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Why Hollow Points Are the Best Choice for Self-Defense

Why Hollow Points Are the Best Choice for Self-Defense
By Jay Chambers
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Why Hollow Points Are the Best Choice for Self-Defense

Using hollow point rounds in your home defense or concealed carry gun is a wise choice, both tactically and legally. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of Hollow points and discuss some of the alternatives you could consider.

Why Should You Use Hollow Points for Self-Defense?

If you’re using your gun for self-defense, you’re attempting to achieve what’s known as a “physiological stop.” In the simplest terms, this means incapacitating the attacker to the point that they no longer present a lethal threat. Hollow points have a better wounding capacity, making them far more effective at achieving a physiological stop.

Wounding Capacity

two pistols surrounded by hollow point ammo

Hollow points are likely to cause more damage to flesh than full metal jacket rounds.

Full metal jacket rounds cause almost no permanent wound cavity and leave a hole that’s nearly exactly the size of the bullet caliber.

Hollow point rounds create a permanent wound cavity. As they expand, they create a much larger wound which causes more bleeding than full metal jacket rounds.

More bleeding means you can achieve the desired drop in blood pressure with fewer shots, which will stop the threat more efficiently. With these advantages, you might consider a gun that shoots a smaller bullet and holds more rounds in the magazine. 

Less Over-Penetration

One issue with full metal jacket rounds is that they tend to pass through targets pretty easily, continuing on with significant velocity. It’s enough to wound someone beyond your target.

If you’ve taken a concealed carry class, you may be familiar with the term “transferred intent. This means that you may be treated as if you intended to shoot anything your bullets hit. Transferred intent implies that if your bullets go through the threat and kill an innocent bystander, you will be tried in court as if you meant to shoot both people.

Of course, the judge and the district attorney may not toss you in the clink without first asking questions based on transferred intent. But, do you really want to risk putting yourself or others at risk, especially considering that a simple change in equipment could prevent it?

So, it should be clear why using bullets with a high probability of going through your target and into an unintended target is bad news. Enter hollow point rounds. Since hollow points expand, they expend most—if not all—of their energy into the first soft tissue they hit. Many hollow points don’t exit the first soft target at all which decreases the risk of hitting unintended targets.

That makes hollow points a safer choice for you and bystanders.

Alternative to Hollow Points

full metal jacket ammo

The main alternative to hollow point rounds are full metal jacket bullets. While there are other bullet designs available, many are new and untested in actual tactical engagements. The only area of self-defense where full metal jacket rounds outperform hollow point rounds is in barrier penetration.

Barrier Penetration

Full metal jacket rounds have a construction that makes them good at going through stuff. However, quality hollow point rounds should also perform well after penetrating common barriers. That’s why most law enforcement and military groups have found hollow points to be uncontested in close quarter combat (CQB) and other tactical contexts.

Most hollow point rounds perform just fine after penetrating glass. It’s also likely your follow-up shots won’t be going through glass since it will be shattered when the first round penetrates.

What about other barriers? If you can’t see through it, you shouldn’t shoot through it. In the civilian sector, there’s a huge legal issue with shooting anything you can’t see.

As civilians, legal considerations are important. Anybody who says, “they’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six” has probably never been in prison. Smart people prefer not to be judged or carried.

We must choose equipment and tactics that make our claim to self-defense as clear as possible. Full metal jacket rounds do not meet these criteria because their abilities do not lend themselves to good civilian defensive tactics, and FMJ cartridges are not intended to be used as defensive ammunition.


There was a time when hollow point rounds presented a reliability concern for many handguns. This issue has been largely resolved.

Most modern handguns function just as well with hollow points as they do with full metal jacket rounds. Some manufacturers have even built 1911s that run hollow points perfectly; a firearm that has historically been one of the most hollow point allergic guns around.

And the Winner is...

All things considered, there’s really no contest between hollow point rounds and anything else for self-defense. The downsides of using full metal jacket rounds are just too numerous with few upsides.

Ultimately, it’s your gun; feed it what you want. But it’s clear that while full metal jacket rounds are ideal for training and plinking, it may be wise to have hollow points in your gun when it comes time to defend yourself or others.

Written by: Jay Chambers
2 months ago