Close In Self Defence Caliber ???


October 6, 2003, 04:26 PM
I realize this subject has been kicked around for years and years but I have never seen a definitive answer to the question: Which round is the best IN CLOSE (inside of 7 to 10 feet) self defence JHP cartridge fired from a compact semi-auto with a 3.0" or a 3.5" barrel?
Let me preface this by saying that I pray I will never, ever have to shoot someone but God forbid I must, I want one that will do the job.
When reading various velocity charts, they never say how long the barrel was on the test piece, nor do they indicate how far from down range from the muzzle that the speed and energy was measured.
1. The 9mm launches fast from a short barrel but is considered by some to be anemic. I own a Kahr K9 and a Glock 26 and don't agree.
2. The .357Sig is very fast and some say too fast and creates over penetration and has limited bullet weights available. I own a Glock 33.
3. The .40S&W from all that I have read seems to be the ideal cartridge and as we all know is widely used by law enforcement. My daily carry piece is a Kahr K40 and I love it. I also have a Glock 23.
4. The .45acp is a relatively slow traveler some say when fired from a short barrel, JHP's won't gain enough velocity to expand.
5. Not much info to be found on 10mm and .38super compact semi-autos.
6. The .32acp and the .380acp are also considered by many to be anemic but are very popular in Europe and South America and seem to be the caliber of choice of many manufacturers of small, short barreled hand guns.
I realize there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of cartriges available for use in revos, ie. .357 magnum and other larger size revo rounds which are notorious man-killers.
I'm simply interested to know which popular modern caliber functions most efficiently for in close combat, 7 to 10 feet, when fired from a compact semi-auto with a 3.0" or 3.5" barrel. ----------Jed

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October 6, 2003, 05:16 PM
HI Jed,

I have seen a number of times in velocity charts where they do specify the barrel length of the test gun along with muzzle velocity and energy at various distances. That aside, I would think that within 7 to 10 ft. bullet placement is going to take top priority. After all, the BG doesn't have far to go to be on top of you :uhoh: . Now having said that, I would be very comfortable with 9mm, .357, .38+p, 40 S&W, .45, .44 Special, 10mm or .357 Sig providing they are equipped with an effective bullet design. I'm certainly not an expert by any means so others may have more educated viewpoints and like you, I hope I never have to find out what works the best. Take care, Mike

October 6, 2003, 06:17 PM
I'm a big fan of bigger, heavy bullets. I've got 8 rounds of 230gr 45ACP on my hip right now, but.... that's in a govt. model with a 5" barrel.

Short barreled guns will always be a compromise of power(and accuracy) for size and there's no way around that except to try and get the longest barrel you can conceal(perhaps like the Colt CCO or Kahr Covert). IMO, if you go smaller than 4", you really need to start looking into lighter bullets and faster burning powder.

You can do that in any of the calibers including the larger ones. For 40 S&W consider 135 and 155 gr. instead of 180gr. In 45ACP, look into 180 and 200gr. instead of 230gr.

IMO, with 9mm and .357 most popular self defense rounds are already designed for best velocity with the longer 5-5.5" barrels so with those rounds the choice is a bit more difficult. I definately prefer rounds in the 110 to 115gr. range here where I go with a 124 or 125gr in my full size guns.

With so many gun owners getting CCW permits, ammo manufacturers should post handgun caliber velocity charts for different barrels lengths rather than showing the velocity at different ranges. Who cares how fast the round is going at 50 yards? Only a small percentage of handgun owners shoot that far.

Ala Dan
October 6, 2003, 06:23 PM
Greeting's All-

When all is said and done, if a subject is closing in on you
from a distance of 7 to 10 feet; the first thing you want to
do is too "smoke" him off of you, and out of your security
zone. With that said, that is why I rely on a .45 ACP
with a 4.25" barrel. We all know that if a vital organ is
struck, then 9 times out of 10 the fight will cease. But, less
say that an adversary is at a distance of 7 feet and he is
high on drugs; charging hard to take the fight out of you.
And, you blast him with a round of 124 grain +P JHP Hydra
Shok as fired from a 9m/m; or a 125 grain +P .357 magnum
JHP. If (and only if) a vital organ isn't struck resulting in
massive blood loss; then the perp most likely will have a
chance to finish you off too. Where as, by the .45 ACP being
big and slow; enough energy is retained to at least knock
the perp off his feet, and it allows you enough time to "seal
the deal" with a well placed follow-up shot.

