Why should I buy expensive ammo for daily carry?

Hey, folks! Just looking for some good advice. For a couple of years, I’ve been using Remington 9mm JHP as my daily carry ammo. I could buy it at Walmart, it was cheap (maybe 30 cents per round), and I’ve put a couple hundred rounds through each of my handguns without a single misfire, misfeed, or failure to eject. In other words, it works great, and it’s so cheap I didn’t mind firing a magazine of it each time I went to the range (and then reloading with the range ammo). Unfortunately, Walmart stopped selling it, and when I went to my local gun shop to buy more, the guy there said I shouldn’t be using such cheap ammo for my daily carry. He talked me into buying a box of Federal Premium HST ($25 for 20 rounds). Now I’m torn. I don’t feel comfortable trusting a new type of ammo without first putting some rounds through to test it (maybe 50-100), but that’s going to be quite expensive. So, I’m wondering, why should I do that? How will I be better off using this more expensive ammo , since what I was using before was reliable and cheap? I’m open to make the change if there are valid reasons to do so. Thanks!


You kinda said it a nutshell there, do you want to gamble your life on the cheapest (.30/rd) ammo you can get?

I use Hornady Critical Defense. It’s expensive. It’s reliable.

I went on a Hornady tour in their plant last year. Every round is touched by a human and inspected. They are not publicly traded so they are not subject to share holders. I would and do stake my life on the quality of their product.

Buy and use the cheap stuff at the range. For your EDC, Hornady.

By the way, this is a great question!


You have a point, using ammunition you’ve had experience with can be a better idea than using something new without having at least a box or more down line to know how it operates in your firearm(s).

I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the video Paul Harrell has produced on youTube but one of the things which is interesting is he often runs his comparisons of high end product against the supplies local hardware and gun shops carry.

Many times that is Green and White box Remington. You might want to see any of his videos which test ammunition in your favored calibers gets you interested. 9mm being one of them, it should be well represented a number of tests.

If you do find his model for terminal performance shows you something you’d like to test at home at least you are spending money for ammo you have an idea of what it will do and then it’s how well it operates your firearm


Thanks, Fizbin. I guess that’s the heart of my question. How am I gambling my life with ammo that (in my experience) never fails? Interestingly enough, the only issue I’ve ever had with misfeeds was with the Hornady Critical Defense. I did some web searching afterwards and found out there is a known compatibility issue with Hornady and the XD-S. So maybe that’s why I’m a bit gun-shy (no pun intended) about switching to another expensive type of ammo. The cheap Remington ammo has been much more reliable (for me) than the Hornady was. But I’m guessing there are other reasons that I’m overlooking. Again, thanks for the insightful reply.


Thanks, Chris! I’ll look for these videos. Those types of comparisons are typically quite enlightening. Perhaps they will make me aware of important distinctions that I have been overlooking.


Part of the equation in choosing defensive ammo is certainly the cost. Generally speaking, higher cost usually goes along with better terminal performance, higher reliability, etc. You can only do so much research online before you need to actually test it in your firearm. Sometimes the “best” online reputation just doesn’t feed well in your firearm (as you found with your XD-S).

My recommendation, if your budget allows, is to pick a good 3 or 4 types of ammo (Hornady CD, Federal HST, Speer Gold Dot, etc) and try out a box of each in your firearm.

I’d also note that $25 for 20 rounds is insane pricing. That’s $1.25 per bullet, or 4x what you were paying before. You can get Federal HST from online retailers for easily half that. SG Ammo (my personal fav) has boxes of 50 for $29.95 (plus shipping) which is ~ $0.60 per round. Still more expensive than range ammo, but certainly better for the wallet. You might find other local dealers maybe have better pricing, if not on HST maybe another reputable brand.

Lucky Gunner has a great set of tests among common calibers that can give you an idea of what you maybe would consider in your next choice of defensive ammo.

There’s another thread with pricing here:


I often carry the less expensive ammo, but not always. It’s about 1/4 the price of the higher end stuff. If I shoot hundreds/thousands of rounds with it for target practice, I get a decent idea if it is reliable or not. Also, there are plenty of YT ballistic tests with gel to make a decision on whether you want to trust it or not. However, I do carry the expensive stuff often enough.

If you like Paul Harrell’s YT videos, many of the videos compare expensive ammo to the less expensive WWB and/or Rem UMC.


