Best self defense rounds for ladies

I had a very good question today from a student that I decided warranted another (long overdue) blog post to fully discuss. The question was what caliber handgun would I recommend for a female shooter. Full disclaimer: this post is strictly my opinion on the question and its related subject matter, numerous other very qualified people may have differing opinions. When discussing handgun selection, it is important to remember a point that may seem obvious (but is often overlooked). This point is that the selection of a firearm is fully contingent on the purpose intended for the firearm. In the world of firearms and self defense I tend to look at options from a scientific standpoint and therefore caliber selection comes down mainly to the concept of energy, both the energy coming out the front of the gun as well as the energy that’s coming to the back of the gun (recoil) when the boom switch is pressed. If this wasn’t a major consideration then everyone would just carry a .500 S&W or .50ae. There are four calibers of firearm that I will look at that make up the overwhelming majority of the choices on the market. These are the .380 acp, .40 S&W, 9×19 (Nato, Parbellum, Luger, etc) and .45 acp.
The .380 acp is by technical specifications a 9×17. The mass of the .380 bullet ranges from roughly 60-100gr. Velocities range from 1000fps to 1800 fps (for the lightest loads). Muzzle energy ranges from 180 to 250 ft-lbs. This round has gained some popularity due to being a lower recoil round. Federal premium self defense type rounds I found $1.35-$2.21. The cheapest practice ammo I found was 34 cents per round.
The 9×19 is probably the most common caliber purchased in a handgun. Common bullet masses range from 100-150gr. Velocities range from 1150-2000fps. Muzzle energy ranges from 350-550 ft-lbs. Cost of federal premium self defense type rounds range from $0.75 to $1.50. The cheapest practice ammo I could find was $0.27.
The .40 S&W is often seen as a compromise between the 9mm and the .45acp. Bullet masses range from 115gr to over 200gr. Velocities range from 1100 to 1500 fps. Muzzle energy ranges from 470-600 ft-lbs. Cost of federal premium self-defense type ammo ranges from $0.62 to $1.80 per round. The cheapest target ammo I could find (excluding reloads) was $0.37 per round.
The .45 acp is honestly one of my favorite rounds. Its large, fat and slow and was mentioned in the book American Sniper by Chris Kyle as his choice of rounds due to its ability to take someone off their feet regardless of them wearing armor or being drugged up. That being said this round comes at the price of giving off more recoil. Bullet masses range from 165 to 260gr. Velocities range from 850-1800fps. Muzzle energy ranges from 400-850 ft-lbs. Price range of Federal Premium self defense type rounds is $1.50-$2.50 per round. The cheapest target ammo I could find for it was $0.42 per round.
I’ve always been concerned about relying on the .380 for self-defense. It just doesn’t carry a lot of energy. While it is a little lighter on recoil then the 9×19 it carries roughly half the energy. Further I’ve never had a shooter that couldn’t handle the difference in recoil from a .380 to a 9×19. On the opposite end of the spectrum the .45 acp carries a lot of energy and its ability to knock an assailant off their feet regardless of what their wearing or what their using (pharmaceutical wise) is well attested by both the military and the police forces around the world. Aside from that it is a bit more recoil then lighter shooters and recoil sensitive shooters want to shoot. The .40S&W is a great compromise as attested by both its bullet mass and muzzle energy. But there is a price to be paid for this compromise (literally) as the ammo isn’t much cheaper then the .45acp. I’ve commented before that a .22lr in the hands of a well-trained and practiced marksmen will serve better then a .50bmg in the hands of someone with no clue. While that may be an exaggeration the ability to be able to afford to practice as often as possible is a big consideration. The 9×19 due to its popularity shines in this regard and is overall the cheapest round to fire. The 9×19 does have a few problems in that its fairly small and fast moving giving it a relative lack of knock down power compared to the .40S&W and .45acp. But from a purely numerical comparison I think it’s the best of all compromises. It is also widely available and if you’re ever traveling and need ammo it can be found at literally any sporting goods store. The 9×19 is also found in most popular models of handgun from subcompact to target size barrels. For people with weak grip strength that have trouble racking a semi-automatic handgun the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield EZ is a very good option.

"Under pressure, you don't rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training."

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