View Full Version : Would you trust your life to ammo you have never tested?

January 4, 2006, 02:06 PM
Hey all, I am a relatively new shooter and have a question for all the great minds here. :D
I have two semi-auto handguns. One is a Springfield Armory Champion Loaded, the other is a HK USPf 9mm. Hopefully a P7M8 will be next on my list, but that is not what this thread is about.
My range (that I am a member of) does not allow the use of JHPs.They dont allow you to shoot more than one round per second either. I know of another range that allows the use of JHPs, however I simply do not have the time to go there for another month or so.
My two semi-autos have been fed a steady diet of FMJ WWB, Federal and all the other usual suspects. I have never had a single problem other than a defective round from the factory.
so, my question is: Should I continue to just keep ball ammo in my .45 and USP for home defense? I have some Gold Dot amd Hydra-shok just burning a hole in my safe, begging to be shot. Also, once I do get to the other range: What would be an acceptable amount of rounds to put through each gun to make sure there is no problem with a specific JHP brand? Is 50 rounds from each manu. acceptable? Thanks in advance for any replies.

January 4, 2006, 02:15 PM
so, my question is: Should I continue to just keep ball ammo in my .45 and USP for home defense?
Yes, of course, as this is the only ammunition you know of that reliably functions in your firearms. Know your target and beyond.

I don't know the answer to your second question, and I'm also not sure there is a magic number of rounds.

Hard Ball
January 4, 2006, 02:27 PM
Not if I could possibly avoid it.

January 4, 2006, 02:30 PM
Thx for the reply Trip,
I know it is common sense to go with what has already been proven to work, I just like hearing it from others.
I know there is no magic #, but since I am relatively new to shooting, I thought some people might chime in with stories. Unless I am told other-wise, I think 50-100 rounds initially should be acceptable.

January 4, 2006, 03:02 PM
Ya wouldn't buy a car without a test-drive, would ya?


January 4, 2006, 03:02 PM
Personally, I won't trust anything I haven't shot. When I buy defense ammo, I shoot half the box to make sure it works. I haven't had feeding problems with any of my ammo, but I am concerned about fail to fires. You can always get a bad batch. ;)

January 4, 2006, 03:09 PM
For whatever reason, now lost to antiquity, no doubt. Most Firearms Trainers hold 200 rounds of a particular load to be the minimum number of rounds expended successfully before a load may be considered "carry".

That used to be four boxes. Now, with designer ammo coming in 20-25 round boxes, it's more. The point that is more important is, how many rounds would you consider your minimum for reliable self-defense?

There are other real-world consideration, too. I've had small caliber loads, especially in .380, that would chamber and fire flawlessly, at the range. After carrying them for a couple of days, though, the first round would shift just enough to be difficult to chamber. That could really be embarassing in a life-or-death confrontation. So, I'd say that a minimum number of fired rounds is up to you, but I'd also stick the little sucker in my pocket and walk around for a while before trusting my life to it.:)

January 4, 2006, 03:28 PM
Yes. Always carry what you know will go boom in your gun. The only sound louder than "boom" as in empty "click".

Realize that it is a possibility to have a bad batch of defective ammunition, even in FMJ. I bought two boxes of Federal in which half the rounds where suffering from something a fellow here termed "verdigris" (grungy, almost mold-like accumulation stuck to the brass). I ended up with over 20 FTF out of the 100 rounds in those two boxes. Then I brought out some WWB FMJ in the same session without cleaning and it worked flawlessly.

For range work, I'll fire 2 mags' worth of hollowpoint carry ammunition and then a couple hundred rounds of FMJ. I find that is a good way to check on the reliability of my expensive carry ammuntion, as well as increase my overall ability to shoot. Works for me, everyone else has something that works for them.

Also every day before I head out and before I go to sleep. I pop the magazine and do a muzzle press to make sure the bullets in the mag haven't shaken loose and that the one in the chamber didn't disappear anywhere without my approval.

January 4, 2006, 03:46 PM
My own experience has not been especially bad with most of my handguns and you actually see very little about pistols not working properly with factory ammuntion. There are certainly are exceptions, however.

One writer placed a lot of emphasis on rotating ammuntion and pointed out that ammuntion actually in service and being carried in a handgun needed to be checked constantly, particularly that used in revolvers. Pistol ammuntion is fairly well protected in magazines but the magazines themselves may cause more problems than the ammuntion itself.

