Let’s look through a few cartridges for my favorite kinds of handguns: revolvers.
Originally designed by Smith & Wesson, the .38 Special was the standard service cartridge used by many police departments in the United States from the 1920s to the early 1990s. As a centerfire round with manageable recoil, the .38 Special excels in versatility in uses for both target practice and concealed carry. I shoot .38 Special more than any other caliber, so it’s my preferred round, both at the range and in my CCW.
Equal in diameter, but more powerful than the .38 Special, the .357 Magnum is a slightly longer cartridge with more gun powder. Based on the same design as the .38 Special, the .357 Magnum packs more of a punch due to the increased powder load. While many view this cartridge as an excellent self-defense round, it requires more recoil management than most of the cartridges we’ve covered before. While there are both full-size and concealed carry guns for the .357 Magnum, the heavier the gun the easier it is to manage perceived recoil. A lighter-framed concealed carry gun in .357 Magnum may be more comfortable to carry, but is notably less enjoyable to shoot.
Contrary to popular belief, the .44 Magnum made popular by the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry movie series was not a popular choice among law enforcement personnel. Faster than the .357 Magnum due to it’s wider diameter (and greater powder count), heavier recoil and intense muzzle blast make the .44 Magnum poorly suited for much police use. Considered by some as an ideal caliber for sport and hunting, the .44 Magnum has been known to take down dangerous large game, such as hogs or alligators.
As a fifty-caliber centerfire cartridge, the .500 Magnum is considered the most powerful production handgun cartridge. Due to the amount of energy and intense recoil, this large cartridge is mainly used for hunting large game, from buffalo to bear, and beyond. Due to its size, penetration, and intense recoil, the .500 Magnum is a poor choice for self-defense or concealed carry purposes. The S&W Model 500 is a good example of a .500 Magnum caliber type gun.
With all the choices of caliber types, which is the best round to shoot? As with choosing the right gun, caliber selection is no different. The best caliber is the one you can shoot the most accurately. Even if that means shooting a smaller caliber, such as the .22LR, it’s wise to start out practicing with a round that can help you hone in on the fundamentals before moving on to a larger caliber. Find something you enjoy shooting, and you’ll be set.
Featured image courtesy of contributor ATUStudio via istockphoto.com