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What caliber is the best choice for a law enforcement duty handgun?

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I guess this question is never going to go away. The short answer is the one that you can hit with 100% of the time AND has sufficient energy delivery to stop the lethal activity being engaged in. Since that magic bullet has yet to be invented the quest continues.

Howdy Nicole:  After spending several thousand getting educated by Capt. Mas Ayoob... it is .45... or second best .40 cal.  Please be advised that this is only because no one makes big mag's for a .50   Damn!!  :-).

Seriously, a nine is marginal, regardless of the stories of how many died in WWII,from this cartridge.  No one tells the whole story of the guy's had 28 bullets in them from a Sub Machine Gun!  In my research, "killing power or knock down power" is the biggest diameter bullet, transferring... through the best bullet expansion design possible, to disrupt the central nervous system, thereby shutting off the juice of the bad guy.  To Hell with political "Caliber"'s your ass on the line, and I want you to go home safe!

Look back a the cowboy days, BIG Slow moving lead bullets.  "Warp factor 9" speed slugs ,like the 6.8  are a joke and not the only answer, you must have deep penetration into the torso, hitting vital organs and disrupting body functions...hopefully.  So like the other officer answered...whatever caliber you can use comfortably and hit every time ,with is what you should carry.

Finally, be prepared to dry fire about 2000 times, practicing to make the motions become  automatic and instinctive!   Use your bedroom mirror and be sure gun is unloaded!!!  No time for a Oops A.D.!!

Stay Safe, Tom

I agree Tom. I too tend to favor the big, heavy bullet philosophy. But I understand that not everyone can shoot a caliber that starts with a 4 well. I shoot a .40 S&W and am satisfied but it is not my 1st choice either. ( However, I do like that my agency just went from the 155gr back to the 180gr.)For agencies that mandate calibers and/or issue sidearms it may be the best compromise though.  If the individual officer has more leeway then find the power level you are comfortable with and shoot. A lot!

I agree with both Tom and Jim. I have a close friend on LV PD, Nv. and he is a huge fan of the .357 SW. He carries Sigs with nothing but this caliber and believes its the best choice. I have read recently that most of the Glocks carried or issued by most departments nowaday are .40's. I dont know if its the best choice, but its the most favored it appears. I have carried .45 for most of my close to 20 years in LE and believe its a great round to have.  I'n my opinion, if you hit the person with anything from a 9 to .45 in the sweet spots, there going to work without a doubt.

Just keep practicing and perfecting your skills and when the time comes, you'll be prepared to win the fight.


Having been a Firearms Instructor since 1996 and big game hunter since I was 14 (now 45 yoa), my personal opinion  is this: anything 9mm or smaller I consider a "mouse gun" because if you get attacked by a bunch of rabid gerbils, you might be able to hold them off...anything bigger and you are probably in trouble. I too favor big, slow moving bullets! Shoot a wooden fence post like object. The big, slow moving bullet will cause much more movement from it's impact, where the smaller, faster bullet is more likely to pass through causing much less movement because of less "impact force" being applied. Remember, there are only two ways to kill a mammal , lethal blood loss (takes approx. 10 seconds if heart is destroyed) and central nervous system shutdown (requires precise shot that causes destruction of the "brain stem"). So, the more immediately that the effects ("impact force", "knockdown power", etc.) are felt by the opponent, the sooner you will get the desired response (their lethal action to cease).

Mr. Smith is correct, the more simple to operate, the better off the Officer is in combat! I think the main topic for this is the caliber, which what you mentioned was a .40S&W. This is a good caliber, especially with the right ammo. As Jim said above, he was very happy that they switched back to the 180 gr. bullet, which to me is something to be happy about. When I was "Rangemaster" at a local Sheriff's Office, we issued a 180 gr. +p with a "gold dot" bullet for the duty ammo, which I feel was a very good round. We started issuing the Glock Mod. 22 to that agency in about 1996/1997.  Today, I carry a Glock Mod. 35 mostly.  

During the last ten years of my career I carried a 1911 in 45 ACP and felt very well protected even with single stack mags ( I use Cor-Bon DPX in all calibers). My old department I retired from issued Glocks in 9MM.

