CCW Truths Clash with “Self-Defense Ammo” Solutions

To begin with, I want to break the concealed carry world into three categories. Because we have very little relevant and legitimate statistics on Americans who conceal carry, I’m going to go off of my personal experience and interactions, which I hope should mirror the experiences of many other gun owners.

The Concerned CCW Holder- This genre of law abiding adults who conceal carry form perhaps 10 percent of the entire CCW population. These are people who take self-defense classes, compete in competition, are possibly from a Law Enforcement or Military background, practice situational awareness on a daily basis, are always looking for the exit sign in a restaurant, etc… But you get the point. They are the epitome of what a responsible, informed, and competent CCW holder should be. An example of this type is Jason Falconer, the former Cop, full time marksmanship instructor, and competitive shooter. He fatally shot the knife wielding crazy in Minnesota who had stabbed 9 people. Falconer probably wasn’t even thinking when he engaged the bad guy, he was probably on complete auto-pilot from having trained, practiced, and prepared for this exact situation thousands of times in training and in competition. As much as we aspire to join this genre, the reality is that very few CCW holders actually cross into it.


John or Jane Smith CCW Holder- J. Smith comprises around 80 percent of CCW holders nationwide. Smith is your average white collar, or blue collar worker who could have no income, be a retiree, or a full/part time worker. He/She is a concerned enough citizen to realize that self-defense is a human right, procured a CCW permit and a capable handgun. They might hit the range once a month, once a year, or years in between range sessions. Firearms and firearms training might or might not be a high priority on their to-do list, among family, job, or other hobby pursuits. However, they carry every day because they don’t want to be defenseless. Realize there is absolutely nothing wrong with J. Smith. Just because they don’t take the latest Travis Haley course, or place 2nd in their local IDPA league, doesn’t mean they have forfeited their right to carry a handgun. They are knowledgeable, are competent enough to handle a handgun safely, and have their wits about them enough to know when deadly force is applicable under a self-defense situation. A perfect example of J. Smith is David (Name witheld), a CCW holder, fighting off two robbers in a barber shop.

Borderline Ignorant CCW Holder- Luckily this only comprises 10 percent, or hopefully closer to 5 percent. We can’t pretend that the borderline ignorant CCW holders aren’t out there, because they are. They aren’t criminals, they aren’t bad people looking for an excuse to use a firearm in any situation. But they are probably somewhat unsafe, slightly irresponsible, and maybe even downright ignorant when it comes to the laws and regulations surrounding them. This is the person I was recently in a class with, when he took his holstered and loaded handgun off his belt, and blatantly laid it on the table, pointing up at the class instructor. The kid wasn’t a complete idiot, he’s obviously alive somehow, but he is an unsafe enough person to leave his handgun on a table, pointing at another human being (I corrected him later on in the class). A perfect example of this type is this drunk CCW Holder, who while fumbling with his handgun, discharged it, almost killing the woman in front of him at a theater, then fleeing the scene. I think any responsible gun owner would agree we could really do without this crowd altogether.

Hopefully these three classes of CCW holders jive with what you have experienced, as it certainly does with me. Realize that all three exist on a blurry continuum, wherein people might start off as J. Smith, then becoming more passionate about self-defense and moving into being Concerned. Or the opposite as people become less interested in shooting.

The reason I disagree with putting so much emphasis on any particular “wonder bullet” is directly related to J. Smith, the overwhelming majority of CCW Holders. The Concerned folks all understand what I am going to write thoroughly enough to write it themselves. The Borderline Ignorant CCW folks are probably not reading TFB to begin with (although I sincerely do want them to upgrade to J. Smith)

The Practical Application

First, a question. How many times have you ran into a friend, a buddy, or even yourself, and asked what they were carrying, and it turned out to be a magazine of  Magic-Darts-for-Fire-Breathing-Dragons-at-Your-Doorstep, plus one in the chamber? Or when have you been at a range with a buddy and picked up a magazine of theirs, about to shoot it in their new Glock, and they exclaimed, “Oh don’t shoot that! That’s my self defense load/magazine/carry/etc.. shoot this Ball ammunition instead”.

How do you know the very rounds you are expecting to save your life, actually chamber/fire/extract/eject if you never even shoot them?

If every time you go to the range, you set that magazine aside and shoot cheaper FMJ ammunition. If you are J Smith, how many times are you going to a range? Once a month? Once a year? If you’ve only ever gone several times, and each time you set aside your magazine fed cure for Dementors, then what in the world are you actually training for? Sure, your handgun fires and cycles reliably with FMJ ammo all day, but what about what you are actually carrying every single day? How do you know the rounds you intend to use in a violent self-defense situation are even going to make it up the feed ramp? Unless you are training with the same rounds you carry, then honestly and truthfully how can you say they will work reliably?

The common reply is that “Self-Defense” ammunition is expensive. Alot of JHP  ammunition is indeed very expensive, coming in packs of 25 rounds, and usually costing just as much, if not more. And I’m sorry, but this just isn’t feasible for J. Smith, who doesn’t see spending half his/her income on the same rounds he/she carries (in this case JHPs), just so he/she can get an adequate amount of range time in. Life happens, and needs to be attended to. Children, a job, the house, familial ties, all come before a trip to the range, in completely practical terms.

Those of us wanting to criticize and push J. Smith into the dust for not training more, or taking self-defense more seriously are missing the point entirely. Sure, J. Smith could be doing more, he/she could be on their way to becoming a Concerned CCW Holder, but that’s not taking into account other people have priorities and motivations that might differ from the rest of us. I’m not implying that J. Smith doesn’t take self-defense seriously. Of course he/she takes it seriously, or else he/she would be in the Borderline Ignorant category.

The other aspect of this practical side is that a carry handgun should be routinely cleared for a number of reasons. Cleaning, range time, trying out different holsters, etc… It happens, you have to unload and clear your carry handgun, the thing can’t be perpetually in Blast Off mode (Condition One in the Marine Corps), round in the chamber, magazine inserted, safety on.

It is common knowledge within firearms canon that chambering and re-chambering a cartridge can potentially lead to either the bullet seating further into the case, or even light primer strikes (AR15s). Maybe not on the second time, or the third, or the fourth, but it can eventually lead to a failure to fire, or even a catastrophic malfunction.This article goes into the problem with some detail, outlining specific examples as well.


If all J. Smith can afford or want to afford is those Evil Demon stoppers, and all J. Smith has is 25 rounds, what percentage of the J. Smith population is going to realize once a year to probably change out the ammunition in the magazine, or at least the order of the rounds? I’m willing to bet that a number of J. Smith CCW holders out there have had the same rounds loaded in their carry gun for a year, or even several years. How many of those rounds have been chambered multiple times? How much deeper are those bullets now seated in the case? Will they even fire? Most won’t know because that carry magazine gets set aside every time a range trip is done.

The Ballistics

I’m not a Ballistician, mostly leaving matters of ballistics up to Nathaniel F. But what I do know is that our knowledge of terminal ballistics is incredibly limited and understudied compared to the field of genetics for example. There is much out there on Gelatin tests, penetration, and all sorts of other measurements. But when it comes to the actual study of incapacitating human beings intent on doing harm, how can there be an objective study at all? The only evidence we have is scant, and has so many variables it is mind boggling. When it comes to handgun ammunition, we have differing accounts of people getting shot with smaller rounds and going down instantly, then with larger rounds and instead escalating their attack. I mean seriously, so much comes into play that any real measure of success seems to be countered with a later example of failure.

So within this myriad of half supported conclusions based on evidence that can never be objectively presented in a truly scientific manner, I’m being told that JHP ammunition performs better than FMJ ammunition? In what perfect scenario does this pan out? The intricacy of the human body is such that all sorts of factors come into play when dealing with terminal ballistics. Energy levels, psychology, Fight or Flight, levels of narcotics, body composition, fat, muscle, etc… etc… And just when we think we have it all solved, we have this Civil War soldier who took a direct shot to the T-Box, living another 3 decades! Or the insane story of Hugh Glass, however exaggerated.


So “Self-Defense” ammunition might be better, but by what margin, and with what collected, researched, and vetted evidence? I don’t think we yet nearly have enough solid evidence and research to formulate a proper conclusion on the matter. We know that if someone is shot with a .500 S&W it sucks alot, and if someone is shot with a .22 LR, the results if not fatal are possibly minimal. But everything in between is completely up for debate. Compared to something like, the study of Algebra, there is so much more we don’t know about terminal ballistics than we actually do know.

The Hype

Jumping right off the Terminal Ballistics bandwagon, is the industry we are surrounded by, and enticed by, propagating the “Self-Defense” ammunition solution. Much of the current firearms industry is a products based one. It is based on the trade and commerce of firearms, ammunition, parts, accessories, etc… If anything, concealed carry has taught us that the industry balance favors Product over the Training aspect of CCW. The latest rave is all about the newest holster, belt, ammo, clothing, Kydex, etc… I mean, ironically sub-compact and compact handguns have existed for over a century, they’ve always been there. There is nothing new about the Glock 43 or M&P Shield when it comes to being the newest design or shape in this “sub-compact” category (the word is somehow a recent invention). Sure it might offer some reliability or ergonomics over century old designs, rusts less and shoots more. But a Walter PPK in the hands of a competent CCW holder will most likely run circles around a Springfield XDS in a similar competition or other metric.

