HOW TO CHOOSE A DE­FEN­SIVE LOAD

Home Defender - - Contents - STORY AND PHOTOS BY BOB CAMP­BELL

We set aside the hype and show you some of the best home de­fense rounds that you need now.

Key Fac­tors the Pros Use in Se­lect­ing

Tac­ti­cal Hand­gun Am­mu­ni­tion

When choos­ing am­mu­ni­tion for your de­fen­sive hand­gun, do not let hype and false claims sway your de­ci­sion. In­stead, choose ser­vice-grade loads that will feed, cham­ber, fire and eject with­out fail as well as of­fer good ac­cu­racy and wound bal­lis­tics.

The fol­low­ing steps are what the pros take in choos­ing the best pos­si­ble loads for their per­sonal handguns so use it as a ref­er­ence to help you make the best de­ci­sion.

MIS­SION FIRST

First, de­fine the mis­sion. If the mis­sion is home de­fense or ser­vice use, there are dif­fer­ent pa­ram­e­ters. Ad­e­quate pen­e­tra­tion is needed for home de­fense, and ser­vice-grade loads may have to pen­e­trate ve­hi­cle doors or light cover if felons are be­hind cover.

On the other hand, the load should not be so spe­cial­ized that it proves worth­less in other sce­nar­ios. The loads cov­ered in this re­port are use­ful in prac­ti­cally ev­ery de­fen­sive sit­u­a­tion, so read up.

ROLE OF RE­LI­A­BIL­ITY

The pri­mary goal isn’t wound bal­lis­tics – it’s re­li­a­bil­ity. The car­tridge must feed, cham­ber, fire and eject with­out fail, so make sure the man­u­fac­turer has a good rep­u­ta­tion, and make sure that the load it­self has been proven in the make and model of hand­gun you use.

The Na­tional In­sti­tute of Jus­tice de­fines ser­vice-grade re­li­a­bil­ity as 300 car­tridges be­tween clean­ing. I re­gard this as a min­i­mal standard; how­ever, this is a standard and one that must be re­spected. A load that of­fers ex­cel­lent wound po­ten­tial but doesn’t func­tion isn’t vi­able.

The am­mu­ni­tion must also have a good case mouth and primer seal.

How is this tested? By im­mers­ing it in wa­ter, oil and sol­vent re­spec­tively in in­di­vid­ual test­ing. If the load doesn’t fire after this test­ing, it isn’t ser­vice grade. Re­mem­ber… qual­ity am­mu­ni­tion isn’t in­ex­pen­sive, but this sim­ply must be done. If you do not proof the load your­self, then it is wise to choose a load and man­u­fac­turer that has met the rig­or­ous standard of FBI test­ing pro­to­col. The fed­eral agency puts a pre­mium on ac­cu­racy, re­li­a­bil­ity and a full pow­der burn.

Proof­ing the hand­gun and the load are sep­a­rate steps. The hand­gun should be proofed with qual­ity ball am­mu­ni­tion and then the ser­vice load tested in a

quan­tity of at least 100 car­tridges.

After re­li­a­bil­ity, the full­ness of the pow­der burn is tested. In a hand­gun bar­rel, the pow­der doesn’t al­ways burn com­pletely. Yet some loads, such as the Hor­nady XTP, of­ten show a com­plete pow­der burn, and this is proof in the pud­ding and shows qual­i­ties of good engi­neer­ing and de­sign. A full pow­der burn re­sults in lim­ited muz­zle blast. (Muz­zle flash is pow­der burn­ing out­side the bar­rel.)

THE AC­CU­RACY IS­SUE

Ac­cu­racy is im­por­tant. Qual­ity handguns of­ten pre­fer one load over the other, but do not let ac­cu­racy be the only cri­te­ria by which you judge. As long as you are able to hit a man-sized tar­get in the chest at 25 yards, the load is ac­cu­rate enough for de­fense use.

