By Bob Walsh
BEST GUN, BEST LOAD
Those who follow the gun press will know that there is a never-ending supply of arguments over this subject. For the longest time it was 9mm vs. .45 acp. Then the 10mm, .40 cal and .357 auto entered the fray. New high-tech bullets and new developments in powder have made ammunition much better than it was even four years ago. Changes, IMHO, have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary. There are no magic bullets, though they are getting a lot closer than they used to be.
The fact of the matter is there is no best gun or best bullet, and there probably never will be. There are specialized areas where a particular technology may reign supreme for a while. (Dan Wesson revolvers were the hot thing for silhouette shooting years ago due to some design characteristics which gave them exceptional long distance accuracy.) That being said every day concealed carry is something of a generalist field. How much weight can you deal with? How big a handgun can you effectively conceal? How sensitive to recoil are you? How much money can you spend? How big are your hands? What sort of clothing do you routinely wear? This is to some extent different for everybody. There are, however, a few generally recognized and acknowledged truths in the field.
There is a power minimum that is desirable. Nobody wants to get shot, not even with a .22. In reality a .22 may have some advantages in that it is (relatively) cheap to shoot and you can afford to get good with it, and you will need to be if that is your defensive weapon. A .22 does not penetrate auto bodies or safety glass reliably, and may penetrate human bodies poorly especially after going thru heavy clothing. (The trolls wear more clothes during the winter than the summer.) It will not reliably stop a determined attacker unless you get a good CNS (central nervous system) hit. It will kill to be sure, but the object of the exercise is to keep the other person from killing YOU. There is a difference.
Generally speaking the .380 auto or 9mm Makarov is the bottom line on power, though the .32 Silvertip has a good record in real-world shootings. Many knowledgeable people will tell you a .38 special is minimum, and a .38 special +P load is better still. Larger diameter bullets may have an advantage in that they do not need to expand to make a large diameter hole. The .40 caliber was developed for the specific purpose of splitting the difference. It was less powerful and easier to handle than a .45 ACP or its 10 mm brother but does a fair job in the light-fast category. It also gives more magazine capacity and less felt recoil than the .45 ACP. (I remember a .40 caliber being developed as an experiment by Guns and Ammo magazine back in the late 1960s. It was fired thru a Browning P-35 with a custom barrel made by Irv Stone.) In any even the .40 auto has taken over the police market almost to the point the .38 special revolver did back in the day. It should be noted, however, that recently, with developments in bullets and powder, many agencies are going BACK to the 9mm to take advantage of the lower recoil and higher magazine capacity.
I am not even going to get into the argument about the best gun type, at least not any deeper than I already have in previous chapters. Truthfully any reliable firearm in any reasonable caliber will do the job IF you can hit with it. If a high-capacity 9mm is in your mind better for your purposes than a single-stack .45, go for it. If you like the .40 cal or even the .357 automatic, that is also a perfectly valid decision. If the simplicity of a revolver appeals to you and you are aware of and willing to deal with its limitations, that is also perfectly reasonable.
The very best gun and the very best load are quite simply what you have on you when the excrement hits the air circulation device. A small caliber belly gun in your pocket is better than the hand cannon in the safe. Remember, shot placement is criteria #1. Adequate penetration is criteria #2. Everything else is a distant #3. (I have carried a gun on an almost daily business for half my life. I have had to fire one twice. Once it was a snub-nose .38. Once it was a full-size 10mm automatic. Both did the job with one shot.)
Get some training if you are going to carry a gun for personal protection. It costs money and takes time. If you have the time and are close enough I encourage competition. I now shoot IDPA. I previously shot IPSC but got disenchanted with the gamesmanship at about the same time my bum leg started to give me enough trouble it was physically hard for me to compete. They are both fun and give you some experience in handling a gun under some element of stress. If approached correctly IDPA can be to some extent considered to be in the ballpark of actual firearms training. (Both are games and have rules. Real gun fights pretty much don’t.)
Get a gun. Get some training. Get some practice. Find a weapon you are comfortable with, can use well and can carry and conceal effectively. When it comes down to it you are responsible for your own safety. The cops may come in and clean up and may even catch the bad guy. It is better to not be a victim. Remember, when seconds count the police are only minutes away.