Diamond K Brass bullets cartridges
Courtesy Diamond K Brass
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Gun buyers tend to do a lot of research before buying a firearm. They read reviews, talk to their friends and borrow or rent the model they’re considering if possible. At a minimum, when buying locally, they can at least see and hold the gun they’re considering before plunking down their dinero.

Buying ammo can be, well, a little more difficult. Especially when buying defensive rounds.

Range ammo is (mostly) range ammo. As long as your gun cycles it reliably, you’re good to go. You can (and should) buy hunting and precision rifle ammo and test them with your gun to see what works best before committing to a specific round.

But buying personal defense ammo is more difficult. Most people can’t do their own gel block testing. There are some good online resources for this information (i.e.: ShootingTheBull410 as well as Lucky Gunner’s test data).

Diamond K Brass sends us this (fairly basic) infographic on choosing ammunition and bullet type. As they write:

Bullets come in many shapes and sizes, and specific bullets are available depending on their intended usage. Full-Metal-Jacket (FMJ) bullets are typically used for practice shooting or training while softpoint bullets are used for hunting purposes. Some bullet types expand upon impact while others are designed to prevent tip deformation. In addition, bullets have different bases based on the bullet design, gun model, and intended usage. When choosing your bullet type, pay attention to the type of recoil the bullet will have and the gun design. Take time to research the different options available when choosing a bullet.

How do you decide what ammunition to buy?

Diamond K Brass bullet guide infographic
Courtesy Diamond K Brass

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        • WWB has powder charge inconstancies and thus not MOA. And occasional a FTF, and a little dirty, but a small price to pay for a small price to pay.

          Keeping Remington out of the house until they fix their attitude toward customers and people killed by defective Remington products is everyone’s right…and duty.

        • @Snowflake,

          YMMV per your personal gun. I’ve found that Perfecta target cycles without fail in one of my Glocks, but not in the other…and that’s because of the slight difference in mag-to-ramp angle between the two frames. Simple manufacturing differences.

          Winchester white box ammo has always been the most reliably feeding ammo across all my guns, but I do notice that I have to clean them a little more thoroughly after visiting the range. But they work as intended and are the cheapest rounds.

          Never had any issues with Remington, regardless of gun, caliber, whatever. Haven’t really noticed any issues with Federal, either.

          Basically, it all comes down to knowing your gun and finding which ammo works best with it specifically, and buying accordingly.

        • I like WWB just fine for basic practice. Remington, on the other hand, I have had trouble with. The worst was a box of .45 ACP where one case was trimmed too long and wouldn’t allow my Sig P220 into battery. It took me several tries to figure out what the heck was going on with that.

        • @I Haz A Question

          I should have spelled it all the way out. I’ve never had any white box failure to feeds (FTF), but I have had failure to fire (FTF).

          The Association of Available Acronyms (AAA) has determined that there is a shortage of Available Acronym Access (AAA) leading to Apathetical Acronym Application (AAA).

          But I still don’t hesitate to buy WWB when it’s on sale.

        • Why I won’t buy WWB again. Personally had too many failure to fire rounds, 3 in a box of 50 is too many for me(.40 and 9mm both have done that to me). Not personal experience, but from social media groups I’ve seen several pistols and pistol carbines blown up.

      • Jeff the Griz,

        I have a break-action rifle chambered in .44 Magnum. The most accurate .44 Magnum cartridge it shoots is Winchester white-box 240 grain soft-point bullets. Groups are about 1.5 inches at 50 yards.

        And I haven’t missed yet. I took a large 10-point buck and two BIG does, all at about 60 yards.

        In my experience there is no telling (predicting) which ammunition will work best in any given firearm. At times I have had to work through a few choices before I found something that was accurate and cycled properly in a particular firearm.

