fmj range ammunition ammo
Dan Z for TTAG
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Don’t use range ammo as self-defense ammo. There are a number of good reasons why it’s a bad idea.

Range ammunition — meaning full metal jacket or fragmenting ammunition in center fire rifles and pistol, target or bird shot in shotguns — is a generally poor self-defense ammunition choice. Not that there aren’t good uses for it (ie the range, the dove field), but ammunition is a tool and you should use the right tool for the job.

9mm range ammunition ammo fmj
9mm range ammunition (Dan Z for TTAG)

The typical civilian uses a handgun for concealed carry and/or home defense. Perhaps that’s buttressed by a long gun for home defense and/or a trunk gun. That’s typically a shotgun or AR-platform (or maybe AK-platform) semi-automatic rifle. It has been recommended forever not to use range ammo for a practical gun and there are a number of reasons for that.

Center fire range ammunition (pistols, rifles) will dramatically over-penetrate (go through) the target, which is problematic in an urban or suburban environment. Target load shot shells may do little depending on the circumstances. In short, target ammo will either hit the bad guy and proceed to hit something (or someone) else, or won’t do enough to the bad guy to stop the threat.

Self-defense ammunition either fragments inside a fleshy target or expands, dumping its energy into an attacker and coming to a stop. That way, it tends not to go through the bad guy and then through a wall into someone else, maybe a family member.

Expanded hollow point. (Rickochet at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
This is why it’s recommended that you load any self-defense firearm, such as a concealed carry gun or home defense handgun or rifle, with expanding ammunition and a shotgun with either buckshot or slugs.

Police figured this out more than 70 years ago when they switched to semi-wadcutter hollow points in their .38 Special and .357 Magnum revolvers and jacketed hollow points in semi-automatic duty pistols. They’ve been using buckshot since pretty much the end of the 19th century in shotguns, for the same reason.

A .357 Magnum semi-jacketed flat top, old-school self-defense (and hunting) ammo. (Malis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Okay, so why would anyone think using range ammo is a good idea?

Some might observe that the military uses FMJ rounds. For a start, much of that dates back to the Hague Convention on the use of expanding ammunition in warfare that took place in the 19th century.

Also, militaries deal in lead in volume. Hundreds of thousands of rounds are expended per enemy killed. Our armed forces also happen to be switching to Speer Gold Dot G2 hollow point 9mm ammunition (which the FBI uses) for pistols as lack of stopping power was a common complaint among personnel who had to use their M9 loaded with 124-gr +P FMJ NATO ammunition, even with the extra zing.

Civilian-involved shootings are over in seconds, with only a few shots fired in almost all instances. Thus, militaries using hardball is almost immaterial if someone wanted to bring it up.

There’s also the idea that “something is better than nothing.” While that’s prima facie true, in the real world you don’t need to shoot more than a few rounds of your self-defense ammunition here and there to check function, zero and point of impact in your carry gun.

Winchester white box hollow points and Remington UMC hollow points are pretty cheap, and will work.

My preferred carry load – Winchester PDX-1 9mm 147-gr. JHP – is $22 for a box of 20. I buy a box or two per year, and generally have a few rounds left over from the previous box at all times. Should I cycle it out more often? Probably, but the point is you don’t need to shoot carry ammunition that much.

One box of JHP or two per year is not that expensive. (Iceman7840 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Other brands, such as Hornady Critical Defense, Speer Gold Dot, Federal’s Hydra Shok, Hydra Shok Deep and HST brands, Remington Golden Saber and SIG SAUER’s V-Crown are all excellent, widely available and aren’t THAT expensive. You really can just buy a box a year and be fine.

Another scenario is people who carry a small-caliber pistol, such as .25 ACP, .32 ACP or .380. The idea goes something like this: the smaller bullet isn’t as powerful as a larger round, won’t over-penetrate as dramatically and hollow point ammunition doesn’t perform as well as, say, 9mm, .38 Special, .357 Magnum or .40 S&W hollow points.

First, .25 ACP, .32 ACP and .380 will still go through flesh like crap through a goose. Secondly, the market has an absolute GLUT of compact 9mm pistols if size is the issue, plenty of them are downright pleasant to shoot and you can always get reduced-recoil loads. Lastly, why would you carry a gun in a caliber known for being less effective when you can get something else?

Look, guns and bullets are tools, and you should buy tools that are known to work. I don’t think that NASCAR teams get their tools at Harbor Freight. Granted, Harbor Freight has some decent stuff and good prices, but that’s beside the point.

Two world wars…that we’re tired of hearing about. (Jan Hrdonka en:User:Hrd10 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Then we come to the topic of .45 ACP. You don’t hear this one too much anymore as the myths about .45 ACP (and .45 Colt) are falling away in the fullness of time, but occasionally someone likes to bring up either the world wars or the Moro tribesmen.

The .45 Colt and .45 ACP rounds use a projectile that’s almost half an inch wide. (0.452 inches.) That’s a big hole. If all you can do is punch a hole in something (which is what range ammo does) then a bigger hole is better than a small one. Additionally, over penetration is the last thing a person cares about on the battlefield.

Not that over-penetration doesn’t occur with hollow point ammunition; the FBI’s Handgun Wounding And Effectiveness Report (PDF) reports about 30 percent of hollow points fail to expand in the target. However, over penetration in the home or on the street with one or two rounds is better than with every round fire.

As to shotguns, here we have the opposite problem regarding range ammo. Range ammo actually UNDER performs in a self-defense scenario.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Lenhardt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Part of the ability of a projectile to penetrate a fleshy target and do fatal damage is down to the mass of the projectile (velocity and ballistic coefficient too) and the shot in target loads is very light. While it is propelled out of the barrel at high speed, velocity (and therefore momentum and energy) is lost rapidly as each individual pellet is too small to retain sufficient momentum on its own.

OO buckshot on the left, #8 bird shot on the right (Credit:

Human flesh doesn’t tear nearly as easily as brittle clay targets or thin bird flesh. A bunch of tiny pellets may arrive with hostile intentions but without the oomph to do anything about it.

