they carry, so I figured if the police thought it was the caliber to carry, then they should know."
That especially works well for the 9mm or .40 if officers in your town carry those... and for the .38 special if the officers in your town still carry revolvers. (I recommend against carrying the .357 magnum, because even the police quit carrying that for the simple reason of over-penetration. However, during the winter months, carrying .357 magnum loads can be justified by pointing out that the police often went to those loads in the winter to ensure penetration into heavy winter clothes.
If you carry a .45 ACP, a similar claim can be made. Especially if you are ex-military and old enough (read fortunate enough) to have served when the military pistol was the 1911-A1. Then you just say that it's the caliber that Uncle Sam taught you to shoot, so it's the one you picked.
If you carry a .44 magnum, you haven't done your homework. These are fine pistols for stopping buffalo, rhinos or going deer hunting, but usage during actual incidents shows a problem with over-penetration which reduces the stopping power. One of the ways that a bullet stops an assailant is by transfering the energy into
the assailant. With the .44 magnum, the round has a tendancy to pass through the assailant and this means a wound, but less energy transfer. When a bullet stops inside an assailant, the energy transfer actually causes more internal damage because of shock to the systems. When it passes through, that systemic shock is greatly reduced and the assailant can continue to function until blood loss (sometimes minutes) or other damage finally catches up with the assailant. The .44 magnum isn't a top choice for a defensive round because of this... and the fact that those suckers are hard as heck to conceal!
(Similar arguments can be made for the .50 AE and the .454 Casull)
So that leaves the smaller calibers: .22s, .25, .32, .380...
There are really only two reasons to chose one of these calibers. Concealability and/or controlability. Let's take them separately.
Controlability: There are some people who have a hard time with a .40 or larger caliber. Generally speaking, those people can find a home with a 9mm handgun, however on some occasions even a 9mm seems to be too much for some. Personally, I know petite women who can shoot a .44 magnum accurately and feel completely comfortable carrying a .45 ACP pistol... I know other women who carry a .40 and have no problems. However, I have met people (men and women) who just can't seem to control even a 9mm accurately and maintain an acceptable target reaquisition time. (the amount of time it takes to get back on target for follow-up shots... extremely important criteria.) I know of one woman who went from a .40 to a 9mm simply for that reason. In most cases, a person who can shoot and control a .380 properly will be able to handle a 9mm with a little training and practice. I know of an elderly couple who use small .22s as their personal defensive tools. That was all their arthritic hands could comfortably handle... and having anything is better than having nothing.
Concealability: One of the main reasons why some people prefer the .380 or .32 caliber pistols is for their smaller size. However, it should be noted that many 9mm, .40s and even .45s come in small compact sizes which are every bit as small as these other pistols. With the exceptions of derringer or very small "pocket pistols", the .22s are usually found in target or "plinking" guns which are as large or larger than full sized 9mm, 40s, or 45s.
While I generally
recommend at the very least a 9mm for personal protection and even try to push for a .40 over the 9mm... It is much more important to carry a firearm that one is comfortable shooting. It is also important to carry a firearm that one is comfortable carrying
. Meaning, you may be the baddest SOB on the block with your S&W model 29 .44 magnum with the 8-3/4" barrel... but you aren't very likely to carry that concealed for personal defense! Having said that its better to carry a 9mm or larger, I'll now qualify that by pointing out that the .32 in your pocket when you're being attacked is worth much more
than the .45 at home in the dresser drawer because its just too darn big and heavy to carry all the time.
is one of the best arguments against "one gun per month" that I can think of!
[This message has been edited by Panther (edited February 26, 2001).]