One of the biggest mistakes that first-timers make is going out on a hunt or onto the range and not protecting their ears. Mainly this is due to the movies showing the hero blasting off rounds without so much as a wince. In the real world, earplugs are a necessity. Getting protection for your ears is a no brainer, knowing which are the best earplugs for shooting is a little more difficult to work out. This is because they come with a range of options and their quality varies wildly. Use this guide to find the right pair for you and all of the information you need. Features to Think About Before you look over the list of the top available earplugs on the market, you should pay attention to the following features: Cord or Cordless. Corded means that the earplugs will be linked together and then will hang around your neck when they are not in your ears. These are ideal for those that will be constantly moving from a loud environment to a quieter one, such as going in and exiting a range. Disposable vs. Reusable. There are some very cheap single-use earplugs that are widely available and provide simple protection . They are the foam plugs that are compressed and put into your ear. Multiple-use earplugs are generally better as they offer the user the chance to take them out but they can occasionally not offer as much protection. Custom Molded. On our list, we have included earplugs that come with a do-it-yourself custom molded option. With new developments in technology you now have access to a product that would have cost hundreds of dollars in the past. Top 6 Earplugs for Shooting Table Picture Name dB NRR Price Rating (1-5) Picture Name dB NRR Price Rating (1-5) 1. Liberty DuraPlug Uncorded Disposable Foam Earplug with 32 dB NRR, Orange 32 $$$ 4.4 2. 3M Peltor Sport Tri-Flange Corded Reusable Earplugs, 3-Pair Per Pack 26 $ 4.2 3. Decibullz - NRR 31 Custom Molded Earplugs, Perfect Fit Ear Protection 31 $$$$ 4.1 4. SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus Filtered Earplugs, Triple Flanged Design, Reusable 24 $$$$ 4.1 5. SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders filtered Earplugs, double flanged design, reusable 24 $$ 4.1 6. Howard Leight by Honeywell Quiet Band Earplugs, 1-Pair 25 $ 4.0 What Makes for the Perfect Earplugs for Shooting? The key feature that you should be looking at is what is listed on our table as: dB NRR . This stands for the noise reduction rating (NRR) and it is measured in decibels (dB). As a quick guide to decibels, a gun will usually produce a noise at a 160dB level. The human pain threshold, when it comes to sound, is set around 120-130dB. For indoor shooting, where the sound is the loudest, it is recommended to get earplugs that have an NRR of 26dB and higher. Lower options are perfect for hunting, where there are fewer echoes of the same sound, as with inside ranges. Top 3 Best Earplugs for Shooting Reviews 1. Liberty DuraPlug "Uncorded Disposable Foam" Earplug Liberty DuraPlug earplugs are a great disposable option for anything from shooting to sleeping. These are uncorded and cut out a lot more noise than you would expect from such a seemingly simple product. Rather than having to keep track of an expensive pair of the same quality, you can buy these 200 for a bargain and have a newly wrapped pair right at your fingertips. In terms of size, these are made of flexible and soft foam that lets you fit them without issue to any size ear. You will actually even be able to reuse them if you would like to before changing to another pair. 2. 3M Peltor Sport Tri-Flang In terms of the noise that gets cut out, the Peltor Sport Tri-Flange earplugs really do their job well. They are corded and come in a sporty style, which means they are the best earplugs for shooting . The cord itself means that the earplugs will stay more secure while you are using them and that you are less likely to lose them when you’re not. These are washable earplugs that you can use over and over again. Having three pairs does really help if you have a few people going to the range or you misplace a pair by chance. There is even a carrying case included that you can keep with all of your other shooting gear. 3. Decibullz – NRR 31 "Custom Molded Earplugs" If you are looking for a more personalized product then the Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs are the closest to having earplugs professionally molded that you are going to get. They are easy to set yourself, which is always a plus. For anyone that is new to such high-end ear plugs for shooting, it should be noted that they are meant to be used with the foam attachment in order to block out the most sound possible. This is also one of the most comfortable pair of earplugs that you will ever wear. They are on the higher end of the price scale but it is really worth it when you don’t have sore ears after shooting.
