PDW-Personal Defense Weapons
Dr. John Woods 04.19.16
Without trying to be too obvious to be cute, there are basically three classifications of personal defense weapons that are firearms. We’re not talking about alternative weapons, which will come later. So for now, forget the axes, hammers, sharpened stick poles (ala Walking Dead), machetes, and other tools useful for personal defense. For now, we’re talking guns, personal guns, real personal.
In terms of general characteristics, personal defense weapons (PDWs) have to be light and agile enough to handle in a wide variety of circumstances, yet pack sufficient power to deter, defer, or destroy the adversary. Universally, that leaves out a lot of guns and calibers.
On my list to skip would be derringers, tiny revolvers, and same for semi-autos. Then it becomes a matter of calibers or cartridges to leave behind for fun plinking and recreational shooting. So forget the .22LR (yeah, I know), the .25ACP, the 32s, and the old .38s, though the .38 Special is still quite useful. On the other end of the rainbow, the .460 and .500 Smith are cool for “elephant” hunting, but are hardly a good choice for personal defense.
Thus, narrow the field to the .38 Special, .380 ACP, 9mm and the .45 ACP. And the .40 if you have to have it. Other revolver options if you can handle them include the .357, .41, and .44 Magnums. The .357 and .44s can also use the .38 Specials and .44 Specials.
Rifle wise, stick with a cartridge easy to shoot and in ample supply to buy. Deer rifles aside, this usually means a semi-auto Modern Sporting Rifle such as an AR-15, AK-47, or a step up to a FN-FAL or clone, and HK91, MIA, M1 Garand, and like weapons. The two top cartridges are the .223/5.56 and the .308, but also the 7.62×39 for the AKs.
For shotguns, the top tier is the 12 gauge, pump, or semi-auto. Some like the lighter recoiling 20 gauge, especially the women. Forget the 16-28-410. Get a basic shotgun with optional screw in chokes. If you can handle the 3-inch shells, go for it. Have some slugs available for heavy duty work.
Whatever handgun, rifle, and/or shotgun you buy for personal defense, be sure to learn its function and practice with it as much as possible. This builds confidence, which yields positive, effective results.