Ballistics Data for Pistol Calibers

Pistol Caliber Ballistics Data

Pistol Caliber Is Not All It's Cracked Up to Be.

As you can see in the chart below, there's not a tremendous difference among the major pistol calibers listed. None of the pistol calibers approach the capacity of a rifle. Period.

Note the bottom entry: a .22 caliber rifle. This bullet is one half the weight of any of the pistol calibers, yet it produces three and four and five times the amount of energy. The reason: its velocity is triple that of any of the pistols. The reason for the increased velocity: lightweight bullet in a long barrel.

It's clear that the weight of the bullet matters, but velocity has more influence than weight on the energy produced. Weight and velocity work together in the formula of 'stopping power,' and they have an influence on each other.

Lighter bullets travel faster, while heavier bullets need more powder to reach adequate speed, which makes the gun produce more felt recoil (kick) when fired, which makes follow up shots more difficult. So you can see that the ongoing debates of perfect caliber will go on forever. Ultimately, your choice of caliber will come down to a matter of personal preference.

Personally, I prefer the .45 ACP round, out of a 5-inch 1911-style pistol, primarily because the pistol and ammo combination work well, for me. I shoot that gun and that ammo more accurately & more naturally than any other handgun I've ever shot. And that is my sole criteria. The fact that the .45 is a large bullet making a large hole, and reliably expanding upon impact, is the icing on the cake. Additionally, 1911s are cool. Very Cool.

You may prefer a 9mm, or .38/.357, or a 10mm ... all I can say is that if it works for you, then that is the correct choice for you. If the gun fits you, and you shoot it accurately, and you can carry it comfortably, those are the most important considerations.

Now, if we could just conceal a 20" barrel in a pocket holster ...

A Sampling of Ballistics Data for Handgun Calibers

We've compiled a small sampling of a few popular handgun calibers and entered their data into the chart below.

We're not endorsing any brand or caliber; our purpose is merely to show the differences in energy displacement based on the weight and velocity of a particular round.

Ballistics Data for Some Handgun Calibers

BrandCaliberBullet TypeWeight
(in grains)
Muzzle Velocity
(ft./sec.)
Muzzle Energy
(ft.-lbs)
Blazer.45 ACPFMJ230845365
Blazer.45 ACPFMJ RN230830352
Corbon.45 ACP +PDPX1851075475
Corbon.45 ACPDPX1601050392
Corbon.45 ACPFMJ230750287
Corbon.45 ACP +PJHP1651250572
Corbon.357 MagnumJHP1101500550
Corbon.357 MagnumJHP1251400544
Federal.357 MagnumHydraShock1301410574
Federal.357 MagnumHydraShock1581240539
Corbon.38 SpecialFMJ147900264
Corbon.38 Special +PJHP125950250
Corbon.38 Special +PJHP1101050269
Federal.38 SpecialFMJ130810189
Federal.38 Special +PHydraShock129950258
Corbon380 AutoJHP901050220
Corbon380 AutoDPX801050196
Federal380 AutoFMJ95980203
Federal380 AutoHydraShock901000200
Corbon9 mmDPX951300356
Corbon9 mm +PJHP901500450
Corbon9 mm +PDPX1151250399
Federal9 mmFMJ1241150364
Federal9 mmFMJ1151180356
Federal9 mmFMJ1471000326
Remington.22 Long RifleJHP4535501259
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