My top three handgun calibers for self defense and why: A review

Of the thousands of articles written specifically to show others what they should be using as defense rounds and why, less then 2% will have any evidence, facts or reason outside of commonly repeated myths to support them. When I started this blog it was with the intent to educate others and use facts, verifiable evidence and at a minimum testing results by myself or those who I train with regularly. The intent of this article is to show you using facts that what you may read from your favorite authors is not always true and in fact may be entirely created mythology.

As a warning in advance, this article and the attached facts, evidence and testing results will not likely line up with the Rawles and his myriad of highly educated yet clueless followers. If you follow or enjoy what he teaches, stop reading now, because I will be dispelling the myths he promotes in many cases simply because he enjoys being seen as something he is not.

The title of the article is, My top three handgun calibers for self defense. If you have one of these calibers and practice regularly both with dry fire drills and live fire drills you are already further ahead of the curve then most around you. I recommend using snap caps for dry fire drills, simple safety is the largest factor. You can find great priced snap caps here, at Amazon.22 cal snap caps for under $10/ 9×18 makarov snap caps for under $20 / 9×19 Snap caps for under $10. I will be starting with the very smallest caliber and moving upwards through the others. You will notice that while I will gladly endorse certain firearms types by default as the firearms I use personally, I will not ever claim mine is better then your choice as this is a personal decision. Fit, form and need dictate what firearms you should use more so then any other reason. This being said I have personally put well over a quarter million rounds down range in the past few decades and have worked with and continue to work with others who also have thousands of active hours behind their chosen tools. I will not be promoting reloading which while being beneficial is yet another difficult talent with a large learning curve that could result in your demise through failure. What I will be talking about primarily is the caliber, type of bullet, purposes of use and why.

1. 22 Long Rifle – 36 grain through 40 grain – small game hunting, teaching beginners how to shoot, self defense for unarmored targets, (zombie killing), easily suppressed and still accurate.
a. Use Ely primed or high end American hunting ammunition, avoid stockpiling mass produced bricks as the failure rate per 100 rounds is unacceptable.
b. Hollow point ammunition is quite fun, however, in my experience there is not enough of a difference between JHP (Jacketed Hollow Points) and FMJ (full metal jacket) to spend additional money ensuring one type over another. (Edited post testing, the fragmenting subsonic round from CCI is amazing when used with a supressor and handgun, lots of great pieces makes for some serious damage.)
c. The top three brands I recommend using are in order of benefit, accuracy, reliability; Aguila, Ely, Wolf Match – the next three brands are Remington (higher end NOT bulk loadings), CCI (again not BULK) and Federal (again NOT BULK.) It is necessary to understand that at sea level any round which travels 1085 fps (feet per second) or slower is by definition subsonic. MOST .22 ammunition travels at around 1100 fps or less. There are some quite hot rounds such as the CCI Velocitor, Remington Viper, Federal Gameshok, Aguila Interceptor all of which are in the 1300-1500 fps velocities and present a VERY lethal threat to unarmored targets. See attached videos for lethality and testing.
d. My preferred handguns are as follows, the Ruger MKII, Walther P22 (comes with easily adapted threading for silencers and is VERY reliable), Ruger SR22 (my daughters current handgun, accurate, reliable and fun) I also quite like the Beretta Bobcat (benefit is flip up barrel), semiauto allows those with not as much wrist or hand strength to utilize easily.