In fact, TTAG wrote about shotgun penetration way back in 2010. Ballistic gel tests done by ShotgunWorld found that #8 birdshot barely penetrated five inches of ballistic gelatin overall, and only created a stretch cavity (meaning tissue crushed by the impact) in the first three inches.

Switching to a heavy #2 express load doubled the effects (length of stretch cavity and overall penetration), but sizing up to Remington Express 00 buckshot lengthened the stretch cavity to a full 14 inches and overall penetration to 21 inches.

The aforementioned FBI standard for ammunition performance is 12 to 18 inches of penetration in ballistic gel. In other words, the criteria set by experts in what ammunition needs to do in order to reliably stop a bad guy basically mandate that buckshot (#4 or larger) or a slug be used in a self-defense shotgun. If you aim correctly, spread is not really an issue; again, most self-defense shootings occur at close range and buckshot will only spread an inch or two if that.

So, to sum up…handgun or rifle range ammo will tend to go through an attacker, which is dangerous. There also aren’t really any excuses for using it for self-defense purposes. Anything short of self-defense ammunition in a shotgun risks failure to stop the threat, which is a problem if you only have three rounds.

Anything you’d like to add? Got to the end of the article and realized you just lost the game? Sound off in the comments!

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  1. I agree.

    Unless range ammo is all you have…..then load em up.

    Folks need to remember that when (if) prices get back to sanity.

    Stock up on everything.

    • Some states prohibit the use or possession of hollow point ammo. Fmj ball rounds are the only option aside from soft nose lead bullets. Just my 2 cents

      • The only state I know of that does that is New Jersey, and you can still have them for your home defense guns or while traveling. Honestly, if you fought that bullshit you’d win. Can you imagine the backlash from a DGU where someone said they were forced to use FMJ’s and their round over penetrated?

        TL;DR: Stop asking permission.

        • From NJ here. You can own hollow points for only two legal reasons in NJ, hunting or target shooting. Self defense doesn’t seem to be a allowable reason according to this state’s government. You better pray to god if you get pulled over and a NJ cop finds a hollow point bullet in your vehicle.

        • Hornady FTX rounds do not count as hollow points and there are various fluted rounds that are legal.

        • If I had to carry in New Jersey as a private citizen for some reason I’d carry Federal Guard Dog. It looks like FMJ but it expands like the best JHP loads do.

        • The problem with this is “if you fought that you’d win’. But every nickel you spent fighting that, all the money you lose from missing work and etc., you would never get back.

        • Randy, I disagree. If you have no will to fight, then you have no will to recover either. I’d rather go broke and re-earn everything then give them a toothpick from my kitchen.

      • I think NJ is the only state weird like that on hollow points, here’s what the State Police has to say on the issue :

        “I’m not a police officer, are hollow points legal for me to possess?

        Yes. They are legal for purchase and possess in your home or on land owned by you. They are legal to possess and use at a gun range. They are also legal to possess while traveling to and from such places. Ammunition lacking a hollow cavity at the tip, such as those with a polymer filling, are not considered to be hollow point ammunition. An example of this can be seen with the Hornady Critical Defense / Critical Duty, Cor-Bon PowRball / Glaser Safety Slug and Nosler Inc. Defense ammunition.”

        They are legal to posses at home, are they legal to use in your own home for a DGU?

      • There is ammo that acts like hollowpoints but aren’t. Check out the inception & Black Hills honeybadger ammo.

        • Also Federal Guard Dog uses an FMJ projectile with a hollow cavity under the closed tip. The cavity collapses upon impact, expanding the bullet like a JHP.

      • Those magic armor piercing hollow point bullets are super dangerous, doncha know?

        Yes, really heavy sarcasm here.

      • Use something like the Hornady critical duty which is a filled-in hollow point ruled by the courts not to be hollow point bullets. Or fill your favorite hollow point in with melted wax but since that is not manufactured that way you could get yourself into legal problems. Lots of types of ammo out there.

    • That won’t happen for quite a while, actually I think for a very very long time & if Biden get elected then it may Never happen!

  2. This is overbroad nonsense. Wolf steel case is as good as any 6.5 Grendel ammo for defense. It was designed alongside Alexander Arms (creators of 6.5 Grendel) and yaws after 2″ of penetration. At 30-40 cpr there’s no reason to use any other Grendel ammo except laws about hunting with FMJ or if you want to shoot ridiculous distances.

      • Not an argument. You should learn something about Grendel before you talk. Grendel is designed to work well with steel case and Wolf worked with Alexander Arms to design their steel case fmj. It’s plenty effective.

        • George Washington when Alexander Arms relinquished the trademark to 6.5 Grendel and Saami standardized it, they designed the chamber with steel case ammo and its various lacquers in mind. So unlike some guns, steel case will function reliably in all 6.5 standard chambers.

    • This article is talking about handgun ammo. Rifle wounding mechanisms are different since their velocity is high enough that the stretch cavity is large enough to rend tissue. Handgun ammo relies on the crush cavity, which means the bullet has to touch the tissue it destroys.

    • I’ve seen what wolf steel 6.5G will do as well as Federal Fusion 6.5G and Hornady 6.5 ELD-M.

      The later two are more effective at least against deer.

      Case settled. If you can’t afford $.75-1.00 per deer, I doubt you are shelling out for a 6.5G rifle either. Maybe a $200 savage in some full size caliber.

      If you are talking using a 6.5G rifle as an HD gun, okay sure fine, load it up with Wolf. But its a stupid argument for hunting when it IS less effective. I don’t typically run hundreds of rounds of hunting ammo through my guns every season. More like 10-20 usually. So even there, you are talking $7-20 of ammo per hunting season versus $2.50-5. Again, I can, and I’d hope most people who hunt, can afford that price differential to have a better chance of taking home a deer and/or reducing meat damage (striking bone, the wolf tends to fragment from the little I’ve seen of it and will not fully penetrate something the size of a deer. It will however ruin both shoulders. If it doesn’t, it does tend to penetrate fully, but the internal damage is significantly less than the two other rounds I mentioned. IE it tends to do too much or too little damage, not a lot of “just right”).

