Many Factors Influence Caliber and Ammo Choice
When the unthinkable happens and you find yourself face-to-face with someone threatening your life or the life of a loved one, there is little time for deliberation. You draw your weapon and shoot to incapacitate the attacker as quickly as possible. But what does that entail? The right answer is a lot of planning for that very moment.
The most efficient way to incapacitate a threat is to sever the brain stem from the rest of the body. In theory, this can be accomplished with a single shot.
In the real world, this rarely happens. Even a trained sniper, sitting at a comfortable distance and not engaged in a life and death struggle, would be hard-pressed to make that shot.
So the next best thing is to deprive the brain of oxygen, which is the point where choice of caliber and ammunition come into play.
There are three methods by which the brain can be suffocated. The first is to pierce the heart muscle to the point where it does not have enough pressure to pump blood to the brain. The next method is caused by a depressurization of the circulatory system, which occurs when a major artery or vein is severed. The last method is to damage the lungs to the point where they cannot exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen, with the resulting brain death. Successfully using any of these methods will quickly bring an end to any confrontation.
But the debate continues as to which caliber and type of ammo is the best to achieve the desired outcome. There are many factors that affect a fired round’s probability of successfully incapacitating the target. Author George Harris discusses a few in his article “What Caliber and Ammunition Do You Recommend for Concealed Carry?” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“The attire of your adversary will most likely affect the performance of your ammunition. If you plan to use the same caliber and ammunition year-round, gear it toward the winter where heavier clothing is worn and more penetration is needed.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
In a perfect world, the key to successfully stopping a confrontation is to shoot the attacker multiple times in the critical torso area from the furthest point of your accuracy comfort zone.
Since this “perfect storm” scenario is unlikely to occur, you must depend on some combination of your ability, gun caliber, and ammo size. Expanding bullets increase the odds of debilitating the attacker but come with the caveat of penetration being reduced due to drag.
A semi-automatic pistol is generally preferred in a gunfight due to the increased magazine capacity and lower profile for concealed carry. For maximum stopping power, the .45 ACP is unparalleled, but if you haven’t been trained to handle the recoil, any confrontation will probably not end well.
The minimum caliber considered acceptable for quickly incapacitating an attacker is .380 ACP or .38 Special. Recoil is manageable with these rounds and your accuracy rate as well as your survival odds will likely be much higher.
There is not one definitive answer to the caliber and ammo size question. Spend time at the range, find out what works for you, and practice, practice, practice.