I have long been a fan of the Vicker’s Sling and Blue Force Gear never disappoints, but they have outdone themselves this time. With twelve color choices for sling and pull tab, hardware choices, fourteen attachment options, padded or un-padded and sewing modifications, if you cannot find your perfect sling for function and fashion here, it does not exist. For non-typical applications like shotguns, AR pistols and Short Barrelled Rifles, I find that most standard slings need some tweaks to make them work. Mounting hardware and length requirements can be very different. With the sling builder, you get exactly what you need in your precise choice of colors. When you go to the link, you start with a ghost image of a white sling. As you click on the choice boxes selecting options, you end up with an image of YOUR custom made sling. Mine showed up in the mail two days later. There are separate links for padded and non-padded: Custom Vicker’s Sling Builder Custom Vicker’s Padded Sling Builder High quality slings custom made for your application. From Air Soft to Armageddon, get what you need. About "Blue Force Gear" in their own words: Since our beginning in 2004, we strive for excellence in all we do and to exemplify that excellence in our products and design. We are devoted to those we serve to deliver innovative gear with superior quality. Blue Force Gear is not satisfied with making the same thing as everyone else – merely changing the color or style. We design by a code of advancement – if we can’t make something better than what is currently available, we don’t make it. By continually innovating, our products will always be different. We are proud to have pioneered technological innovations that have revolutionized load carriage and weapon carrying establishing the world’s standard in weapon slings and the world’s lightest, MOLLE compatible load carriage. Of course we are not stopping there. We are continually improving our gear lineup and looking for more ways to improve the tactical gear industry and ultimately the warriors here at home and worldwide.
Trending: Best Places to Buy Ammo Online and [Buyer's Guide] 7 Best AR-15s In today’s world of cell phones and instant communications, sometimes we forget that when we step off the beaten path and the “NO SERVICE” icon is lit up we need a backup plan. Enter the world of two-way radios. There are lots of choices when it comes to outdoor communications. Most hunters, hikers, and overlanders are likely aware and maybe even familiar with the compact radios available today, but do they really understand the capabilities and limitations of radio communications. What Is Radio? I grew up in a house where my dad worked in all manner of electronics, TV, military communications and instrumentation. However, the miracle of radio and TV sounds and sights was really summed up very easily by me as “FM”; freakin’ magic. Without getting into the real technical stuff radio can be broken down into three parts: transmitter, receiver, and antenna. The transmitter generates a signal that carries our speech. The antenna turns the signal into energy that travels through space as a radio wave. The receiver converts the radio wave back to speech so the person we are talking to can understand it. See, Freakin’ Magic ! Fortunately for us, all of the components are housed in handy gadgets called transceivers. What Types of Radio Comms Can We Use? Today there are really three types of radio we can access for our outdoor adventures. CB Radio Citizen Band radios are most commonly found in vehicles and are still popular with those in the trucking industry, farming, and logging. The CB radio frequencies have 40 channels and are generally reliable over a range of several miles. Vehicle and handheld units are widely available. Midland 2-in-1 40-Channel Handheld CB CB radios have been around for a long time. If you’re old enough to remember the ‘70’s you probably remember all the ‘10-4 good buddy’ chat and hearing that famous CW McCall song “Convoy” on the radio. CB’s allowed and still allow instant, line of sight communication when traveling and may have some utility for hunters and shooters. Most folks on the road monitor channel 19 to get updates from truckers on traffic, accidents, road conditions, etc. Channel 9 is set aside for emergency communications only. FRS/GMRS Family Radio Service/General Mobile Radio Service is commonly found at big-box stores and outdoor suppliers like Cabela’s. You’ll see a fancy camo two-pack with a big star on the package that says you can stay in contact with your hunting buddies 