What Should be Your First Gun? Part 2, Caliber Selection.

So, now that we’ve decided that our first gun should probably be our carry gun (since a carry gun can be used as a home defense gun, but a home defense gun cannot necessarily be used as a carry gun), what should we get as a carry gun?  As with all things in life, it kind of depends.  What are you comfortable with?  What do you think you need?  Most importantly, and this may very well trump all other aspects combined, what are you good with?

Shot placement is king*, it is much more important than anything else, including what caliber you carry.  A .50 BMG in the foot won’t kill a man.  A .22lr to the base of the skull will.  It is not, and has never been, very important what caliber you hit someone with, but where you hit them.  The most important thing you can ever do with a firearm is protect the ones you love, and if I have to shoot to save a life I want to be as proficient with that gun as possible.  If that means no carrying a .45, then don’t carry a .45.  If you can put 2 mags into a half inch circle at 25 yards on demand with no warm up every single day with your .22 revolver, well, maybe you should carry that.  I’m not saying that everyone should carry a .22 revolver, but that a person should only trust their life to equipment they are competent and intimately familiar with.

If this is your first gun then you probably aren’t that good with anything yet, which means you need practice.  When selecting your first gun, ammo prices of that gun’s caliber should be one of your considerations.  As of writing, 9mm is the cheapest centerfire cartridge available, meaning it can be practiced the most for any given amount of money.  9mm can be had for just under 15 cents a round online today, .40 S&W can be had for 23.5 cents per round, .45 ACP comes in at 25 cents per round.  For the cost of buying and shooting 1,000 rounds of .40, a person can buy almost 1,600 rounds of 9mm.  A person can get 60% more range time and skill developed for the same price.  It just gets more one-sided from there, as .40 is the closest in price to 9mm.

Most calibers out there are slightly** more effective than 9mm, but that performance advantage is slight and is more than made up for by the increased cost to train and gain skill with that other round.  Also, there is the fact that anything more powerful than 9mm will recoil more.  No matter how well a person can shoot .40 S&W or .45 ACP or .357, that person can shoot 9mm even better.  So, if you can shoot your personal best with a certain caliber, why would you carry anything else?  A 9mm gun will always carry more rounds and the shooter will always be able to shoot them faster and more accurately.  I don’t see a reason to carry anything else.  If you are in a rounds-limited state like NY or Illinois, the capacity is fixed and irrelevant, but the recoil difference remains.


The only real reason to pick something else would be if you couldn’t manipulate a 9mm handgun.  If you cannot actually manipulate a standard 9mm pistol, then you need to carry something else, but that’s a discussion for someone more knowledgeable than I.  The recently-released Smith & Wesson Shield .380 EZ may be an exception to the above paragraphs, but I haven’t actually spent any time on one in-person to be sure

So, if you want to carry a gun chambered in 9mm for protection outside the home, what should that gun be?  We’ll get into that next time.



*The linked video discusses an incident where a man was shot 17 times by 3 officers, who ended up wrestling him into cuffs afterwards.

**This is for semi-auto pistols only.  Rifles, shotguns, and even the heavier magnum caliber revolvers are devastatingly more effective than a semi-auto handgun.

Pic stolen from Primary & Secondary.  You should definitely read the article.

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