View Full Version : The smallest caliber you carry

Mark M33
January 23, 1999, 08:23 PM
What caliber are you willing to carry when your primary cannot be concealed? I carry my M85UL in Uncle Mike's synthetic holster, strong side or crossdraw. M33

Jeff White
January 24, 1999, 12:08 PM
I've been known to just carry a Beretta 21A in a pocket holster, if the weather is hot enough. Remember "The first rule of gunfighting is have a gun".

Harry Humphries
January 24, 1999, 01:03 PM
There is no question in my mind that the ongoing discussions of minimum caliber will go on forever.

• On the small caliber extreme side: A well placed .22 rim fire, sometimes lucky or unlucky, shot has stopped individuals. In fact there is some truth in the fact that the .22 is sometimes called "the assassins choice", but let's get real the pistol round, any round, is notoriously under powered if forgiving, instant stopping power is desired. That's simply the nature of short barreled, bullet velocity generation.

• On the realistic extreme side: You LE types are certainly aware of the super staying power demonstrated by "crack" driven perps. and the many case histories of ineffective large caliber hits on these individuals. It is not unusual to hear of mind altered perpetrators having sustained, for long periods of time, multi-hits with calibers such as .357, .40 .45 ACP, and sometimes .44 mag.. I do not have any data on .50 cal hand gun incidents as there are very few, if any authorized users of this caliber in the business.

Although I love hand guns, I suppose I have to agree with our Long Gun Instructor Officer Chris Mayer of Anaheim P.D., when he states "As far as I am concerned, the hand gun is only of use to fight your way back to your rifle that you so stupidly left behind."

I continue to stay with Jeff Cooper and will always stress large caliber - as large as practically controlled for the hand gun. For me that is the .45 ACP, although the .40 is not a bad compromise. The hotter 10 mm has a good lethality profile but I believe that the recoil resulting makes it a difficult round to control for most folks, especially in the sort barrel versions so typical of back up weapons.

Again remember the basis of the modern technique of the combat hand gun is the balance of Speed / Accuracy / Power.

January 24, 1999, 04:18 PM
The smallest caliber I would ever carry is the 40S&W. -- 01paw

Rob Pincus
January 25, 1999, 12:46 AM
I used to carry a Beretta .25 regulary, but not lately.
And I have on occassion carried a .22 NAA.

When on the motorcyle and as a back-up I often cary my Tomcat .32.


January 25, 1999, 08:15 PM
Smallest caliber I currently have in pistol is a 9/.40 combo. I think I need to polish the .40 chamber (failures to feed), so I use the 9mm slide and barrel. However, even this super-compact, 14 oz gun is more difficulty than I care to bother with in the call-center environment that is my "real" job. I am considering the NAA Guardian (.32), though I have even asked a fellow forum member if he wants to sell his .25 Seecamp...

January 25, 1999, 08:15 PM
...(now that he has the Guardian, damn him!)

Byron Quick
January 26, 1999, 09:43 AM
Spectre, YOU'RE the one who got me buying guns again, friend! I don't know if I'll sell the Seecamp. I have eventually regretted selling every gun I have sold in the past. I carry the NAA Guardian .32ACP now. I agree with the Anaheim Long Gun Instructor...the purpose of my handguns is to fight my way back to my long guns ;) If I expect trouble I either won't be there or I will be getting a long gun out of the car. Oh, the Guardian is backup...main carry is a Glock 29. I'm still trying to figure out the fuss over 10mm recoil as the Glock 29 does a wonderful job (for something not designed by J.M. Browning).

January 26, 1999, 11:29 PM
:) See ya tomorrow!

(and, when are you going to need the .25, but not the .32? :D)

January 28, 1999, 04:23 AM
What the heck, I guess I'll throw my opinion in here...

I never carry anything smaller than a 9mm, and usually I carry a .45. I only carry the 9mm if it is very hi-capacity, and I figure three rounds of 9mm have to equal one or two rounds of .45 somehow...
I can fire the 9mm very fast and accuractly, but I still tend toward the .45, which I can shoot almost as well.
The new compact .45's that are coming out these days due to new CCW laws are a dream come true for me.

Honestly, if I have to carry anything smaller than a 9mm, I carry a good knife. Your mileage may vary according to your training etc, but I can do a HECK of a lot more damage in short order with a knife than a small caliber handgun, and it is much wiser for ME to pull. Drawing and employing the knife are much quicker for me than trying to draw and aim one of those puny little popguns. I figure that at the ranges that a mousegun is useful, I could probably cover the ground and fillet the guy a lot quicker...and I KNOW he is going down.


