most popular handgun calibers laying on a table

Handgun calibers refer to the size and type of bullet and cartridge used in a handgun. They play a crucial role in determining the performance and effectiveness of a firearm. When choosing a handgun caliber, several factors need to be considered, including intended use, recoil, cost, and availability.

The most popular handgun calibers are determined by a combination of factors such as performance, availability, and personal preference. According to statistics from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the top seven most popular handgun calibers in the United States are:

  1. 9mm
  2. .45 ACP
  3. .40 S&W
  4. .380 ACP
  5. .38 Special
  6. .357 Magnum
  7. .22 LR

Each caliber has its own pros and cons, making them suitable for different purposes. For example, the 9mm is a popular choice for self-defense due to its affordability, manageable recoil, and availability of ammunition. On the other hand, the .45 ACP has a powerful impact and is often used by law enforcement and military forces.

When choosing a handgun caliber, it is essential to understand the pros and cons of each to make an informed decision. The 9mm is affordable and has low recoil, but some argue that it lacks stopping power. The .45 ACP has excellent stopping power, but it is more expensive and has a higher recoil. The .40 S&W is a compromise between the 9mm and .45 ACP, offering a balance between stopping power and recoil. The .380 ACP is a popular choice for concealed carry due to its small size and manageable recoil, but some argue that it lacks stopping power. The .38 Special offers manageable recoil and is a popular choice for concealed carry. The .357 Magnum has a powerful impact and is suitable for hunting, but it has significant recoil. The .22 LR is a popular choice for target shooting and plinking due to its low cost and minimal recoil.

Ultimately, the best handgun caliber for you will depend on your intended use and personal preference. It is crucial to try out different calibers to see which one feels most comfortable and suits your needs. Whether it is for self-defense, target shooting, or hunting, choosing the right handgun caliber is essential for a safe and enjoyable shooting experience.

Key Takeaways:

 

  • The most popular handgun calibers include 9mm, 357 Magnum, 45 ACP, .40 S&W, .380 ACP, .38 Special, ., and .22 LR.
  • Factors to consider when choosing a handgun caliber include intended use, recoil, cost, and availability.
  • Each popular handgun caliber has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to carefully consider which is the best for your individual needs and preferences.

 

What Are Handgun Calibers?

Handgun calibers are determined by the internal diameter of a gun’s barrel and the size of the bullet it fires. Some common examples are 9mm, .45 ACP, and .40 S&W. The decision of which caliber to use depends on factors such as the intended purpose of the handgun, personal preference for recoil, and availability of ammunition.

Pro-tip: To make an informed decision when selecting a handgun caliber, take into account factors such as your experience level, the intended use of the firearm, and your comfort level with recoil.

What Are The Factors To Consider When Choosing A Handgun Caliber?

When it comes to choosing a handgun caliber, there are several important factors to consider. Each shooter’s needs and preferences may vary, but understanding these key considerations can help guide your decision. In this section, we will discuss the main factors that should be taken into account when selecting a handgun caliber. These include the intended use of the firearm, the level of recoil, the cost of ammunition, and the availability of the caliber. By the end, you will have a better understanding of which caliber is best suited for your needs and preferences.

1. Intended Use

  • Determine the primary purpose for the handgun, such as self-defense, target shooting, or concealed carry.
  • Consider the specific features needed for the intended use, like magazine capacity, recoil management, and ammunition availability.
  • Research the recommended calibers for the intended use to ensure compatibility with the handgun and optimal performance.

2. Recoil

Recoil is a crucial consideration when selecting a handgun caliber. It pertains to the backward movement of the firearm upon firing, which can greatly impact shooting comfort and accuracy.

3. Cost

  • Assess the initial purchase cost, which includes the price of the firearm and the expense of ammunition.
  • Evaluate the long-term ownership expenses, such as maintenance, training, and regular practice costs.
  • Consider potential cost savings for widely available calibers compared to rarer or specialty ammunition.
  • Balance your budget and desired performance to determine the best caliber for your needs.

When considering cost, it is important to consider both the upfront expenses and the long-term ownership costs. Choose a caliber that fits within your budget while also meeting your shooting requirements.

4. Availability

  • Check online and local gun stores for the availability of your desired handgun caliber.
  • Research the availability of ammunition in your area, taking into consideration popular calibers like 9mm and .45 ACP.
  • Consider the availability of various bullet weights and types for your preferred handgun caliber.

Pro-tip: Keep in mind that ammo shortages can impact the availability of certain calibers, so it’s wise to stock up on ammunition when supply is plentiful.

What Are The Most Popular Handgun Calibers?

