Ammo! what type of ammo do you carry and why is there a huge debate?

I should have said for handguns on that. I do not even think I have any .223 ammo. It is all .556 and most of that is green tip Federal.

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There is a huge debate because there is no correct answer.

The bad guy on the receiving end is not going to like it, whatever choice you make. 2" more or less in ballistic gel are not going to change it. As long as the ammo cycles reliably and can expand, you are good to carry it.

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Some of my choices are based on actually picking it, but most are based on availability and cost. All combinations have been range tested to confirm no jambs and my ability to manage recoil.

9mm, 3” barrel:

  • Sig Sauer V-Crown, 124 grain
  • Hornady Critical Defense, 115 grain
  • Since it is designed for short barrels, I intend to evaluate Sig Sauer 365 ammo when my supply of V-Crown and Critical Defense start to dwindle down

9mm, 4” barrel:

  • Barnes TAC-XPD+P, 115 grain (Tried this in 3” barrel once, too much recoil for me)
  • Hornady Critical Duty, 135 grain

40S&W 4” barrel:

Remington Golden Sabre, honestly can’t remember if 165 or 180 grain, but pretty sure 165 grain

10mm, 5” barrel:

  • Federal Punch, 200 grain
  • Plan to evaluate one or two of the Underwood offerings in the future just to one-up @45IPAC :rofl:

This might help you make your choice.


Might. Might not. “It depends”

2" penetration might make the difference between reaching that vital structure that incapacitates, or not reaching it.

So, like, if I was looking at ammo options, and one penetrates 10" and another 12" (in calibrated ballistics gel), I’m probably taking the 10", regardless of the expansions.



For me, proper function in the gun is absolute. If 12" makes FBI happy in heavy clothing, then 12" is my entry criteria for evaluation. Then consistent behavior on target; then bullet expansion and retention; then additional penetration. Finally price and availability.

But really, everything beyond “boom operates bullet and gun” lies in the realm of personal preference and access.

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I agree with most of your post here, but uncharacteristically would deviate on your last sentence. I think there are some objective measures that are a higher order and supersede personal preference, even within “boom operates bullet and gun”. For example, I would say carrying a Ruger LCR .38spl loaded with CCI Snake Shot is an objectively poor decision even if it goes boom and operates the gun perfectly every time. I would say the same for a shotgun loaded with walmart special low ‘brass’ #8 birdshot.

I think we know enough about the wounding/incapacitation mechanisms to determine some certain limitations/outer-bounds with regards to penetration. On the opposite spectrum, I feel comfortable opining that using a Brenneke black magic magnum 1 3/8oz 12 gauge slug for home defense in a 400 sq ft interior apartment is also an objectively poor decision.

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Oh, I agree that there are objective measures of ammunition utility for defensive (or any other particular) use. I just meant to say that I would not be the person to declare — for anyone or everyone — where the minimum or ideal point along a performance criterion should or must lie. From objectively crappy to way overkill is a personal decision space.

I was curious whether the statement that you would choose 10" over 12" penetration was a misstatement, or if that’s your assessment of a better mark in any sort of comparable ballistic test medium?

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My personal, current hierarchy goes like this

Assumptions: Available, legal, and correct cartridge for the firearm in question

  1. Reliable/safe function
  2. Point of Impact consistent with training round (if training round is different)
  3. Adequate penetration. I go by the 12" FBI test protocol minimum, but would rather closer to the 18" end of that spectrum.
  4. Performance through intermediate barriers like car doors or auto glass (as in, still penetrates adequately, mostly)
  5. Expansion
  6. Price

So if assumptions, 1, and 2 were the same or substantially similar, and the rounds in questions came in at 10" and 12" (FBI testing protocol), I would pick the 12" without going any farther down that list.

Really though, I Just take a Federal HST or Speer Gold Dot and am good with that once tested in the gun. For semi auto pistols.


It is hard to argue with science, and yet… If a criminal is so pumped up with drugs or adrenaline, that a 8" deep GSW doesn’t stop him, a 12" GSW won’t have immediate effect either, with dire consequences for the defender. Not that I recommend sub-par ammo, just don’t get obsessed with the inches of gel penetration.