      • For hunting you’d want to make sure it shoots straight. A lot of accuracy variation across guns. My 18″ sees about 6MOA with it (unacceptable for hunting). My 24″ manages about 2.5MOA with it. By comparison all other 6.5G I’ve feed to my 18″ is about 1.2MOA if not significantly better. My 24″ is about 1.5MOA with most stuff (ELD-M seems to be a touch under 1MOA).

    • “totally harmless”?

      You’re volunteering to take a round in the chest to prove your big talk?

      Did your mother repeatedly drop you on your head as a baby, moron? 🙂

    • I dunno about that. I bought a trainload of Winchester “White Box” FMJ range packs from Walmart over the span of a few months a few years ago when prices were at their lowest and they had plenty on the shelf. They work just fine with a 1911, but they are dirty cartridges that never fail to foul up my Glocks and clog the safety plunger after only a couple hundred rounds, turning the 5-lb trigger into an NYPD trigger. As I consume a couple of boxes every time I go to the range, I have to perform a complete stripdown of the upper to clean out the crud. Even the 1911 gets dirty on the inside and requires a full clean, even though its mechanism isn’t affected.

      I consumed the Tul-Ammo steel long ago to get it out of my inventory, and am working my way through the Winchester. I’m keeping the better Federal stuff for last.

      Word to the wise. Know your gun(s) and what ammo works best, then stick with that ammo. Cheap sales are fine for small batches, but stick with the good stuff and you won’t regret it. BTW, my defense mags are filled with quality JHP.

      • Behold the unvarnished truth as spoken by I Haz A Question, bestower of wisdom and rescuer of lost souls seeking guidance! May the sun always light his path as he navigates this life for our benefit!

        • I don’t even know one person who ever says that. Even the Glock fanbois and every modern polymer carrier has never said something like that.

        • As usual you miss the hyperbole.

          So I will spell it out for you. Most Glocksters and fans of other similar pistols will tell you that 1911s are high maintenance, unreliable pistols that can’t make it through a weekend class. It basically BS and irrelevant since you are unlikely to exhaust a 7 round magazine in your typical DGU.

        • I mean, they are higher maintenance, more parts and all… and average DGU where? When? Because recent times I’d opt for a lot more than 7 rounds. That said, I don’t think the hyperbole went as you intended. Nobody says they are unreliable, just outdated. If you had stated the latter comment as the sarcasm it would have made sense, but even the ones like me who would rather carry more rounds on an easier to maintain gun don’t call it unreliable.

        • 1911s were designed for ball ammo. Original barrels are notorious for not feeding hollowpoints with wide cavities. Modern magazines, polished ramps, or different hollowpoints are typical fixes.

        • Maybe 1911’s weren’t meant for JHPs 30 or 40 years ago but times change.

          As one of my mentors at ONI ssid: “The conventional Wisdom is always wrong.”

  3. “Range ammo underperforms (for delf-defense)”?

    Tell THAT to those shot in ChiCongo. And before someone mentions the high rate of “woundings” versus “fatalities” in The Crimey City the fact is most of the shooters just “spray” ala the last event at the funeral where eleven (11) were struck, aiming appears to be a novelty there.

    Just place your rounds where they’ll do the most damage and don’t cease firing until the threat is neutralized. With today’s ammo shortage hollow-points are difficult to come by so make do with what you have.

      • …Oh an “expoit” eh ?(Curly Fine of Three Stooges fame voice)

        I have no problem drilling center mass from 21 feet or more, no acquiring the sights necessary, just point and shoot. For funsies I tap the noggin and groin twice each. In under three seconds.

        • Thomas DiSarlo:

          Thank you for the correction “Curly Howard” it was/is, I thought something didn’t sound right when I was typing it and can attribute my mistake to being required to wear a face diaper at the time which restricted the oxygen flow to my blood supply/brain.


          Masks are “bad”.

        • “F off”

          I’m not going anywhere, dipshit.

          Consider it an excellent opportunity for you to work on your coping skills… 😉

        • And Goof isn’t kidding, ‘d’. This ‘man’ is responsible for over 20% of the posts on this site, no doubt much to the chagrin of the good folks that own it.

        • I’d better step up my game and post more, then. Why should Geoff get all the glory? 🙂

    • Performance of self defense ammo is measured as ability to stop the attacker right now, not to kill him eventually. Compared to hollow points and other specially engineered defensive bullets, the fmj does underperform, as they create smaller holes and waste some of their energy when they over penetrate.

  4. If one is lacking hollow-points might I suggest going for the gut shot and “tickling” the groin of an attacker, two (2) or more rounds to each region, NO ONE, I REPEAT NO ONE, whether armed or not is going to be capable of maintaining their assault upon a victim, they’ll be clutching their belly or what remains of their “package”.

    • Where are you getting this idiot idea that someone can’t fire when gut shot or taking one to the genitals?

      • I’m being facetious of course BUT the idea of a violent, murderous POS intent on mayhem living the remainder of his/her/it’s/zis/zer life with tubes protruding from zeir torso, emptying zeir bowels and bladder into bags, and being incapable of procreating doesn’t really bother me.

        Look at (c)rapper “50 Cent” the ghetto thug /gang member, his upper torso was riddled with bullets, to him and his fans it’s a “badge of honor” (sickening I know), as a matter of practice he performs shirtless proudly displaying his “trademark” scars, I doubt he would be as popular paralyzed from the waist down and in the condition referenced above.

        • I’ve heard the pain of a shot to the pelvis takes the fight out of most folks.

          Hopped-up on drugs, maybe not so much…

        • Geoff,

          The head instructor at the 4-day Tactical Shotgun course I took was the “door breacher” in the Marines while his team cleared houses in Iraq. He said they were taught to aim the shotgun (slug loads) at center mass, and if not available, the next best target was the femur/pelvis joint. That would knock down any adversary and allow for a quick follow-up shot to terminate the threat entirely.

          I can’t imagine what it’d be like to be hit in the hip joint with a slug.

