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Anyone Think We Get Too Concerned Over Ammo?

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Hello. Couldn't get the full question in the title; what I'm asking is, "Does anyone think we place too much emphasis on caliber or load than we should on handguns or ammunition intended for self-protection?

I sort of think we do, but I can also see that it's only normal to want the best for such purposes. Might it be that since this is one aspect of the mix that we can (usually) control, we dwell on it? I'm sure I do as I find it interesting. Others might, too.

Over the years, I've gone from "It's-got-to-be-the-absolute, without-doubt, no-questions-about-it, "best" to "Pick-one-of-the-better loads-that-is-reliable-in-your-gun-and-shoot-it-well" approach to the issue. That said, I have utterly no problem with those intent who frequently "upgrade" from one load to one that's reportedly better...usually based on
gelatin testing.

The bullet expansion/penetration testing in 10% ballistic gelatin has merit and I think it's "meaningful" but have seen some real discrepancies between what's predicted in them vs. shooting live animals. For that reason and others, I do not base my choices on gelatin tests alone.

For me, the decision now is which handgun best fits my particular needs and how well do I shoot it with a "good" load.

Though I still lean toward the .45 ACP as THE defensive auto round in some loads, I've never thought that its competitor, 9x19mm, was akin to blowing kisses at the bad guy. With more than a few loads, I personally believe 9mm to be a satisfactory defense caliber. To a slightly lesser degree, I feel the same way about most .38 Special loads from a 4" bbl.

After looking this over for quite a few years, I tend toward the following:

Caliber: Minimum .38 Special w/selected loads

Capacity: Minimum of 6 shots before a reload to feel "good", but can go with 5 for hideouts or pocket guns. Much prefer 8 shots or more before a reload, which is pretty much territory of the autopistol.

Competence: Be able to quickly place repeat shots within approximately 6" out to about 10 yards with the particular handgun or load. (Having a 4" .357 and being able to do this only with light .38 target loads does not translate to being able to do it with the magnum.)

Ammunition: It doesn't necessarily have to be the newest, but it does need to have a "history" of "working" and I personally prefer to have seen it used on animals. This is not always possible, but is certainly more so than if waiting to be an eyewitness of its effects on felons. "Wet pack" (super-saturated newsprint soaked 24 hours) tends to stop expanding bullets quicker than 10% gelatin, but expansion results are very similar to what I've seen in animals (with loads I've seen used on animals, which is not all), and sometimes so is penetration! With lower velocity loads, I don't find that shooting the bullets expand as easily as with either gelatin or wet pack. At the lower speeds that are still within a specific bullet's envelope for expansion, I think deformation from impacting
a less liquid target plays a role; I do not know how much.
In lieu of getting to see how a specific brand load works on a living animal, I like to test the bullet in both wet pack and water. Those that react/expand similarly in both are usually good performers in tissue.

The 124-gr. 9mm bullet at the left was recovered from a javelina. The one at the right from water. Nope! Not exactly the same but similar.

Also 9mm, these 127-gr. Winchester 127-gr. +P+ rounds were all fired with a Browning Hi Power. The one on the left was shot into wet pack. Middle: deer and Right: water. None are exactly the same, but they're more similar than not.

According to all the reports and research, the 127-gr. Winchester is the "ne plus ultra" of fast 9mm under a wide
set of scenarios and is supposed to be a most effective round; I do not doubt it. At the same time, in shooting animals from javelina to deer, I've noted no measureable difference in "effect" between it and the more common and older XTP. At least two members of this board have used the sometimes maligned Corbon 115-gr. JHP +P with quite good results. Others prefer heavier bullets in 9mm or are passionate in NOT going below a certain bullet diameter.

I suggest that we simply pick a load with a good track record in a caliber we can control and use a reliable firearm we shoot well as the main criteria for defensive matters rather than splitting hairs on which load is best. Pick a good one, but more importantly be able to shoot it quick and accurately.

While I'm not about to quit looking at this or that new load (or old), I have pretty much quit worrying about if what's in my chamber or cylinder is THE "nuclear" load for that caliber.

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I have had 2 ND's (negligent discharges) in my life, both the result of operator error. The first was from a Sig P230, the other from a Colt Pony. In both cases I was foolishly trying to, for lack of a better term, "stack" the trigger just before release. This is a foolish practice to do with a loaded gun in particular, if you consistently do it your finger's strength increases and "boom" you've fired a shot. The only wise thing is the guns were not pointed at anybody, their house, apartment, etc.

