There is a lot of posturing, opining, and down right prognosticating both in print and around the water cooler about the "minimum" caliber for personal protection. Most if not all say that the 380 or the 38 special is the very smallest effective cartridge for self defense. It seems if you want to cut to the chase, you have to look to documented shooting to compare them and not test data like penetration tests, energy comparisons, and weight/velocity tables. The 32 is comparable in stopping power and is more carryable and more shootable than the 380 or 38 snub nose. That all adds up to the 32 being the minmum caliber and maybe a better choice than a 380 or a 38 snubby. What do you think?
.32 ACP Caliber:
One Shot Stopping Success: 50-66% (Actual)
Winchester "Silvertip" JHP 60 grains 63%
Winchester FMJ 71 grains 50%
FROM ANOTHER ACTUAL SHOOTING SOURCE
Winchester Silver Tip JHP 60 grains 66%
Speer Gold dot JHP 60 grains 60%
Federal Hydra Shok JHP 65 grains 59%
380 ACP Caliber: (9 mm Short, 9 x 17 mm, 9 mm Kurz)
One Shot Stopping Success: 51-70% (Actual)
Cor-Bon +P JHP 90 grains 70%
Federal "Hydra-Shok" JHP 90 grains 69%
Federal JHP 90 grains 69%
Winchester "Silvertip" JHP 85grains 61%
CCI JHP 88grains 58%
Remington JHP 88grains 57%
.38 Special Caliber: 2-inch Barrel
One Shot Stopping Success: 49-67% (Actual)
Winchester +P LHP 158grains 67%
Federal +P LHP 158grains 67%
Federal +P JHP 125grains 65%
Remington +P LHP 158grains 65%
CCI +P JHP 125grains 64%
********* Note that the numbers for the 38 spcl from a 4" barrel are much better*******
For my money, a small 32 that is always in my pocket and that has stopping power comparable to bigger 380s and 38 snubbies (which must be holstered most of the time) is the way to go. Of course when I can carry a holstered gun, I certainly want something bigger than a 32, but it will also be bigger than a 380 or 38 snubby since they are really in the same category as the 32.
The 32 also has less recoil for faster follow-up shots and less muzzle blast for women and others that may be a little gun shy. The loaded mags are also small enough that you can carry 2 extra in addition to one in the gun easily. I can even put 4 ten round mags for my 32 Guardian in my weak side back pocket and easily access them one at a time. Of course I hope I never need 47 rounds of anything in a gunfight, but it is nice to know I could carry a 32 in my front pocket and 4 mags in my back pocket in a pair of dress slacks without a coat and have noone know that I am even armed (which is an important consideration in my profession.)
Unless you want to go to a 4" +P 38 special or a +P 9mm, you cannot significantly improve on the 32. And like I said before, if I were going for that size gun I would not settle for a 38 or 9mm, I would go to a 357, 40s&w, or 45acp. The larger guns I actually own and carry for defense are a 357 and a compact 45acp.
Why would anyone choose a 380 or snubnose 38 special which is much more cumbersome(i.e much more likely to be left at home or in the car) for such modest increases (and in some cases losses)in stopping power?