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Old July 19, 2005, 08:34 PM   #1
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the largest caliber you can handle

I'm quite new to shooting, and I have often heard on this forum that the best caliber in the "which caliber is best" threads, is the one that you can reliably hit the target with. True, but what is the distance that one should use to judge whether they can reliably hit the target? It was my second time at the range yesterday, and I found that with 38's out of a snub I could get shots to land in a 5-6inch circle reliably--shooting single action. Switching over to full magnums and I could only reliably hit the paper target, which was much larger than 6 inches. Now in a defensive situation, I doubt one even has the chance to aim, but this is of-set by attackers probably being closer than 25 feet (and larger than 6inches). I'm sure I could sqeeze the trigger five times with 180gr magnums, but whether I could hit the target depends on how far away it is. So my question is, what do you use to judge whether or not you can comfortably handle a specific caliber.
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Old July 19, 2005, 08:45 PM   #2
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Sounds like you've got a pretty good handle on it already.

BTW, there's quite a range of loads available between full magnums and standard pressure .38 spl

Just don't push yourself too hard for speed or power. You're better off hitting than missing.

As you get better you can step up the speed and power.
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Old July 19, 2005, 09:04 PM   #3
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Most defensive situations (I understand) are within 20' or so. If you can put a few shots in that same 6" circle in a couple seconds regardless of caliber, you're set.

Magnums kick a LOT as you found out. Most of the other calibers won't buck like that, 9mm/40/45 so try out a few more. There's nothing wrong at all with some +P 38's since they are much milder.
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Old July 19, 2005, 10:28 PM   #4
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So my question is, what do you use to judge whether or not you can comfortably handle a specific caliber.
I think you are confusing issues between the largest caliber you can handle and the largest caliber you can handle comfortably.

Assuming we are talking about concealed carry, you should try to carry the largest caliber possible that you can shoot well, on a platform you can fully manipulate, that can still be carried concealed without too much trouble that you end up not carrying the gun.

chris in va notes most shootings are within 20 feet. Assuming that is reflective of a situation you might be in, then I would suggest you train at .least 50% further away, say 10 yards. You want to be better than what you expect to have to handle, ahead of the curve, not behind.

Folks tend to fall apart when faced with shooting at distances great than at which they had trained. Take the North Hollywood Bank Robbery. While the LAPD did recognize the bandits had on body armor and called for making head shots, in the hundreds of rounds fired at the bandits before they moved out, none of the LAPD shooters were able to hit the bad guys in the head. The ranges at which most were shooting was 75 yards and more. Prior to that time, LAPD did not train street officers to be proficient beyond 25 yards with their pistols and as it turned out, they were unable to make head shots at 75 yards. Heck, I would have thought that eventually, with all the rounds being shot at the bandits, that at least one officer would get lucky, but it didn't happen. The one bandit shot in the head was shot after they moved from the bank and the shot was by an officer that seemed to be no more than 20 yards away from the bandit.

In regard to comfort, shooting the gun does not have to be comfortable. Of course if it isn't, you may not practice with it enough, but then again, if you can handle it well given how much you practice with it and it is a bigger caliber than might actually be comfortable to shoot, then stick with the larger caliber. While not a handgun example, shooting my 12 ga Rem 870 with Double Impact (2 oz.) loads is not a particular nice experience, but I can shoot the loads fairly well. They are the most powerful loads I can shoot from the shotgun, but I hate to shoot more than 5 or 6 during any one day.
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Old July 20, 2005, 03:23 AM   #5
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So my question is, what do you use to judge whether or not you can comfortably handle a specific caliber.
Try them out - as many as possible - as extensively as possible. Preferably under the supervision of an experienced shooter who knows why you are doing it. That will give you a pretty good idea.