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

October 6, 2003, 06:58 PM
Up close, I'm going w/ the 45 acp as launched from my USP 45 :D

Al Thompson
October 6, 2003, 07:15 PM
About the only way a handgun round can knock someone off their feet is if they slip on it as it rolls around on the floor.

Kahr, there is not and never will be a definitive answer to your question. I "suspect" a 150 odd grain .44 magnum bullet at 1500 FPS would be ideal. The high speed .357 125 gr loads are agreed upon by most interested observers as being the best available. Ramping up the .44 with a good JHP at the same sectional density and velocity should certainly improve things.

FWIW, the .357 Sig seems to give the same results in an auto as the 125 in a revolver. Though I'm a 9mm fan, if it concerned me, I'd go to the .357 SIG.

October 6, 2003, 07:20 PM
2 inch barrel .357 158gr sjhp. if nothing alse at close range you might even set the bad guy on fire.:uhoh:

But at "contact" distance ALL centerfire autos are pretty darn dangerous. The big/slow vs light/fast thing doesn't amount to much at point blank range. Likely any hollowpoint that clogs up will go through your target, any hp that doesn't should open up.

I like the 9mm. I shoot it better than the .45 in auto pistols. With a 3 inch barrel I'd be worried about unburned powder, muzzle flash, not to mention a loss of velocity.

Anything in the 9mm/40/45 cal should do the job. However at that range pick a HEAVY pistol instead of a light one and EMPTY it. You may need it as a club to finish the job.

Ky Larry
October 6, 2003, 08:24 PM
In a shootout, there are too many variables to answer which round is best.If you place your shots in your assailants vitals, any round will work. A hit with a .22 short is better than a miss with a .500 mag. What ever caliber-bullet you choose, get some professional training and practice.
Shoot well and often.

October 6, 2003, 09:20 PM
"4. The .45acp is a relatively slow traveler some say when fired from a short barrel, JHP's won't gain enough velocity to expand."

I've heard that often... and really don't get it. How much more does a .45" bullet (or 4 or 5) need to expand to cause serious damage? Imagine a half inch diameter spear piercing your body six times.

Standing Wolf
October 6, 2003, 09:29 PM
At extremely close distances, I believe the gun you can fire fastest is the best.

October 6, 2003, 10:10 PM
Saw something by Clint Smith about a black powder pistol.

You shoot them...and set fire to them!

Al Thompson
October 6, 2003, 10:19 PM
RE: #4 - Charles Petty did some good work last year dispelling that concern. Any of the latest JHPs will expand out of a short barrel. Examples were the Gold Dot, Ranger and Golden Saber.

October 6, 2003, 10:51 PM
What ever gun you use best will do you; it's shot placement, not caliber. I'd personally use my Beretta compact type M close in, but I'd feel just as good using my 686 4" or Beretta 92FS. If I had a Glock 26, that'd be my baby. In short, whatever you have on hand. At close range, it doesn't matter if it's a .45 or a .32....

El Tejon
October 6, 2003, 11:13 PM
In close the weapon will be in contact with the threat. A revolver is best. As to caliber, remember always, it is just a pistol.

October 7, 2003, 12:46 AM
Using a G29 (3.78" bbl) DoubleTap Ammo:

DoubleTap 135gr JHP - 1496fps
DoubleTap 200FMJ/FP - 1203fps
DoubleTap 200XTP - 1169fps
DoubleTap 180GSHP - 1261fps
DoubleTap 165GSHP - 1336fps

Hope that is enough power from a short bbl!:D

October 7, 2003, 02:00 AM
:p I think I'd opt for the .45ACP in close and personal. You won't have the problem in a semi that you would with a revolver. This includes excess muzzle flash with the cylider gap gas discharge, too. If doing a speed rock or having the gun in CQB/retention mode, I don't want to be eaten- up by the stuff coming out of the cylinder gap. $0.02 RKBA!