        • According to Massad Ayoob, quoting Jim Cirillo (Namedropper!) the purpose of the groin area shot is to break the pelvis, making it no longer possible for the perp to remain vertical. Making a groin shot on a perp, and then sitting in the witness stand in front of a prosecutor who has done his homework on your internet posting history may not end well.

    • There is bodycam video online showing drugged-up thugs taking multiple rounds to the body and continuing to fight. For those who are feeling no pain, actual debilitating trauma becomes a necessity. What’s more, if you go for the groin you run a good chance of missing between the legs.

      Center mass. Center mass. Center mass.

      • Yes “Center Mass” always BUT a couple to “the ‘junk'” makes a fun day for all.

      • What drugs matter. I remember one police shooting where the goblin was hyped up on PCP. He punched his way out of the squad car, and took over 40 9mm runds nad 3 slugs to put down. The only thing that “stopped” him was the third slug which severd the spinal column.

      • Even if impervious to pain, a person with a leg disconnected from the hip by a 12 Ga. is not doing any more moving. Still might be shooting.

    • According to Massad Ayoob, quoting Jim Cirillo (Namedropper!) the purpose of the groin area shot is to break the pelvis, making it no longer possible for the perp to remain vertical. Making a groin shot on a perp, and then sitting in the witness stand in front of a prosecutor who has done his homework on your internet posting history may not end well.

  5. For those with reloading experience, I would point out that quality hollowpoint bullets are available and can make hand loaded defense ammo much more economical than the name brand stuff.

    Of course this leads to a discussion over reliability of hand loads vs. factory ammo. My experience with thousands of rounds of hand loaded handgun cartridges leads me to conclude that my homemade rounds are every bit as reliable as store-bought stuff. Your mileage may vary.

    • Reloaded ammunition is a terrible choice for self defense.

      1. It is inherently less reliable than factory. Every professional instructor will tell you that shooters in their classes with ammo problems were using reloads. I don’t want to hear that YOUR reloads never fail.

      2. It sets you up poorly in court. Prosecutors will try to convince the jury that you reload your own, because you thought you could make ammo that is more deadly than what is available. One more argument that you will have to fight and pay 10s of thousands of dollars more in legal fees and expert witness testimony to refute.

      3. All manufactures send samples of every batch of ammo in to be cataloged by the feds. They are used for ballistic comparisons with ammo used in shootings. If you are in a good shoot, this can help you, but it won’t be available to you if you used reloads. This is why you should keep a record of the ammo and batch number that you carry

      Only shooters that have taken certain classes ever learn this info. Massad Ayoob’s are the best for this type of info

      • None of the things you just said are true.

        The only ammunition I can count on is the ammunition I make myself.

        • Do you have a source for small primers the rest of us are unaware of?

          I see *zero* out there in quantity…

        • for Geoff below cause I can’t reply direct:

          You have to go a local gun shop cause the big stores are out and the online are out but Joe’s Shooting shop down the road doesn’t sell online and only locals know about him so he still has plenty. I bet he hasn’t even jacked his prices up all that much cause he’ll take too much crap for it from his regulars.

          Get off your butt and go for a drive in the countryside. (what am I saying? Forget all that. You just stay at home)

        • I’m sorry, but no. I was grateful to be able to get some friends to send me some, and to buy some from other people. I have been buying boxes of 500 or so here and there from every gun store I can stop by. The onlyadvice I can give you is just to keep checking everywhere and if somebody lets you back order, do so. I had a big back order of powder come in today that I had forgotten about. Yay!

        • Ignorant posters such as jwtaylor making incorrect statements is why it’s impossible to know who to trust online.

          Folks, get professional training and dont rely on comments from jwtaylor and alike

        • When buying primers, except when buying a batch for testing, NEVER buy a tray of 100. At least buy a block of 1000. And buy another when you can.

        • Some of the things D said were true, but most is no longer applicable. I reload for my .38 and have had zero squibs in, admittedly, only a few hundred rounds. BUT, being 158gr lswchp they are accurate, expanding and heavy. I’d stake my life on them…

      • jwtaylor,

        Everything I said is true. But you don’t have to learn if you don’t want to, your choice. The jury won’t accept your ignorance as an excuse.

        • d-bag:

          Yup only factory ammo …..LOL!

          Factory ammo is so reliable I just received a box from a manufacturer as a replacement for one where THREE (3) rounds of the first fifteen (15) loaded in magazines were either squibs or duds. ( 2 squibs falling to the ground halfway to a 50 yard target).

          Yup “factory ammo” ….it’s the “best”.

          Take THAT you BloomBOIG/Soros stooge.

        • d-tampon:

          Shouldn’t you be preparing for your gender reassignment surgery or making signs in preparation of protesting (rioting) in Portland?

        • D link one court case criminal or civil where handloads that were not inherently illegal (restricted AP) actually had any relevance to a defensive shooting.

      • @ d
        1. Your hand loads are only as reliable as you make them. Use quality components and take care and pride in your work and your cartridges will be not only more reliable than mass produced ones, but also more precise.
        2. Name one case where it happened.
        3. Why would any company send samples of their legal products to be archived by “the feds”?
        Why would “feds” waste money on such idiotic program? On second thought, never mind. Nothing will surprise me when it comes to government spending.
        How exactly is it going to help you in good shooting?

        You use and carry what you think is best. I do.

        JWT is known around here as a guy who knows what he’s talking about. (I miss the times when RF called him ‘our resident war hero’) I can’t say the same about you. This site’s discussion, even if not what it used to be, usually depends on stronger arguments that “f off”. You have a lot of growing up to do.

        • I agree with you 100%. The only reason for not carrying Reloads, is the potential legal implications that will one day arise. It hasn’t happened yet, that I’m aware of, but it’s only a matter of time, before some scum sucking bottom dwelling lawyer uses it. The same holds true for customizing or performance enhancing a gun, it could be used against you in a trial that you purposefully increased the lethality of the weapon.

