How Do I Choose Good Self-Defense Ammo For My Handgun?

Choosing good personal defense ammunition

Ken [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s vital that you choose good self-defense ammo for your handgun, but how to do that? How do you know which ones are only OK and which ones excel?

There are a few basic criteria for picking a good self-defense ammunition for your handgun.

First, it must be expanding.

Choosing good personal defense ammunition

Credit: Oleg Volk/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

This is important, as over-penetration of a bad person can lead to subsequent penetration of other people. That’s why it’s a bad idea to use full metal jacket (range) ammunition in a concealed carry or home defense gun.

Every bullet you fire in defense of yourself has a lawyer attached to it, so you’re responsible for what happens once it leaves your gun. Therefore, don’t be responsible for shooting someone other than an attacker.

Ideally, self-defense ammunition will have a blend of effective penetration and expansion. It should penetrate to sufficient depth to compromise vital structures, but also expand enough to dump its energy into the target and come to a stop.

Don’t listen to anything you hear about “stopping power.” Handguns don’t have any (relatively speaking). Newton’s Third Law dictates that a gun has to produce enough force to knock YOU down through recoil to produce enough force to do the same to a bad guy. To get that, you need an elephant gun.

To sum up, you want expanding ammunition because it’s less likely to go through the target, but it needs enough penetrative ability to hit something that matters. Placement will take care of the rest, which is what you learn to do with shooting practice – it’s just as much about where your self-defense ammo goes as it is about which kind you buy.

Choosing good personal defense ammunition

Credit: US Navy/Wikimedia Commons

Secondly, pick ammunition that will function reliably in your gun. This will mean having to spend a few dollars to find the brand that your firearm appears to “like” best. It will also require you to shoot some self-defense ammunition at the range, which – yes – is a bit expensive.

However, once you find the brand that your gun likes, stick with it.

Some guns will feed darn near anything, but some pistols are a bit more particular to certain brands. Note the ones that seem to feed best and most reliably in your pistol.

Note also how close the pistol/ammo combination patterns relative to your practice ammunition. You want to use ammunition that prints as close to your typical box of hardball as possible.

My carry gun feeds most hollow points pretty well, but I’ve noticed that Winchester PDX1 tends to hit closest to the point of impact of the typical range ammo I buy (Blazer Brass, if you’re curious; it’s $9 at the store nearest me) so that’s what I carry.

Those are the basics. It has to be expanding and it has to work in your gun. So, how to go about picking one?

Choosing good personal defense ammunition

Speer Gold Dot ammunition. Credit: speer-ammo.com

You also should select a brand/box of ammunition that has some sort of track record of success in the real world. It’s all well and good to buy the newest tactical hotness made by some bunch of cowboys in a turnip shed somewhere, but ammunition is a tool and one that you really need to count on to work.

This is where things get complicated. You have to do your own legwork, and make the best decision you can. You will not have complete information.

I don’t know to a certainty that my carry ammunition will work as I need or want it to. However, Winchester has been making ammunition for a very long time and their products are pretty darn good.

The PDX projectile – meaning the bullet itself – is the same one that’s been used in Winchester’s premium JHP for ages, from Black Talon to Ranger T Series. It’s proven, or at least is as proven as a bullet can be. While there are no guarantees, I can reasonably expect it to work.

Plenty of testing data is out there, though you should be aware of its limitations. Ballistic gelatin is an imperfect simulant of human tissues; in fact, ballistic gelatin uses the aggregate density of all human tissue.

In other words, it’s the average of bone, skin, blood and muscle density. Per a conversation I had with Chris Laack, head of handgun ammunition development for Vista Outdoors (that’s who makes Federal and Speer and many more) at SHOT Show, the correlation seems to be about a 2:3 ratio. If a bullet penetrates 12 inches in gel, it will penetrate 8 inches in a person. So bear that in mind when you look at testing results, such as that done by Lucky Gunner Labs or ShootingTheBull410.

For my money, the best ammunition testing is done by YouTube personality Paul Harrell, who uses an actual Meat Target. He’s incredibly thorough. Here’s his take on overpressure ammunition, just to give you an idea of his testing procedures.