Some handguns and load com­bi­na­tions are more ac­cu­rate than oth­ers. For ex­am­ple, I have fired a 4-inch group at 50 yards from a solid sit­ting po­si­tion. The hand­gun was rest­ing on my knees, and I used the CZ 75 9mm with Black Hills Am­mu­ni­tion 124 grain +P loads. But this is ex­cep­tional. A 4-inch group from a solid bench rest fir­ing po­si­tion is an ac­cept­able standard for ser­vice use and to be hon­est, this is all most guns and shoot­ers are ca­pa­ble of demon­strat­ing.

WOUND PO­TEN­TIAL

The body is a closed sys­tem. Only by cre­at­ing blood loss will the ad­ver­sary be stopped. What does this mean? This means ac­cu­rate fire to the re­gion that will do the most dam­age, typ­i­cally the ar­te­rial re­gion, will be your best bet.

The prob­lem is I’ve never heard of an ac­com­mo­dat­ing bur­glar that stands square and waits for you like a tar­get at the range. He may be an­gled, bladed to­wards you or maybe his arms are out­stretched as he fires. You also have to fac­tor in cloth­ing, dis­tance and other pa­ram­e­ters, so al­ways re­mem­ber that ad­e­quate pen­e­tra­tion is al­ways de­manded.

I have stud­ied wound bal­lis­tics for

“The pri­mary goal isn’t wound

bal­lis­tics. It is re­li­a­bil­ity. The car­tridge must feed, cham­ber,

fire and eject with­out fail.”

many years. When a small-bore car­tridge per­forms be­yond ex­pec­ta­tion, it is be­cause of ad­e­quate pen­e­tra­tion. When a big bore fails, it is be­cause of poor pen­e­tra­tion. The de­fen­sive load should al­ways be a hol­low point, ei­ther a jack­eted bul­let with a lead core or the all cop­per hol­low point. When the bul­let ex­pands, it cre­ates a wound of larger di­am­e­ter. Be­cause of this, a hol­low point in­creases dam­age while re­duc­ing pen­e­tra­tion. Over-pen­e­tra­tion can lead to un­in­ten­tion­ally hit­ting an ob­ject (or per­son) be­yond your in­tended tar­get, so a hol­low point bul­let, be­cause it is less likely to over pen­e­trate, should al­ways be cho­sen as a de­fen­sive load.

A min­i­mum of 12 inches of pen­e­tra­tion is de­sir­able, with many pro­fes­sion­als de­mand­ing 18 inches in their per­sonal choice. I tend to err on the side of pen­e­tra­tion. I do not carry the hand­gun for the av­er­age day; in­stead, I carry to sur­vive the worst-case sce­nario. That said, good pen­e­tra­tion means sur­vival.

SCIENCE FAC­TOR

Re­ly­ing upon se­cret sources that are un­ver­i­fi­able and test­ing that is un­re­peat­able isn’t wise. These re­ports have a va­lid­ity of zero. Even if the stud­ies were ac­tu­ally con­ducted, which is doubt­ful, their va­lid­ity in pro­ce­dure is ques­tion­able at best. Only re­peat­able test­ing us­ing best prac­tice stan­dards and proven method­olo­gies will truly stand up to the test of science. This, my friends, is the only way en­sure you have as many cards stacked in your fa­vor, should you ever have to pro­tect you and yours.

So choose how the pros choose. HD

“Ad­e­quate pen­e­tra­tion is al­ways de­manded.”

Low muz­zle sig­na­ture and com­plete re­li­a­bil­ity are de­mands of a ser­vice-grade load.

The Black Hills Am­mu­ni­tion TAC +P of­fers ex­cel­lent per­for­mance.

The ex­pan­sive prop­er­ties of a hol­low point cre­ate a larger wound cav­ity, ideal for neu­tral­iz­ing a threat in a de­fen­sive sit­u­a­tion. RIGHT) Hor­nady Crit­i­cal De­fense loads have proven re­li­able in ex­pan­sion in many test pro­grams.

Talk about stop­ping power! This Go­rilla Am­mu­ni­tion 230 grain .45 ACP de­fense load has MAS­SIVE ex­pan­sion when fired into a wa­ter jug.

A be­fore and after im­age of the bul­let after ex­pan­sion.

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