Ps- I would only carry a knife as a primary weapon if I could not find a place to stash a large caliber gun first! I can carry my Mad Dog Operator in nothing more than a pair of regular swimming trunks and no one is the wiser due to it's flat profile.

[This message has been edited by thaddeus (edited 01-28-99).]

January 28, 1999, 07:36 AM
Smallest caliber = 9mm. Smallest GUN=.45

January 30, 1999, 07:33 PM
this is an excellent question! What do yu think will work for the unexpected. I have been carrying a 45 single shot lately with the idea of fire and run. This is outside the usual idea of auto's vs revolvers but it helps me answer the question ; do I think a small 22 auto will be convincing to a bad guy / car jacker? I cannot carry a large handgun on my person conviently due to my work but from what I read a carjacking is only going to be defeated by what is on your person when the event hapens. Any comments on this will be appreciated.

January 31, 1999, 07:59 PM
The smallest caliber I ever carry is my .32 Tomcat loaded with those cute little 60 grain Silver Tip hollow points. I carry it in a Kramer pocket holster.

I admire your self confidence and capabilities with a knife. I have no knife training and I am not in real great shape. For me, it makes no sense to take a knife to a gun fight. I think I am better off with my mouse gun.

cornered rat
January 31, 1999, 08:48 PM
I would carry anything up from 22LR, though .38 would be my choice. I would view the fight against gun control wom when I can walk around with a PPSh on my shoulder and not get hassled...but would settle for merely being able to go about with a S&W 686 in a shoulder holster. Concealability not being an issue, My personal preference would be for large-frame revolvers...though I can see why the 1911 crowd would have a different pick.

A small-frame .22 revolver would work,as would a .32 or better semi-auto...I would have reservations about .25/.22 autoloaders, though.

If you believe in freedom and means of protecting it...you might be a gun nut.

February 2, 1999, 11:42 PM
Forget comments re purchasing Guardian. New- and definite- choice would be Kel-Tec P-32, for the situations where keeping my P-11 or G23 on my person is not practical. At SRP of $335 for the parkerized version, it is definitely less expensive, too.

Please see the pistolcraft forum for more info.

February 8, 1999, 06:44 AM
38 spl. smallest I carry

February 9, 1999, 10:40 PM
The smallest that I would be most comfortable with: 9mm

The smallest that I can carry and not attract attention is .22/Beretta 21A

Again, having any gun is better then no gun at all. Also, the average BG's mindset is to take on the easiest/weakest target. Having a small .22 will be enough to make them look else where.

Thanddeus has a good point: a knife is always a good choice to have. Being a "Farm Boy" I usually have one... There a hell of alot useful then a gun (and more quiet!)

Walt Welch
February 10, 1999, 09:56 PM
Thaddeus; to paraphrase a quote above yours, I only carry a knife to fight my way back to the handgun I so stupidly left behind; I use the handgun to fight my way back to the rifle I so stupidly left behind.

You, some posters may not know, are extremely well trained in the use of a knife, have survived street encounters using a knife, and have seen people killed with knives. So, you may be an exception to the rule. Certainly, I can't imagine any way to conceal a 1911 in swimming trunks!

However, friends don't let friends carry mouseguns. Sorry, but I favor carrying the same thing wherever you go, whatever you are doing. If you pack something less powerful than what you usually carry, you have already made a conscious decision that you are in less danger than usual. That may be a fatal mistake. Of course, YMMV, Walt

Clay Whitehead
February 13, 1999, 11:28 PM
When climatic or social conditions won't allow carry of the G-17 or S&W 3914, I carry an OMC Backup with Speer/CCI factory .380 hollow points. This pistol has a decent trigger and shoots well for me, even with the minimal sights. I can carry it in a hip pocket or the front compartment of my non-gun type fanny pack.

After all the discussion of the Kel-Tek P32 here in TFL, the Backup may have to audition to keep its roll in the defensive lineup(no trades or free agency anticipated however).

I know that friends shouldn't let friends carry mouseguns, but sometimes that's the only way to comply with Rule One of gunfighting: Have a Gun!!!


