Tuesday, February 17, 2015

When we were doing our “write a story as a group” exercise a few weeks ago, we were talking about her having a ‘small gun’.  I started thinking… how small is small?  Thanks to www.gunnoob.com I found out.

“When you talk about bullets the highest level trait is “Stopping Power”. This is a relatively vague trait and somewhat controversial. What it boils down to is how many bullets does it take to drop a person? Granted, if you hit someone in the right spot it only ever takes one but in most situations you’re aiming for center mass (a.k.a. the chest, a.k.a. the largest target available). Some bullets have enough power or other traits that will cause damage to organs even if you don’t hit them.

I should also point out that the term “caliber” is nothing more than the size of the bullet. For most handgun rounds, the number is the diameter, in inches, of the bullet. That means that a .40 caliber bullet, for example, is .4 inches across.

Let’s start with the runt of the litter....


Though not the smallest round by far, it is the most common tiny round. It’s also sometimes called “twenty two long rifle” and “twenty two rimfire”.

Pros: Tiny, light and stupid cheap. You can get 500 of them for around $15 and carry all of them in a fanny pack or the leg pockets on your cargo shorts. The recoil is almost non-existent.

Cons: These things are only a few steps up from a pellet gun round. They can kill, don’t get me wrong, but they’re mostly for killing rats, snakes and birds. They’ll kill an attacker for sure but it might take a shot or six.


Slightly larger than the .22 and slightly more powerful....though not much. There are quite a few guns that use this size but the ammo is more expensive and you’re not getting too much added benefit other than the inherent reliability that comes with center fire casings.

Pros: Slightly more stopping power than the .22 but it’s kind of like the difference between stabbing someone with an ice pick or a knitting needle. Both do the job, but one will leave an ever so slightly larger hole.

Cons: Same thing as the .22, really.


Now we’re getting into the beefy sizes. Sometimes called a “9mm Short”.  

Pros: This bullet has relatively low recoil and, at close range, good penetration.

Cons: This is a low power round. Because of the nature of the bullet and the guns that shoot it, it’s going to be relatively useless beyond close range.


The 9mm bullet is the same size as the bullet used in the .380 and the .38 Special. The only difference between the three is the amount of gunpowder behind it.

Pros: This is arguably the smallest bullet that will result in the fabled “hydrostatic shock”. The rounds are inexpensive and they have very low recoil.

Cons: It’s still a relatively small round. It’s got some stopping power for sure

.38 Special

So what makes it so special? It has a longer cartridge and more powder in said cartridge but it is a slower, heavier bullet than the 9mm. Here’s the thing: in the gun world, slower is a good thing. Think about it this way: although both would suck, would you rather be stabbed quickly by a steak knife or really slow with a spoon? Which would do more damage? The steak knife is going to make a clean cut. The spoon is going to rip and tear. The .38 special is like that spoon.

Pros: This is a nasty bullet. It’s going to hit hard. The FBI used this cartridge as its standard issue for a very long time.

Cons: This is a revolver round. You’re not going to find a semi-auto gun that fires these, as far as I know. There’s also a hefty recoil especially.  


This round has got massive stopping power and a relatively small size. There are a lot of police forces that use this round as well. 

Pros: You shoot someone with this round and they will know they got hit. It maintains its track for a good long while so it has good range. Ammo is still relatively inexpensive.

Cons: If you increase the size of the round and its power, you also increase its recoil. Many people complain about the kick from this round. But the kick from the .40 is very manageable compared to...

.44 Magnum and the .357 Magnum

You know that “do you feel lucky, punk” and “go ahead, make my day” lines that everyone quotes constantly? Clint Eastwood was holding a .44 Magnum revolver when he grumbled those lines. At the time it was the most powerful handgun in the world. These are pretty much only revolver rounds, although there’s a couple of rifles that use them.

Pros: The bullet equivalent of a sledgehammer. You hit something with this round and that something is going down.

Cons:  The recoil is insane.

.45 ACP

This thing is a big bullet with stopping power to spare. The choice of many police officers and military personnel for years.

Pros: Stopping power, inexpensive and a lot of guns chamber this round. If you hit someone center mass with this bullet, they will drop. If they’re on drugs it’ll take maybe 2 shots. This is the round to stop someone with.

Cons: As with the Magnums, the increased stopping power means increased recoil.

.500 S&W Magnum & .50AE

Coming in at a half an inch wide and packed with gunpowder, these babies are the most powerful shot around.

Pros: If you are holding this gun, people will run from you. There will be no surviving a center mass shot from these. Heck, the .500 is used for hunting bear.

Cons: The recoil from either of these rounds is like getting fisted from God. We’re talking physically painful to shoot. Also, if you hold the .500 revolver wrong it can and will remove fingers. I don’t think you can comprehend the sound and force of one of these going off. “



Ginny Swart said...

Loads of really useful info here, Jody! Thanks for posting Ginny

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Ginny. Thanks for stopping by. I went to a gun range once with a mystery writer's group and they let us handle and fire a bunch of different weapons. I found the whole thing a bit scary. I used to want to have a gun in the house, you know, for protection. Not any more, not after I fired a few and saw the potential for the damage they can cause. And they're so impersonal. You don't have to be very close to just fire and kill someone. Too easy.