Which pistol caliber for self defense? Four differentpeople come to four defensible conclusions
,Nov, 2007byMassad Ayoob
One the staple questions of gun magazine readers and Internet gun enthusiasts is, "What's the best caliber forself-defense?" I found myself recently in a district attorney's office, chatting with the DA and two of hisinvestigators. The coats were off, and I noticed we were each wearing different caliber pistols.District Attorney Matt Bingham was wearing Springfield Armory's neat little EMP, in a Fobus paddle holster hecould easily slip off his belt and lock in his desk. EMP stands for Enhanced Micro Pistol, a scientifically size-reduced 1911 from the fertile mind of Springfield's chief gun designer, Dave Williams. It's a sweet-shootinglittle thing, holds 10 rounds of 9mm Parabellum, and conceals remarkably well. That last element is importantto someone like Matt, who has to keep his weapon discreetly concealed under a business suit. While mostprosecutors around the country are authorized to carry guns, this fact is not widely known and armedprosecutors sometimes "frighten the horses."A gun-wise guy who has studied many shootings coming across his desk, Bingham appreciates a large-caliberhandgun, but is also convinced a 9mm pistol with the right ammunition can be perfectly adequate for defensiveneeds. After all, 35,000 or so NYPD officers carry 9mm autos, and complaints are rarely heard about the caliberthere since the department switched to 124-grain Speer Gold Dot +P Hollowpoints.The 9mm is, however, generally recognized as being very "ammo specific" in terms of "stopping power." Some9mm rounds clearly work better than others. One tailors the tool to one's needs. Aware his heavily populatedoffice or a courthouse hallway could be in the background if he ever needed the pistol for real, Bingham choseto load his 9mm with RBCD ammunition. A 60-grain frangible bullet, designed by the late, famed moderngunfighter Jim Cirillo, the 9mm RBCD round is loaded to just over 2,000 feet per second velocity, deliveringdynamic tissue damage with reduced penetration and ricochet risk.The .45 Ain't No diveLike all the investigators in Bingham's office, Todd Thoene was a street cop before. In both environments helearned to appreciate the accuracy and reliability of SIG-Sauer pistols, and the confidence-building power of the.45 ACP round. Accordingly, the pistol riding daily in his thumb-break hip holster is a Sig P220.His .45 ACP carry load of choice is the 185-grain Winchester Silvertip. A mature design, the Silvertip hasalways worked well in this caliber. I know of an East Coast medical examiner who pulled 30 or so .45 Silvertipsout of human bodies and claimed never to have found one that failed to expand. This load has a bit lesspenetration than a typical 230-grain JHP and much less than a ball round--a comforting thing in those crowdedcourtroom and courthouse hall environs.