October 7, 2003, 07:57 AM
Since nobody liked my flamethrower idea........

Inside 10 ft. skill is going to matter more than caliber/bullet selection.

Just getting the weapon out will be a challenge.

Inside 10 ft a knife may often be more dangerous than a firearm

If someone can cover 21 ft in 1.5 seconds, imagine how quickly you are going to need to present your firearm

Spend your money on training rather than high tech ammo!

October 7, 2003, 08:51 AM
Ala Dan - I'm a big fan of the .45 but knock someone off their feet? Where'd you get that from?
For me personally, I'd choose .45 or if I needed a smaller weapon, I'd go with 9mm.

October 7, 2003, 09:19 AM
I realize this subject has been kicked around for years and years but I have never seen a definitive answer to the question: Which round is the best IN CLOSE (inside of 7 to 10 feet) self defence JHP cartridge fired from a compact semi-auto with a 3.0" or a 3.5" barrel?
I agree with a lot that has already been posted, however, I approach this a bit different, granted other posters touched on my response.

When asked by students, we tried various platforms, for fit, and MOA. Then approached calibers. Using 1/4 of a sheet of typing paper, holstered gun ( low ready works) at sound of buzzer, or command fire 5 rds as quickly as possible from 5- 7 yds. Revo, SA ( 1911, BHP), DA/SA (Sig, Beretta) , DAO ( Glock). FRom .38 spl to 45ACP. Times and groups will show which shooter is best with getting quick accurate hits.

Granted a 2" snubby is gonna be hard to have BG wrestle from you, but, original post stated 7-10 ft, (Tueller drill comes to mind here). Don't want contact to happen in the first place. If a person cannot get un-holstered and onto target and hit...not good place to be. If can't hit with .357, may have to go .38 spl, same with 9mm vs 45 ACP. If SA ( 1911 for instance) can't snick off safety, bad, same with first shot being DA then SA.

Yes training and practice is important. My feeling is better to start out what works to attain quick accurate hits, train and practice, with enough trigger /training time one can go up in caliber. Then I worry about expansion of ammo...I'm more concerned about ammo working everytime in that gun--reliable. Missed ammo that expands, not gonna help, nor will it if one can't use MOA. I'm not saying/suggesting a particular platform/caliber is for everyone...everyone needs to know for themself and be honest. NOt choose because of friend,or article read. Granted there are proven choices that tend to work accross the board, and training will allow one to learn anything. I have had older shooters with arthritis that went back to revos , and ladies whom started with revos work up to say a Sig . it is an individual thing. Important thing is they had something right now that worked best for them. IMO.

Baba Louie
October 7, 2003, 10:12 AM
Based on your criteria, distance and short barreled "semi-auto", I'd say whatever you had in your hand and my preference would go towards the bigger is better theory. If BG is that close (too close) and you do not have your hand full, you're in a world of hurt, especially if he (I'll presume) IS armed.

In the dynamic of that type of encounter there are a lot of variables floating around unanswered and that is why there really is no best or final answer. One BG standing still, no drugs in system and not really determined to harm you (just wants money?) vs. drugged up PO'd enraged madman coming at you for whatever reason... assume the worst case scenario... my vote would be a pair of Glock 30's or 19's with hi-cap magazines full of the heaviest JHP I could find (230 gr or 147 gr) and me backing up as fast as I could retreat. Having said that, no one that I know of walks around with dual handguns nowadays or practices lightening quick speed draws with two guns.

But, I do like Obiwan's/Clint Smith's theory of a .45 Colt with blackpowder for that singe his facial hair off and turn BG into a toasty mashmallow effect (it was an amusing read) but you said semi-auto.

I've always read that the .357 magnum is the ultimate in self defense rounds and a revolver doesn't mal-function when jammed against a BG's chest like most semi-autos (might).


October 9, 2003, 04:50 PM
fired from one of my 45 autos.....that I carry all the time.
OO Buck from a 12 gauge...Ooops not a handgun!!

