There are multiple handgun calibers available to the shooting public and many common uses of each caliber. Here are some examples of the most common handgun calibers and their primary use(s).
- .22 Long Rifle is the most popular rimfire caliber in use today. Typically, it is used by beginning handgun shooters because of its light recoil and relative cost. This cartridge is inexpensive and lightweight and most often used for recreational target shooting, plinking and familiarization shooting.
- .380 ACP is a popular choice for concealed carry (personal protection). It is typically a small handgun, more powerful than a .22, and still relatively lightweight and easy to shoot.
- .38 Special is a very common revolver caliber. It was used by most law enforcement until the 1990s and generally replaced by the 9mm.
- 9mm is a very popular caliber that is carried by 60% of the police force in the U.S. today, as well as many military users. For its power has mild recoil and inexpensive enough to shoot to be a good option for recreational target shooting with a handgun and is a good option for personal protection.
- .40 S&W is popular with some law enforcement including U.S. Coast Guard. It is powerful but not typically a round for personal protection. It has a strong recoil compared to the .380 or 9mm.
- .45 ACP has been the U.S. military standard for decades. It has a very powerful handgun caliber and lots of recoil but not an obnoxious recoil as it is a “push” recoil instead of a “sharp hit.”
- .357 Magnum is very powerful handgun. It has lots of recoil and is likely not for most beginning shooters. Remember, the dialog from the Clint Eastwood movie Dirty Harry.
This is a 357 Magnum—the most powerful handgun in the world.