The damage from the Sig .380's hardball bullet was to go through 5 layers of sheetrock and be stopped by the outside wood clapboard siding. The Colt Pony's .380 Hydra-Shock punched through a plastic panel, through sheetmetal, reflected off more sheetmetal, busted through part of the plastic fenderwell and may (don't know for sure) have knocked off the outer thin metal covering on a lug nut on the front wheel of my pickup truck. I was going down the road when that one happened.

This is the only real-life damage I have seen from bullets other than what you'll see at a shooting range (targets, plywood, 2x4's, etc.). I hope I don't ever have to see any other real-life damage. The exception would be while deer hunting, I haven't killed a deer yet. ::)

I have said all this to make a point, I'm not proud of my ND's. Also, any reasonable caliber is going to do some damage. I think we should make good ammo choices in terms of performance and feeding reliability. Proficiency with our weapon of choice is paramount, but confidence in our weapon must exist, else we'll falter when the time comes to defend ourselves.

Once we make our guns and ammunition choices we shouldn't fret over whether they're the best, but be confident in our good choices. :)
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I have to agree with Steve. We have discussed this before and pretty much feel the same way.

In my limited experience it really doesn't matter what .38, 9mm, .45 load you shoot them with, it won't work fast enough to make you happy at close range. It might be that you "see" some effect of the bullet by the target jerking or twitching and this will vary by caliber or load, but that doesn't mean it will make them stop any faster.

Having said this, why not just load up with ball and forget it? While not a bad choice, I feel that the added diameter of an expanded bullet and it's accompanying wound channel, certainly aren't hurting the equation. Bigger is after all better, when you are trying to let blood out and air in.

For this reason a selection of any one of the "better" loads in the handgun you shoot the best, or that you will always carry is a good answer.

Remember that it is like a long range knife fight. You cut them a few times and let them bleed, while you stay back out of the way. At close range you obviously don't have time for that so you need to start poking holes in the CNS.

Well if I'm going to have to shoot them in th head anyway, why not carry ball? One thing to consider is the 4th rule of firearms safety. Be sure of your target and beyond. In this day of urbanization, for most of us it is nigh on to impossible to clear our background completely during a gunfight. People love to stand around and watch and they are everywhere, usually in the way. A good expanding round will usually stay in the body or exit with low velocity. Hopefully if it exits, it will only leave a welp on whatever it hits down range. Some people say that overpenetration is overrated and statistically I agree, but I am not known for being lucky so if it can go wrong it will. Of course again we come back to my opinion that an expanding bullet isn't hurting the equation.

In any case, my recomendation (whatever that is worth) is to pick one of the "good" loads that works every time in your gun and meets your accuracy requirements. Then take the extra time you might spend awake at night trying to decide on the "best" load and spend it dry firing. The gunfight will depend a lot more on how fast you hit them in the right spots than it will on what you hit them with.
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Mr. Camp,

Yes, I believe we have.

I've progressed to the point of telling people, when asked, to get whatever feels comfortable to them and that this, this, and that load are generally best in the chosen caliber. I don't care if it's a .22 or a .454, as long as they can shoot it best.

As for loadings- I hate Remington. It started with shotgun slugs and progressed from there. I'm prejudiced against their handgun ammo because of quality control I've seen in the shipments around here. However, if you like Remington and you know what you're talking about (and I know ya' do), I won't tell you to carry Cor
Let's face it, ammo selection is as personal a choice as the car you drive or your preferred brand of jeans. My personal criteria, in order, are:

  • 100% functional reliability
    controllability for fast repeat shots
    "paper plate" accuracy out to at least 15 yards
    a good track record in real world shootings and/or hunting
    good theoretical peformance in ballistic gelatin

You'll note that gelatin performance is last on this list. I'd like to emphasize it's last by a wide margin. I don't have much confidence in a substance that doesn't address bone, different organ and muscle density, and amazingly resiliant skin. It doesn't take a lot of harvested game and recovered bullets to show those pretty mushrooms we see in the ammunition ads are maybe a 40/60 proposition at best. Stick to what works well in your particular gun and any reasonable load will bring you home safely.
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Yeah, I bet that most anyone with an interest in self-defence firearms spends way to much time worrying about the best ammo, however it does make for interesting conversation (and posts). The above posts pretty much reflect my thoughts on how to select a carry load but I will add one thing and that is availability. Oftentimes the latest and greatest ammo recommendations are not easily found. The Winchester Ranger ammo, for example, is not easy to come by (at least in my area). I prefer to choose a load that is easily available at my local gunstore or a variety of internet sites such that if one site was out of stock I can just go to another. I find that my choices tend to be Rem. Golden sabers or Speer Gold Dot for just those reasons.