You open up any gun magazine, browse any website, go into any gun store, and the “Self-Defense” ammunition is waiting for you, in your face so to speak. You can’t avoid it. When buying a new carry gun, you purchase a couple hundred rounds of FMJ, and then that box of 25 “Self-Defense” ammunition. And for what I ask?


Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at


  • Don Ward

    Or you carry a revolver and don’t have to worry about whether it can chamber almost all types of self defense ammunition.

    • J. Murphy

      A revolver has a limited capacity, which is a concern given the chaotic situation that is self defense with a firearm.

      • Al Wise

        News flash: your whole world is a compromise. Gun world marketing has rendered a revolver a second class choice when in fact the number of rounds are suficiant for the average Joe, or Jane.

        • J. Murphy

          There’s no such thing as a sufficient number of rounds for the average Jane or Joe, there’s a practical amount (the amount the firearm they can carry can actually load) and the hypothetical ideal amount (as many rounds as they end up needing in a life or death situation).

          There’s certainly solid advantages to carrying a revolver over a semi-automatic for self defense. The inherent simplicity and the ability to take cheap ammo without complaint are among them, and if someone’s on an extremely tight self defense budget, and can only afford a budget gun and budget ammo, a Revolver is certainly a better choice then a likely unreliable semi-auto.

          Sacrificing capacity for reliability seems like a valid decision. Sacrificing capacity for mall ninja ammo seems backwards. Isn’t ascribing magical powers to overpriced JHP ammo what the brady campaign does?

          • Jacob

            And exactly what budget revolvers are you talking about? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything budget friendly in a revolver unless we are talking police trade-ins.

          • J. Murphy

            You’re asking the wrong guy, I’m just speculating on that, the Revolver advocate that took issue with my initial comment probably has an answer to that.

          • Scott

            I picked up an all stainless steel, brand new Taurus Model 85 in .38 special +P at Academy Sports for a little over $300. It’s a 5 shot snubby, like a Smith J frame. After over 200 rounds downrange, she still shoots and locks up just fine.

          • Nick

            I picked up a stainless no-dash Model 60 in excellent shape for $300 about two months ago. Local FFL took it on consignment and I bought it before all of the employees there even knew it was in the case. So deals pop up, you just have to watch for them.

          • iksnilol

            Revolvers are about as simple as my mechanical watch.

        • M.M.D.C.

          “…your whole world is a compromise.”

          It amazes me how many people don’t know this. In a design like a carry gun which must strike a balance between weight, size and firepower, compromise is essential. Given that most will never need to use their pistol and that most who do will only need a few rounds, and that ease of carry eventually relegates most larger guns to the safe, a good place to compromise is with capacity.

      • Don Ward

        Since I don’t live in Fallujah, I’m not a drug runner for a Mexican cartel or a New York police officer trained to close his eyes and spray-and-pray, the odds of me needing to reload in my average haunts in a self defense situation is one-in-million (or more). And I can reload fast enough if needed.

        • Tom Currie

          OMG – a realist! You know that we will both be run out of here by all the mall ninjas who think a Glock 17 plus four magazines is barely adequate adquate.

      • Jack, is that you?

      • Tom Currie


        To misquote an old adage: If you can’t get the job done with 5 rounds, you probably can’t get it done at all.

        The dynamics are totally different for a LEO or military on the battlefield, but for a civilian carrying for self defense, the number of rounds available is unlikely to be an issue. [This, of course, assumes that the civilian is at least marginally competent, isn’t popping off rounds at distances where “self defense” is a farce, and is actually capable of hitting the bad guy(s) somewhere at least half the time.]

      • HR Pufnstuf

        I carried a revolver, plus only 12 more rounds in pouches, for many years until pistols became much more popular. Never felt underpowered. A .357 Magnum, shot carefully, is a lot more effective than 17 rounds of 9mm in the “spray and pray” mode.

        • Sawblade Stainless

          If you spray and pray you should not own a weapon.

        • iksnilol

          What about 17 shots shot carefully?

          Y’all are so binary about this. Either you have a limited capacity and fire accurately, or you have plenty of rounds and spray&pray. What if the reality is that you fire less accurate with a revolver than you think you would, and that you fire with a pistol more accurate than you think you would? Both are gonna miss some in a real scenario but hit most of the time if you know what you’re doing.

          • retfed

            I hate people who bring logic into these arguments.
            If you have a 5-shot revolver and three or more assailants, you probably won’t get them all, no matter how carefully you shoot. Study after study has shown that most people shoot about half as well in a fight as they do on the range.
            Like HR Pufnstuf above, I carried a .357 and 2 speedloaders for 20 years and never felt undergunned. The last 11 years of my career, I carried between 8 and 18 rounds of .45, .40, or 9mm, and 2 spare mags, and felt even less undergunned. I was trained to shoot carefully, and that’s what I did, whether I was carrying a J-frame or a Glock 17.

    • gunsandrockets

      Or worry about unloading and reloading the same cartridges.

    • iksnilol

      I don’t think whether it can chamber that ammo or not that’s a concern. I’d rather say the problem is how will the ammo behave (IE firing, extracting and accuracy+effect).

      • Don Ward

        And if worse comes to worse, absent squib loads or some catastrophic case failure – both issue which can also plague semi-autos – that revolver will fire all five or six shots without jamming. Which is more than the hypothetical situation with unknown self-defense ammunition as proposed by the author.

        • iksnilol

          Eeeh, faulty ammo can bind up a revolver just as bad as a semi auto.

          • Don Ward

            Again. We’re dealing with the situation that Miles presented in his hypothetical. Not the different county which you have moved the goalposts of the argument to, my friend.

          • iksnilol

            I know, I ain’t arguing with Miles either.

        • Sawblade Stainless

          Moral of that You get what you pay for. Do not buy cheap. Ever-one can wait and save another month or two so they may purchase a well built weapon that will not have any mishaps. And that weapon will feed and extract all ammo with no problem.

      • The Deplorable Mr Evilwrench

        It does have to chamber, and the only way you know this is to run at least a mag through. Do the rounds snag on the ramp? Does the last round still climb the ramp under the reduced spring tension? I tried out a new dragon killer once, and it would not chamber from the mag in ANY of my .45s, but my son’s SIG227 eats them like candy. We’ve yet to see if it kills dragons.

        • iksnilol

          You missed my point, that guy mentioned that a revolver won’t have an issue with chambering rounds. I just mentioned that wasn’t really the main issue (I mean, who loads a gun and then goes, yup, that’s that, no need to ever think about this again).

  • some other joe

    Case in point, I had problems wit an XD feeding JHPs. My LGS polished the ramp and it worked. The gun was 1911 thin and it was the compact grip frame with the tactical slide. Very smooth shooter, the XD gear worked well enough for carrying with the short mag loaded and full size mags as reloads, but I never trusted it after one JP snagged on the ramp. So I sold it and never looked back.

  • DanGoodShot

    I must have missed something here? What was the actual point of this article/rant? Was it that what we carry doesn’t matter if we dont shoot with it? Or, we should shoot what we carry? Even though its price prohibited? Am I the only one who missed the point/climax of this? Probably. Lol

    • ExurbanKevin

      “What was the actual point of this article/rant?”

      • DanGoodShot

        Normally I’d agree. But I’ve read a bit of Miles work and it’s usually well written, thought out and well articulated. I’m wondering if this wasn’t just a bunch of random thoughts jammed together and throw it out there by accident. Ha!

    • Marc

      I missed the point as well Dan.

      • DanGoodShot

        Good to see I wasn’t the only one!

    • RSG

      You’re not alone. When I finished reading the article, I could help but think, “and…”?

      • DanGoodShot

        I actually reloaded my page to check if I just wasn’t getting the whole thing! Miles usually puts out some good stuff… ummm this wasn’t it. Lol

        • iksnilol

          Only reason he’s the handsomest man in Afghanistan is because we can’t afford to send James there yet.

    • Keiichi

      DanGoodShot – I agree… the author starts by laying out three categories of CCW holder, and then proceeds to discuss the benefits of routinely practicing with the same ammo you carry, and finishes off with some slightly veiled complaints about the commercial aspect of the gun industry… Where’s the punchline?

      • DanGoodShot

        Yup. It was kinda random. I thought it was going somewhere. It seemed like it had some really profound point. I kept reading and the more I read the more I wanted to know what he was getting at… apparently hes not sure.?

      • Zebra Dun

        The difference is the sloppy joe in the dollar store with an open carry pistol and too much ammo all in a loose gunfighter rig as opposed to the guy who is slightly dull and blends with the surroundings who carries a handgun you never see and don’t know he has.
        And then the rest of us who tote in pockets, purses, waist belt bags, inside pants holsters from Walmart with nothing but the ammo in the gun or have forgotten and left our guns at home.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      I’m right there lost with you. Kind of came across as an elitist rant, to be honest.

      • DanGoodShot

        I don’t know about the elitist part as Miles usually comes across pretty down to earth but nonsensical rant….yeeeaahh.

    • MonoChango

      I think it was “Just carry normal target ammo. Usually any hole in a bad guy stops them from doing bad things. It rarely matters if the gel test damage channel is .45 or 2 inches wide.” But yeah I’d give this one a C in English class for not having a good conclusion.

