A Peoria, Arizona man named Dave B. awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of his security alarm going off. Dave immediately jumped out of bed and retrieved his handgun loaded with hollow point rounds. As Dave went to investigate the alarm an intruder with a blowtorch was setting the carpet in his home on fire . . .
Dave and the intruder got into a physical struggle at which point Dave fired a single round from his .357. The round struck the suspect who immediately retreated out of the home and was caught by police. The suspect is still in critical condition at a local hospital.
Clearly, Dave did what he had to do to protect himself from this crazy person who wanted to harm him. Also, he had good ammunition that did its job and got the intruder to retreat.
The fact is, many folks spend a ton of time choosing the right gun for home defense but they don’t give enough thought to the type of ammunition to use. After all, it doesn’t matter if you have the world’s best firearm if you’re feeding poor ammunition through it.
One of the most important gun and ammo decisions is choosing a caliber that will be effective and that you are capable of accurately shooting. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I always encourage people to go to their local gun range and rent different guns to find what works for them.
I often hear from people that they want a .45 or .40 because they want the best stopping power. The truth is, with so many advances in bullet technology, you can be just as effective with a smaller caliber gun — as long as you are using the right ammunition. (All of my home defense guns are 9mm. These include a Glock 19, Sig Sauer P226, and Smith & Wesson M&P.)
Once you’ve chosen a caliber, you need to choose the type of round. A hollow point bullet is one of the most effective self-defense rounds. The bullet expands upon impact and causes more damage than a regular (a.k.a., full metal jacket) round. Since hollow point rounds expand on impact they deliver all the energy from the bullet into whatever they hit, reducing over-penetration of the bullet.
Another factor to consider when selecting your ammo: the weight of the bullet. The lighter the bullet, the faster it travels (and, typically, the greater the penetration). If you choose a heavier bullet it will travel slower and, usually, penetrate less. Depending on the gun, heavier bullets often produce greater recoil, limiting the accuracy of follow-up shots.
I recommend a bullet weight that somewhere in the middle, such as 124 grain. I wouldn’t go too far in either direction from 124 grain because it’s important to have a balanced combination. I use Speer Gold Dot and Federal HST (below) for self-defense. Both of these brands are available in different calibers.
Whenever you find a round that you want to use for self-defense I highly recommend you go to your local shooting range and test the ammo with your gun. You want to make sure that the ammo feeds correctly and there are no issues with your gun while using that ammo.
The bottom line: when you choose a gun for self-defense you trust that gun with your life. You also need to pick ammo you trust (but verify).