When it comes to handguns, there are a plethora of calibers to choose from. However, some calibers have stood the test of time and remain the top choices for handgun owners. In this section, we will discuss the most popular handgun calibers, including the widely used 9mm and .45 ACP, the versatile .40 S&W and .380 ACP, and the classic .38 Special and .357 Magnum. We’ll also touch on the often-overlooked .22 LR, which has its own devoted following.

1. 9mm

  • Ballistics: The 9mm round offers good velocity, making it effective for self-defense.
  • Recoil: The 9mm has manageable recoil, aiding in accuracy during rapid fire.
  • Affordability: Ammunition costs for the 9mm are generally lower than other calibers, enhancing practice frequency.
  • Versatility: The 9mm is widely used in various handguns, catering to diverse preferences.

Based on your firearm experience, intended use, and comfort with recoil, the 9mm may be a suitable choice. If self-defense is your priority, the 9mm offers a balanced blend of power and control.

2. .45 ACP

  • Performance: The .45 ACP is renowned for its excellent stopping power and accuracy, making it a suitable choice for self-defense and law enforcement.
  • Recoil: It is important to consider the recoil of the .45 ACP, as it may have more felt recoil compared to other calibers, potentially affecting accuracy and follow-up shots.
  • Ammo Cost: When evaluating the .45 ACP, it is important to factor in the cost of ammunition, as it may be relatively more expensive than other handgun calibers.
  • Firearm Selection: With a wide range of firearms designed to accommodate the .45 ACP, there is plenty of availability and variety in handgun models to choose from.

Based on your shooting preferences and intended use, the .45 ACP can be a strong and precise choice for your needs.

3. .40 S&W

  1. Ballistics: The .40 S&W offers a balance between the 9mm and .45 ACP, providing adequate stopping power and manageable recoil.
  2. Terminal Performance: It offers good penetration and expansion, making it suitable for self-defense and law enforcement applications.
  3. Firearm Compatibility: Be sure to verify if your firearm is compatible with the .40 S&W cartridge for both safety and optimal performance.

4. .380 ACP

When considering the .380 ACP caliber, factors such as its manageable recoil, affordable cost, and widespread availability make it a popular choice for concealed carry handguns. However, its main drawback is its relatively lower stopping power compared to larger calibers like the .45 ACP or 9mm. Despite this, the .380 ACP can still be a suitable option for those seeking a compact and lightweight firearm for self-defense purposes.

5. .38 Special

  • Understanding ballistics: The .38 Special offers manageable recoil and adequate stopping power, making it suitable for self-defense.
  • Consider revolver options: Choose a firearm like the Smith & Wesson Model 642 for compactness or the Ruger GP100 for robustness.
  • Training and practice: Familiarize yourself with the .38 Special’s handling, recoil, and accuracy through consistent training sessions.
  • Ammo selection: Opt for quality hollow-point ammunition such as Hornady Critical Defense for reliable performance.

6. .357 Magnum

  • Powerful: The .357 Magnum is renowned for its high stopping power, making it a suitable choice for self-defense and hunting.
  • Versatile: This caliber can accommodate a variety of bullet weights and types for different applications.
  • Recoil: The considerable recoil of the .357 Magnum may make it less manageable for inexperienced shooters.
  • Ammo cost: Ammunition for the .357 Magnum can be relatively expensive compared to other handgun calibers.

7. .22 LR

  • Consider the purpose of use, whether for target practice, hunting, or self-defense when choosing a firearm.
  • Evaluate the recoil level and its manageability to ensure a comfortable shooting experience.
  • Assess the cost of acquiring and regularly using .22 LR ammunition to determine if it fits within your budget.
  • Check the availability of .22 LR rounds in your area to ensure a consistent supply for your shooting needs.

The .22 LR, a cartridge introduced in 1887, remains one of the oldest and most versatile options, widely used for plinking, target shooting, and small game hunting.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Each Popular Handgun Caliber?

When it comes to choosing a handgun, one of the most important factors to consider is the caliber. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to decide which one is right for you. In this section, we will discuss the pros and cons of each popular handgun caliber, including the widely used 9mm and .45 ACP, as well as lesser known options like .380 ACP and .22 LR. By examining the unique characteristics of each caliber, we can better understand which one may be the best fit for your needs and preferences.

1. 9mm

  • Consider the 9mm handgun caliber for its widespread use in law enforcement and military.
  • Factor in the manageable recoil, making it suitable for beginners and experienced shooters.
  • Account for the cost-effectiveness of 9mm ammunition, which is widely available for purchase.
  • Recognize the versatility of the 9mm caliber, as it can be found in various firearms for different purposes.