      • DanGoodShot

        You found a conclusion?!

        • Justin Bailey

          He found a thesis?

    • gunsandrockets

      Yeah, seems like a first draft, it needs a rewrite with a better focus.

      My takeaway from the article was criticism of the marketing hype of expanding-bullet pistol ammunition. And in that I fully agree.

      But I disagree that this hype is primarily from producers. I think the hype really originates from consumers, and the ammo companies are just responding to market demand. In fact I think all the common CCW pistol cartridges are over-rated and needlessly obsessed over.

  • MrBrassporkchop

    My main concern is wearwolves. We’ve had vampires and now zombies for the past few years, it’s only a matter of time.

    So no matter how you cut it my ammo is VERY expensive.

    • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

      Youve been watching too much Yankee Marshal.

    • TheNotoriousIUD

      I shot a werewolf the other day but by the time I could get to him he had already turned back into my neighbor.

      • M.M.D.C.

        Tell it to the judge.

        • TheNotoriousIUD

          Hes probably one too….

        • MonoChango

          Well to be fair, he did have his shirt off and he is pretty hairy. 🙂

          • durabo

            Are you sure it wasn’t Michelle O’Bumfug?

          • junkman

            Made me laugh, perfect answer.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Dude, really?

      • Cory C


      • Archie Montgomery

        I hate it when that happens!

      • Duddly Doright

        Which brings up an often overlooked aspect regarding ammo. Should you carry one type of ammo for day use and another for night use.

        Lead, Copper (required in many states) etc. for day use and another for night use, the old standby, sliver – more expensive, lighter and more prone to shatter, but effective against a wider range of attackers, including vampires.

        • Dougscamo

          Nah….everyone knows that silver bullets don’t work on vampires… 🙂

          • iksnilol

            If you cut a cross into them they should work?

          • Dougscamo

            Only if they were marinated in a light garlic sauce….

        • jonp

          That is what tracers are for.

        • gunsandrockets

          Wouldn’t an incendiary bullet be more of a universal monster-killer round?

          • billyoblivion

            When in doubt, burn it with fire.

    • gunsandrockets
      • durabo

        “There wolf” (Igor in “Young Frankenstein”)

        • Archie Montgomery

          Over there wolf, too!

          Why we talk like this?

          • durabo

            See Marty Feldmn in film

          • Archie Montgomery

            Seen (the late, sadly) Marty Feldman in film! Great movie!

        • jonp

          There Castle.

          • durabo

            “What magnificent knockers!” (Gene Wilder to Teri Garr)

    • William Sullivan

      Coors silver bullets. Put them down.

  • Jim Slade

    Only issue I had with the take on the CCW population is: take about 5% off of the top-end number and add about 10% to the number of asshats on the bottom end.

    • Bucho4Prez

      Just walking around the gun shop listening to the customer interactions with tell you this…

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    My solution (at least for my rifles) when I reload is to load a certain bullet that is cheap enough to train with but has good enough terminal ballistics (usually Hornady Interlocks or SSTs). I dont load pistol ammo; at least not yet.

  • Rick O’Shay

    I’d like to make one small argument against the concern for J. Smith’s bullets getting seating issues: if they’re visiting the range as little as you think they are, if their concerns/priorities lie elsewhere in terms of “gotta stay on top of this,” I’d argue that they’re handling that ammo a lot less than you might believe. They probably put a mag into the gun, chamber a round, eject the mag and load another round, and seat that mag again and holster the gun. Where it remains untouched. They holster and unholster, without ever removing the gun (or mag) from the holster. If they remove the mag at all, or eject the round that’s in the chamber, it’s strictly at the range when they switch to the ball ammo.
    Is defensive ammo really so poorly made that it will become unsafely seated if chambered/ejected a dozen or so times before finally being shot? I’ve never put myself in that sort of position, but I’m going with ‘no’ in that regard.

    • RSG

      A dozen times? I’d say, unequivocally, yes.

      • Rick O’Shay

        Really? Again, I’ve never been there. I train with what I carry. I might eject and rechamber the same round 2-3 times, but I go to the range on as frequent a basis as my schedule will allow and shoot my defense ammo. If it’s been ejected and rechambered more than two or three times, I might shuffle the round further down the magazine, but I’d always figured it’s better to be safe/paranoid.

    • I think most ammunition, no matter how high a quality, will face seating issues if repeatedly chambered and rechambered, to include both FMJs and JHPs.

      How many times has J. Smith shown their firearm to a friend or family member? Cleaned it? Possibly unloaded it while the family is away in a country/state where CCW isn’t allowed? Each time this happens, the chambered round is ejected, and usually inserted right back into the handgun when normal CCW happens again. If they aren’t being smart about it, they’ll chamber the exact same round they took out. And if that magazine is those precious JHPs, when will they ever be fired at a range? Probably never. And thus the rechamberings will occur. This is my concern.

      • Rick O’Shay

        That’s a fair question. I’m not disputing the validity of the concern. I’m just curious just how many eject/rechamber cycles a bullet has to take before setback starts to manifest itself, and how much before that setback becomes critical.

        • The photograph I used in the article has one round, chambered 3 times, with enough seating to possibly cause some damage. I am curious as well, and would actually like to test it out. In addition, not only is there an issue with the actual bullet, but also the primer itself getting knocked about and not detonating when struck by the firing pin. The article I referenced in here talks about that actually happening to a certain SWAT team.

          • Rick O’Shay

            Then I’d say that gun has some serious problems, because I’ve had bullets that have been rechambered three times with FAR less damage than that.

          • Oregon213

            I used to be worried about this from doing a press check at the start of every shift. I took to marking my “chamber” round with a sharpie, just to keep track of it. I did a press check a shift for 3 months (time between range tranings), and no issues.

            Once I became a firearms instructor, I was loading and unloading my gun a lot more than before. I did the same thing again, just marked my chambered round. I was running the range at least once every other week for 3 months, and no issues with bullet seating. I even pulled out a caliper and the variance was no different than the variance in a box of new ammo.

            Quality ammo is quality ammo. We were carrying Winchester Ranger T-Series, for what that’s worth.

            All that said… I rotate my chamber round now. Anytime I unload my gun, I rotate my mags and pull my next round from it.

  • ARCNA442

    Is this article really arguing that the average CCW holder shouldn’t buy quality ammunition because it’s too expensive?

    If so that is rather irresponsible. While the modern JHP may not be 100% effective, it is demonstrably superior to FMJ. Further, defensive ammo from reputable companies is simply better made than the vast majority of the FMJ ammo in civilian hands.

    Finally, you can easily find 100 round boxes of 9mm HST or Gold Dots for around 50¢ a round. Virtually anyone who can afford to spend several hundred dollars on a gun, accessories, and CCW fees can probably afford another $50 to make sure his carry ammo actually works (and possibly even test POA/POI).

    • Demonstrably superior how? Do we have actual reports of JHPs in use against human beings in such large quantities that we can withdraw actual real world conclusions? I see Gelatin and ballistics tests galore, but when it actually comes to bringing down a human aggressor, where is the overwhelming, empirical evidence?

      I think you miss the point of the article. If all I ever shot, and all I ever carried was JHPs, then I honestly wouldn’t have anything to worry about. Those Gold Dots are great for the cost, but from my personal experience, J. Smith doesn’t know about them, and has separate carry and practice ammunition. This is my issue.

      • ARCNA442

        I’m not sure why you say that we don’t have proof of the effectiveness of JHP’s when LEO’s across the country use them successfully in hundreds of well documented shootings every year. Sure, FMJ would probably have worked in many of them, but the fact that they continue to procure the more expensive JHP is probably a hint. Further, I would think that, given sufficient penetration for each, the relative effectiveness of a rounded bullet and a sharp flat bullet with over 50% greater diameter should be obvious.

        As far as I know, virtually everyone has separate practice and carry ammo. I know I’m not wealthy enough to shoot Gold Dots exclusively. But additional cost of using JHP’s is minute if you’re frugal. Let’s say you fire two full magazines to vet the gun and then replace your carried ammo every year. With a Glock 19, that’s a $25 fifty round box the first year and then another every three years. If you rotated the ammo in the magazine, you can even unload and dry fire once a week and not cycle an individual round more than three times in a year. If you actually shoot regularly, make the first two rounds of the day JHP instead of FMJ and add a grand total of 50¢ to your range trip while confirming function.

        If the problem is that J. Smith doesn’t know about Gold Dots (or Federal HST, or Winchester Ranger), than perhaps time is better spent getting the message out than telling him that he shouldn’t bother using them.

        • Toxie

          It is bordering on obtuse to claim that ONLY live human results are acceptable for purposes of demonstrating effectiveness. EVERY hunter in America can tell you that expanding bullets are FAR superior to FMJ for hunting. Analogue testing is a valid and time tested method to scientifically test things not possible to test on humans and makes you come across as more than a little ignorant. Be it lab rats or crash test dummies the results still provide valid data and cannot be dismissed as “can never be objectively presented in a truly scientifically manner”.
          The only think I learned from your article is that people who use “never” are always wrong.

