Six Reasons Modern Defensive Ammo Is Better

James Tarr over at explains why Defensive Handgun Ammo is better now.

1. FBI Ballistic Test Protocol.  Due to the FBI 1986 Miami Shootout, a standardized test was created by the FBI to test the effectiveness of defensive ammo. This FBI Protocol has become the industry standard for testing ammo.

2. Better Powders. A lot of focus and attention is given to the bullet. Look at the recent intrigue regarding the G2 RIP bullets. The powders used now not only increase velocity but they manage to keep muzzle flash low. Many calibers can be found to have ballistic performance similar to the next larger caliber in the line. For example, some .380 is seeing velocities similar to a 9mm.

3. As mentioned above, Better Bullets. More engineering goes into designing hollowpoints to achieve more reliable expansion.

4. Quality Control. Modern optical scanners, laser gauges and every high-tech scanner and tool you can think of is used to ensure that the ammo produced is as close to perfect as possible. CNC machines are now also manufacturing the dies that ammunition companies use instead of humans, which results in closer tolerances.

5. Nickel Plated Cases. A few years ago, only a few ammo manufacturers offered nickel plated casings. They are slicker than brass, which means less friction and increased performance with regards to extraction. Now nickel plated casings are seen in almost all premium defensive ammo.

6. +P ammo. This is sort of a mix of powder and bullet. In the recent FBI announcement, they are switching from .40 S&W to 9mm. This is partly due to the performance of 9mm +P. Some 9mm +P perform similar to .40 S&W. They travel faster and expand reliably then before.

Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at


  • USMC03Vet

    Being shot by non “defensive ammo” is still going to ruin your day.

    Just sayin’

    • Vhyrus

      If you’re a carjacker or rapist, it might not ruin your day fast enough.

      • handymanherb

        I have kill a 13 foot 8 inch gator with a 22 pistol when our 357 bang stick didn’t go off, it is harder, but can be done with proper shot placement , oh by the way we were in a ten foot boat at the time, so when that bang stick didn’t go off, i had to get ahead of the gator, if I had sat there and not acted, I wouldn’t be writing this today, but I knew what he was going to do, go out and turn, then swamp the boat, so when he turned back towards the boat, I was standing, ready for the move and shot him just behind the eyes, he came to a stop, and gave him a few more, then we moved in for the kill with a fresh round in the bang stick, then we had to load the 800 pound monster our selfs

        • USMC03Vet

          That’s pretty awesome. Good job.

    • John

      And getting shot by a .22 short would suck but I wouldn’t trust it to suck hard enough for whoever got shot by it to immediately stop what they were doing.

      • Diamondback

        Then shoot them two or three more times.

    • asoro

      true, But a fmj if it does not hit the right spot the other guy may be able to still shoot back, FMJ are really meant to disable more than kill, thus why the Military uses FMJ and must use them only, this goes back to WWII it’s better to wound someone very bad lets say then it is to kill, I am sure you must know the reason for this.

      • The Brigadier

        Shoot anyone in the head or the sternum with FMJ, hollow points or frangibles, and you will send them to the Great Beyond. Wounding causes chaos on the other side with all the screaming and writhing, but a good critical shot absolutely makes sure that pendejo doesn’t shoot back again.

        • asoro

          sure, But not everyone can do so in the heat of the moment,
          much easier when you just think about it, So again in the heat of it all you might get a shot back at you also, Not saying FMJ is not good it’s very good, But there are may more types that can do a better job, I was wondering if you under stood what I was getting at in my first statement ? ( WWII it’s better to wound someone very bad lets say then it is to kill, I am sure you must know the reason for this.) can you tell me what I am talking about,? It’s pretty easy But funny thing is , not many people out side of that era would know. it’s a Military thing in Battle,,

          • Paul Dragotto


          • asoro

            thats true,, But when a Solider is wounded it takes 2-3 people to care for him, getting him of the field or to the back of the line sorta speak, If he’s shot dead well then they just walk over him and keep going, So by wounding them bad enough it takes 2-3 people out of the fight. Learned this from my Uncle who was in the battle of the Bulge

      • mortree

        Missing the spot isn’t really fixed by ammo. A graze or clean is pretty common in exciting situations. Unless you mean switching to shotgun with huge 00 shot spread.

  • bbmg

    An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power:

    This real word study seems to demonstrate that caliber is largely irrelevant to the outcome of a handgun engagement, the most critical factor is shot placement.

    I believe the conclusion is one that should be taken to heart:

    “Take a look at the data. I hope it helps you decide what weapon to carry. No matter which gun you choose, pick one that is reliable and train with it until you can get fast accurate hits. Nothing beyond that really matters!”

    • Sckarekrow

      Shot placement is 3 dimensional. Penetration is as important.

