Do you need a .45 ACP? How much training would you do with a Charter Arms Bulldog chambered in .44 Special? Are you really going to debate with me the differences between .32 H&R Magnum, .38 Special and 9mm? I do not believe for a minute that you could tell the difference between those calibers if a bullet entered your body.

Stopping a Threat: Psychological?

According to the FBI, the ugly truth about handgun caliber is that it doesn’t really matter when it comes to stopping a threat. I know, I know, “But the 1986 FBI shootout in Miami spawned the creation of the .40 S&W because the 9mm didn’t work.” First of all, there is way more to that story, and secondly, the Bureau now has three decades worth of follow-up information proving that the reason people stop fighting after being shot is largely psychological. No commonly used defensive handgun round has the power to produce an immediate cessation of hostile action unless you interrupt the central nervous system. Period.

So, whether you use a .44 Magnum or a .22 Long Rifle, if an attacker decides to keep fighting after he gets shot, he will typically be physically able to do so until his blood pressure drops to near zero.

Those of you who are advocates of the big-bore pistols will say something to the effect of, “Well, a bigger hole makes you bleed more than a smaller hole.”

Not always. South Carolina Highway Patrol Corporal Mark Coates was killed during a traffic stop in 1992. The killer and Corporal Coates scuffled, and the killer was able to fire one shot from a .22 revolver. That round was stopped by the trooper’s vest. Corporal Coates was able to force the man off of him and return fire, striking him five times in the chest with his .357 Magnum revolver. As Corporal Coates retreated for cover and to radio for backup, the assailant fired another shot. The round struck Trooper Coates in the left armpit and traveled into his heart. The assailant survived the incident and was sentenced to life in prison.

Caliber Doesn’t Matter, But Shot Placement Does

Firearm caliber does not matter. What matters most is what the bullet hits when it enters the human body. Even after being shot in the heart, Corporal Coates was able to continue moving to cover and radio for help before he died.

If you really want to understand why one cop switched from .45 ACP to 9mm, read this story. Sgt. Gramins shot his attacker 14 times with his .45 ACP during a 56-second gunfight. The attacker was hit in the heart, left and right lungs, liver, kidney and diaphragm but was only stopped when shot three times in the head: once through each side of his mouth and once through the top of his skull into his brain. The attacker survived until he got to the hospital, where he died in the Emergency Room.

Firearm caliber does not matter.

What matters is that you have a gun with which you can fight back. Then, learn to shoot that gun quickly and accurately. Shoot the bad guy until the threat stops and then stop shooting. Carry extra ammo. You may need to keep shooting for what seems like a very long time.

Most people will break off an attack after they are shot once or twice. Some people will not. You can never identify these people before the shooting starts — only after it stops. Keep shooting until the threat stops.

Firearms Training Is More Important Than Caliber

Buy a gun that fits your hand and learn to shoot it well. Train to move, shoot and make decisions under pressure. Test your skills. Be honest about the results. Learn to shoot with either hand. Learn to shoot from unconventional positions. Study weapons retention. Learn to shoot fast at close range. Learn about marksmanship skills. There is so much to learn … but caliber does not matter.

About Kevin Michalowski

Executive Editor of Concealed Carry Magazine Kevin Michalowski is a USCCA and NRA Certified Trainer. He has attended training as both instructor and student in multiple disciplines, including pistol, rifle, shotgun, empty-hand defense and rapid response to the active shooter. Kevin is also a fully certified part-time law enforcement officer in rural Wisconsin.