How Often Should You Change Your Concealed Carry Ammo?

How Often Should You Change Your Concealed Carry Ammo?

Modern smokeless ammunition is made to survive a great deal of stress and torture before failing.  Let’s start off by defining what failure means for a concealed carry bullet in either a magazine or the chamber.

Failure is limited in this conversation to:

  • failure to feed
  • failure to eject
  • failure to fire
  • premature ignition

Failing to feed can sometimes be more the mechanics of the pistol itself rather than the bullet but it nonetheless causes a bit of stress for the concealed carrier.  Failure to eject can sometimes be traced back to the ammunition used because surplus or substandard ammunition casings may get caught in the chamber either prior to firing or afterwards.  This is known as a “jam” and it’s usually easy to correct.

A failure to fire isn’t nearly as dangerous as a premature ignition.  A premature ignition is when the primer of the bullet casing is accidentally set off by the upper receiver during the loading process.  A premature ignition and failure to fire are two of the major reasons why we recommend cycling out your duty concealed carry ammunition.

What Are The Symptoms Of Over-used Bullets?

Seems silly, right?  Is there such a thing as an overused bullet?  Strangely enough, let’s put this in context of your everyday concealed carry pistol.  If you carry with one round in the chamber and a full magazine loaded, you’re probably also carrying defensive JHP or similar — not FMJ stock surplus.  That means when you go to the range, you’re probably ejecting out that defensive round and putting an FMJ in when you go to practice.  You’re also cycling through FMJ vice your normal defensive rounds because – heck – those things are expensive.

So already, that round that you always throw into your chamber as the X+1 capacity is taking a regular beating from that upper receiver.  Depending upon how you load that round, how much tension is in that recoil spring, and how heavy the upper receiver is — that bullet casing is taking progressively more and more wear and tear.  The backplate of the bullet casing also protects the primer.  A primer is a real easy, innocent thing.  Something sharp hits it – it detonates.  So the more worn down that backplate of the bullet casing gets, the more exposed that primer is.

Will this affect you if you leave the same round in the chamber throughout a 3-4 month cycle?  Probably not.  Heck, there’s probably been people who’ve had the same round in their concealed carry pistol for a lot longer with no ill effect.  In general, the only real recommendation we can make is try to cycle out that round every month.  So if one jacketed hollow point seems to get loaded every single day — switch it out with another JHP from the same magazine.

How Often To Switch Out Magazine Ammunition?

We’ve been asked how often should someone cycle out the ammunition in his concealed carry pistol magazines.  The short answer is – arguably never.  Unless that ammunition is exposed to abnormal conditions, it should be fine.  It’s recommended that during your monthly operator maintenance of your pistols, you fully unload any loaded magazines and test spring retention on the magazine itself.  This will also give you an opportunity to inspect the rounds to ensure they’re fit for service.

Following on from a previous point, this is also a great time to switch out your primary chamber round with another from the same magazine.

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  • Every 30 – 60 days. You need the practice anyway, may as well,… =)

    • orbits2 .

      357 Smith and Wesson magnum N frame revolver
      I dont have to worry about old ammo or range time mag swap outs

  • Walt White

    The time to refresh your carry ammunition is every time you shoot. I always start a range session by firing what I have been carrying in the pistol. That way I know how it would have worked in real life. Then, after you clean your pistol, load it with fresh ammunition. Always practice with what you will be carrying in the real world and you’ll know what to expect.

    • asoro

      for the most part you hit it on the head, But today that kind of ammo is not cheap any more, But it is sound advisee

      • John P

        The only time I use factory loads is when am away from home and run out of my own loads. I reload for all my weapons this way I can use my own load instead of max-loads from the factory, also is the fact I can load up to 5 times the ammo. One pound of powder 23.00 dollars, 100 rounds bullets 37.00, 500 rounds of new casings 45-55 dollars. One pound of powder has 7000 grains, average amount for most small case cartridges is between 3.5 gr and 6.3 gr..

        • asoro

          John, I was reading some time ago that using reloads, Hand-loads is a NO-NO,,,,, they can use that against you
          even though you load them lighter, I know does not make sense but heard this more than once,,, I would call the Sheriffs Dep’t where you live and ask, Because these scum lawyers are lower than the criminals.

