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Have you ever thought about your handgun selection? I am sure we all agree every weapon system is a mere extension of the individual. But, have you considered what compelled you to select the handgun you are carrying? How about the advice you would give to a peer about choosing a gun.

We should spend a great deal of time thinking about the firearms available to us and select a handgun that will meet our needs and more importantly our abilities.  I once heard a trainer tell a student: “the best handgun for an encounter is the largest gun you have.” I know he meant that the largest caliber that would have the most significant impact on the target. However, that simple advice can mislead the professional investigator not familiar with the firearm.

After careful consideration of this comment, I thought it would be important for us to discuss what handgun caliber would be the best choice for you. Please keep in mind that some states may regulate the caliber handgun you can carry.

I am partial to the Glock .45. It fits my hand, shoots exceptionally well, and has proven reliability for me. This Glock is the best weapon for me, but not necessarily for someone else. All of the things that make this an excellent choice for me may make it a poor selection for another investigator.

When considering your handgun, the perfect weapon for anyone is the largest caliber they can handle efficiently and accurately. I would much rather face a person with a .45 who cannot control the handgun than I would a person carrying a 9mm who can knock the wings of a fly at 15 yards.

Throughout history it has been proven that it’s not the size of the bullet alone that matters, but what that bullet hits.  An event that I frequently refer to is the Trooper Coates murder. Trooper Coats shot a large and heavy-set man five times with his .357 magnum. All five rounds hit the man in the upper torso, but they did not kill him.

This man shot Trooper Coates with a .22 caliber Derringer and tragically killed him. Trooper Coates’ vest stopped one of the man’s bullets, but the second bullet went through Trooper Coates’ left arm, entered his body through his armpit, and struck Trooper Coates in the heart.

The trooper died on the scene, and the murderer survived. Trooper Coates died from a single .22 bullet, and yet the attacker lived after being shot five times with a .357 magnum. That proves that it is not just the size of the bullet but what the projectile hits that makes the difference.

Please understand I agree with the ballistic reports that show a larger bullet can do more damage, but the result of that damage is still dependent upon what the bullet strikes. 

Don’t select a handgun based purely on its caliber, nor on someone else’s opinion. Rent or borrow weapons of various makes, models, and calibers and determine which one works best for you. Evaluate how you perform with each one and select the largest caliber gun that best meets your needs and abilities. There are pros and cons for every handgun available.

Begin your training with the smaller caliber handgun, so that you can self-ingrain fundamentals of stance, grip, sight alignment, trigger squeeze and breathing. Once you have this firm foundation to build from, move up in caliber to the largest one you can efficiently and accurately operate. It may take a little longer to discover the gun that best suits you, but the time investment will be worth it.

Additional Handgun Selection Considerations

Not only does the caliber of the handgun matter, but you must also consider a variety of things that will influence the gun you decide to purchase and carry. I recommend you think about the following:

  • Work assignment (Uniformed or Plain Clothes)
  • Attire (Business Suit, Casual, or Outdoor Activities)
  • Accessibility (Holsters, Spare Magazine/Speed Loaders, Placement)

I encourage you to take the time to think about these things before making your handgun selection and purchase. Remember, selecting a handgun is like choosing clothing. It is specific to the person, and one size does not fit all.