Pay special attention to a common issue known as a flinch. If you can consistantly shoot a handgun (or rifle etc) without flinching - chances are you are handling it comfortably. If you flinch, there is a problem or problems you need to address and overcome, or pick a "milder" piece.
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Old July 20, 2005, 08:54 AM   #6
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Ofcourse it is all relative, but as I found out - different rounds in one caliber can make a big difference too. I shot my ltwght .45 with different 'carry' ammo (some pretty hot) this weekend, and was disheartened at the recoil, report, even accuracy, etc. (Even briefly debated whether to switch to a different caliber.) Then I tried a different brand of decent HP and am quite happy with the difference - makes me happy with the system again! Obviously the weapon itself has an impact too, as those 1st rounds I tried would most likely have been fine out of a full-size .45.
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Old July 20, 2005, 05:19 PM   #7
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This really comes down to repetative target practice, and what you feel proficient with. If you are shooting a .38 spl with reasonable results, and when you go to a magnum you get different results, chances are that it starts in the brain pan. We all suffer from this. You know the recoil from a .44 magnum is going to be fierce, and you reflect that by trying to compensate when you squeeze the trigger. Once you have the practice under your belt to ignore recoil commpletely, and focus only sight alignment, and trigger squeeze you should be able to shoot about anything with much the same results. Given particular weapon accuracy. When the weapon discharges it should really be a surprise to you, as you are focusing on the first two events only. Not the recoil.

If you don't have the time or ability to practice as much as required or if you are just starting out, then by all means go with what you are comfortable with just so that you can have the abilty to practice, and be self defense-self sufficient. If you going with a .38 spl, try getting a .357, and interchange ammunition. This will demonstrate what I am trying to say.
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Old July 20, 2005, 09:55 PM   #8
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Regular old 8 to 9" diameter paper plates are what I commonly use for both target practice at 50 feet and defensive drills at closer distances. The flat center portion of the plate is about 5", which is conducive to "5X5 drills" as one simple method of comparing defensive handgun skills with various calibers/loads.

Try 5 shots @ 5 yards in 5 seconds with 38+Ps and see if you can keep 'em all within the 5" portion of the plate. Then load up with hotter loads and see if you can keep 'em all in the 5" portion.

If you can get consisent with the above, ya might want to make it more of a challenge by cutting the time down to 3 or 4 seconds. Or, maybe also integrate such into a little game of "dollar a hole" with a friend. Whatever the load or caliber, just remember "You can't miss fast enough to win."
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Old July 20, 2005, 11:04 PM   #9
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I can handle anything!

I am a real man, and I can take it!

Although I did sell my 454 Casul because the loud noise scared my dog. Yeah. Scared my dog.

Seriously, it isn't just about caiber, it's also about load. Gun ergonomics plays a role too. Shoot a bunch before you make any hard decision. I carry a .45 and I'm very comfortable with that. My wife prefers 9mm. I wouldn't want to be in a gunfight with her...

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Old July 20, 2005, 11:24 PM   #10
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"handle" means what you can shoot accurately and rapidly, NOT what you can tolerate in terms of recoil.

Recoil can be unpleasant, but that's not what people are talking about when they say to shoot the largest caliber you can tolerate.

It's about hitting, and hitting fairly rapidly. Recoil slows your shooting down, and can also cause accuracy issues.

So, what's a good rule of thumb for determining if you're shooting rapidly and accurately enough? This isn't hard and fast, but I think this will get you in the ballpark.

Initially, you should work with a good, low recoil, defense round until you can put all your shots on a piece of typing paper at 3 yards shooting as fast as you can pull the trigger. Don't immediately go for the speed record, start slow and only increase the speed when you have mastered the exercise at one speed. If you push yourself on speed, you're going to teach yourself bad habits.

Next, move it out a bit. When you can empty your firearm shooting as fast as you can pull the trigger at 7 yards and keep all your shots on a sheet of typing paper, you can either keep increasing the range, or go up a bit in caliber.

This will either help you find your limits, or help you find a performance level you're happy with.

Just remember what I said in my first post: "You're better off hitting than missing."
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Old July 21, 2005, 10:28 AM   #11
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Well put

I would add being able to shoot quickly and accurately...making multiple hits from a less than perfect stance at a less than perfect target,at different disctances, possibly with an injured strong/weak hand.

And IMHO...the North Hollywood gungiht was more of an example of why not to bring handguns to gunfights than how to train
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