Our Pistol Caliber Ballistics Data indicates that pistol calibers — even the venerated .357 Magnum — are not what they’re cracked up to be.
As you can see in the pistol caliber ballistics chart below, there’s not a tremendous difference among the major pistol calibers listed.
Muzzle velocities, measured in feet per second, are all in the high hundreds to low 1,000s. Not a huge variation there. And muzzle energy (in ft-lbs) are all in the low hundreds, with the highest still being under 600.
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.
I personally 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 …
We’ve compiled a small sampling of a few popular handgun rounds and entered their pistol caliber ballistics 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.
Pistol Caliber Ballistics Data for a Sampling of Handgun Calibers
|Blazer||.45 ACP||FMJ RN||230||830||352|
|Corbon||.45 ACP +P||DPX||185||1075||475|
|Corbon||.45 ACP +P||JHP||165||1250||572|
|Corbon||.38 Special +P||JHP||125||950||250|
|Corbon||.38 Special +P||JHP||110||1050||269|
|Federal||.38 Special +P||HydraShock||129||950||258|
|Corbon||9 mm +P||JHP||90||1500||450|
|Corbon||9 mm +P||DPX||115||1250||399|
|Remington||.22 Long Rifle||JHP||45||3550||1259|