HOW TO CHOOSE A DEFENSIVE LOAD
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.
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.
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.
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.