Handgun Stopping Power

I recently completed my NRA CPL training course in preparation for getting my CCW.

My original intent was to use my  Ruger LCR .38 as my primary carry weapon.

However, my instructor had a Ruger LCP 380 semi-auto.  I originally had considered the .380 ACP to be too light a load for self defense.  However, I really liked the very small form factor and light weight.   I really can’t stand having big bulky things in my pocket (my planned carry method) so I was intrigued by the little Ruger LCP 380.

I did a little research and came across this interesting article on handgun stopping power.


The author did his own study based on police shooting reports.  He comes to a rather surprising conclusion.

The results I got from the study lead me to believe that there really isn’t that much difference between most defensive handgun rounds and calibers. None is a death ray, but most work adequately…even the lowly .22s. I’ve stopped worrying about trying to find the “ultimate” bullet. There isn’t one. And I’ve stopped feeling the need to strap on my .45 every time I leave the house out of fear that my 9mm doesn’t have enough “stopping power.” Folks, carry what you want. Caliber really isn’t all that important.

My gun-goon friend expressed concern about the reliability of the smaller semiautomatics, but conceded that as John Lott in “More Guns, Less Crime” concludes that about 96% of gun related self defense situations result in no shot being fired, it seems to me that the most important criteria is to have a pistol you will be more likely to carry.

I know there are lots of Revoistas out there who can provide great feedback on this topic.

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30 Responses to Handgun Stopping Power

  1. RJ says:

    Things come to mind, I’ve worked lotsa killings where someone was shot to shit with a 22,32,380,9mm,.45
    they were all dead.

    Some died slower than others some faster, the two things ya gotta rememeber is bullet placement at the start of the gunfight and the will to survive mindset.

    Once you have determined ya have to shoot, make em count and keep shooting till the threat is over. Two or three shots center mass followed by one or two in the head if the suspect is still standing or showing any will to fight.

    A 380 with good hollow points (gold dot type) is as good as any. That being said, I am trending toward my full size .45 more and more. Part of the reason is 8 rounds of .45 before reload, with my smallest 380 it is 5 before reload.
    A second reason is nothing says I am fucking serious leave me the fuck alone than a full on shooter stance with a cocked and locked if some asshole starts following me when he shouldn’t.

    The fighter mindset/will to survive probably has won more confrontations than any thing else out there. The mind controls the body and can cause it to survive some bad situations.

    John Lott is right about the 96%, no shots fired, most times being willing and having the availability of a gun can end most bad situations.

    The absolute best self defense handgun is the one on your person all the time.

    My Motto is I never leave home without it, just like American Express.

    Seriously I have not left home without my personal protection device in the last 18 yrs.

    Just my humble opinion.. 🙂

  2. BigJimTX says:

    I was always of the mindset that paralleled guns and cars: no replacement for displacement.

    However, there is a difference between needing to kill and needing to survive a gunfight. Most bad guys will go away when presented any threat. They are chickenshits like that. They want easy money not a gunfight. On that note, it is WAY more likely that I will carry a pocket pistol than a full size. A 22 in the pocket serves you better than the .500 S&W at home.

    I have shot the Sig 238 and the LCP. I hate shooting the LCP. The sig is incredible to shoot, but for the price, you can buy 2-3 LCPs. They are both .380s. Sig also makes a 938 which is 9mm version of 238.

    Guns and Ammo has an article this month on pocket nines. Nice article; looks at a number of super compact pistols.

    I carry an XDm compact 9mm, but am looking to get the sig 238 or 938.

    And if it doesn’t fit in your pocket, Crossbreed Supertuck – ALL THE WAY. Absolutely the most comfortable holster I’ve found.

  3. notamobster says:

    I bought a Sig p220 years back. Great gun. Single stack .45 –

    I’ve carried a glock .40 (sub-compact)good gun comfy/ easy conceal –

    a XDM .40 (enormous – don’t recommend for concealed carry as it doesn’t conceal well 🙂 It’s a workhorse! Best pistol I ever owned) –

    a Lorcin arms .380 (the first pistol I ever bought/ shit gun($55 & yes it was legal) –

    a S&W .40 (easily concealable/comfortable)

    My favorite CCW pistol ever was my NAA .22 LR/Mag pocket pistol. I wear basketball shorts and tank tops/t-shirts a lot. It clips easily into a pocket or waistband of ANYTHING. With a 3/4″ barrel and magnum rounds that dog BARKS.

    It’s holster is the grip as it folds up and looks like a pocket knife. Light, compact, and comfortable – it was my favorite all around ccw. I also carried it in my pocket as a back-up while on duty.

