© 2012 | Dynamic Force Institute, LLC | All Rights Reserved

get much practice, and without practice, you will be at a distinct disadvantage should you ever need it. Whether you choose a revolver or semi-automatic, the caliber will NEVER be as important as your ability to place the bullet where you intend it to go.  Again, Shot placement is EVERYTHING.  If you can’t operate or control the gun properly, you will never be able to shoot it well enough to place your shots accurately.  Find a good Certified Instructor, or training facility in your area, and shoot as many different types and calibers of guns as you can before making your final decision. 

Life is a never ending series of tradeoffs. If you’re choosing a gun for concealed carry, understand that a light, or ultra-light, easy to carry gun in a major caliber (9mm, .38 Special, or larger) will generate a higher recoil impulse. If you wish to reduce the recoil, you must move to either a heavier firearm, or a lighter caliber. If you’re choosing a gun for home protection, the weight of the gun will not be an issue, as long as you can manage it comfortably, and a heavier gun will provide the mass necessary to help control the recoil.

The first rule of gun fighting, is to bring a gun. And any gun, will always beat no gun.

Once again, shot placement will trump caliber every single time. We tend to worry, and argue ad infinitum about knockdown power and one shot stops, but the truth of the matter is, people just don’t like getting shot, especially more than once. The secret to increasing the effectiveness of any bullet in multiples of 100% is as simple as firing another one. So unless you’re facing Sasquatch, even the diminutive .22 can, and does, get the job done quite well, as long as you do your part. Since no one in their right mind wants to get shot with anything, fast, accurate, multiple hits with any bullet, including the little .22 (which is the easiest round for anyone to shoot quickly and accurately in a close quarter engagement), as well as the .32, the .380, or any other caliber for that matter, will take the fight out of anyone. Once again, a larger bullet from a major caliber  such as 9mm, .38 Special, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP will generally be more effective with poorly placed hits, but any bullet, or string of bullets that have gone where they were intended to go, and penetrated to a depth necessary to reach vital organs will get the job done every time.

The most common stop is usually psychological, not physical. Most miscreants will cease their aggressive behavior after taking a well placed hit, or two, or three. With a lighter caliber, such as the .22, or .32, the heaviest, fastest bullet will usually produce the best results when applied in multiple round strings. The short barrels of most handguns employed in this role will not generate the velocity necessary for reliable expansion of most smaller caliber (below .380) hollow points. Penetration then, must be the primary goal, combined with rapid, multiple, well placed hits.

According to the FBI Ballistic Test Protocol, the performance standards are simple. A handgun bullet must consistently penetrate a minimum of 12 inches of tissue in order to reliably penetrate/strike/damage/destroy vital organs within a human target, regardless of the angle of impact or intervening obstacles such as arms, clothing, etc. More than twelve inches is even better, and multiple wound channels will always beat a single wound channel.

NEVER put a semiautomatic handgun into service in a self defense role without having broken it in, and/or checked it out, with at least 200 rounds, regardless of the caliber. No one should ever bet their life on an unproven gun. If problems develop during the break-in period, and do not rectify themselves before it ends, the prudent choice would be to repair, or replace that gun.

We must balance power, weight, size, and recoil before deciding upon the ideal handgun. A handgun must always be within reach, it must be easy for the owner to operate, and it must be above all, comfortable and easy to shoot well.  A .22, .32, or .380 in the hands of a skilled and practiced operator is far more deadly than a .357 magnum being wielded by someone who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with it.

Let's put it all in perspective... A triple tap to center mass with a proper 40 grain .22 caliber solid, or 71+ grain .32 caliber jacketed bullet, would be the equivalent of being run through to the hilt 3 times in rapid succession with a 14 inch screwdriver, or taking 3 quick bolts from a powerful crossbow. Think about that for a minute... These are, at the very least, debilitating, and often, life ending injuries. That's 3 chances to pierce the heart and/or lungs, nick, or pierce a major artery, or strike the spine. All of these hits have proven to be fight stoppers.

Although many semiautomatics are less expensive than revolvers, users may not have the strength to manually cycle the slide to chamber a round, or clear a malfunction on a semiautomatic due to physical limitations, or disabilities. The elderly may have weak hands from arthritis or other conditions, and these folks are generally the ones who are most likely to need a dependable, low recoiling, easy to operate defensive weapon. Human predators, like all predators, target those whom they perceive to be weak and easy, and therefore the weak are more likely to suffer at their hands. For these people, the double action revolver is usually the better choice, as long as the double action trigger pull is not too heavy for them to operate easily.

