There has been much blogged, podcasted, journaled, and generally published about the necessity to accommodate recoil sensitivity and how to do it.
Well, I have a dog in the fight. My wife is recoil sensitive. We've gone around a few circles looking at defensive handguns for her. And people generally shoot better with less recoil.
So, where to begin?
From the halls of infinite wisdom, for self defense, one must carry a service cartridge such as 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .38 Special - and now, recently admitted into the pool of acceptable, we have TADA: .380 ACP.
But also from the halls of infinite wisdom we find: "The number one way to win a gunfight is to ... have a gun!" Well for the recoil sensitive, having, practicing, and using falls under the same stricture.
So, what cartridges are available for the recoil sensitive in a defense handgun? How how do the measure up, when minimizing recoil and distributing enough energy to stop an attack?
.22 LR (.22 Long Rifle)
.22 Long Rifle is everyone's favorite entry-level cartridge for new shooters. It's great for kids, it helps adults master the fundamentals without having to deal with significant recoil in a handgun, and it is traditionally cheap and available.
Cheap (though in the recent ammo shortage, it did reach 9mm price levels).
Available in a wide-range of handguns, including pocket pistols, revolvers, full-size pistols, rifles, and replicas of centerfire handguns.
Low delivered energy.
Less-reliable rimfire ignition system.
The .22 LR works best in double-action revolvers for defense, because a faulty round ("experts" say about 1 in 100 for quality ammo) can be skipped if it doesn't ignite. In a semiauto, you would have to try to strike the primer or clear the faulty round. But double-action revolvers are usually about as expensive as their centerfire cousins.
Stats (sample averages, source Ballistics By The Inch):
2.5" barrel, 851 fps.
5" barrel, 1052 fps.
2.5" barrel, approx 65 ft-lbs.
5" barrel, approx 95 ft-lbs.
Available New-Production Handguns: Vast array of revolvers, pistols, pocket pistols, and derringers.
NEXT: Recoil Reduction: Interlude At The Range