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Handgun Caliber Chart

A Handguns Ballistics Performance and Usage Guide

When selecting a handgun one of the most important considerations is caliber. The caliber will determine how powerful the handgun. Generally, the larger the caliber, the bigger the bullet, and the greater the penetration and stopping power. But having larger caliber handgun isn't always the best option. When considering caliber size, you'll want to take into account the purpose of the handgun, and also how much gun you can handle.

The three most important criteria to consider when evaluating caliber are bullet weight (in grains), velocity (fps) and energy (ft-lb). The handgun caliber chart below provides performance ballistics (e.g. velocity, energy) and usage recommendations (e.g. personal defense) for the most popular handgun calibers available on the market.

Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
45 gr @ 0 yds 1,000 ft/s 100 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
45 gr @ 50 yds 920 ft/s 85 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
45 gr @ 100 yds 857 ft/s 73 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
35 gr @ 0 yds 900 ft/s 63 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
35 gr @ 50 yds 813 ft/s 51 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
35 gr @ 100 yds 742 ft/s 43 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
60 gr @ 0 yds 1000 ft/s 133 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
60 gr @ 50 yds 905 ft/s 105 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
60 gr @ 100 yds 833 ft/s 92 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
80 gr @ 0 yds 1000 ft/s 178 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
80 gr @ 50 yds 933 ft/s 155 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
80 gr @ 100 yds 880 ft/s 137 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
80 gr @ 0 yds 1150 ft/s 235 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
80 gr @ 50 yds 1039 ft/s 192 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
80 gr @ 100 yds 963 ft/s 165 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
90 gr @ 0 yds 1000 ft/s 200 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
90 gr @ 50 yds 912 ft/s 166 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
90 gr @ 100 yds 845 ft/s 143 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
100 gr @ 0 yds 1125 ft/s 281 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
100 gr @ 50 yds 1003 ft/s 224 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
100 gr @ 100 yds 922 ft/s 189 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
115 gr @ 0 yds 1135 ft/s 329 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
115 gr @ 50 yds 1025 ft/s 268 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
115 gr @ 100 yds 949 ft/s 230 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
124 gr @ 0 yds 1110 ft/s 339 ft⋅lb Personal Defense, Varmint
124 gr @ 50 yds 1027 ft/s 290 ft⋅lb Personal Defense, Varmint
124 gr @ 100 yds 965 ft/s 257 ft⋅lb Personal Defense, Varmint
135 gr @ 0 yds 1010 ft/s 306 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
135 gr @ 50 yds 960 ft/s 276 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
135 gr @ 100 yds 918 ft/s 253 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
147 gr @ 0 yds 975 ft/s 310 ft⋅lb Personal Defense, Varmint
147 gr @ 50 yds 934 ft/s 285 ft⋅lb Personal Defense, Varmint
147 gr @ 100 yds 899 ft/s 264 ft⋅lb Personal Defense, Varmint
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
135 gr @ 0 yds 1225 ft/s 450 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
135 gr @ 50 yds 1112 ft/s 371 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
135 gr @ 100 yds 1031 ft/s 319 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
147 gr @ 0 yds 1225 ft/s 490 ft⋅lb Personal Defense, Varmint
147 gr @ 50 yds 1132 ft/s 418 ft⋅lb Personal Defense, Varmint
147 gr @ 100 yds 1060 ft/s 367 ft⋅lb Personal Defense, Varmint
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
90 gr @ 0 yds 1200 ft/s 288 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
90 gr @ 50 yds 1037 ft/s 215 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
90 gr @ 100 yds 938 ft/s 176 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
110 gr @ 0 yds 1010 ft/s 249 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
110 gr @ 50 yds 939 ft/s 215 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
110 gr @ 100 yds 882 ft/s 190 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
125 gr @ 0 yds 900 ft/s 225 ft⋅lb Varmint, Target/Match, Personal Defense
125 gr @ 50 yds 856 ft/s 203 ft⋅lb Varmint, Target/Match, Personal Defense
125 gr @ 100 yds 817 ft/s 185 ft⋅lb Varmint, Target/Match, Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
125 gr @ 0 yds 1500 ft/s 624 ft⋅lb Varmint, Target/Match, Personal Defense
125 gr @ 50 yds 1312 ft/s 478 ft⋅lb Varmint, Target/Match, Personal Defense
125 gr @ 100 yds 1163 ft/s 376 ft⋅lb Varmint, Target/Match, Personal Defense
135 @ 0 yds 1275 ft/s 487 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
135 gr @ 50 yds 1150 ft/s 396 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
135 gr @ 100 yds 1058 ft/s 336 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
140 gr @ 0 yds 1440 ft/s 645 ft⋅lb Varmint, Medium Game, Personal Defense
140 gr @ 50 yds 1281 ft/s 510 ft⋅lb Varmint, Medium Game, Personal Defense
140 gr @ 100 yds 1154 ft/s 414 ft⋅lb Varmint, Medium Game, Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
95 gr @ 0 yds 1000 ft/s 211 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
95 gr @ 50 yds 913 ft/s 176 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
95 gr @ 100 yds 846 ft/s 151 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
155 gr @ 0 yds 1180 ft/s 479 ft⋅lb Varmint, Personal Defense
155 gr @ 50 yds 1060 ft/s 387 ft⋅lb Varmint, Personal Defense
155 gr @ 100 yds 978 ft/s 329 ft⋅lb Varmint, Personal Defense
165 @ 0 yds 1045 ft/s 400 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
165 gr @ 50 yds 971 ft/s 345 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
165 gr @ 100 yds 914 ft/s 306 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
