JHP hollow point ammunition
How well do you know your handgun ammo? (Dan Z for TTAG)
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You may remember the plight of Shaneen Allen, a 27-year-old medical professional and mother of two who was arrested for possession of a handgun and hollow point ammunition in New Jersey. The incident raised quite a bit of commentary on hollow point ammunition restrictions.

Allen was merely visiting New Jersey when stopped for a minor traffic violation. She politely informed the officer she had a handgun in her glove compartment, and her concealed carry license in Pennsylvania availed her nothing. She faced as much as ten years in prison before being pardoned by Governor Chris Christie.

New Jersey law doesn’t absolutely ban hollow points, but makes it virtually impossible to use them for self-defense outside the home. One may possess hollow points in their home or on their property, but only “sportsmen” are allowed to transport them.

Their guns, however, must be unloaded and the ammunition removed and kept separate, and even in some circumstances, locked up. In addition, one must go straight to and from their range or hunting area and have a valid hunting license. The New Jersey State Police have helpful instructions on the issue available here.

In other words, in the name of public safety, New Jersey makes the use of the most effective and safe handgun ammunition all but impossible outside the home, particularly for self-defense. That actually endangers the public. The laws are so convoluted and nonsensical that many people would rather avoid hollow points – even gun ownership – entirely. No doubt, that’s exactly what New Jersey politicians intended.

Why are such draconian restrictions on hollow point ammunition dangerous? It has long been understood – and exhaustively proven through real world experience and ballistic testing – that round-nosed, entirely lead (non-jacketed) bullets are not effective in rapidly stopping human beings. Their all-lead composition limits their velocity — too much velocity leaves excessive lead deposits in barrels – and they can be deformed, deflected, even stopped by thick clothing and a variety of types of cover. They simply don’t penetrate well, and when they do, tend not to cause immediately debilitating wounds.

Fully metal jacketed round-nosed ammunition — commonly called “ball” or “hard ball” – does indeed penetrate much better, but in human beings, tends only to more or less drill holes no larger than the diameter of the bullet. Because human tissues are elastic, unless the bullet strikes an artery, the heart, or other vital structure, they tend to do little long-term damage and tend not to immediately stop an attacker.

The greatest danger is that they tend to over-penetrate, particularly with higher-velocity bullets such as the 9mm. This is the primary reason the police uniformly avoid such ammunition. The last thing they want is to legitimately shoot a bad guy only to have the bullet pass through them into an innocent while having relatively little immediate effect on the bad guy.

This is where hollow-point or JHP ammunition is invaluable. Early attempts consisted of little more than hollowing out a cavity in the nose of standard ammunition.  These efforts met with relatively little success.  In human tissues, they may or may not have expanded to various diameters, and in any case, expansion was not at all uniform or consistent and could not be relied upon.

JHP hollow point ammunition
Dan Z for TTAG

With the advent of computers and ballistic modeling software, bullets could be optimized in every way.  Contemporary hollow point handgun ammunition will generally reliably expand to at least some degree in human tissue under normal circumstances.

This is important for several significant reasons:

Carrying hollow point ammunition is responsible. If one is legally authorized to use deadly force, they may use as big a gun as they can carry and shoot as many times as necessary to stop the threat with the most effective ammunition lawfully available. To use less effective means endangers not only the innocent victims of criminal assault, but every innocent citizen.

One shoots only to stop, never to wound or kill. Hollow point ammunition, if it works properly, maximizes the probability that a killer—or a vicious, attacking pit bull–will be quickly stopped, a matter of some importance when one is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death, and minimizes the danger of misses or ricochets to innocents. That is why one shoots: because they are facing imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. There are no warning shots, no shooting to wound, no trying to shoot a gun out of someone’s hand. Not only will those movie conventions fail to stop a determined killer, they are highly likely to injure innocents.

Handgun ammunition is notoriously ineffective at immediately stopping human beings. Most people shot with handgun ammunition, hollow points included, do not immediately die, in fact, most recover.

