concealed carry calibers

 What caliber is right for you?

Choosing a caliber for concealed carry can be a tedious task for many. The options are endless and everyone has a preference they will try and push on you. Without being too biased, here are the top 5 calibers people choose to concealed carry in along with some history about them:





1.) .380 ACP

The .380 ACP cartridge was designed by John Browning more than 100 years ago around 1908. Recently, in the last decade it has made a resurgence due to the increase in states that issue concealed carry permits and more gun manufacture offerings. It is the smallest of all the calibers listed but should not be written off so quickly. Typically, handguns firing the .380 ACP are smaller in size and hold a few more rounds than their counter parts. The sacrifice is mainly size vs. lethality. In general the firearm you will carry more often is better than the one you leave at home because it is too bulky.








2.) 9mm (AKA 9mm Luger/9x19 Parabellum)


People typically either love or hate the 9mm cartridge. The 9mm round was created by Georg Luger in 1901. The 9mm has been a staple in law enforcement for many years, replacing the .38 and .357 rounds used in revolvers. Some agencies are now switching from the 9mm to the .40 S&W for more stopping power but police and military around the world continue to still use it. The 9mm is the standard for NATO and has been used in pretty much every major military conflict since World War I. Recoil for the 9mm cartridge is minimal and firearms in this caliber typically hold a few more rounds then their larger caliber counterparts of the same style. The choices for a 9mm concealed carry handgun are virtually endless and ammo is readily available for a decent price. 9mm holsters are also readily available.







3.) .40 S&W


The .40 S&W was developed in 1990 by Smith and Wesson and Winchester. The most notable reason given for the development of this cartridge was the 1986 FBI Miami Shootout. During this event FBI officers were outgunned and as a result the FBI decided it would be a good idea to replace their service revolvers with a semi-automatic pistol. The .40 S&W has been adopted by the California Highway Patrol (the largest State police agency in the USA with over 11,000 employees) as well as multiple other police forces. Many people consider the .40 S&W to be a 10mm short or the love child of the 9mm and .45 ACP. It generally has more stopping power then a 9mm along with more recoil but less than a .45 ACP in both areas. The manufacture offerings in .40 S&W are as readily available as the 9mm but the ammo is a tad bit more expensive.






4.) .38 Special


The .38 Special cartridge was developed by Smith and Wesson in 1898. It was the standard service round for many police agencies for over six decades and is most commonly used in a revolver platform. Today, many police agencies have switched to semi-automatic pistols that hold more rounds in different calibers like the 9mm or .40 S&W. The .38 Special however is still used by many today for target shooting and self-defense. The .38 Special round is the same diameter as a .357 Magnum but shorter in length. Because of this, revolvers chambered in .357 Magnum can usually shoot a .38 Special but not the inverse; meaning that a .38 Special could not shoot a .357 Magnum. Choosing a .38 Special or .357 Magnum generally limits your options for concealed carry to revolvers with a lower capacity usually between 5-7 rounds. Ammo is readily available but more costly then say 9mm.







5.) .45 ACP

The .45 ACP cartridge was developed by John Browning in 1904. When anyone hears the words .45 uttered they immediately think of the 1911 style pistol (or should). This cartridge and style was been used by the United States Army since 1911 until being replaced by the 9mm Berretta 92FS in 1985. Just like the 9mm, the .45 ACP is one of the most popular cartridges in the world among military and civilian shooters alike. The .45 ACP offers more stopping power then the other cartridges mentioned but the downside is that handguns in this caliber typically hold fewer rounds and are more bulky. Ammunition is readily available but once again is more expensive then 9mm or .40 S&W.





Overall, choosing a handgun cartridge to conceal carry comes down to stopping power, round count and pistol size. The best anyone can do is offer you their insight but ultimately the person carrying needs to make the decision for themselves. My last and best piece of advice is to pick a caliber you are comfortable with and shoot often. No matter how big the bullet is, it won’t matter if you miss the target.



About The Author


Travis Box is currently a college student studying American history with a concentration on the Constitution, Revolutionary War, politics and legislation. As an active hunter for 5 years and a recreational marksman for over a decade, his writing brings with it years of real world experience from both the field and the range.