      • Billca

        Absolutely. My criteria for ammo, regardless of caliber goes like this:
        1. Reliability – Must go bang every time. No exceptions.
        2. Accuracy – Has to be accurate in my gun. Gotta hit where I aim.
        3. Penetration – Sufficient power to penetrate 13-15″ to reach vitals
        4. Expansion – If it’s supposed to expand, it should do it well.
        5. Cost – Must be affordable enough to practice.

        It’d be nice to have a guaranteed man-stopper in a handgun. But if such a thing cost $8 per boom you could barely afford to practice and/or adjust any sight for it. Lacking that, reliability in ignition, feeding and ejection are paramount. Accuracy has to be high enough that the ammo can hold <2" groups at 15-25 yards. Expansion is icing on the cake. Penetration gets you to a vital organ or structure but expanding ammo that reliably expands offers a higher "margin of error" in bullet placement as well as additional damage.

        In the ideal sense, we'd only have to fire one shot and the perp would cease his threatening actions. The fewer the shots the more likely his survival via EMT's and emergency care.

    • Billca

      It’s been 40 years since I had my first initial training in handguns. That old retired FBI agent reminded us – repeatedly – “Speed is fine, accuracy is final”. Later I learned “you can miss fast enough to win a gunfight.”

      In the real world, shot placement is king. If you can’t hit a vital zone you’re not going to be effective. And instead of the heart, aim nearer the top of the sternum, just above the heart. Hitting the aortic arch – the major arteries that move blood out of the heart – is more devastating than the heart itself. The heart is a spongy muscle and can close up around an FMJ/LRN or other less effective round, allowing your opponent more time to fight. The aortic arch isn’t so resilient.

      The number of weird events or flukes that have occurred in gunfights is almost boggling. People have survived hits with 12-gauge slugs at short range and multiple buckshot rounds. Never expect your ammo is some kind of “magic load” that will work every time. Some years ago a police officer I knew shot a man twice at 20 feet with a .357 with almost no effect. He was using the best ammo at the time too. After a head shot stopped the guy it was discovered that both .357 rounds hit zippers – the front one and a chest pocket zipper – and both rounds veered, skidding along the subject’s ribs just under the skin.

      • John1943

        Some very good points but I think you meant you “can’t” miss fast enough.

        • Billca

          Corrected. Thanks for pointing that out, John.

      • carlcasino

        When a drug altered personality is involved a 20 mm cannon is not big enough.

    • Diamondback

      The key with a handgun is to shoot them at least twice regardless of caliber or bullet design.

      • carlcasino

        Yes, Yes, at least twice. The rush that has to be overcome is something never understood until it happens.
        At the range I can be a fairly decent shot , In an adrenalin rush situation I can vouch for a 100 round magazine.

        • The Brigadier

          Oh boy that’s the pistol I want! One with a hundred round mag. : )

          • carlcasino

            New advice for all CCW carriers: Never wear white underwear in a high stress situation, unless you have a understanding wife or housekeeper or you do your own laundry.

  • sianmink

    This almost seems like an unfinished article, but I guess we’re supposed to follow the link and read over there. XD


    wow. dumb post. thats like saying reasons why new cars are better than old cars…the fucking obvious

    • big daddy

      Most people have no idea about how handgun ammunition works in terms of terminal performance (which does not mean terminal as in killing). I hear so much BULLSHIT from people who own guns, they just do not know any better. We need more articles like this and to educate people on the facts. If you know all this well good for you, you would be one of the few gun owners who do.

      • Beeblebrox

        But I heard that a .45 ACP Black Talon will blow your arm off if it just grazes you! Are you suggesting that I was misinformed?

        • Sam Schifo

          Yes, you were. The .45 ACP Black Talon doesn’t even have to touch you to blow your arm off. It just has to be fired in your general direction.

          • big daddy

            I heard they can kill an elephant at 100 yards.

          • You bring the elephant I’ve got the Black Talons:-)

          • Sulaco

            Please let me know how this turns out……….by mail.

          • big daddy

            I couldn’t find any in the wild so we have to go to a zoo. Do you think they’d mind?

          • carlcasino

            I demand a video!of the Talon vs Elephant

          • Diamondback

            Only if you have a thirty round magazine clip

          • big daddy

            I put clips on my magazines so I clip them on my evil black guns.

          • Diamondback

            Mine look a lot like the one Jerry Miculek demonstrated in his YouTube video on the subject.


    • Don Ward

      New cars don’t have fins, chrome and sculpted contours. Old cars better. Now hand me a 9/16 wrench.

      *clank, clank, clatter*

    • n0truscotsman

      Its not obvious. Every time there is a 9mm vs 45 argument, the same refuted points get brought up over and over again, so it bears repetition.

    • It might be obvious to some but the majority of shooters aren’t familiar with the improvements made in ammo in recent years.

