Best handgun SHTF caliber and weight


November 7, 2005, 09:06 PM
YMMV, but I think (normally being a 45acp guy) that the best bullet one can have for SHTF in his/her handgun is a 9mm 147 grain FMJ bullet. It provides incredible penetration through a variety of obstacles, is a quieter bullet, has less recoil than snappier 124 grain loads, and did I mention penetration? Normally I would choose FMJ .45acp as the way to go but recently I gave it some thought and I have come to the conclusion that in SHTF penetration is number 1, not wound channel size. I'm not talking about everyday situations, only SHTF. And please, no caliber wars:neener:
What do you guys think?

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November 7, 2005, 09:32 PM
I'll buy into your 9mm theory as long as I can have a Glock 18 and a backpack full of loaded 33 round mags. :evil:
Seriously though, let me be the first to say "Shot placement is more important than caliber".

November 7, 2005, 09:41 PM
with the rifle caliber debates, I normally side with the folks who want the smaller, lighter cartridges, with this though, i dunno how much of a weight advantage 9mm has over .45. Capacity yes. I myself am a '9 is fine' camper, its what I shoot the best, and what I have.

A g19 with a ton of mags would be my SHTF pistol. My 26 would be in my boot or something.

November 7, 2005, 10:05 PM
I'd be tempted to grab the 45 but I shoot the 9mm more. Practice practice practice.

November 7, 2005, 10:13 PM
.45 acp, Glock 21 all the way, if it has to stay concealed for the time being. Otherwise I would go for a rifle if I knew I was going to a gunfight.

My G27 is the always gun though. It would not be a bad contender in the SHTF scenario with the 29 rd mag on board. Normally I dont carry a spare mag.

November 7, 2005, 10:13 PM
I actually curious why in "SHTF" penetration would be more important?

November 7, 2005, 10:20 PM
curious why in "SHTF" penetration would be more important?
I would think it would be better to put them on the ground and that would make me go 45

November 7, 2005, 10:23 PM
I do not mean penetration in flesh, I mean penetration of objects. This would be exceptionally true if you live in a big city with countless numbers of large structures and cars.

November 7, 2005, 10:49 PM
ok, I guess it depends on your definition of SHTF.

November 7, 2005, 10:53 PM
If you want maximum penetration, why 9mm over 158 gr .357 magnum then? 147 gr @ 990 fps vs. 158 gr @ 1235 fps = no contest. I could see why you wouldn't want .41 or .44, since those are a little more scarce, but .357 and .38 are common enough that you'd have a fair chance of scavenging or trading for some.

According to my Crazy Insane Terminal Ballistics Calculator (patent pending), performance of handgun rounds is as follows (all figures assume the bullets don't tumble or deform):

147 gr @ 990 fps 9mm
ballistic gelatin: 33.6"
generic wood: 12.1"
mild steel: 0.113" (assuming a solid block; more penetration for sheet steel)

158 gr @ 1235 fps .357
ballistic gelatin: 41.5"
generic wood: 17.1"
mild steel: 0.185"

180 gr @ 1015 fps .40 S&W
ballistic gelatin: 33.0"
generic wood: 12.0"
mild steel: 0.115"

230 gr @ 860 fps .45
ballistic gelatin: 29.3"
generic wood: 9.6"
mild steel: 0.083"

So 9mm and .40 S&W are just about tied, and both have an advantage over .45. But .357 magnum is the king, in this case.

November 7, 2005, 11:03 PM
I guess the old king (357 MAG) must have slipped my mind...I suppose I was referring to autoloaders. Without a doubt though if I had to have a revolver in a SHTF situation it would be a GP-100 with a 4" barrel and 180 grain FMJ loads running around 1100 FPS:what:
But in an autoloader, the 147 grain @ 1000 FPS 9mm FMJ takes the cake.

November 7, 2005, 11:04 PM
There's always the Georgia Arms (147gr @ 1050fps) or Double Tap (147gr @ 1135fps) 9mm options, but then I noticed the original poster mention FMJ ammo. In the case of using FMJ only, I'd probably want a bigger caliber.

Actually, if SHTF (however your version works), I'd want at least one long gun to use before I needed to worry about which handgun round works the best.

November 7, 2005, 11:12 PM
I've got a couple of 9mm's, but my regular carry guns are .40's. And I'd stay with a good HP round in either case. A pistol is the last line of defense, it's what you use to fight your way to a real gun. With expanding ammo you have an improved chance of incapacitating the BG quickly if/when you hit him.

