The .380 ACP has a similar diameter as a 9mm caliber. As a result, the .380 ACP makes up the smallest of the combat calibers with a moderate-diameter bullet and a small charge of powder intended for controllable recoil in small-frame automatics.

The world’s most popular pistol round, the 9x19mm Luger or Parabellum was designed for military and police applications. Militaries and police take advantage of the cartridge’s superior ballistic characteristics and relatively lightweight. As a result, more than half of US police use handguns in this caliber, and it remains one of the most popular cartridge types for submachine guns as well. Its secret lies in the high velocity of the relatively small round; while only three-hundredths of an inch wider than a .32 ACP.

The 9mm rounds are light, affordable, and nearly ubiquitous, making them an excellent choice for regular practice. 9mm rounds are a common choice for self-defense, especially in hollowpoint configurations designed to expand on impact. +P 9mm rounds are another choice, but again only in newer semi-automatics certified for the +P rounds. It is essential to understand what +P or +P+ means. To help understand this topic we recommend you check out the following two articles:

One of the twentieth century’s best-known pistol cartridges, the old .45 Automatic Colt Pistol cartridge originally supplanted the .38 Long Colt cartridge after the Moro uprisings in the Philippines showed a need for better stopping power in the pistol cartridges issued to the US military.

Its low muzzle velocity is sufficient for penetration, and the round relies on its weight for its lethal characteristics. A pistol caliber comparison chart will typically list this as the largest of common self-defense rounds by caliber alone. While it lacks the sheer destructive power of other large cartridges such as the .44 Magnum, the .45 ACP allows for much quicker follow-up shots due to its lower recoil. On the downside, the round’s large diameter means that most handguns chambered for this cartridge hold fewer rounds than their 9mm or .40 S&W equivalent.


Whether you’re equipping yourself for target practice or self-defense, the choice of caliber can make quite a bit of difference. Larger rounds require more material to manufacture and less-common rounds receive less benefit from economies of scale in their manufacturing. Common calibers such as 9×19, .40 and .45 tend to dominate the mainstream handgun market. Plinkers gravitate toward the small end of the spectrum. Those needing protection from ornery wildlife commonly relies on magnum cartridges to bring them home safe. Whatever your needs, check out our pistol caliber chart and learn more about your favorite caliber. Until next time, stay safe and stay on target!

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