26-miles away. Sounds good, but unless that 26-mile is flat or straight up, you very likely will not be talking to your buddy in the next county. Rolling flat areas like this in Alaska is great for max distance radio These radios are by far the most common devices available to hunters, shooters and all who venture outdoors. By and large, the fancy bubble-pack radio set you find at Cabela’s or Walmart or on Amazon are dual-service radios. That means they can operate on the 14 channels the FCC has assigned to the FRS as well as the other 9 channels set aside for GMRS. Left to Right: FRS Only Radio; FRS Only Radio; FRS/GMRS Radio w/Weather Alert Feature Now here’s where things get a bit confusing for most folks. All 14 channels on FRS are limited to a half a watt of transmitting power. There is no license required and everyone except for spies and foreign operatives can use them. No spies! On the GMRS side of the radio, we share channels 1-7 with FRS and can transmit at up to 50 watts; 5 watts for handheld radios. Additionally, if you read the fine print in your fancy package, assuming you were able to open it without destroying the contents, you are required by the FCC to have a license to transmit on any GMRS channel . And it costs you $90 bucks. Fortunately for those not inclined to read instructions, the FCC has been pretty lenient regarding enforcement of GMRS transmitting violations. However, some fines can run to $20,000 per occurrence. Times are changing and if you really dig into the FCC rules, enforcement is going to get more strict. My advice; read the instructions and be very careful which channels you use or spend the money and get the license. With all that said, is there any point to getting the FRS/GMRS radios for your hunting camp? Sure. You can still keep in touch with all your hunters if the terrain allows and they don’t stray too far. The radios are still relatively cheap. Many have an NOAA Weather Alert feature to keep you apprised of any coming storms or bad weather. Having the ability to keep track of everyone and coordinate help if needed is a nice security blanket to have in your tool kit when far away from civilization. MURS Multiple User Radio Service is available to use for personal or business use. The real advantage of MURS is the ability to transmit using 2 watts, giving you a bit more range. Thanks, NASA . A set of five frequencies that fall in the VHF (Very High Frequency) realm and can be transmitted at 2 watts. That means four times the output of FRS radios. You can also use longer antennas on MURS to get additional transmitting and receiving range. A definite advantage over FRS/GMRS units. You can also program privacy codes into the radios, just like FRS/GMRS to help prevent interference on crowded channels. There are no licensing requirements. Best 2-Way Radios FRS/GMRS 1. Midland GTX1000VP4 This radio is one of the most reviewed units on Amazon, good to know it’s popular and people like it. FRS/GMRS Dual Service. NOAA Weather Alerts. 142 programmable privacy codes. Comes with desk charger and car charger as well as headsets. It’s also splash resistant, but not waterproof. Midland GTX1000VP4 70 at Amazon Prices accurate at time of writing View Details 70 at Amazon Prices accurate at time of writing Downside? You need a license to take advantage of the GMRS capabilities and higher transmitting power. The 36-mile range claim is good for marketing, probably not realistic and the 50 channels include pre-programmed Midland channels…there are not 50 channels available to FRS/GMRS. 2. Midland T10 X-Talker This radio is simple and light-weight and it uses AAA batteries so you can carry spares in the backcountry on extended trips. Midland X-Talker XT 10 30 at Amazon Prices accurate at time of writing View Details 30 at Amazon Prices accurate at time of writing Comes with FRS/GMRS Dual Service, NOAA Weather Alerts, and a silent mode. Best of all? Water-resistant case. Don’t forget though – licensing is required for GMRS use and in our opinion that 20-mile range is optimistic . MURS Radios 3. Dakota Alert MURS 2-Way Radio MURS radios are a little harder to find and a bit more expensive than FRS/GMRS radios. However, given the transmitting power, no licensing, simplicity and relatively unused frequencies this is the type of radio I would buy. Dakota Alert M538-HT MURS 2-Way Radio 85 at Amazon Prices accurate at time of writing View Details 85 at Amazon Prices accurate at time of writing The Dakota radios have 38 programmable privacy codes and will run about 40 hours on a charge. These radios are also compatible with Dakota driveway alert systems. 4. BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Radio These radios kinda run the ragged edge of legality with the FCC. They are primarily designed as a dual band HAM radio…but, they are also programmable to receive and transmit on FRS, GMRS, and MURS frequencies. BaoFeng UV-5R "Dual Band Radio" 21 at Amazon Prices accurate at time of writing View Details 21 at Amazon Prices accurate at time of writing The legal issue arises in the output power, 5 watts, and the removable antenna. You will also need to be a licensed Amateur Radio operator (HAM) to transmit on the 2-meter and 70-centimeter bands. If you choose this option do your research and stay compliant! It’s hard to beat the features for the money. What’s your take on the Baofeng? Readers' Ratings 4.89/5 (176) Your Rating? Honorable Mention 5. Garmin inReach Mini The Garmin inReach is not a radio, but it may be an option for those needing to keep in touch, but not communicate constantly. Garmin inReach Mini 300 at Amazon Prices accurate at time of writing View Details 300 at Amazon Prices accurate at time of writing These units utilize the Iridium Satellite Network and allow you to track your position, text with a compatible device like your cell phone and send preset messages to those who need to know your whereabouts. There is also a 24/7 Search & Rescue link feature should you hit the SOS button and need immediate help. With up to 90 hours of battery life, you can send a lot of messages out over a long trip in the backcountry. Signing Off There is really no reason to be out of touch, even if we are going to woods or range so our cell phones won’t work. Calling shots at a competitive long range match or calling your buddy to help pack out an elk is well worth packing a radio in your gear. You don’t want to miss your target, especially when hunting dangerous game. The radio services and radios discussed above will all work for those who venture outdoors. Just remember, there are limitations to the range. There are rules to follow. There may be licensing required depending on the service you choose. Maybe one day we’ll have a Star Trek transmitter and be able to “beam” that bull elk out of the woods and right to our freezers. But then, what would be the fun in that? We go to the wilderness to find adventure and test ourselves. How do you stay in touch when you’re disconnected from your cell phone? Let us know in the comments! Before you run off into the woods, don’t forget to bring a good knife with you – Best Survival Knives !
Trending: Best Places to Buy Ammo Online and [Buyer's Guide] 7 Best AR-15s Want to save more than 50% off ammo and shoot 1/2-inch groups at 100 yards? Reloading your own ammo might be the key! But you’re not sure if it’s right for you? We’ll cover everything from the reasons to reload as well as how difficult/annoying it is to reload. Plus…do you really save money? We’ll answer that as well with some example equipment setups that span all budgets. My Reloading Station But first…some disclaimers that this is purely educational. Take care in reloading since it could be a potentially dangerous hobby. Table of Contents Loading... Top Reasons to Reload Your Own Ammo 1. Saving Money This reason tends to pop up first…but it’s a little deceiving. I don’t think any reloader actually ends up saving money overall. They just end up shooting a lot more for the same price . Bunch of Ammo But you still save money per round right? Yes! A big cost of ammo is the brass casing. So why give it away to your shooting range that will end up selling it to reloaders, when you can reuse it a couple times. How much will I save? Sorry, but it depends on the caliber . For something that is already pretty cheap like 9mm, you might only save 10-20% in cost and you don’t even factor in time. But for something more expensive like match grade .308, you can save more than 50%. For example…I make my .308 ammo for around 70 cents a round while Gold Match ammo is almost $2 a round. 2. Maximizing Accuracy and Customizing Loads This reason usually comes up second. And for good measure! Reloading allows you to basically be able to make custom rounds for every single one of your guns. Now, a super brief lesson in barrel harmonics as I understand it. Barrel Harmonics A barrel will whip around when you shoot a round. So you might want the barrel to whip the least possible. You do this by adjusting the speed of the bullet as it goes through the barrel by adding or reducing gun powder during your reloading process. Got it? Good…that’s only one way to wring some more accuracy out of your rounds. Others include extending the length of your round (seating your bullet further out of the brass casing). This reduces the force needed for the bullet to leave the casing and also reduces the distance the bullet might need to “jump” into the “lands” (or rifling) of the barrel. Bullet and Lands Another big reason is to use different bullets, especially for hunting or competition shooting. For example, I shoot USPSA handgun and I like using heavy 147 gr bullets since they feel more like a “push” when shooting. My .308 bolt gun also loves 175 gr HPBT bullets which is a problem since most match ammo comes in 168 gr. If you’re already lost…don’t worry. You don’t have to optimize for every barrel. I just think it’s pretty cool that you can. The majority of ammo I make is for plinking rounds that mimic regular ammo. 3. Restrictive Gun Laws This falls a little under saving money. Gun Control Cartoon But gun laws are only getting more and more restrictive. Lots of cities already prohibit online ammo sales. And check out California which recently passed a bill that would make you have to get an ammo license and purchasing online ammo through a licensed vendor. By reloading you can avoid ammo shortages, price gouging, and hoarding that could go around after unfortunate events, restrictive laws, or elections. Just be sure to get enough reloading supplies if you decide reloading is really for you. 4. For Fun If you like upgrading your gun to perfectly fit your style, then you’ll probably love wringing out the last bit of accuracy with reloading. And if you describe yourself as DIY…there’s nothing else more DIY than making your own ammo . Plus, there’s a bit of mechanical stuff you get to tinker with (and upgrade) in the ammo presses (ammo making machine). Mad Scientist How Do You Reload Ammo? Now that you’ve gotten a couple reasons of why reloading ammo is awesome…let’s go over what it actually entails. And keep in mind this is a rough overview that isn’t caliber specific. It’s meant to show you the possible steps in reloading your own ammo. Some calibers it might be advisable to follow all the steps while some only need the bare minimum. Parts of a Bullet Cartridge Parts of a Bullet Cartridge First…a refresher. There’s a couple parts to a standard bullet cartridge. The brass casing, gun powder, bullet, and primer. The gun’s hammer/striker hits the primer which creates a little explosion that ignites the gun powder and pushes the bullet through the barrel. You’ll be preparing the case and putting all these parts together in a reloading press. Deconstructed 9mm Cartridge Case Prepping When a gun goes PEW , there’s an explosion inside the brass casing that expands it to fit the gun’s chamber. There’s some shrinkage (heh) shortly after, but basically the brass case is a little larger than it was before. It’s also a lot dirtier. First, you’ll want to clean the casings using a brass tumbler, some sort of medium (usually ground up corncob or walnut shells), and polish you dump into the medium. This usually takes place outside of the house since it’s loud, takes a few hours, and has some potential lead contamination risk. Frankford Armory Brass Tumbler Hooray, shiny brass! Clean & Dirty Brass If you’re going to be reloading this used brass, you’ll need to bring it back to its original specifications so it will feed reliably. Remember the primer? Sometimes you are using military brass that has a crimped primer pocket (where the primer goes). Or you want it super uniform for precision’s sake. Primer Pocket Types You’re going to have to pop out (deprime) the primer and then using a reamer to resize or a cleaner tool. Some people pop out the primer before tumbling so it takes care of the cleaning. There’s various ways to pop out the primer but usually it’s with a reloading press and usually in conjunction with resizing the brass. Primer Pocket Cleaner Speaking of resizing the brass… There’s two main kinds of brass…straight wall and bottleneck. Pretty self-explanatory. Bottleneck Caliber vs Straight Wall Caliber You run the fired case through a resizing die where it will reform the brass. Some calibers/dies you will need to lube up each case. Resizing Brass Cases You see above that there’s a good amount of stuff that occurs for bottleneck cases since you have to worry about the “shoulder.” Examples include the popular .223 and .308 calibers. A lot less stuff happens in “straight wall” cases such as most pistol calibers. The resizing die also reforms dents and case mouth problems. Brass Case Mouth Dents Depending on caliber, how anal you are, or how many times a case has been shot, you might need to check the case for proper length and cut off the excess since the brass has been squeezed down in size. There’s various hand-based or even electric options. Case Trimming by Hand If you do end up cutting some material off…it’s going to be sharp which might mess up your bullet seating. So you have to deburr and chamfer