2. 9X18 Makarov – 93 grain through 95 grain – self defense role
a. This round is often overlooked as a self defense cartridge and yet, it is used as a main handgun round by many nations as well as having been used in several wars with reliable results. The benefit of this round is that the handguns that use it are almost all military surplus and can be had for a decent price. With minor adjustments to springs that anyone with a small amount of technical or mechanical ability can make these into fine shooters.
b. The average velocities of this round out of the short handgun barrels are between 985 and 1200 fps. There are two JHP rounds that have been tested by the author and have proven to be very effective in that they do exactly what they are meant to do. The Hornady Critical Defense 95 grain and the PPU (privi partisan) 95 grain jhp.
c. For practice I recommend any inexpensive ball ammunition though from experience I recommend staying away from military surplus (which is never really available in this caliber). See the following test videos for a little better idea as to how the round works.
d. I carry one of three different handguns chambered in this round regularly, the CZ82 (12 round capacity), FEG PA63 (7 round capacity and my personal favorite), Radom P-64 (6 round capacity) all of these firearms can be had for under $300 if you look and ALL of them will function as well or better than much more expensive firearms.
3. 9X19 Luger – 115 grain – 135 grain, Self defense and hunting small game
a. Modern loadings of this handgun cartridge place it easily above or equal to the venerable .45 auto, .357 magnum and other more “manly” rounds. There is quite literally hundreds of handguns to choose from and while not all are reliable, accurate or pretty the benefit of this weapon is that even your children with practice can easily shoot it with incredibly proficient results.
b. Recommended ammunition for home use in both a practice and self defense role are the following. Federal Champion (practice) 115grn, Winchester White Box 115 grn (practice), Speer Law Enforcement 115 or 124 grn fmj (practice). Self defense requires something that you know without a doubt will run in your chosen firearm and will preform as it is expected to preform once it is fired in an aimed fashion. I only recommend the following self defense ammunitions for a very simple reason, I have personally tested them in multiple handguns to the tune of over 500 rounds apiece and have found them to be flawless over the course of these testing runs. They expand, are accurate, run flawlessly in the firearms I tested them in and most importantly can be found virtually anywhere. My first choice in 9×19 will always be Speer Gold Dot 115 grain, followed by the 124 grain version. Second is the Hornady Critical Defense 115 grn, 124 grn and 135 grain flexlock. Lastly the Remington green box jhp 115 grain tested and proven to be a preformer regardless firearm chosen.
c. The firearms I use for defense of self and family and that I tested thouroughly are the following. Glock 19, Glock 17, Glock 26, Ruger P89 (a heavy, bulky gun found under $400), Keltec PF9 (these have a factory rated shelf life and mine have exceeded that), Springfield X D (any of the models in 9×19 are amazingly accurate and reliable.) Canik 55 TP9 (under $350 accurate, amazingly reliable and well priced) CZ 55 (technically a surplus gun, HEAVY, but reliable, acurate and quite awesome firearms) SCCY CPX-2 (Dont get the 1 get the 2, the new models are reliable, inexpensive, long draggy trigger in my opinon but relatively inexpensive and I would put my life in their hands.) Last and certainly least is the Hi-Point C9 (I would always suggest you buy anything but this firearm, I mean it is large blocky, ugly as hell BUT it runs like the wet dream of a 16 year old, however, it can be found for under $200 and is legal in almost every state though not every city.)

You will notice I did not mention using a revolver, the reasons for this are simple. Revolvers will fail, they generally have between 5 and 6 rounds and reloading unless you practice daily is insanely slow and prone to easy failure. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS clean your firearms well after EVERY use, I prefer using bore snakes which can be found here for basic cleaning and Ballistol which can be found here for soaking parts, lubrication and cleaning solutions. Remember, the article is for someone looking for self defense at a good price and upon which they can rely. So now the facts.

How does a bullet stop a threat?

Two ways, cessation of communication from brain to body and a large loss of blood. The first means you have to hit a very small part of the body just right and cut the brain stem from the rest of the body with one shot. I shoot with some very, extremely good shooters and this method is almost exclusively the province of the Hollywood snipers and bad ass cops. The second is major loss of blood, the body has arteries in every limb and throughout the body. arterial Hitting any one of these is enough to cause death within 30 seconds unless the bleeding is stopped quickly. Of course if you are unable to hit these areas due to the threat wearing body armor you can still cause severe pain, discomfort and reduce their ability to move by hitting any one of several joints which will cause immediate loss of function to the limb attached. joints of the body All of the above rounds have been tested on wild hogs, javelina, ballistic gelatin and of course for accuracy. All of the above rounds worked quite well, some better than others.

So what are your questions?

Free the mind and the body will follow, if you are already free learn trigger control and aim small, hit small.


About Jesse Mathewson

Jesse Mathewson is the author of the popular blog, and provides commentary to many varied places based on a background that includes education in criminal justice, history, religion and even insurgency tactics and tactical training. His current role in his community is as an organizer of sorts and a preacher of community solidarity and agorism. He also runs Liberty Practical Training, a self defense school specializing in the practical applications of defensive approaches versus the theoretical. As an agorist, voluntaryist and atheist his life is seen as crazy and wild by many, though once they get to know him most realize he is a bluntly honest individual who will give you the shirt off his back if he believes it is necessary to help you. Very simple, "That which is voluntary between all individuals involved is always right, if it is not voluntary, it is always wrong."
This entry was posted in Authored by Jesse Mathewson, Liberty Practical Training, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to My top three handgun calibers for self defense and why: A review

  1. jeffreycanthony says:

    Good thoughts on the rounds for sure. My question: Is it not better to run mass production rounds for practice, since occasional failure gets us used to dealing with failures?

    KelTec PF9 I will note is a hit or miss IMHO. I’ve had to send mine back a few times, and have retired it from carry due to it’s unreliability. The only KT firearm i’ve had issues with out of the 5 we own. That said, from what i hear (no idea past reading sadly) that most PF9’s work great for their entire lifetime, but some are just lemons all around. Mine’s had every part to include frame replaced, and still is flaky with a variety of different ammunitions.

    Cost/reliability/etc… wise what’s your thoughts on the KelTec P11? For me the down side is a very heavy trigger compared, but cost wise it’s close enough to a hi point to be a better option, especially for concealing.


Comments are closed.