If you are new to owning firearms or looking to purchase your first self-defense handgun, you have undoubtedly asked, “Which caliber is best?” Search the internet with this question and you'll probably find more results than you can read, much less comprehend. Ask your neighborhood “gun guy” and you'll probably kick-start a debate the likes of which you have never seen. But if you ask me, I'll give you a much simpler answer.

The one you shoot best.

The debate over which caliber is best, especially for self-defense, has probably been going on since the second musket was made. Now don’t get me wrong, the argument does have some validity. Based on ballistics, penetration and even cost, some calibers do make more sense than others. You wouldn't want to depend on a round that is clearly underpowered or costs so much per round you can't afford to practice. But others are based solely on personal bias or involving parroting what the proponent heard some expert say.

When it comes down to it the real criteria are must simpler.

Obviously, you want a proven reliable round. I wouldn't suggest relying on an experimental round or those you found when cleaning out grandpa’s WW2 trunk. You also want a round capable of putting down the threat you expect to encounter. For example, if you are hiking in bear country the debate over 9mm or .40 caliber is a waste of time as BOTH are probably too small. Otherwise, the answer is a matter of personal preference more than anything else. So, with this in mind, my suggestion is to choose the round you can shoot best.

The point of carrying a firearm is to stop a threat.

Sometimes, just having a firearm will accomplish that, since smart criminals prefer soft targets and may be inclined to flee once they realize you're armed. Other times, the threat will only be stopped by using the firearm. If this happens, you must be able to hit your target. Not only do you need to hit it, you need to do so repeatedly and accurately until the threat stops. Having a firearm that is too big or too powerful for you to effectively handle will have a negative impact on both your ability to shoot and your accuracy. When this happens, you put yourself in danger, you put bystanders in danger and you negate the purpose of having a firearm to begin with.

[caption id="attachment_718" align="alignnone" width="800"] Sig Sauer P365 in a Reckoning Holster with Hornady Critical Duty Ammunition[/caption]

When it comes down to it, most modern handgun rounds provide the stopping power necessary for self-defense. Yes, some work better in specific scenarios such as through a door or automobile windshield glass, but in the average gun fight it comes down to two things: who makes the most holes in the other guy first. Having a caliber that fits you and allows you to shoot better will increase your chances of being the one who does this.