No, I’m not summarizing the election results — after being immersed in politics for more than a year, I need a break. I’m referring to an email from a friend of mine, asking about the importance of barrel length in self-defense handguns. He was considering a .40 S&W caliber semi-auto, and was wondering about velocity.

Now, when it comes to barrel length, I generally point out to my students that the range of handgun barrel lengths is actually relatively modest — nowhere near the difference between a handgun and a rifle. Sure, depending on caliber, there might be a measurable change in velocity between a 2-inch “snubby” and the same round fired from a 5-inch gun, but that is seldom the choice being considered.

For most people, the decision in semi-auto pistols is between a 3.5-inch subcompact gun (a Glock 26 or 27), a 4-inch model (an XD Compact), or a 4.5-inch “duty” model (the SIG Sauer P226). And the reality here is that, in the same caliber and load, the velocity loss, even between the Glock 26 and the P226, will not be enough to significantly affect performance.

This is especially true of a higher-pressure round, like the .40 S&W (or even the 9mm), which ballistics testing shows loses much less velocity in short barrels than a relatively low-pressure load like the .45 ACP, which slows down considerably in the super-short barrels found in some of the popular “baby” 45s.

In any event, if you have short-barreled 9mm and are concerned about velocity, the solution is simple: use a +P load. I prefer the 124- to 135-grain versions over some of the “super-light” offerings from some manufacturers — they often don’t penetrate sufficiently, especially through clothing.

The .40 S&W does not have any “official” +P loadings, since it is already a pretty hot load to begin with. But honestly, I wouldn’t worry about velocity too much with the 40 — just stick with the “mid-size” loads (155- to 165-grain bullets), and you’ll do just fine.

In .45 ACP, since you have a big, fat bullet to start with, you can opt for the 230-grain +P load, or (as I often recommend, especially for mini-45s) the 200-grain +P loads offered by various top brands. Either one will work quite well, and the 200-grain bullets kick less, even in +P loadings.

In revolvers, I’m a big fan of the .357 Magnum. Why? For one thing, just as with the 9mm and .40 S&W, just about every major manufacturer makes .357 loadings designed for personal protection. These are usually in the 125- to 140-grain range, any one of which will do the job quite well, providing more than adequate velocity (and performance) even from the 2- or 3-inch barrel guns most people choose to carry.

Small, compact revolvers in .38 Special have been popular self-defense tools for almost a century. But it is only recently that major manufacturers have been producing personal protection ammunition designed specifically for these short-barreled guns.

Note: If your revolver, whether .38 Special or .357 Magnum, is one of those ultra-light alloy guns, I’d advise test-firing different ammo to make sure the recoil is acceptable.

All that being said, pick the firearm type, size and caliber that fits you and your lifestyle. Then practice, practice, practice. Because as a fighter pilot friend of mine says, “It ain’t the plane that matters, it’s the pilot.”