 

The conventional wisdom is (or at least used to be) that you find out what your local cops are carrying and get that, which is actually not bad advice.

For one, it’s what the professionals use, so why shouldn’t you? Secondly, the occasional prosecutor has been known to question ammunition choice in the wake of a self-defense shooting.

Usually the idea is that if a person selected a particular type of bullet – such as jacketed hollow points – they clearly intended to kill someone. According to Massad Ayoob, you can easily retort by stating “Well counselor, the police use this same brand and type of ammunition to protect people, so I thought it would be a good idea to get the same kind to protect myself and my family.”

So what do cops carry?

Police officers almost universally carry jacketed hollow points. There are a number of alternative bullet styles – which I’ll get to momentarily – but JHP reigns supreme among law enforcement at the local, state and federal level, from the FBI on down. It’s the most common kind of self-defense ammo.

What brands, specifically?

Federal HST, Remington Golden Saber, Speer Gold Dot and Winchester Ranger are most prevalent. The ammunition industry makes “law-enforcement only” ammunition, but it’s typically no different than what you can buy at Cabela’s. Additionally, some retailers sell it to civilians, though you’ll have to do some hunting online.

However, there’s something you should know. The typical police officer carries a duty pistol such as a Beretta 92, GLOCK 17 or SIG P226. The typical civilian carries a compact semi-automatic, with many preferring a subcompact. Why that’s important is that not all self-defense ammunition is made to function well in pistols with short barrels.

Choosing good personal defense ammunition

Credit: Rickochet/Wikimedia Commons

This isn’t exactly news. Police officers noticed many years ago that loads like the standard 158-grain lead semi-wadcutters in .38 Special +P functioned well enough when fired from their, say, Colt Police Positive, S&W Model 10 or Ruger Service Six, but wouldn’t do well when fired from, say, a Colt Cobra or J-frame snubby.

A truncated barrel also truncates muzzle velocity, and the thing about expanding ammunition is that – depending on its design – it may not work below a certain threshold of velocity. Therefore, if you carry a small pistol, such as a Smith & Wesson Shield, GLOCK 43 or Ruger LC9s (or for that matter, a .380) select a load that’s designed for a short barrel.

But what about RIP rounds, frangibles and other types of novelty self-defense ammunition?

I had the pleasure of talking to the guys from G2 Research at SHOT Show. They do test their ammunition, so they don’t just make stuff up. From what I gathered, they do their best to make a quality product that does what they assert that it does. I imagine if I’d been able to talk to other ammunition makers of some of the similar alternative bullet design styles, it would be the same story.

All the information I’ve absorbed about ammunition and terminal performance leads to me to conclude the following:

The really popular styles of ammunition for practical purposes, including self-defense and hunting, are the most popular for a reason in most instances. They’ve been proven to work reliably and – at this stage in the game – it isn’t terribly likely that the wheel is getting reinvented anytime soon.

Incremental improvements will happen, but JHP has been shown again and again to be the best choice for self-defense ammunition in a handgun.

If my mind changes on this front, I’ll fess up about it.

It seems like you have to do some homework to find a good carry load, doesn’t it? Well, you really should. There’s a lot of different brands and boxes of self-defense ammunition out there, and lots of claims about each one. So doing a bit of homework first is a good idea.

Disagree with any of this? Just angry in general and want to rant? Have you finally accepted that blue cheese is superior to ranch in every application? Sound off in the comments.

comments

  1. avatar Dan W says:

    I buy the one with the coolest looking box and or name.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      if it doesn’t actually say zombie, at least it should have some z’s in the name.

      1. avatar Jr says:

        Ironically, Hornady zombie max is actually fantastic ammunition. Its almost identical to critical defence.

    2. avatar Chunk says:

      I’m å sücker før ódd vøwéls.

  2. avatar S.Crock says:

    I start by making sure the box says Federal HST 9mm 124 grain and then go from there.

    1. avatar Not Cool says:

      Yes, and Federal putting a MAP on their products and forcing retailers to double their prices wasn’t at all a dick move.

  3. avatar Bryce says:

    Not to beat a dead horse here, but the most bestest coolest most amazingist JHP ever won’t really make a difference if you miss what you’re shooting at.