November 7, 2005, 11:55 PM
I vote for a .357 - far more versatile. In SHTF you might have to hunt, shoot through car doors, who knows what. Get a variety of .357 ammo from 125 grain .38 special hollowpoints to 200 grain .357 hardcast and you should be able to handle it all. Plus, you can get a lightweight 7 or 8-shot revolver if weight is really the main issue.

November 7, 2005, 11:57 PM
Glock 20. 15+1 10mm.

It's like a .357 revolver. With three instant reloads.

November 8, 2005, 12:08 AM
+1 .357 mag

November 8, 2005, 12:32 AM
Speaking of which, anyone used Speer Blazer Aluminum 9mm 147 grain FMJ target loads? They are dirt cheap and are loaded hot from what I hear.

November 8, 2005, 12:53 AM
Glock 20. 15+1 10mm.

It's like a .357 revolver. With three instant reloads.

Do ya think?! :rolleyes: :evil: ;) :neener:

November 8, 2005, 05:38 PM
Glock 20. 15+1 10mm.

It's like a .357 revolver. With three instant reloads.

I was thinking the same thing. Why have a 9mm when you can have a 10mm...

November 8, 2005, 08:45 PM
I have a question about the 9mm. I am not slamming

the people who prefer it. Here is my question: Since the 9mm. became the carry of law enforcement we see more people shot repeatedly with the 9mm. before being brought down.

I have a 9mm. and would not want to have my life depend on it. I know, I know the ballestics are far superior to the .38 Spl. I prefer the .38+P, .357 and the .45.

One of the advantages that is repeated is that you can carry more rds. in the handgun. Do you really need more rds. capacity if the .45 does the job with 1 rd.?

November 8, 2005, 09:29 PM
I shoot my 9mm better than any .45 I've shot. For me, I'd rather have good shot placement than a 'superior caliber'. Thats a whole nother debate.

November 8, 2005, 09:43 PM
.357mag, 158 grain, rem semi-jack hp (with the pretty scalloped jackets :D )

launching from a 6" gp100.

Ben Shepherd
November 8, 2005, 10:16 PM
Ryan M:

Close, but my 158/357 loads do 1550. Nice horsepower there.

I also vote 357 for SHTF. Why? Look at rounds per pound and rounds per square foot of storage space. VERY tough to beat. And in my book 9mm ain't got enough oomph. This statement is NOT A FLAME WAR STARTER, just my opinion. If you are comfortable with 9mm, fine by me.

November 8, 2005, 10:32 PM
Add one more vote for the 357 in 158 grain jhp or jsp with the rifle to match.

November 8, 2005, 10:39 PM
Best kind of ammo?

Something weird enough that others won't loot it before you get there.

Some Japanese ammo maybe.

November 9, 2005, 03:59 AM
YMMV, but I think (normally being a 45acp guy) that the best bullet one can have for SHTF in his/her handgun is a 9mm 147 grain FMJ bullet.

I too am a .45ACP/1911 guy, but even caliber snobs have to admit that 9x19 is plentiful, capable, (with proper application,) and EVERYONE uses it. (By that I mean most all nations.) It is certainly a useful caliber to have. Personally, I'll stick with the 1911, cause that is what I have, but in a SHTF situation, I wouldn't turn my nose up at a Glock, Model 92, or other reputable 9. It ain't my druthers, but it'll do just fine.

Edit: I'd be alright with a Marlin full o' .357, too.

November 9, 2005, 05:51 AM
Since you phrased the issue as "Best handgun SHTF caliber and weight", and did not specify that I couldn't ALSO have a long gun (I'm assuming the hand gun is a back up), I'll take my K9 with either 124 or 147 gr JHP along with an 870P 12 ga.

My reasoning: 1) it's what I've got; 2) it's compact & more concealable relative to a .357 4" that I may buy (still trying to decide); 3) it reloads more quickly than a wheel gun; 4) I shoot it well; 5) I like it.

If I really want to stop someone from raiding my camp, the 870 comes out first.

And even though you didn't ask, depending on what you mean by SHTF, if I can carry a third weapon, it'll be a .22LR (to help acquire squirrel or rabbit meat to add to the rice in my pack).


The Drew
November 9, 2005, 09:27 AM
I would think that another consideration is that you should have multiple handguns in multiple calibers so that you can use what you find... In the US I would think that 9, .40, and .45 would be most common in autos and .38/.357 in revolvers...

Check your local wal mart and see what handgun rounds they carry, especially in bulk packs... That'll give you a good idea of what is most common.

November 9, 2005, 12:09 PM
we see more 9mm rounds being used in police shootings because they have more ammo available. On the average police are no better shooters than weekend Joe. Equipment seems to force a subconcsious tactic, shoot till it clicks. They did it with revolvers and do it with autos. So do ordinary citizens.