Did you know? The 9mm caliber has been the standard for NATO military forces since 1955.

2. .45 ACP

The .45 ACP, also referred to as the .45 Auto, is a well-known handgun caliber renowned for its stopping power and utilization by military and law enforcement personnel. It is often utilized in 1911 pistols and boasts exceptional accuracy and manageable recoil. The .45 ACP is suitable for self-defense, target shooting, and competition, although its bigger size may limit magazine capacity. When selecting this caliber, it is important to consider factors such as ammunition availability and cost.

3. .40 S&W

  • Ballistics: The .40 S&W offers impressive ballistics, making it a popular choice for self-defense and law enforcement purposes.
  • Recoil: It’s important to consider the recoil of the .40 S&W, which may be manageable for experienced shooters but could be challenging for beginners.
  • Firearm Compatibility: Before purchasing ammunition, be sure to check that your firearm is compatible with the .40 S&W caliber.
  • Ammunition Availability: It’s wise to assess the availability of .40 S&W ammunition in your area to ensure a reliable supply.

4. .380 ACP

When considering the 4. .380 ACP caliber, note its moderate stopping power, manageable recoil, and compact size. Ideal for concealed carry and personal defense, it offers a good balance between effectiveness and controllability. However, it may lack the stopping power desired for some users in comparison to larger calibers like the 9mm or .45 ACP. It’s essential to weigh these factors to determine if the 4. .380 ACP is the best fit for your needs.

5. .38 Special

  • The .38 Special, first introduced in 1898, quickly gained popularity among law enforcement for its exceptional accuracy and manageable recoil.
  • Ballistics: Standard .38 Special loads provide a balance of penetration and expansion, making it a suitable choice for self-defense.
  • Firearms: This versatile round is compatible with a variety of revolvers and some semi-automatic pistols, allowing for a wide selection of firearms to choose from.
  • Recoil: With its mild recoil, the .38 Special offers accurate and comfortable shooting, making it suitable for shooters of all experience levels.

6. .357 Magnum

  • Research: Gain an understanding of the ballistic performance and recoil of the .357 Magnum.
  • Intended Use: Evaluate if it is suitable for your purpose, whether it be self-defense or hunting.
  • Handling: Take into account the size and weight of firearms that are compatible with this caliber.
  • Ammunition Availability: Check the availability of .357 Magnum rounds both locally and online.
  • Training: Make sure to plan for sufficient training and practice due to the powerful recoil of this caliber.

7. .22 LR

  • Consider the purpose of use, such as target shooting or varmint hunting.
  • Assess the availability and cost of .22 LR ammunition.
  • Examine the recoil and suitability for both beginners and experienced shooters.

Pro-tip: .22 LR is a great choice for beginners and recreational shooters due to its low recoil and affordability, making it ideal for cost-effective practice and training.

Which Handgun Caliber Is The Best For You?

Selecting the best handgun caliber for you depends on various factors, including purpose, comfort, and proficiency.

For self-defense, the 9mm is a popular choice due to its manageable recoil and effectiveness in stopping power. Those with smaller hands may prefer the compact size of the .380 ACP.

If precision shooting is your goal, the .45 ACP is highly regarded for its accuracy and power.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top 5 most popular handgun calibers?

The top 5 most popular handgun calibers are the 9mm (9x19mm Parabellum), .22 Long Rifle, .380 ACP, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum.

Why is the 9mm Luger the most popular handgun cartridge?

The 9mm Luger is the most popular handgun cartridge due to its balance of stopping power and recoil, making it accessible to shooters of varying skill levels. Its compact size also allows for higher magazine capacities, making it a popular choice for concealed carry and tactical applications.

What is the historical significance of the .22 Long Rifle cartridge?

The .22 Long Rifle cartridge has been around since the late 19th century and is considered the “value king” of cost per cartridge. It is also commonly used for target shooting and has competitive sports dedicated to its use.

What is the difference between a centerfire and rimfire caliber?

A centerfire caliber has a primer located in the center of the cartridge’s base, while a rimfire caliber has the primer located in the rim of the cartridge’s base. Centerfire calibers are typically more powerful and commonly used in modern firearms.

Why is the .357 Magnum considered a legendary cartridge?

The .357 Magnum has a long history and was developed specifically for the iconic firearms of John Moses Browning and Smith & Wesson. It also has a substantial stopping power and has been used in notable events such as the FBI Miami shootout.

What factors should be considered when choosing a handgun caliber?

Factors such as intended use, personal preferences, availability and cost of ammunition, and skill level should be taken into consideration when choosing a handgun caliber. It is also important to understand the differences in recoil, noise levels, and performance between different calibers.

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