    1) Does it function in my gun? How do I know? Have a shot a box through it (I don’t think you need to shoot 500 rounds of the stuff to know)?
    2) Are there actual accounts available to know if it functions properly AFTER it leaves the barrel? Is it precise (how close to center can be adjusted, all over the target usually cannot)?
    3) Gel tests really don’t matter in terms of terminal performance, with 1 *… Does it clog? The true function of gel tests has been completely lost.

    Moral of the story…. Just pick one that has a good reputation, preferably one carried by SOME law enforcement agency somewhere.

    1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      Guns people talk about which ammo or calibers are the best…. Car people talk about which motor oil or tires are the best… Workout people talk about which exercises or protocols are the best… Martial artists talk about which styles or disciplines are the best… etc.

      As with most things, one’s mindset, technique, skills, and abilities hold far more sway than one’s chosen tools.

      Oh, and for those scoring at home…

      Hornady. 9mm. Valvoline. Pirelli. Compound. Pavel Tsatsouline. Grappling. And, BJJ.

      1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        spark plug?

        1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          NGK

      2. avatar Just Wondering says:

        Speaking of BJ’s…

        Porn Site?

        1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          There’s a rear naked choke joke in there somewhere but I cannot seem to find it…

      3. avatar Voldamort says:

        And Ryu Te, AKA: Zenkoku Ryukyu Kempo Karate Kobudo Rengo Kai? Easy enough to figure why the name change huh? 🙂

      4. avatar The Eagle says:

        If BJJ was hard it would be called Sambo.

        1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          Sure… Just don’t forget to tell that to all the Jiu-Jitsu guys who win the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships every year….

    2. avatar Gregory John Smith says:

      That’s what i do.My wife is a LEO and they use the Speer Gold Dot.I figure if it’s good enough for them,it’s good enough for me.Obviously,each person has to decide what they feel is best for theirself..

  4. avatar Tom T says:

    Remington UMC JHP in the 100 round value box. Yes, I tried the high end Sig, Nosler, etc.

    And I prefer tortoises.

  5. avatar WI Patriot says:

    Speer Gold Dot and Federal HST here…as to which, depends on the gun…

  6. avatar former water walker says:

    I too am a fan of Paul Harrell & his “meat” tests. FWIW I use Sig 124grain HP. Gel has no bones. But if I was shooting 380(I’m not)I’d probably go with a good non HP FMJ. Military Arms Channel graphically illustrates how 380 sux…I don’t care what anyone uses. Just have a gun.

    1. avatar Anymouse says:

      The problem with meat testing is that it’s all anecdotal since no meat is exactly the same, and bullets don’t impact bones in the same place at the same angles. To make meat testing statistically meaningful, you would need hundreds or thousands of rounds to perform a comparison so you know that bullets experienced similar conditions. Gelatin is an analog for muscle that is consistent for comparison of penetration and expansion, but there’s no standard for bone or organ simulation with it — only barriers and clothing. However, you can do an apples to apples comparison between rounds. After gelatin comparisons, meat testing might help give an understanding of how a bullet might behave after a bone impact, but a couple shots isn’t going to be definitive.

      1. avatar Dude says:

        Everyone and their brother does gel tests. That’s why I like the meat target. Paul’s done enough of them that when he seems impressed, it means something.

    2. avatar tdiinva says:

      Gel is used to get apples-to-apples comparisons. No two meat targets are alike. That’s why Paul caveats things.

      The gel simulates soft tissue and there are formulas that equate gel and other tissue. For example skin is approximately 3″ of gel. The 12″ minimum accounts for penetrating the skin and breast bone or rib.

    3. avatar E6H says:

      Stick with Federal HST, Remington Golden Saber, Speer Gold Dot, Sig V-Crown or CorBon. In 9X19MM, 124gr work well, 45acp I’d stick with 200gr minimum. All the tests and actual terminal ballistics I’ve seen. Rounds flying at 1,300 fps at muzzle tend to shoot through unless a heavy bone is struck. Stay with muzzle velocities under 1,200 fps. Most importantly, bullet placement. Train Train and Train. Lean anatomy and the location of vitals including arteries. I’ve learned that high center mass followed by the pelvic region will generally put a aggressor down. Hip is a large steady target as well as the structure that keeps us standing and moving. Remember, in the civilian sector, the idea is to stop the threat as soon as possible. Thanks for your time and Semper Fi.

