+P Ammo for pistols

Im thinking about trying +P ammo out for my handguns. Im hearing that they could be dangerous or cause damage or injury depending on the firearm you use…any inputs out there. Help, help.


Check your firearms’ owner’s manual.


Only certain calibers have legitimate +P SAAMI loading standards, such as 38 special and 9x19. 380, on the other hand, and for example, does not. Having said that, there are ammo makers out there offering “380+P.”

Mostly, a modern gun that is designated to take actual +P ammo will usually say so on the chambering marking, or at least in the manual. I know my M&P 380 specifially says in the manual NOT to use any ammo sold as “380+P”. On the other hand, my 38 special revolvers say “38 Spc +P” right on the barrel.


Some handguns are not rated for +P. As others have said, read the manual. As far as I know, no guns are rated for ++P. Be ready for a notably stronger kick with +P relative to basic loads you are used to.
Real question. why do you think you want to use hotter ammo? It is not wrong, just a decision for an option.


Moving up to +p for a borderline caliber like .38 special can make a lot of sense but doing so for 9mm, .40, and .45 doesn’t always lead to improvements in bullet performance. In many cases self defense bullets are designed for optimal performance at standard pressures and when pushed at higher pressures they can end up performing worse and/or unreliable.

In most of the properly done ballistic tests I have seen +p ammo often offers only a slight advantage in penetration, expansion and permanent wound cavities. But more than a few cases the results were noticeably worse than standard pressure SD rounds. I would definitely look into good quality ballistic tests for the specific +p ammo you are considering before deciding to switch. +p ammo will increase recoil and muzzle blast which will almost certainly lead to slower and potentially less accurate follow up shots. In return you might get a slight benefit with terminal ballistics or you might not. You will have to decide if the possible benefit is worth the costs in speed and accuracy.

Though as others have stated you need to check the manual first to see if +p ammo is a safe option for your handguns. Even if it is rated as safe it will likely lead to more wear and tear on them than standard pressure ammo will.


Check the owner’s manual

But, +P ammo, factory new, from a major, reputable manufacturer, is perfectly fine in all quality, modern, properly functioning pistols. The only exceptions are likely to be poor quality pistols or really small pistols operating on the razor’s edge of what is possible to cram a 9mm into

+P+ isn’t officially a thing, there is no industry spec for that. But, a quality modern pistol will be just fine with say Winchester Ranger +P+ or some other major, reputable ammo manufacturer (not that Winchester makes good ammo IMO, but, that’s another topic)


Some back info: Generally, +P ammo only exists, officially, for old cartridges. Stuff that has been around a long time. Back in the day, pressures had to be lower because metallurgy and manufacturing were not as good as they are now

That’s why oldies like .38spl, 45 ACP, 9x19, have +P. Mostly it’s so you don’t put full power modern loads into old guns that can’t handle it. That’s why newer ones like .40, 10mm, .357 sig, etc, don’t have +P. They basically are already ‘bringing it’ as much as it can be, reasonably.

And agree with above, there is no need for +P 9mm. I do often carry +P Gold Dot 124gr because it’s so great, but I also often carry 124gr standard pressure Federal HST because it’s so great, and the +P variation seems to offer basically zero advantage


Well Im a trail hiker and woods wonderer at times. Wanted a more powerful shot if a bear or mountain lion decides to see me as a food order…



Bear spray.

Or a hot, hard cast, flat nose .357 mag or .44 mag


Gotcha! :+1:


Or 10mm. Though bear spray would be my first choice.


38 +P might be useful in a .357 revolver, in which 38 Special can be fired with less recoil. While I use 357 loads in my 357, I believe a 38 Special +P would occupy a spot between the lighter recoil of a 38 Special and the full house 357 load. Otherwise, checking the manual should be the go-to move.


I have a 9mm 1911 with an aluminum frame. The owner’s manual does not recommend +P ammo. I called and discussed this with the manufacturer. Their representative said “carry +P ammo if you choose to, just limit how much +P you train with as the +P will shorten the life of the pistol. The weakest link is the aluminum frame will eventually crack being subjected to a constant diet of +P”.

I have a 10mm 1911 with a steel frame. Some 10mm shooters train with ammo that is closer to 40 S&W power, but some train with ammo loaded to 650 lb-ft of muzzle energy and higher. The early Colt Delta Elite 10mm frames exhibited cracking in the frame. The crack was almost always in the left side rail. The solution was to cut that section of the rail out and all Colt Delta Elite pistols come with that cutout from the factory – problem solved!

Colt Delta Elite Frame with cutout

9mm Aluminum Frame without cutout


Placeholder for unsupported chamber discussion tomorrow - beautiful day and headed to outdoor range for the day!


Drop an unfired cartridge into your semiautomatic pistol barrel next time it’s apart for cleaning. You will note that part of the cartridge remains outside the chamber when fully seated. The part that sticks out theoretically should be no greater than the solid base material that holds the primer in place. The least support to the walls of the cartridge case will be where the feed ramp is cut. You can see this area in this photo:

When a cartridge is fired the chamber contains the expansion of the case, except that tiny area that is unsupported. It goes without saying that as the chamber pressure is increased by +P and +P+, the result is that portion of brass has to be able to contain that pressure. If it cannot, then the pressure is going to be released into a portion of the pistol that is not designed to handle that pressure. If that happens, then all bets are off regarding potential damage to the pistol and/or people holding and near the pistol. This is a photo of a case that almost blew out from the pressure:

From what I have read the early Glock 9mm barrels were particularly unsupported. They even got a name, “Glock Smile” from the bulge in the case where it was oriented to the feed ramp. Google if you are interested.

For these reasons I will not shoot reloads loaded to +P or +P+ pressures. Firing and reloading a case over and over makes me nervous the material gets weaker with every firing.


Get a 10mm hand gun then. It should help with bears and any animal.