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Gun Death Statistics by Caliber: A Review of Calibers and Crime in 2024

Report Highlights:

  • An average of 10,252 firearms were used in homicides between 2015 and 2019. Handguns were involved in 59% of homicides in 2020.

  • Handguns were used in 62% of homicides between 2015 and 2019.

  • Most mass shooters used firearms chambered in 9mm and .223 Remington in 2023 and 2024 (to date), resulting in 45% of all deaths.

  • 1 in 6 criminal assaults involving a firearm results in death.

  • Gunshot victims were 4.5 times more likely to die when shot by larger caliber bullets (.357 magnum, .40, .44 magnum, .45, 10 mm, and 7.62 × 39 mm) than small calibers (.25, .32, and .38).

  • Knives are used in 3X more murders than rifles. Personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.) are used in nearly 2 times more murders than rifles.

Gun Death Statistics by Caliber - Report Highlights

Although most self-defense-minded individuals focus largely on stopping power and the effectiveness of the caliber, it seems most criminals choose low-cost or mass-produced options. Although self-defense is a top priority for most gun owners, it seems that criminals put little thought into which caliber they’re using.

The following sections explore gun death statistics by caliber. The 9mm is the most common caliber used by mass shooters and murderers. Despite more substantial terminal ballistics with larger caliber firearms, the 9mm kills more people year over year.

What Caliber is Used in Most Murders?

The 9mm is most often used in homicides and results in the most fatal shootings.

Caliber Used by Type in Most Murders

Lethality by Caliber

A 2017 study in Boston showed that 1 in 6 individuals assaulted with a firearm died. However, wound location and the number of wounds increase the likelihood of a fatality more so than the caliber.

Take a look at the death by caliber statistics as they relate to commonly used firearms and terminal performance.

Terminal Ballistics & Commonly Used Calibers Ranked

The lethality of firearm calibers is a hotly debated topic. Although many gun owners specifically choose firearms for their terminal performance, those who commit homicides consider other factors like availability and cost.

While 9mm handguns take more lives each year, terminal performance and bullet size do not equate to more lethality. We’ll rank the top five handgun calibers for homicides based on recent studies.

  1. 9mm
  2. .45 ACP
  3. .38
  4. .380 ACP
  5. .357 Magnum
Top 5 Handgun Calibers for Homicides

Although these were the most commonly used calibers in homicides, that doesn’t mean they’re more lethal than other firearms.

Shot Locations

The wound location contributes more to fatalities than the caliber of the bullet.


  • 75% of homicide cases involving a firearm were shots located in the chest (lung/cardiac area).
  • 55% in the abdomen.
  • 53% in the head.


  • 72% of suicide cases involving a firearm were wounds located in the head.
  • 23% were in the chest.
Fatalities linked to shot locations in homicide and suicide cases

The caliber of the weapon wasn’t a factor in the number of shots fired.

Prevalence of Handguns in Murders

The manufacturing of semiautomatic firearms has far surpassed that of revolvers since 1986. Therefore, semiautomatic firearms contribute to more deaths today, than in decades past.

However, handguns remain the lead weapon in homicides, averaging 6,615 murders per year between 2015 and 2019.

Death by Weapon Type

Types of Handguns Used in Crimes

The most common firearms used in crimes are handguns. Furthermore, the most common caliber is the 9mm.

Here are the top 5 caliber crime guns traced by the ATF in 2021:

  • 9mm - 197,634
  • .40 - 48,335
  • .22 - 35,743
  • .380 ACP - 30,263
  • .45 ACP - 28,640

Gun Calibers Used in Mass Shootings

9mm handguns and carbine rifles were used in more targeted mass shooting attacks than any other single firearm (7). However, most mass attackers used more than one firearm, and the .223 Remington was the second most commonly used firearm.

Weapons Used in Mass Shootings

Gun Deaths vs. Knife Deaths

As the gun theft statistics by caliber show, knives kill more people in assaults than rifles. However, handguns kill more people than rifles and knives combined.

All Firearm vs. Knife Homicides 2018-2021

All Firearm vs. Knife Homicides 2018-2021

All Firearm vs. Knife Deaths 2018-2021

All Firearm vs. Knife Deaths 2018-2021


Cassandra McBride
Written by
Cassandra McBride