November 9, 2005, 07:07 PM
I would vote for the Sig 229 in .357sig based on ballistics but only if there was a vast amount of ammo available (stockpiled for shtf). However, it would also be a truly defensive weapon in case the AR/M4 and the 12 gauge went down or ran out of ammo.

November 9, 2005, 09:17 PM
Thanks Sam.:)

November 9, 2005, 09:41 PM
Speaking of rarity of calibers in a SHTF situation, I noticed something strange at the store the other day.

We have more .480 Ruger than we do .44 magnum.
.270 Win is our most heavily-stocked rifle caliber aside from 5.56x45mm.
We have no .45 LC.

Just some food for thought, I guess.

November 10, 2005, 04:29 PM
I should think in SHTF scenarios, ammo availability would become an issue. For that reason I think a 9mm or 357 Mag is best. I would prefer the 357 because if you throw in the ability to 38 spec, its the more versatile format. You even can get a decent carbine that uses 357 rnds which adds to the rounds usefullness.

Any choice is a compromise if you can only pick one - for that matter if I could only have one gun it'd be a 12 ga pump, probably an old Mossberg 500 because they're reliable and the least fussy gun I've ever used - maintainability is also a SHTF issue in my mind.

November 10, 2005, 05:18 PM
Depends. I love my 45's for personnal protection, but in a SHTF where a gun may be needed for more than PD, I'd opt for a 4"357. Reliable simple powerful. I personally think a 357 pistol & level action carbine the perfect combination for any SHTF I'd be in. No combat scenarios for me. Stay put or bug out, but stay away from the masses. This isn't as exciting as a video game come to life with high cap mags blazing away at folks in cars but get me to wth woods... and lay out...


November 10, 2005, 05:45 PM
The best SHTF caliber is a rifle caliber. Handguns...unless that's all you have...are best deployed as secondary weapons, and won't likely be fired
more than about 50-60 times...if that much... even in the worst-case scenario, assuming that you have a proper rifle. The caliber won't mean as much as your skill with the gun.

Since you won't have the logistics to support a high volume of ammo, and will likely have to bug out with what you can carry, I'd suggest a .22 takedown-style rimfire rifle that you can stow in a backpack, and a .308 caliber bolt rifle with a reasonable amount of ammo for the centerfire. Scope is optional, but it would be a good idea to also have iron sights as a backup system. 50 rounds will do, or maybe a little more. 20 rounds of .308 runs about a pound,
and every box that you tote reduces your capacity to carry other things that you will have far more need of, and .308/7.62 nato is available pretty much everywhere. There will always be a small supply somewhere, even if you have to barter for it.

I sincerely hope that nobody entertains the notion of running gun battles and makin' a stand agains the invading hordes. That's the stuff that'll get you killed or grievously wounded. Remember, the object of the exercise is to survive. If you must wage war, do it in sneaky fashion. .22 for taking table meat and the .308 for larger game, including the unlikely and undesirable situation of having to shoot at a man...which generally means that you'll have to relocate soon after, again carrying all the equipment and provisions along with you...and probably in a hurry.

Just my 2% of a buck...

November 11, 2005, 01:29 AM
In looking at the ammo that our local stores sell the most of (meaning the one they stock the most of), I would have to say 30'06 and 30-30 are the way to go HERE if you want to be able to scavenge. The other popular rounds are around in sufficient quantities too, but '06 is sold in about 8 different brands with about 10 different bullet weights. It takes up more space on the shelves than most others combined.
9mm and .357 are common and popular. Also, many police departments are now issuing .40's. Something to think about. If the police are using it then it will likely be available for a little while.

November 11, 2005, 02:26 AM
I have to go with the 38/357 combo.

Double Maduro
November 11, 2005, 02:11 PM
Best handgun SHTF caliber and weight

What you shoot best out of what you have at hand. Being able to hit what you are shooting at is the important part.

I don't know why so many think they need a ton of loaded mags. If there are more than three, they are probably going to get you anyway.


November 15, 2005, 09:43 PM
[QUOTE=Double Maduro]What you shoot best out of what you have at hand. Being able to hit what you are shooting at is the important part.[quote]

I was about to say the same thing. When the SHTF, all you will have is what's on hand.

All I'd have right now would be a .45, and I shoot that pretty well.


November 16, 2005, 03:25 PM
Since the majority are voting .357 mag, I suggest .357 sig in a semi-auto which will hold more rounds than a revolver? Besides, I shoot a semi better than a revolver.

