Compiled and annotated by Chuck Hawks
Most readers have probably noticed that in the "Handgun Cartridges" section of the Handgun Information Page there are articles about virtually all of the popular pistol cartridges in widespread use in the United States and the world, as well as many of the less popular numbers.
The excellent Web Stats available to me as a "domain name" on the Internet can tell how many page views each individual article on my web site has received over any time period. This made compiling a list of the most popular articles about individual handgun cartridges both possible and relatively easy to accomplish.
What follows is a list of centerfire handgun cartridges, both sporting and service. These are the cartridges whose articles have gotten the most page views on Guns & Shooting Online during the last complete year for which I have statistics; the cartridges in which the greatest number of you, the readers, have been most interested.
1. .357 Magnum - The first magnum handgun cartridge is still the best, and the article about the .357 gets many thousands of page views. The .357 Mag. almost single-handedly put handgun hunting on the map. A fine hunting cartridge, the .357 Magnum is also the top "one shot stop" defensive cartridge and the most powerful handgun cartridge that most shooters have a reasonable chance of mastering.
2. .44 Magnum - Hard hitting at both ends, the .44 Mag. is right on the edge of controllability even for most experienced shooters. Once billed as the world's most powerful revolver cartridge, the big .44 has since lost that title to newer and even more extreme cartridges. Nevertheless, it remains the first and probably the best choice for big game hunting with a revolver. And interest in the .44 Mag. remains equally high.
3. 9x19 Luger - One of the earliest and perhaps still the best service pistol cartridge. The 9x19 (as it is called in Europe) is the most popular military handgun cartridge in the world. It is also very popular with civilian shooters, at the range and as a personal defense cartridge.
4. .45 ACP - The best known and most effective of all the Automatic Colt Pistol cartridges, the big .45 has a larger than life reputation. A .45 bullet in the arm will not knock a man down, and .45 hardball is not 90% effective. (The real numbers run 61-64%.) While there are more effective service cartridges, the old war-horse remains a very good man stopper with well placed expanding bullets.
5. .454 Casull - It took a long time, but the hard kicking .454 has finally made it. The major arms and ammunition companies are now producing .454 revolvers and ammo. Designed by Dick Casull as a hunting cartridge and based on a lengthened and strengthened .45 Colt case, the .454 exceeds the power of even the .44 Magnum. As proof of its success, the .454 has been used to take big game all over the world. With .454 revolvers and ammo now easily available, there is no longer any reason to attempt to "magnumize" the old .45 Colt.
6. .380 ACP - Once considered a "mouse cartridge," the advent of modern expanding hollow point and pre-fragmented bullets has greatly increased the stopping power and the prestige of the .380 ACP. Today, knowledgeable shooters realize that the .380 is a serious defensive pistol cartridge with stopping power on the order of the .38 Special.
7. .40 S&W - By far the most popular of the recently introduced autoloading pistol cartridges, the .40 S&W has been a big hit with both police and civilian shooters. Intended to fill the gap between the 9x19 and the .45 ACP, the .40 S&W has become the top "one shot stop" auto pistol cartridge.
8. .45 Long Colt - Perhaps the most famous of all six-gun cartridges, the .45 Colt has become a living legend. Introduced in 1873, this big case .45 is still going strong. As factory loaded it's an effective service cartridge, with ballistics similar to those of the .45 ACP. But the reloader with a Ruger Blackhawk revolver or T/C Contender single shot pistol can easily exceed the velocity of the relatively low pressure factory loads, making the .45 Colt an effective hunting cartridge.
9. .38 Super - Long considered the ".357 Magnum of auto pistol cartridges," the .38 Colt Super Automatic has had a somewhat checkered career. "Practical" pistol competition rescued the .38 Super from what appeared to be a slow slide into oblivion when it was discovered that it could "make major" according to the artificial power rating formula used in competition and kicked less than the .45 ACP. The .38 Super has since caught on with more mainstream consumers, and apparently with Guns and Shooting Online readers.
10. .357 SIG - The .357 SIG is based on a necked-down .40 S&W case. This allows it to function is pistols suitable for the 9x19 and .40 S&W. Although different in form, it is similar in concept to the older .38 Super, but has the advantage of being based on a modern rimless case.
Note: All of these cartridges are covered in detail on the Handgun Cartridge Page.
Copyright 2002, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.