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Old November 24, 2013, 03:24 PM   #1
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Best self defense ammo in these calibers?

What would be best self defense ammo in these calibers
1 9mm
2 .40 s@w
3 .45 acp
4 .38 Special
5 .38 special +P
6. .357 magnum
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Old November 24, 2013, 04:25 PM   #2
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All handguns are relatively poor "stoppers" regardless of caliber or bullet used. Shot placement and sufficient penetration are paramount, all else is secondary.

With that being said, in 9mm I prefer either 147gr HST if I'm in an "expansive" mood or 135gr Critical Duty if I want less expansion but more penetration.

Honestly, I doubt a BG could tell the difference if hit with any quality JHP in any caliber from 9mm on up.
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Old November 24, 2013, 05:13 PM   #3
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It's almost a certainty that you will not find a consensus on the best self-defense loading for one caliber, much less several. That being said, the best any of us can do is tell you what we prefer in the calibers we own.

9mm: My preference, if the gun can handle it, is Winchester Ranger T-Series 127gr +P+. Coming in very close to that are Federal HST 124gr +P, Speer Gold Dot 124gr +P, and Hornady Critical Duty 135gr +P. Were I limited to standard pressure ammunition, Speer Gold Dot 124gr, Federal HST 124gr, or Hornady Critical Duty 135gr would be my choices.

.40 S&W: I neither own a gun in this caliber nor have any particular interest in it, so I really have no preference.

.45 ACP: I prefer Federal HST 230gr +P though I would feel quite comfortable with any premium JHP so long as it is 200gr or heavier.

.38 Special: My favorite is Remington 158gr LSWCHP +P followed by Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 135gr +P. If restricted to a standard pressure loading, I'll take Hornady 110gr Critical Defense or a good, old-fashioned 148gr HBWC loading like Winchester Super-X or Federal Gold Match

.357 Magnum: I usually use Remington 158gr SJHP though I've also used Winchester Silvertip 145gr and Cor-Bon 140gr JHP. In my S&W N-Frames, I will occasionally use Hornady 125gr Critical Defense or Cor-Bon 125gr JHP

Also, if you're interested, this is what I use or have used in other calibers:

.22 Long Rifle: CCI Velocitor 40gr JHP

.32 Auto: Fiocchi or S&B 73gr FMJ

7.62x25 Tokarev: S&B or Winchester 85gr FMJ

.38 S&W: Handloaded 200gr LRN

10mm Auto: Winchester Silvertip 175gr

.44 Special: CCI Blazer 200gr Gold Dot, Federal Champion 200gr LSWCHP, or Winchester Silvertip 200gr

.44 Magnum: Remington 240gr SJHP or Speer Gold Dot 240gr.
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Old November 24, 2013, 05:36 PM   #4
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There are no bad choices in premium defense ammo from the major companies.
Twenty years ago, that wasn’t the case, but huge strides in ammo development have been made. Is some ammo better than others? Maybe. Would a BG be able to tell the difference? I doubt it.
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Old November 24, 2013, 06:24 PM   #5
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Too general a question

Different guns, different barrel lengths often dictate what works best.

The .357 seems to love that old police loading of 125 grain JHP in service length barrels. Might not work as well in a 2" snub.
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Old November 24, 2013, 10:42 PM   #6
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There isn't a conclusive "best", but there are rounds that have been thoroughly tested in gel, blood, bone, and brains. Speer Gold Dots, Federal HST, Winchester Ranger T (bonded), and Winchester PDX1 are all bonded JHP that have done exactly what they are designed to do when used by LE departments and agencies across the U.S.

Personally, I like Speer Gold Dots. They aren't any better or worse than the others, but they get points with me for using low flash powder, and they have an interesting trade off vs their ATK cousins (Federal HST). The Gold Dots tend to penetrate slightly better, and expand slightly less than HST. Living in a state with a lot of heavy people wearing heavy clothing, that's a plus for me. [Note: Yeah. I appreciate that I'm splitting hairs, here. Between rounds from this group, that's how it goes.]
Currently Own: Beretta PX4 9mm, Glock 23 (Gen 4), Glock 19 (Gen 4) x2
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Old November 25, 2013, 01:08 AM   #7
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It is a tough one to answer and some folks will argue passionately for their favorite... for varying reasons.

I find that it's -NEVER- going to be a bad idea to buy the Gold Dot offering in any caliber, assuming it's in stock (often is NOT!) and assuming they make it in your chambering. (they don't make it in 10mm!)