175 @ 0 yds 1010 ft/s 396 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
175 gr @ 50 yds 948 ft/s 350 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
175 gr @ 100 yds 899 ft/s 314 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
180 gr @ 0 yds 950 ft/s 361 ft⋅lb Varmint, Target/Match, Personal Defense
180 gr @ 50 yds 903 ft/s 326 ft⋅lb Varmint, Target/Match, Personal Defense
180 gr @ 100 yds 862 ft/s 297 ft⋅lb Varmint, Target/Match, Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
155 gr @ 0 yds 1265 ft/s 551 ft⋅lb Varmint, Personal Defense
155 gr @ 50 yds 1118 ft/s 430 ft⋅lb Varmint, Personal Defense
155 gr @ 100 yds 1018 ft/s 357 ft⋅lb Varmint, Personal Defense
175 gr @ 0 yds 1160 ft/s 523 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
175 gr @ 50 yds 1061 ft/s 437 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
175 gr @ 100 yds 990 ft/s 381 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
180 gr @ 0 yds 1180 ft/s 556 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
180 gr @ 50 yds 1077 ft/s 463 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
180 gr @ 100 yds 1002 ft/s 402 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
190 gr @ 0 yds 1620 ft/s 1107 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
190 gr @ 50 yds 1432 ft/s 865 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
190 gr @ 100 yds 1276 ft/s 682 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
210 gr @ 0 yds 1545 ft/s 1113 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
210 gr @ 50 yds 1383 ft/s 892 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
210 gr @ 100 yds 1244 ft/s 722 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
205 gr @ 0 yds 725 ft/s 239 ft⋅lb Varmint, Target/Match
205 gr @ 50 yds 689 ft/s 216 ft⋅lb Varmint, Target/Match
205 gr @ 100 yds 655 ft/s 195 ft⋅lb Varmint, Target/Match
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
165 gr @ 0 yds 900 ft/s 297 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
165 gr @ 50 yds 847 ft/s 263 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
165 gr @ 100 yds 802 ft/s 235 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
180 gr @ 0 yds 1000 ft/s 400 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
180 gr @ 50 yds 934 ft/s 349 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
180 gr @ 100 yds 881 ft/s 310 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
200 gr @ 0 yds 1500 ft/s 999 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game
200 gr @ 50 yds 1332 ft/s 788 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game
200 gr @ 100 yds 1194 ft/s 633 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game
225 gr @ 0 yds 1410 ft/s 993 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
225 gr @ 50 yds 1233 ft/s 760 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
225 gr @ 100 yds 1102 ft/s 607 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
240 gr @ 0 yds 1350 ft/s 971 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
240 gr @ 50 yds 1230 ft/s 806 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
240 gr @ 100 yds 1133 ft/s 684 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
300 gr @ 0 yds 1150 ft/s 881 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
300 gr @ 50 yds 1083 ft/s 781 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
300 gr @ 100 yds 1030 ft/s 706 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
185 gr @ 0 yds 970 ft/s 386 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
185 gr @ 50 yds 911 ft/s 341 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
185 gr @ 100 yds 862 ft/s 3056 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
200 gr @ 0 yds 900 ft/s 360 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
200 gr @ 50 yds 856 ft/s 325 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
200 gr @ 100 yds 817 ft/s 296 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
185 gr @ 0 yds 920 ft/s 348 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
185 gr @ 50 yds 870 ft/s 311 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
185 gr @ 100 yds 826 ft/s 280 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
225 gr @ 0 yds 960 ft/s 460 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
225 gr @ 50 yds 903 ft/s 407 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
225 gr @ 100 yds 855 ft/s 366 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
240 gr @ 0 yds 1900 ft/s 1924 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
240 gr @ 50 yds 1678 ft/s 1500 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
240 gr @ 100 yds 1478 ft/s 1164 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
300 gr @ 0 yds 1650 ft/s 1813 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
300 gr @ 50 yds 1474 ft/s 1447 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
300 gr @ 100 yds 1319 ft/s 1158 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game, Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
200 gr @ 0 yds 2200 ft/s 2149 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game
200 gr @ 50 yds 1941 ft/s 1673 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game
200 gr @ 100 yds 1703 ft/s 1288 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
400 gr @ 0 yds 1300 ft/s 1501 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
400 gr @ 50 yds 1176 ft/s 1229 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
400 gr @ 100 yds 1083 ft/s 1041 ft⋅lb Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
325 gr @ 0 yds 1350 ft/s 1315 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game
325 gr @ 50 yds 1191 ft/s 1024 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game
325 gr @ 100 yds 1077 ft/s 837 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
300 gr @ 0 yds 1475 ft/s 1449 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
300 gr @ 50 yds 1251 ft/s 1043 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
300 gr @ 100 yds 1092 ft/s 795 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Personal Defense
Mass/Range Velocity Energy Usage
300 gr @ 0 yds 1950 ft/s 2533 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game
300 gr @ 50 yds 1653 ft/s 1819 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game
300 gr @ 100 yds 1396 ft/s 1298 ft⋅lb Medium Game, Large Game