If someone is trying to cause serious bodily injury or death, it matters not whether they’re trying to do it in the course of a robbery, an arson, shoplifting, or any other crime. The issue is they’re putting another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death, and in that case, one is justified in using the most effective means possible to stop them as quickly as possible. The same principles apply in case of an animal attack.

If someone demonstrates their intention to shoot you, or is actually shooting, it is very likely indeed—in real life–they will continue to shoot if they are not immediately stopped.

Police use hollow points. Even though many police executives and officers are not gun enthusiasts, they universally use hollow point ammunition. Are the lives of citizens worth less than those of police officers?

The danger to life and limb of ricochets or over-penetrating bullets is present everywhere. Wherever homes or people are present, citizens and the police must always be very careful.  We are always strictly responsible for every bullet we fire, and bullets can travel for a mile or more

Consider “Claudia.” Claudia is a 28 year-old nurse who works at a hospital in a bad, crime-ridden part of her community.  Her daily commute also takes her through very high-crime neighborhoods.  She carries her 9mm handgunwhen and wherever it is legal.

If the day ever comes when Claudia must use her handgun, it will be when she needs to protect herself from the imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death. There is no other justification for employing deadly force.

In that event, she will want to deliver a volume of accurate fire sufficient to immediately stop her attacker from doing whatever he was doing—in this case, he’s holding a large knife and threatening to rape and kill her—that gave her the justification to shoot.  With this in mind, what characteristics will she want her ammunition to have?

We carry handguns because long guns, while far more effective, are simply too big. However, handgun bullets are usually less effective than rifle bullets. Many weigh less and travel far more slowly, imparting far less energy to the target.

To deal with this deficiency, Claudia will want her bullets to reliably and uniformly expand when they hit her knife-wielding, leering attacker. If they expand to greater than their normal diameter they will more effectively transfer their energy, making a rapid stop more likely. If they expand, it also becomes far less likely they will over-penetrate, failing to stop her attacker and possibly striking others.

New Jersey politicians probably think we should never shoot deadly predators in the first place, but if we do, we should only shoot them a little bit and with ammunition that won’t really hurt them. This “thinking” ignores the reasons why human beings need firearms, not only for sustenance, but to preserve their lives and the lives of others from four legged and two legged predators.

Life is a matter of risk. Nothing is guaranteed. If we have an inalienable right to self-defense — and the Heller and McDonald decisions have made that plain — we have the right to use the most effective means commonly available in that pursuit: modern handguns and hollow point ammunition. To allow less returns us to a pre-civilization state of anarchy where the strong and vicious do whatever they please, particularly to women.

This would seem to be something of a contradiction for a progressive state like New Jersey claiming to care for and represent women like Shaneen Allen. Denying women the most effective means of preserving their lives might be reasonably thought to be the ultimate “war” on women.

More and more women are taking advantage of their fundamental, inalienable right to protect themselves and those they love. Unlike plastic guns that are undetectable by x-rays, “cop killer bullets,” “assault weapons,” and every other invention of those who would deny Americans their fundamental rights, hollow point bullets actually exist. Like contemporary easily concealable handguns, they serve a vital, useful purpose in protecting innocent lives against those who would threaten them.

New Jersey politicians, police and prosecutors seem to care very much about policy, but much, much less about actual people.


Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.

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    • Friend of mine used to carry those in a snub years ago. I wonder if it would be worth trying with some of the newer powders for snub nosed revolvers or if there just wouldn’t be enough case space to bother with a 38

      • The case was designed for black powder and hard cast lead bullets, and has never been changed. Most modern smokeless powders take up considerably less space.

        • The mad scientist in me wants to see what is possible but with the way handgun permits work over here a 38 j frame is way down on the wait list so 3rd hand reloading info for now.

    • How about a 190 gr .41 mag LeveRevolution traveling at 1700fps? Or maybe a 546gr 12gage Brenneke slug at 1500fps and over 2500ftlbs ? Lots of choices available. Don’t arbitrarily restrict yourself to some mouse gun. 🙂

    • Thought the same thing myself. If you don’t have expansion. At least a clean hole at caliber. Of course, the FBI load is still good.