the case. Again…lots of options. Deburring and Chamfering Tool Still with me? We’re just getting started. But at least the brass is prepped and inspected for any cracks/big dents/splits. Priming There’s various ways to put in a new primer. Some are hand tools while others are integrated into the first sizing stage. Lee Hand Primer Now that you’ve got your primed cases…let’s add some powder. Primed Cases Adding Gunpowder Technically now smokeless powder. And there’s a lot of them out there…many of which will work for your caliber/bullet. But some that are more specific to a certain caliber or bullet weight. Smokeless Powders You’ll need to look up how much to start with in a reloading manual . It will also have the correct size dimensions needed for case length, etc. Lyman 50th Edition Again, many ways to drop the powder into the prepped and primed case. Most popular are standalone powder measures or part of a press. Lee Powder Measure Dillon Powder Drop (left) Bullet Seating We’re in the home stretch! Now is the time to add a bullet and press it into the case. Problem is…sometimes the case is too narrow for a bullet to fit and you will need to “flare” the top. You usually will only see this pertaining to pistol cases. Sometimes this is with a separate die or integrated into the resizing or powder stage die. How Much Flare Now you just place the bullet on top of the case and run it through a bullet seating die. Sometimes you will want to add a crimp (pressing in the case onto the bullet) that makes the bullet more secure. Bullet Seating & Crimping Voila! You are done…now onto the equipment that makes this all possible. Types of Reloading Presses Reloading presses span from cheap single stage presses that take one die at a time, to monstrous progressive presses that can crank out 1000 rounds an hour. Single Stage Press Called a single stage since there’s only room for one die. So you’ll need to switch it out at least 2+ times (resizing and bullet seating), not to mention priming the cases either in the press or by hand. My Reloading Station The red press is my Lee Breech Lock Challenger kit ($120) that comes with almost everything you need to get started. Lee Breech Lock Single Stage Kit It includes a powder station, hand-priming tool, scale, and some case prep tools. Perfect to see if reloading is for you but you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Turret Press A turret press allows the use of more dies that can be rotated over the casing. Saves a lot of time since you don’t have to switch out dies every time you go to a different stage of reloading. Below is the Lee Turret Press kit "Lee Turret Press" kit ($190). See how the powder station is attached to the press and there’s several empty slots for additional dies. Lee Turret Press Kit Progressive Press The progressive reloading press has multiple die stations on top and also multiple places to put your brass cases. This way each pull of the press you are doing up to four different actions. Some models also have “toolheads” that allow quick caliber switches without having to set each die again. Dillon 550B and Different Caliber Toolheads I use the Dillon 550B Progressive Press ($460) which allows a good amount of reloading per hour. A great machine if you are ready to upgrade from the single stage or turret, or if you know you’re going to be reloading quite a bit. There’s also higher end progressive models that “auto-index” so you don’t have to move the plate that holds all the brass cases. But we’ll save that for another article. Check out our new article that covers the Best Progressive Presses for Beginners . Conclusion Ok, so it’s not really a conclusion since there’s so much left to go over such as all the additional equipment you’ll need such as the tumbler, dies, powder, primers, etc. Plus, how do you actually reload specific calibers? Pew Pew Tactical Reloading Supplies Check out the answers in our Ammo + Reloading section.
Is there really a “best” of anything? Well, yeah, I think A-1 steak sauce is the absolute best. I love St. Pete’s Signature blue cheese . Diamond D Leather in Alaska makes the best across the chest crossdraw handgun holster on Earth. I am a huge fan of Kimber 1911 pistols, Smith and Wesson heavy revolvers and ARs in 5.56 and 300 Blackout, and my Ruger SR556-6.8 SPC AR (just try to find one of those left on the shelf), which I clearly think are the best. Well, at least those are the best for me anyway. Quick Navigation A Commonly Posed Question Decision Making Time Apples and Oranges Narrowing the Choices A "Commonly Posed Question" When I work the gun shows with the Glock armorer guys, I usually get many of the same questions at our show tables. “I want to buy a first