November 16, 2005, 04:32 PM
My KP89 - it will eat any and all factory 9mm, comfortable, reliable, built like a tank, more accurate than I am, can be used as a hammer due to its metal frame.

I agree that 9mm and .357/.38 are the two choices for platform, most importantly for availability of scavenged ammunition. Your best, customized, gold-plated, scoped handcannon will be about as useful as a brick when it runs out of its exotic ammo. ;)

November 16, 2005, 06:18 PM
Glock 20. 15+1 10mm.

It's like a .357 revolver. With three instant reloads.

I respectfully disagree. It's like a .41 mag with 3 instant reloads...and more controllable. In my case I've got 3 10's full of 180's. Kinda makes a .357 look puny, and a .357 isn't exactly a toy.

Why settle for a 147 @ maybe 900-1,000 fps when you can have a 180 @1,300+?

There's nothing in a pistol that I've seen that will beat a 10 in terms of power and quick reloads

November 18, 2005, 12:00 AM
I respectfully disagree. It's like a .41 mag with 3 instant reloads...and more controllable. In my case I've got 3 10's full of 180's. Kinda makes a .357 look puny, and a .357 isn't exactly a toy.

I like 10mm, too, but you can get.357 ammo to match or best that, especially if you want penetration:

(4" barrel)
Buffalo Bore 180gr. Hard cast LFN - 1375 fps
Buffalo Bore 158gr. Speer Uni Core - 1485 fps
CorBon 200gr Hard-Cast Flat Point - 1200 fps

but the main thing about the .357 is its versatility, since you can shoot mild 38 loads as well. The 10mm is probably better for combat, but a SHTF gun might well have other uses. Also, no one seems to be making the hardcast 10mm rounds anymore, although most 10mm folk load their own.

November 18, 2005, 12:12 AM
I think I would pick my Ruger Super Blackhawk in 44 mag....240 gr. lead for small game loaded to 44 special velocities, 180 gr and 240 gr. JHP or Fmj for 2 or 4 legged predators, and for the big boys with teeth and claws, 310 gr. Garrett heavyweights at 1325 10MM's would be my 2nd choice...

November 18, 2005, 02:47 AM
weight and commonality are the biggest factors in what i invision, my picks are in order of importance.
.22LR, 40gr CCI Velocitor
- velocitor is probably the most powerful of LR out there, .22LR is always attractive in SHTF requiring high mobility, long term survival or threats like zombies. the packaging is helpful in keeping it clean and might make it more attractive for barter. If you have a silenced gun this might not be suitable.
.223 Remington, 62gr FMJ SS109 "green tip" or Natec Spectrum Polymer Cased Ammunition
- about the same weight as 9mm, easy to use from iron sights, useful in paramilitary oriented SHTF scenarios. The green tip has better penetration but if you can find it Natec is lighter and has less muzzle flash. If you're a really incredible shot and see the need for long range work go for a .308 instead.
9mm Parabellum, 115gr JHP CCI Blazer,
- cheap and lightweight, some people have problems with aluminum cased ammo, my beretta handles it fine. if you anticipate you'll have the ability to reload cartridge cases then 9mm isn't optimal anyway. Go for the JHP but if you really think you need extra penetration CCI does make a TMJ 147gr with aluminum case.
.410 Slugs, pretty useful and common, gets a nod especially if you're thinking about a SA M6 survival rifle.

all these cartridges are available in a good mix of guns, some very compact and that's again important for weight and that "provisional governments" might want to confiscate them. none of my picks are particularly manly, if you anticipate threats like Deathclaws and Supermutants adjust accordingly. I have to agree with 1911Tuner, handguns aren't very good in SHTF.

November 19, 2005, 10:24 PM
and my standard arguement is ' get what you know best '..

and accept there's NO PERFECT ANSWER..

if you're absolutely deadeye dick with an old arisaka and have a bunker fulla ammo, shoot it.

don't let ME get in the way of success.

ditto ya wanna shoot a .500 dubblehump camel killer, rave on, I ain't gonna gripe.

but for ME.. my 'fave' (i.e. expect to have it) single first one and only in case of turrible crisis ONE GUN.. is a 6 inch k frame m 19 357.

And #2 is a mossy 12 ..

and #3 is a 10/22

and #4 is a marlin .357 carbine with the 18.5 inch bbl..

and #5 is a bolt action 30.06 .. with a 4x wide angle scope. and if that's different from YOUR pick, no surprise.

all i can say is, they shoot as good as i ask em to, they don't gimme overgrown gonads and make me bulletproof, and i ain't liable to ask for better value.

all of which i admire as survival oriented.

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