25 Caliber Pistol for Personal Defense

When people think of having a backup pistol, “Dirty Harry” pistol usually comes to mind.

With the decline in small caliber pistol for personal protection. Having a full size pistol isn’t practical to have in all situations, there is a time and place for the smaller guns, even the 25 ACP. There are some experienced gun instructors that still believes there is still a place for it. For example, Claude Werner of Tactical Professor. Claude is experienced in IDPA, NRA certified gun instructor and a retired military Special Operations Officer.

With all the weapons training that Claude has gone through and certified to instruct firearms employment. He still thinks outside the convention beliefs that a smaller .32 caliber can protect yourself.

He states it has to do with what we’ve been taught and conditioned into believing that a larger caliber with the knock down power will solve the problem. Claude goes on to explain that in law enforcement its their job to stop the threat and apprehend the perpetrator. Having a larger caliber handgun helps stop the threat.
So when we look at this application for personal protection, yes the firepower is necessary. But in most self-defense scenarios documented by law enforcement shows that when a bad guy gets shot from the defender. They usually run away, for law enforcement its their job to apprehend them. But, for the private citizen, (Joe like us) once the shots have been fired and the bad guy runs away. The threat is gone, you can now call the police to get after them.

Its about the Indian not the Arrow

cqb shooting
As you can see from this similar scenario but from two different view points. Having that larger caliber pistol may be the way to go but the goal of any life threatening situation is to stop the attack.
Stopping the attack does not mean to end a person’s life with a big .357 magnum. It means to stop them from attacking you, even with a .25 caliber pocket pistol. Think it can’t be done?

Yes these .380, .32, 22lr or 25’s are little pop gun, its about putting that pop in the right place, then it becomes a lot more effective. Just to reiterate, Claude Werner is not saying caliber doesn’t matter.
Claude claims its about the Indian not the arrow. However, the average gun shopper/owner is focused on the arrow. So yes there needs to be much training on not just on marksmanship (for close quarter) but the whole self-defense gambit as well.

Still unconvinced if the .25 ACP is not the caliber to have as a backup. Lets take a look at some basic arguments like pitting the .25 cal to the 22LR and .380. Its obvious we’re not going to go against the heavier caliber like the .45ACP. Yes, most of this is in a control environment so take it with a grain of salt. First up lets take a look at how the .25 cal fares against the 22LR.

.25 ACP vs .22LR

Is the .25 ACP better than the 22LR? They say the .22 LR is slightly more powerful when fired from longer rifle barrels, the .25 ACP is viewed by some personal defense experts as a better choice for personal defense handguns due to its centerfire-case design, which is inherently more reliable than a rimfire cartridge.
I guess you can say some of these comments are just opinions from keyboard commandos. The following observation (test) was done by Paul Harrell. He actually went out and shot a few to see the results. You can view the video below instead of reading our summary here. Obviously, this is not the official way of testing but it is a sensible approach.
Paul fired both calibers through a chronograph to see the velocity, he went beyond just the average ammo type. Paul compared these calibers with pocket guns for both calibers. Here’s what he uncovered:
25 ACP velocities at 7 yards: 725, 727, 718, 730 (50 grain FMJ)
22 LR velocities at 7 yards: 860, 840, 850, 850 (36 grain HP)
Once switched to Hornady Critical Defense 35 grain jacket hollow point, 25 caliber.
25 ACP velocities at 7 yards: 865, 866, 875, 855 (35 grain JHP)
After demonstrating this, he concludes “the difference between the two isn’t even worth talking about.”
For accuracy Paul shoots from the 10 yard, even though the FBI states most gunfights happens within 7 yards. Both calibers did well maintaining a 6 inch group while shooting rapidly, this will vary depending on the skill of the shooter.
Paul also shot at some soda pop can (1) and bottles (2) which both calibers pass with flying colors. This was the poor man testing for penetration.
Further demonstration shows that little pistols in either caliber will allow a good shooter to make accurate shots at 10 yards.
The bottom line is that within these two calibers, there isn’t much differences in performances.

