What Caliber? Choosing the Right Handgun

Different caliber of bullets lined upThe first thing that a new gun buyer asks is the kind of handgun that he or she needs to buy. And one of the top criteria that’s considered when answering that question is the caliber of the gun. But before we delve into the most common kinds of handguns and their calibers, we should first understand what "caliber" is.

What is a caliber, anyway?

Technically speaking, it refers to the bullet size. However, there is a slight difference between a gun’s caliber and the bullet caliber. To be more accurate, a gun’s caliber helps determine the kinds of bullets it can accommodate. Meanwhile, a bullet’s caliber refers to its diameter or width. Hence, it’s important to be familiar with the kinds of bullets first—and have a clear purpose in mind when getting a firearm—before buying a gun.

On a side note, some calibers use the Imperial system (a 0.22 refers to inches) while some use the metric system (9mm).

With this information in mind, here’s a quick rundown of the most common calibers for bullets and handguns:

.22 – Nicknamed “twenty two long rifle” and “twenty two rimfire.” As its name suggests, it’s one of the smallest in the market. However, that makes them only a few notches more powerful than a pellet gun round. Hence, it’s heavily used for training beginners in shooting. Also, it’s one of the cheapest bullets out in the market.

.380 – Considered as the entry-level entry for a primary carry and used by the newly released “pocket pistols” out in the market today. It’s good enough for self-defense and has low recoil; however, it’s only useful for shooting at close range.

9mm – It’s basically the same size as the .380, yet carries a different amount of gunpowder. Good for both self-defense and firing at the range; said to be the smallest bullet that can cause “hydrostatic shock.” Many handguns use the 9mm, as well.

.38 Special – The standard issue cartridge for the FBI; used with revolvers. Slower and heavier than the 9mm; has a longer cartridge and more gunpowder. Hence, it can cause more damage.

.38 Super – The Cor-Bon 115 and 124 grain hollow point variants of this bullet, meanwhile, are seen as one of the best for self-defense.

.44 Magnum – One of the most powerful commonly available bullets in the market. However, with its strong force comes a strong recoil; it is not advised to use this for self-defense. A bit of movie trivia: Clint Eastwood was carrying a .44 Magnum revolver when uttering the lines “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

With all that said, this guide only serves to familiarize the beginner with the kinds of bullets and the different calibers out in the market. When buying a firearm, it is still important to seek expert advice. First-time gun buyers in Wichita Falls, Texas should call GunCo Arms at 940-341-2501 for guidance.