          • Major Kong

            >EVERY hunter in America can tell you that expanding bullets are FAR superior to FMJ for hunting.
            There’s a problem with that statement. Superior how? Hunters do have to worry about how long an animal can effectively get away for after being shot, but the acceptable time frame for that is significantly longer than what is acceptable for someone to continue attacking you in a self defense scenario. How much of a change is there in the shorter time frame? You also forget that with rifle ammunition bullet fragments causing damage inches from the primary wound tract is normal, meaning a shot missing the heart by a couple inches could still damage the heart, while with pistol ammunition all you get is a slightly larger primary wound tract. Yes, X may produce slightly larger wounds than Y, but how does that actually play out for the time it takes to stop someone/something? Custom Glaser Safety Slugs filled with polonium-210 may have a 100% lethality rate per shot, but I’m not sure I’d want to sit around waiting for that to actually take effect.

          • RetroG

            You obviously don’t hunt. Every hunter wants a round that will drop an animal instantaneously. Why? Because even if it doesn’t run off and need to be tracked through a muddy swamp filled with thorn bushes in an ice storm at twilight, the adrenaline dump and lactic acid ruins the taste of the meat. Controlled expansion rounds (handgun hollowpoint equivalents) kill animals orders of magnitude faster and more reliably faster than fmj, which is why fmj rounds are actually illegal to hunt with in many states.

          • Major Kong

            >Every hunter wants a round that will drop an animal instantaneously.
            Everyone wants their guns to be death rays. The important question is do they actually get it or are they forced to settle for less? Judging by the talk I’ve seen about using FLIR cameras to follow blood trails at their high prices I’d say probably not.

            >kill animals orders of magnitude faster and more reliably faster than fmj
            But how does that play out in an extremely time constrained scenario such as where someone may be shooting back at you and waiting 10-20 seconds for them to stop even with your quality ammunition is already 10-20 seconds to long and you’re out of ammo? My research on wound ballistics leads me to believe that pistol caliber hollow points won’t make much of a difference in that time frame on a person. Again, just because X round can kill someone faster than Y round doesn’t guarantee that you will actually see the difference in the time frame that you want, just like how you can get a sports car and not see that much of difference in the time of your commute because there are still other factors at play (in the case of wound ballistics, the time it takes a lung to collapse or the rate that the human body pumps blood to the area you just shot).

            >fmj rounds are actually illegal to hunt with in many states.
            Covered in my previous post about overall time to death.

        • Oregon213


          Its easy to mirror the basic standard that police use for firearms training. Shoot FMJ most of the time, and shoot your duty ammo once a year or every other year. Just try to match bullet weight between duty and practice.

          Even pretty budget strapped agencies will cycle their duty ammo every other year or so. I do it with my off duty gun.

          Its another good reason to aim to carry one gun, rather than cycle through 3 or 4 carry guns.

          One main carry gun, or even two, doesn’t add up to a ton of cost in shooting its capacity of carry ammo once a year. If you’re rotating through three or four carry guns, in two different calibers though…. it’ll add up fast.

      • iksnilol

        What’s the problem with separating carry and practice ammo? Sure, use the same weight and check POA/POI of both loads, but other than that, what’s the issue? I mean, do you have an issue if a racer uses race fuel for races and normal fuel for daily driving even if it is the same car?

      • Ken Beaulieu

        Search Masad Ayoob and purchase a book or two that he’s written. NYC police were among the last to use ball ammo and finally switched to JHPs to avoid over penetration. It is why all police forces in the US use them today.

      • Oregon213

        Research should be sufficient for you, and if it isn’t…. all you’re going to be left with is anecdotal evidence, which shouldn’t ever be used as a basis for a scientific decision.

        With that said…. in the early 1980s, officers with the Eugene Police were still carrying .38 revolvers. Their rangemaster took the same stance you have, in that a bullet is a bullet, and officers should carry what they train with. Officers were carrying a 130 grain FMJ load.

        Fast forward a couple years…. armed robbery at the old Pizza Hut on Franklin Avenue. Officers respond, gunfight ensues. Officers put 8 hits on suspect, 2 of them in the chest. Suspect wounds two officers (one with a gunshot wound, the other with fragments from a doorframe. Officers back out to cover, and suspect is killed with 12 gauge slug as he flees out the back door.

        EPD went back to semi-jacketed hollowpoints immediately after this.

        There are tons of these stories out there, and you just don’t see them as often since agencies started carrying quality hollowpoints. Pistols are pistols, and you’re never going to get rifle-performance out of a pistol – but carrying FMJs is asked to become a statistic.

        Or not, I mean…. if you’re looking to research… you’re likelihood of being in a shooting is so minimal that the ammo you carry is practically inconsequential. You should, however, probably defer a bit on ammo selection to those professionals who have been, or are likley to be, in a shooting.

        • Major Kong

          >Officers put 8 hits on suspect, 2 of them in the chest.
          >2 of them in the chest.
          The problem here seems to be poor shot placement and not bullet construction, and I see no reason to believe that the situation wouldn’t have played out the same if the officers were equipped with hollow points since they could only put 2 rounds in the area where the attacker’s important organs happen to be and may not have even hit any. I’ve also heard stories like this with officers equipped with modern hollow point bullets (sometimes even used to claim 9mm isn’t enough and that 10mm or .45 ACP is the minimum officers should be carrying), search “Why one cop carries 145 rounds of ammo on the job” in your search engine of choice for an example of what someone who doesn’t want to die can do without drugs being involved.

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    My P320 has not had one malfunction to date with any ammo (including my XTP carry ammo which I do shoot periodically) not even on the first round after I bought it brand new. And Ill be darned if Im going to pay $.90 to pull the trigger on a 9mm. If I want to do that my .30-06 is much more fun to shoot. I have no doubt that my carry ammo will function and I inspect the rounds every time I load them back into in my magazine and when its time to confirm function I shoot the ones that look the most deteriorated (and its usually a hard tell because they all look great) and Ive never had a problem shooting even those “most deteriorated” rounds.

    But the topic is a good thing to be mindful of. The tone of the article just seems a little too indifferent to certian things but over the top on others. I dont know how many times Ive seen a headline that says “Putting ranch on your pizza will get you killed!!!” I guess thats just how gun writing is these days.

    And Im nowhere near a “top 10%-er”

    • DataMatters

      You won’t have a major malfunction until the day you need to use it in anger.

  • PVW 20

    A gun can’t sit in condition 1 for a year or 2? Why not?

    • Of course it can. I’m not disputing that. However, the reality of the matter is that more often than not, it needs to be cleaned, taken apart, range trips, unloaded for whatever reason, etc… And this is where the concern I have about chambering the same round over and over comes into play.

      • PVW 20

        Fair nuff

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    One more point, if the ammo you are buying is so expensive that ball is significantly more economical to shoot, one would hope that the crimp was of decent quality to handle a few loadings and unloadings.

  • gerald brennan

    I have tested many premium pricey ultra-fantastic one-stopper loads in my carry gun (Shield 9mm). Many of them my gun doesn’t like and I get terrible groups. PLACEMENT MATTERS. Find the HP load that will hit where you aim, even if the name is not a glamorous one.

    • ARCNA442

      I would pay some attention to the name – a lot of the cheaper hollow points will either not expand, or over expand and not penetrate. Using a short barreled gun like the Shield can exacerbate issues.

  • TJ

    What on earth did I just read? So, to summarize…a.) Most ccw holders are barely competent at best (but that’s a-ok because 2nd amendment), b.) Rounds shouldn’t be repeatedly rechambered, so naturally c.) Self defense hollowpoints suck anyway so really, why bother? Say what? Who let this guy near a keyboard?

    • I’m curious how you got that conclusion. Nowhere did I say that most CCW holders are barely competent. In fact the opposite, many are competent enough to be in this J. Smith category. The bottom 10 percent is what I would label grossly incompetent.

      I didn’t say Self-Defense ammunition is inherently bad, just that there are so many variables when it comes to the human element out there, how you you definitively prove that a JHP will consistently perform better than an FMJ? Human beings aren’t walking piles of Gelatin, they have different adrenaline levels, motives, muscle mass, etc… etc…

      So coupled with the high price (which is a deterrent to ACTUALLY practicing with the very ammunition you carry), it is hard to see a good reason to use them on a daily basis.

  • Nathan Means

    I feel like there are more than 3 types. One is the angry old guy who thinks that a glock 17 in a leather owb is concealable under a football t shirt. You know the bald guy who yells at everyone and is always hinting at his gun. Dont be that guy.

  • gordon

    My EDC gun headspaces on the shoulder, so no, it is not going to get a light strike from repeated chambering. I occasionally mic the rounds that I have chambered more than once also even though they have never moved from chambering.

    • ARCNA442

      The light strikes and bullet setback are separate issues. Repeated chambering (and the example I heard about was dozens) can damage the primer itself and prevent it from functioning.

      • gordon

        What made you think I didn’t know they were separate issues? My EDC fires a very high pressure round, so my concern with set back is increased pressure. The author of the article seems to imply that that a damaged case mouth has something to do with light strikes though.

  • AJ187

    Yeah, most people function test their favorite HP/Grain/Brand of defensive ammo as they prove their gun is up to snuff. The bullet setback is overrated. I’ve played with it trying to get a light load of 9mm to cycle the slide. I could not get the bullet back enough to where it would chamber for the round to cycle the slide whatsoever. Only times I chamber a round are after the range or performing dry fire practice with snap caps. Even then I slowly release the slide on the round until it goes to breach. Not very hard on the cartridge or the gun. Also I think the accident prone ccw holder or whatever is less than 1 percent.

