US Army May Adopt JHP Handgun Ammunition

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F

Will the next US service pistol round be a jacketed hollow point? A recent PEO Soldier Live article suggests this may be the case:

At the event today, among changes discussed was policy that now opens up the competition to rounds other than ball (full metal jacket) ammunition. [emphasis mine]

A representative from the Army Judge Advocate General’s Office discussed the decision in detail during the event.

Richard Jackson, Special Assistant to the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General for Law of War, told attendees that federal, state, local and military law enforcement elements routinely use expanding and fragmenting ammunition in their handguns due to the increased capability it provides against threats.

“Expanding the XM-17 Modular Handgun competition to include special purpose ammunition will provide the Warfighter with a more accurate and lethal handgun,” he said.

“Other types of ammunition allow the XM-17 Modular Handgun System to be optimized by vendors, providing a more capable system to Warfighters across the spectrum of shooter experience and skill level.”

It may finally be time for the military to adopt the more effective handgun ammunition that has been in use with law enforcement for years. JHPs are a particularly useful technology when coupled with handgun ammunition, as handguns typically fire projectiles at velocities too low to exploit other mechanisms for improving terminal effectiveness, and even in FMJ form do not have meaningful armor penetration capability. Therefore, expansion not only does not meaningfully reduce the armor penetration ability of handgun ammunition (as it would rifle ammunition) – which is nil to begin with – but also is virtually the only way to seriously improve handgun terminal effectiveness against unarmored targets without dramatic increases in cartridge size, weight, and recoil.

Nathaniel F
Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at

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  • William Wallace William Wallace on Jul 12, 2015

    The wording of the Hague Convention talks about soft tip "dum-dum" rounds... which can be argued to be the JSP or exposed lead tip ammunition that is still common today with rifle rounds. A true JHP is not exactly what they are talking about in that Convention.

  • Hyok Kim Hyok Kim on Jul 24, 2015

    A former HP addict here. I've been cured. Nowadays, I stick to FMJ only, and no, it has nothing to do with being humane.

    I used to research the extent of expansion and penetration of different HPs over the years. Talk about time wasted.

    HP Pro

    Bigger overall wound channel than FMJ.

    HP Con's

    1. Less penetration than FMJ given everything else equal. Penetration is more important than expansion.

    2. Less feeding reliability than FMJ. Reliability is always more important than both penetration and expansion combined.

    3. More expensive than FMJ Meaning less ammo for the same money, less ammo for training Practical field accuracy and accurate zeroing in the field is less than with FMJ, given everything else equal. Where you hit is more important than the size of expansion.