Semiautomatics are prone to malfunctions. You must be properly trained to instinctively clear a failure to fire, failure to feed, failure to eject, or a double feed. Magazines can occasionally be the cause of malfunctions. Always have at least one, or two spare magazines on hand for any semiautomatic. More is better.

Learning, and practicing to shoot strings of double, or triple taps quickly and accurately at 7 yards or less with ANY caliber and the correct ammunition will provide a great deal of comfort to those who, for a myriad of reasons, physical and otherwise, have chosen, or been limited to a lighter caliber for self defense.  Again, use the largest caliber that you can handle comfortably and shoot well, but don’t let it be the only criteria for choosing your gun. You will be better served with a lighter caliber that you shoot extremely well, than a heavier caliber you shoot marginally at best, or can’t shoot at all.

Above all, do not be discouraged by the armchair commandos decrying the virtues of this caliber, or that, as a defensive round. Most of them will probably pass away in their LazyBoy with a beer in one hand and the TV remote in the other. They know not of what they speak. Testosterone has never been, nor will ever be, an acceptable substitute for brains. If, due to finances, disabilities, age, ailments, recoil sensitivity, or other circumstances, you find yourself limited to a lighter caliber handgun as your only viable option to defend your life, and the lives of those you love, learn to use it quickly and well. Maintain that weapon as if your life depended on it... Because it does. Sleep soundly in the knowledge that you have done what you can to provide the means to preserve and defend innocent life as God intended.

Always remember, your gun is not the weapon. Your mind is the weapon. Your body and your gun are simply the tools your mind uses to bring your acquired skills into the fight. It will never be the gun... It will always be the gunner. 

Shot placement, along with rapid, multiple hits is what will stop your attacker. Apply the medicine until the cure is found.

Practice equals competence. Competence equals confidence. Confidence equals winning. Regardless of the caliber, make 'em count.

© 2012  •  R.F. De Mott, CFI
Choosing A Handgun For Self Defense

Don't be overly concerned with caliber.  Shot placement is far more important. Use the largest caliber that you can control, you are comfortable with, and you shoot well.

Remember, A .22 in the eye socket is always going to beat a .45 in the foot.

Do NOT let someone else choose your gun.  Spouses, parents, friends and gun shop employees are always well intentioned and trying to help, but what works for them, may  not work for you.  A firearm is a very personal tool that you must shoot well, and be completely comfortable with.  It should fit your hand like a glove, work well with your chosen carry or storage method, and instill confidence. And above all, it should be fun to shoot. If you don’t enjoy shooting it, you won’t

Your choice must meet these criteria:



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Student Reviews

Drop into any local gun store or log into any firearms forum on the Internet and ask what the “best carry gun” is. You’ll get a raft of responses, almost all of which are based on what the responders personally like. What’s more, what they personally like may or may not be based on anything other than hearsay, what their buddies like, or what some internet Guru said they should like. Don’t let anyone else choose a gun for you.

Let’s look at it a little more logically...

Choosing a concealed carry gun is really about reaching the right balance for you. You have to consider safety, purpose, comfort, reliability, accuracy, recoil, size, power, efficiency and capacity in your deliberations, and each variable affects the others.

Revolver or Auto for Concealed Carry?

This is an age-old debate. They each have their adherents, and they are somewhat complementary in their capabilities. There are some vital differences however, and you should go into either choice with your eyes open.

Arguments for the autoloader:
-Greater capacity
-Flatter for better concealment
-Easier to reload under stress
-Easier to shoot well (better triggers / ergonomics)
-Greater selection of defensive ammunition
-Generally greater tolerance to abuse

Arguments against the autoloader:
-Perceived lack of reliability
-Complicated manual of arms (operation)
-Upper body strength required to rack slide

(unless taught to do it properly by a good Instructor)
-Generally lesser tolerance to neglect
-Can be sensitive to ammunition variances

Arguments for the revolver:
-Simpler manual of arms
-Easier to verify loaded or unloaded state
-Easier to shoot (lack of external controls)
-Perceived greater reliability
-Relatively immune to ammunition variables
-Generally greater tolerance to neglect
-Somewhat easier to fit to smaller hands

Arguments against the revolver:
-Harder to shoot well (heavy, long trigger)
-Lower capacity
-Difficult to reload quickly
-Somewhat lessened selection of defensive ammunition
-Generally lower tolerance to abuse

-No variables for ergonomics

NOTE: There are a number of revolvers on the market with smooth and relatively light double action triggers. If you choose a revolver, make sure you can operate the trigger easily and smoothly. The grips on most revolvers can be changed out if that is the one thing you don’t like.