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This article is the result of many years of shooting, testing and hands-on experience with the various ammunitions being shown. I have not been paid by any particular company nor have I received any ammunition free. My results may not reflect actual results from others, though my results are based on data collected and real-life tests accomplished.
As with most firearm related articles I expect this will drive some interesting comments, I would ask that before making spurious claims you read what I have written and differentiate between anecdotal or circumstantial and documented demonstrative or forensic based evidence.
There is a vast difference between saying, “My uncle who is a cop says it is best” and saying, “After putting down a 300lb hog with this round…” understanding that for many people in this field, especially those who have worked as gun store owners or instructors, the sheer volume of Internet-based and non-internet based “facts” is sometimes overwhelming. There are also many myths that have become “fact” through repetition, like the myth that .45 ACP will kill you even if it hits an extremity.
I know for a fact it is no better or worse than 9×19 and in fact, I have evidence of someone who was shot point blank in the chest with 230grn hardball from .45acp and DIDNT EVEN PASS OUT. So when I give you my choices, they are based on evidence, reliability, and function.
I will be giving you my choices with attached bits of evidence for each of the following calibers, 22lr, .380 ACP, 9×18, 9×19 (Luger), .40SW, .45acp. These recommendations are specifically for use in HANDGUNS, not rifles and I will not address the use of rifles or even which handguns I prefer in this article.
Additionally, I suggest that if you wish to use any of the mentioned manufactured ammunition that you, in fact, buy a MINIMUM of 250 rounds of that ammunition and run every single round through your chosen handgun, if it doesn’t work it will fail once during that 250 rounds. One failure is MORE than you can have, in 250 rounds. Understand, MY TESTS were with a MINIMUM of 500 rounds PER manufacture, CALIBER AND HANDGUN. I will not argue reasons for not including other calibers, I honestly do not care if you think yours is better.
22lr is a diminutive round, it is also the single most popular round in existence across the planet Earth today. From the United States through Mexico, Brasil, Great Britain, Australia, Philippines, Russia, Germany, South Africa, India and beyond it is used by people for hunting and defense though defense is rarely talked about in many countries it is used!
Over the years I have found that none of the hollow point or special hunting rounds outside of CCI stingers actually work the way they are supposed to from a handgun. Instead, when dispatching 300+ pound feral hogs, the following ammunition has worked every single time. Aguila Super Extra (blue and red box) 40 grain, CCI stinger 36 grain, Eley match 40-grain function each and every time and work.
.380 ACP is also known as 9×17 in Europe has been used by law enforcement in Europe and is used for smaller handguns in the United States, this is why with .380 acp I can only recommend Speer Gold Dot 95grn OR Federal Premium ball (solid point) ammunition. I also suggest learning where the heart and lungs are and becoming exceedingly good at aiming for those areas. (this applies to using the .22lr as well)
9×18 makarov is an eastern European round for law enforcement and military. It has seen wide use in the United States among some circles as the handguns that use this round are relatively easy to find and the ammunition is easier and less expensive to find than .380acp.
I love my smaller firearms that use this round and really have enjoyed the round itself. Sadly, there is no reliable true self-defense ammunition available, and Buffalo Bore is TOO HOT for the older eastern bloc handguns to safely use it! This is why I suggest using Sellier and Bellot 95 grn jhp or whichever ball ammo your firearm prefers that is reliable, again, aim is everything!
9×19 Luger – based on testing, personal use and test results the following are the best 9mm ammo for self-defense and what I recommend – Speer Gold Dot 115 or 124 grain (not +p and NOT the new G2), Remington 124 grain JHP, Federal HST 124 grain.
I cannot recommend Hornady Critical defense anymore, over the past 5 years I have shot through almost 3,000 rounds of Hornady Critical defense using multiple case lot IDs and several calibers and have had several failures to fire (squibs) with this ammunition. While the bullet itself functions amazingly well, the loading from Hornady is dismally bad and I would NOT recommend them.
.40SW – Speer Gold Dot, Winchester PDX (same as the black talon) are the two rounds I suggest using based on ability. I would also suggest using 165 grain or higher, (180 shoots best for me personally)
.45acp, honestly I do not like this round. It has been surpassed due to better bullets and powders by the 9×19 and or .40SW for use in defensive firearms, this being said, there are still a couple rounds that work better than others for myself and others. Speer Gold Dot 230 grn and the Federal JHP bonded 230 grn rounds function extremely well.
There are my reviewed, listed and used self-defense ammunition except for the smallest rounds I NEVER recommend military ball ammunition for defensive use.
Defensive Ammo Choice: Critical Defense or HST? | Active Self Protection Extra
- Handgun Self-Defense Ammunition Ballistics Test
- Brass Fetcher Ballistic Testing
- Ammunition and Firearm Testing – Pressure / Velocity (SAAMI) / Accuracy / Dispersion
- YouTube – Shooting The Bull
Free the mind and the body will follow…