    • T̗̙͍͍̜̙̰̞͆̾̀́̽̓̈́͘͞ͅh̶̡̞̼͎̤̺͕̜̀̌͐͌̈́̌̿͟͠i̡͕̝͎̤̞̽́̐̑̈́̓ͅs̶̛͔̙̖̭͎͈̣̩̓̄̑̐̕͘͞
      I̟̮̱̞̭̟͍͖͋̒̏̍̎̍͘͞ p̧̖̖̖̹̥͛̐̾͂̅̉͐͒̋͢͠r̡̛͈͖̝̖̬͕̼͂̀͋͋͢ȁ̢̳͚̩̩͓̰̪̃̄̄̀̊̕͝c̷̨̳̜̩̱͛̆͐͂̕t̴̡̢̙̲͉͗̅̾̋̊i͇̥̯̦̱̥̔͊̆͗̀̍̏̅̊͟͡ć̴̨̢̜̹̞̑͋̓͊̚͞e̛̞̖̝̻͆̓̈́̀̿̓̍͢ ẅ̨̝̮̲͈̣͓̦̩́̒̔̎̓͘͘̚͢i̶̛͕̪̹̬͍̹̩͋̇̍̍̒͟ͅt̷̜̱̙̥͕̼̺̎̾̅̑̅̓̍͘͠ȟ̡̨̖̬̜̗̦̑͆̔̈́̊̍̉̀͟͞ ċ̢̠̺͈͕͈̝̠̙̉̽̄͒̒̚h̡͓͇͈̫̲͍̭̟͋͛͐̀̚͝é̡̡̟̹͔̳͂͌͂̓͡a̴̧̝̣̭̤̓̋̂̓́̔͒p̵̢̡̤̞͍̩̰͈̪̓̊̐͒̽̿̉̎̚͟͡ a̧͓͕͉̼̦̜̯̙̣͊̉͋́̒͘m̡̛̥̫̳̲̀̒͛̑̋̿̅m͉̘̝̻͉̏̾̈́͋͐͘ǫ͉̬̰̣͐͒͂̋̃̈́̾̕͝

  1. Handgun? Brass only cheap & a reasonably ok brand for the range(my favorite is Herters which is/was made by Sellier & Bellot)). Defense is Sig 124 gr for now. Rifle I am fond of American Eagle 55gr for the range(brass only) but any brass will do. Defensive is PPU 556 62gr greentip and American Eagle m193 55gr. for NOW…and I only buy ammo cheap & on sale. I’m old and don’t compete or hunt.

    • Yes on ammoseek.com, it was my go to ammo search engine. Just had to make sure shipping wasn’t too expensive.
      I bought fireams that aren’t picky-eaters, so I buy whatever is on sale, factory and reloads. Many times buying multiple single boxes is cheaper than bulk. But 99% of my ammo is in brass. Favorite range ammo is blazer brass and least favorite is Maxxtech (had some fliers).

  2. For defensive loads, HST, Gold Dot, or Critical Defense. Shoot 50-100 of each for a new pistol and go with whatever is 100% reliable and shoots closest to point of aim. For rifles, I handload and work loads until I find the most accurate load with components suitable for the task.

    • Exactly this. We can debate all day long ’til the beer’s gone over target preferences, but for defense you need to pick one that will cycle a few mags’ worth reliably without fail. You never want any malfunction when performance counts in the heat of the moment.

      Even if you end up going with premium JHP cartridges that cost $2.00 per round but perform perfectly in your gun, it’s totally worth it.

  3. For range ammo, I buy what’s cheapest (except for WWB, which is actually more expensive based on the hours it takes to clean my guns after I use it).

    For SD ammo, I read all the reviews and then buy Hornady.

    For hunting ammo, I buy whatever has worked for me in the past, irregardless of price.

    • Ralph,

      “For SD ammo, I read all the reviews and then buy Hornady.”

      Education and cconsistency. Two admirable traits.

  4. Depends on purpose. Most of the time, mainly price per round is the deciding factor if just for plinking or general stock up. For defensive, I go with a reliable, name brand hollow point in a similar weight to what I practice with. For target rifles, I usually use SMK bullets, whether handloaded or factory loaded. Always had good luck with them and price is usually reasonable.
    Never really had any issues with reliability with any factory loaded ammo, so that has never been a factor. The exception being that I don’t run steel cased 223 in ARs due to cases sticking, so I always buy brass in that chambering.

