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How Common Is Each Handgun Caliber?

Discussion in 'Caliber Corner' started by RustyDaleShackleford, Nov 7, 2010.

  1. RustyDaleShackleford

    RustyDaleShackleford Giblet Head

    Nov 5, 2010
    North Carolina
    As far as I know, this is the appropriate sub-forum for my question.

    As far as the major (most popular) handgun calibers go, how easy is it to usually find each one, and what would you estimate is the percent of each in the total market (or production) of handgun cartridges?

    I'm 21 and am still doing research on what I want my first handgun to be, but I do know that I want it to be a Glock. I've narrowed it down to about four models, but want to know that my selected chambering is common and always available.

    The way I figure it, at least 50% of the total U.S. handgun market is .45 ACP and 9mm (together). So just considering the most prevalent calibers, how easy is each to find? I hear that many or most police departments are now using .40 S&W, so that's a point in its favor, but does that necessarily mean that I can always find it at Wal-Mart, Dick's Sporting Goods, or Gander Mountain?

    I think I want my Glock chambered in 9x19, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP. By the way, I don't consider .22 LR a handgun cartridge.

    Thanks in advance, and any information would be greatly appreciated.
  2. mad.gunsmith

    mad.gunsmith NRA and GSSF Life Member Silver Member

  3. itstime


    Apr 9, 2006
    I've always wanted to see a stat on say like Winchester and have a breakdown on what are the sales in popularity of what they sell in all ammo.
  4. cowboy1964


    Sep 4, 2009
    I don't think anyone will be able to quote percentages but I consider 9mm , .40, .45 ACP to be roughly equal in availability. Cost is another matter of course.

    .357 Sig, 45 GAP, 10mm are definitely harder to find at retail.
  5. cowboy1964


    Sep 4, 2009
    Ditto. I'd love to see the figures for Glocks too.
  6. ross2004

    ross2004 Mark it zero!

    Mar 30, 2010
    Staunton, VA
    Just my observation at my Wal-Mart: you can find 9mm and .40 all day long, .45 ACP is still a rarity.


    Oct 19, 2008

    I noticed that too. Went by there today, still no .45 ACP
  8. NHmike


    Aug 17, 2010
    9mm 45acp and 40 are prolly most popular.

    As far as a new guy getting into shooting sports, I suggest 9mm. It is a powerful round and not to costly to shoot or reload. Not much felt recoil for a new shooter. I just like the 9mm round and it is my go to round. I own other calibers but 9mm is my favorite.
  9. Jon_R


    May 3, 2009
    Central Florida
    Welcome to Glocktalk.

    Heck of a 1st question.

    There are different ways to account for it and I am not sure where to get definitive information.

    I think you are asking what is percentage of ammo bought yearly by caliber.

    I will give my best guess and some explanation.

    40% 9mm. It is cheaper so I think more rounds get shot and it has been around a long time. Lots of guns out there for it. Generally 9mm magazines hold more rounds so if you go the range and shot 10 magazines worth of 9 you probably shoot more rounds then if you shoot 10 magazines of .45. 9mm is popular in action shooting and those guys burn through some ammo more then your average plinker. Also in pistol caliber carbines and sub guns 9mm is popular so more options to shoot it. The cost of buying it vs. reloading it is (or was) close enough I know people who buy 9mm but load their own .40 and .45.

    15% .40. Not been around as long. It may be popular with police departments but in general police officers don't shoot a lot. Officer does not equal gun enthusiast does not mean they can't be but I bet 80% shoot less then 150 rounds a year. In action shooting competitions I know a lot of shooters don't bother with .40 despite having many handguns. They use 9mm for the minor scoring and use .45 for major.

    25% .45. More expensive so get used less. Popular in bulls eye shooting but the volume of rounds fired is pretty low compared to action shooting.

    10% .38 Special. Lots of guns shoot it but you shoot it slower. At matches you will have a few revolver guys and 70 non revolver shooters.

    1% .38 Super. I think much more is used but it is almost exclusively reloaded by the shooter for competition.

    9% The rest. (.45 Colt, 10MM, .357 Sig, .44, Cowboy Loads, etc.)

    We had a bad year or so but it looks like everything is back available best I can tell. .380 still seems a little hit or miss but going to local retailer you will probably have good luck sticking to 9mm, .40, or .45. It is hard to account for the guy who came just before you and bought 20 boxes. If you are getting your first handgun and want a Glock I would recommend starting with a G17 or G19 based on what fits best in your hand then go from there. It uses the least expensive ammo so you can buy more rounds and shoot them and it will be the mildest round to start out with.

    Good luck and let us know what you end up with.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2010
  10. hatidua


    Nov 21, 2004
    right here
    As far as the major (most popular) handgun calibers go, how easy is it to usually find each one

    Depending on how close you are to certain political elections, easy to impossible on ANY caliber, .22LR all the way to .45ACP

    but want to know that my selected chambering is common and always available.

    Buy based on some other criteria. You can always stock up whatever caliber you end up with and not come close to worrying about what the local Chino-Mart has in stock. Buy ammo online, it's cheaper and you can more often find what you want. Two years ago it was nearly impossible to find ANY caliber on store shelves - but those of us with a good stash already on hand kept the lanes at the local range busy regardless.