Now I'm no fan of Glocks so the 1911 was a very welcome change. As far as a 9MM is concerned I practice with my Kimber Aegis in 9MM because of ammo cost but still carry a 45ACP. Yes I still practice with the 45 as well just not as much as I used to.

I'm new to this site but I'm certainly not new to law enforcement and shooting; so here in a nutshell are my thoughts on this very open-ended question: yes, caliber is important on several levels, but just as important (or even more so) is being able to hit what you aim at with the caliber you choose for field use. And don't think just because you carry a gun that holds upwards of 10-plus rounds that you have a better chance of survival, because the books are full of officer involved incidents where entire magazines were emptied with very few if any hits on target.

If you're new to law enforcement do some research on the subject, then ask around for experienced opinions, preferably from trusted range personnel. After that go to the range and work on your shooting abilities until you feel comfortable with what you carry. My personal choice for an off-duty/retired carry gun is a S&W 442 with Speer Gold Dot. However, when I'm working a specialized security gig (I am retired) I prefer a Glock Model 21 loaded with FMJ ball ammo. 13+1 in the gun is a lot of firepower for a .45, and I use FMJ because this homey don't want no failures to feed. Just my opinion.

Just for the record, there isn't such a thing as "knockdown" with a handgun. The only thing that's going to bring a suspect down with a handgun is hitting the brain or some other vital organ, the spine notwithstanding. No handgun that can be held will knock anyone down unless it delivers enough energy to physically transmit enough punch to the target, in which case for every action there's an equal reaction, which means the person holding the handgun will also be knocked down. Simple physics.


I’m waiting for the rebuttal so I can (pardon the pun) unload!

i think we'd all agree that a .458 winchester provides us  a lot of knock down power. yet, if i took that round and shot a Cape Buffalo with it in his ass, i think we would agree that we'd have a pissed off cow that wants to do a Polka on us, yes? Yet, if i took a 30-06 with a proper bullet, put one under his left ear, we'd be eatin alot of steak, yes. My translation is what most of you state, proper bullet placement, a caliber that provides over 300 ft. pounds of energy or better will accomplish our goal. shoot, shoot, and shoot some more as shooting is a perishable skill. muscle memory is what makes us a winner i think we'd all agree to that.

One more point from an old (very old!) street cop who has seen his share of shootings and even has a few success stories: firepower, although nice to have, is no substitute for hitting the mark. What I have seen in recent times is more rounds per loading equals more shots downrange, which equals more misses ... but on the plus side you young guys do get a lot of lead out there working for you when you have to yank and crank. On the other hand if you know how to place a shot (really place a shot) you don’t need a lot of empty cases to get the job done.  I guarantee that if you can keep your shots in the 10-ring, under pressure, you don't need more than a few well placed shots to bring the situation under control.  I know I sound like a dinosaur saying this, but there was a time us old school blue suits got the job done with just six in the cylinder, albeit we also had nervous partners who believed in the "hose and spray" philosophy of marksmanship, which only makes for a longer after-action report.  Hit what you aim at (and do it several times in rapid succession) and six shots are usually enough ... but, admittedly, it's also nice to have a high-capacity mag when the poop hits the fan.  I wish more young cops were involved in relevant pistol competition; the experience of firing under pressure really helps to build both confidence and ability.

Precise hits while under stress are what is needed! Now, since abilities vary from one officer to the next, the bigger rounds have more potential to cause the subject to quit the fight. To get the same result with a smaller round, more precise hits are likely to be needed. REMEMBER!!! There are two ways to kill a mammal (unfortunately, death is the only way to guarantee that the subject will cease their act(s) of deadly violence):

1. Lethal blood loss (if you destroy a mammals heart, it will take approx. 10 seconds for life to cease);

2. Central nervous system shutdown ( this requires the destruction of the "brain stem" by direct hit or by the bullet entering the skull and creating a large enough "temporary cavity" to cause the "brain stem" to be forced down into the spine).

To Mr. Romero:

It is unfortunate to current Officers but true that during the "revolver era" of Law Enforcement, there were 2.3 shots fired per officer/per shooting, with 2 hits. During the first decade of the "semi-auto era" (and I do not believe that the stats have changed much), there were 10 shots per officer/per shooting with still only 2 hits. There are several reasons that these stats are so different, but the most important thing is to figure out how to positively influence the current Officers with the current weapons. 


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