        • It’s always been my understanding that the big reason to avoid using handloads is the legal liability issue. It’s just one more accusation you don’t want to deal with in court. I seem to recall Ayoob talked about this in his book, “In the Gravest Extreme”. (Can’t cite you a page reference. I loaned my copy to a buddy and never got it back.) Anyway, the instance I recall is that the forensics people used the FBI data based on the headstamp of the shell casing to analyze the powder burns on the decedent and proclaimed that the shooting occurred from much farther away because the powder burns were so light. The defendant tried to argue that the rounds were loaded light for reduced recoil but lost the argument and went to jail.

          That said, I have a stock of hollow point bullets. I’ll probably never load them, but if we get an end of rule of law situation, I might.

  6. For calibers .380 and smaller you actually have to be very careful when you pick a hollow point. Many don’t penetrate far enough due to a lack of power.

    I’d also argue that M193 loaded by either Winchester or Federal is a decent choice for a 5.56 rifle due to being relatively cheap and the way the bullet will violently fragment. I’d definitely avoid M855 and .223 FMJ.

    • There is definitely a big difference between pig shot with m193 vs m855. The 193 showing larger wounds.
      But I am wondering why you say choose the 193 but avoid 223?
      If I look across commercial manufacturers, moat fall within 100 feet per second of the 193, and have a 55 grain boat tail lead bullet surrounded by a full metal jacket. That sounds just like the 193 to me. What is the difference?

      • I’m using a lot of 55g Sierra “Roo Load” SP projectiles in reloaded 223. They are a third of the price of SMKs and perform as well on the range. And I can bulk buy them in a block of 1000. I can then use the SPs in the field when needed too.

      • I’m basing that on the old Ammo Oracle. In the test they ran even foreign M193 often didn’t perform well because the jackets were thicker and the bullets would not fragment to the degree US Spec ammo did. Since I have no way to run gel test on the ammo I buy, I stick to Federal or Winchester M193. Also since velocity is everything when it comes to fragmentation I’d avoid using .223 FMJ for defensive use.

        There are many .223 loads that would be great for self defense like Federal Fusion and Fusion MSR, Speer Gold Dot, Winchester Power Point, etc. I list those only because they are usually available at a reasonable cost, there are also many others.

        • Yes, velocity is everything to fragment an M193, so you’re maximizing your FPS by choosing a 5.56x45mm loading…are you also running it through a 20″ barrel? Or do you have a handy 16″ carbine or trendy 11″ “pistol”?

  7. Range ammunition is a bad choice for your self-defense gun because nobody in the history of the world has even been able to defend himself with range ammo.

    C’mon. Range ammo may not always be the best choice — over-penetration and all that — but it works fine. FMJ ammo has been killing people since it was invented. And hollow point ammo can flatten out and fail to penetrate under certain circumstance (look it up for yourself).

    Load up what you can find and afford.

    • It’s not about killing people, it about stopping people. FMJ is far far worse at stopping than HPs.

      FMJ has far greater chance of over penetration which puts bystanders are higher risk. What if you child was behind your attacker, would you still use FMJ?

    • Yep, been to a couple hundred shootings, street thugs almost always have cheap ball ammo in their mags , most, times a mixture of three or more kinds with a HP tossed in here or there .

    • I don’t really have a choice so it’s what I want to believe but I am definitely soaking in this discussion. I’ve been out of shooting regularly for decades and want to reacquire some minimal level of competency. My knowledge/skill doesn’t hold a candle to anyone on this forum but I’m formulating a baseline perspective.

      At this point it seems to me the compromise on this runs something like this: No doubt at all if you want the highest probability of effectiveness, you don’t dick around. You get a designated self-defense round. But its not *hopeless* with range ammo. Just know you’re not nearly as well equipped, and go in having made your peace with the fact that you might go straight through and into God-knows-what.

      • Skip, I did the same. Got remarried and she had a little boy who’d never been around firearms. She was worried about it. Money was tight so I put it away for about a decade. Once he got old enough, I got it back out to start training him, and found that times had changed and I needed training too.

        I would make two suggestions for you to consider. One is that you want to think about the legal ramifications of defending your choice of ammunition after the fact. “What the police use” is a relatively safe position in the face of a hostile prosecutor. “It’s all I had” might work if you were home when something went bump in the night, but out in public with a CCW, it would not be a good argument. The other is, look into something like USCCA. Their support can save your financial life and will give you peace of mind about standing up to evil if it comes after you. I mention USCCA over others because they also have tons of training available to members, all free with your membership. That right there is worth the annual cost.

        “Carry” on, brother.

  8. We keep hearing this time after time and I’m beginning to wonder about why.

    Everyone says the same thing: over penetration, ! why that’s pretty much IT for reasons.

    I think sometimes its “I’m carrying bigger than YOU” kind of talk. Or maybe someone’s honest opinion but based on what THEY’VE heard.

    Only thing is all these talks about using hollow point over fmj NEVER come with a definitive comparison with actual incidents. Even the ballistic gell tests don’t really tell you how fast it killed someone or even over penetration values.

    First off, there may NOT be any definitive studies done. The data is mixed up and sometimes not recorded or recorded for comparison or it’s held by disparate orgs and so it difficult to get let alone correlate. I understand.

    But until someone can prove to me that say 4 shots with hollow point put the target down faster than 4-6 shots of fmj then I got my doubts. Also show me the stats on overpenetration. How much of that anecdotal evidence is actually the shooter missing the target and the round blowing thru the wall without passing thru a human? And if it did, did the human stop?

    I’m going to worry a bit less about my neighbors (who may be the ones coming thru the door) and about what’s in front of me. And with the prices being what they are, I’m going to buy what I can afford and worry about lawsuits and stuff later.

    If you wind up shooting someone, it will then involve lawyers for one reason or another so you’re not getting away clean just because you used hollow points instead of fmj.

    Accuracy is very important and doing so without thought even more so. So spend that money at the range with fmj until you can hit consistency at ranges that are reasonably expected. Don’t give too much thought to your load if you need to shoot. Worry about shot placement.