February 14, 1999, 12:32 AM
All right, I confess, yes I do have and sometimes carry a mouse gun. Its a baby browning clone in .25acp. This is my gun for those times when I can't carry a gun. I'm a believer in any gun is better than no gun.

February 14, 1999, 04:03 PM
I carry a taurus pt111, in 9mm, I fell well armed with 124gr. hydro-shock jhp. Nickster.

Jim March
February 14, 1999, 07:16 PM
Walt's seen my smallest: a Freedom Arms .22Magnum minirevolver, 4shot, 1.5" barrel and grips the same size as an NAA .22LR minirevolver. It's *small*, absolutely and totally discrete.

He also saw me drop all four onto a 4"x6" steel plate at around five healthy paces, firing one shot per second. This one's marked "Casull's Improvement" and is about 10 years old, it pre-dates FA selling the minirevolver biz to NAA.

I paid $140 total for that little beast, made my own pocket holster for it. It's a "deep cover front-pocket surprise"...any mugger wants my wallet, he's gonna get a 30grain JHP doing 1,200FPS in the face.

I've also got a 4" bull-barrel NAA Mini Master with a trigger job in dual .22LR/.22Mag convertable. THAT discrete little pup can stay within 5" at 25 yards with defense-grade Mag JHPs.

Either of these runts should at least be able to penetrate skull on a headshot...and they're absolutely undetectable on the street. I carry the .22LR cylinder for the 4" loaded with Yellowjackets, in the probably vain hope I could keep their heads down with "Baby" the FA mini while reloading the 4" with a "Clint Eastwood style" cylinder swap.

I also favor .38 snubs...but the two minis put together still add up to less bulk.

Jim March

Mike Spight
February 16, 1999, 03:43 PM
Depends on weather conditions. When it's hot, S&W Mod 60 (hard chromed, hard rubber Speigel grips) loaded w/158gr LSWCHP +P Federal ammo. Carried in a IWB holster along w/5 extra rds in speed strip in trouser/jeans/shorts pocket. Concealed with oversized polo type shirt, untucked. In cooler/cold weather when coats are worn, SIG semi, either 220, 226 or 229 (.45/.357/.40) In a straight drop holster, w/one extra mag of ammo in pouch on weak side.

February 16, 1999, 11:33 PM
The gun I carry most often is a .38 Spl. S&W Model 38 Airweight Bodyguard. I carry it in a Galco Deep Cover IWB holster that allow the shirt to be tucked in over the gun. I also carry a speedloader in my front pocket (strong side)--why does anyone bother with those ridiculous speed strips? I use the Federal 125 gr. Nyclad HP "Chief's Special" load (non-plus P). I would not carry any lesser gun or load. I always carry a Spyderco Endura as well.

February 17, 1999, 04:33 PM
The smallest I would carry is .380. The smallest I actually carry is a .38 spl. Although more often than not, I'm carrying a .357 sig.

Stay safe.

Jim March
February 18, 1999, 03:58 AM
As long as the results are all the same, who cares!


Jim March

February 18, 1999, 06:33 PM
38 stubby (M85UL) if I go to the "big city" and 32acp Guardian for around my small town. And sometimes a 22mag NAA for quick trips to the store if I'm wearing shorts/swim suit. Guess it's obvious that I don't percieve my surroundings as very threatening!

February 25, 1999, 01:04 PM
Why not worry about the smallest gun you can carry effectively instead of the smallest calibre?

Jim V
March 2, 1999, 04:55 PM
Smallest caliber I carry is the only caliber I carry, .45ACP. Most of the time in a 1911, sorta like an American Express card-I don't leave home without it, but sometimes an AMT DOA Backup in the same caliber. My AMT has never malfunctioned with anything I have fed thru it and the hole in the end of the muzzle looks to be about .65 caliber not .45 when it is up close and personal. :D

Ne Conjuge Nobiscum

[This message has been edited by Jim V (edited March 02, 1999).]

[This message has been edited by Jim V (edited March 02, 1999).]

May 26, 2000, 08:27 PM
I am new to the firing line and glad to be here. Being in Finance, I have carried as small as my 2 shot Davis Derringer in .22LR. Outside of work, however, when I can dress casual, I have lately leaned toward my Beretta Cougar 8040 in .40 S&W with an inside the pants concealment holster. That is, of course, just to buy time so I can get my Ruger Mini-14 from the car.

May 31, 2000, 11:48 AM
A .22mag in the pocket it better than a .45acp at home or in the car.

