THERE IS A WIDER VARIETY OF DEFENSE AMMO THAN EVER BEFORE. FIND THE LOAD THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU
You can optimize the effectiveness of your carry gun if you match it with the best ammo. And there are more choices in more calibers than ever before. Some bullets are designed specifically for penetrating barriers, while others are designed to limit over-penetration. Some are meant to expand, others to fragment. There are reduced recoil loads and hot +P loads. And many companies are designing loads specifically for short-barreled carry guns.
Here are some of the best currently offered. Choose a load that fits your requirements and put a few rounds down range to test it for reliability and point of impact with your chosen weapons.
01. INCEPTOR PREFERRED DEFENSE
Quantum Ammunition, formerly Polycase, continues to offer its innovative Preferred Defense loads. These cartridges make use of the company’s ARX non-expanding bullets with twisted flutes that bring to mind a corkscrew or the tip of a Phillips-head screwdriver. The bullets consist of a polymer-metal mixture designed to penetrate intermediate barriers and have a devastating effect on soft tissue. The bullet’s shape creates controlled tumbling in the target and causes hydraulic displacement to produce a wound cavity that rivals hollowpoint performance. The cartridges use light-for-caliber bullets at high velocity to enhance the effectiveness. The .45 ACP load, for instance, uses a super-light 118-grain bullet at 1,307 feet per second.
The 65-grain 9mm load sizzles from the muzzle at 1,545 feet per second. At the same time, the design greatly reduces dangerous over-penetration that sometimes occurs with full-metal-jacket or hollowpoint bullets that fail to expand. An added benefit is that because the ARX bullets are not hollowpoints, there are no feeding problems in semi-autos. The ammo is available in .380 Auto, 9mm Luger, 9mm Luger +P, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.
MSRP: $22.99 (box of 20) Website: www.InceptorAmmo.com
02. FEDERAL PREMIUM PERSONALDEFENSE HST MICRO
Federal Premium has added a .38 Special +P load its lineup of Personal Defense Micro ammo for short-barreled guns that utilizes the company’s HST hollowpoint bullet. These loads are designed for consistent expansion and optimal penetration when fired from sub-compact guns by matching bullet weight and efficient propellants. The .38 Special +P load uses a 130-grain bullet that’s seated deeply in the shell case to eliminate excess air space for a more consistent powder burn, which means more consistent velocities. The loads are designed to expand, retain bullet weight and penetrate sufficiently, but not over-penetrate. The clean-burning loads make use of special propellants that greatly reduce muzzle flash. Federal also offers 99-grain .380 and 150-grain 9mm Luger loads in the Micro line.
MSRP: $30.95 (box of 20)
03. REMINGTON ULTIMATE DEFENSE
Remington Ultimate Defense ammo is specifically crafted to be efficient in handguns. It makes uses of the company’s proven Golden Saber jacketed hollowpoint bullet. Available loads in most defensive calibers are tailored for either full-size handguns or, as indicated on the box, compact handguns. The 9mm load features a 124-grain bullet that leaves the muzzle of a 2.7-inch barrel at 1,020 feet per second. The bullets are designed for consistent controlled expansion and desirable penetration. The cartridges are waterproof and make use of powders that provide reduced muzzle flash.
MSRP: $22.99 (box of 20) Website: www.Remington.com
04. G2 RESEARCH TELOS
Telos ammo from G2 Research is now available in .357 Magnum. Telos bullets are CNC machined from pure copper to form segmented hollowpoints. The bullet petals separate in a controlled reaction into six fragments that spread across 5 inches to cause increased bleeding and shock while preventing over-penetration. The bullets are light—105 grains for the .357—but do not need to be high velocity to be effective in this caliber. The .357 load is designed for perfect function at 1,300 feet per second. The reduced bullet weight and velocity result in less recoil and muzzle flash. Telos ammo is also available in .380 Auto, .38 Special +P, 9mm +P, .45 ACP and .45 Colt.
MSRP: $29.99 (box of 20) Website: www.G2RAmmo.com
05. SPEER GOLD DOT SHORT BARREL
Speer defensive ammo, specifically the ammo that makes use of the company’s Gold Dot hollowpoint, has been a steady performer for law enforcement and private citizens for many years. Because traditional loads didn’t always perform as well in small guns, Speer introduced its Gold Dot Short Barrel ammo, specifically for guns that are popular among those who carry concealed. This ammo is designed to achieve consistent expansion and penetration in barrels as short as 1.9 inches, while keeping recoil at a reasonable level. The .38 Special +P load, for instance, uses a 135-grain bullet at a muzzle velocity of 860 feet per second out of a 2-inch barrel. Short Barrel loads for semi-autos are also designed for the best feed reliability. Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel ammo is also available in .22 WMR, 9mm Luger, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, .45 ACP and .44 Magnum.
06. WINCHESTER “W” TRAIN & DEFEND
Winchester’s “W” Train & Defend ammo is reduced recoil ammo in full-metal-jacket “Train” configuration and jacketed hollowpoint “Defend” configuration, allowing you to train and carry ammo that performs similarly. The Train ammo comes in boxes of 50 and features lead-free primers and a reduced price. The Defend ammo duplicates the velocity, recoil and point of impact as the Train ammo. It comes in boxes of 20. It’s offered in .380 Auto, .38 Special, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. The 9mm load, for instance, features a heavy 147-grain bullet that leaves a 4-inch barrel at a mild 950 feet per second.