October 9, 2003, 06:04 PM
I realize this subject has been kicked around for years and years but I have never seen a definitive answer to the question: Which round is the best IN CLOSE (inside of 7 to 10 feet) self defence JHP cartridge fired from a compact semi-auto with a 3.0" or a 3.5" barrel?

Here's your definitive answer , load your Kahr P40 with 165gr Speer Gold Dot JHP ammo and all your problems will go away. Here's even some documentation of Gold Dots rec's for >4" and 4"> barrels of various calibers.

Satisfied? Probably not, huh? Why not start relying on yourself and train realistically for armed encounters. This'll give you more advantages than any fractional gains in bullet expansion by searching for some magic bullet.

October 9, 2003, 07:55 PM
Charts and velocity numbers aside, the design of the bullet can play a more defined role in determining performance from a 3.5"- 5"+ bbl. than velocity...Today's best bullet designs are engineered with a larger performance window, thus allowing them to perform better from a variety of bbl. length's somewhat irrespective of velocity.


230gr+P Federal Tactical , Test Pistol = 4.25" bbl'd S&W 4566, thru 4-layers of denim.

Vel = 905fps/ Pen= 13.4"/ RD = .74"

180gr Federal Tactical, TP = 4" bbl'd S&W 4006, thru 4-layers of denim.

Vel = 1000fps/ Pen = 12.4"/ RD = .73"

180gr Ranger, TP = S&W 4006, thru 4-layers of denim.

Vel = 910fps/ Pen = 14.2"/ RD = .65"

165gr Ranger, TP = S&W 4006, thru 4-layers of denim.

Vel = 1166fps/ Pen = 13.5"/ RD = .66"

*All data is courtesy of Dr. Gary Roberts over on Tactical-Forums....

As can be seen, the shorter bbl. lengths used for the Federal Tactical loads did not at all affect performance. Also of note, is that the 165gr Ranger has a velocity advantage of 256fps, yet performance is nearly identical between the two loads when both were fired from the same pistol. Also, remember that Glocks make use of polygonal rifling, which increases velocity, often times (but not always) yeilding similar results to pistols utilizing conventional rifling and a slightly longer bbl., say 3.5" vs. 4".....Another thing to remember is that the 4-layer denim test was conceived to provide a worst case scenario type of testing protocol. Performance could be even better with regards to expanded diameter depending on what type of clothing barrier is encountered

As a civilian, self defense distances are likely to be short and engagement unobstructed, with the situation unfolding very fast. Personally, I would select the caliber I can shoot the fastest with, while maintaining a competent level of accuracy. Most gunfights are over in a matter of seconds, so I would want a caliber that I can control well and recover quickly between shots with, to obtain as many rapidly fired accurate hit's as possible. Consider the scenario of fending off an attacker with one hand/arm, while drawing and firing with the other, you may not be afforded the opportunity to utilize a proper grip and stance, which would mean you should be able to control the pistol/caliber combination to a decent degree of proficiency both 1-handed and with your weak hand only.

With loads like Gold Dot, Ranger, Federal Tactical, Golden Sabre, ect...all of the service calibers are capable, but only in capable hands.

Best, jnb01

October 9, 2003, 07:57 PM
What I carry is a S&W 296 .44Spec. with 200 Gr.Gold Dots but it doesn't matter if it was ball. I carry gold dots in case they expand not depending on them to expand.If i had to go to a Auto for close work If you can shoot it-a 4" 1911 with Ball.The reason for ball vs. Hp is I want it to go bang every time.What I would look for is putting as many rounds into the bad guy as possiable as Quickly as possiable while moveing backwards. What you want IMHO in this situation is to get away from the threat. Load the BG with 230gr Ball as fast as you can all the while going backwards.Handy drill to try @ 4'to6' Start holstered at the buzzer draw and fire and retreat shoot to slide lock reload go to weak hand and advance,fire till slide lock,if you stop moveing u lose.

October 9, 2003, 09:25 PM
The initial question and many of the subsequent posts are decidedly autoloader-oriented. However, I would NEVER DISCOUNT several excellent, proven revolver rounds, including (but not limited to):
1. .357 magnum (especially 158 grain LSWCHP)
2. .45 Colt (especially 200 grain Georgia Arms Gold Dot)

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