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Old April 19, 2011, 01:34 AM   #1
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Best caliber handgun for home defence?

Ok so I am fairly new to the handguns. Currently I own two .45 acp's. I got and XD45 Compact for my concealed carry, and a American Classic 1911 for the night stand. The stopping power is what sold me on those being good for self defence. Now my question is what caliber in your opinion is the best for home security? Im thinking from an aspect of minimal over penetration. To me it seemed like the .45 being a slower bullet and known for transfering much of its kinetic energy into what it strikes (Of course I have a mag of good hollow points loaded into it) would be the right choice. I know that i can get safety type slugs for extra safety but just for the sake of this thread, im currious what cal for a good quality hollow point.
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Old April 19, 2011, 01:56 AM   #2
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.38 special lead hollow point. Many of the younger shooters like to carry really big calibers because it is neat. You must keep in mind though, walls are not really very thick. We are talking two 1/2" pieces of sheetrock and 2"x4" studs every 16". If you have children or think you might leave the house with a stray bullet, the .38 will be better and slowing or stopping in a wall. I had a AD once from a 45lc. It went through my double window across the street and was stopped by the neighbors brick wall. When recovered it was paper thin. Big calibers tend to keep going.
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Old April 19, 2011, 02:03 AM   #3
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so safety slugs are the way to go for my night stand gun then? how many feet per second average does the .38 special go? what does AD mean by the way? I know im going to feel stupid when you tell me

Last edited by BNOBrien; April 19, 2011 at 02:10 AM.
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Old April 19, 2011, 04:11 AM   #4
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BNOB, 4/19/11

The best caliber for home defense (or any other defense) is one which you can put rounds repeatedly on target. Any reasonable self defense round which can penetrate the required 10-12 inches of flesh is going to go through most walls so you want a caliber which you shoot well and can finish the job with the fewest number of accurately aimed shots. If that is a light recoiling round like the .380 or 38 special that is fine, if you can get the job done with a bigger round then so much the better.

For what it's worth I use the .45 and 9mm, both with Golden Saber hollow points. Either caliber will do the job if I do mine.

best wishes- oldandslow
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Old April 19, 2011, 06:06 AM   #5
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To me the formula is the same although it gives different people different results.

1. In handguns bigger diameter bullets leave bigger holes.
2. Shot placement is more important than caliber.
3. For home defense there is no need for something small, lightweight or concealable.

So the logic is use the biggest caliber bullet that you can accurately shoot in a full size handgun. Either of the two you listed would work. Gold Dots, Golden Sabres or HST's should do the trick rather well. I would avoid Safety slug type bullets personally. In fact I would avoid any bullet that relies on stopping someone on a psychological "Oh no I just got shot!" level. If someone puts themselves in a situation where they are worth being shot the only things I trust are blood loss or damage to the central nervous system. Accurately placed medium to heavy hollow points are best at that.
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Old April 19, 2011, 06:22 AM   #6
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My choice (.45ACP S&W 22-4 with 4" barrel) boiled down to:
  • good stopping power
  • subsonic and relatively ear friendly
  • common caliber that I reload (for inexpensive practice)
  • reliable - very unlikely to jam or malfunction
  • simple manual of arms
  • maneuverable
  • fast and easy to reload (moon clips)

This particular gun has had the ILS flag removed so there's no possibility of that getting in the way.

Last edited by spacecoast; April 19, 2011 at 07:11 AM.
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Old April 19, 2011, 06:45 AM   #7
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It's really hard to go wrong with a .38, 9mm, .357 or a .45 as a home defense round. A good HP like Speer Gold Dots and you are pretty much set.
"He who laughs last, laughs dead." Homer Simpson
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Old April 19, 2011, 07:08 AM   #8
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so safety slugs are the way to go for my night stand gun then? how many feet per second average does the .38 special go? what does AD mean by the way?
AD stands for Accidental Discharge, many people refer to them more accurately as ND, or Negligent Discharge. It's letting a round go when you don't want to, and having one should cause you to do a lot of soul searching and examination of your handling of firearms.

The average 158 grain .38 special is somewhere in the neighborhood of 800-900 feet per second depending on barrel length. .38 sp +P are on the upper end of that range and lighter bullets will typically go faster. 4" is a typical barrel length, 2" snubbies will yield 50-100 fps less, 6" barrels something like 50-100 fps more. These are just averages, there are other variables besides barrel length. The speed of sound is a little over 1100 fps at sea level. .45ACP bullets travel at velocities similar to .38 special but they are usually quite a bit heavier (185 to 230 grains).

Just FYI, most 9mm, .40S&W and .357 magnum SD rounds are supersonic. .357 mag snubbies are especially bad for muzzle blast, ear-splitting noise levels and general concussion.