    You aren’t sustaining a firefight with it, but it works for immediate defense. Twice it was wanded and I walked through security at an NFL & an NBA game.

  4. Ray Davies says:

    I agree with RJ. Everything is mindset and shot placement. All depending on what I’m wearing determins what I carry. I prefer a small .45, but with light clothing I carry a .22 Iver Johnson TP22

  5. KJ says:

    I usually carry a Glock 23 in the winter months when attire is more suitable to concealing it. I too use the Crossbreed Supertuck with this, it is a great holster for concealed carry.

    I also have the LCP for summer carry, or whenever my attire isn’t suitable for the .40 cal. I don’t feel like I’m at a disadvantage with the LCP, it is a great gun for for the purpose it is intended.

    The way I look at it, I’d rather have the smaller caliber LCP in my pocket, rather than not carrying at all because my Glock was too hard to hide.

  6. Tony says:

    I have never shot a human. I have shot a lot of animals from rats to deer to hogs to bear. I have shot critters with pistols, revolvers,rifles,traditional archery equipment and compound bows.

    I am convinced if you want to stop a a living creature you need to use a rifle or a shotgun. If you are forced to use a handgun you need something that make a hole all the way through. A hole in and a hole out. The bigger hole the better. I want blood running from both holes. Above all you need penetration. There are expanding loads from 38 special up that will get deep in a human body but when I carry a 380 I load it with FMJ to get the bullet as deep as I can. My intention is to shoot holes through the middle till the threat drops from my sights.

    I took a B-27 target and rapped it half way around a piece of poultry netting wrapped into a right circular cylinder. I placed the handle of a broom stick inside the poultry netting and behind the target, out of sight, positioned where a human spine would be located. I was surprised how often I could hit the broom stick while moving around the target at 7 yards shooting as rapidly as possible.

  7. Tony says:

    I mean this with all due respect.

    If you assume “a full on shooter stance “with a cocked and locked [gun] if some asshole starts following me when he shouldn’t” and that individual is doing nothing other than following you you will win the moment but likely go to jail.


  8. Tony says:

    I know I am on a roll and hogging space but I think item “Five Rules for CONCEALED Carry” on the following page is good advice. I think this advice would have kept Zimmerman’s ass out of the sling.


    K.. I am done now. 🙂

  9. Tony says:

    Well I guess I am not done.. RJ. The comment I addressed to Doc was intended for you, not Doc. I was not trying to talk past you. Please understand I respect your statement and expressed mine with all due respect toward your experience.

    Outta here.

  10. J.Willy - Denver, CO says:

    My brother is a retired Marine, retired cop, & is currently a highly paid shooting instructor; He carries several versions of the 1911 w/about 3 or more 9-shot magazines. Like all marines, he believes in Overwhelming force; and .45 are easier to reload.
    I carry a Glock 22 .40 call & 2 spare 15 shot magazines. It’s a 15 yr old [or more] weapon, but I have shot thousands of rounds with it, and have developed a personal relationship with it that makes me feel very, very confident when I carry it.
    But both choices are heavy & can be cumbersome, and I leave it at home more times than not becaue of it.
    I also like my .22 LR Auto and it is lighter & easier to carry. Think of it this way; would you rather receive a full on punch to the jaw or solar-plexus from the biggest, baddest dude you know, or a .22 round center mass? How about 4 or 5 quick rounds center mass and a few to the head? I think I agree that it is better to have a lighter weight smaller weapon that you’re more willing to carry, then a deadlier weapon left at home. But when in my home, I also agree that a good 12-gauge with 5 to 7 double-odd Buck shot loads [right next to my bed] is the way to go.

  11. Marlin Savage says:

    Started hunting and target shooting at the age of 8. Now,
    at the age of 65, I’ve shot and
    eaten game from squirrels to moose.

    The largest animals I’ve shot
    were bulls and steers on our dairy
    farm as a young boy. Every year,
    we would butcher two or three, some
    weighing well over 1000 pounds.

    Every one was shot with a single .22 cartridge. Shot placement made a second shot unnecessary.

  12. notamobster says:

    Tony – A “rifle or a shotgun” is pretty inconvenient for concealed carry. 🙂

  13. Tony says:


    I agree. It is tough to hide an AR-15. Still if I know it is gonna happen I want a rifle.

    In Tennesse where I live, if you have a concealed carry permit, you can carry a rifle in you vehicle with a mag installed as long as the chamber is empty.
    Still you are right it is tough to hide a rifle.

