I saw an amazing Instagram post the other day and yet at the same time, it’s not that amazing at all.

The story behind this photo is that a woman was shot in the chest, and the bullet was stopped by her implant.

When people discuss the merits of different pistol calibers, one of the common fallacies that is overlooked is how inefficient handgun calibers are. Most people don’t realize how well protected the heart, lungs, arteries and spine are by things like skin, muscle, rib structure, or in this case, added parts. The more I study ballistics and injuries and outcomes of shootings, the less I am surprised when I read something like the above story.

Handgun rounds are not very powerful, given the wide range of performance of different types of guns and calibers. When we choose a handgun for self defense, we are giving up a lot of the power that we would want in a firearm. We chose the handgun because it is convenient to carry. But there are no reasonable handgun calibers that reliably cause the kind of damage that we would want to stop an attacker in his/her tracks. For that kind of performance, we would be much better off with a rifle.

The other thing that we need to pay attention to when discussing handgun calibers is how they perform in the moment. If the bad guy dies eventually from his wounds, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the handgun round had the desired effect. Our goal when we shoot someone in self defense is to IMMEDIATELY stop the behavior that put our life in danger. It turns out that handguns kinda suck at this. There is a mountain of video evidence to support this across ALL commonly carried handgun calibers.

What turns out to be the most important factors when it comes to the performance of handguns against threats is location of the round and how many rounds find their way into the target. Skill is an important element of this and this is why we emphasize training and practice. So when choosing a handgun caliber, we want something that is easy to practice with.

Between price, availability, shoot-ability, number of rounds that can be carried in the gun and ultimately performance of the round in self defense, the round that tends to check these boxes for most people is 9mm. This is why we suggest this round for almost anyone who intends to carry or stage a handgun for self defense. There are benefits to other calibers in theory, but in practice, 9mm wins.

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