The Great Caliber Debate

Many have asked “What is the best caliber for a defensive handgun?”. But how much does it really matter?


Whether one is new to pistol marksmanship or an old hand, this is a basic question and a longstanding debate.  More than that, it’s a fun and endless source of banter with others of similar interests.

The short answer is:  not very much.  Caliber is typically just the diameter of the bullet, which doesn’t really tell you all that much about a cartridge’s behavior.  Any look at ballistics from the point of view of physics will tell you that a projectile’s velocity and mass have more to do with its behavior than it’s diameter.  “Smaller is faster” was disproved long ago when Galileo dropped two same-sized spheres of differing mass from a tower in Pisa.  So what about the caliber debate does matter?

The answer is that when most people say ‘caliber’ they mean ‘cartridge’.  A cartridge is the set of components that provides everything needed to send a projectile:  case, ignition, propellant, and projectile.  The most-used handgun cartridges are 9mm luger , .40s&w, and .45acp.  Notice that to be specific about a certain cartridge, more than just a diameter of its projectile is needed.  Most refer to them in shorthand and just say “9”, “40”, or “45”.  To be sure, however, there are and have been many other cartridges with those diameters.

The Answer:  .9mm luger, .40s&w, and .45acp can all be excellent choices of caliber for a defensive handgun; the choice lies in the bullet construction you choose.  .9mm luger and .40s&w both have great velocity to impart to the impact, and care should be chosen to research the best ammunition for them with respect to the bullet expansion the user should expect (more is better).  .45acp is noted for its size and weight, and does not have the same need to generate expansion as do the smaller, faster calibers.  Nonetheless, expanding bullets work well in .45acp and their performance should be a factor as when choosing any defensive ammunition.


So enjoy the debate!  All the major ammunition makers produce quality defensive rounds for just about any cartridge.  The fun is in the research, and holding the “Great Caliber Debate” with friends and fellow afficionados.







Why get a Texas CHL (Concealed Handgun License)?

Personal protection and self-defense are human rights.

Every person has the right to defend themselves, and meet any threat to ourselves or our loved ones with force if necessary.  We do not have to ask anyone’s permission or make a special request to  government: the inherent sanctity of persons is the rule.  Free society requires that the people who constitute it protect themselves and others, which is why citizens are allowed to become law enforcement and military to do so as our representatives.  Citizens have a responsibility to learn to protect themselves and others, because we are the first line of defense against attacks on our person or on those we love.  Sheriffs and police are legitimately empowered to provide this protection as well, but are rarely proximate enough to prevent the violent acts of an assailant.

Citizens should be proficient with the weapons of the day.

Even for those with advanced self-defense training, proficiency with the weapons with which one is most likely to be confronted could be critical.  Regardless of how one feels about the prevalence of handguns or using them as a potential method of defense, the fact remains that they are a widely-used weapon of attack and intimidation in contemporary society.  It is only wise to be adept in their use to defend against them, in addition to being competent in empty-handed techniques if possible.  I speak from experience as a Second Degree Black Belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate when I say that handgun proficiency is an essential skill of self-defense even for the expert martial artist.

A permit is required to carry a handgun for personal protection.

The U.S. Constitution protects the right to own and carry firearms under the national government, but states are free to set and enforce many of the limits for lawful behavior.  Texas had an outright ban on citizens carrying handguns for their own protection until 1995, when the Texas Concealed Handgun License was instituted by law.  Though it may seem like an abstract political concern, restrictions on the Second Amendment were drawn so tightly as to preclude any lawful carrying of handguns by citizens in Texas until only 19 years ago.  So while such personal protection has been downgraded from a right to a privilege (any otherwise illegal action that requires a permit), I tell my friends and students that if exercising a right requires getting a permit, get that permit!

Individual training with a self-defense expert is the only way to apply knowledge from the Texas CHL (Concealed handgun License) class to your personal protection.

The Texas CHL class does an excellent job of informing students as to the legal implications of using force in self-defense, carrying handguns, and storing them.  It does not teach self-defense itself, or address technique for the defensive use of firearms.  It is for this reason that I have decided to teach Texas CHL in a personal training setting.  This allows me to teach real applications of situational awareness, and the effective use of handguns in a live-fire setting.  There is no replacement for object lessons, and where self-defense is concerned it is absolutely critical.


Why Craven Arms?


Philip provides mobile services with a flexible schedule. The 4 hour class can be conducted conversationally in a place of business, at home, or another location of your choice. Evening and week­end instruction is available for no extra charge, making Craven Arms a perfect choice for those with busy schedules.


Philip has over 20 years of teaching experience. From teaching college-­level Political Science, Martial Arts for all ages, or CHL to people of all walks of life, Philip has a passion for education. He is committed to guiding his students towards whatever goal they seek. He is a certified State of Texas CHL instructor, holds a Second Degree Black Belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate, and has earned a Master of Education from Texas State University.

Private Instruction: 

Unlike many services for CHL instruction, Craven Arms provides a friendly, student-­centered learning experience. Philip tailors focused instruction to individuals or small groups of up to 4  in a genial style. Working from students’ needs and concerns, his class is not only a better educational experience than the lecture ­style CHL schools but a lot more fun as well. Classes of 5 or more can also be booked in advance.