Bound to create a brawl in the comments, this article highlights the best 9MM Self-Defense Ammunition to ensure your personal protection!
Pretty sure I’m about to stomp on a murder hornets' nest but here goes nothin.
Have you ever noticed how folks in the gun industry tend to be just a bit opinionated? You know, kind of like the way the sun is a little warm? Anyone who has hung around the range or gun store for longer than a minute can tell you how many various opinions there are about the “best this” and the “best that”– from guns to holsters to knives to defensive rounds. And how, exactly, do you define “best”?
That’s a tough one, but here’s how I’m going to define “best” for this 9mm ammunition round-up: Does it do its job and not break the bank? I’m not going to get into the minutia of overall velocity or how far a round penetrates into ballistic gelatin. I’ll leave the science up to the experts. But we can still find out what makes a great defensive round without putting on our lab coats and eye pro.
Ballistic gelatin is cool, y'all.
I want to pause here for a second and address something about calibers before I go any further. As common as 9mm is, there are still those out there (again, it’s hard to find a non-opinionated gun owner) who argue it’s not a good defensive round because, well, for a lot of reasons they cite. It’s too light, too slow, too fast (yes, they say both), and other reasons. While all of that may or may not be true, I’m not here to argue about the merits of different calibers and why some are better than others. So for now, let's just focus on what we came here to do, shall we?!?
WHOA. Where was I? Ah, yes…
Even the cost of practice ammo can add up over time, especially if you shoot on a regular basis. At 15 to 25 cents a pop, pretty soon you’re burning up a week’s worth of grocery money before you even shoot enough to merit cleaning your gun... and that's the cheap ammo! Throw a few defensive rounds down range and you’re wallet just got a whole lot lighter.
Of course, by definition, defensive rounds aren’t meant to be tossed at a target very often. They stay tucked away in your concealed carry gun, reserved the rare occasion – or never, if you’re lucky – when a deadly threat presents itself and you're forced to employ the skills you've learned in training. (You do train on a regular basis, right? Please say yes.) While you can usually train with practice ammo, it is best to fire at least a few magazines of your defensive rounds through any gun you might carry just to be sure they play well together. The last thing you need in a defensive situation is to pull out your gun, squeeze the trigger…and nothing happens.
Let’s look at the job of defensive ammunition first. What’s it supposed to do?
Most defensive ammo is hollow point, designed to fly straight, penetrate the target, and then spread inside, allowing the newly formed tentacles to use the spinning motion of the round to tear into internal organs and blood vessels to instantly lower the blood pressure and stop the body from working. Penetration and expansion - this spread also works like a claw to stop the bullet faster than ball or practice ammunition, which doesn’t spread and could over-penetrate, exiting the body and possibly hitting something behind it.
With this baseline established, let’s check out some *recommendations of rounds!
*These are listed alphabetically to keep my personal opinions out of this - all of these rounds fall within the FBI’s recommended 12-18 inches penetration.
Wouldn’t you know after all that talk about hollow points, the list is kicked off with the only non-hollow point of the bunch?
Unlike its cavity-filled cousins, Black Hills' HoneyBadger ammo is a solid copper ballistic that uses four fluted sides to create the air pressure needed to form a wound tunnel. Thanks to its plus-sign-shaped construction, the bullet does not spread on impact, instead staying true to form all the way in, aiding in penetration while still opening a wide wound cavity, even at a mere 100 grains.
You can usually find a box of 20 for around $28.58, which is $1.43/round.
Often found on the gun belts of police agencies across the country, the Federal Premium HST 9mm 147 Grain ammunition is a classic hollow point with some serious heft, coming in a bit heavier than many of its competitors. If you’re like most concealed carriers, you probably don’t rotate your ammo out very often, if at all, which means you’ll appreciate the copper-plated projectile and nickel-plated case that prevent corrosion during long term carry.
Federal is known for value pricing and a box of 50 can be yours for just $39.99, just 80 cents per round.
Hornady claims to have solved the problem of clogging and penetration inconsistency sometimes associated with hollow-point rounds by adding the patented Flex Tip technology to the inside of the ballistic. The red polymer plug purportedly prevents the hollow point from spreading prematurely, ensuring more consistent penetration through the initial layers of a target, such as clothing and skin, before mushing up on its own to force the round to flower and grab tissue.
Critical Defense ammo also uses Hornady’s proprietary low-flash propellant to reduce the glare often associated with shooting that could temporarily hinder your ability to see your target in low-light conditions.
You can find a box of 25 Critical Defense bullets for $22.99 at Brownells, just under $.92 per round.
When Sig Sauer got into the ammunition business, they had a lot of catching up to do. Despite Sig’s storied history of great firearms, most of their competitors had been making ballistics for decades longer.
The Elite V-Crown, however, proved they had what it took to make great defensive ammo. This 124-grain load works on what Sig calls their “stacked hollow point” design that features the initial cavity which opens on impact followed by a middle crease that expands the opening even further as the round penetrates.
Right now, you can get a box of 20 for $15.99, which is an impressive $.80 per round.
Whatever self-defense ammo you choose to protect you and your loved ones, make sure it runs in your gun. You don’t want the last sound you ever hear to be the anemic “click” of a hammer or striker on a bullet that didn’t fire.
Is there a type of personal defense ammunition you use that works particularly well with your everyday carry gun? What has been your experience with self-defense handgun ammo?
David Workman is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. In addition to being an NRA-certified RSO, David trains new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as you possibly can. “Real life shootouts don’t happen at a box range.”
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