CCW Ammo - Ammunition Classes For Concealed Carry

In this episode, we learn about the most common styles of ammunition used in concealed carry handguns as well as how they compare to each other. This is by no means an exhaustive comparison of ammunition types and we save discussing the role of specialty defensive ammunition for another episode.

So tune in, buckle up – let's crack into ammunition.

The Most Common Ammunition Used For Concealed Carry

calibers for ccw

Let's take a look at some of the most common types of ammunition used by concealed carry handguns:

• .22LR

• .380 ACP

• 9mm

• .38 Spc

• .40 S&W

• .45 ACP

We've omitted a few. Namely, we've ruled out the .32, .45 GAP, 10mm, .357 Magnum, and the illustrious .44 Magnum. It's not because there aren't quite a few concealed carry handguns that use these munitions – we just wanted to stick with the basics for this episode.

.22 LR - The Lightest of the Light

On the lighter end of the fence is the .22 LR. It's extremely affordable and plenty of gun manufacturers produce handguns for this caliber. It's a small round that packs a very light recoil – ideal for first-time shooters and those who simply prefer the flexibility of this ammunition type.

The great thing about the .22 LR is that it has the capacity to be lethal and very manageable. Best of all, it is an encouraging round to use for marksmanship training as the principles that hold true for the .22 LR will apply to larger calibers as well.

.380 ACP - A More Compact 9mm

The .380 ACP is actually just a shorter version of the 9mm. Whereas a standard 9mm Luger round is 9x19, the .380 ACP is 9x18. A lot of concealed carry guns are made in this caliber because it's highly manageable, has a light recoil, and a lot of them can be fit into a small magazine space.

A few gun enthusiasts love to point out that the .380 ACP has significantly less stopping power than the 9x19mm Luger bullet – but this concept is quickly dismantled with good, judicious marksmanship and tight follow-up shots.

Because this round is not as common as the 9x19mm, it tends to be slightly more expensive than the 9mm unless bought in bulk.

9x19mm Parabellum - One Size Fits All Ammunition Solution

The 9mm round is used ubiquitously by law enforcement agencies and the military for most common pistol applications. It has a reasonable stopping power, comes in many varieties for defensive gun purposes, and is extremely affordable. Almost every major gun manufacturer produces a wide range of concealed carry handguns chambered in this caliber.

While many concealed carriers will swear by larger calibers or smaller calibers, the 9mm has proven itself through time to be the “one size fits all” of ammunition.

.40 S&W – 9mm's Bigger, Meaner Brother

When the FBI was testing out possible rounds to replace the 9mm, they tested the .40 S&W, 10mm, and the .45 ACP. All three had their merits and, in the end, the FBI stuck with their traditional 9mm because it was the most easily handled by all of their agents. Even after the testing concluded, however, many gun manfacturers that made 9mm semi-automatic pistols decided to expand into .40 S&W as a concealed carry option.

The major drawbacks of the .40 S&W for concealed carry applications are a reduced magazine capacity in comparison to a 9mm or .380 ACP, a more expensive ammunition than the 9mm, and a sharper, nastier recoil for sub-compacts. All of these things are easily assuaged, though, when a concealed carrier sees the fantastic effects of one of these rounds on target. There is no doubt – the .40 S&W is here to stay and will only become more prevalent as a concealed carry ammunition choice.

.45 ACP – Why Mess With The Best?

There's something weird about the .45 ACP round that makes hard-won believers out of concealed carriers. So many reasons exist as to why this isn't an ideal class of ammunition for sub-compacts. Amongst those – extremely low ammunition capacity in the magazine, a brutal recoil, and an expensive round. But anyone who carries chambered in .45 ACP won't want to hear that because they'll just point to their target and say, “but I only need one.”

Gun manufacturers have obviously heard the demand, as well, as Glock has released its single-stack G36 chambered in .45 ACP and there always seems to be another sub-compact 1911 model flowing out of Kimber and Colt. So, there certainly is a demand. And for good reason – if you need a gun that can stop a bear dead in its tracks, it's most likely chambered in .45 ACP or .44 Magnum.


About The Author

James England (@sir_jim_england) is the contributing editor for Alien Gear Holsters. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and private defense contracting in Afghanistan.