The Most Popular Caliber for Law Enforcement, Ranked

Choose the caliber you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 23, 2024 06:32
Law enforcement agencies continually assess their equipment to ensure they are equipped with reliable and effective tools. The choice of caliber for firearms is crucial, as it impacts not only the efficacy of law enforcement officers but also their safety. A thorough understanding and analysis of the most popular calibers can assist in making informed decisions. By participating in our live ranking, users contribute to a broader comprehension of preferences and trends within the law enforcement community. This ongoing compilation of public and professional opinions forms a dynamic and informative guide that aids departments in making choices that best fit their needs.

What Is the Most Popular Caliber for Law Enforcement?

  1. 1

    9mm Luger

    The 9mm Luger has become the most popular caliber for law enforcement due to its balance of stopping power, recoil, and capacity.
    • Introduced: 1902
    • Bullet diameter: 9.01 mm
  2. 2

    .45 ACP

    The .45 ACP is chosen by some law enforcement officers for its stopping power and large caliber, though it has a lower capacity than 9mm pistols.
    • Introduced: 1904
    • Bullet diameter: 11.5 mm
  3. 3

    .38 Special

    The .38 Special has a long history of use by law enforcement, particularly in revolvers, for its manageable recoil and reliability.
    • Introduced: 1898
    • Bullet diameter: 9.1 mm
  4. 4

    10mm Auto

    The 10mm Auto is chosen by some law enforcement units for its high velocity and stopping power, though it has more recoil than the 9mm and .40 S&W.
    • Introduced: 1983
    • Bullet diameter: 10.2 mm
  5. 5

    .357 Magnum

    The .357 Magnum is a powerful revolver cartridge favored by law enforcement for its stopping power, especially in rural areas.
    • Introduced: 1934
    • Bullet diameter: 9.1 mm
  6. 6

    40 S&W

    The .40 S&W is favored by some law enforcement agencies for its stopping power relative to the 9mm, though it has seen a decline in popularity.
    • Introduced: 1990
    • Bullet diameter: 10.2 mm
  7. 7

    .357 SIG

    The .357 SIG was designed for law enforcement as a high-velocity caliber offering stopping power and reliability.
    • Introduced: 1994
    • Bullet diameter: 9 mm
  8. 8

    .22 LR

    The .22 LR is not traditionally seen as a law enforcement caliber due to its small size and lower stopping power, but it is used for training and by some specialized units.
    • Introduced: 1887
    • Bullet diameter: 5.7 mm
  9. 9

    12 Gauge

    The 12 Gauge shotgun is a standard in law enforcement for its versatility and stopping power at close ranges, particularly for riot control and breaching.
    • Common load: 00 Buck
  10. 10

    5.56×45mm NATO

    The 5.56×45mm NATO is primarily used in rifles for law enforcement tactical units, offering high velocity and capacity for engagements at longer distances.
    • Introduced: 1963
    • Bullet diameter: 5.7 mm

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About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular caliber for law enforcement. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or caliber is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 140 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Movers & Shakers

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each caliber once every 24 hours. The rank of each caliber is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

Additional Information

More about the Most Popular Caliber for Law Enforcement

9mm Luger
Rank #1 for the most popular caliber for law enforcement: 9mm Luger (Source)
Law enforcement agencies need reliable tools. One of the most crucial tools is their firearm. The choice of caliber for these firearms is key. It affects their performance, safety, and effectiveness. Over the years, one caliber has become the most popular among police forces.

This caliber offers a balance of power and control. It provides enough stopping power to neutralize threats. At the same time, it is manageable. Officers can handle it well, even in stressful situations. This balance is important. It ensures that officers can act quickly and accurately when needed.

The history of this caliber's popularity is interesting. Decades ago, police departments used different calibers. Some favored larger rounds for their power. Others chose smaller rounds for their ease of use. Over time, though, the need for a middle ground became clear. Officers needed a round that could do it all. This led to the rise of the current popular choice.

Training plays a big role in this. Officers need to be proficient with their firearms. The chosen caliber allows for effective training. It is not too harsh on the shooter. This means that officers can practice more without excessive fatigue. More practice leads to better performance in the field.

Another factor is the ammunition's availability. The most popular caliber is widely available. This ensures that departments can keep their officers well-supplied. It also means that officers can find ammunition easily, even in remote areas. This is crucial for maintaining readiness.

The caliber's design also contributes to its popularity. It is versatile and can be used in different types of firearms. This includes handguns, which are the primary sidearms for many officers. The ability to use the same caliber in different weapons is a big advantage. It simplifies logistics and reduces costs.

Law enforcement agencies also consider the caliber's impact on public safety. They need a round that can stop threats without excessive risk to bystanders. The most popular caliber has proven effective in this regard. It strikes a balance between penetration and stopping power. This reduces the risk of over-penetration, which can endanger others.

Advancements in technology have also played a role. Modern ammunition for this caliber is very effective. It has been designed to maximize performance. This includes improvements in bullet design and materials. These advancements have made the caliber even more reliable.

The choice of caliber is not just about the round itself. It is about the overall effectiveness of the officer. The most popular caliber helps officers perform their duties safely and effectively. It provides the right balance of power, control, and reliability.

In conclusion, the choice of caliber for law enforcement is a result of careful consideration. The most popular option today offers a balance that meets the needs of officers and public safety. Its history, availability, and design all contribute to its widespread use. This caliber has proven itself as a reliable choice for those who protect and serve.

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