The Perfect Cartridge -- What Really Matters

Gun magazines have sold millions of copies from the newsstands with the help of cover blurbs shouting "9mm versus .45!!" or "Magnums Versus Standard Rifle Calibers!" We all engage in it. Who hasn't heard the .380 called a "mouse gun," or the .45 ACP dubbed a "man stopper." Magnum lovers talk down to hunters using old (often 100-plus years old!) cartridges for deer, elk, or moose. It's what we do, right? Beneath it all, though, there is a choice to be made, and it really does make a difference.

The choice is more difficult to make, harder to execute, and much more important than which cartridge to carry or to select for hunting.

I'd offer that any reasonable caliber will take care of 95 percent of the situations. Self defense? Go with a .380, 9mm, .40, .38 Special +P, .357 Magnum, .45 ACP, etc. Just get one. Hunting? Grab a .243, .257 or .25-06, any 6.5mm, .270, 280, .308 or 30-06. Use good bullets and forget about it.

So, what's the choice? You have to decide whether to get the most important piece of equipment -- the one that makes all the difference. That gear? A well-trained and practiced shooter. Oh no!  Not that, again. Yep. If you can put a bullet into the heart-lung vital area of a big game animal the diameter won't matter a bit. Just sharpen your knife and get to work.

The hidden secret on using a handgun for self defense is that they don't work well at all. You should plan on it taking a half-dozen hits to stop an attacker, no matter what caliber you use. It might take less. It may take more. In this case, shot placement and hitting the attacker multiple times is the key.

Sorry. I wish you could just buy competence, but I haven't found it on the shelf of the gun store. You make yourself a better shooter. That often saves the hunt or saves lives.

It's a commitment. It takes time and money. But, it's also a lot of fun. I can tell you that absolutely knowing you can make pretty much any shot you have to really builds confidence, and with confidence, you don't hesitate. You shoot exactly when that big bull steps into that small opening in the aspens. 

Sure, you can keep having the never-ending debate about calibers, but make sure you understand that YOU are the vital piece of gear.