  1. Actually hollow points are often the cause of failure to feed in semi-auto handguns and some guns are notorious for the problem. Test fire before you load up with trendy ammo.

      • Yeah, modern JHP in a modern semi-auto is so temperamental(sarc).

        A better choice is to stay the hell out of the Leftist rat-hole they call New Jersey.

    • “Trendy” ammo? If you were talking about R.I.P. or ARX ammo I could see your point–but hollow point ammo has been around long enough that it’s no longer trendy, it’s de rigueur for self defense/home defense ammo. Put away your.30-06, take off your Elmer Fudd hat and plaid hunting coat and enter the 21st Century.

      • I recommend testing the ammo.
        One of my pistols dislikes feeding cone shaped hollow points (THX). Every other gun works. It is fine with round nosed hollow points (HSD).

        The pistol? H&K USP in 9mm. The same ammo works fine in a dozen other pistols I have from Sig, S&W, and Glock. I haven’t tried it in a similar era Beretta as I just do not own one.

        Most people reading this would not know. Test before carrying.

        • Never listen to anyone telling you to put away your .30-06, or plaid hunting coat for that matter.

  2. For us folks in CA, now’s a great time to stock up on defense ammo before Ammogeddon. Today, I’m buying more boxes of Hornady Critical Defense, Federal HST, and trying Sig Sauer V-crown on my S&W Shields.

    • Ditto. I prefer Gold Dots because they’re available as component bullets, so I can reload near-duplicates of expensive factory defense ammo. But I’ve been known to buy factory HST’s as well – depending on the caliber, as you say..

      • I find that in my 72 years I have not had occasion to shoot so many people that I needed to save money by reloading defensive ammo. Just sayin’. Figure I’d restrict my handloads to training/practice loads.

        • Well, you’re welcome to jump to such a conclusion, but I didn’t say that I shoot people with those handloads… I simply use them for training/practice as a more-realistic (albeit slightly more expensive) alternative to FMJ or plated lead bullets. The end result is still far less expensive than the Speer GDHP factory ammo, yet more than adequate for punching paper.

      • I too load/reload, but not for carry, just for training/practice…I usually load heavier for training/practice, and leave the PD ammunition to commercial sources…

  3. For active self-defense — after deterrence has failed — the more harm a fire arm does when applied, the more it serves its purpose. When being cagy didn’t help, the talking has failed, and running won’t work, you’re down to “stop them or die … or whatever.” More stopping, better.

    Making legal arms less lethal is making 500,000 to 2,500,000 citizens less safe every year (referring to the CDC’s wrongfindings on DGUs that finally leaked out.)

    Making lawful use of arms for self defence less harmful, is making what 500,000 to 2,500,000 citizens can do to save themselves less effective, every year.

    “Dangerous” has to do with how it’s used, not what it can do. Talkin about “safety”, “danger”, and “harm”; “power”, “damage”, and “destructive force” of citizens’ arms is misdirection. Powerful arms are only dangerous if you can’t be trusted to know when to use them, and not. Like shooting up schools, or Mosques. We can’t have anybody having effectie arms, because y’all might go spree-shooting up a school at any time. Or a Mosque. Every one of you.

    More precisely, not “you” but every single person they want to ban from having hollow points. They don’t trust your judgment. They don’t think you’re worth it. Posturing, creeping imposition and a little more side-revenue and pile-on charges are enough up-side for them to let you die when you wouldn’t have.

    Used right

    You can’t
    You aren’t worth it.

  4. Seriously, could NJ be any more unappealing?! Sure, California sucks, too, but at least there’s some nice scenery.

  5. If a prosecutor argues in court that hollow point ammo is designed for murder, the defense could claim that based on that logic the police must therefore be murders.

    • Yeah, put the bailiff on the stand and ask him what kind of ammo is in his handgun. Or ask the officer who is testifying against your client. (Maybe once upon a time when officers were still carrying revolvers, but I suspect that there are not too many DAs left who are stupid enough to argue against hollow point ammo.)

      • I believe they tried that with the George Zimmerman trial. And they also tried claiming that because he had a “round in the chamber”, he was “looking for blood.” If you want to hear some more incredibly stupid stuff from those prosecutors I’m sure you could find it. I was astounded with their stupidity.