  5. So many issues with this “info”graphic that I’m not sure where to start. I think my favorite is the Hollow Softpoint that is rimless but is apparently only for revolvers.

    • It is my impression that the author (Diamond K Brass) got some quick and dirty theoretical “education” on the subject without ever seeing a single cartridge and then produced this abortion. “Pay attention to the type of recoil the bullet will have.” WTF?

      As for what ammo I buy – I don’t. Except for .22LR I make my own. 13 out of the “Different types of bullet calibers” mentioned and then some.
      I do buy some of my bullets, usually in bulk, but mostly cast my own. For plinking, the low price is most important, accuracy is second. For target shooting it’s the other way around. I don’t hunt and my defensive hangun bullets are from Hornady.

      Sometimes I feel like I need to go shooting, just to get some brass to reload.

  6. I buy based on price and prior experience. Almost all my 9mm handguns will run Monarch or Tula steel cased as well as Federal aluminum. Same for my AR. One of my favorite .380 pocket pistols doesn’t like steel cased ammo. When it comes to self defense ammo I’ll admit I get lazy, I buy a box of what’s cheapest from a brand I recognize and see how it runs in a gun. If it works out I’ll buy another box and carry that.

  7. Custom load all my own hunting/LR ammunition, load all my range/practice ammunition…
    ALL SD ammunition is factory manufactured, some of it being Federal HST, and some of it being Speer Gold Dot, all depending on caliber…

  8. I do not do a lot of research regarding ammo for self-defense. I read TTAG and USCCA magazine. Lots of experts who freely share info on ammo. Settled on Hornady Critical Defense. It shoots well from my EDC (Glock 43) and target gun (Glock 17). I have never seen a bad review. It is easy to find. Done.

    Thanks to all of you; your wisdom is always welcome!

    • I use Hornady Critical Defense for 9mm and up, .380 I’ll never use Critical Defense again, shot a small woodchuck point blank in the head, bullet fragmented, and had to finish the job with a shovel. Went with Hornady Custom .380

  9. Mostly from SG Ammo for defensive and range stuff for handguns.

    Also get some stuff from Natchez SS as well AIM.

    For rifle ammo, mostly SG and AIM. I am not a guy who uses premium ammo for hunting.

    For magnum and big bore handgun stuff, I buy components and load my own.

  10. For carry ammo I choose federal hst, Hornady, or sig v crown, depending which of those three are on sale. All three cycle through my gun reliably. For range ammo it depends on the gun. For my combloc guns I use wolf. For everything else I go with federal FMJ in bulk. For stockpiling for shtf I choose federal, Hornady, and wolf. I’d say the majority of my ammo ends up being federal.

  11. “How do you decide what ammunition to buy?”

    Whatever the guy in the next lane at the range is using.

    Actually, is there any real difference in .22 ammo?

    • Actually, there is a significant difference. Different guns like different ammo. Since you can’t reload rimfire, the best you can do is pick the brand your gun likes best.

      • “Since you can’t reload rimfire, the best you can do is pick the brand your gun likes best.”

        My Neos doesn’t not like Sara Lee. During the latest .22 shortage, paid way too much. Now that it is cheap, I get the cheapest online (including shipping) that the LGS cannot match, or better. So far, all if it makes noise and cycles the gun.

    • HUGE difference. I stay with only copper plated nowadays. Any and all failures I’ve ever encountered over my lifetime (misfires, jammed casings, squibs, dirty fouling, etc.) in any of my rifles or handguns have always been lead bullets. I shot through the newer stuff and eventually just tossed the older stuff. Now I have plated and never see malfunctions anymore.

      • “Now I have plated and never see malfunctions anymore.”

        You may be onto something. Haven’t considered plated .22. Need to do a price compare.


      • I’ve had the same problem with my Walther P22. Lead bullets are nothing but a headache. Never have a problem with any of the jacketed stuff.