I would also suggest, generally speaking, and while not intending to offend anyone, I'll also submit that I don't care if I do *exactly* that, because my opinions are formed around EXPERIENCE: Remington ammunition products have cheapened outrageously over time in a noticeable manner. Mostly, I see this in the quality of their brass. Remington may make a -fine- defensive ammunition product, but I would never rationally choose it over a Winchester, Federal, most Hornday or Speer product.

Sorry if that offends Remington fans. (ummm, no, actually, I'm genuinely not sorry... )
Attention Brass rats and other reloaders: I really need .327 Federal Magnum brass, no lot size too small. Tell me what caliber you need and I'll see what I have to swap. PM me and we'll discuss.
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Old November 25, 2013, 11:04 AM   #8
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What would be best self defense ammo in these calibers
The ones that the individual shoots most accurately, and is 100% reliable in their particular firearm!

Mostly an individual choice with any of today's name brand SD ammo. If one brand, and load that gives great results in penetration tests doesn't function reliably in your gun. Or isn't reliably accurate. Then a round that penetrates a little less, but is spot on accurate, and functions perfectly would be a better choice.

The ones that have proven to me, in my own guns have been.
380ACP, Ruger LCP: Hornady Critical Defense
9MM, KAHR CM9: Speer Good Dot Short Barrel +P 124 gr.
40S&W, XD 40 Sub Compact: Winchester Supreme PDX1 180gr. Bonded
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Old November 25, 2013, 01:17 PM   #9
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Here's a link to an article upon the subject that I would highly recommend you take a look at.

A clear and informative analysis from a credible source. Certainly a lot to be learned from Mr. Ayoob's articles.
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Old November 25, 2013, 01:20 PM   #10
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the above article is a good one. it has my fave SD ammo for my .40 in it. win ranger t series

Last edited by biohazard313; November 25, 2013 at 04:27 PM.
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Old November 25, 2013, 01:53 PM   #11
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The link the biohazard posted above is all you need.

When in doubt, buy Gold Dot.
"If the sole purpose of handguns is to kill people, then mine are all defective." - Uncle Ted Nugent
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Old November 25, 2013, 02:41 PM   #12
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Shot placement and sufficient penetration are paramount, all else is secondary.
I agree 100% with the first part of this, I don't TOTALLY agree with the second Premise.

For my S/D needs I only use .357 Magnum revolvers, so I will only suggest the ammo I use. (1) in 38 special, Buffalo Bore 125Gr. non +P rounds, (2) 38 special +P, Buffalo Bore 38/44 H.D. +P ammo. (3) .357 Magnum,factory ammo Speer 158Gr. JHP's .357 Magnum hand-loaded ammo- 158Gr. LSWCGC ahead of 14.6Gr's of 2400 with a CCI brand primer.

I've also shot lots of Georgia Arms 38 special +P and .357 Magnum ammo. I've always found it to be high quality ammo, and I would not hesitate to carry it for S/D if the need arose.
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Old November 25, 2013, 04:28 PM   #13
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speer gold dot, federal HST, winchester ranger.

best 3 imho. ive used all 3 and currently use the winchester ranger t series and HST from federal.

both are great sd rounds. speer is well known for its gold dot line which is proven to be great sd ammoi
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Old November 27, 2013, 02:03 PM   #14
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Best self defense ammo in these calibers?
This is a secondary equipment question. (Primary being the handgun chosen, including the familiarization of the owner/user with its intended operation, proper maintenance, etc.)

Many of the people who ask me this sort of question would better profit by improving their foundation skillset ... make sure their knowledge of the relevant laws are current and well rounded ... understand how to develop and improve their mindset ... and understand the physiological effects of the hormonal fear response on their ability to function under duress.

Asking about the best brand of commercial gas to use during high performance driving and emergency vehicle operation is sort of a distant concern compared to being actually being able to drive under emergency conditions.

If you're counting on the specific defensive ammunition to make up for deficiencies on the part of the shooter ... don't.

Just my thoughts.

