One of the most common queries for concealed carry newbies is the question of caliber. What caliber of handgun should you carry? It’s a natural question. Can a 380 Auto (AKA 380 ACP) kill? Is 45 Auto (AKA 45 ACP) really too slow? Is the 9x19 mm Parabellum actually powerful enough? If you’ve ever interrogated yourself over this topic, you’re in luck. Because today, we’re going to cover the best caliber for concealed carry weapons.
Best Caliber for Concealed Carry
When it comes to concealed carry weapons, you generally have 3 different caliber options. It essentially comes down to a question of 380 Auto vs 9x19 Parabellum vs 45 Auto. For simplicity, we decided to only include semi-auto pistols in this post (maybe we’ll cover revolvers sometime later). We’ll break down the pros and cons of each caliber below.
Can a 380 Auto (AKA 380 ACP): Kill?
The 380 Auto cartridge is one of the oldest handgun rounds still in use today. In fact, John Moses Browning invented the 380 ACP in 1908. In many ways, the 380 Auto is similar to the 9 mm round. For one, they both shoot the same size bullet. The only difference is the amount of powder in the cartridge.
That’s where 380 ACP really shows its differences. While it’s not as powerful as the 9x19 mm round, it also doesn’t have the same amount of recoil. In fact, 380 ACP actually has 94 percent less recoil than 9 mm. That’s nearly half as much.
There’s definitely a trade-off, though. The 380 ACP can’t exactly go the distance the same way a 9 mm round can. If you’re trying to hit targets at 50 yards with a 380, you better be a good shot. But since most gunfights statistically include 3 shots at 3 yards (according to the FBI), you don’t really need to worry about big distances.
9x19 mm Parabellum: The Best All-Arounder
When it comes to concealed carry calibers, it’s hard to beat 9x19 mm. Invented by German gunsmith Georg Luger in 1901, the 9x19 Parabellum round actually predates the rest of the calibers on this list.
Don’t let its age fool you, though. The 9x19 is just as capable of a concealed carry caliber as the rest of the whippersnappers we’ve included here. For one, 9x19 has the right combination of small bullet and high powder load. That gives it extremely high penetration power and range when compared to the 380 Auto or 45 ACP.
What’s more, guns chambered in 9 mm generally have a higher capacity than 45 ACP (but not 380 Auto). As a result, many consider them superior self-defense weapons. Although, we should note that capacity may not actually matter in these situations if we’re going to go by the FBI numbers we included above.
45 Auto (AKA 45 ACP): The Heavy Hitter
Coming up last (but certainly not least) in our list of the best caliber for concealed carry weapons is the venerable 45 Auto, better known as 45 ACP. John Moses Browning also invented the 45 ACP, an improvement on his 380 design that could sling a heavier bullet a longer distance. It’s been used by both military and civilian shooters ever since.
The 45 Auto is well-known for its stopping power. It’s a heavy, slow-moving round that imparts a high amount of kinetic energy onto its target. You can see the difference when you shoot a 45 Auto round at ballistic gel. The wound channel is significantly higher than either a 9x19 mm or a 380 Auto.
That does come at a price, though. The 45 caliber round isn’t as effective at penetration as a 9x19 round is. What’s more, capacity becomes a problem. While most guns chambered in 45 ACP can only hold 8 rounds or so, nearly every 9mm or 380 Auto pistol can hold 10 shots at a minimum.
Choosing the best caliber for your concealed carry weapon is definitely a critical decision. But making sure you get the right holster is just as important. That’s where Southern Trapper can help out. To learn more, check out our complete selection here.