Which One? (with Colonel Smoothbore)
By angelamontana

Posted: August 27, 2017

Arguments concerning the best personal defense handgun round have gone on since the development of the first self-contained metallic cartridge, and this column probably won’t settle anything. At one time I personally believed that the .45 ACP was the only cartridge to consider for a semi-auto pistol, and the .357 S&W Magnum for revolvers. I admit my prejudice for both rounds was unshakable; but time and research have softened my views; that’s a good thing.

Ammunition development over the last 30 years has yielded the very best projectiles and loadings ever available for not only personal defense, but also hunting and target shooting. But this column and the follow-up next week are about ammunition for our handguns, specifically our carry guns. This subject could fill volumes, but we don’t have that space here. I’m offering some of the latest data, observations, and my own experience in what I hope will give you a little insight on the current choices for personal defense ammunition. I’m mostly going to use the .45 verses 9 MM argument to illustrate a few points. I hope it may make your choices easier.

When choosing a caliber for personal defense/ CCP use there are several considerations that must be addressed. I believe these are some of the most important:

  • How experienced is the shooter?
  • How much perceived recoil can the user stand?
  • How often will one practice and what are the differences in ammunition costs?
  • Will the gun be used for concealed carry or home defense or both?
  • What size is the gun; sub-compact, compact, full-size?

Over the years, I’ve had numerous beginning or novice students, and a few seasoned shooters, come to an introductory class with handguns that were overly powerful, or too small, or too large for their intended purpose. All too often students arrive in class with guns that someone else, be it relatives, friends, or gun store sales reps, chose for them. Often the choices were adequate, but many times the students weren’t able to learn the basic shooting skills necessary; usually because of excess perceived recoil.

To be able to successfully defend oneself with a handgun, it is imperative that the user learn and develop basic pistol shooting skills; without these skills one might as well have a rock to defend themselves. Shooting skills are motor skills and can only be learned with practice, lots of regular practice, and if shooting practice is painful, more than likely, the shooter will practice very little or not at all. Thus, it makes sense that a lighter recoiling handgun will give the user more opportunity to perfect their skills, not to mention that ammunition costs are usually lower offering longer range sessions.

 In next week’s column, we’ll take a close look at ballistic test results for common concealed carry handgun ammunition and we’ll also look at some of the trends occurring in both military and law enforcement cartridge procurement. I hope when finished you will have a better understanding about the cartridge you might want to carry in you CWP handgun. Stay tuned.

Be safe and good shooting.

Colonel Smoothbore