Choosing the best caliber for concealed carry is a crucial decision when it comes to self-defense. With options like 9mm, .45 ACP, .40 S&W, .380 ACP, and .38 Special available, factors such as recoil, magazine capacity and personal preference come into play. Additionally, emphasizing the importance of firearms training is vital to enhance self-defense skills. Let’s explore the different calibers commonly used for concealed carry and discuss their advantages and considerations, helping you find the one that best suits your needs and capabilities.


The 9mm caliber is a popular choice for concealed carry due to its manageable recoil, high-capacity magazines, and wide availability of ammunition. It strikes a balance between controllability and effectiveness, making it a versatile option for self-defense. The 9mm offers a good range of ammunition choices, including hollow points designed for effective penetration and expansion upon impact.

Compared to larger calibers, the 9mm generally allows for higher magazine capacities, providing more rounds without sacrificing concealability. Additionally, the reduced recoil of the 9mm makes it easier to handle and achieve accurate follow-up shots. Its widespread use also means that ammunition is readily available and often more affordable compared to less common calibers.

.45 ACP

Known for its reliability and effectiveness, the .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) is a larger caliber option favored by many concealed carriers. It delivers substantial rounds with significant energy transfer. However, it typically has lower magazine capacity and more recoil compared to the 9mm.

The .45 ACP excels in delivering powerful shots, potentially minimizing the need for multiple rounds. Its larger bullet diameter contributes to deeper penetration. Though its recoil can be more challenging to manage, proper defensive shooting training and practice can mitigate this issue.

.40 S&W

The .40 S&W (Smith & Wesson) caliber offers a middle ground between the 9mm and .45 ACP. It provides good effectiveness while maintaining a reasonable magazine capacity. The .40 S&W was developed to bridge the gap between controllability and terminal performance.

With a slightly larger bullet diameter than the 9mm, the .40 S&W offers increased effectiveness. However, it can have snappier recoil compared to the 9mm, which may require more practice to achieve accurate shooting.

.380 ACP

The .380 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) is a smaller caliber option suitable for compact or subcompact firearms. It offers reduced recoil compared to larger calibers, making follow-up shots easier. While it sacrifices some effectiveness, the .380 ACP can still be reliable in self-defense scenarios.

Due to its smaller size, the .380 ACP allows for comfortable concealment and lightweight carry. This caliber is commonly chosen by individuals who prioritize concealability and are willing to accept a trade-off in effectiveness. It’s important to note that shot placement becomes crucial when relying on the .380 ACP for self-defense.

.38 Special

The .38 Special is a revolver caliber that has been a popular choice for concealed carry for many years. It offers reliability and is available in a variety of compact revolver models. While it may have lower ammunition capacity compared to semi-automatic handguns, the .38 Special provides simplicity and ease of use.

The .38 Special typically delivers moderate recoil, making it manageable for shooters of various skill levels. It offers respectable effectiveness and has a proven track record in self-defense situations. Revolvers chambered in .38 Special are known for their reliability, as they are less prone to malfunctions compared to semi-automatic pistols.

Best Concealed Carry Caliber for You

Choosing the best concealed carry caliber is a personal decision that depends on factors such as recoil, magazine capacity, and personal comfort. To find the right fit for you, it’s recommended to try firearms with different calibers at a range to see what feels most manageable. Additionally, gaining proper knowledge and training in self-defense principles and firearm safety, such as through the USCCA Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals class, can provide valuable insights.

Remember that responsible concealed carry involves more than just selecting a caliber. Ongoing training, practice, and understanding of legal considerations are crucial for being a responsible concealed carrier. By making informed decisions and staying informed about self-defense laws, you can confidently carry a concealed firearm while prioritizing safety. Take the time to explore different calibers, gain proper training, and make a choice that aligns with your individual needs and capabilities.