How to Choose the Right Self-Defense Ammunition

ammunition for the self defense firearm
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How to Choose the Right Self-Defense Ammunition

Of all the things that go into a home defense plan, selecting the right ammunition is usually pretty low on the list.

That's not to suggest it's unimportant — far from it actually.

The reality is that with so much else to contemplate when developing a home defense plan, ammo often falls by the wayside.

That is until you shop for some. The moment you start looking for ammo, you'll realize there's a lot to consider when it comes to self-defense ammunition.

Caliber aside, there are a lot of brands and designs to ponder, and each claims to be the ultimate self-defense round.

Obviously the ultimate self-defense round is subjective, but that doesn't mean there isn't a perfect round for your situation.

Choosing the Right Ammo

If you're at the stage of deciding on ammunition, you've already chosen the gun. Since that's the case, the caliber isn't a consideration.

Instead, what you should consider are a few items to ensure that when you do choose your ammo, you make the best, most informed decision you can.

Consider the Ammo Rating

One thing you want to ensure is that you're getting the proper ammunition for your gun and your magazines.

If your gun is a 9mm for example, you'll want to ensure that it's able to shoot 9mm +P (which is ammo loaded to higher pressure and higher velocity) prior to purchasing anything labeled that way.

If not, find 9mm that's not labeled +P.

The thing to be aware of is that even if it's the same caliber, it might still be a wrong choice for your gun because individual manufacturers rate their guns for specific loads.

he wrong load can have issues, such as over pressurization, and cause damage to your gun.

Make Sure the Ammo Is Legal

Ensure the type of ammo you're considering is legal in your area. While it's not likely that you will encounter illegal ammo at your local gun store, stranger things have happened.

Plus, you don't want to get your heart set on something you can't even have.

Select a Defensive Ammo

The next step is distinguishing between defensive ammo and target ammo. Each has its place, and there are varying degrees of lethality between the two.

While a bullet is a bullet — and getting shot with any round can kill you — you really don't want to try and defend yourself with target ammo.

Just make sure that when shopping for defensive ammo, you're getting something labeled as such.

Test Ammo Out Before Making a Decision

When buying ammo, don't be afraid to try out various types and styles.

You can get small boxes to take to a range to see how well you like the rounds, how well your gun likes the rounds, and whether or not this brand and design fits your needs.

Try out as many options as you can. The range is where you want to find out the ammo you got isn't what you thought it was — or worse, doesn't work properly in your gun.

You don't want to find this out in the middle of a defense situation.

Specific Brands and Types to Consider

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of styles and manufacturers to choose from — and more are added daily.

It can seem overwhelming to know where to start, but the good news is that some brands and types have proven themselves over time and can be a good starting point.

  • Remington Golden Saber: A classic choice with a proven history for both law enforcement and civilian self-defense.

    The Remington Golden Saber is a brass jacketed hollow point, meaning the round has a hollow open center with a brass exterior.

  • Speer Gold Dot: Another favorite of law enforcement, the Speer Gold Dot goes through a unique bonding process during manufacturing that ensures the inner core of the round stays with the exterior jacket after firing.

    This offers great expansion of the round upon contact, making it highly effective for defense.

  • Hornady Critical Defense: This round is precision-engineered for a smooth exit from the barrel while keeping minimal muzzle flash to protect night vision.

    The round contains a polymer tip to protect the hollow point from clogging after firing, ensuring maximum effectiveness and smooth feeding in your firearm.

    Critical Defense is also optimized for short-barreled firearms like handguns, making it a good choice for everyday carry.

  • Sig Sauer Elite Performance: The design of these rounds offers a dual cavity for maximum expansion upon impact.

    This design allows for a more controlled expansion at a variety of distances, making it a versatile option for self-defense.

  • Federal Hydra-Shok: First introduced in 1988, this round has proven itself time and again. It even became a favorite of the U.S. Navy's elite SEAL Team Six upon its initial introduction due to its penetration and unique expansion pattern.

    The Hydra-Shok round is a performance powerhouse that's offered in everything from handgun calibers to shotgun slugs.

  • Federal HST: The HST is the modern descendant of the Hydra-Shok. Taking lessons learned from that round, Federal developed this bullet with a bonded core.

    This means that the inner core of the bullet is attached to the outer jacket on a molecular level. It maintains weight retention after striking an obstacle or target. That weight retention delivers more force into the intended target, ensuring stopping power.

  • Hornady Critical Duty: Specifically designed to meet the needs of those who need better barrier penetration and carry a full-size handgun.

    These are a unique set of circumstances, such as the type faced by the FBI, and the ammo is intended for the obstacles that might be encountered in urban environments while still maintaining stopping power.

  • Non-Lead Frangible: Frangibles are a lightweight ammunition, allowing for faster velocities after firing. This velocity combined with the light weight and lack of lead allow the round to fragment.

    In defensive settings, this causes multiple, smaller wounds and achieves a more complete energy transfer into the target. What this translates to is more damage to an attacker with fewer shots.

Other Points to Consider

Another thing to keep in mind when shopping for defensive ammunition is whether or not you'll be shooting it suppressed.

Suppression changes many characteristics of how the ammo will feed and cycle, so it's important to have a good understanding of how this applies to your gun.

While certain calibers might be better suited for suppression than others, you'd be hard pressed to find a gun that's unable to operate that way, so yours is likely going to be fine in that regard.

Just be aware that some ammo is better suited for suppression than others.

Also, when dealing with suppression, you'll need to make the decision of whether or not to shoot subsonic ammunition.

Subsonic ammunition is available for both handguns and rifles, so regardless of which you choose as your primary defense weapon, the choice is there. Subsonic, as the name implies, travels at speeds slightly below the sound barrier.

This eliminates the sonic boom of breaking that wall, ensuring a quieter round. When coupled with suppression, it drastically changes the sound profile of your firearm.

This combination of subsonic and suppression can impact how your gun operates — from recoil to cycling rounds — so be sure to try some out to get a feel for how it works in your gun should you go that route.

After Your Purchase

Once you've tried out various brands and styles, it's important to continue practicing with them.

Self-defense rounds may fire and feed differently than target ammunition, so it's something you should be aware of.

You need to be intimately familiar with how your gun feeds and cycles the rounds you're carrying, because every type can have a completely different feel.

This can change recoil, have a gassier type of explosion, and even be louder, causing you to react differently. Any variance from how you're used to shooting your gun can potentially cause a problem.

You don't want the first time you fire a defensive round to be in self-defense — you need to know what to expect from your gun.

Also, keep in mind that no matter what type of ammunition you choose, you need to make sure you're storing it properly.

Unless you bought target ammo and subsequently shot it all, proper storage is of primary concern to ensure your ammo works when you need it.

If done right, your ammo can potentially last for years, so make sure you take the necessary precautions. You don't want to buy ammo only to lose it due to poor storage.

Choosing the right self-defense round is really dependent upon your own needs, and only you can know what that is.

That doesn't mean you can't have some fun trying out different types of ammo while making that decision. As with all things defense related, putting in the upfront effort for research pays dividends in the long run.

Use this guide to get the ball rolling and enjoy doing your research to find what works best for you.

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