Popular handgun calibers

While there is a large variety of different handgun calibers, there is a handful of popular calibers that stand out from the pack. Notwithstanding, there is no one best handgun caliber. The caliber that is best for you will be determined by a number of factors that are specific to your need and situation. Below we'll explore the pros and cons of the some of the most popular handgun calibers on the market.

9mm Luger

The 9mm Luger is unquestionably the most popular handgun cartridge. It is used worldwide by government, law enforcement and civilians. The 9mm Luger cartridge is primarily used for self defense. The 9mm Luger comes in a standard pressure, as well +P and +P+ variants, that produce a higher velocity bullet. The standard 9mm Luger cartridge is most common.

Given it's popularity, the 9mm Luger cartidge is one of the least expensive caliber options. Economies of scale in production lead to lower 9mm handgun prices and cost of ammo. It's popularity has also lead to a large selection of gun accessories and ammo options. Most gun manufactures produce a variety of handguns chambered in 9mm caliber that will hold anywhere from 6 to 19 cartridges in a single magazine. 9mm pistols come in full-sized, compact and sub-compact options.

For a full-sized handgun, the 9mm has a relatively low recoil. It provides the punch of a full-sized pistol without as much kick.

The 9mm is one of the most versatile calibers. It excels as a self defense round, it is used in competitive shooting and is an ideal concealed carry sidearm. As popular as the 9mm is, some shooters prefer a more powerful round for self defense.

.40 S&W

The .40 S&W is a popular handgun round. The .40 caliber Smith & Wesson is more powerful than the 9mm Luger, but not quite a powerful as the 10mm Auto and .45 ACP — as shown in the above handgun caliber chart. The popularity of the .40 S&W comes from it's ability fit into a 9mm Luger framed pistol. It is ideal for self defense and law enforcement applications.

