Let’s cut the crap. Tell me which caliber you would like to be shot with? Those who worship at the altar of the .45 ACP are going to hate me, but the truth is accuracy is more important than the size of the slug. And if you believe anything the FBI has to say, penetration is next on the scale of importance.
So, if you can shoot a .45 ACP accurately, by all means shoot a .45 ACP. But know this, you will shoot a 9mm better than you will shoot a .45, especially if you don’t spend a lot of time training.
Honest show of hands: Who trained today? Who trained this week with live ammo? Dry fire is good, certainly better than nothing, but shooting skills are perishable. If you don’t train often, you WILL see a reduction in your skill level. During a crisis you will regress to the lowest level of your training.
Of course there is a tipping point; something my dad always called the point of diminishing returns. You will certainly shoot a .22 better than a .45 ACP, but under stress you will likely not be able to shoot a bad guy right in the eye or right in the brainstem to make that instant one-shot stop. The light little bullet of the .22 is not carrying the energy or the mass to get the job done quickly without a PERFECT hit. And perfect is damned near impossible in a deadly force incident. So you should step up until you get to the point of diminishing returns.
Start by shooting your .22 and work to become a really good shot with that. Hone all your skills and work to get better with each training session. Then move up. Maybe you are going to a .380 or maybe a 9mm or a .38 Special for you revolver shooters. Now you are dealing with real recoil and real report. That interferes with your accuracy. As you work your way through to proficiency with this caliber, then you can think about moving up.
But remember this: those three calibers, even though they are much maligned, still stop plenty of fights. If you want to move up, be my guest, but know that every step up the caliber ladder means another round of very serious training. Are you willing to invest that time and money? If not, you are shooting bigger bullets less accurately. Only hits count.
Something to think about when you are discussing stopping power is that only rarely will you encounter a criminal so motivated that he “needs” to be shot with a .357 Magnum. And even then accuracy is more important. If you know the story of Trooper Mark Coates, you know that Coates shot his dirtbag attacker four times with a .357 Magnum, but was killed when one round from a .22 Magnum severed his aorta after entering under his armpit:
In the Line of Duty: Trooper Mark Coates Killed by .22 Magnum
It is not the caliber you shoot that makes your gun more deadly, it is the location of your hits. If you are going to shoot a big gun, train in a big way.
Remember to carry your gun every day. Carry it everywhere you legally can. Know the laws governing the use of force in your areas. Those three elements are much more important than the caliber of your pistol.