The other day I was involved in a firearms discussion. A kid barely over 21 was basically asking, "What caliber of handgun would be the best in a SHTF ($hit hits the fan) scenario?". He was getting BAD advise from his friend. REALLY BAD.
I'd like to point out some of the bad choices.
The Taurus Judge.
A five shot revolver chambered for the .410 shotgun shell as well as the .45 Long Colt (this is NOT the .45 that our modern military used).
Con's: If you want a .45 Long Colt there are better choices. If you want a .410 shotgun, buy a .410 shot gun. 'The Terminator' couldn't carry this monster without Stevie Wonder knowing. This gun is NOT an effective weapon, it is an over-hyped range toy IMHO.
The Desert Eagle in .50 AE
A semi-automatic pistol made by Israel Military Industries designed (mainly) to fire Magnum revolver cartridges like the .357 magnum (9 rounds) and .44 magnum (8 rounds). Add to this the .50 AE (7 rounds) which is one of the most powerful pistol cartridges in production.
Pro's: The .357 and .44 magnum are somewhat common. Tends to be accurate, but no better than a good revolver.
Con's: I owned a Desert Eagle (Nicknamed a 'DEagle'). It jammed as often as it worked. Not something I would depend on. BTW, unlike a revolver it cannot fire the .38 special or .44 special. The .50 AE is VERY rare. This is another range toy. Add to this, it is HUGE and HEAVY. There are reasons the Israeli military does not carry it.
The Smith & Wesson Model 500
Pro's: None (I guess it would be handy if attacked by dinosaurs)
Con's: TOO powerful. It will make a .50 caliber hole through some one.... and the wall behind them.... and your neighbors wall.... and your neighbor..... and the wall behind them...... and so on...... and you only get 5 wrist SNAPPING shots. Another range toy.
In a SHTF scenario, you need to think about resupply. WHERE the hell do you think you are going to find .45 Long Colt, .50 AE, or .500 S&W magnum? The local stores are closed. Your supply is finite. And what about the disposable accessories? Like magazines or speed loaders? Not to mention repairs or spare parts.
If you want a SHTF weapon, look at what the military and police in your area are carrying for calibers and then look even closer at their choices.
Like, The PSP carries the .45 GAP, this would be a poor choice of caliber. The .45 GAP is a cartridge that equals the power of the .45 ACP but is shorter to fit in a more compact handgun.
If YOU NEED a .45, stick with the MUCH more common (and MUCH less expensive) .45 ACP. And use the savings to shoot more or get training.
The US Military uses the 9MM. I've read that the 9MM is the second most produced round in the world (beaten only by the .22LR). This make it RELATIVELY cheap. That alone would make it a good choice, because you can use the savings to shoot more or get training.
And for people that think reloading will take away the resupply problem, Think again. The components are also a finite supply. IE, the .500 S&W magnum takes several TIMES the powder to reload than a .45 ACP or a 9MM.
The calibers that he should be looking at, IMO, are:
9MM, .45 ACP, .40 S&W and in revolvers (If he demands something that only holds 5 or 6 rounds) .357 magnum (.357's can also fire the .38 special).
Why? They are common. Common means less expensive. Less expensive means you can shoot more. An example, the cheapest .50 AE I found at Midway is like $1.25 a round.
9MM about 24 cents a round. 45 ACP is less than 30 cents a round. When you shoot several HUNDRED to several THOUSAND rounds a year. That adds up.
As for handguns themselves, look for what people teaching the classes carry. You will find Glocks and Smith & Wesson M&Ps are the most common.
And these are just the handgun suggestions.
Dan Emplit WBFD