Member Question: What Is the Best Caliber to Carry for Self-Defense?

by Trent Lozano

As a speaker at Law Shield seminars, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “What is the best caliber to carry for self-defense?” My answer might surprise you.

Trent Lozano
Trent Lozano

First things first: It doesn’t matter what caliber you are shooting if you miss! All misses perform the same, so only hits on target count. The case for a certain caliber can only be made if it actually hits the intended target, so we must be proficient with our handgun and deliver accurate, aimed fire for the ammunition to perform.

Technology has advanced to the point that there is very little difference in the performance of a hollow point 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP round, if all other factors are equal. So, if the performance difference of the rounds isn’t enough to warrant picking one over the others, then what other criteria could we use? Here are three important questions to consider when deciding.

  1. Which caliber do you shoot better? Choose a caliber that you have control over and can get the fastest follow-up shots on target. Recoil management is extremely important. Keep in mind, a lethal-force encounter usually has multiple rounds fired, so the ability to deliver rapid follow-up shots is critical.
  1. Speaking of needing multiple rounds, which caliber would give you more rounds in your pistol? Consider the fact that the average hit percentage in a typical law-enforcement gunfight is around 20-25%. That means only one out of every four or five shots (statistically) will likely impact the target. So, more rounds mean a better chance of hitting.
  1. Lastly, which caliber do you LIKE? I know it might sound silly, but some people just prefer the idea or feel of one caliber over another. There is nothing wrong with that. I support you using whatever caliber will get you out on the range and training. So make a decision and go sign up for a training class.

If you ever have to defend yourself or a loved one, you will be glad you did.

Trent Lozano is first and foremost a loving and devoted father. He is a 15+ year Law Enforcement veteran whose experience includes several years as a Patrolman, Major Crimes Detective, and SWAT Team Member. He is a certified Law Enforcement Instructor, Pepper Spray Instructor and Taser Instructor. Trent also has several years’ experience as a Texas Concealed Handgun License Instructor, NRA Pistol Instructor, NRA Chief Range Safety Officer, as well as a Master Instructor for the TI Simulator system. In addition to Law Enforcement, Trent has spent several years in the private sector as a professional Bodyguard/Personal Protection Agent and Private Investigator. Trent is also a speaker and writer and regularly speaks at various events and seminars on the subjects of firearms, self-defense, use of force, tactics, civilian interaction with law enforcement, how to live the armed lifestyle, and more.