    • 1) I have honestly not met enough CCW J. Smith holders that test their own carry ammunition. I think this is probably because of the prohibitive price.

      2) I don’t think the bullet setback is overrated at all. The fact that it doesn’t happen with your handgun isn’t indicative of the vast majority of firearms out there.

      3) Slowing releasing the slide could be cause of an out of battery detonation, something I think is very unsafe.

      4) In the article I mentioned that hopefully it was closer to 5 percent, but I also don’t think it’s as low as 1 percent. Again, this comes down to statistics, which we really don’t have very many of, when it comes to CCW.

      • Paul White

        I’d consider myself a J Smith. Maybe towards the upper end of what you’d consider that, but I’m certainly not one of the guys that goes to yearly classes or spends hours at the ranges a month. I’ve tested what I carry, but I basically ran two boxes through each of my carry guns, and just do one box a year or so of it. The rest of my practice is for damn sure cheap FMJ stuff.

      • AJ187

        3) Not a fan of brass checks then?

    • gordon

      From QuickLoad’s guesstimate it looks like my bullet needs to move back only .04″ before I go over the pressure limit. But, I just measured a round I had chambered at least 10 times and it was only back .005″. I am still nervous enough to check with a caliper every so often and certainly before I fire at the range.

  • Tour18

    I love reading articles like this written by someone who has never won a pistol fight with someone trying to kill THEM PERSONALLY. It’s one thing to be in a gunfight by yourself. It is entirely another when you have an entire squad or more around you to back you up. All I can say is back off and post this dribble where everyone’s gear is paid for by somebody else.

    • How many CCW instructor or writers have won a pistol fight by themselves with someone trying to kill them personally?

      Give you a hint, neither has Ayoob, Haley, Costa, or even Pincus. And especially Pincus and Ayoob, today’s CCW gurus.

      • iksnilol

        I dunno, I don’t go to those folks, but IIRC Ayoob was a police constable and he probably got trained by somebody who shot folks.

        I digress, I was taught how to shoot folks by crusty old people who were taught to kill by folks killing Nazis, then they used that knowledge to kill other folks later on, one of whom beat a man half to death with his rifle before shooting him with it.

      • Tour18

        Well, I have and that’s why I don’t listen to them either. And I damn sure don’t downplay the lethality of ANYONE who doesn’t run around like a fool shooting at paper and pretending like that is even remotely like fighting for your life. And don’t bring up how the US military trains because you will not like anything I bring up about current military combat readiness. All of WWII lasted only seven years no matter how you determine the duration.

      • Tour18

        That was kind of rude of me. Keep writing and we’ll keep reading. Everyone has something to contribute. Pump out the articles. Quantity always has a quality of its own…

    • crackedlenses

      That’s great for you; as for the rest of us plebs without actual experience, we’ll read the article and try to improve.

    • The_Champ

      The article is an opinion piece and food for thought. That is all.
      You come across as personally insulted by it.
      If you really want to add to the conversation then enlighten us on the lessons your learned when you won your gunfight against someone trying to kill you personally.

  • The correct link is here-

    And no, I wouldn’t consider this report overly legitimate. It is less than 18 pages long, with most of the data from several years ago. It is an excellent summary and overview of CCW populations, but it is by no means definitive.

    • Rick O’Shay

      I’d venture to say it’s more definitive than your article. :/

      • In regards to what? CCW numbers? Absolutely.

        But I’m not talking about CCW numbers. I’m talking about concerning trends that I have personally seen within the Concealed Carry crowd.

        • Rick O’Shay

          But discussing personal observations about trends/personality types/personal behaviors outside of DGU/training practices isn’t definitive at all. It’s pure speculation. Those three categories you named each have their own subtypes, each of those subtypes with their own issues and pros and cons, etc.
          Regardless of how one might “self-identify” within your three categories, the facts as they stand from CPRC is that: 1) in areas/populations where concealed carry is prevalent or has increased, violent crime goes down. 2) CCW license holders by and large tend to be MORE law-abiding than their non-carry counterparts.
          Bullet setback issues and training behaviors are nitpicking quibbles that are completely beside the point of what concealed carry accomplishes: an armed society is a polite society.

          • First, firearms, not politics. I am nitpicking these issues because as someone who does conceal carry, and teaches firearms safety, these are issues I see for concern.

            And of course, these categories have their own subtypes, breakdowns, etc… etc… And of course this is mostly speculation from my personal viewpoint. But I don’t think it’s not undue speculation that comes from a certain amount of experience around CCW, and from personally interacting within several CCW crowds.

          • Rick O’Shay

            I understand. Regardless of where a concealed carrier is, there’s always room to improve and bad habits to eliminate.
            To get to the root of the criticism though, when you say “we have very little relevant and legitimate statistics on Americans who conceal carry,” and then dismiss someone countering your statement with relevant and legitimate statistics with “but that’s not what I’m talking about,” and the gist of your article is an unquantifiable, subjective viewpoint which will never have relevant and legitimate statistics because unquantifiable and subjective…
            Maybe don’t suggest that “relevant and legitimate statistics” could ever exist on this subject? I doubt that’s what you intended to do, but words matter.
            Just to be clear, I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with having this kind of discussion, and you’ve raised some points that now I’d like to see someone do quantifiable research on, so when this inevitably comes up again somewhere else down the road, we can have hard facts to back up “don’t do this because XXXX, do this because YYYY,” rather than ancedotal evidence that was randomly pulled up on some backwater internet forum with no more basis in fact other than OP’s claims.

  • Bradley

    Let me get this straight. After decades of multiple types of testing and use by law enforcement, hunters, and other individuals virtually every expert, user, designer, etc. believes expanding bullets are far more effective. However, since there are no extensive, long term studies showing exactly what happens each and every time one enters a human body, you are under the impression that fmj could possibly be just as or more effective? Carrying fmj as a lesser of two evils when compared to untested ammunition is a completely separate issue. There are more tests done than simply firing into gelatin, and they’ve been in widespread use for a long time. I’d there was nothing to it I’m pretty sure someone besides you would have noticed by now.

    • Vizzini

      Well, there are no extensive, long term studies that prove the worth of any particular internet columnist. It’s my opinion that this means the opinion of a random Joe on a street corner could be just as valid.

      • Duddly Doright

        Why limit you statements to internet columnists? The so called PROS (Lamestream media) are far less accurate that the average internet post, even averaging in the “Foil Hat” segment.

        • Vizzini

          Excellent point.

    • Five

      Another consideration, if you aren’t cycling your ammo, what is going to hold up to sitting longer? It’s not the cheap ball.

    • Major Kong

      >you are under the impression that fmj could possibly be just as or more effective?
      You are leaving out a third possibility, the additional damage caused by hollow points could provide only a very marginal advantage within the time frame of most self defense shootings. In my life I’ve seen other instances where on paper one option should be significantly better while in actual use the differences are marginal so I’ve started to question this everywhere. Also, from my reading about wound ballistics and the human body I have started to doubt the ability for pistol ammunition to cause enough damage to some organs in the body to quickly affect someone. For example, how long does it actually take a lung to collapse or for a person to bleed out to the point of no longer being effective given the rate their body pumps blood? A hollow point may cause a lung to collapse X% faster than an FMJ bullet, but does it really matter in the context of a close up self defense scenario with a pistol if it takes a minute or two to happen during which time your attacker can continue attacking you?

      • Risky

        I can think of plenty of situations where the difference between incapacitation in 2 minutes versus 5-10 minutes can make a drastic difference. Considering most CCWer’s are looking for marginal advantages all the time, extra couple rounds of capacity, little bit less recoil, shooting just a hair faster, I think that incapacitation by a rate of >25% worth desiring.

        • Major Kong

          >I can think of plenty of situations where the difference between
          incapacitation in 2 minutes versus 5-10 minutes can make a drastic
          How many involve chasing a suspect which concealed carriers aren’t going to do or action movie scenarios that even most police won’t get into?

          >Considering most CCWer’s are looking for marginal advantages all the time
          Except in the case of hollow point ammunition you have to go with a larger caliber that results in more recoil and potentially lower capacity to meet the minimum penetration requirements, while moving to a slightly smaller caliber that may not be able to get hollow point ammunition to work well but can still push an FMJ bullet 18-22 inches in ballistics testing will give you more shots on target faster than minor changes in bore axis that people chase which gives you a higher chance of hitting something with a high chance of stopping the target such as the spine.

          • kyle893

            I think the move towards ammo that works well in gel blocks despite low velocities is one problem. It may seem anecdotal but 357 magnum was stopping people in a way that created incapacitation much quicker than bleeding out from 9mm. One argument against this I heard was a story of a drug dealer who shot his girlfriend in the head from two inches away out of a 2 inch snubbie 158 grain exposed lead hollow point 357 magnum. It went through her head severing the two halves of the brain leaving her alive and conscious with a bad headache. Whats ignored is the heavy bullet out of the 2 inch barrel most definitely going pretty slow for the 357, the exposed lead hollow point probably not expanding at all as a result and acting like a fmj. The fact it was 357 means nothing at that point.

