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What caliber of ammunition should I use for self defense?

Question:  I just recently bought a Smith & Wesson M&P in 45 ACP and was curious as to what weight grain to carry for personal defense.  I’ve carried a gun for 29 years now, and after doing some research on the computer, I’m no closer to a real definitive answer than I was when I started.  Most everyone seems to swear that the 230 grain bullet is the only way to go, but in my honest opinion, I can’t possibly see how a 185 grain bullet wouldn’t ruin a bad guy’s day.  I’m currently carrying the 185 CorBon DPX and as soon as the ammunition arrives, the Remington Golden Saber in 185 +P.  Like I said, I can’t imagine these rounds not working just fine, but I’m sure you gentleman have more resources available to you and I would truly appreciate your input.

Answer:  I generally don’t like to answer ‘caliber questions’ as I seem to always ignite a firestorm of discussion.  As you said, there are lots of folks out there that feel like .45 ACP in 230 gr. is the only way to go.  Sometimes that is because of research, but most of the time I fear it is because the ‘bigger must be better’ syndrome.  Unfortunately that is not always the case.  Don’t get me wrong, I am an advocate of shooting the largest caliber that you can shoot well.  But it is about more than just bullet size.

In most gunfights, winning the fight has more to do with is the ability to get precise shots on target quickly vs. the caliber of the projectile.  Winning a gunfight without getting shot also has a lot to do with your ability to get off the bad guy’s intended point of impact.  So the two most important factors are a) not getting shot and b) making sure that you are getting good hits on the bad guy.

In my opinion, your 185 gr. carry ammo, if fired accurately, will definitely ruin a bad guy’s day.  There are a few factors to consider in your ammo selection. Will you need to penetrate lots of clothing (this comes into play in colder climates during the winter), would you likely need to penetrate some other object (wallboard, glass) or would you be shooting into a vehicle (penetration of steel or windshield glass).  Depending on your most likely scenario, you may want to look at links to the two ballistics studies below.  They are quite informative.

For general personal protection, don’t let the caliber bigots get you down.  Your 185 gr. .45 ACP ammo will be quite effective…

http://www.firearmstactical.com/test_data/45acp/rem45-185gs+p-g30.htm

http://shootingmessengers.blogspot.com/2006/05/wound-ballistic-workshop.html

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