  6. I am concerned about needles animal suffering caused by a hunter using FMJ due to fear of prosecution for possession of hollow points

    • In this State and probably others it is illegal to hunt with fmj’s ,,then again there’s that illegal thing. Laws only apply to the law abiding.

  7. Last I heard there’s only about 1300 carry permits in the entire state they’re doled out exclusively to the well connected. So it is in effect illegal to carry any kind of ammunition for self defense in NJ.

    Also, SJHPs and SWCHPs are the best way to go.

      • NJ is one of those states I hope to go to my grave without ever visiting.

        • If you ever do and make it past the tire fires and Trenton in general The Fudge Shoppe in Flemington is worth stopping at.

  8. Used to live in the country, misses or over penetration was not a concern. Now after moving to the city I’m even a little spooked about using hollow points. I certainly don’t like those revolvurs that fire .410 however I think that and #8 birdshot would be my safest way to kill somebody.

  9. From what I’ve read on the topic, based on ER studies it would seem that JHP ammo has another “benefit” depending on how you look at it.

    FMJ causes longer wound channels that actually make it more likely that someone bleeds to death after being shot because there is a longer wound channel and, because the FMJ doesn’t stop the person quickly, there tend to be more wound channels due to the fact that more rounds were needed to stop the person.

    JHP on the other hand is actually statistically less likely to be lethal because while it makes a bigger hole after it expands it also produces a shorter wound channel with less bleeding. It’s more likely to stop the person faster meaning less rounds are fired at/into them.

    So theoretically you could argue that JHP does a service for the shooter (stopping the threat faster), the BG (who gets shot less and has less chance of dying) and society at large due to a reduced chance of though-and-through wounds where the bullet hits someone else, plus reducing the number of shots fired and thereby reducing the risk of a miss hitting a bystander.

    So, turn that anti-gun arguement around on them: Carry JHP. For the children. If it saves the life of one bystander, it’s worth it. And, we have less chance of killing the BG who obviously is a product of a bad society and it’s not really his fault so we’re increasing his chances of survival so that he can learn the error of his ways and go on to be a useful citizen.

    Disparate Impact Theory: I carry JHP so I don’t have to shoot the BG so many times because no one deserves to die for a robbery that’s only meant to pay for school supplies. FMJ is therefore, racist and a symbol of privilege. Check your privilege, and your chamber, just use JHP. For the kids.

    Oh, and also the less rounds I fire in my DGU the smaller my carbon footprint. If everyone does their part we can significantly reduce the amount of global warming coming from DGUs! So, JHP for the children and the whales!

    • My father treated a guy who’d pissed off the CPD by running. When they finally caught up to him, they shot him 8 times (out of 12 shots fired) at point blank range, back in the day when cops carried .38s or .357s. He walked into the ER (handcuffed of course). Not one bullet did any serious damage.

    • What!? From from what you’ve read? Never watched the ER staff work on a GSW? The medical examiner conduct an autopsy? They are pistol cartridges. Hollowpoints are better, but no guarantee. Seen ’em dead right there with one small caliber FMJ. Live through multiple hollow point pistol wounds. Know you’re going to a gunfight? Take a rifle. .30 caliber softpoint (+/-) works best. Don’t remember a torso hit survivor from one of those. Strych9, if you’re going to reference what you read, put it in your footnotes. We’ll read it ourselves.

      • Sure, all you TL:DR folks are going to bother checking sources when 95% of you can’t be bothered to read the whole comment in the first place.

        Sorry, not my fault you think your anecdotal experience actually means something for the overall population or historical trends. There are some people out there who collect the data and analyse it, I’ll roll with them over the folks who say “This one time at the FOB…”.

        And yes, I’ve a GSW up close and I’ve seen how they’re worked on. The one my buddy took to the head at point blank right in front of me being that rather nasty, yet somehow kinda humorous, experience. The difference is that I don’t for one second base how I think GSWs in general work out, or how people act in such a situation, because of that anecdotal experience. I can say what happened in that instance but I wouldn’t for a moment try to suggest that it has any bearing on other people with similar wounds.