The .40 S&W caliber doesn't produce much more recoil than the smaller 9mm Luger, but has a moderate power advantage. It is easy to adjust to this caliber, and with a little practice can be shot with the same accuracy as the 9mm Luger. As the .40 S&W is a slightly larger round than the 9mm Luger, .40 S&W magazines typically carry fewer rounds than 9mm magazines.

Like 9mm Luger ammo, .400 S&W ammo is readily available.

.45 ACP

The .45 ACP is used in civilian, law enforcement and military applications. It was the standard chamber for the M1911 military pistol. The .45 ACP has more stopping power than either the 9mm Luger or .40 S&W with a moderate increase in recoil over the 9mm Luger and a comparable recoil to the .40 S&W. The .45 ACP provides the larger diameter bullet that many users prefer in a self-defense situation, but the larger bullet comes at a cost. Compared to either 9mm Luger or .45 ACP ammo, .45 ACP ammo is noteably more expensive.

Pistols chambered in the .45 ACP tend to be lower capacity, and .45 ACP pistols with higher capacity usually have a larger grip. Before purchasing a .45 ACP pistol, you should try it out to make sure it's comfortable. Today, the .45 ACP caliber is primarily a self-defense round used by civilians.

.38 Special

Contrary to what its name suggests, the .38 Special actually shoots a .357 caliber bullet. The .38 Special is more powerful than the .22 LR, but inferior in power and performance to the widely popular 9mm Luger. Compared to semi-auto handguns, the .38 Special revolver has a much lower ammunition capacity. Most people who use the .38 Special do so for the nostalgia of owning and shooting this iconic handgun.

One of the benefits of the .38 Special is its relatively low recoil. The .38 Special has a lower recoil than other handguns chambered in the .357 caliber, such as the .357 Magnum revolver. The most common applications for the .38 Special are concealed carry, self defense and target shooting.

.357 Magnum

The .357 Magnum caliber is a derivative of the .38 Special. Even though ballistically comparable, the .357 Magnum is a far more popular round than the .38 Special. The .357 Magnum is primarily used as a self defense round and excels in this role. In addition to self defense, the .357 Magnum is used in hunting applications. It has been used to kill a variety of game including deer. It is one of the few handgun rounds to be chambered in lever-action rifles.

The .357 Magnum caliber produces a bit of a kick. As this larger round is often chambered in smaller-framed revolvers, recoil is greater than for comparable calibers chambered in larger-framed pistols. Some .357 Mag rounds use reduced power self-dense loads to reduce kick and make recoil more bearable. Ammo for the .357 Magnum is typically more expensive than other handgun calibers.

The most common applications for the .357 Magnum caliber are self defense, hunting and target practice.

.380 ACP

The .380 Auto ACP is a smaller caliber that is typically chambered in small, easily concealable pocket-size guns. Medium- to standard-size pistols are typically not chambered for the .380 ACP. Since the .380 ACP is chambered in small frame pistols, recoil is often greater than what is experienced in slightly larger calibers chambered in a larger frame handgun. Recoil for the .380 ACP is reduced substantially when chambered in a larger pistol frame. This is an option for individuals who require a self defense gun with low recoil.

The .380 ACP is less powerful than the 9mm Luger, but more powerful than other self-defense rounds including the .32 ACP and .22LR. Still, the 9mm Luger is a preferred option for self defense, unless a small frame pistol is required.

.380 ACP ammunition can be a bit pricey.

.22 LR

The .22 LR (Long Rifle) is one of the smallest handgun calibers. Its popularity stems from its low price and low recoil. The cost of purchasing, shooting and maintaining .22 LR handguns is far less than larger calibers. It is an excellent choice for beginning shooters and those who require a low recoil handgun. Unfortunately, the .22 LR is not a powerful round. The .22 LR can be used for self defense but it not typically recommended for this purpose. The .22 LR is ideal for target practice and hunting small animals.

Ammo for the .22 LR caliber is typically plentiful.

Disclaimer: Sportsman's Warehouse assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions of the information on this page. Although we strive to provide the most accurate information as we can the information contained in this page is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.

Source: Handgun caliber general performance ballistics (e.g. bullet mass/type, velocity, energy) provided by Hornady 2017 Standard Ballistics Chart.