  7. avatar Shire-man says:

    I’m holding out for the 5.11 Blackwater Zombie edition of G2 Rip ammo. Fingers crossed the Nuge endorses.

  8. avatar No one of consequence says:

    Lehigh Defense.

    1. avatar Dude says:

      I feel like this deserved a mention in the article. Hollow points are illegal in New Jersey. Xtreme Defenders are also very consistent in penetration. They seem like a good choice if you’re concerned about inconsistent expansion, like in .380 ACP.

      1. avatar Jr says:

        The NJ hollow point law has exceptions including at home and at the range and transportation between. Also hollow points with inserts like Hornady critical defence aren’t technically hollow points and are okay regardless.

        At least those were the rules in NJ when I left that shithole 8 years ago…

    2. avatar dwest says:

      Agreed! Lehigh Defense controlled chaos!

  9. avatar Mad Max says:

    I carry a Sig P225 with Sig HP ammo.

    If the prosecutor asks about ammo selection, the answer is that it was recommended by the firearm manufacturer.

    Mr. Prosecutor, my gun’s a Sig, don’t I have to use Sig ammo in it?

    1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      “I keep my GM car all GM as well judge.”

    2. avatar Jr says:

      I never understood coming up with odd justifications of your ammo to a judge. Wouldn’t “its what the guy at the store recommended” sound reasonable to anybody?

  10. avatar GunnyGene says:

    The target (the recipient of the bullet) determines whether you have picked the right ammo or not. Up until then your selection is just a WAG.

  11. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    I buy name brand HPs in standard pressure, ensure they feed reliably, and then move on about my life… I find no need to perseverate on it.

    1. avatar sound awake says:

      exactly…
      what youre runnin it through is way more important than what youre runnin through it
      as long as it functions and is reasonably accurate in your pistol any jhp round will do the job well enough and will be vastly better than nothing at all
      this is really a conversation thats been done to death

      1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        maybe, but without it i would never have seen the word perseverate.

    2. avatar jwm says:

      Basically my take on it. And since i live in CA and can no longer mail order I have to make do with what’s on the shelf. My glock has whatever brand that is with the red plastic thingy in the tip. But i have other brands of HP and fmj. I use the fmj for practice.

      I have hollowpoints for my j frame. But more and more these days I’m thinking the old semi wadcutter in lead is a good choice for that gun.

      1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

        It all pokes holes, my friend. You’ll do just fine with what you got on hand.

      2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        jwm,

        I have also been thinking that semi-wadcutters are the best choice in a j-frame .38 Special.

        I recently wanted to purchase some and could not find any at my local sporting goods store.

  12. avatar Docduracoat says:

    Another vote for turtles here!
    We like Sea Turtles best.
    No one ever mentions silencers.
    My bedside gun is a CZ 75 with an Osprey 45 silencer.
    I shoot 147 grain hollowpoints as they are subsonic and much quieter thru the suppressor.

    1. avatar ORCON says:

      They deleted my post. How these folk moderate this feed is unusual and bizarre. I still like turtles.

  13. avatar Silentbrick says:

    I got Hornady American Gunner JHP 124gr on sale. It’s Hornady, so it’ll function decently I’m sure and I suspect alot of the wind gets ripped out of the sails of overzealous DA’s when you say “I got some stuff on sale, it was nice and cheap.” It’s hard to claim you were looking for the nastiest meanest ammo after that. It functions fine in all my pistols and has moderate recoil.

  14. avatar Hank says:

    Blue cheese over ranch!? Now you have crossed the line.

    1. avatar LifeSavor says:

      I’ll take seconds on the blue cheese, please!

      1. avatar LazrBeam says:

        “CHUNKY” blue cheese, please.