    • carlcasino

      Hate to break this to you but New cars are not always better than used. I have bought 3 Brand New Out of the Box Lemons and 20 or 22 used Gems.
      Find a better analogy.

      • LAVA MAN

        you look and sound like an internet troll.

        • carlcasino

          Can you see me from there ? I know turkeys have great sense of smell but as to being a troll, I am musically inclined but living under rocks I leave to Progressive Liberals.
          You really don’t want to stir this old man up I do not truck fools lightly.

  • big daddy

    Federal HST is the most consistent, Gold Dots next and penetrate a little more. If you cannot find them Golden Sabers are fine. What you did not mention is bonded bullets holding together better when they hit bone. Older and/or less expensive hollow points will separate from their jacket making them less effective. I’d have no problem if the US DOD went to these against terrorists. It would save them a lot of money switching to a bigger caliber. Fill those M9s or whatever gun they choose with some new 124 grain +P bonded JHPs.

  • Don Ward

    If by “intrigue” you mean met by scorn and derision then “yes”, the RIP boolit is intriguing.

  • Weaver

    A lot of it come to shot placement. That’s from a lot of documents I’ve been reading.

  • justme

    I sure do love me some HST. I just wish I could find the bullets themselves for reloading purposes. Anyone?

    • big daddy

      Yup, I was lucky to get what 9mm HST ammo I could find. Not as bad with Golden Saber and Gold Dots. HST, if you see it grab it!!!

  • Grindstone50k

    *Insert unverifiable personal anecdote why X caliber is better*

    • John1943

      I have no idea which is better, but my intuition says carry the biggest gun that you can shoot well that is also feasible in your current circumstances.

      Never heard anyone complain that they had too big a gun in a gun fight.

  • Ammunition has indeed gotten better. But handguns are still not where they could be. The biggest obstacle, IMO, to truly effective handguns is reducing the muzzle flash and noise of current propellants.

  • I was just reading comments on a WW2 Facebook group post featuring an old 1911A1. The vast majority of posters seemed to think you could probably have replaced all the anti-tank guns with 1911s and shortened the war by six months.

    Tons of “Will flip a small man right over or stop a running man in his tracks”, or “If that hits you pretty much anywhere, you’re done”, and some “So much better than the puny 9mm, can’t beat its stopping power!”, too.

    Many of these comments were from gun collectors and firearms enthusiasts, so yeah, there are a lot of myths still around that need to be dispelled.

  • gunsandrockets

    Two questions:

    Doesn’t nickel plating a case weaken it?

    Didn’t the FBI solicitation for 9mm specifically exclude +P loads?

  • Zebra Dun

    Some pistols and revolvers do better with older style rounds, I like the old FMJ/FMC ball rd in my .45 Gov but for the S&W M-25-5 I use Silver tips, it’s more accurate.
    The wife’s l’il revolver carries something she can shoot well a light 110 JHP non +P.
    Shot placement is what does the job and will even if your shooting an old round nose lead bullet in a .38 spl. Where as a Magic Torqumada kill-o-zap spoon tip copper bullet in the non life threatening areas of the target won’t do as well.
    They are fun to shoot though!

  • Panzercat

    But remember, kids: Defensive ammo has only seen modern advances in 9mm.

    • usmcmailman

      BULL CRAP !

    • D

      Thanks for the facetious comment!

      • John1943

        I think you might be missing the sarcasm. If 9mm has improved, I’m guessing that spills over into the others, so they are better too.

  • Will

    As a young police officer, at a Midwest department, in the late 1970’s, I was dispatched to a home invasion with shots fired. Long story short;
    The perp was hit four times with 230 grain FMJ .45 ACP rounds. Ran off and drove himself to a hospital three miles away. Walked into the ER THEN collapsed. He is STILL serving time in the penitentiary.
    The home owner was so shaken that he fired seven shots and only hit the perp four times none of which hit a vital organ.
    Out of curiosity I asked the home owner how often he practiced with the pistol. He admitted he had not practiced with that pistol since he bought it two years prior to the incident.

    • John1943

      If he hit 4 out of 7 without practice, with adrenalin flowing, he ain’t doing that badly. Not that he could not learn to do better, but have you seen the published stats on missed shots from NYPD officers?

  • Sckarekrow

    Than before, not then before. English, do you speakt it?

  • franco

    I like the 9 and it does fit in a vast array of firearms. I still think bigger is better and the 40 makes a better SD round. All the benefits gained by the 9 can be applied to other calibers. Once you go to +P the argument for the 9 over the 40 to reduce strss on the gun and shooter go away. Shoot steel plates with both and you will see an increase in knock down power from the heavier bullet. With the 40 you only lose a round or 2 in capacity. Plus, I can handload to save money and get the performance from consumer powder on the 40 that I can’t get on the 9.
    Bottom line is don’t rush out to buy a 9 if you have a 40 or a 45 that you like.