A question I get all the time is which caliber is the best choice for personal defense. This can be a tough question to answer, especially since there is not 1 specific caliber that fits for every situation. That being the case, instead of recommending a caliber I will recommend a range to stay within.
The first thing to keep in mind when considering caliber is to ensure that you are carrying a caliber that is capable of stopping the threats that you are protecting yourself against. If I spend most of my time hiking in the woods and wildlife is the specific reason behind carrying a firearm, I would want to carry a caliber that is capable of stopping wildlife indigenous to that area. Example: if bear and cougar are my main concerns, I probably wouldn’t want to carry a .380 ACP since that is a small caliber that would not typically stop large animals. Instead I would probably carry something like a .357 mag. For personal defense in close proximity, a .380 ACP could be sufficient.
The next thing to keep in mind is to ensure that you select a caliber that you are capable of being accurate with and managing the recoil from. If a smaller individual selects a large caliber and the higher felt recoil negatively impacts accuracy, the individual would have a higher probability of missing their intended target. It is imperative to remember that it is never acceptable to accidentally injure or kill innocent persons. We are responsible for every round that we fire, up to and even after that round stops. Even if we are justified in using deadly physical force to defend our lives, if we miss that deadly threat and injure or kill an innocent person we could be charged with a crime.
My recommendation is to stay within a range of commonly used calibers. That range would be .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 38 Spcl, and .357 mag. These are not the only good calibers out there, however these are some of the most commonly carried calibers. It is also easier to find ammunition in these calibers which makes them a great choice to carry for personal defense.
Probably the most common argument I hear with regard to firearms is the argument as to which caliber is the best caliber. Bottom line is that with the advances in technology with ammunition, there are a ton of good calibers to choose from.
The first thing to look at with regard to caliber selection is what the individual is carrying to protect themselves from. If the individual is hiking or camping most of the time and wildlife is the primary reason for carrying, then a larger caliber may be a better choice, while a smaller caliber may be perfectly fine to protect from other people. While 9mm is a fantastic caliber for personal protection in an urban environment, this would be a poor caliber selection to carry in Alaska for defense against brown bear.
The other issue that we have to look at in terms of caliber selection is ensuring that the caliber we choose is a caliber that we are capable of being accurate with. I often see newer shooters get the smallest and lightest concealed carry firearm in the largest caliber possible, which is not always the best of ideas. Consider the fact that we can have the most powerful caliber in existence, however; if we cannot effectively get that round on target than it will do nothing more than make a lot of noise and potentially endanger other innocent persons. It would be more effective to choose a smaller caliber that we can be more accurate with. Even though it could take more rounds to stop that threat, if we are capable of getting those rounds on target that will be infinitely more effective than rounds that we can’t hit the broad side of a barn with.
A great range to stay within for concealed carry would be .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .38 SPL, .357 Mag. There are a ton of other calibers out there to choose from, the reason that I recommend staying within this list is because whatever an individual is trying to protect themself from, one of these calibers will typically do the job. These calibers are also among the most popular calibers which means finding ammunition will not be any problem. Selecting the oddball calibers can absolutely cause headache when it comes time to buy ammunition, especially while travelling to areas that are unfamiliar.