calibers for self defense

Are Smaller Calibers Reliable for Defensive Shooters?

For a lot of concealed carriers, there is the impression that a larger caliber bullet is more effective than a smaller one. The concept of “stopping power” has been dispelled over and over again. A .45 ACP round is no more effective than a .32 Auto if they're both placed poorly on target.

There is a psychological aspect to carrying a larger caliber handgun. The impression seems to be that one is more or less capable of stopping a threat immediately. The truth is, this is far from the case.

The factors to look for when selecting a smaller caliber concealed carry pistol are this:


small caliber ccw

Just because it's a .380 Auto doesn't mean it fits well in your IWB holster. More importantly, if it has a lot of jagged edges that are annoying to holster and re-holster, that's equally something to consider. The ideal concealable smaller caliber pistol or revolver will benefit you by being easy to draw from concealment and put on target.

Practice the following:

• Holster the pistol in your normal concealed carry holster and see how it presents itself.

• Take the pistol out of the holster without needing to grip anywhere around the trigger.

• Re-holster and see if you feel confident with this process.


This is actually the biggest concern anyone should ever have about a firearm. If a firearm is prone to jamming, failure to feed, failure to fire, failure to eject – these are all BIG red flags. Don't subject yourself to a pistol that fails. Try out a smaller caliber pistol at the range first before deciding to make it your daily carry.

Practice the following with your smaller caliber concealed carry pistol:

• Alternating rate of fire – your pistol shouldn't jam when it's fired faster or slower

• Live-fire magazine changes – ensure you feel comfortable with this process and your firearm doesn't jam once you reload or unload.

• Feeding different types of rated ammunition – some pistols are designed to take overpressurized rounds. If you use hollow points, you will want to try firing them between two magazines to ensure the difference in size doesn't catch.

Ease Of Function

small caliber ccw

If your hand doesn't fit properly when holding a pistol or revolver – don't use it as a daily carry. If you struggle to eject a magazine or clear the chamber – don't use it as your daily carry. A couple function checks to ensure your smaller caliber concealed carry pistol is right for you:

• Locking upper receiver to the rear through the use of the slide-stop/release If you can do this easily and without struggle, that's a good sign.

• Ejecting a magazine and seating a new one Some pistols, like the Taurus Curve, have a wonky clip (yes, it's a clip in this case) setup that makes them not ideal for loading, unloading in a combat situation.

• Sight picture, sight alignment If you don't understand how or why your pistol or revolver aligns to target due some unique configuration, try to learn why it's set up that way. If not, don't use it. You always need to feel confident that when you line up your sights on target, the bullet will go where you point the barrel.


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.