  • Cory C

    Pssst, it’s “jibe” not “jive.” I said it wrong for decades, so don’t take this as condescension.

  • Dougboffl

    Not that anyone cares but I simultaneously carry three loads in my personal “protection guns” (Molly Ann Wymer nod). I alternate between deeper penetration rounds (FMJ or Gold Dot – choice depends on caliber & weapon) and bleeder rounds (Barnes TAC-XPD). The one chambered round is a Hornady Critical Defense (red Flex Tip) . Hornady advertises the re-chamber-ability of their cannelure bullet and so far, over four years, it seems to work for me. I’ve shot dozens of those Hornady, whenever they looked beat up – but never if they were shortened. I leave my protection gun empty when it isn’t on my person, so re-re-re-chamber happens a lot. Rifles are more deadly because their shock & penetrating causes CNS damage and big bleeding holes from the energy dump. Rifles also give barrier penetration (clothes, glass, sheet metal, dry wall). So I alternate the pistol ammo between the FMJ/Gold Dot and the Barnes to get as many bases covered as possible – not knowing what type of encounter I might have. I’ve shot enough of the three ammo-types to know they work in my weapons and under 25-yards they group well enough that they are not going to sail rounds off threat. If I could only shoot one round it would generally be the Speer Gold Dots. But this is America and I choose to carry three. An issue the writer does not address is the lack of barrel length in most CCW protection guns. Those short barrels often fail to develop the velocity needed for expansion of a lot of the defensive ammo. So in addition to the other musings, how many CCW folks have shot their defensive ammo into a bucket of water (or gel) to see if their ‘weapon & ammo combo’ really do what they think it does?

  • Twilight sparkle

    Not really a fan of how this article is laid out. Probably should have been cut into two separate articles.

    But I would like to add that I like to run my defense ammo through my gun and spare mag when I go to the range if I remember to pic up a few spare boxes of that ammo. I think that’s a good practice for most people.

  • MonoChango

    I hope I’m a least john doe. In that I rarely carry (can’t even bring one past security to my work parking lot) So I only take it with me when I’m out on the road in the desert between cities or camping in the mountains and sometimes on the weekend. When I first got my gun in 1992, I also bought a few boxes of “top of the line” defense ammo (black talons). I still have them.
    1: I don’t chamber them. The top round is a normal target quality round.
    2: When I go shooting, I empty the mag and refill using target ammo. Just so I know the mag still feeds correctly and to mix up the rounds. This also helps to replace the top round.
    3: Every few years I shoot a few to make sure they still cycle right. I think I’ve replaced one of the two boxes along the way with this occasional firing. I suppose 25 years pretty long and it is time to update them. And I need more target time but yeah like that’s going to happen.

  • gordon

    I dunno. I don’t really know how close factory ammo is to barrel limits. I mostly hand load everything. My hand loaded 5.7 loads only need to move back .04 before Quick Load guesstimates that it is over pressure. However, for my .327 Fed loads the ‘dangerous’ set back distance is .08. Then again I don’t know how much I have to go over the SAAMI limit before I start damaging either guns. My 5.7 primers start cratering noticeably when I go over limit at all.

    • FLdeepdiver

      Chambering setback is peculiar to semi-autos. Revolvers with snappy loads need a canalure or crimp to prevent locking up cylinders.

      On a side note:
      9mm = 35,001 psi is max pressure for SAAMI
      9mm+P = 38,500 psi is max pressure for SAAMI
      9mm +P+ = around 42,000 psi (not a SAAMI spec)

      • gordon

        Yeah, I know. I just mentioned the .327 because it is the only other pistol round I have been loading lately and wanted to express that rounds other than the 5.7 might be less sensitive to setback. I used to load mostly 9mm and .475 L but that was years ago, and I have forgotten the numbers and issues from then.

    • Ken Beaulieu

      Gordon: While reloading can certainly be a means to cutting the cost of shooting. I would caution anyone against using personal loads as their EDC/defensive loads. A prosecutor can turn that into something that will make you appear the “vicious killer” with specially crafted ammo. It’s happened!

      • gordon

        Thanks Ken. I have read discussion of this possibility by Ayoob and others and think that it indeed is a danger but it is one I am willing to take. Right now my EDC is a Five Seven where you have three choices, ineffective mainstream factory ammo, more effective but very expensive small shop factory ammo or loading your own. My hand loads are non-mushrooming and non-fragmenting and probably a far cry from what most knowledgeable folks would consider particularly deadly even if they are very good at penetrating soft armor. It would take more space than I have here to explain why I carry this gun and why I load the way I do. Once again, I do appreciate the warning because I realize that there are a lot of people that don’t think things like that through and we are on these comment sections to help each other.

        • Ken Beaulieu

          Thanks for your thoughtful reply.


  • McThag

    You know, you could shoot enough of the magic beans to have confidence they work in your gun, then just shoot FMJ for practice.

    Initially it’s expensive, but it’s not an on-going cost if the FMJ hits to the same point of aim and has the same perceived recoil.

    There’s no need to waste money if you don’t have to!

    • Just say’n


    • DorfMeister

      That’s the whole point of this. The FMJ is the same shape as the JHP, so if it feeds so will the defense ammo. It’s a little more expensive then the cheap tulammo or American eagle practice ammo, but the knowledge you can glean is immense.

      My tactic is to see how well the train feeds through the gun, then verify with a box of defend. If it doesn’t feed the train, then find another round or another gun.

      • kevinp2

        Yep, this is exactly what I did for my carry 9 mm: I tested and identified my “carry round” and my “practice round”, both of which shoot very close to each other.

  • Five

    Here’s my J. Smith method. When I get to the range, I fire the first three or four rounds in my carry pistol. Then I do the same for each of my spare mags (2 spare). I unload the remaining rounds into an empty box, do the rest of my shooting with ball. When I’m done I put new rounds in the bottoms of my mags and reload the old remaining rounds in reverse. That costs me 9 to 12 rounds of my self defense ammo a trip to the range, but also tests the function of the most critical rounds and slowly rotates the self defense ammo.

    • Just say’n

      Very reasonable solution.

    • HR Pufnstuf

      I shoot mine last. Usually a bit more powerful, a little more kick. I like to practice cheaply, then leave the range after running through a magazine or two of carry ammo. That leaves me with the same feeling I can expect if I have to pull it out again soon.

      • Five

        That brings up a good point to mention. If you can swing it, not a bad ideas to train with similar weight and charge bullet as your carry round. I use 124 grain for both training ammo and carry ammo, the recoil is very similar between both.

  • Madcap_Magician

    I’m a J. Smith and I shoot my carry ammo when I practice. Why? Because I get to practice so infrequently that it’s time to change carry ammo by the time I get to the range anyway.

  • John Smith CCW Holder

    Woah! This article is BS. re: “When buying a new carry gun, you purchase a couple hundred rounds of FMJ, and then that box of 25 “Self-Defense” ammunition. And for what I ask?” You shoot the box of 25 to make sure they function in your handgun (groups and reliablity). If it likes it, buy another box and put those in your carry magazine(s). Then go to the range AT LEAST once a month and shoot the FMJs in your non-carry magazine(s). Occasionally rotate in your “self defense” ammo if it makes you feel better.

    I also take great exception to the statement “I mean, ironically sub-compact and compact handguns have existed for over a century, they’ve always been there. There is nothing new about the Glock 43 or M&P Shield
    when it comes to being the newest design or shape in this “sub-compact”
    category (the word is somehow a recent invention). Sure it might offer
    some reliability or ergonomics over century old designs, rusts less and shoots more.”

    Sub-compact polymer striker-fired are much lighter, thinner (concealable) and faster to get into the fight than anything made 25 years ago. Reliability and ergonomics are paramount too. CAD/CAM/CAE and CCW market forces have made this a new golden age of gun design.

    • DataMatters

      I agree except I think that the CAD/CAM/CAE guns are riding on the knife edge of many compromises. Many of them are actually under built, imo and it shows because they are ammo sensitive, finicky little hand stinging bastards.

    • RetroG

      Actually, Aluminum and steel, while heavier, are both thinner than polymer for the same strength of material.

  • idahoguy101

    When does ordinary JHP handgun ammo and decent aim, stop working? I think most of what super duper ammo claims is more about super duper marketing hype than anything else

  • Kivaari

    I have never had to shoot a man. I have needed to shoot several deer and dogs that were injured. Handguns suck.

    • iksnilol

      Well, I wanted to carry that lupara but your brothers in blue said that was “illegal” and “overkill”.

  • Nocternus

    I would say that defense rounds offer lack of over penetration. It is somewhat reassuring to know that if I do my part that my rounds will expend their energy in the primary target and not have enough left on them to seriously injure unexpected targets.

  • Wanlace Yates

    Yes! I was wondering when someone would come out and say this.

    From a training perspective, we need to be supportive of regular people who are not all-out gun enthusiasts, and think of what will work for the average competent civilian person. There are good reasons why .380s have sold so well for so long – they work for what lots of practical people need in a defensive firearm. A lot of our doctrine is driven by military and police veterans who expect civilians to train and equip just how they do. Very good and convenient for the trainer, also very good for the few people who can absorb and apply it all, but not so practical for the average civilian, especially in suburban or urban settings unlike the range or training center or rural property that we gunny types tend to inhabit.

