We’ve got an interesting mix of shooters and instructors today and people with WILDLY different needs and capabilities.
As an example, the capabilities, best technique, and “best gun” for someone in their 20s-30s who is spending an hour or two a day working out and an hour or two every week JUST on their grip strength is wildly different than someone struggling with recovering from a hand/wrist injury, arthritis, carpal tunnel, or other grip issues.
I’ve seen swings in grip strength between shooters of as much as 6X!
To think that the same gun, caliber, and technique will work for both is crazy-talk.
Small Round “Mouse Guns” – PERFECT For Self-Defense?
As with everything in life, dosing is key, and we want to try to match the dosing of recoil to what the shooter is able to manage effectively.
So, what are some guns that will make shooting more fun, training more effective, and the shooter with lower grip strength more effective in a lethal force encounter?
Here’s 5 options:
.38 Special Wadcutters
I got turned onto this by a couple of former Southern California cops…one from my church and Darryl Bolke.
.38 is an anemic round, but with wadcutters, it tends to cut a hole rather than squirt through.
In a low-velocity round like standard pressure .38, the wadcutter has a better chance of getting adequate penetration than a hollowpoint.
.32 Long Wadcutters
This, again was something that Darryl Bolke turned me on to because of hand injuries he was/is dealing with.
A subcompact revolver in .327 magnum (Ruger LCR) can hold 6 rounds in the same size cylinder that would hold 5 .357 or .38 rounds.
The .327 magnum lets you carry several different .32 caliber loads, including hot .327 magnums and easy .32 long wadcutters.
Rhett Neumayer was the guy who got me to admit that I carry a .22 loaded with Federal Punch fairly often.
Part of it is 8 shots in a j-frame/LCR size revolver, but I’ll get to why in a second.
Former FBI FTU instructor, Bruce Cartwright turned me on to this jewel of a gun.
It is a small, easy to shoot .22 semi-auto with a rich, rich history of being used for serious work.
Another round that is typically thought of as under-performing. Ammo selection is key.
Low velocities cause hollowpoints to under-penetrate and I suggest hard-cast lead from Buffalo Bore. .380 sucks…Buffalo Bore makes it suck less.
A lot less.
What Makes These Underperforming Rounds OK?
It’s based on a couple of things…first, that all defensive handgun ammo sucks and is relatively ineffective when compared to carbine or rifle ammo.
9mm and .45 suck slightly less than .380 and .22… but not THAT much less.
No matter what defensive handgun caliber you shoot, stats from Greg Ellifritz’s analysis of 1,800 shootings show that it pretty much takes 2-3 solid hits to stop a threat, regardless of the caliber.
(In fact, statistically the .22 performs better than the 9mm and .45…but there are other factors beyond the numbers)
So, then the question becomes, which gun/caliber/load combination will allow you to put those 2-3 hits in a vital zone quickest?
Not 1 hit per second, but 2-3 or 4 hits per second?
Where Lighter Loads Shine Brightest
This is where lighter recoiling pistols/loads shine.
A .22 can allow a shooter with relatively average or low grip strength to put 2-4 TIMES more critical hits on target per second than they can with a full-power defensive load.
And 2-4 TIMES more wound channels in vital areas will typically result in a quicker incapacitation than 1.
This is also true when shooting 1 handed, with your pinkie hanging off the grip, or with a bad grip.
In fact, the worse your grip issues, the more forgiving a light-recoiling cartridge will be.
Kind of a funny and counter-intuitive point that Rhett Neumayer brought up is how the minimal recoil of these mouse-fart rounds means that there’s a lot less difference between dry fire and live fire.
As you know from reading what I put out, the higher the fidelity between training and reality, the better you’ll perform.
All of this underscores the importance of tactical training when it comes to your daily carry weapon.
Range training is important, but dry fire training is importanter as the t-shirt says.
Because without effective tactical training it might not matter much what round you’re carrying.
Give me a 22 I’ve plinked with every Saturday for 10 years over a 10mm I just picked up off the ground any day of the week.