  15. avatar tdiinva says:

    If you carry a pocket gun your choices are fairly limited since many brands won’t expand at the muzzle velocities you get from a 3″ or shorter barrel. The longer the barrel, the better and bigger the expansion. Most 9mm rounds are tested from 4 or 4.25 inch barrels. Some rounds like PDX1 or Hornady Critical Duty are great out of long barrels but will suck out your 938.

  16. avatar Pg2 says:

    Really like Buffalo Bores 38 special defense ammo, especially their wadcutter, you don’t have to worry about expansion out of shorter barrels.

    1. avatar Dan W says:

      What’s the advantage over a jhp? Seems like something that has a chance to expand is better than something that won’t expand.

      1. avatar Pg2 says:

        Not sure about the advantage, but with 860 ft speed out of a snub by, you don’t have to have worry about expansion. Jhps out of snubbies are notorious for not expanding.

  17. avatar Anymouse says:

    PDX1 isn’t the same as Ranger-T/Black Talon. After Black Talons were pulled from the market, Winchester introduced SXT, which was mostly the same technology, but without the black Lubalox coating and the sharp points on the jacket petals. The common technology of the rounds is the reverse tapered jacket, where the jacket is thicker at the petals and thins toward the base. PDX1 is a version if this round, with bonding between the jacket and core to prevent separation and improve barrier penetration. Ranger-T retains the sharp petals of the Talon, except without the black Lubalox coating, and was first introduced as Ranger SXT.

  18. avatar Vlad Tepes says:

    Your best test is the test you do yourself. Water is not a reliable test nor are wet newspapers although any test is often better than no testing at all.

    Mixing your own ballistic gelatin and keeping it at the right temperature is a lot of fking around to do as well.

    The meat test may not be cheap but what is your life worth? Think about that statement. Drape several layers of denim over a large hunk of meat. I used an old Thanksgiving ham I never got around to cooking and instead of just throwing it away I put it to good use. You would be surprised how many name brand bullets failed to expand despite glowing bullshitting articles in the gun rags and even on line via YouTube. In other words trust only your own testing in your gun.

    Forget caliber its been proven at early as the year 1900 that caliber is irrelevant as far as killing something. Bullet penetration and placement are what counts.

    Remember you do not need a fantasy Elmer Keith bullshitting caliber going 4,000 fps that burns down trees, bushes and fence posts using a 20 foot muzzle flame rather all you need is at least 12 inches of perpetration and if your .32 acp does this with expanding ammo that is all you need. Trying to achieve lethality per the grand bullshitter of them all Elmer Keith, who once claimed when he supposedly hit and killed an animal on the run at 600 yards with one shot from his trusty souped up .44 special is fine for gun magazine bullshit but is irrelevant in the real world.

    FACT: German Military tests proved the .32 acp with fmj bullets out penetrated the .380 acp contrary to gun writer bullshit denigrating the .32 acp right down to this very day,

    FACT. U.S. Military tests proved the 9×19 out penetrated the .45 acp with fmj ammo.

    FACT. Police used nothing more than the .38 special with lead round nose and later semi-wad cutter bullets for decades.

    FACT. In my younger days I had people begging me to make them my .44 cal 245 grain swc cutter hard cast bullets. I once asked several of them what they used them for. They all told me that the lead bullets I sold them were superior for killing deer as compared to the jacketed soft point or hollow point bullets they had been using which often failed to expand or if they did expand many times failed to penetrate adequately. They said the hard cast bullet was the best of both worlds. My hard cast bullets they said had tremendous penetration and often deformed when they hit bone.

    FACT. Pistolero Magazine in the late 80’s went to Mexico and tested various handgun calibers both in pistols and revolvers shooting live barn yard pigs who are anatomically very close to humans( except of course that pigs are much better behaved) and found ZERO DIFFERENCE in killing power..What as astonishing at least to me was that the .357 Mag was no better a killer than the .38 special and ditto for the .45 acp v/s the 9×19.

    Fact: Just because your favorite super duper bullet may have worked in your buddies 8 3/8 inch barreled .44 magnum revolver is no guarantee it will work in your 3 1/2 inch .44 magnum or . 357 revolver. Velocity is often paramount to expansion with some expanding bullets but not if the bullet was specifically designed to work in a short barreled hand gun, then it might not work in a long barreled handgun by exploding way to early in its path into the animal. Rifle bullets are notorious for this type of failure. Barrel twist rate can also determine if a bullet fails to penetrate or even hold together in flight without coming apart and disintegrating but this is a fault found mostly in rifles not pistols.

