What firearm is best? There are many things to consider. In general, you want to carry the largest firearm in the most effective caliber you can carry comfortably and shoot competently. The compromise of weight, physical size, and caliber will all factor in. The most important consideration is what will you carry with you at all times?
Most people will tell you to carry the smallest handgun possible. A larger firearm is usually easier to shoot well than a small pistol in the same caliber. For open carry, the controlling issue is how much weight are you willing to carry. You can look at law enforcement for good examples since they are carrying open all the time. They usually pick an effective caliber, full size weapon with a high capacity magazine. The modern trend is a lighter polymer type firearm which gives them a large easy to shoot and easy to carry platform. Semi- auto pistols are all the rage now, but open carry makes many revolvers acceptable. A good belt and holster is important for comfort. A spare magazine or revolver rounds should always be carried. Open carry is limited to belt and shoulder holsters.
Concealed carry is far more common than open carry for civilians. There are the same considerations for handgun size and caliber as the open carry requirements, but now you have to consider concealing the handgun. Caliber becomes an issue as smaller caliber guns can be less effective. If you choose a large caliber small gun then recoil, muzzle blast, and accuracy may become more important. Ideally, you want the smallest, most effective handgun you can shoot well or the largest most effective, handgun which can be concealed easily. The most important consideration is picking something you will always have with you. A small caliber sub compact which is always in your pocket is a better choice than a full size .45 you rarely carry. A compromise is best. For Instance, a compact 9mm Glock Model 19 has a 15 round magazine, is lightweight and conceals well. The minimum effective caliber is considered by most to be a .380 semi-auto or a snub nose revolver in .38 special Small semi autos are easier to conceal. A revolver takes less time to master but is more difficult to shoot well. You can make a case for .22, .22mags, .32 and others, but the goal of a good self-defense strategy is to make the threat cease being a threat as soon as possible. Bigger is usually better. 9mm is a good caliber and it and .380 caliber guns come in pretty small packages. Bullet placement is the most important consideration when defending yourself with a handgun. It generally takes between 2 and 3 hits with any caliber to stop one person. Three solid hits with a .22 pistol are usually better than one poorly placed .45. Many assaults take place in the dark and many involve more than one assailant. Everyone is moving around and things happen quickly.
I’ve taught lots of people to shoot including quite a few cops. None of them ever had the time or need to reload. However, all I have personally talked to cannot even imagine having too much ammo but not having enough scared them all. Carry an extra magazine or extra rounds for a revolver. Mags can malfunction or be ejected accidently. Revolvers might need to be topped off. One of my cop students had been in 3 gunfights. I believe he fired a total of 3 rounds. Another had been in 7 gunfights where he was the sole survivor. His weapon was a .357, six-shot revolver. He never did a reload. I cannot find one example of a reload by a civilian defending himself but…you do not want to be the exception. Carry extra ammo.
The best defense always is being aware of your situation and any possible threat.
Carried in The Dublin Citizen by Gene Pearcey