January 4, 2006, 03:56 PM
drjeffrock - for being relatively new to shooting, you sure have some nice firearms. :)

I think 50-100 rnds of carry ammo can give you a substantial idea of how well a particular ammo brand/type will function in your firearm. However, since we're betting our life on odds... I think the safest bet is to shoot as much "brand x" ammo as you can reasonably afford before you settle on that particular brand/type as your personal protection/home defense ammunition. Since Murphy looms in the shadows just waiting for us to get comfy... we're never 100% clear of malfunction.

Good luck with whatever you choose.

January 4, 2006, 04:04 PM
No matter what the ammo, it is still possible for a round to fail to fire when needed. It may be one out of a thousand or one out of millions but no matter, it didn't when you needed it. The only lifesaver is to be well practiced on clearing a "dud". The speed in which you do so will be the difference. Practice will give you the speed.

Some manufacturers have less problems than others but nobody makes perfect rounds all the time.

January 4, 2006, 08:00 PM
IT takes a minumim of 200 rounds through a gun befor I will carry it and thats for any gun.
Failure free and thats just ball.
In an auto I will pick a load for that gun and usualy buy 4 to 8 boxes first off and once the gun has had 200 rounds of cheep crap I will fire a minumim of one box of the carry ammo and if its failure free will start carring.
Then once a month I will shoot that mag that I have been carring and several of cheep stuf.
The thing is once I am sure the gun is broken in then one box is good enough for me to trust it.
I got rid of a smith built Walther PPKs becouse it would fire ball but Winchester silver tips, couldnt get more than one maybe two mags with out a failure.
For you its what you feel comfortable with.

January 4, 2006, 11:11 PM
Back in antiquity, someone once explained the 200-round guideline to me and it made sense at the time, so that's what I do. Sadly, I can't recall the logic of it now. Still, who's to say that round #201 won't be a dud, or worse a squib? Or that a spring--mainspring, recoil, mag, take your pick--won't fail? The best you can do is stack as many of the odds in your favor as possible and recognize the limits of everything involved. Preventative maintenance is probably one of your best friends when it comes to guns. Other than that, there's a certain amount of chance that you can't get rid of.

Another thing I've read is of people who carry two pistols, or have two pistols at home, rather than carry spare mags. The theory is that a) grabbing a second gun is faster than a reload (if you've prepared properly), and b) if the first gun fails, chances are extremely small that your second one will too, plus it's faster than doing a clearance drill. That theory has become more appealing to me lately, as it seems to make sense. Under stress, will I be able to clear a jam? What if the gun has a serious problem and jams again? Wouldn't grabbing a second gun be faster and make more sense? It's worth considering.

As for ammo going bad while in the magazine, my understanding is that the rounds usually get exposed to inclement weather or soak up lube from the gun or are chambered and rechambered dozens of times (resulting in bullet setback). If you eliminate these factors, you should be much better prepared.

One thing I do to help my odds is to case gauge every round, whether self-defense or practice. I've found many a round that stuck in the gauge. I used to put those aside and shoot them at the end of my range; everytime, they stuck in the chamber. I now throw them away instead because I'm concerned they'll cause other problems, plus I don't want them accidently getting mixed in with my checked rounds. (As an aside, Blazer Aluminum always had 2 or 3 that stuck in the gauge; Blazer Brass never gave me a problem.)

By the way, ball ammo gets less respect than it deserves, IMHO. In some smaller calibers, and during winter months where BGs may be wearing layers of heavy clothing, ball ammo may be a better choice than HP.

Para Bellum
January 5, 2006, 05:01 AM
No I wouldn't. Some "Experts" and gunbrokers tried to sell ammo and guns to me with descriptions which would have cost my life or the life of innocent bystanders.

E.g: Frangibles were announced as "man-stopping" and great because they fragment even in soft targets and cause no risk for innocent bystanders and people behind the target. In fact, they behave just like FMJs and are capable of easily penetrating several people :eek: . See: http://www.raoulwagner.com/9mm.htm

And with speciality (and great) ammo like the EMB you should know, whether it reliably opens even after heavy clothing, because some of "the best hollowpoints" got clogged and failed to open after heavy clothing, which made them penetrate like FMJ (through several innocent bystanders in an NYPD shooting). Here are more tests with heavy clothing and barriers etc: http://www.raoulwagner.com/tests2005.htm or http://www.theboxotruth.com

Still, if there ar good and independent tests on the www, I insist on my very own testing before I carry a cartridge. Just imagine you have to use a cartridge and it behaves in an unexpected way. Then maybe an innocent bystander was killed or you weren't able to achieve the effect (incapacitate) the way you expected. Then you're going have to live with the fact, that you could have tested the ammo, but were to lazy to do so. Handguns are extremely serious business. Test what you carry.

