Conventional wisdom holds that if a handgun’s primary purpose is self-defense, “bigger is better”—bigger being .40 or .45 caliber, rather than .38, .380 or 9mm. And while there may be considerable debate as to the superior effectiveness of one caliber compared to another, there’s no question that when you take a box of ammo to the checkout counter, size does matter. With a few exceptions, the expense of ammunition increases with its size.
Availability of ammunition has recently become another concern. With ammo sales increasing almost as fast as certain politicians are burning through money, (which is only slightly slower than a speeding bullet) it’s not always possible to find cartridges of a specific caliber. Being able to fire multiple caliber cartridges from a single gun is especially advantageous when ammunition is in short supply.
The solution to all these annoyances is a gun that can fire lower-cost ammunition during target practice, yet can be loaded with bigger and better cartridges for self-defense solutions. That’s precisely what you get with a conversion barrel, which allows a gun to be quickly and easily converted to shoot bullets of one caliber—even though it was originally designed for another. Since 9mm is the cheapest major caliber ammunition you can buy, that’s the caliber of choice for most pistol conversion barrels. On the other hand, the absolute cheapest ammunition on this or any other planet is .22 LR—a caliber that constitutes another popular conversion.
There’s no question that these conversions reduce ammunition costs, but I had some questions about their ability to perform as reliably as original equipment barrels and slides. That was “BBC”—Before Barrel Conversion. I can’t attest to the performance and quality of all brands of conversion barrels, (nor their performance on guns produced by different manufacturers) but the ones I tested functioned as advertised—or better.