    I hear that many or most police departments are now using .40 S&W, so that's a point in its favor

    How so?

    , but does that necessarily mean that I can always find it at Wal-Mart, Dick's Sporting Goods, or Gander Mountain?


    By the way, I don't consider .22 LR a handgun cartridge.

    That's good for me, and unfortunate for you.
  11. rohanreginald

    rohanreginald Novice

    Dec 9, 2009
    If I were to buy my first pistola I would get either a 9mm or .45. I believe these two to be the most popular cartridge world wide. Ammo should be easy to acquire almost anywhere. Next I would go for a .40. The .40 is good because on most platforms all you need is a .357 barrel to convert the weapon to the .357. During the recent ammo shortage, 9mm and .45 was more difficult to get ahold of but .40 was prevalent.
  12. AgentAdam

    AgentAdam Glock Master

    Oct 15, 2009
    In TN CCW permit holders names are public record and are required to take a handgun safety/training course threw a range to get a certificate before getting there CCL from the state. Some of these ranges have a policy that you have to qualify with a specific caliber by shooting 50 rounds. You can qualify with as many calibers as you want but most people probably just do one because there is another fee and live fire test for each caliber. It would be interesting to see the statistics on what most people choose. Also some states make you register the exact 3-5 guns your are going to be carrying with the serial #'s on the back or your permit.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2010
  13. Tucson_1


    Feb 19, 2009
    I recently saw the results of a Guns & Ammo. survey. I believe the order of popularity for carry weapons was as follows: 45 ACP came in first, followed by 9mm, and then .40 S&W. The popularity of 45 ACP may explain why it is harder to find on the shelf.

    One of the things I noticed when ammo. was very short in supply was the fact that I could more frequently find .40 S&W. Glad I own one. At least I was able to get in some range time...
  14. mrsurfboard

    mrsurfboard The Anti-Glock

    May 23, 2010
    That's why I buy mine online. Ammunition to go always has plenty in stock.
  15. Welcome to Glock Talk. I'm relatively new to GT, too. There are a lot of great resources here.

    I understand your wanting to do your research. Half the fun for me is the research and anticipation of which gun and why you will enjoy it so.

    My first check would be the customer service department of some of the big gun companies, i.e., Sig, Glock, Wilson, etc. They have marketing reports that they publish internally to educate their staff. I'm certain that the marketing departments know these number forward and backward. For instance, engineers and manufacturing guys might come up with great stuff, but if marketing and accounting don't jive then their great ideas never come to fruition. If you can some how get one of their analyst on the line, you would hit the jack pot on relevent information.

    Anyways, more to where the rubber meets the roads. You can make the numbers say anything. Sometimes money numbers speak the loudest. My first gun was a Sig P226 in 9mm. It was so affordable and enjoyable. It was a great gun to get started. I learned how to control the trigger, and am still learning everyday. I could not fully take it apart, though. One of the reasons why I love my Glock 9mm is because it is so easy to fully detail strip. And I think I completely understand how to works.

    Anyway, I hope you find that your analysis leads you to the right gun(s).
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2010
  16. Tucson_1


    Feb 19, 2009
    Pick any of the big 3 for your first handgun and build your collection from there. I have handguns chambered in each of the big 3 (45, 40, and 9).
  17. Z71bill


    Feb 19, 2007
    IMHO the 9MM is a fine choice for a first gun -

    Ammo per round from Walmart will cost about

    $.22 for 9MM
    $.32 for .40 S&W
    $.37 for .45 ACP

    One of the most important things for a new shooter practice - you will get more shots - more practice for the same $ with a 9MM.

    Far as I know the 9MM is by far the most popular hand gun caliber in the world.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2010
  18. Bruce M

    Bruce M

    Jan 3, 2010
    S FL
    I suspect that there is more .22 LR produced than any other round and maybe as much .22 as all others together. Of the center fire rounds my gut instinct is that 9mm is the most produced round. Rumor has it some production lines are barely able to keep up. If or when we are out of middle east I'm sure that would change.

    Ammunition seems to be somewhat of a commodity. During the first Gulf War at least around here 9mm was very scarce but .45 was easily found. A year ago that was opposite.
  19. GNiner


    Aug 9, 2010
    If you go about it from the other direction and search the GT threads, I think you'll find that the Glock 19 (9mm) is THE most popular Glock. It also may be the most popular single model handgun in America (there may be more 1911's but they are spread over many brands).

    Not trying to get into a 45acp vs 9mm war, but with the current self defense loads the 9mm appears adequate.

    And as many others have noted, it is the cheapest ammo which will allow you to shoot more. Also, as a NATO mandated round, whenever there are NOT wars going on, we have a super surplus of it and it gets cheaper.

    It is also the cheapest to reload if you get into that later. At $5-6 per box of 50 of reloaded 9mm you can really shoot a lot.
  20. matt c

    matt c

    Jul 26, 2010
    Palm Harbor Fl.
    9mm, 40, and 45 seem easy to find here in Tampa Bay area... my walmart always seems to have plenty of practice ammo on hand...9mm is the least costly for sure. If it is gonna be your first handgun, I'd recommend 9mm. Move up as you progress if you choose.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2010