.25 ACP vs .380

Once you’ve decided to carry a .25 cal mouse gun, you’ll need to consider its performance capability. Right off the bat mighty mouse .25 caliber guns are at a disadvantage when it comes to knock down power. So before we get into the terminal ballistics of the smaller caliber, there are other factors to consider when we’re looking at a self-defense caliber. Lets remember that any type of holes put into a bad guy and stops them from attacking you is a good thing.

We’ll take a look at a Beretta 950 Jetfire and see how it performs against a Smith&Wesson Bodyguard .380 to give you an idea. Concealment is its main advantage for the Beretta, this pistol is even smaller than the .380 pistol. With a smaller profile makes it even easier to conceal.
The pistol weighs 11.5 ounces fully loaded with 9 rounds. This pistol is lighter than a Smith&Wesson Bodyguard. (14.2 ounces loaded with 7 rounds)
Some of the down size is that there isn’t any rear sights on it, just a front notch but a little hard to rack.

Run Comparisons – Failure Drill
The .25 has hardly any recoil, short single action trigger. The .380 (Bodyguard) has a snappy recoil with long double action trigger. Here’s a side by side testing, some may think this all has to do with the shooter (Indian). We’ll get back to this in a bit.

This handgun test conducted by Lucky Gunner used the Failure drill. Which consists of two shots to the torso and one to the head (T section), all starting from the low ready position. The drill was ran six times, first three from 3 yards and last three drills from the 7 yards.

failure drill results

The S&W Bodyguard had the advantage at the 7 yard. At that range clearly the use of the sights was a dominant factor. At the 3 yards the sights was less of an issue due to the proximity of the target. So speed is of the essences. With almost no recoil with single action trigger from the .25 caliber gave the Beretta a speed advantage.

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Based on the observation of this performance, a clear winner to carry would be the S&W Bodyguard. The rationale is that its easier to practice with the Bodyguard and get a high percentage of shots on target than it is to point shoot with the Beretta.

Pistol Size
Something else to consider is the size of the pistol. Everyone has different size hands, so choosing a smaller caliber pistol can present a problem for some. This will require you to take a pistol for a trial run for a fit and feel.

Ballistic Gel Test

Using the gel test is a good way to see how a quality load performs using the FBI standards. A good penetration would be about 12 inches, this simulates a good real life performance.
35 grain Speer Gold Dot
This load was used for the test. Resulting, four out of five rounds expanded a bit without a deep penetration. So this isn’t useful but for a small caliber like this is typical for small hollow points.
This is what happens when we sacrifice expansion for penetration. Most gun experts will say to go with non-expanding full metal jacket loads for pocket guns.
American Eagle 50 grain FMJ
This load average penetration deph was 12.3 inches. As you can see the penetration was really good. Does that mean its the ideal loads to go with for personal protection? There are some information that was conducted by Greg Ellifaitz on “Stopping Power” that states this load is still not adequate for personal protection.
Greg Ellifaitz “Stopping Power” study was based on data collected from 1800 real world shootings. The chart shows the ones that were shot with a .25 caliber, 35% were not incapacitated no matter how many times the BG (bad guy) was hit. The other caliber that has similar stats is the .22 LR was at 31 percent. Greg concluded that those 30 some odd percent BG did not change their behavior. They were still the aggressor.
When compared this to the larger calibers such as .380’s, 38 Special and 9mm. There was about 13-17% failed to incapacitate. Looking at it from just this perspective without any context, the smaller caliber sucked for personal protection.
This data doesn’t go into factors in each scenario only recording the aftermath.

Last Shot
So getting back to the main question – is using the smaller .25 caliber a good choice for personal protection?
Most people will say no, but only as a last option if you really need to have one. For the minority few, this gun will fit in those unique situations where you can pounced lead multiple times at close range quickly with almost no recoil. You can’t beat a .25 ACP at that level.

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