    • Maybe the AMA (American Medical Association) or NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine) can recruit some Chicago gangbangers and AntiFa/Revolutionary Communists/Democratic Socialists for a study on “hollow-points” vs FMJ/range ammo, offer the prospects the right incentive (gold jewelry, some ghetto chickenheads, better yet White women for the former, black clothing & weed for the latter) and they’ll volunteer ….of course like all “medical studies” there can be “side effects”, some leading to death.

    • Marshall, Sanow, Ayoob, Ellifritz.

      Amazing what went on before the internet.

      All the old timers knew that – in general-
      Faster bullets do more damage given the same weight.
      Heavier bullets penetrate deeper given similar velocities.
      Pointy or round nosed bullets do less tissue damage at handgun velocities.
      Hollowpoint bullets damage mode tissue if the expand.

      Gun people always wanted more power and better hollowpoint designs to stop an aggressor. This usually comes at the price of increased recoil and requires more practice to pass qualifications. And performance ammunition costs more.

      So the bureaucrats take over and settle on a mid-bore at moderate velocities so officers can pass qualifications with less practice.

      So in the 30s, the FBI got 357s with 158 grain loads – as time moved on they went to a smaller revolver – and then later downloaded to 38+P due to poor scores (but did move to HP bullets)- then went to 9mm – decided 9mm was wimpy and went to 10mm – this was too hot so they downloaded – S&W duplicated the 10mm lite and got the 40 – as scores declined went back to 9mm – a mid bore at moderate velocity but easier to qualify with.

      At least they are still using hollowpoints. While hollowpoints dont always expand, ball ammo never expands.

      • Marshall and Sanow are proven to have faked their “data.” Difference between their first and second book require some rounds to be more than 100% effectiveness for the numbers to work out. There’s a reason they never released their raw data, like proper researchers do.

        I don’t put much stock in Ayoob either. He thinks 158gr .38 sp is amazing, but 147gr 9mm is worthless. They are almost identical by all measures.

        • Post some sources about the faking (Marshal and Sanow) and the equivalency (Ayoob), please.

          Elifritz stated that M&S data only include those who were stopped with a single shot. This is patently incorrect as they express one shot tops as a percent and there are no 100% rounds.

          You may not like their data analysis of selection of public data. But they did the work and you just have an opinion based on………..internet gurus….ammo companies……Tom Snyder…..

        • Here’s a good rundown about the problems with the Marshal and Sanow ‘Study’:

          Yes, it’s written by Gabe Suarez, who is also controversial, but his posting is very exhaustive and he references many other professionals who came to the same conclusion.

          I’m more lenient with Ayoob. He at least bases his conclusions on years of being a trainer, expert witness and writer. While anecdotal his results are more believable. I would also caution reading any authors opinion from years past. Many of them have had long careers and what they wrote in the 1980’s or 1990’s isn’t necessarily true today. Even in the last ten years there has been significant improvements in bullet design. That’s why I can see his take on the 147 gr 9mm vs 158 gr .38. The .38 Special +P load was usually a plain lead semi-wadcutter hollow point with a relatively large cavity. Since the designers were not concerned with feeding in a semi-auto pistol it would be relatively easy to get good performance out of a bullet like this. Meanwhile cartridges like the 147 gr 9mm HP were constrained by having a tougher copper jacket, being the lowest velocity 9mm loading and having to feed reliably in available pistols.

          Keep in mind most police didn’t even adopt semi-auto pistols until the ‘Crack Wars’ of the mid-1980’s. The publicity generated by the adoption of the Beretta M9 in 1986 by the US Military probably also helped this transition.

          The NYPD didn’t adopt HP ammo until 1999:

          Is a good run down of all the shoot through collateral damage that finally led to the transition.

    • “. Don’t give too much thought to your load if you need to shoot. Worry about shot placement.”

      Was just talking about that with someone who would know–a cop. She’s a pro of course and will say Christ yes you want a top level hollow point–all other things being equal. But all those other things are never equal across incidents. It’s so easy to lose sight of first principles sometimes.

      I’m not planning on being in any situation where this debate is an issue. But then again this kind of situation generally defies your plans.

  9. ‘Your Honor, that poor man had to grub the cheap range ammunition to protect himself from that sudden assault’ vs. ‘Your Honor, this yahoo was prepared to kill and bought special horrid scary rounds to do just that’

      • Could you please elaborate what professional training you have in mind?

        The above was an old comment from a lawyer, specializing in firearms cases.

  10. I don’t know. Today I loaded up some range ammo that I bet will do the trick. 505 grains at 1300 feet per second?

    • If you have a suppressor for the 300 aac I’d suggest 194 Grain Lehigh Defense Maximum Expansion.

      If using super sonic Barnes TAC-TX in 110 or 120 grain.

    • With the other options you have, I’d leave the 7.5” 5.56 in the safe. I can’t think of anything that would give reasonable performance in a barrel that short.

      • I just built an 8.5″ and it’s all about fine tuning. Adjust the gas and it’s as effective as the shooter holding it. Best option for something smaller than 10.5″ is .223 wylde and on the fly adjustable gas ports.

        • My comment wasn’t so much about the reliability of a 7.5” 5.56, although that can be a challenge. It’s more about the velocity loss. I really don’t know of any 5.56/.223 ammo that will give good performance out of a barrel that short. Maybe some of the 77 grain?

          Since you already have a 16” 5.56 and a 8.5” .300, I’d focus on those if you are going to use an AR15 for self defense. There are ammo options for both that will give good performance.

  11. I think, if youre in an area where over penetration is not an issue, fmj is fine for self defense. I carry .40 or 9mm flat nosed fmj when out in the woods and hollow points in town.

  12. Killed many a deer (150 lb.+) with factory ammo. Including 22/250, 30/30, 30.06, 308 and 223/556. Hell 45+ years ago used 22. When My family was dirt poor and hunted to survive.. Never under estimate factory ammo. Millions of people all over the world would attest to the lethality of factory ammo. If they weren’t dead from factory ammo.

    • I’ve had deer ammunition fail on me. If my rifle goes click on a deer I might miss out on some venison.

