Top 5 Calibers You Should Own

It’s fun to say you can never have too many guns or too much ammunition, but it’s not realistic to believe it’s possible to buy an endless stream of gear. Instead, it’s smart to focus on guns for specific applications, and that includes the calibers (or gauges). We’ve selected our top 5 purpose-driven calibers that all gun owners can benefit from owning. We’re going to run through the list and explain why these calibers should be in your gun safe—some you’ll see coming, but we have a few surprises along the way.

9mm ammo
9mm Luger is a great self-defense round. (Photo: Steinel Ammunition)

9mm Luger

Saying someone needs a 9mm in their collection is a bit self-explanatory at this point. As ballistics have improved and technology has broadened, 9mm Luger has gained its rightful place as an ideal defensive caliber. And while many gun owners already have a 9mm handgun, not all do. So, why is 9mm such a good idea?

9mm performs exceptionally well according to the FBI’s ballistic gelatin testing standards for self-defense use. It doesn’t under-penetrate, and it typically doesn’t over-penetrate (the latter of which depends on the object the bullet is impacting, of course). Felt recoil and muzzle rise are negligible, especially in full-sized handguns. It’s a relatively flat-shooting option that’s proven itself for self-defense use. 9mm is readily available, affordable, and offered in a vast array of loads. You have endless options with 9mm, and when you combine that with its fantastic overall performance, you have a clear winner. And for those who already have a 9mm, it’s worth considering an additional gun in a different size.

federal premium ammo
.22 LR is an excellent caliber to have around. (Photo: Federal Premium)

.22 LR

Although .22 LR doesn’t have the broad applications other calibers do, this little rimfire cartridge still has a lot of uses. It’s great for plinking, training, and giving new shooters their first taste of trigger time. That’s thanks to the fact it produces very minimal felt recoil (someone’s always going to notice felt recoil on all guns, but .22 LR is basically non-existent). But there are other uses for .22 LR beyond teaching.

A rimfire cartridge, like .22 LR, is typically a lightweight gun whether it’s a long gun or a handgun. This makes them easy to carry around or aim for longer lengths of time. .22 LR ammunition is also exceptionally light, meaning it’s possible to carry larger quantities of it in a pack or simply store boxes in your gun room. It’s also affordably priced. Though .22 LR has somewhat limited hunting applications, it’s useful against squirrels and other pests and varmints. The fact that it also makes for a fun plinking gun is yet another plus.

hornady 12 gauge
If you’re going to use your shotgun for self-defense, make sure you use the right ammo. (Photo: Hornady)


Shotguns aren’t just for hunters or home defenders, although those are certainly their top two applications. Somehow, shotguns have fallen by the wayside over the years, but they have myriad uses. Your 12-gauge shotgun is a great choice for use as a truck gun, brush gun, or home defense gun. It’s also great for hunting everything from birds to hogs to deer (just make sure you use the correct ammunition).

12-gauge is a lot of fun for hitting the range for target practice or doing things like carving pumpkins with firearms (or shooting watermelons). With a little practice, you’ll find you can run a shotgun quickly and efficiently. You might want to get a semi-auto rather than a pump-action, and barrel length is going to depend on what you intend to do with it. Longer barrels are ideal for bird hunting, but shorter barrels are great for defensive use. If you’re worried about recoil, there are all manner of reduced recoil 12-gauge loads not to mention guns carefully designed to mitigate felt recoil and even recoil pads for your shoulder.

winchester 6.5 creedmoor
Although 6.5 Creedmoor is excellent for long-range shooting, it’s also great for hunting. (Photo: Winchester)

6.5 Creedmoor

If you’ve ever considered long-range shooting, you’ve probably looked into 6.5 Creedmoor. It’s a cartridge that’s popular to the point it makes a lot of gun owners stay away from it, but it really is a good one to own. The 6.5 Creedmoor is available in numerous factory loads designed for consistent performance and long-range applications. It delivers a flat trajectory that outperforms many similar cartridges and there are plenty of bolt-actions and AR-10s to choose from.

Aside from the obvious long-range applications of 6.5 Creedmoor, it’s good for bench shooting at just about any distance. It’s also great for hunting, especially deer and hogs, and it can be used for home defense. If you’re going to use 6.5 Creedmoor for home defense, make sure you’re using ammunition made for that purpose and that the gun you’re using is maneuverable enough to be effective. Many AR-10s in 6.5 Creedmoor are bulky and could present a challenge moving around in your home.

sig ammo 10mm
10mm is a great caliber to get into big bores. (Photo: Sig Sauer)


You might have been expecting a magnum caliber to make an appearance, but there’s a reason for choosing 10mm for your big-bore gun over magnum options. Most magnum handguns are going to present a challenge for a lot of shooters, and even if you find the felt recoil manageable, it’s going to present challenges. Magnums are harder to get back on target fast and tend to cost more. As for 10mm, as it’s gained popularity, an increasing number of loads are offered for it and there are a lot more options for guns, too. It’s not as affordably priced as 9mm, but there are a lot of reasonably priced handguns on the market. So, what do you need a 10mm for?

10mm is great for self-defense, handgun hunting, and home defense. It’s also enjoyable to use for target practice. You might be surprised at the lack of excessive felt recoil with a 10mm because although it’s certainly noticeable, it isn’t as extreme as shooting a .44 Magnum. With a 10mm, you can manage rapid fire and get all your shots on target. That’s not just for full-sized handguns, either. Compact models like the Glock 29 that are chambered in 10mm are also fun to shoot and don’t recoil so much that it’d put you off shooting it. 10mm is a solid option to broaden your shooting into big bores while staying with one that’s still truly useful.

What’s your favorite caliber? Why? Tell us about it in the comments.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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