Let’s Talk Bullets: Does Size Matter?

Whether hunting season is about to start or you’re looking for a concealed carry handgun to fit your new holster it can be tempting to go for the biggest one. While this isn’t a physics lesson, it’s important to understand that you don’t need a large caliber for a small-caliber job.

Mass vs Velocity

Mass is essentially the weight of the bullet while velocity is the speed that it travels. It’s true that a .50 or a .45 fired at 3,000 feet per second will destroy anything at the other end, but a .223 cartridge can do just as much damage at that velocity, albeit at a shorter range.

That’s because of kinetic energy, or stopping power to shooters, which is the amount of force a projectile carries. Because of that, lighter bullets will have less recoil and power while a heavier bullet, like a .338 Lapua, will keep more power over a greater distance due to mass.

However, while that sounds like the .338 is automatically better, it’s situational. Because of the power, it will have more recoil and a .22 or similar caliber can be just as accurate and deadly within range.

Structural Integrity

You’d use a .50 round to take down a rhino, but you wouldn’t need that to hunt deer. Not only is that because of kinetic energy, but structural integrity. Heavier bullets have more mass and integrity, so they’re best for larger targets.

The bigger bullet holds together on impact to do more damage while the mass allows for a longer range and better accuracy because it’s affected less by wind. Smaller bullets over too great a distance will shatter on impact, doing minimal damage and being less effective.

Basically, military snipers will use a .338 or above for long-distance shots of 1,000 yards or more while they’ll choose a .300 round or less for shots within that distance. That’s because the wind isn’t as much of a factor and the kinetic energy is maintained by the .300 bullet.

The Best Defense?

If the purpose of your handgun or rifle is home defense, you’ll want to choose hollow point rounds. They’re designed to shatter on impact, which minimizes damage to your home while being very effective.

For home defense or concealed-carry, though, the bigger bullet once again isn’t everything. You’ll get more stopping power with a 9mm or .40, but especially in the distance from your couch to your door a .22 can be just as useful.

The lower power means less recoil, which means you’ll be able to potentially fire more rounds accurately in a shorter amount of time if necessary. The only downside is that it might take another round to remove a threat than, say, the stopping power of a single .40 would.

Overall, the argument of bigger or smaller bullets boils down to purpose. If you’re hunting small game or buying a concealed carry handgun, you don’t really need anything heavier than a .300 or .40, respectively. Any shot over 1,000 yards, though, and you should go big or go home.

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