Hello all,

I've finally had a chance to break away from the fast pace of a deploying brigade, and post here at Stephen's new board, I figured this would be a great thread to join in.

I agree that we probably overthink the ammunition question. I also wholeheartedly agree that we should make no sacrifice for reliability through whatever our defense weapon of choice may be. Furthermore, it is probably of utmost importance that regardless of what happens, you maintain your fundamentals with regard to marksmanship. I've done more than a few "stress fires", both with my issued M16A2, and with the M9 I may have to use should things get *real* ugly in OIF3. The fundamentals are key, with out them, I don't think it matters if you have a thermonuclear load in your wondercaliber.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm not volunteering to be shot with any bullet, in any caliber. That said, keep your fundamentals at wit, and hit your target. Chances are it/they, aren't going to be thrilled with any weight, caliber, speed, or shape bullet contacting at any speed. For me, it's a matter of hitting my mark, and being confident that my choice of ammo will without a doubt go boom every time I need it to.

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Hello. Couldn't get the full question in the title; what I'm asking is, "Does anyone think we place too much emphasis on caliber or load than we should on handguns or ammunition intended for self-protection?
While I'm not about to quit looking at this or that new load (or old), I have pretty much quit worrying about if what's in my chamber or cylinder is THE "nuclear" load for that caliber.

"What is truth?" :)

No actually I think I agree but it is a really complex subject (big news huh?).

I like to say that comparing power among pistols is like comparing rank among privates (you know PFC vs Buck). It might be interesting to the participants but it is pretty low in the scheme of things.

If power was everthing we would all go to the trouble of finding a leagally registered Ithaca Auto Burgular in 12ga (even thought most were 20 ga).

Nope, you have to be able to actually use the gun and use it well.

Just don't look for me to adopt a 9mm anytime soon ;)

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Believe their is too much obsession with the "prefect" bullet, by some, as compared to becoming more proficient in actual shooting. Am willing to plead quilty to this, although attempting to rectify.

There does appear to be one bright spot over all the testing and reporting being done. The new bullets developed appear almost light years ahead of what was available 10-20 years ago. Course there always are exceptions.

Am thinking there needs to be more obsessing with making 230 gn 45 acp rounds (standard pressure), that reliably expand from 3 in barrels. Am quite willing to obsess over this, in my limited free time.

Yes, I think some folks do get a little over concerned about having the latest & greatest ammo.

I also think, a lot of folks have really became overly concerned about over penetration, and have started buying, and or being sold on, the super light & fast stuff that is suppose to fragment and not pass on through.... I can only hope for their sake, that they are never faced with an aggressive, violent, attacker who is determined to kill them!!! Remember, the attacker will also have the "mind-set" as well.
Not only the 'latest and greatest', but the search for the 'Holy Grail' of cartridges/bullets/loads, whether to be found among vintage offerings or new-fangled 'designer' ammo, whether for hunting or for personal defense applications.

'Tis a labor of love, I think, and not one soon to end. Some may think they've found their anecdotally 'perfect' round -- some may sincerely pray that the journey never ends.

Whatever the outcome, I believe it is a thing primarily driven by enthusiasm. The shade-tree mechanic works tirelessly in his garage to eek out that two or three more horsepower. The musician seeks the perfect pitch.

But does it really matter? In the grand scheme of things, I think that it doesn't. ("The ultimate goal is that every man be armed..." Yes?) But for the nuances and minor variations of a few particular loads matched to a few particular guns, it matters very much. It matters to us.