      • “…how much under 3¢ a round, I can get it for online.”

        Kinda my thinking right now. The new idea of using plated .22 is intriguing.

  12. I only buy rimfire ammunition. Everything else I reload. Generally for the biggest critter I might have to shoot.

    • Bought some boxes of TulAmmo a few years ago during the Obummer Empire when ammo was scarce for a couple of years. All the brass and (at the time new idea of) aluminum target stuff was gone from the shelves, so I bought some steel.

      Some of my guns liked it, and some didn’t. As aluminum came on the scene and the brass still wasn’t delivered to our local stores yet, I shot through the steel and stocked up on alum. I’ve never experienced any problems with alum, but when brass was available again for the same price or cheaper, I backed up the truck and stockpiled classic brass in preparation for CA’s eventual ammo background check law.

      I have some Federal, which is always good to my guns, but the majority is Winchester “white box”. It works, but I’m not fond of how it fouls up the innards of my favorite Glock. Funny how my other Glocks gobble the stuff right up and never foul, but my go-to G17 starts to get a heavy trigger after a couple hundred rounds. Until I do a full takedown and cleaning, anyway.

  13. Not especially picky with practice ammo, self defense is another matter, for that I go with Federal HST when I can get the 50 round box. Need to pick up some more, now that I am thinking of it.

    • Rusty,
      TargetSportsUSA occasionally will have HST 50-round LE marked boxes on sale for 50% off (twice in the last four months). Buy a case and shipping is free.

  14. For defensive ammunition I carry what the sheriff and local PD’s authorize for their officers (HST and Gold Dot)…figure that it would be an affirmative defense if I am ever involved in a defensive shooting.

    Practice ammo is (usually) what’s on sale. TargetSportsUSA had a sweet deal on Geco 124 FMJ 9mm at about $7.25 / box. I’ll be working my way through those for a while. BTW, it shoots great…over a thousand downrange with zero issues.

  15. WWB for target shooting because I find gun cleaning time to be relaxing. Maybe because during training it was the only time there was no one breathing down my next on the range.

  16. Winchester .22 has proven to be junk, at least the two 555 round boxes I bought. Loose heads, bent bullets, cycling issues, I ended up dumping it through a revolver to get rid of it.

    Remington makes good ammo.as does federal in my opinion.

  17. I’ve used many brands of 9mm FMJ in the last 5 years (I typically shoot 3,000 rounds per year of 9mm) and the only ammo that ever failed was Fiocchi.

    I had a run of 5 boxes (50 round boxes) where 3 or four rounds per box failed to fire because they somehow managed to seat the primer too deeply into the primer pocket. Only about 15 rounds total.

    I was shooting a DAO pistol and the defective rounds fired on the 2nd or 3rd restrike.

    I never had another problem with the pistol or other brands of ammo.

  18. For plinking and serious practice it’s the cheapest stuff bought in bulk. Used to have a list of of places I’d buy from, including GunBroker.com, but now I buy only from Cabela’s or Bass Pro. Wait for a sale, put it on my “Club Card”. Earn the points back and spend those points on gun stuff. Never buy any ammo at the regular price. Of course I have a substantial supply on hand most of the time, relative to my shooting volume. So I can wait for sales.

  19. Range ammo, I buy the cheapest stuff I can find. My gun isn’t picky. Defensive ammo, I go to YouTube, talk to fellow gun guys, read reviews, then pick 2 or 3, buy a box of each, and test them at the range first to make sure they cycle. If any cause trouble I eliminate them. If more than one works fine, ill pick the one I get better groups with.

  20. Not a mention of polymer coated bullets.. I use federal syntec defense, and reload range ammo with eggleston.. plus I like all the funky colors you can get. All much cleaner to shoot and clean..

  21. The recent “shortage” of a few years back brought to my mind that old story about giving a man a fish vs teaching him to fish. I invested in a Dillon 550c and only buy components at this point. I sleep better too knowing I have the ability to make about 20K rounds at this point.