      If my self defense ammo goes click I might never hunt again.

      With that said I use factory self defense loads in my pistols and only have reloading supplies for 45-70.

  13. I get the overpenetration if you get mugged in a crowd, something that is a distinct possibility now, but I thought caliber doesn’t matter for handguns. If caliber doesn’t matter than from a pure effectiveness standpoint range ammo is just as effective as JHP. So I guess you are telling me caliber matters. After reading this article I will go back to carrying 45 Auto because caliber matters and 45 auto expands more than 9mm.

    • Caliber is a tradeoff. Modern hollowpoints can get the necessary penetration in most calibers. Does a .8 inch expanded diameter .45 have a better chance of hitting something vital or causing more bleeding than a .66 inch expanded 9mm? Yes, it does since it has 50% more frontal area. Are you willing to trade few rounds, more recoil, bigger grip, and slower follow up rounds for that advantage? Up to you. Compared to non-expanding rounds, hollowpoints have 4x the area. An expanded 9mm has 2x the area of an unexpanded .45. That’s a significant improvement just by changing the bullet. If you have good hollowpoints that reliably feed and penetrate to a proper depth, there’s little reason not to use them, other than availability.

      • The is a long winded way of saying caliber still matters but since modern 9mm JHPs are better than .45 FMJ it ok.

        Do you really think that you get quicker and more accurate follow up shots with a P365 than you do with 39 oz 1911? I think not.

  14. Geez all these trolling idiot’s on a simple premise. HP is “generally” better except in a mouse gun. I run HP as my defensive handgun ammo. 193 or 855greentip in my AR. Not terribly impressed with HP in an AR. Dipshite dissing JWTaylor needs to be slapped. You’re retarded…

  15. I’ve got 16 rounds of 45acp in the gun and two spare 15 rnd mags for backup. If I use all 45 of those rounds holding off a charging hoard of protesters/rioters hell bent on destroying me or my property, you better believe I’m reaching for FMJ to over penetrate and take out two or more at a time to slow them down………

    • Two or more from a single round, that’s both efficient and good economics.

      With what we’re witnessing today “over-penetration” is a plus …… make ’em fall like dominoes it increases our chances of survival.

  16. Don’t every want to have to shoot anybody. But if forced to do so, I’ll use whatever I got and as much as is required.

    Luckily, 1000 rounds of Herter’s 9mm 115gr FMJ, brass case, Made In USA arrived a few weeks back. Add that to all the .45ACP, .223/5.56, 12ga, .22LR, .38 Special, .22WMR, .30-06, .380ACP and other miscellaneous stuff around here that goes BOOM! and I figure I got the worry well covered.

    Also, there’s the Civil War Union Cavalry Saber in the closet.

    Or could put the bayonet on the Mossberg 590, make a “Statement”?

    Too much???

  17. Over penetration is a myth. Jeff Cooper recommended ball for self defense. Ball worked fine for me downrange. If it’s all you can afford use it. Foreign objects in the body hurt. Never heard a casualty bitch they’d prefer a bullet over shrapnel or vice versa.

    There is no magic bullet.

    • Jeff Cooper greatly favored the 1911 which wasn’t known for reliably feeding hollow points. He was also born in 1920 and it wasn’t until the end of his life that HP would give reliable expansion at 9mm or .45 velocities.

        • lol that is not the same thing as a DGU here and if you carried ball in your beretta it’s because that’s what they issued you. The rare times I saw a pistol fired in IRQ was either some team motherfuckers operating operationally, or for warning shots. And those team dudes carried what they wanted.

        • You had operationally operating operators? I thought after Vietnam that operation was ended.

  18. Je*us these TTAG articles are getting worse by the day. Suddenly putting two 115 grain FMJ 9mils into an attacker’s aorta is a bad thing.

    TTAG do yourself a covid era favor…and please stick to some resemblance of fact.

    • Congrats if you can reliably and rapidly put 2 .355 bullets in a moving target .5 wide while under stress. My aim isn’t that good, so I’ll have to rely on bullets with better expansion.

  19. Hollow-point/FMJ …. PHOOEY!

    You know we can always go with “wood” bullets like the Germans did in WWII, I suggest something “exotic”, an “endangered” hardwood species ……. maybe from Africa or Asia, something banned by Obama’s CITES Treaty, a small lathe is all it takes and no noxious fumes from casting your own.

  20. Hypothetical: You are facing a 235 lb 6’3″ Neanderthal (s) on crack cocaine. Oh, it is the middle of Winter and the Neanderthal(s) is (are) wearing 4 layers of clothing topped with a leather jacket (or the fur of a grizzly bear). Or maybe the same Neanderthal is attacking while driving a motor vehicle (covered with glass and metal). Which one would you choose? cheap range ball ammo or fancy and expensive “expanding” ammo?
    Possible answer?: load magazine with an alternating potpourri of fancy and plain vanilla flavors to satisfy all tastes.

    • Or, do what I do, alternate JHP with solid cast. Do that with my 10 mm G20 at this time of year (I live in (mostly black, but occasional brown) bear country, where wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions are all present). Also carry magazines with all solid cast, and one with all SD rounds, and switch them, depending on what threat is most likely. Switch to straight SD for the winter.

    • The Beretta was selected as a trade-off/enticement to the Italian govmnt when the US was selling F-16s to NATO countries back in the 80’s. No it wasn’t they only reason but was part of the perks for buying the jets.

  21. Tried using newly bought Kimber 380 micro with self defense ammo various brands , just wouldn’t feed right , yes polish tha ramp n all that stuff , checkD tha clip , finally use Sig ball ammo , feed every round ok. So what ever ya use as long as it works every time all the time is better than a fist or knife fight . don’t think .380 gonA punch all the way through much of any thing , however still can ouch ya ! depends where ya place the rounds.

  22. Funny thing about shotguns though is that apparently if you do hit bare skin with birdshot, it makes it far harder to patch up by a surgeon. Turns the flesh into puree. The big advantage of buck shot and slugs is penetrating clothing first. Which is why my 12 gauge is loaded with buckshot, and a have a couple slugs, along with more buckshot, in the side saddle.