You can use the following media for tests:
- Wetpacks (Newspapers soaked overnight). Ratio to flesh/gelatine 1:3 (1" in the wetpack is approx 3" in flesh/gelatine.
- Clay.
- liver loaf.
- or even cook your own ballistic gelatine. It's pretty fun.

I wouldn't use waterjugs etc because in water you can't tell about the shockwave and wound channel unless you have a gazillion dollar high speed camera.

Should I continue to just keep ball ammo in my .45 and USP for home defense?
Never. EMB and EFMJ feed just like ball and do perform.

Stay safe and test what you carry.

January 5, 2006, 07:02 AM
I would not carry untested ammo in an auto pistol period, I did this once out of a buch of unavoidable circumstances and found myself very suprised when I went to the range and tested the gun --- I might as well have had a derringer.

200 rounds seems to be what most reccomend, I spread that over 2-3 range sessions as I get used to a new gun I plan to carry so that the cost is spread out a little more and then I usually will do a box of carry ammo every 2-3 months after that in a reguarly carried gun.

I do my testing after I have used all the ball I plan to shoot for the day so the gun is good and dirty, I do a wipe down of obvious grunge and then let if cool down to a carry temp and only shoot a mag or two, then let cool down --- call me neurotic, however I want to simulate a dirty / contaminated gun being drawn and fired cold as it's not like I carry for WW III and it's the first mag that matters and the gun may be dirty from carry. (not from use as I don't deliberately carry dirty guns)

I have at times carried ball ammo, primarally when transiting through states that do / may have stupid gun laws / local ordinces in which case I carry (un loaded / locked as need be) a 45 --- Sig 220 or 1911 with ball ammo as this eliminates any "high cap" or hollow point concerns and sill leaves one with a decent self defense round. When I have had to do this I carry federal 45 Match ammo --- it's about 30 dollars a box but worth it so far as I am concerned as it seems to be made with more care than the regular ball practice fodder that is out there --- I have seen occasonal mutant or misfired rounds in the cheap stuff, never had one in the top shelf defensive ammo --- not that it does not happen, sure I does, just less offten by far.

Needles to say the range's rules are kind of stupid and probibly based on ignorance of ballistics coupled with liability lawyers and the media. Would they allow expanding full metal jacket??

January 5, 2006, 11:39 AM
No way

I test all my pistols with a mix of different ammo including my favorite defense loads

I have no need for a "finicky" handgun

January 5, 2006, 11:42 AM
Try Powerball or EFMJ

Marginally better than FMJ and probably legal at your range

Double Naught Spy
January 5, 2006, 12:27 PM
A semantic issue, but relevant. Most people that carry guns do not trust their lives to their guns or the ammo carried. What they trust is that the ammo and gun will function properly, but until they have to deploy their gun and discharge ammo, their lives are not actually trusted to the ammo any more than the shoes and underwear they wear every day are shoes and underwear they trust their lives to.

Would I trust ammo to function properly in a gun if I had never tested the two together? No.

Ozzieman and JR47 note a 200 round test for function. A lot of folks use that standard. I have no idea why 200 rounds is better than 150 or comparable to 250. I have used it as a rule of thumb as well, but have no justification for the number.

January 5, 2006, 12:54 PM
No offense, but that range doesn't sound too friendly to people who use guns for home defense. Are there any other ranges you can go to? To answer your question, I would have to run at least 100 rounds of the ammo thru a gun to feel comfortable. Another option is to use a revolver for home defense, then switching from FMJ to JHP (same brand) would matter little.

Para Bellum
January 5, 2006, 05:21 PM
Another option is to use a revolver for home defense, then switching from FMJ to JHP (same brand) would matter little.
objection, your honor! ;) Quality ammo and testing is even more crucial with revolvers. If the bulled sneaks out the brass a little or the entire cartridge is too long, your revolver is stuck. And fixing that takes more time than you would have...

January 5, 2006, 05:23 PM
Amen...I had that happen with a ruger Sp101

January 5, 2006, 06:55 PM
But your all to smart to believe that crap.
Where I picked this up was from a great man that is no loner with us that taught me every thing that I have learned about guns. He used to ride trains with a man named Harry from Joplan MO to Washington back in the late 40's and early 50's and did it caring a gun.
The reasion that he told me that 200 is a good starting place is that the auto's at the time took about 200 to work the slide in to the frame. It was kind of like changing oil in your car after the first 500 miles.
I also wont carry an auto untill it has 200 rounds through it and the last 50 or so better be failure free.