  22. What was the purpose of this useless article?! It didn’t provide ANY useful information. TTAG is going in the tank with nonsense like this. What a waste of time. Buy, try and recommend specific ammo next time. Or stop wasting reader’s time with articles that purport to advise on how to “choose your ammo”.

    • “Or stop wasting reader’s time with articles that purport to advise on how to “choose your ammo”.”

      The article didn’t “purport” to do anything other than ask an open question to stimulate conversation between readers. It is possible that “answers” can be found reading the experience of others. (Which is what “advice” articles are all about, anyway.)

      • I think Frank’s point was that the article was almost like asking How do You Pick your Car’s Color? There’s no real wrong answer. It’s a free country and people buy what they want for whatever reasons they want, whether that makes sense to the rest of us or not.
        More importantly, this post is so full of dumbassery that it never should have passed editorial muster. I understand the periodic Sponsored Content foisted upon us, but while the author of this piece may be well-intentioned and even an enthusiastic hobbyist, their grasp of even basic firearms nomenclature calls into question the editorial decision making that led to its publishing.

        • “I think Frank’s point was that the article was almost like asking How do You Pick your Car’s Color? ”

          What is wrong with that question? Has no one ever asked how someone decided upon a color, and learned that everything about the car was “just right”, but could only, at the time needed, be delivered in an undesired color? Or, someone not asked if the cops are a problem because of the color? These are not uncommon questions.

          It is a mistake to think everyone visiting here is a well experienced gun owner (or even a gun owner at all). Sometimes, the blog needs to put out basic articles for “newbies”. For myself, I was unaware of plated .22 ammo, and use only lead round nose bullets. I am not “new” to this blog, and it was good to have someone with experience point out the plated .22 bullets.

          As a friendly aside, I have seen “old” postings/articles show up here and noted even long-timers actively engaged discussing something they addressed years before…yet, being as exuberant in their comments the second time around.

  23. I constantly see this formula of “FMJ is for target practice” while “hollow points are for defense”.

    Has anyone done an actual survey to find out what bullets people used to defend themselves in real life conditions or is it all because of experts using gell and speed/power instrument measuring to ASSUME that FMJ is no good for defense and that Hollow Points are?

    If so I’d like to see that data cause I know, I wouldn’t want to get shot by a FMJ bullet at any point in the near or far future and would assume most sane people wouldn’t either.

    I always see this claim made with NO data backing it up. And I mean real life data not engineering formulations. Dead and injured bodies and what type of bullet and caliber did it.

    • “I always see this claim made with NO data backing it up.”

      Is there any question round nose bullets can kill and injure? The point of expanding bullets is simply to make a wound track larger than the original size of the bullet. The engineering theory is that larger wound tracks result in greater damage, greater damage tends to result in more rapid, or more reliable, incapacitation than bullets that do lesser damage. There is also some concern with “overpenetration” being less likely with expanding bullets (for whatever that consideration is worth).

      Apart from damage differential, one encounters size, weight and capacity issues with round nose bullets. If one desires a wound channel equal to that created by .45cal bullets, one uses .45cal bullets (round nose), or a smaller bullet that can expand to .45 diameter reliably. Smaller, expanding bullets generally permit smaller, lighter handguns to be used/carried. The smaller, expanding bullets can easily be associated with the ability to install more rounds in a handgun that would be possible with larger, round nose (or expanding) bullets.

      This all means that information of various types of bullets allows one to better analyze the utility of a handgun when combined with ammunition types.

      If you like your round nose bullets, you can keep your round nose bullets.

      • Excellent point Sam – and yet another reason that an infographic like this can’t possibly cover the nuances of ammo selection, and can easily lead the uninformed astray. For example, the general consensus seems to be that a FMJ in marginal calibers like .25 and .32 ACP serves as a better defense load in terms of feeding and penetration than a conventional hollow point or frangible load.

        • “For example, the general consensus seems to be that a FMJ in marginal calibers like .25 and .32 ACP serves as a better defense load in terms of feeding and penetration than a conventional hollow point or frangible load.”