        • Actually, many of us, or at least I would be very interested in not only cross checking your data, but also your experience on the street. Never mind. Don’t you think people look back at your previous posts as we post. Opossom you vouching for Strych9’s credibility just destroyed it. I remember you. You believe in fish hooking turkey. You made me ill then and you still do. Strych9 is book talk. Nothing else. Both of you can go live in your own fantasies.

        • So I’m all book talk and can fuck off, BUT sources please so that you can read the fantasy book?

          Like how you don’t want to pick a fight BUT…

          Funny how you know all about me, even things I’ve never talked about. You must be like one of those psychologists on TV analyzing patients from afar with telepathy and shit. Pretty impressive really.

          Oh, wait. Nevermind. You’re just ticked off that I told you your views on knives are silly. You got called out when you didn’t expect it, made and appeal to authority and an appeal to ignorance and got shot down again. So now you’re really ticked that your bully/bullshit tactics don’t work on me.

          I get it. You need a juice box and a nap. You’ll feel better.

    • Here’s a story on hollow points, a little more speed and fmj’s( kinda). I was racoon hunting one night, the dog was an older Walker hound( don’t like Walkers) shot a raccoon out of the tree with a solid point .22LR, “Coon” hit the ground and the dog had trouble killing it. Switched to CCI Stingers and every coon after that hit the ground dead. Downside, bigger hole less fur value.

        • There a hot scent trail dog. There hard to break from running deer. It seems they have a harder time sorting out a tricky coons tricks, there in my experience are not the best kill dogs. And the $1500 Walker my uncle let me use wasn’t as good as my $30 blue tick redbone cross. I guess if you like them you like them, kinda like caliber wars.

  10. I think kindly of hard cast Keith semi-wadcutters with a gas check in either .357 or .44. There is some factory ammo available and if these don’t work, call in an air strike. -30-

    • Two words. Buffalo Bore. Of course, the whole hollow point, over penetration thing is sort moot.

  11. Strych9, I don’t mean to pick a fight, but just like last night with the knives, you sound long on theory and short of experience. You even say something about “what you read” and “theory.” Not one word about what you have done. You remind me of an administrative Lt. I had. Never a day on the road, but he could tell you how it should be done. He had read in a book. Of course he had the one unforgivable moral flaw as an L.E.O. He was a coward.

    • ,
      I don’t know about the other stuff, but Myself, I would not put strych9 and coward in the same sentence

      • Possom, didn’t say he was one. Said he sounded like one I know. He talks about ER studies he’s read. He uses words like “statically” and “theoretically.” Not words like, “I did,” or even “I saw.” Possom, no doubt about about you. That thing about coon hunting is spot on. Sold many a hide in the day to pay for a date. Otters were the big money though. Me and a buddy took a coon out of a trap this morning. He keeps them. Trying to keep the the quail and turkey nest raiders down this time of the year. Coons and possoms. Sorry.

        • Skunks too. Here’s one for you, I’ve seen a Jake clean out a hatch of baby quail, gobbled em up like bumble bees. I was thinking last night, my dogs used to catch turkeys, if they could do it them coyotes must play hell on them.,,,,,, strychs got some war stories of his own, he just don’t talk about them much

        • Try sub-sonic hollow points. First used sub-sonic match grade ammo to shoot squirrels on leave. Bought it from my first sergeant. Seven bricks. $5.00 a brick. What’s a PFC to do? If you take head shots standard velocity round nose lead really doesn’t matter. After a decade, or so I began to run low of that ammo. In the meantime I put away 10,000 rds of .22 lr. Then Remington introduced .22 LR HP standard velocity. Great round. Bought a 5000 rd case. Don’t shoot as much small game as I used to, but need buy another case. Try some possom. Kill like a Stinger. Not as much pelt damage. However, may I suggest a head shot? Every treed coon was looking down at me.

      • To be fair here possum, he didn’t say I was a coward. He merely suggested it rather strongly with a comparison.

