A Guide to Ammo Shopping for Your Pistol

Pistol Ammo Buying Guide
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A Guide to Ammo Shopping for Your Pistol

Buying the right ammo for your firearm will ensure you get the most from your pistol purchase - Pistols are flexible firearms, and there’s a lot of variety in their ammunition depending on what you want to do with the gun or be prepared for.

Doing a bit of research before making a selection will help make sure you get the right ammunition to fit your needs and budget.

Here's a look at everything you need to know when ammo shopping for your pistol.

Key Takeaways

  • Buying ammunition can be confusing
  • There are different calibers, round types, and grains to consider
  • Buying online makes the entire process easier

A Look at Pistol Calibers

The caliber of a firearm is determined by the diameter of its barrel. The larger the bore of the gun, the heavier and broader its ammunition. Keep in mind that the naming conventions for the various calibers can be confusing because some use imperial units and others use the metric system.

If you buy a gun in the United States, the most popular caliber is 9mm. However, the ammo could have names like 9mm Luger, 9mm NATO, 9x19mm, or 9mm Parabellum, to name a few, printed on it and adding to your confusion.

All this ammo is pretty much the same, and any pistol that accepts 9mm cartridges can use them.

Don’t take that for granted for every 9mm name you see, though, because other types, like 9mm Marakov and 9mm IMI, are different and can’t be fired from a standard 9mm.

Other calibers are common, too. For example, you could have a .45 ACP, .45 Colt, .45 Gap, .38 Special, 40 SW, or 22LR.

When ammo shopping, be sure you know the exact caliber and types of ammo recommended for the product before making a purchase. The ammo you select will also have a grain number associated with it. For example, 9mm cartridges will say 115 grain or 124 grain.

Grain is the projectile's weight, which influences its energy, terminal ballistics, and muzzle velocities. The difference in weight is minuscule, as one ounce equals 437.5 grains. However, it changes how the ammo fires, so it's worth keeping in mind.

Round Types

There are a few round types you'll want to learn about before deciding on ammo, too. With a pistol, there are two main ammo types: full metal jacket and hollow point.

Full metal jacket, also known as ball ammo, has a soft core encased in a rugged metal shell. These rounds are generally inexpensive, making them great for target practice.

Hollow-point projectiles are more expensive and expand on impact, resulting in more significant damage to the target.

This feature makes them better for personal and home defense because they create more extensive wounds on the attacker, but they are more expensive, so you probably don’t want to use them for too much target practice.

Magnum, +P, and +P+ Ammo

You've probably heard of magnum ammo before, but what does it mean

Magnum is a longer projectile than a traditional .38 Special cartridge that makes it possible to add additional powder to it.

The result is a bullet that travels faster and packs more punch. Same goes for +P and +P+ ammo, which generate higher pressure and travel faster because there's more powder in each bullet.

It's worth noting that +P ammo has the exact dimensions as 9mm ammo, so it will generally fit in those guns.

You'll want to read the gun's manual before you buy and use this higher-powered ammo, though, because using it with a firearm that's too light to handle the pressure could damage the weapon or lead to injury.

Understanding The Ammo's Purpose

Now that you know the difference between the names and numbers you'll find when searching for ammo, it's time to narrow down your selection. 

The best way to figure out what to buy is to think of the pistol’s purpose. 

For the most part, any full metal jacket ammo is the cheapest way to shoot. These bullets are inexpensive compared to hollow-point, making them the way to go when hitting targets or practicing at the range.

Full metal jacket ammo also does an excellent job penetrating glass and other barriers. This can be good or bad when keeping your home safe: On the one hand, it is easier to shoot through walls or windows if you know there’s a target there.

On the other hand, they can overpenetrate if you hit walls or windows by accident, causing additional damage and possibly endangering other people in the house or nearby.  

Hollow-point rounds, on the other hand, expand when they hit the target, doing more damage.

Many homeowners prefer this additional power in home defense situations both for the extra stopping power and because they are less likely to overpenetrate and go through walls or cause additional damage.

Each round type performs differently in the air, too. Hollow-point rounds have different weights, drag coefficients, and mass distribution than full metal jacket rounds.

So, even though full metal jacket is a cheaper choice for target practice, you'll want to get used to each type before using them for defense.

Target and Defensive Ammunition

You should practice with the same type of ammo you'll be using in a real-life situation.

The reason is that different ammunition performs differently, and you could find that it influences your accuracy.

You don't want to miss when you're in a high-pressure home invasion situation. Another tip is to use the same brand of ammo for both target practice and home defense.

Doing so could save you money because you can buy some cheap ammo for the range before switching to a premium option for live rounds. Even if you use cheaper rounds for training, the various brands offer similar experiences, regardless of caliber, round type, and grain.

The reason is that they're made using the same materials and machines, so it's more likely they'll behave similarly in the air.

Buying Ammo Online

There's a lot you'll need to learn about firearms before becoming an expert, and it all starts by figuring out the type of gun you want to purchase and picking up some ammunition for it.

Fortunately, you can shop online for your ammo, allowing you to take your time and ensure you get it right. 

Ammunition Depot is an online retailer that sells a wide variety of rounds for your firearm.

We aim to make the ammo-buying process as painless as possible and hope to save you money along the way.

Visit our Online Ammunition eCommerce store today for all your handgun, rifle, and shotgun ammo shopping needs.