Does size count? Is a bigger calibre better for self defence?

In a shooting that occurred decades ago between a criminal and the FBI, a 9mm bullet fired at the suspect stopped just short of his heart. This lead to devastating consequences as the assailant, undeterred, went on to claim the lives of two FBI agents.

From this incident emerged a seismic shift in law enforcement’s approach to ammunition and firearms selection. After this event people believed that self-defence prowess hinged on the size of the bullet. The allure of larger calibres, epitomized by the revered .45 and later the .40, gained huge popularity.

The shootout we just mentioned showcased the lack of stopping power of the 9mm in 1986. The ammunition’s ineffectiveness led to stringent FBI penetration criteria, reverberating across federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and trickling into the civilian consciousness. Ammunition manufacturers immediately changed tack and tailored their defensive rounds, regardless of calibre, to align with these new standards.

As demand surged for defensive handgun ammunition, a competitive marketplace emerged, led by the civilian market, populated by offerings designed to meet the exacting FBI benchmarks. This in turn, led to more innovation among manufacturers, all of them fighting for the consumers’ trust.

The third driver is the digital age, epitomized by platforms like YouTube. An avalanche of testing data, shooting analyses, and statistical revelations became accessible instantly. Suddenly defensive rounds where subject to scrutiny like never before. Manufacturers found themselves pressed to create ammunition not just for theoretical excellence, but practical prowess, tested and endorsed by the discerning online community.

This evolution, from rudimentary full metal jackets to sophisticated rounds engineered for precise expansion, underscores how far ammunition has progressed in just a few decades.

An intriguing revelation emerges: There is a remarkable consistency of penetration performance among top-tier loads, irrespective of make or calibre. Manufacturers’ pursuit of FBI compliance has created equality amongst firearm calibres.

Furthermore, the data shows that no matter what calibre or brand is used in a defensive encounter the number of hits required to incapacitate a threat remains much the same — averaging 2-3 hits. This paradigm shift has breathed new life into smaller calibres.

So what is the real takeaway?

Practice is way more important than calibre.

First, prioritize the enjoyment of shooting. You can now opt for a 9mm armed with suitable ammunition—over the allure of a .40, .45 or 10mm. Know that a good defensive round will get the job done. And having a manageable calibre makes your practice gratifying, not gruelling.

Second, dispel the notion of a magical one-shot solution. Choose a firearm based on your shooting proficiency and personal enjoyment, not myths of superhuman impact.

Finally, the heart of the matter lies in personal proficiency. Mastery of your firearm and being able to accurately shoot under stress is the foundation of any real self defence strategy.

Thus, regular training emerges as the ultimate cornerstone. Regularity is not confined to live fire—it extends to dry fire practice. Even a few minutes of precise, efficient practice a few times a week can yield remarkable improvements.

The essence of this transformation underscores a pivotal truth: the journey to countering threats doesn’t pivot on calibre, but on disciplined training. As the landscape of ammunition evolves, personal proficiency remains the linchpin of effective self-defence.

If you want to take your shooting to the next level consider enrolling in our skills building training.