    How many people are going to have the time, range access, money, and information needed to try lots of different hollow point loads to make sure they are reliable and accurate in THEIR gun? It is far more critical that each round feed and fire – the effect of failures there in a fight is clear. The extra value of this bullet over that one is speculative, especially since we are now getting a lot of recognition that most handgun calibers just are not that decisive round for round, regardless of bullets used.

    I would also argue that there is a range of rounds that served well in days of yore which might need to be revisited because they still have something to offer the ‘J Smith’ types. I mean .32 ACP, .32 H&R Magnum, .38 S&W and such. The .32s in particular add some extra rounds that can be available is a small auto or revolver, and they allow for a compact gun that does not have a lot of recoil. Unlike the .22LR or .25 ACP, they can still reach vital organs and get through clothing and light barriers if needed. Are they as great as 9mm and bigger? No, but if a person cannot hit with the 9 and won’t have time or inclination to train enough to get good with that level of gun, they can still do useful action in their defense with a smaller caliber.

    I see too much inclination among shooters and trainers to tell people “if you don’t use this level of gun with this recommended level of training then don’t bother, you are a liability to yourself and others.” I think that attitude is ignorant of the concept of the 2nd Amendment right as well as the reality that legions of people in prior decades, our fathers and grandfathers (plus mothers and grandmothers) did a lot of successful self defense in homes and businesses with guns and training that we would find ‘below spec’ today.

    • gunsandrockets

      Looking over the history of cartridge handguns in the U.S., gun-culture fashions and pop culture fads seem to be the most powerful influences.

    • DataMatters

      Outside of a few elite units, I’m not sure I believe that people in the military or in most police agencies spend an awful lot of time on shooting ranges.

      The little Kel-Tec pistols got started with .32ACP years ago. I read a lot of forum posts by enthusiasts back in the late ’90s early ’00s. As soon as the .380s came out, the .32s sank in popularity. Having fired .380s and Maks, they’re pretty borderline as self defense rounds go. They were used as police guns in countries where only police had guns. I guess they’re decently effective, but those Maks and Berettas and PA-63s and such were hefty, well-built guns. The teensy .380s people favor today are so inadequate in comparison. I’ve looked at them over and over and thought “easy to conceal, but just not enough gun.” Maybe the Glock 42, I don’t know…

  • billyoblivion

    Years ago I got a bunch of Speer Gold Dot at gun show. It was part of a lot that Speer had used the wrong primers on, and as a consequence they could not sell them to the unit/department as contracted, so they were “dumping” them at a REALLY good price (IIRC 40 bucks for a box of 250).

    Shot the stuffing out of if.

    Still have some. I’ve bought 500 round lots of newer GDHP, and will occasionally use my carry ammo at the range.

    I recently bought a new pistol in .380, and bought 200 rounds of GDHP and 500 rounds of Lawman. I ran a few magazines of other stuff through the gun to “break it in”, and then ran a box of GDHP and a box of Lawman’s through per range session. 100 rounds through a Ruger LCP in 20 minutes is…not pleasant :).

    So yeah, I’m pretty sure my shiznit will cycle the ammo I carry.

    Oh, and I’ve got a couple boxes of Buffalo Bore for use out in Bear Country. 147 Grain +p hard cast. I’m a little less confident about that because I can’t afford to run 200 rounds right now, but really, it’s being shot out of a Glock so I’m not *that* concerned.

    • iksnilol

      Be careful with non-jacketed rounds and polygonal rifling. That’s a bad combo.

      • billyoblivion

        It’s not “jacketed” v.s. “Non-Jacketed”, it’s lead v.s. copper.

        The GDHP has a copper jacket, and the Lawmans has a copper coating (I don’t think it’s thick enough to be considered a “jacket”, but it’s thick enough to prevent lead fouling).

        I’ve been running it, or similar stuff through Glocks and a P7 since 2001.

      • billyoblivion

        You mean the Buffalo Bore?

        (a) It’s hard cast.
        (b) I’m not going to shoot a whole lot of it. It’s for 4 legged dangerous game
        (c) The problem with polygonal rifling lead build up over time, not instant kaboom. Just make sure you de-lead the barrel after shoot it.

        Frankly the BB isn’t for hunting, it’s for making sure the bear instead of me, or failing that with me. Not for hunting.

  • Norm Glitz

    “Alot” is really two words. “a” and “lot”. Really, no matter how fast you say it or sound them together. Two words. “allot” is something entirely different.

  • jack zeller

    Stupid [post of the year award…

  • Jim_Macklin

    In the old western movies, the hero always saved a few rounds in case the cavalry didn’t arrive in time to drive the Indians off. He saved the last rounds for the women so they wouldn’t be captured.
    The smart modern CCH/CCW guy carries lots of ammo and so does his wife or girl friend.
    They help write the laws by being politically active and putting their thoughts into the laws. It helps if they work to get the right people elected.
    We did all that back in the 1980 and 90s. Eventually a friend became a State Senator and during his first year on office he organized a the Senate and the House, Republicans and Democrats.
    We’re getting old and don’t have the money to take classes we’d like to take, don’t have the transportation to go to the local range. Still carry every day, the gun bought in 1985, a Colt Officers ACP. Carry another 36 rounds and a good knife and a good flashlight.
    Study the laws in every state, weekly. Practice with my laser sights, point shooting, target acquisition.
    Pick out seats and note where the exits are located and if there is concealment or better, cover.
    Don’t go places I would not feel safe without the gun.
    I figure I’m in the top 15% I’m JQ Senior Active Citizen.

  • Edeco

    I just keep a mag of whatever laying around. Usually Winchester white box 115’s. I’m primarily a recreational user (of guns, lol) so it’s just low hanging fruit to me.

  • Kevin Hebden

    My fix for running my self defense loads is fairly simple, I believe. Whenever I end up ejecting a rpund from the chamber for some reason, like field stripping at the end of the week for a little dusting, if not light cleaning, I set that round into my range bag with my ball ammo. Ammo that I rotate out also goes in the pot, so I do shoot what I carry eventually.

  • 22winmag

    There is Liberty Civil Defense Ammunition… and then there is everything else.

  • Risky

    I want to be constructive with my criticism so, author, please don’t take this personally and just as one person’s opinion. I feel this is a bad article with lots of problems. Pigeonholing concealed carriers into 3 categories doesn’t seem very useful to anyone, or even the author. It is a random ramble of questions asked by the author to the reader, presumably rhetorically, but without any actual follow up or development of the concept later by the author.

    The author thoroughly confuses the idea of “terminal ballistics” as a science that studies how effective a projectile is against a human… which is incorrect (terminal ballistics studies the physics of projectiles impacting a target). The real gap of knowledge is in how particular wounds caused by projectiles affects the physiology of a human, and how a particular wound of a specific intensity may or may not be immediately incapacitating… while relating to, but truly distinct from specific bullet choices and is medical question more than it is anything else.

    I think the point of the article is to question the decision making of using “self defense” ammo over FMJ/target loads, without ACTUALLY discussing IF there is a useful difference between them, which could have been accomplished much clearer and sooner than 7-8 pages.

    • Five

      Two real simple points. Chances of hitting something that quickly incapacitates and rate of energy dump. A FMJ 9mm is is going to make a .38 inch hole (actually less since it’s FMJ and will stretch and push aside the target material). A goof JHP 9mm is going to make roughly a .6 inch hole (depending on lots of variables). That is roughly better than a 50% increase in chance of hitting something incapacitating. Roughly because of differing expansion and penetration potentials.

      A FMJ is going to dump it’s energy slower. So, even for same weight and speed bullets, and FMJ won’t transfer energy as rapidly and may not even transfer all of it’s energy. A expanding JHP will transfer energy far quicker and is much more likely to transfer all of it’s energy.

      If I’m not shooting much at all, then I want quality ammo (not cheap ball) that is likely to hold up over time better, and if I’m only going to land one to two shots, then I want the most effective performing possible. Besides the greater physical impact of JHP, the faster energy dump is also more likely to have a physiological affect as well.

      Given that the only draw-back of JHP is cost and reliability to feed (greater sensitivity to load, firearm and magazine combinations), and that both are overcome with even a minimal expenditure of your self-defense ammo, it’s hard for me to justify carrying cheap training ball in my EDC.

  • Ken Beaulieu

    FLDeepdiver: Point 2 of your post above reveals you’ve done some homework. Bravo!

  • Garmanarnar

    People don’t “conceal carry,” they “carry concealed.” TFB continues its streak of horrid posting.

  • maodeedee

    I carry concealed 24-7-365 and have been doing so for close to 20 years and before that I carried a handgun whenever I’ve traveled on the open road and when I went into a dangerous neighborhood while working construction in Los Angeles. I applied for a carry permit in L.A. but was denied so when I did carry I carried illegally which I considered an act of civil disobedience.

    Now since I moved from a slave state (because only free men are allowed to possess arms) to a free state, I’m always armed but what I carry depends on what I’m going to be doing on any particular day and what clothing I’m going to be wearing and how well my clothing will conceal the gun I’m carrying. I believe in carrying the most effective gun I can comfortably conceal.