From all the reading I've done, I'm not a big fan of safety slugs and would not consider them unless they were all I had available.

Last edited by spacecoast; April 19, 2011 at 07:14 AM.
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Old April 19, 2011, 07:59 AM   #9
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Best caliber handgun for home defence?

The best is the one you feel comfortable with.

45, 38, 9mm... it's all good.
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Old April 19, 2011, 08:25 AM   #10
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Best caliber handgun for home defense?

If you are asking what is the best caliber for stopping intruders the list includes .45, .357 and 10mm.
These are a few calibers that most folks agree with as being "man-stoppers"

Again to generalize, most folks agree that the one-shot-stopping abilities of the 9mm, .380, .38 are questionable (not looking to start something) For that reason, I do not believe they are the best calibers for HD.

If you are primarily concerned with stopping potential human intruders, I do not agree with the questionable calibers listed here unless ITS ALL YOU CAN HANDLE ACCURATELY. If you own .45ACPs and are comfortable with them, STICK WITH THEM. They fire a relatively slow moving slug. Velocity plays more of a part in penetration of hard targets than mass does, IMO. If collateral damage (wife, kids, neighbors, pets) are a big issue (apartment, urban environment) you should be grabbing a shotgun with large diameter bird-shot (2s are my choice), and not a handgun.
If you still need to use a handgun in apartment or similar, frangible slugs might seem like a good idea, but again, highly questionable. Also VERY expensive to function test in a HD semi-auto pistol.
The largest flaw discussed about safety slugs or frangible ammo is their inability to penetrated heavy clothing. If you live in a warm climate area, or for summer use, and you've function tested, they can work.
Ive fired the glaser blue tip safety slugs into wet books, the damage is INCREDIBLE. When they expand, they are like a tiny grenade opening up with bits of metal fragments. I fired them in .357 and .223. In both calibers the glaser slugs did not penetrate as deeply as HP ammo, but not much less (2-4"). Check out link:
Shows photo of glaser impact
Maintaining a constant state of cat-like readiness and a heightened state of suspicious alertness.

Last edited by Vt.birdhunter; April 19, 2011 at 09:17 AM.
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Old April 19, 2011, 09:45 AM   #11
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OP, you already picked .45. It is fine. Practice with it and get comfortable with your firearms. If you find that you cannot get back on target quickly for followup shots you may need to reconsider, but no one is going to tell you that the .45 is inadequate.

most folks agree that the one-shot-stopping abilities of the 9mm, .380, .38 are questionable
On the other hand, you should not count on any handgun round being a one-shot stop. Followup shots are important to your ability to stop a threat. If the above quote is true, with its unstated implication that "most folks" think .45 is vastly superior with respect to one stop shots, I would have to declare myself to be in the minority. My understanding, admittedly gleaned only from reading and online participation, is that the terminal performance of good modern 9mm and .38 ammo is not substantially different than other common handgun calibers, and I therefore feel comfortable with those rounds for self defense.

The case for .380 being borderline in effectiveness seems reasonable to me, but that caliber has its devotees, as well. Since its main virtue is that very small concealable guns can be designed around it, it would not seem to me that you need to consider the .380.

If you feel that you shoot 9mm or .38 better than .45, to the extent that it would give you an advantage in an emergency situation, then you may have reason to take a loss in selling your current handguns and buying something different. But I wouldn't do it until you have considerable experience with your current guns and whatever alternative you are considering.

Last edited by TailGator; April 19, 2011 at 09:50 AM.
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Old April 19, 2011, 09:59 AM   #12
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I agree with the OP: .45 ACP

It is a good combination of diameter, without too much speed. Modern hollow point ammo really makes it good.

I had 185 gr. Federal Hydra Shoks loaded in my Ruger P90 when it was my home defense gun.

Now, I have an SP-101 loaded with .38 +P hollow points. Smaller gun, no worries about keeping the mag spring under tension, and a laser sight may just make the difference.
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Old April 19, 2011, 01:25 PM   #13
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First of all, you have already made a very good choice in choosing the 45. Imo, the 45 ACP, 10mm, 357 Magnum, and 45 Colt are very good choices and at the top of the list for defensive handguns. Penetration is, more than anything else, a function of bullet construction vs velocity. Contrary to what many people think, the faster you push an expanding bullet, the less it will penetrate. What will happen is it will expand faster and transfer energy more quickly. At lower velocities, the same bullet will hold together better and as such, penetrate more deeply. Believe it or not, bullets can even be pushed fast enough to open up prior to impact. If you are concerned about overpenetration, pick the lightest and fastest hollow point within reason. They will make the largest wounds with the least amount of overpenetration.

