The only time I got into to trouble with a bowl gouge was when I was doing something silly. ie using a 1/4" with way to much over hang on a very nasty burl and I bent the darn thing at 45'.
Wrong tool, wrong usage, wrong speed = dumb move
If you have reservations get along side a good turner at a nearby club and in no time you get enough experience to make this sort of judgment call.
Anyway stick with 1/2 and above and I doubt if you can bend or get into too much trouble other than a decent catch or two.