    I once shot a whitetail doe with a Ruger Redhawk in 41 Remington Mag. she weighed 80 pounds dressed. I shot her broadside through both lungs at 35 steps. She ran about 100 yards before she fell over and died. I often think about how much ground she covered when I put my pistol on in mind of defending myself against a determined badass. 🙂


  14. Rockheim says:

    I subscribe to the theory that the best gun for any carry purpose is the one you will carry.

    I carry my Walther PPS in 9mm. 8rds of 9mm suits me just fine. And it’s a hell of a lot better and easier to carry than my old Ruger P90 .45..

    It’s comfortable. Can carry and conceal well with almost any kind of clothing and it’s fun to shoot.

  15. reboot says:

    I used to carry a kel-tec P-9 all the time with specialized rounds. Silvertips and SXT’s. It was so light I’d forget I had it.
    Take a look at that company, they produce some quality arms. If’n I go back to the states, that’s what I’ll carry year around.


  16. rj says:

    Not to belabor a point by beating a dead horse, but the whole point in “following me when he shouldn’t”…ie…from an atm machine… across a street, through a couple blocks walking and a couple turns and into a dark parking garage…it’s called situational awareness…followed by fighter mindset…ie showing the willingness to defend youself if necessary and the very properly displayed tools to do so…

    As far as going to jail do ya really think the asshole who was following ya two blocks and into a garage after ya took a couple hundred outta a atm with the intent to mug you is gonna call the cops after ya just put the fear of God and Colt into him?

    Try a little comprehension next time to go with all that due respect, after all there is a reason I’v been carring a pistol 18 yrs and never leave home without it.

    By the way I ain’t never been to jail yet… 🙂

  17. rj says:

    Hey Nota

    Speaking of shotguns for concealed carry have ya taken a look at the “Judge” .41 long colt / 410 ga shotgun revolver.

    Winchester makes a shotgun round specifically for it, a copper disk holds in a few .0 buck shot, devastating at close range.

  18. Jim22 says:

    Another opinion: Handguns have many disadvantages and, really, only one advantage: concealability.

    The pistol’s worst advantages are these two: They are woefully underpowered compared to a rifle or shotgun, and they are much harder to hit your target with than any long gun.

    Consider a pistol cartridge. I don’t care which caliber it is it contains only a pinch of powder. Rifles and shotguns have spoonfuls. Pistols are lower powered arms. Because of that they need to rely on shot placement for effectiveness.

    The need for accurate shooting is hampered by their short sight radius and the inablility of humans to shoot them as well as they do long guns. Because of this pistols require much more training. Most of us don’t do that.

    Because of their low power I don’t think handguns have what is called ‘Stopping power’ unless you hit the brain. That’s not easy to do. It is relatively easy to make head shots on paper silhouettes while standing still. It’s quite another thing to do it when you are moving and your assailant is moving as well.

    Another problem with accurate shooting in a defensive situation is that your opponent is not likely to be seven or ten yards away. If he is, and is not attacking, you probably don’t need to shoot him.

    Most defensive gun uses are much closer, like at arm’s length apart. In a case like that you have lots of things to deal with. If your assailant is armed you should be moving sideways to avoid being shot or cut. You can’t assume a two-hand Weaver stance. First, you don’t have time, and second, you need to keep your gun close so it isn’t taken away from you. Also, you will probably be using your weak hand to fend him off. You need to avoid shooting your own hand.

    ‘Concealed Carry’ is better than going unarmed. But, carrying something that is concealable means carrying something that is less effective. It pays to know the limitations of both you and your gun. If you keep a gun at home for home defense it should be a long gun. They are more effective and easier to shoot well.

    I chose a pump-action shotgun. Mine is in 12 gauge but there is little difference if you choose a smaller gauge like 20.

  19. Jim22 says:

    Oh, and I agree with BigJiminTX, the Crossbreed supertuck holster is very comfortable. If you are considering buying one you should understand that they have a couple of drawbacks, though. First, they are a pain to put on. You pretty much have to undo your pants do so.

    Second, if you are carrying a semi-auto be careful of the magazine release. My supertuck put pressure on it and I found the magazine to be loose at the end of the day. This can be fixed by cutting away a little leather or wet forming it where the release makes contact.

  20. James says:

    Nota, is that thing on your key ring?

  21. Bman says:

    The .45 M1911 had the stopping power needed to help bring an end to the Philippine Insurrection. It was good enough for the US Army for 80 years or so.

