ONCE upon a time, I stumbled across a site somewhere that ranked various handguns by the muzzle energy (foot-pounds or joules) of their normal or average loads. Now of course I have no idea where I found it. The reason I’d like such a list is because I’ve been testing various small arms and I’m trying to determine what’s the most firepower I’m comfortable shooting. I’d like to work my way up such a list until I find “enough gun for me”.
Caveats: I’m aware that loads can differ, especially for revolvers (special vs. magnum,etc.), and that different guns have sujectively different recoil based on their design. But muzzle energy is usually a good indicator.
How high up the list are you now? I am sure you could shoot just about anything once but many people start to get uncomfortable around the .357 mark and the .44 magnum is about the highest most people feel comfortable shooting on a consistent basis. What is your definition of “uncomfortable”?
I’m sorry, but muzzle energy is not, as you have sorta said in your OP, not a really good indicator of “felt recoil.”
I won’t belabor the point, but just take one example: a .44 Magnum with a full standard load (whatever that is). You shoot that thing in a Model 29 Smith, you’re gonna get one hell of a recoil.
Shoot the same load in a gas-operated automatic like a Desert Eagle and it’s gonna be lighter.
Shoot the same load in a “Hog Leg” replica of a Colt Peacemaker and it’s gonna be a pretty dang good show, but with most of the recoil going up, and up, probably not too tacing on your hand. Definitely a crowd pleaser, though.
There’s recoil, there’s felt recoil, and there’s controllability.
The handguns that let you get a fast second shot off tend to be harsher on the shooter, as they do not dissipate the felt recoil over time–they function to allow one to get the gun back onto the target as fast as possible no matter how much it “shoicks” the shooter.
You’ve really just gotta try several, and see where your comfort level, and accuracy level, lies.
I just shot a S&W .357 revolver the other day. Felt pretty good, although I fired most of the rounds in single action and didn’t give the double-action mode much of a try. “Uncomfortable” would be a gun that I felt was about to jump out of my hands every time I fired it, or otherwise make me flinch or not be able to maintain a consistant grouping. I did pretty good, at least when “Rambo” in the next lane who was shooting a full-automatic weapon didn’t pick the instant I tried to shoot to open fire.
Find a decent center fire handgun that feels comfortable and you can shoot a good group with. Hitting what you shoot at is going to mean far more than one shot stopping power. Facing off against an intruder is probably going to be a spray and pray moment anyways so make it something that fits your hand well and seems to naturally fall into a good shooting grip. 2 guns of the same caliber firing rounds out of the same box of ammo can demonstrate shockingly different felt recoil. Shooting a Beretta 92fs and a Glock 19 back to back is a frighteningly different feeling, even though they both are chambered for the exact same round.
Oh, just to help you out a bit, I don’t know a good table of ME (muzzle Energy) though I once made up my own, and you could by plugging in the weight of the bullet and the muzzle velocity into the formula given here into a spreadsheet with columns for different bullet weights and muzzle velocity.
However, if you have some of the data handy, the site will calculate a graph for you. Maybe worth looking at…
All that it true, much depends on the gun, but to attempt to answer your question - try googling “ballistics table” or stop by any of the major ammo manufacturers (here is one). Or pick up a reloading manual.