Field Test: What Caliber Ammunition Should You Carry?

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We can all agree that the whole reason for carrying concealed is to amplify your ability to neutralize a threat. Given that objective, it’s important to choose a round of ammunition that does this as well as it can.

We fired 6 popular calibers out of 7 guns into FBI-standard ballistics gel block to test their capacity for destruction in soft tissue.

So break on your lab coats and join us for the ultimate defensive pistol round test. If you’ve never seen a 50 AE scream out of a 10” barrel into a flesh analogue, then you haven’t lived.


There is a lot to unpack from this test. Clearly, the bigger calibers created more significant devastation in the gel block. If you're going for maximum carnage, then the choice is clear. 

However, concealed carry is about more than just creating the biggest hole. If that were all that mattered, everyone would carry a Desert Eagle.

There are many factors at play, including:

  • The ability to carry and conceal the weapon
  • The speed and accuracy of your first shot from a draw
  • The speed and accuracy of follow-up shots
  • Ammunition capacity (for follow-up shots)
  • Reliability  (for follow-up shots)
  • The concern for collateral damage due to missed shots or over-penetration

Once you take those into consideration, the results of this test become more nuanced. Let's break this down, round by round. 

The 22 is the smallest round we tested. Realistically speaking, 22 is not a very good round for self defense. It creates a very small wound, and it's not the most reliable caliber as a rimfire round. 

The 9mm round is arguably the most popular caliber for concealed carry. Ammunition is abundant, choice of weapon is extensive, recoil is low, and effect on target is good. As shown in the test, 9mm from short or long barrels creates an effective wound channel. 

The larger rounds of .40 and .45 are also viable performers. They create solid wound channels, though the difference compared to the 9mm round could be considered marginal. 

The magnum rounds obliterate the gel block, but carrying a 5lb pistol just isn't practical (or recommended, for that matter). 

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. Take the data available and and find the gun that works best for you in an effective, reliable caliber. 

And whatever you choose, rest assured that you can carry it comfortably and safely in the "Carrier" series of athletic apparel from Arrowhead. Our patented Carrier Retention Waistband offers the support of a gunbelt with the function and flexibility of premium athletic clothing, offering the ultimate combination for an active lifestyle.

Our waistband works with almost every IWB holster and every carry position so you can maintain all of the key factors that you've practiced and perfected. 

Check out our catalogue so you can be comfortably prepared today. 

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