Having been a LE firearms instructor and armorer for a fair number of years, specific makes/models of handguns, calibers and specific brands of ammunition have become much less important to me than they were when I was a young man.
Retired LE - firearms instructor & armorer

Last edited by fastbolt; November 28, 2013 at 06:36 PM.
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Old November 27, 2013, 03:58 PM   #15
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All of the above is true. But let's remember that we all hang out in a gun forum here. We do this for fun. We don't WANT to discuss what different direction we could have driven that evening to avoid that part of town, we'd rather talk about the handgun that might come in to play if we end up assaulted in that part of town -- even when the first part of that sentence is not only RELEVANT, it could easily be the key to surviving the encounter.
Attention Brass rats and other reloaders: I really need .327 Federal Magnum brass, no lot size too small. Tell me what caliber you need and I'll see what I have to swap. PM me and we'll discuss.
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Old November 27, 2013, 06:42 PM   #16
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Buy several and test them out. Don't get what others tout as "the BEST" and find out you gun doesn't shoot it for squat. My chosen load is both the most accurate and the most consistent IN MY GUN. I've been told so many times I MUST switch to (insert current newfangled round), because it's far better than what I use. I've tried them all and still use what I used nearly 10 years ago.
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Old November 27, 2013, 07:14 PM   #17
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Sorry if that offends Remington fans. (ummm, no, actually, I'm genuinely not sorry... )
No offence taken. The best is the one you can shoot the best with, no matter what brand. The hit is what is important then how it works. If you can't hit the side of the barn, then it makes no difference what the brand is.

I personally use my own reloads and I do like how Gold Dots work, but that is for my guns, no yours. And yes I will take my re-loads over any commercial brand out there. They are very accurate.

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Old November 27, 2013, 07:22 PM   #18
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Great article posted by biohazard313. Pretty much sums it up. Very good point about barrel length effecting ballistics.
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Old November 28, 2013, 02:04 AM   #19
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From a reliability point of view, Remington Golden Sabers have traditionally been some of the best feeding ammo. I shoot an assortment of guns, and I've found Golden Sabers to be the most trouble free across my firearms.

Obviously YMMV...
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Old November 28, 2013, 11:03 AM   #20
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I like these two for the .38 Spec

and this one for the .44 Spec.

Buying factory SD loads, what a novel idea.
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Old November 28, 2013, 03:10 PM   #21
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In short here's what I would buy(based on what is available or what I can afford);

9mm(9x19mm); Hornady Critical Duty 135gr +P, DPX, Ranger T T Series bonded 124gr +P, Speer Gold Dot 124gr +P JHP, Ranger T 127gr +P+ JHP, MagSafe SWAT, Federal HST 124gr +P
.38spl +P; Speer Gold Dot 135gr +P JHP, DPX, Buffalo Bore 158gr L-SWC HP +P, Glaser Safety Slug Silver, MagSafe SWAT, Winchester Ranger T
.40S&W; Hornady Critical Duty, Speer Gold Dot 165gr, DPX, Ranger T T Series, Federal HST
.45acp; Hornady Critical Duty 220gr +P, Speer Gold Dot 230gr JHP +P, Ranger T 230gr JHP +P, Federal 230gr HST +P, MagSafe SWAT, DPX

In general, the Corbon DPX & Hornady Critical Duty line are great for defense or armed professionals.

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Old November 28, 2013, 03:27 PM   #22
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Fastbolt had it right on. From all the presentations and analyses I've seen or heard - modern quality SD ammo in all the calibers mentioned have very little difference in efficiency as compared to effect of obtaining a good hit. Also, obtaining such is based on skill, training and practice.

I've noticed in classes, the men want to talk about guns and ammo and the instructor usually has to shut them up to talk about skill issues.
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Old November 30, 2013, 10:28 AM   #23
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Best self defense ammo is a relative term. As has been mentioned, handgun calibers aren't great stoppers, no matter what you load them with. When you start comparing the different brands, loadings, etc, the differences between them are pretty marginal. There is no such thing as a magic bullet. A popular thing to do on Internet forums is to nitpick loadings. (147gr 9mm is a great round! No it's not, it sucks and fails the FBI test, load 124gr! 124gr is a compromise round, velocity is key! Load the 115gr! Etc...)

As long as we're talking ammo only (and I'd say there are more important considerations out there than ammo) here's what my general recommendation is for any self defense load.

1. Quality, JHP, factory manufactured (as opposed to reloaded by you or a factory), made by a well known/trusted manufacturer.
2. A round/loading that runs through your gun with no issues. (Run a couple boxes "at least" before using it as your defensive ammo)

That's it. For me, if it meets those two requirements, it is a good enough round for me to carry. The differences in stopping power between calibers is small (though, typically, bigger more powerful calibers will have greater stopping power, regardless of loading). The differences between loadings within calibers is almost non-existent, as long as the two rules above are followed.

Having said that, I carry Speer Gold Dot 124gr +P in my G19, and Speer Gold Dot 230gr in my G21 "nightstand" gun. Having said that, however, I'd be perfectly fine with other loadings in either, as long they met the 2 requirements above.
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