    Test feeding in auto pistols as even some modern deigned pistols will not always be totally reliable with expanding bullets. In that case even a fmj bullet that is reliable is better than a jammed handgun providing of course the bullet does not over penetrate and kill innocent by standers which leads us back to the famous Miami shoot out where the 9mm with the 115 grain bullet after penetrating the bad guys arm and then chest cavity stopped just short of the heart. It was a catch 22 dilemma. Use a rapidly expanding bullet that does not over penetrate and kill innocent bystanders or use the heavier bullet and hope it expands and then hope that it does not over penetrate.

  19. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    A 115gr chunk of mushroomed lead traveling at 200fps has about 10ft/lbs of energy and a BC of negative 400, so I wouldn’t worry too much about overpenetration as long as your bullet expands properly. Unless there’s an innocent bystander hugging your attacker from behind, the odds are extremely low that it will do anything worse than break a window. However, underpenetration could be a serious problem.

  20. avatar 24and7 says:

    Find the ammo that you can hit well with and your gun shoots accurately..
    I use the stuff that used to work for old-world police officers..federal bple 9mm and fbi/chicago load 38 spec.. both have proven track records and plenty of death certificates to vouch for them.. they come in a box of 50 and are affordable enough to practice with.. no need to go out there and pay nearly fifty bucks for a box of 20 or 25.. what a bunch of crap!

  21. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Your selection criteria begins with your decision of the maximum range that you will engage an attacker. This has to be realistic and as close as possible which I explain in the next selection criteria.

    Your next selection criteria is dependent on your handgun’s barrel length, which determines muzzle velocity for any given caliber and ultimately impact velocity at the maximum range that you are willing to engage an attacker as decided previously. Short barrels produce slower muzzle velocities. And bullets slow down as they travel through the air. At some point the combination of barrel length and maximum expected range will reduce bullet velocity so much that the bullet will no longer expand in the attacker. Whatever your combination of barrel length and maximum engagement range, your self-defense load must able to expand reliably when the bullets hit clothed human attackers at that range.

    Now that you know what muzzle velocity a load must generate in YOUR handgun, determine whether a particular hollowpoint bullet will still expand after going through typical clothing. Clothing will clog the hollow cavity of some hollowpoint bullets which prevents them from expanding. Others will expand regardless of clothing. Obviously, there is no point in carrying expanding ammunition that will not expand.

    Finally, if you carry a semi-automatic handgun, test fire 100 rounds through your handgun and make sure that your handgun cycles reliably for all 100 rounds. If all 100 cartridges cycle correctly, you are good to go. If not, you may have to start over and choose a different brand or type of cartridge.

  22. avatar Richard Steven Hack says:

    “Don’t listen to anything you hear about “stopping power.” Handguns don’t have any (relatively speaking). Newton’s Third Law dictates that a gun has to produce enough force to knock YOU down through recoil to produce enough force to do the same to a bad guy. To get that, you need an elephant gun.”

    Where to start on this one…

    “Stopping power” has nothing to do with kinetic force. Everyone should know that by now. While it is correct to say no handgun can “knock someone over”, it’s irrelevant.

    “Stopping power” is what the rest of the article is actually about – penetration, expansion, velocity – and being able to hit what you’re aiming at *while under real stress*. People forget that *most* shots fired in conflict miss badly due to stress.

    Also, no conflict is the same as every other conflict. I read in a cop textbook that one guy got shot *thirty-three times* with 9mm *cop* ammo – and he ran 100 yards before collapsing. So much for “stopping power” *in that conflict.*

    A lot of other people drop dead after being shot once – and some scientists think it’s simply because that’s what they believed they should do. In reality, only 20-25 percent of people die from gunshot wounds – so your odds are pretty good.

    It’s likely that most people will give up after being hit once or twice. But *your* opponent may not. That’s the thing to remember. “Stopping power” is determined by your opponent – unless he’s hit by an antitank round.