        He also doesn’t wish to pick a fight, but…

    • The difference here Gasden is that this: Yeah, some of what I say I read in a book. It’s also backed up by fact. I don’t just assume everything that’s written is correct.
      You don’t like double edged knives. That’s fine. However that blade you’re shittalking quite literally took over the known world and held that territory for 600+ years. Then, later in history it was brought back by a guy who designed that knife based on, quite literally, a lifetime of experience with knife fighting on the streets and in the military. He was so good at it that his design for the blade and technique for it’s use was picked up by the British Paras and used as their standard knife from 1940 until the 1990’s when the British decided to standardize things to a survival style of knife. It was also used by the OSS and the CIA. Hell, the US Army even made films about how to use a knife based on his techniques. Taught the general technique up until the end of Korea. The knife and style are still used by the SAS as a primary knife in many cases where jungle survival isn’t a question. It was brought back into US use as a last ditch fighting blade in units in which blades like the SOCP dagger were authorized due to close contact with un-trustworthy “allied” folks like the ANA.

      But that’s all because… that knife “sucks”. Terrible fucking design, really.

      Oh, yeah it’s a knife fighting style I’ve trained in on and off for quite literally years. Because again, it sucks.

      But yeah, you saw some infantry grunts in Iraq and A-stan and, as we all know, they’re all masters of the knife. Every one a fucking ninja exquisitely trained and schooled in not just the use but also the history and design of blades in combat and a skilled blade maker to boot. You can’t get past E-3 without passing a test on that shit. What you observed with them totally negates 2300 years of history and over 5000 years of learned use of blades in combat. Those grunts are so smart that just by observing them you’ve figured out the fatal flaw in not just one of the 20th Century’s most prolific knife masters but also the entire Roman and British military.

      Or maybe, just fucking maybe, those people you saw are just rolling with a standard issue knife and minimal training.

      Why is that blade standard issue? Any idea? Who made those choices and based on what set of performance requirements? What did they prioritize and why? Did the USMC pick the Ka-Bar back in 1942 for specific set of reasons? What were those reasons? Did money have anything to do with it since, ya know, at the time we were training men to do bayonet work with BROOMS because we didn’t have enough rifles? Was it a big improvement over the MK1 Trench Knife or did it have something to do with the fact that those were expensive and time consuming to make and the Ka-Bar was not? Why didn’t the Corps stick with the Marine Raider Stiletto that was already authorized, admittedly a better weapon, and instead go with a knife designed to be carried by fur trappers? What’s the difference between the Raider Stiletto and the FS knife? Why did one survive decades where the other didn’t and why did one get picked to replace the MK1? Is there a single answer or is it more complicated? Wear to bears, jammed rifles and a letter to Union Cutlery fit into this? WTAF does Ka-Bar mean and where did that term come from?

      Can you answer any of these questions? Is it live or is it Memorex?

      I’m also not going to sit around and do all your homework for you when you act like a jackass. Ask me “Hey, where’d you hear that? Who’s the author, what’s they’re background?” or similar and I’ll happily answer you and then you can decide for yourself if you think what they’re saying is true or not. Tell me “It sucks because I say so and I saw this at…” and I’m going to assume you’re just being obtuse and argumentative for the point of being obtuse and argumentative.

      • Well you can certainly recite what you’ve read. Still waiting to hear where you put it to practical use. Oh! That’s right! You’ve had three chances, but never extrapolated. Even in my ignorance if I deployed my knife incorrectly, at least I deployed it. Good bye, to you sir. You begin to bore me.

        • You want a detailed story of the two knife fights I’ve personally survived?

          But I thought you could read my old comments. Can’t you go back and read my other posts? Didn’t you say you could?! Or does that only apply to possum?

  12. Does any law they pass in New Jersey show any thought or any professional study or input before its passed.

  13. If you manage to get a carry permit in NJ, use Xtreme Defender ammo. From what I’ve seen, it works as well as hollow points, and it’s actually more consistent.

  14. More JW Taylor please. He’s always the voice of reason based on experience; and, yes, I shoot the 30/06 also.

  15. They simply don’t penetrate well, and when they do, tend not to cause immediately debilitating wounds.

    Sounds like .380.

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