handgun for my wife. What caliber should I buy?” That question is often quickly followed by the No. 2 question, “Should I get a revolver or a pistol?” Several other questions almost always follow that. I try to offer the best council I can based on what I know about their situations, conditions, and experiences. I’ve done this for over 40 years now. I get nearly the same series of questions from people inquiring about the “best” caliber for survival prepping. These questions are more difficult to comprise to offer individuals specific recommendations. Many factors go into the decision to pick a handgun caliber for survival work and then to pick the platform to fire it. Let’s explore some of the possibilities. A Chart of Common Handgun Calibers’ Power Ballistics Caliber Bullet Weight Muzzle Velocity Muzzle Energy 22 LR 40 1150 117 25 ACP 50 760 64 32 ACP 71 905 129 380 ACP 95 955 190 38 Special 158 755 200 357 Magnum 158 1235 535 9mm Auto 124 1100 339 40 SW 180 990 392 10mm Auto 180 1150 529 41 Magnum 210 1300 788 44 Magnum 240 1180 741 45 ACP 230 835 356 45 Long Colt 250 860 410 Do You Have Concealed Carry Weapon Insurance? Self-defense can land you into major legal battles, or even jail . USCCA provides top-class CCW insurance plus training for you and your family at $22/mo with $2,000,000 in coverage. Join USCCA As it is with spotting a seemingly attractive woman at a distance, looks can be deceiving especially upon closer examination. It is much the same with factory ammunition ballistics charts as well. Unfortunately these listed factory muzzle velocities and energy ratings are about all we have to go on when it comes to comparing one caliber against another. It does at least offer us a baseline for comparison. Reality in the field is something entirely different. Know, too, that this list contains only the most basic bullet and power level for each caliber. Many, many other choices are available in bullet types, and power capacities. Get yourself a factory ammo catalog from Remington, Winchester, or Federal to begin to understand the other options available in each caliber. "Decision Making Time" First, as you make the ultimate decision to arm yourself, your immediate family and/or your survival prep team, ask yourself exactly why for what purpose(s). I will presume the No.1 reason is for self-protection, as well as defensive protection of family, home, and property. Other reasons could be for foraging for wild game food, or offensive actions to secure goods for yourself under the most dire straits of circumstances. For whatever reason you buy a gun(s) for a prepping assignment do not take the purchase of weapons lightly and be fully prepared to accept all the consequences. This includes safe handling, learning to shoot properly, practicing to shoot, and maintaining your tools in top operating condition. Related: Survival Shotgun You may have already settled on some prejudiced decisions about what handgun caliber you want to obtain for prepping use. They may be right on or not for you or others in the immediate circle you intend to arm. Seek as much input as possible from people who should know what they are talking about. Good advice on guns does not always come from behind the counters at a gun store, in particular the big box retailers where gun sales people are rarely well trained on guns or ballistics. Try a shooting range , a shooting course, or a concealed weapons course. Walk around a gun show and ask several vendors as you check out their wares. That is a next step anyway once you finally (maybe) settle on the caliber(s) you want then go shopping for and the handgun models to deliver them. Apples and Oranges Meanwhile study these ballistics numbers and try to make some obvious judgments. I am guessing you have probably done some preliminary reading or research on line, from contacts, at gun shops or shows, books , magazines or other resources. If not, then you definitely need to build an elementary foundation of knowledge on these subjects enough to know on what to spend your hard earned prepper money. If you make a mistake, you waste money. If you need a hint, then take this one. If your primary purpose for obtaining weapons is to protect yourself, family, friends, or others, then you obviously need a handgun shooting a caliber as capable as possible in stopping an adversary. Be honest with yourself. While a .22 LR rimfire handgun may be ideal for taking small game for the meat pot or taking out small nasty vermin around the Bug Out camp , it is not a realistic choice for self protection. It is better than nothing, but not for your primary defensive handgun. Also Read: Best Survival Carbine I will be so bold as to suggest the same for the .25, 32, and