More on Self Defense Pistol Caliber Selection


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More on Self Defense Pistol Caliber Selection – IMG from www.SBody Armour Bullet

Ft Collins, CO –-( Addendum my recent article on 380Auto as a self defense round:

In response to my Quip on the 380Auto cartridge, and various pistols chambered for it, I’ve received many comments.

Some comments, negative and positive, about the 380Auto are based on personal experience, and I surely have to respect that. For most of us, personal experience always trumps “statistical studies.”

Yet, most “personal experiences” are singular. That is, we're basing our opinion upon a single occurrence, which may or may not be “typical.” I don’t know anyone who has been personally involved in dozens of gun battles, and is still alive.

As my esteemed colleagues, Evan Marshall and Ed Sanow, pointed out years ago, “information” upon which we base critical judgments with regard to caliber choice are largely anecdotal accounts, mostly second and third-hand.

Testimony by trauma surgeons about bullet wounds they have personally examined and treated are helpful, but only tell part of the story, probably only a small part.

In accumulating a credible statistical base (assuming that is even possible), the most critical information is represented by what the person who is shot actually does during the proceeding five seconds. When he is shot multiple times, that, of course, complicates the analysis.

Precious few actual shooting incidents are captured on video in real time! What we rely upon mostly is aftermath testimony of people who were actually there and personally witnessed the event.

Unhappily, even such “direct” testimony is often hopelessly compromised by personal agendas, and a host of perceptual distortions that we know affect almost everyone.

And, if you’re wondering if there is a point lurking in all this:

BELTSVILLE, MD - JUNE 18: Greg Klees, a firearms and toolmark examiner, fires in to a water tank, which allows both a bullet and shell casing to be easily recovered for investigation, during a media day at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms National Laboratory Center on June 18, 2013 in Beltsville, Maryland. The laboratory celebrated its 10-year anniversary with an open house for media and bureau interns to highlight the types of studies that ATF investigators from across the country perform at the center. T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images/AFP
In accumulating a credible statistical base (assuming that is even possible), the most critical information is represented by what the person who is shot actually does during the following five seconds.

We’re never going to know much about “stopping power.” There is no shortage of opinions, as noted (including mine), but solid, credible, reliable statistical data does not exist, and probably never will!

And even when it does, such data will only give us “likelihood percentages”

It’s similar to playing poker! With each hand, there is a lot you don’t know, and you base decisions with regard to betting, or folding, upon statistical odds, and a host of other factors.

For good players, some of those decisions are right.

But, as they say in ads for contraceptives, “Your results may vary!”


Defense Training International, Inc

About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.

It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr. Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit:

  • 9 thoughts on “More on Self Defense Pistol Caliber Selection

    1. Regardless the caliber, no ones likes getting shot at whether it be a 22 Short, a .380 Short, or a .45. Surgeons and pathologists can give you the best idea how certain types of ammunition work. As is usually the case, no two humans react the same, or, are built the same. Some people just refuse to die, while others will immediately expire with the same wounds. Controlled tests with ballistics gels can give you an idea of performance of a bullet, but you must use a new block of gel for each type of bullet used for the tests, otherwise their performances are skewed. But after having said all of that, as Dr. Strangelove & Rich in Mo. both have stated, “shot placement is always key, & any firearm is better than no firearm at all.” What a helpless feeling that would be, to be caught without a firearm. At that point, you don’t care if you are carrying a 9mm, 9mm Short, 40 cal., or a 45 cal., you just care that you can defend yourself.

      1. Except that causing death is NOT the goal of a defensive shooting. The goal is to STOP THE LETHAL THREAT PRONTO. The ER doctors determine if the suspect dies or not. That is why the 22LR, 25ACP and 32ACP are all WORTHLESS as defensive rounds as they all fail to STOP THE LETHAL THREAT PRONTO.

    2. As I recall, your “esteemed colleagues” Marshall and Sanow put out an “analysis” which purported to scientifically determine the statistical probability of a one-shot stop for various handgun rounds. Anomalous results and seemingly random re-ordering of some cartridges with subsequent releases, combined with their flat refusal to subject their data sets and methodology to peer review, did much to undermine confidence in their conclusions. For these reasons, it’s been well over a decade since their claims have received any significant attention in the gun press, and many put their efforts on a par with the Strasbourg goat-shooting tests. (That is NOT meant as a compliment!)

      1. HankB, well stated and I think most agree. They lost a lot of credibility with after my first shooting with Super-Vel. I taught at LE academies for 40 years. I ran a firearms program and taught wound ballistic to you cops that still thought the .45 acp knocked folks down no matter where you hit them. I was also a firearms tech for the agency I worked for as well as street cop. I now manage to stay employed doing about the same thing for a major ammo maker. The stories haven’t changed and now I see a few of the specialty ammo companies trying to reinvent/promote ultra velocity, lightweight bullets for self defense. “Super-Vel” all over again. I still try and convince the young cops that shot placement with a reliable penetrating bullet that has a good probability of expansion is still the best “medicine” to stop a bad guy.

      1. Shot placement is NOT the key. STOPPING THE LETHAL THREAT PRONTO is the key. You can shoot a suspect multiple times with a 22LR in the chest and he still has PLENTY of time to kill you. Nice try; no cigar.

    3. Pointing out the obvious; regardless of caliber, ANY firearm is better than no firearm. A person should go with what works for them.

      1. Wrong; grasshopper. The CORRECT CALIBER firearm that STOPS THE LETHAL THREAT PRONTO is the ticket. By your logic everyone should carry a 22 Short pistol. Nice try; no cigar.

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