  22. slinger says:

    Score another point for the Crossbreed SuperTuck … hands down the best holster I have used.

    I went through a few iterations for carry guns. I started with a Kimber Ultra CDP (3″ 1911 in .45 ACP), and I found myself less willing to carry it daily. Then I moved to the Ruger LCP (.380). I carried that daily, but I did not have confidence in my ability to stop a determined attacker with it. I now carry a S&W M&P .40 compact. I always carry 10 rounds in the holster and I carry a backup 15 round (full size magazines work in the compact with the X-grip extension) when my clothing allows.

    Here are the general rules I used to arrive at my choice from most important to least important:

    1) Always carry a gun
    2) Shot placement
    3) Reliability
    4) Caliber
    5) Number of rounds

    For my Ultra CDP, rules 2 and 4 were well covered. After taking some 2 and 4 day courses, I found that 3 was an issue. The Ultra CDP was reasonably concealable; however, I did tend to leave it home at times. I think 7 rounds is about the minimum I would want to carry. The Ultra CDP had that, but I really should have carried spare magazines.

    The LCP really satisfied 1, but 2 was severely compromised. The sight radius is very short, and the sights themselves were almost useless. I think 2 could have been improved with a laser. For caliber, I really don’t like relying on anything less than 9 mm to stop an attack.

    The M&P seemed to cover the 5 rules very well. I carry it everywhere, it is easy to aim and shoot well, it is extremely reliable, .40 is an excellent defensive caliber, and I carry 10-25 rounds. It is not as concealable as the LCP, but I am not as concerned about “deep” undercover these days.

    That said, I will still carry my LCP if I go somewhere where detection would get me in trouble 🙂 I would like to replace my LCP with a M&P Shield at some point.

  23. Rockheim says:

    I’ve heard that complaint about many of the IWB holsters and other conceal methods.. About the mag release getting tripped. Handguns from Walther and HK and some others don’t have that issue as the mag release is integrated into the trigger guard.. Kind of a neat feature that is easy to get used to.

  24. Notamobster says:

    Funny, James. It folds into its own holster and clips on to your pocket. I wore mine to work every day, in business casual attire and no one knew. It looks like a pocket knife. Its light, compact, and great for a last resort self defense weapon.

    Great for a woman to carry in her purse, too.

  25. Uke says:

    Great for a woman to carry in her purse, too.

    I had no idea, Nota. You carry a Coach bag? No wait, I know… you’re rocking the new Gucci, right?

  26. sortahwitteg says:

    I’m still carrying my LCR .357, and it works for me. Only five rounds, but they leave a hole a nasty fruitcake would pass through. I use a IWB leather holster, but stuck in my right front jeans pocket. I’m right handed. The top of the holster and some of the butt show. I usually keep a shirt or jacket over it. But if it is accidentally revealed, we have open carry in Oklahoma. I also carry my switchblade in my left pocket. Then you don’t have to worry what kind of a fight you have been invited to.

  27. RJM says:


    “One Caliber To Rule Them All By!”

  28. Trent says:

    Man, I am pissed I came into this late. Great comments by all. I did the CCW recently, and I am still waiting on it to come in. I got the new Springfield XDS(single stack 45 ACP) for my carry, but I have been looking for a good back-up/pocket weapon. The XDS is great(almost as small as the LCP), but it is heavy and prints a little too much in the pocket for my taste. The LCP would be great, but I am looking at the Taurus 738FS TCP because it is cheaper and nearly the same product.(http://www.galleryofguns.com/genie/default.aspx?item=1-738031FS)
    Anybody have any experience with Taurus? My dad love his little .380, and it is perfect for pocket carry.

    Second question: What is the best way to carry? I thought about inside the belt for my XDS and pocket for backup, but I thought about ankle carry as well. Anybody have some experience?

    Finally, Nota, I am really thinking of getting that .22 mag. How does it shoot?

    • notamobster says:

      It’s a single action revolver. It’s comfortable, even in my large hands. That folding grip/holster makes it work. If you’re a good shooter and you practice – it becomes second nature. Since you have to cock it with each shot, you will need to practice. I loved it. The convenience, profile, weight, comfort of the thing made it my all the time, off-duty weapon. You won’t ever regret buying it.

  29. KJ says:

    200.00 is a pretty good price, just remember if you order online you’ll have an additional transfer fee on top of everything. I paid 285.00 for my LCP at my local gun store, I think it is worth the extra money. I’ve never shot a Taurus, but I’ve heard some good, and some bad things about their reliability. I really don’t think you can go wrong with an LCP.