Handgun Calibers

What is the most popular handgun caliber?
Worldwide, the most popular handgun caliber is the 9x19mm Parabellum, also known as the 9mm Luger.

The semi-autos in my collection are made for .25 (6.35mm), .32 ACP, .380 ACP and .45 ACP. Note: ACP is the acronym for Automatic Colt Pistol. In the revolver category, I have handguns chambered for .22 Long Rifle, .32 NP (New Police), .38 Special and .357 Magnum. The Colt .32 NP (flat nose) is functionally the same as .32 S&W Long (round nose). And finally, I have a combination over/under gun that fires .45 Long Colt and .410 Shot Shells. In 2022 I added an S&W .41 Magnum.

.45 ACP bulk ammo

The only 9mm I've ever purchased or owned was the Colt All American Model 2000. It was short-lived, as I gave it to my son within two weeks. The .40 S&W has gained in popularity since its debut in January 1990, but I personally have never owned one. UPDATE: In 2022 I purchased this SIG Sauer P320 AXG Classic. If I had to choose a favorite caliber, it would be the .45 ACP. I currently have three handguns and one carbine that fire that cartridge. I have three revolvers that fire the .38 Special and two that fire the .32 New Police. There are two .380s and two .32 ACP pistols. So these are the most popular calibers in my collection at this time.

Technically, my .357 Python will fire .38 Specials so I could have included it in that count, but I never fire .38s in it. I've written before about all of my friends firing my old Python, but in real terms, it hasn't been fired a whole lot. And it's not because I don't have that many friends. My good friend at the gun store was telling me about his neighbor and three teenage kids burning through a thousand rounds within a few hours the other day. I don't do that. A big day at the range might consume 200 rounds of .45 ACP ammo each if my two son-in-laws are with me and I buy it in bulk for $100 bucks per 200 rounds.

Here's a list that generally reflects the most recognized and widely used handgun calibers globally:
  • 9mm Parabellum (9x19mm): Known for its balance of recoil, capacity, and stopping power. It's the most popular caliber for personal defense and law enforcement.
  • .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol): Favored for its stopping power and used extensively in the United States, particularly in 1911 model pistols.
  • .40 S&W (Smith & Wesson): Developed as a law enforcement round, it's a compromise between the 9mm and .45 ACP in terms of size and power.
  • .380 ACP (9x17mm): Also known as the 9mm Short, this caliber is popular in compact and subcompact handguns for concealed carry.
  • .38 Special: A classic revolver round known for its accuracy and manageable recoil, widely used by police and civilians.
  • .357 Magnum: Known for its high velocity and stopping power, popular for self-defense and used in revolvers.
  • 10mm Auto: Offers more power and range than the .40 S&W, used in semi-automatic pistols. It's popular among some law enforcement units and handgun hunters.
  • .22 Long Rifle (LR): While not a traditional choice for self-defense, it's widely used for training, target shooting, and small game hunting due to its low cost and recoil.
  • .32 ACP (7.65mm): Common in Europe and often used in compact pistols. Known for its low recoil, making it suitable for smaller, concealable handguns.
  • .44 Magnum: Famous for its power and range, often used in revolvers. Popular for hunting and some forms of revolver competition.
We would love to hear about your favorite caliber!