MSRP: $16.99 (Train box of 50), $21.99 (Defend box of 20) Website: www.Winchester.com
07. HORNADY CRITICAL DEFENSE
Hornady’s Critical Defense ammo is known for its FTX (Flex Tip) bullet, which features a polymer-filled hollowpoint that aids expansion while preventing clogging when passing through heavy clothing or other barriers. The ammo uses nickel-plated cases to combat corrosion. Low-flash powders are used to reduce muzzle flash, enabling you to preserve your night vision during low-light encounters. Typical of the Critical Defense ammo is the 9mm FTX 115-grain load with a muzzle velocity of 1,140 feet per second. The ammo is offered in a wide range of calibers, including some that are hard to find: 32 NAA, 32 H&R Magnum, 9x18 Makarov, .357 Sig as well as .380 Auto, .38 Special, .357 Magnum .40 S&W, .44 Special, .45 ACP and .45 Colt.
MSRP: $20.49 (box of 25) Website: www.Hornady.com
08. FEDERAL GUARD DOG
Federal Guard Dog ammo was designed for home protection use where over-penetration through interior walls might be a concern. The ammo makes use of bullets that look like full-metal-jacket rounds, but the enclosed tip actually covers an expanding polymer that fills the bullet nose. The design prevents the plugging common of typical hollowpoints, which can hinder expansion and cause over-penetration. Because it’s configured more like a FMJ round, feed reliability in semi-automatics is very good. Federal Guard
Dog ammo is offered in 9mm Luger (105-grain bullet at 1,230 fps); .40 S&W (135-grain bullet at 1,200 fps) and .45 ACP (165-grain bullet at 1,140 fps).
MSRP: $28.99 (box of 20)
09. BLACK HILLS HONEY BADGER
The Black Hills Honey Badger personal defense handgun ammo is another unconventional load in that it doesn’t use a hollowpoint, but rather a light-for-caliber solid copper bullet with large flutes and sharp edges to cut through barrier material without deforming or fragmenting. For example, the .45 ACP Honey Badger load features a very light 135-grain bullet with a fast muzzle velocity of 1,350 feet per second. The ammo is available in .32 H&R Magnum, .38 Special, 9mm Luger, .380 Auto, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and .44 Magnum.
MSRP: $29.50 (box of 20) Website: www.Black-Hills.com
10. DOUBLE TAP DT DEFENSE
Double Tap offers a wide range of handgun ammo. One nice thing about the company’s website is that the company lists the specific guns used for velocity tests and provides penetration results, too. As an example, the listing for the company’s standard velocity 110-grain .38 Special JHP load shows that the bullet achieved a muzzle velocity of 1,175 feet per second when fired from a Ruger GP-100 with a 4-inch barrel and 1,100 fps from a S&W snubbie with 1.875-inch barrel. It penetrated 14.75 inches of gelatin covered with four layers of denim and two layers of light cotton. The hollowpoint expanded to 0.53 inch.
MSRP: $22.50 (box of 20)
11. FEDERAL HYDRA-SHOK
Federal’s Hydra-Shok ammo has long been one of the most trusted lines of handgun defense ammo. It uses standard weight bullets at normal-for-caliber velocities. The 9mm Luger load, for instance, uses a 124-grain bullet at a muzzle velocity of 1,120. Hydra-Shok ammo is readily identifiable by the center post inside the hollowpoint and notched copper jacket that contribute to consistent penetration and reliable expansion. Hydra-Shok ammo is available in the following calibers: .32 Auto, 9mm Luger, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, 10mm, 44 Magnum, .45 GAP and .45 ACP.
MSRP: $27.99 (box of 200)
12. WINCHESTER SILVERTIP
Winchester Silvertip handgun defense ammo is another long-standing favorite. Identified by its silver-colored hollowpoints, the bullets lean toward the lighter end for conventional bullets to help ensure enough velocity for reliable expansion. As examples, the .38 Special load uses a 110-grain bullet and the .45 ACP features a 185-grain bullet. Silvertips are offered in .32 Auto, .380 Auto, .38 Special, .38 Super, 9mm Luger, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, 10mm, 41 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, .45 GAP, .45 Colt and 9x23 Winchester.
MSRP: $22.50 (box of 20) Website: www.Winchester.com
13. HORNADY AMERICAN GUNNER
Hornady American Gunner ammo makes use of the company’s excellent XTP hollowpoint bullet, which stands for eXtreme Terminal Performance. The American Gunner line makes use of quality components while maintaining the availability of defensive ammo an affordable price. American Gunner ammo uses conventional hollowpoints at normal velocities.
The 9mm 115-grain load is rated at a muzzle velocity of 1,155 feet per second, while the 9mm 124-grain +P load leaves the muzzle at 1,175 feet per second out of a typical 4-inch barrel. The ammo is also available in .380 Auto, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.
MSRP: $16.49 (box of 25) Website: www.Hornady.com
14. BUFFALO BORE STANDARD .380 JHP
Buffalo Bore is especially known for its heavily loaded handgun ammo for outdoor uses. But the company makes defensive ammo as well. The company is honest about the limitations of some cartridges, like the .380 Auto for example, which has been known for poor penetration. The company’s 27G standard pressure load for the .380 uses a 90-grain JHP bullet that clocked at 1,050 fps in a Browning BDA with 3.75-inch barrel and 949 fps from a Keltec. The company recommends also putting some non-expanding bullets in the magazine of your .380, which might penetrate to the vitals more reliably.
MSRP: $26.05 (box of 20) Website: www.BuffaloBore.com