January 5, 2006, 07:53 PM
This old saw ranks right up there with 'Over penetration' and 'don't carry handloads in your carry gun'.
Yes, its prudent to try a new ammo. Shoot a few rounds to see it the design works with your particular gun. Other than that, its a waste of money. The only round you KNOW will go boom is the last one that did. Period. Shooting 200, or 2000 is no guarantee that #2001 will work.

January 5, 2006, 08:25 PM
Not to mention the very important fact that in testing your carry ammo you are also testing the accuracy of your gun with your chosen load --- this can be suprising at times --- though it is not a carry load, WWB FMJ in my Sig 229 stainless patterns like a shot gun, working through the half case of WWB I got with the gun I thought the gun was a real lemon untill I loaded it up with Hornady TAP ammo and was rewarded with the usual sig level of accuracy --- other FMJ works as well, I have tried other lots of WWB, same results, gun does not like it.

Strike Penguin
January 5, 2006, 11:08 PM
"Would you trust your life to ammo you have never tested?"


I've read too many strange "my gun X will function flawlessly with A but not with B and I can't figure out why" stories to gamble with something like that. It's just not sensible. Load up with ammo you have confirmed as working in your gun. Don't gamble.

January 9, 2006, 02:21 PM
Thanks for the replies everyone. Lots of good info here.
I plan on going to the range that allows jhps in a couple weeks. Only problem is that this range is super out of my way and schedule, and I am already paying for one somewhere else. :( I plan on putting a hundred rounds of jhps through the USP as well as the Champion.
I might have to sell my sexy rearend on the corner to pay for the Hydra-shoks, but oh well.:eek:
On a somewhat related note, I had my first experience with a defective round. It was WWB FMJ 9mm (in the USPf,) and it was the final round in the magazine on maybe my 80th round. I pulled the trigger, knew there was still one round left. Except the empty mag, I tried racking the slide, but it would not move. As I was at the range, and not in a shtf situation I called over the range officer to take a look. He racked the slide forcefully, and from the bottom of the magazine area dropped a really bent round. The brass casing had a huge dent in it.
The range officer swore up and down that it was defective from the factory. I field stripped it, everything looked fine, so I ran another 60 rounds through it without a hiccup.
Still, it was valuable at showing me the importance of being able to clear a dud quickly, as swmike said earlier. I have also used snap caps to help make sure I have a good grip, and am not flinching.
Oh, and the front white dot sight from my USP popped out as well. I wanted to get Mepro night sites, but my buddies insisted that I black out the white rear dots and try using all black first. Some of them are pretty good shots, so I cant really argue with them. I am not quite sure how I am liking them though...
Mikeyboy, no offense taken. In fact, check out the other range rules: No rapid fire (only one shot per second,) no shotgun, no rifles.
My other local range does allow rifles and shotguns, but I have just seen a few dangerous situations there and had been put off from joining there. I saw on numerous occassions, homie-g thugs rolls in with Glocks in their waistband (obviously lacking a CCW here in Kalifornia.) other gangsta-thugs practing how fast they can pull the trigger without hitting the piece of paper in front of them, among other stuff. People handing loaded weapons to each other haphazardly among other stuff. Both those ranges are indoor-only, by the way,
Trip20, thanks! I really lucked out on the Champion. I bought it "blindly." I had not had a chance to shoot any Commander-sized 1911s, but I loved the way it felt in my hand. It felt very comfortable.
I rationalized the USP purchase in order to "save money, as .45 ammo is so expensive.":p Before settling on the USP I narrowed down the 9mm field to the p226, 92fs, Bhp, and Glock 17. All are great, in their own way. I honestly think I would have been happy with any of those. I think I will hold off on any more guns for a while and focus on taking tactical courses and other classes that allow me to shoot the two I currently have better.
And I do believe the range rules against JHPs is completely due to liability issues, and worrying about them exploding hollow points. :rolleyes:
Thanks again for the replies, they have been quite informative.

Blackwater OPS
January 9, 2006, 03:14 PM
Obviously not, also keep in mind that ammo can vary by lot. Just because you bought a box of X ammo 6 months ago and it was great does not mean that the exact same ammo you buy today from the store will work the same in your gun.

January 9, 2006, 03:24 PM
+1 for Blackwater.

I'm getting into the habit of putting a dent into a box of ammo, by shoot 5 or 10 rounds out of a box of 50 before loading that ammo into a magazine of a defensive weapon. If I have any problems with those 5 or 10 rounds, I use the ammo for the range only. You never want to find out you bought a bad box of ammo, in a life or death situation.