even the .380. Once you acquire a more prominent caliber handgun for defense and become proficient with it, then you can branch out to consider acquiring other calibers and guns as your budget allows. These three could make decent back up calibers with proper ammunition. Now we have arrived at a “Y” in the road. Whether or not you want a revolver or a pistol? I won’t discuss those merits or distracters here, but may at another time review those points. At the low end of the revolver caliber considerations is the .38 Special, but why buy a handgun only for this cartridge? The .357 Magnum revolver will also shoot the .38 Special so you essentially get two guns in one. The .357 Magnum will stop an opponent, but you may be limited to six shots. This revolver caliber is formidable. Reloading takes more skill and time. Generally speaking the .41, .44 and .45s are not considered for personal protection though they could be. Eventually if you are settled on revolvers, then consider stepping up to a larger caliber. By the way, the .44 Magnum will also load and shoot the .44 Special. Remember these calibers are more difficult to shoot well, costly, and the ammo is heavier to deal with for storage and carry. The other pathway in the “Y” considers the semi-auto pistol calibers. These are the 9mm, .40 Smith and Wesson or “40 cal”, the 10mm and the .45 ACP. The 9mm is basically a .38 caliber suited to the pistol platform. The .40 and the 10mm are similar though the 10mm is considerably more powerful, expensive and has more recoil. The .45 ACP is the “King of the Hill” for most pistol shooters. Obviously it was picked by the military early in the 1900s for a reason. There are rumors now the .45 ACP may be coming back to service use, but somehow I suspect it will only be relegated to specialty team use. The .45 ACP has more recoil, more noise, but the 45 caliber is a serious man stopper. It takes a lot of practice to shoot well, as frankly does any handgun in any caliber for that matter. Narrowing the Choices An ideal method to settle on a choice on a handgun caliber is to visit a shooting range or gun shop that has a wide variety of gun models and calibers to actually shoot. This way you can evaluate your comfort level in shooting different calibers and the types of guns available in those caliber choices. It would be akin to test driving new cars. Now, here I go out on the limb by suggesting my own recommended choices. If you favor the revolver action because of its simplicity in use without mechanical safeties to deal with, then I would opt initially for a .357 Magnum, but not a lightweight, short-barreled gun model. Pick a good steel gun with a six-inch barrel and adjustable sights. If you learn to use this well, then you might consider adding another bigger caliber much later. For pistol operators, the base choice is the 9mm. It is very universal in all regards, and widely available both in gun models and ammunition types. Practice with ball ammunition, but carry in Condition One with a serious self-defense round of which there are many new ones on the market now. Personally, I am not a big fan of the .40SW. It has more recoil, and muzzle blast. Ammo is more expensive. However, the .40 is an effective pistol caliber for personal protection. I do like the 10mm but it is a significant step up in skills to shoot well. It is a good defensive people stopper using the right ammo. Also Read: SIG Sauer P227 Nitron Review The .45 ACP is my No.1 personal choice. That big .230 grain bullet packs a wallop on its opponent especially in a defensive round with expanding bullets, not the ball ammo. The .45 takes much practice to shoot really well, but in close quarters it is a deal changer. It is not a first caliber choice for uninitiated neophyte shooters. If I were starting afresh to build a self-defense survival handgun arsenal, then I would have a 9mm and then a .45 ACP. If I had multiple guns, they would all be the same brand and model for uniformity of training, and use as well as exchange of magazines, parts, cleaning supplies and carry holsters. Is there a best handgun caliber for survival prepping? Yes there probably is for you, but it may not be the same one for me. What is really best is what you can shoot really well. Obviously one or more well placed rounds are better than making a bunch of noise and missing the target. Study hard, pick carefully, and then become extremely proficient with your choices. That will be what is best for you. All Photos by Dr. John J. Woods Other interesting articles: Survival Gear Review: Smith & Wesson .380 Bodyguard Backup Building a Basic Defensive Arsenal Survival Debate: 1911 or Glock "Survival Gear Review" : Gum Creek Vehicle Handgun Mount