As an example, 158 grain round nose from a 38 will give a lot more penetration than a 125 grain hollow point from a 357 magnum and that hollow point will penetrate less the higher the velocity is. At one time, I pushed some 230 grain hollow points designed for the 45 ACP fast enough from of a 454 Casull that they actually came apart in the air. They were pretty entertaining at close range but at any kind of distance, they usually didn't make it to the target and all you saw was dust kick up from several spots on the ground. I don't think anyone would argue against the Casull being capable of very deep penetration but a 22 lr would easily outpenetrate that particular load. I realize that is an extreme example, but it does highlight the point I am trying to make.

As for me, I keep a 357 magnum loaded with 125 hollow points and also keep my 454 loaded with 230 grain soft lead hollow points in 45 Colt.
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Old April 19, 2011, 02:38 PM   #14
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I hope this sounds ok...

I like the 45 ACP... heck 45 anything...


A good round is one you can hit with...

.38 on up

I do stay away from .380 on down

So take the 45 out and shoot untill you feel you can wake up in the middle of the night and hit what you need to... and restrain when you must.

A 45 ACP will do what needs to be done but not alone
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Old April 19, 2011, 02:48 PM   #15
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Which gun fits best in your hands?

All guns will stop a criminal breaking in, the .22lr is not good.

They make 9mm/45acp revolvers too!

Getting hit by ANY bullet 380 auto 9mm 45acp 38sp 357mag 40cal is going to ruin anyone's day.
Has Taurus really spent more on shipping customers their firearms back to them than actual sales?
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Old April 19, 2011, 02:49 PM   #16
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For 45 ACP? Just ask the pro's, that's Corbon Pow'R Balls every time.

Carry on
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Old April 19, 2011, 02:56 PM   #17
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You have what you need.
No need to limit yourself to a moderately powered 6 shooter when you can have 13 .45 ACPs available.

I feel that overpenetration gets way too much consideration. Just an opinion.
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Old April 19, 2011, 08:24 PM   #18
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In a HD situation, I would grab my 40 S&W Glock and/or my SRH loaded with 45 Colts. The 40 has a good track record and the 45 Colts leaves a nice, big hole. I can accurately shoot both and they are both extremely reliable. I have a 380 and would carry it for CCW, but wouldn't be my first choice for in home defense. Any gun that you can shoot accurately and is dependable is going to make the biggest difference in HD. If you can't hit the BG, it does not matter what caliber wizzed past his head. Bigger is better as long as you can still hit what you want.
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Old April 19, 2011, 08:49 PM   #19
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My bedside handgun is a .45 ACP (with a 12 gauge a few short steps away).
What me worry
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Old April 19, 2011, 09:23 PM   #20
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Catfishman: I respectfully disagree. No good person wants to have to use their firearms in self-defense. By the same token, no good person wants the bullet they fire at a home invader to go through it's intended target and then strike a loved one. Granted, that could happen with almost any bullet, but we owe it to our loved ones and next-door neighbors to give it serious consideration. BNOBrien: You have what you need. Concentrate on training [marksmanship and tactics].
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Old April 19, 2011, 09:55 PM   #21
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my home defense is the same as my carry piece, .45GAP
McLovin? Yeah. Great name.
It is, it just rolls off the tongue.
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Old April 19, 2011, 10:31 PM   #22
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Single Six: I'll make your point for you. I once shot a buck and the bullet wounded a doe on the other side of it.

That said, it's a freak occurance. I've never heard of anyone shooting a bad guy and the bullet passing through them and killing a loved one. I have heard of someone shooting a bad guy, not killing him outright and the bad guy went on to kill others. I've also heard of a man emptying his revolver in a gunfight only to get executed by a man with a high capacity semi-auto.
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Old April 19, 2011, 10:35 PM   #23
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You've already got what you need, in fact you've got it in spades in a 5" 1911.

Buy ammo and get it to the range to get more proficient. No need for another gun.
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Old April 19, 2011, 10:42 PM   #24
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Catfishman: Agreed, it's a freak occurrence. The odds of it actually happening are probably pretty low. But just because you've not heard of an incident where an over-penetrating bullet went through a BG and killed someone else doesn't mean it hasn't happened. Or that it can't happen. Of course, like I mentioned earlier, it could happen with most any bullet, but it's what hollow points are intended to prevent, anyway. Meanwhile, you raise another interesting point about the limited capacity of revolvers; kind of alarming, since I carry a revolver! But, that's a different topic and we're already straying from the OP's original question, so I'll hush now.
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Old April 20, 2011, 01:03 PM   #25
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My favorites are 9mm and 45 ACP. But I sometimes have .38 on hand. I think
.45 ACP hollowpoints are least likely to penetrate walls. They are a big heavy bullet flying at lower velocities. Compared to 9mm, I think it is more likely to stop an attacker and less likely to overpenetrate. Not a big fan of the .40 for home defense due to recoil and overpenetration. Just my opinion.
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