          Agree. Information can be dangerous. Some will read and say, “Hhhmmm. I need to look into this”. While others will say, “Ah ha. Just what I wanted to hear.” Others can be found to read and tell themselves, “This person knows more than I, so I’ll just go with what I read”.

  24. Buying ammo for rifles is a bitch. Ive had accuracy changes from differemt lot numbers same bullet same brand. PD ammo for a sidearm aint as bad. I buy some high dollar fancy and shoot some mud, look at the hole, stick a stick down the hole, compare it to a cheap 230gr .45acp hardball then use up the rest of the hi dollar shooting mud

    • While the XTP is indeed an excellent bullet, a lot of design advances have happened since it was released 30 years ago, around 1990. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check out designs like the Federal HST, Speer Gold Dot, and many others.

  25. The content under this title was about usless. The “cut and pasted” majority info didn’t help Staff Writer either, might as well have just posted Links.

    • “The content under this title was about usless.”

      Might that not depend on whether the reader is a grizzled veteran, or a new-born gun owner?

        • “All too often we forget, we know everything, some people don’t yet.”

          Sometimes I find articles just too simple, but then remember when I started visiting here even the simple was unmapped territory for me.

  26. I found many years ago that the best ammo is made on your own loading bench. I bought a Ruger Deerstalker once. Worst rifle ever, sorry Bill. First trip to the range, I had trouble printing paper at 50 yards. Switching ammo made it better, but not good. And it would sometimes FTF. A buddy mentored me into loading .44 mag, and that helped a whole bunch. Then it was actually worthy of a mounting a scope. Unfortunately the rifle ended up being a turd. After sending it back to Ruger twice, the occasional jams never went away. I traded it for a pump 12.

  27. “How Do You Choose Your Ammunition?” Well, let;s see now, first it’ll have to fit something I intend to shoot it in, so that would be number 1…

    I have to think that most people on a free blog are going to list price first, particularly if they’re just blasting paper or junk. Hunting might get a bit more specific, if someone is a dedicated everyday carrier it will become even more so. I load something like 29 metallic cartridges and 4 shotgun gages so I usually don’t have to worry about it. I do always use factory defense ammo in my carry pieces to satisfy potential lawyers and rabid prosecutors, although I hope to never find out if it really matters…

  28. Is “Sam I Am” the actual staff writer, or just related thereto? Either way, SIA has waaaay too much time on his/her/its hands, responding to every comment that criticized this article. Just say’in.

    • “Either way, SIA has waaaay too much time on his/her/its hands,…”

      Time is a relative thing (see. A. Einstein), and I have plenty of relative available. This forum is only one of an array of forums to which I subscribe.

      It is curious, however, that someone would seek to criticize a voice pointing out a positive aspect to an disliked posting.

        • “I rest my case.”

          How can you have a “case” when there is no challenge to your assertion?

          And what does it matter that someone has time available to do all this?

          Ever think I might be medically disabled, and housebound? Would you have me stare at TV all day? Or maybe just stare out the window, hours on end? Or maybe it is my wife who is disabled, and I remain at home to care for her.

          Here is my secret technique for dealing with subscribers I don’t want to bother with….look for the commenter name, and delete.

          You’ll thank me for that, later.

    • “I will definitely bookmark your site.”

      While your note is to the hosts of the blog, from the gang who visit here….welcome to the blog !

    • Thank you for the link. Enjoyed reading and learning.

      Solid copper bullets a gimmick? Seems maybe not.

  29. Roll my own, New brass, Various primers, Various bullets, Chronograph testing, accuracy testing, Consistency testing, Rifle loading varies some what, depends on range, powder charge, type of Primer and animal. Do not load 5.56 or .223 as there are a few thousand elephant getter’s already,

  30. It’s great that you talked about buying gun ammo and the importance of doing research first! Recently, my cousin said he’s interested in learning how to use a handgun and buying one. I do believe my cousin will benefit from reading your ammo-shopping tips, so I’ll be sure to share them! Thanks for the advice on how it’d be wise to test ammo types before buying!

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