    If I can, I carry a Glock model 32 in 357 sig caliber or otherwise I carry an old school shrouded hammer Humpback model 38 airweight bodyguard loaded with buffalo bore wadcutters along with 110 grain jhps in a speed loader only because they load faster than wadcutters because of the nose profile. Sometimes I carry a Keltec p-32 which is the easiest of all to carry but is the least effective defensively. I have even carried it in a button-down top shirt pocket.Everything having to do with concealed carry involves compromise.
    Also, I see nothing wrong with practicing with less expensive ammo as long as I occasionally can practice with my carry ammo. The more practice the better and I also want to rotate my carry ammo so that I occasionally refresh my supply. I not only practice at an indoor range but outdoors where I can simulate shooting at multiple threats from different positions. I’ve had formal training and would recommend the same to anyone serious about being armed. I’m 70 years old and in the past 45 years have only had 3 occasions where I came close to having to use a firearm for self-defense.

    But in each of those situations it was far better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.

  • William Sullivan

    Really/ Ever tried it or do you just believe everything you are told?

    • ozzallos .

      There’s this thing called youtube.

  • Rob-L

    “what percentage of the J. Smith population is going to realize once a year to probably change out the ammunition in the magazine, or at least the order of the rounds”

    My instructor at my CCW class went over this. I’m not sure about other instructors, but perhaps they all should be mentioning this?

  • Archie Montgomery

    I will support the question, “What was this about, anyway?”

    Several issues regarding self-defense ammunition which should be addressed are:

    *Is ‘very expensive’ ammunition more effective than less expensive ammunition?
    *Why are ‘short barrel’ specialty loads superior to regular loads in a short barrel? Stated another way, are ‘short barrel’ rounds in short barreled handguns equal in velocity to ‘long barrel’ loads in long barreled handguns?
    *Are there ‘cheap loads’ which shoot and regulate reasonably similar to expensive ‘self-defense’ loads?

    And perhaps a definitive essay by someone with actual legal experience regarding the ‘legal danger’ of using reloads for self-defense. Rather than an opinion by someone presenting themself as an expert, who is reporting a loose conversation with an unnamed ‘expert’.

    On the lighter side; I’m developing a combined round for defense against vampires, zombies, werewolves and radioactive ants. I think the price will be about $75.00 per round in selected calibers. My first two calibers will be .50-80 Webley-
    Vickers and 8mm Nagant.

  • ozzallos .


    I’m not even sure… Well, nevermind. I’m probably a John or Jane. I also have a mag of “Oh don’t shoot that!” but I also thought it was SOP to throw a few boxes of it downrange before engaging the local Dementor populace. I base my magic missile decisions based on real-life field performance, reviews by professionals who shoot much more than I do and youtube ballistics testing.

    My current wand is running HST with a depleted thorium core, 11.43×23 millimeters.

  • uisconfruzed

    I checked, none of my 25+ year old 40S&W Cor-Bon has set back, & still shoots like a champ.

  • Hey, I don’t censor a writers opinions. I may not agree but I sure don’t tell them what to think or say. On duty I carried a 1911 with JHP ammo. I did carry one extra mag with ball ammo for use on cars if need be but not as a normal carry round.

    • kcshooter

      OK, but maybe you should start censoring. This dope’s telling people how they should put themselves at a disadvantage in a defensive situation.

      There’s a difference between an opinion and blathering foolishness.

  • AlDeLarge

    When money was tighter, I’d only buy Winchester “White Box” FMJ and JHP. They were much cheaper and easier to find back then. I’d get 50 JHP and as many FMJ as I could afford, and empty all my JHP-filled magazines by shooting them. Then shoot a bunch of matching FMJs and refill the magazines with the new JHPs.

  • James May

    The first thing that struck me was the sarcasm about the guy who put his holstered gun on a table pointed at the instructor. Now not knowing the exact layout, there may or may not have been any way to point the holstered gun without pointing at someone. But never the less, I have never seen a holstered gun sitting on a table fire. There is no way that you can ever have a gun in your hand that at some point (and probably most of the time) is not pointed at something you do not want to destroy. So as a generality that gun rule is probably good but one that is almost always broken. Meaning hysterics over a holstered gun seems to me to be a little silly.

  • scaatylobo

    Well penned missive,me like = me agree.
    Retired cop here, I shoot about 1 a week,and “combat shoot” a good deal less.
    My combat training is done with ball first,then H.P.’s that I have been carrying.
    I also believe that you actually train to FAIL [ then go back and fix your failures ].

  • Mikial

    1. Always rotate your defensive rounds in the magazine so the same round isn’t being loaded over and over.

    2. Shoot off magazines of defensive ammo that you have been carrying around every 6 months or so and load new rounds.

    3. Always try out a couple of magazines of a new type of defensive round before carrying it EDC and relying on it to protect your life.

  • SeeMoHigher

    The J. Smith challenge will always be about balancing preparedness against opportunity cost. When you spend dollars on guns and accessories, ammo, or training, that’s money not spent on family essentials or saved/invested. Ditto for range or other practice time.

    I determined that my biggest ongoing “skill maintenance” challenge would be getting the weapon from concealment to full readiness. So I bought blue guns for both the Glock 19 and the S&W 642 and I practice smooth draws and presentation once a week. The goal is to get five perfect draws in a row (no fumbling or hanging up, weapon to either a retention “speed rock” position or at height of eye) from concealment in under a second. Blue guns aren’t expensive but they aren’t free (about $100 for this pair). The plus side is that draw practice can be done anywhere in the house.

    Next is practicing draw-to-shoot in a variety of body positions (e.g., sitting) I use an Airsoft replica G19 and wax “bullets” from the 642 to do this in my basement once a month before my range trip. Giggle all you want about those choices, but I guarantee you J. Smith has virtually no experience drawing and shooting from leather except for some intitial training and after that hasn’t done it at all. Take a shooter who’s otherwise safe at the range and conscientious and test him in live-fire drills seated from a pocket holster and you could very well end up with somebody shooting himself in the thigh. Both of these help to imprint safe but effective motor skills, even at my age. And another $100 for the Korean green gas “Glock”.

    “Business” range time is completely separate from fun, and the two CC guns are NEVER fired slowly and deliberately except when verifying carry ammo POI from a new lot. I don’t have access to a facility that allows draw and shoot, and chances are most commenters here don’t either. But from low ready to trigger press is as fast as I can go. I drop empty mags into a cardboard box I put at the bench and I reload from a mag or speed strip in my pocket as fast as possible at least twice. That’s done once a month, about 5 mags / 50 rounds in the G19 and five cylinders in the 642 with practice ammo. (Some posters may shoot at a range that doesn’t even allow “rapid fire”.) Then I burn through one cylinder / magazine of carry ammo and replace that. To summarize: over 800 rounds/year in as realistic a fashion as I’m allowed to shoot along with other serious physical drill.

    I’ve just described $200+ of “practice” hardware (in excess of guns and holsters, $250 in CCW classes, and a $300 basic handgun combatives course) and about $700/yr in ammo and range fees, and 30+ hours of intense practice. $700 would have bought me another $150k value in my term policy even at my age. Or ten years of buying $700/yr in “Dogs of the Dow” undervalued, high dividend stocks would have resulted in $20k by now. It’s a serious commitment, even as a mere J. Smith.

    Now by the author’s measure this is insufficient to call me a dedicated CCW practitioner. Perhaps. But quite honestly I don’t personally know more than one or two people who do more (except for competitve “practical” shooters) With no malice intended to LEOs out there, but I would venture it’s more than many of your colleagues regularly do and they’re obligated to carry as a defender of the citizenry.

  • BrotherLazarus

    I make my choice on carry ammo based on widely published independent ballistic test results using standard ballistic mediums, generally multiple tests involving increasing protection (usually cloth then thick denim) over the media that demonstrates a larger wound cavity while not carrying the bullet too far past 18-21 inches.

    A good number of us have a good reason for picking a specific brand of JHP ammunition that goes beyond a flashy label like “Dragon Slayer XXTREEM” and into actual research involving results that can be reproduced.

    I also see here some posts with “so you believe everything you read” in regards to folks reporting less felt-recoil impulse on JHP/HP loads. I have a physics secret. Thanks to E = MC^2 (every action has an equal and opposite reaction), a lighter projectile using a smaller powder load to achieve a similar velocity will impart less force on the firearm and thus less felt recoil impulse on the shooter. Magic!

  • WateryWilly

    Want a reason to NOT use FMJ as defense ammo?
    How about the same reason the NYPD has – they found that a lot of their officers were being shot by other officers when the FMJ rounds they were using went through the perp into the cop on the other side of the perp.
    That right there sounds like a REALLY good reason to me. Hollow points tend to not go through meat targets, but stay inside them. Less dangerous for anyone or anything on the other side.

  • Zebra Dun

    I carry what I shoot and shoot what I carry.
    It’s cheaper that way, I intend to make the shots count and go for penetration with target placement over what kind of bullet I’m shooting.
    Be this FMJ ball in .45 acp or cowboy loads in .45 Colt and JHP in the .357 mag/.38 spl.

  • SeeMoHigher

    If all the shooter can afford is a decent gun and holster and occasional training with the same ammo he carries, and that ammo happens to be a reliable FMJ, I’m just not as flustered by this as you.

  • adverse4

    Don’t quit your day job.