It is a good thing that a man (or a woman) should have a gun. It is a better thing, then, that bullets be in the gun! This is the important thing. It is better that target-loaded wadcutters are in the gun than no bullets at all!
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I think that we overanalyze such things at times. I don't really think that there is a bucket of warm spits difference between the top defensive ammo avaialable. The main questions should be performance in your particular firearm and the availability of the ammo in question. The internet has pretty much settled the availability issue, but I stick with the Winchester 127gr +P+ partially because my favorite local shop keeps it in stock.
No I don't think we get too concerned over ammo...WHATT!!! YOU AREN'T USING 124 GR. GOLD DOT +P??? YOU'RE DOOMED...DOOMED I SAY....MHAAA HAA HAAAA...oops. I mean ....uh never mind
I suspect a concealed Berreta 950 25 acp would suffice as long as you also carried a 16.5" oal WW2 style khukuri openly on your hip.

But then now that I've hit the age of 50, I make 3 or 4 mistakes a year now.
Having skirted many caliber/bullet discussions, it is perhaps the need, that many of us feel, to end the encounter as quickly as possible, that generates the massive amount of discussion and the seemingly unending search towards finding that ultimate round, that will work every time (you and I know that absolutes are anything but) and for those just starting on the path, and have yet to attain the wisdom that comes with age, training and experience, are looking to the bullet, caliber, weapon to make up for it or the lack of drive to become the best you can be.

Many of us have settled into a holding pattern, where we have confidence in our ability to get it done. We have diligently researched and analized those factors that will trim the margins and slant the odds in our favor.

Admittedly we are not sitting on our laurels, but are striving to get it right, every time and being "just good enough" is not enough for us and we won't get down on ourselves because we fall short of our personal expectations, but look to see where we fell short and why and how to overcome it.

We realise that the weapon,caliber, bullet are a very small part of the equation, a valuable part, without doubt, but in the overall picture they play a small role.

Awarness, Confidence, Motivation, Ability, Training, Avoidance, Placement are just some of the other important apects that one should be spending more discussion/work time on, with some time and thought, given to weapon, caliber and bullet selection, since one must be able to understand the limitations inherent in each, to be able to employ them to thier optimum level in a time of need.

Regards, Mueller
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I worry a lot less than I used to. I agree that reliability and placement matter most, and tactical variables ("Do I really need to be here?") do, too.

I still like big old lead bullets, but in reality a good proven load in any caliber from .38 Spl. on up will probably suffice.

I must admit that I would prefer not to be mandated to carry FMJ, though.
We had a Officer Involved Shooting the other night.

The subject stepped from concealment (in another room) with a 9mm handgun in his hand, raised it and started firing.

One offcer was able to draw and fire two rounds right after the perp's first round was discharged....the BG did not get another shot as the first .45 round disabled his gun arm (which was across his chest) and the second round hit him in the chest...end of fight. One fully expanded 230 JHP (Ranger T+P) was found loose in the shirt after the subject was stabalized and stat flighted (looks like he will live).

Now I won't tell you that I think no other round would have sufficed but I will tell you than no other round could have done better as this had to be incapacitation in less than 1/2 second from what the investiagor is telling me.

No, I would not expect that from any cartridge every time. But it gets better, the 9mm that the guy fired hit a decorative bannister about 2" think and deflected from its path to the floor at an angle and therefore missed the other folks in the room!

Somebody was watching out for out guys that night!!!

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Hello, Jim. Thanks for the information. I agree with your assessment that the short time-frame mentioned is about as good as it ever gets when using a handgun with a body hit.

I'm glad the officers prevailed and were uninjured.

Some of us just enjoy shooting into a wetpack of newspaper for the fun of comparing different brands, calibers, and handguns. We're not looking for the magic bullet or the "best" expansion/penetration, etc. For me it's just a hobby to have a little more fun than punching holes in paper targets all the time. And it's a lot cheaper than gelatin. But the results are very revealing sometimes. Some of the new 'hot stuff' I've tried ain't worth a flip. The main, well known mfg's brands work best.
Those that take ballistic testing seriously looking for the magic/one-shot-stop bullet for their handgun are fooling themselves and overlooking the importance of placement, markmanship and "pointshoot" practice first.
On the other hand ammo companies cause us to continue being concerned with new offerings and lots of hype. I sure don't have a good answer so I'll shut up and go back in my box.
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Hello, sir. I tend to agree with you and enjoy the wetpack testing myself. Frankly, I find it matching results seen hunting more closely than the 10% ballistic gelatin. Both may provide useful information, but neither are the "solution" to what will actually "stop" a determined aggressor. They may contribute to it, but getting the bullet, be it "old technology", ball or JHP, etc, to the right spot or spots is a greater factor.

Thank you for your post and I appreciate your sharing your views and observations.

Best and good shooting.
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