Choosing the Best Handgun Ammo for Home Defense

One of the most commonly asked firearm related question is, ‘which is the best handgun ammo for home defense?’ There is no clear or right answer to that question. The truth is different calibers behave differently. Each caliber has unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Preference of a particular ammo also depends on the shooters experience. A new shooter may prefer a gun which is comfortable, accurate, and has less recoil while some shooters like the high caliber hand-cannon rounds. Now, a gun enthusiast can spend a lot of money buying different guns with different calibers in the pursuit of finding the right ammo.

However, for a family that can afford to buy only one handgun, this choice becomes much more crucial. To help you to take the right decision, here’s our list of the most popular types of ammo available in the market along with their advantages and shortcomings.


This is one of the lightest and smallest rounds you can fire from a handgun. Thanks to its light weight it tends to tumble after hitting a target which can be lethal at close quarters. Being the smallest round it also has no recoil which in turn enables you to hit the target accurately and swiftly fire multiple rounds without straining your hands. However, this round has very little stopping power making it unfit for personal protection.

.32 ACP

The .32 ACP does have significantly more stopping power than the .22 and are often fired from super-compact concealable pistols. Several gun manufacturers have introduced series of compact pistols which are easily concealable and can be carried around without drawing any attention.

Therefore, if you want a very small pistol for concealed carrying, the .32 ACP rounded pistols might serve the purpose. Now, most people think that .32s are not good for home defense as it lack the power of a high caliber bullet. However, keep in mind that policemen used the .32 round extensively not that far back.

In fact, it continues to be popular among law enforcement officers in Europe.

.38 Special

Most gun experts and enthusiasts consider this round to be the minimum when it comes to serving as a personal protection weapon. The Special round manufactured specifically for revolvers and is undoubtedly one of the most popular rounds in the world. The round is good for most home defense situations and has decent stopping power. This is a well balanced round which delivers a perfect mix of stopping power and accuracy.

.357 Magnum

Consider the .357 Magnum round as the turbocharged .38. The rounds are more or less the same size but the .357 magnum has a lot more powder enabling it to reach higher velocities. However, more power comes at a price as .357 Magnum handguns are known have quite a kick. The significantly higher recoil may not be a trouble for experienced shooter but can be uncomfortable for new gun owners.

.380 ACP

This semi automatic pistol round was pretty popular in Europe before it came to America. John Browning designed and introduced it in 1912 in Belgium. Since then it’s considered to be a practical round for compact pistols. If you are looking to buy a pistol for the first time, the .380ACP is surely a strong contender.


Slightly more powerful than the .380s, the 9mm is easily the most inexpensive defensive rounds available in the US market. There are literally endless varieties of pistols that fire this round ranging from super compact pistols to full sized handguns giving you enough options if you are comfortable with the round. Overall the 9mm is hugely popular, has relatively less recoil, and adequately powerful for most defensive situations.

.40 S&W

Developed jointly by Smith & Wesson and Winchester, this round was aimed deliver a similar stopping power that of a 10mm rounds used briefly by FBI officers. However the .40 S&W does have shorter case which in turns means more tamed recoil. Law enforcement often uses this round in the US and has more than enough power to be part of any home.

.45 ACP

American soldiers have used his round every single war we’ve participated in in the past 70 years. Fired by historic M1911 pistol, this is a sturdy and reliable round that has proven itself in the battlegrounds of World War 2. .45ACP rounds are significantly heavier than the 9mm and deliver a more lethal punch. However, it also has higher recoil which means new users have to get used to it at first. The round is also cheaply available as most stores have a healthy stock of discount 45 auto ammo brands. Most experts believe that going anything above the .45 for defensive purposes is overkill and impractical.

The higher caliber rounds like the monstrous. 500 S&W significantly impacts the accuracy of a weapon and should only bought for recreational purposes.