  23. avatar =BCE56= says:

    Back in the ’70s and ’80s there were fewer defensive ammo choices. Prevalent at the time were Win Silvertip, Fed HydraShok and CCI JHP.
    I generally prefer solids with a flat point rather than conical or round noses.
    FWIW, I’m still carry HydraShoks in all pistols that feed them reliably.
    I reckon the scads of newer offerings might offer some performance improvements.
    Notably, those with powder charges developed for short barrels, and those with reduced muzzle flash.
    The various non-expanding monolithic copper and composite bullets also seem promising.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I tell customers who ask to start with Federal Hydra-Shok, and then as they try out other ammo’s, they can improve on this choice.

      As a starting point, the Federal Hydra-Shok works well, has a long track record, and doesn’t empty your wallet immediately.

      1. avatar =BCE56= says:

        An article by Duane Thomas “Why the .45ACP Failed” in the current “Blue Press” discusses the advantages of 9mm over .45CP, with reference to the various platforms.
        I have been following these debates for many years, paying attention to new bullet designs, tests and reviews.
        Bullet type and magazine capacity restrictions in certain jurisdictions may limit one’s options. In those areas, RNFP ball ammo, semiwadcutters or maybe Fed Guard Dog are worth a look. Speer Lawman .45ACP 200gr JRNFP at 900FPS might be ideal.
        Regarding bullet type, I figure effectiveness of non-expanding (or failed) projectiles of either caliber are about equivalent. The 9mm has the edge in capacity, perhaps in penetration; the larger .45 has superior weight and hits with considerable thump.
        The issue becomes more complicated when comparing different types of expanding ammo. Reliability and capacity in a particular handgun, and failures to expand on impact are factors to be evaluated.
        I have other handguns but I doubt I will give up on my trusted 1911 in .45ACP anytime soon…

  24. avatar RevRay says:

    Interesting article, as well are the comments. Our Church’s Security Team checked with the local City and County LEO’s to see what they are using. In our area, the G2 RIP is the most carried. High priced, but we purchased a case for our Security Team to test out the “hype.” Each Team Member carries their own firearm: from subcompact to full size (9mm, the most carried, with a couple of 380’s). Everyone tested the G2 RIP and were pleased with the groupings, the penetration, and the expansion. In a Church setting, all these factors are extremely important. Our Church Security Team are volunteers who are dedicated to protecting people. Each Team Member practices religiously (yes, pun intended). Each have taken several classes on self-defense, mass shooting situations and protecting places of Worship. Thankful for folks who love God and guns. Amen.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      RevRay,

      Please say a prayer for my church which refuses to have armed security.

      In spite of the fact that I attend a very conservative church and my church leadership holds the utmost respect for the accuracy and authority of Scripture, they reject all Scriptural references to self-defense and the sanctity of human life when armed security at our church is concerned. I have tried everything that I can think of to educate them and change their minds, all to no avail.

      1. avatar LazrBeam says:

        Perhaps it’s time to consider finding a denomination that upholds scriptural tenets yet understands the importance of defense. I also realize that such a search could be tenuous at best. Good luck.

  25. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Regarding the photo in this article with all the guys shooting at targets: is that Barney Fife second from the right engaging in target practice with his slide locked back???

  26. avatar Chuck says:

    I research what I’m looking at/for and look for data that is comparable to not only what I’m firing, but what’s it being fired from too. I’ll check with the forums as well, to see if any particuler ammo gave feeding issues too. Nobody likes to spend $25 or more to buy a box of 20 or 25, just to find out it consistantly has feed issues with the gun you’ve bought. I remember buying a S&W Model 59 in the early 90’s, only to find the gun wouldn’t tolerate anything buy FMJ’s. Needless to say, it was traded in promptly.
    Not having access to a chronometer, and some of the other necessities that makes comparison easier and more scientific, I usually get with a buddy or two, we each buy a box or two of the different version/brand of the latest and greatest incarnation, and we proceed to share the fodder we’re feeding our respective pistol choices. First, we look at function. This is the most important thing to consider IMO. It could be the Cat’s Meow of ammo, with all the bells and whistles associated with it, but if it misfeeds every other round (or at all), it’s worthless to me. Accuracy, is given a score but no an overly rated on, more of a did all fired rounds stay in an acceptable pattern on the target accuracy. Since it’s being fired out of barrels that run from significantly shorter to a wee bit shorter, you can’t expect something that was tested out of 5″ barrels to compare to a 3″ barrel.
    Recoil and Recovery, is then compared. We want the hottest thing we can fire, but not so hot to give control issues. Successive shots need to be successful shots, otherwise we’re just wasting time and money. My shooting partner (since the 6th grade) and I will try this for several different manufacturers and style, type and weights of bullet. His CCW is an HK P30SK, mine (for the last 6 months) a Sig P365. His fodder of choice that functioned 100% is the Federal HST, my Sig loves the Hornady Critical Duty 135gr Flexlock +P’s. Ballistic Gelatin testing via Lucky Gunner’s data shows both to be effective.
    My previous CCW for nearly 25 years was a Walther PPK/S in .380ACP. I carried Hydroshocks and then Critical Defense until my aging eyes made the sights impossible to see in Low Light Drills. When I picked up the P365, the store owner said watch this and shut off most of the lights. The Sig’s sights just popped with my old peepers. I’ve been very happy with the change and especially the increased capacity of 12+1 over the 7+1 I was used to and a hotter loading.

  27. avatar ssayriahymssik says:

    As my choice of carry pistol evolved, I stuck with 9mm because of the two or so extra rounds (vs a bigger caliber) and lighter weight of the loaded gun plus an extra mag or two. I decided to handload my self-defense ammo with JHP bullets to reflect what articles said police preferred. At first, I hesitated to do so because of articles claiming that use of handloads would be cited by a criminal’s lawyer (assuming I had to defend my self-defense claim) as evidence that I was more interested in causing bodily harm to his client than simply defending myself. However, I expect that I could refute that accusation because I actually DOWNLOAD my handloads to reduce recoil and, hopefully, reduce the chance of bullets exiting the criminal and potentially causing collateral damage.

  28. avatar E5150 says:

    So an elephant gun is not a good choice for home defense? Please let me know so I can locate my receipt for a possible return.

  29. avatar Chris says:

    Damn I wish they still made the factory ammo “flying ashtrays” in 45

  30. avatar R Rentie says:

    It would seem like the gun manufacturer would recommend the best ammo to use in its products. Trying different brands would be very expensive.

  31. avatar Tim Herring says:

    I haven’t fired a gun since the year the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan. I’ve been thinking about buying one and mostly enjoy reading articles like this to pick up a little knowledge on the subject, some are a little too nit-picky. All I can say is I would certainly be inclined to trust the perspective of a man who understands the inherent superiority of bleu cheese.

  32. avatar Sam Hill says:

    I always, without fail, using all the scientific evidence at my disposal try desperately to buy the absolute correct caliber for my weapons.

  33. avatar Jim Cummens says:

    There are new types of ammo that out perform hollow points especially in the shorter barrels most common in carry guns. ARX and Black Hills Honey Badger ammo has been shown to produce larger wound cavities that hollow points. Hollow points without enough velocity or with the hollow point clogged by clothing don’t always perform well.
    For an example an ARX round is a great penetrator which is needed to reach and damage vital organs. They spin at over 100,000 rpm and with the integrated flutes displace fluid and tissue to create that larger wound cavity.
    The RIP is a gimmick round and in testing the detached petals only enter about 6 inches which isn’t very devastating. I’m surprised that the ARX or Barnes bullets don’t get mentioned or receive the recognition they deserve.
    Police departments don’t always pick their ammo because it is the most effective. Money costs and fear of the public believing they are using killer organ exploding bullets will affect what kind of rounds they choose to use.

  34. avatar Tom says:

    Anyone actually try some of the new composite stuff, Lehigh, or Ruger, etc?

  35. avatar Jeff says:

    “First, it must be expanding. Secondly, pick ammunition that will function reliably in your gun.”

    No.

    First, it must be reliable, in your gun.
    Second, it must be effective. Not necessarily expanding.*

    *Also note that being claimed as expanding and actually expanding from your gun aren’t necessarily the same thing.

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