It is entirely possible that that difference in penetration could be THE difference between incapacitation, and not.

Adequate penetration is easily the 2nd most important factor, following shot placement, and nothing else comes close.

That 4" could mean the difference between not doing much, and entering the aorta


I agree except that penetration in ballistic medium isn’t the same as penetration in a living creature,
Hatcher, IIRC, used cadavers but even then, none of his cadavers were jacked up on meth.

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Ok. That’s what I thought you probably meant — and we end up on the same channel.

Perfectly good analysis of criteria to my eye. Personally, when I see consistent penetration to the midpoint (15"), more is fine but I would move right on to expansion. I don’t think a lot about intermediate barriers, because I don’t consider “trick” bullets which are likely to fail entirely and the world is a place of infinite variables.

I also think my spreadsheet work is done and settled on what works for me — HST in 9 & 45, FTX in .380. I’ll see how a new gun or new bullet or new concept fits into prior selections, but for me now it’s just what’s on sale/available.


It’s important to remember that no test medium — not cadavers or even live subjects — could accurately predict performance in a shooting. There are hundreds of parts in the human body, and hundreds of angles at which a bullet might strike each, and thousands of other factors which come into play — to make near infinite combinations for a bullet to succeed or fail.

The advantage of a uniform test medium is to make comparison between different bullets or loads against some type of target actually mean something useful in comparing one to another — instead of just which hit bone, or which hit at a favorable angle, or which brisket had thicker gristle. Manufacturers will design to beat the test, so it is important that the tests represent actual challenges the loads will face.

But, in an FBI (or any other) test, 13.4 inches doesn’t mean 13.4 inches, 0.56" doesn’t mean 0.56", and 98% retained weight doesn’t mean 98%. It does mean that 13.4" is more than 12.8", 0.36" is less than 0.46", and 98% is more than 56%. It also means that in a real shooting against a similar target type, more probably will be more and less will probably be less. So choose on the basis of what you’d rather have more or less of.


I think one of the best points I read in recent posts is how the ammo feeds. Worrying about which HP is best in which barrel length seems like splitting hairs. A 124 grain 9mm round coming out of a 3" or 5" gun at 5-yards is going to ■■■■■■ somebody’s day. One thing I learned from shooting HPs in 9mm PCCs is that if that ■■■■ doesn’t cycle, then you’re better off with a knife or bat. Find a brand that seems reputable and unfortunately cough up the dough to test a couple hundred rounds and make sure you don’t have malfunctions. Whether it’s Federal, Speer (basically Federal), Hornady, Winchester it probably doesn’t matter a lot as long as it cycles. Guess I’m saying this more for folks newer to guns and ammo.


Have you ever gone hunting? Have you ever shot a deer, and have it drop on the spot dead? Have you ever shot a deer, and have it taken off running not to find it but hundreds of yards away? If you add shot placement to the mix things do not always happen the same way even with the same ammo. Center mass is the element always talked about in self-defense shootings, as well as, even in Military training. I do not care who you are or what you are on, a shot to the center mass…heart, spine is more effective then shooting someone in the stomach! A good shot makes all of the difference of stopping a threat. This is that important. Being charged by a bear at 20 feet and a good shot is the only thing that is going to stop him from having you for lunch!


Exactly. The tests are basis for relative comparison, and dont guarantee performance.


I’m inclined to think that the issue of carry ammo is overrated. While my carry is major mfg JHP, I am told by a few door-kicker/face-shooters with whom I’m acquainted, that within the same caliber, similar weight, similar velocity and similar grouping and location, accuracy is what wildly dominates over any difference between JHP and ball. And what matters more than any of that is training and practice under duress (ie: the pucker factor).


I am seeing a lot of push for high priced rounds. Yes most are pretty good but I can’t afford to stack them deep and some are hype not performance. I have found the very basic and relatively inexpensive Winchester White Box 115 grain JHP to be an excellent performer in shorter barrels. Penetration may suffer in longer barrels due to more expansion.