  23. What a shame these forums are turning into dick size contests. I read these articleas and hope to learn some facts and then I get down to the comments…..should’ve stopped after the article.

  24. Just remember you are responsible for EVERY bullet that you fire until it stops!

    Hope that it stops in the bad guy and not in your neighbor or family member in another room from over penetration! There is a scum sucking lawyer attached to every bullet you fire! Don’t help them make their Benz lease payments off your hard earned money!

    I use Federal HST 147gr short barrel and 124gr +P in my VP9SK and have no feed issues with anything and getting close to 8k rounds of ball and several HST boxes too sent down range! If their are feed issues with any quality ammo you use, call the manufacturer’s gunsmith/tech line and ask WHY!

    • “Just remember you are responsible for EVERY bullet that you fire until it stops!”

      Too bad that does not apply to words.

  25. Right now, most people are left to whatever ammunition they already have. Anything is better than nothing.

    Premium self defense ammunition is currently a dollar or more per round, if you can find ANY, and if the vendor ever gets it out their door. I paid a fortune for recent orders that are supposedly in stock, but the orders haven’t moved.

    I’m lucky that I have always kept my supplies current.

    Stay locked and loaded.

  26. I may simply be old fashioned, but insofar as defensive shooting is concerned,I had thought that hitting what you were shooting at was more at least, if not more important than the type of projectile. This applying to shooting at people as opposed to shooting at things.

  27. yes, never use “range” ammunition or FMJ that would just be useless. Of course, the military has only been using “range” ammunition forever…..article is misleading and idiotic. Any of you. like myself, who have used “range” ammo for purposes of patrols, fighting insurgents, the enemy, ummmm oh I don’t know, just being in the shit. Please write the editors of this website and remind them that we use “range” ammo to “defend” ourselves over seas.

    • Exactly, couldn’t have said it better myself, military’s been killing a hell of a lot of bad guys for years with ball ammo

  28. Oh sweet baby Jesus from Talladega Nights , please protect me from these stupid articles about ammo, or caliber.

    It’s a secondary, maybe tertiary, consideration.

  29. It doesn’t matter what type of ammo you use. Shot placement is king. The only thing that stops a determined perp is a hit on the central nervous system, or blood loss. Well, two holes bleed faster than one, and hollow points can’t hit the CNS from the front of the body.

  30. If you can afford a decent gun, you should be able to afford decent ammo for it.
    But…same argument for caliber choice or gun choice…
    ANYthing is better than NOTHING at all.
    Many people don’t want to get shot…with a .22 OR a .50…or anything in between.
    Heck…for many you could pull out a BB or airsoft and they would not know the difference unless you actually pulled the trigger.
    And isn’t it great to have a place to read about and discuss these matters?
    And you can leave comments… unlike MSN and now apparently YAHOO

  31. If target ammo is all you got, just cut an x in the nose with a razor blade. This is called a dum-dum, and this is what soldiers did to their 45acp bullets in World War 2.

    You can then turn it into an ftx by drilling a shallow 1/8” diameter hole in the center with a drill press, and filling with hot melt glue. It will solidify and form an improvised polymer tip.

  32. Thank for your professional and logic advise on the the it’s best not to use range ammo for self defense . Like you said if that’s all you have, better than nothing, but that it can go through the assailant and harm someone else. Good thing to know. I’m fairly new at shooting so I appreciate the advise from all you out there. I have a Springfield XD9 M2 w a 16 1 magazine and I’ve been finding first off 9 mm rare to find for most part, but then thinking A box or two a year of hollow points someone recommended for self defense. Should be plenty in a normal everyday setting. But if Antifa and thugs going to be coming for us, we may need more than one or two boxes of hollow point a year. Behoove you to stock up a little.

  33. Well, I sure learned something (some things) today. I always thought range ammo was low-powered and was unsuitable for self-defense because it had no penetration. For home defense my first line is a 20ga, first shot is #6, the rest a mix of slugs and 4 aught buck. If you can’t resolve the situation in 5 shots you shouldn’t have a gun. No worry about the neighbors. Also learned that a lot of folks are afraid of Antifa types storming their castle. You have much more to worry about from the other side of the fence. The guys and gals in the back of pick-ups with many flags waving are the ones who will light off a few as they drive by, and nearly all the arson and vandalism is from the right. Check the arrest records. And I sure agree ammo, especially 9’s, is ridiculous in price. Take what you can get as long as it’s well-made.

    • It would be interesting to see your stats on arrest records in light of whether the prosecutors are left-leaning or right-leaning. Seems to me, if you don’t want to be arrested, join antifa.

    • Wow!
      Lots of strange to unpack in this!
      5 rounds is enough unless you have multiple attackers as was the case captured on a “ring camera” recently in the near by city of Tolleson.. 4 armed men kicked that door..
      Bird shot? What Police or trainer suggests that?
      Oh by the way show me the news article where rogue rednecks shoot up homes. Would you like a link to repeated violence in Portland and/or Seattle?

  34. What is the recommended self-defense ammunition for an AR-pattern rifle? I’m assuming green tip .556 is out, due to concerns about over-penetration. Is FMJ acceptable? Is frangible ammo a better idea? I can’t seem to find JHP ammo in .223/.556 anywhere — Is that a thing? Sorry for the noob questions, but I am more familiar with handgun ammunition. Is there any ammo in the .223/.556 rifle caliber that is specifically made for civilian home defense purposes?

  35. Hornady Superformance .223 55gr. Copper Plated JHP w/ Ballistic Tip is my choice for defense & hunting AR-15 ammunition. Five Star stuff!

    • Thank you. I was looking at Hornady ballistic tip ammo; very hard to find right now. Does it work like Hornady Critical Defense or Critical Duty ammo is supposed to work in pistol calibers? What do you think of 55 Gr. Hornady Frontier Hollow Point Match in 5.56 as a defensive round?

  36. .223 is faster fps than 5.56. Shoots flatter. Less pressure and cleaner too. I only use what I mentioned for defense.


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