Well, I can tell you, as a handgun hunter, the old 38 special “police load”(158 grain RN lead) were basically small game rounds… literally
I don’t know why soft points tend to be ignored anymore… in 38 and 380, the just make sense… less expansion, more penetration. However, it also opens the door for more pass throughs…
Back in the day, I played with Glasers and Magsafes ( tho, not often…too d**m expensive)… the were pretty destructive with no pass throughs… hmmm idk
The timing on your article is personally interesting to me because my 31 yo daughter recently revealed she hasn’t pursued her CCW permit because shooting hurts her arm due to pain from carpal tunnel issues. I gifted her a S&W Shield 9 mm M 2.0 five years ago (she picked it after trying several guns/calibers) but she never spent much time shooting. Ironically I had previously given her a Llama .22 caliber semiauto I owned for years. Built like a miniature 1911 , it is solid, reasonably accurate and reliable with the right ammo. Now, with emphasis on using the Llama as a carry gun, she is back on track to getting the CCW permit. Bottom line for me is I would rather her be armed with the 8 shot .22 caliber than nothing at all. Bad guys don’t want to get shot at all and a few rounds from a .22 will likely destroy their OODA loop, disrupting their attack plan and either send them running the other way or at least distract them enough for their victim to escape or place more rounds on target and stop them.
Better the gun you have with you, regardless of caliber, than no gun at all.
D.W. Cripps, Ret. Police Sgt.
Any gun will do if you will do! Meaning train with it, learn how to use it effectively and be able to retrieve it in a second and a half or faster. Remember the best gunfights are when no shots are fired and you WIN the fight. Training and a combat mindset along with a mental code of awareness of your surroundings can potentially eliminate or stop a threat without shots being fired. With that, caliber isn’t the most important element, You are!
true and in a perfect world we’d not need concern ourselves with using anything for protection. Have we EVER had a perfect world?
In my opinion (for what it’s worth), you’re mostly right. A .22 or .380 will back off most muggers, nobody WANTS to get shot. But if the crook is armed, club, knife, or gun, he may favor his chances against a little gun or knife. My carry is a 1911 in 10mm. It’s big, scary looking, and the 10mm is known not for shooting INTO soft targets, but for shooting THROUGH them. We’re a bit apart in thought, and I think either is a viable solution, but both are OPINIONS, NOT PROVEN FACT. We’re two different people with two different opinions, what’s right for me might not apply to you, and vice versa. I think the determining factor is practicing whatever method you choose until you don’t miss.
My wife is petite, with small hands and not comfortable with the 9mm handguns I own. I got her the S&W AirLite .22. It’s light-weight, holds 8 rounds and the double action is smooth and easy to shoot. She is very accurate with this handgun and would deter most would be attackers if needed. Considered an upgrade to 22 WMR, but the trigger pull on most of them is too stiff and not worth the extra punch. Agree with the article that more rounds delivered accurately and confidently is better than the punch of a bigger caliber at the sacrifice of accuracy and confidence.
consider a .22 Mag snubbie. The famous border patrol handgunner Bill Jordan carried one as a backup to his .357. Though it was nastier than standard .38
I carry a .32 Taurus and I love it . With the extended grip I have 8 rounds of hollow point ammo. I think that will stop anyone
Bought my mom a S&W .380 EZ because she’s pushing 70 and doesn’t have the hand/arm strength to rack the slide and shoot heavier caliber pistols. I also taught her to keep shooting until THE THREAT NO LONGER EXISTS. Even if she shoots her sidearm dry, reload and keep shooting until the attacker is either dead or running away. I feel a lot more comfortable now that she’s armed and knows how to shoot since she lives alone, and the fact that I live 400 miles away and can’t be there to protect her. I also bought her an AK47 “pistol” that I taught her how to shoot and made it clear that she should confront the threat with the AK before the pistol since it’s far more powerful. Hopefully she never has to use either for anything other than target practice, but I feel confident that she can defend herself, and that’s what matters to me.
I absolutely love my .22 Ruger. I am over 70 but enjoy the weekly training at the range with the guys. I have had to learn to shoot left handed as my right can’t adjust for grip and trigger use. My little .22 never hurts me, is always easy to grab and easy to dress around for daily carry. I can empty a clip and reload with the best of them. Larger can do more initial damage but lots of little plinks can compete admirably!