IMHO you will never see the difference between top shelf self defense ammo and “white box” ammo of the same bullet weight and velocity when it comes to range practice. Rounds on target YES I want the high end stuff but for paper and steel out to 50’ if it weighs the same and speeds the same then the cheaper the better.

The above said there has never been a factory load that I could not duplicate or improve upon by reloading for MUCH cheaper than any factory box ammo.

Stuff your mags with High Speed Boolets to carry but spend your time at the range getting that first round on target.




I never carry the least expensive ammo. I regularly shoot the least expensive ammo.
I carry what the police carry where I live. @Dawn–might be a good question for an attorney–does carrying the same ammunition as your local police help defend your intent to ‘do everything right’ should you ever need that argument in court?

The safety team at church has an SOP that actually spells out what ammo we can and can’t carry (you can carry high quality JHP like Federal Hydra Shok, Hornady Critical Defense, etc., but no FMJ or frangibles).


Thanks, guys! I appreciate these excellent responses. You’ve given me some great info and advice!


That is a great question and one I’ve heard discussed by the attorneys. (As always, check with a local self-defense attorney for how your local judicial system interprets these types of things.)

The very official response is - it depends. (channeled my inner @Tom_Grieve there :smiley: ) Carrying vanity ammo (Zombie Max) can be used against you “implying” you weren’t taking your self-defense seriously and were looking to kill someone.

Some states (ahem, NJ) do not allow hollow points. Using the same ammo as the police in your area use may make it easier to defend why you chose the ammo, but so will using any other well-respected self defense ammo.

The take away here is be able to articulate why you used what you used.
I carry Hornady Critical Defense. It shoots well through my gun, is accurate, has great reviews, and has less chance of over penetration than a FMJ.


Unless you’re a Green Beret or SEAL in Iraq or Syria, chances are you won’t be expending any of your carry ammo other than a small sampling for a function check, or periodic refreshing of your supply, say once a year or so—YMMV.
Cost then, becomes much less of an issue.

Finding, or hand loading, a practice round that has the same point of aim as your carry ammo is more of a challenge IMHO, although if all your training is at 4’-12’ even that seems vaguely OCD

In court, a prosecutor or civil attorney can spin any of a variety of suppositions regarding ammo if it will sway a jury. I refuse to buy any macho sounding brand because of that. Buying what your local police issue, if legal, sounds rational but even that could be spun into a Richard Jewell-esque wanabee profile.
Shoot enough and you’ll find out what brands and loads are reliable and accurate in your handgun, Shoot into wet newspapers or phone books to get an idea of how your chosen load 'shrooms. This won’t be definitive by any means but it will help build your confidence and that is no small matter.
My thoughts anyway.


Very true - also if you unload and reload the ammo from a magazine repeatedly you’ll want to check it each time you load and shoot it off more frequently.


Yeah, defiantly worth it!


DawnUSCCA Community Manager



chances are you won’t be expending any of your carry ammo other than a small sampling for a function check, or periodic refreshing of your supply, say once a year or so—YMMV.
Cost then, becomes much less of an issue.

“Very true - also if you unload and reload the ammo from a magazine repeatedly you’ll want to check it each time you load and shoot it off more frequently.”

Yes, a real concern is bullet set back when the same first round is repeatedly chambered when loading. If excessive this could spike the chamber pressure to a dangerous level when the round is fired.
The easiest solution to the issue is not to the chamber the same round over and over.


I carry Federal HST Hydra-shoks. I’ve never had a single issue with them! That being said, I’m looking at making a switch to Fenixammo.com. My reasons are:

  1. I can exactly match practice ammo to defense ammo since they supply both in all 3 weights.
  2. Competition shooters in southern Michigan are using Fenix Ammo and doing well, therefore if a bunch of professional shooters are doing well with it, it’s reliable.
  3. Because professional shooters are finding it reliable, and I’m able to exactly match practice and defense ammo, I should theoretically be able to defend the choice in court should the need ever arise. And I hope it doesn’t.

That’s awesome, @Spence! Do they have any published research on penetration?


@Dawn I haven’t actually found any yet. I may have to do my own this spring.


I took out a second mortgage on my house and bought a case of carry ammo. If I cant figure things out after about 800 rounds, I shouldn’t be carrying it.


Let me know when you do! I could road trip and help!