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Choosing 9MM as a Defensive Caliber

I believe that 9mm is the best choice for a personal defense caliber. Modern bonded hollow point bullets in 9mm meet the minimum performance standards that we are looking for, with lower recoil, higher capacity and less cost than other options. Let’s take a look at these factors in more detail.

For many years, I believed in the “bigger is better” theory of defensive handgun rounds. About a decade ago, I started paying more attention to the engineering and performance of modern 9mm rounds and I made the switch. I have no lack of confidence in the 9mm round when I recommend to students or carry for the protection of myself and those I care about.

Choosing 9MM as a Defensive Caliber
  • Performance: When it comes to performance from a defensive bullet, I suggest people look for consistent penetration of 15” through light or heavy clothing in 10% ballistic gelatin. These are two standard tests performed by many entities, including the FBI. The FBI Testing Protocols are the standard by which most law enforcement agencies judge a bullets worthiness. Not only do many 9mm rounds meet the penetration depth criteria, well made rounds like the Winchester Defender and Train & Defend Lines also demonstrate excellent expansion and weight retention, which equals more consistent performance.


  • Lower Recoil: Out of any given firearm, any given person should be able to shoot typical 9mm rounds faster than rounds in other calibers that regularly meet the minimum performance standards, such as 40S&W, 357Sig or 45ACP. Lower recoil means faster follow up shots. Faster follow up shots mean more damage to your attacker. The faster you can create more holes, the better.


  • Capacity: You can fit more 9mm rounds into any given size firearm than you can of the round mentioned earlier. This means more shots before you need to reload and more rounds staged in your gun.


  • Cost: Regardless of your budget for training and practice, it is always better to be able to train more for less. 9mm practice ammo, such as Winchester White Box or USA Forged is less expensive than larger calibers in the same lines.


Rob Pincus
Rob Pincus
Rob is a leading international personal defense educator specializing in the area of Defensive Shooting. He has conducted training courses around the world for armed professionals and people interested in personal or home defense for over two decades. He is the author of several books and producer of over 100 DVDs on self-defense topics. He has spent thousands of hours researching, developing and teaching the courses that he and his team of certified instructors offer.