Anything is better than nothing, not everyone has the means to purchase a selection of handguns to protect themselves with. So I say buy what you are comfortable with, that falls within your price range.

They say 2 months salary for a diamond ring for the old lady.

What do you guys think the rule should be for a self defense side arm?

I carry a Glock 23 in .40sw almost everywhere I go. Sometimes even this compact powerhouse is difficult if not impossible to conceal. This is when I turn to my Glock 29 10mm Sub-Compact, this little monster will fit into a front jeans pocket (inside pocket holster) and not draw unwanted attention. Although in Tennessee the law says I can carry open or concealed, I choose concealment for many reasons.

If all I could conceal was a .22mag that's what I would go with. Something is better than nothing.

May 31, 2000, 05:26 PM
I almost always carry a 45. On rare occasions I will go to SW 342 Ti in 38Sp. I have no faith in anything smaller than 38.

Get your 1911s and AR15s while you still can!

May 31, 2000, 09:18 PM
They say 2 months salary for a diamond ring for the old lady. What do you guys think the rule should be for a self defense side arm?

As a guy currently pricing out such pretty rocks, I really like the implications of your suggestion! So much so that...new topic incoming!

Jay Baker
May 31, 2000, 10:48 PM
.38 Spc./9mm. J.B.

May 31, 2000, 11:01 PM
I'll carry the biggest thing I can, if I can keep my 1911 around I do, other wise Glock 22(.40), failing that, Sig 239(9mm),or Walther PPK/S (.380), and if nothing else will work, beretta 21a in .22.
To be honest though, I carry my Glock 22 openly most of the time (People get REALLY anxious with the 1911 in cond. 1, it's rough enough with the glock) Here in KY you don't need a permit and can go places that Concealed carry is illegal. I do get some comments, and alot of stares, but gotta do what we gotta do.

May 31, 2000, 11:01 PM
.40 S&W

Tim Burke
June 1, 2000, 12:30 AM
Sometimes I don't even carry a gun. If I ever need one during one of those times, the mousegun I left in my safe will look pretty good to me.

Kent White
June 1, 2000, 02:06 AM
Well, my Beretta 21A is gone (stolen-may the thief's hands rot off!), but I liked that gun, and may get another one. Mine was very accurate considering the crappy sights. I like the 21A for when I need to be very discreet, though a Colt Mustang .380 might be better.

Right now, it's the DAO Ruger SP 101 .357 magnum. Just as small as my wife's M60, but more power. Fun to make Edzilla guess where it is, too!


June 1, 2000, 09:03 AM
Most of the time it is a full size 1911. When that is not possible, I carry a NAA Guardian in 32 ACP with Silvertips. Anything that goes bang is better than fingernails.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times to spit on his hands,hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." H.L. Mencken

June 2, 2000, 11:48 AM
My philosophy on handgun combat is...

"Only hits count" I'm best with my Kahr K9 in 9mmP, so that's what I would carry...if I couldn't hit the bull with anything but a .22, we'll, then that's what I would carry...

As for bringing a knife to a gunfight. If you haven't been shot five times and then won in a knife fight, you are not experienced enough to convince me that this is a good idea...

Johnny Got His Gun.1
June 4, 2000, 09:26 AM
In the truck, I carry my Glock 17 (I call it the travel gun).

On my person, I carry a "baby gun" as my dear, loving wife calls it--an FMJ .45/.410 SS.

If we were only discussing derringer-class weapons, then derringers fall under an oh--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED- category: fast, up close, and personal, something that can only do one shot of intial damage that can allow one to get out of Dodge.

The basic rule of self-defense is to survive the encounter--not necessarily unscathed, but breathing and mobile. Lick your wounds later. I have mulled over my decision to carry a SS derringer and have concluded that it may be all I ever need to get me to higher ground. Until I pay off the NEF .32 H&R magnum on layaway at a local store, the SS will suffice.

Lord forbid we ever need to engage in a moment of self-preservation that requires us to shoot another human, but Lord forbid we be unarmed if that moment arises.

It only takes one time of needing a firearm, but not having it handy, to get more than your feelings hurt.

June 6, 2000, 03:08 PM
Keltec p-32 at a minimum.

Keltec p-11 in 9mm or S&W Airweight 38 spl more likely

40 S&W when my priorities are correct.

Some people have a way with words. Others not have way.