          • Sparky43207

            I will agree with John. My EDC is Hornady Critical Duty in .40 S&W at about $0.90 per. My reloads in FMJ are about $0.15. At 30-40 feet , shooting paper, there isn’t any difference in the ballistics. At 50-60 rounds per session once or twice a month,
            the money factor would be a large factor in my trips to the range.

          • asoro

            with out a doubt, but it may not be legal to use re-loads for self defense, I also re-load a whole lot but do carry store bought rd’s in my gun’s….. But it would be cheaper to carry my own

          • Lee Mattingly

            State laws vary but I know of no law that prohibits reloads for self defense. The argument to not use reloads mainly came from Massad Ayoob. The reload wasn’t illegal to use but the prosecutor could paint a picture of you wanting to create some super killer ammo because factory ammo wasn’t good enough for you.

          • asoro

            Yes very good, you can say I use reloads my reloads because you don’t want a over penetrating round, and hit a by stander type thing you know what I am saying, as long as it is not some really weird type of rd, you may have to be careful with frangible type rd’s, And I like those type of rd’s where I live, at a 105-F most people don’t where anything heavy. so I carry those type of rd’s in the Summer.

          • John P

            I have been reloading over 50 years and loads are not loaded so lite they do not do the job When they find a slug a person they cannot tell if it is a reload not. I have never of anybody questioning the source of a bullet only the fact it was used for self defense or by a with an intent on committing a crime. The biggest mistake most people make is firing a warming shot this give they trial lawyers an out that you had premeditated your shot. Also when forced to defend your self never shoot wound, a criminal can then sue for undo use of force.

          • asoro

            If anyone fires a warning shot first and shoots them in the leg does not belong carrying a gun to start, But the reload thing I am going to look into. I have been loading for about 10 yr’s and yes it would be cheaper , But need to find out the rule on it, I know when I do a CCW class I tell people do not use reloads in there self-defence gun. check what your local police use and use them. thats was always the safe way to go.

    • JonHeg

      I agree with you and with Asoro as well. I fire the first round that is in my chamber and sometimes 1 or 2 more, then replace it at the end of my practice. It is less expensive than firing all 16 rounds and at the same time I stay familiar with the different feel of my defensive round. I have also started buying a target round that I feel shoots very similar to my carry round. I used to practice with a different grain and was always shocked when I fired a few rounds of carry ammo. I also found that practicing with my carry ammo I was less accurate on my 2nd and 3rd shot than I was with my target rounds, which lead to me also changing up my defensive rounds to oddly enough a none plus round. I figure accuracy is more important that punch and the two ballistic test very similar anyways. For me the extra punch lead to extra kick that slightly decreased my 2nd and third round placement. All of this was learned from firing my carry ammo.

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  • Note your sweat, fingerprint oils , moisture in the air especially if it is raining or cold will make the brass turn green. Clean your bullets out of your carry gun if you don’t fire them in a year. By clean get a very small amount of gun oil on a clean rage and wipe the green off the bullets The sweat, moisture if it gets in the mag can also rust the spring in the mag. So add a dab of oil in the mag or disamble the mag if it allows that to be done. A number of mags are able to be cleaned out since due to the design of the gun gunpowder residue can get down into the mag.

  • Mikial

    Good article and discussion. A few observations.

    1) When you . . . well, I, load a mag into my EDC I cycle a round into the chamber, then drop the mag and top it off to capacity. This means that the round in the chamber is rotated every time I load it, although the rounds in the mag from number 2 on really are not.

    2) Every time I go to the range (weekly), I empty my EDC rounds and reload the mags with target ammo. This essentially moves the ammo around in the mags when I reload the EDC ammo after coming home from the range. So, even though it is the same bullets, they change position in the mags so probably get rotated to some small degree if at least not being the round on top.

    3) My EDC is either my Glock or my XD. These guns simply do not have malfunctions due to the gun design unless a part fails, which hasn’t happened yet. The only malfunctions I’ve experienced with either gun are ammo failures with target ammo. My Glock has had one failure to fire with Wolf target ammo. My XD had a case where the primer (Tulammo) disintegrated without firing and locked up the action until I could get it home and essentially beat it open with the web of my hand so I could eject the culprit shell. While this could happen with the quality Gold Dot and HTP I use for EDC, it isn’t likely.

    Bottom line? I don’t worry much about my EDC ammo being “old” or in need of rotation.

  • Nattleby .

    I do notice that the top round in the Mag, and the one in the chamber get Patina on them (9×18 Critical Defense in a Polish P-64) But it’s the rims I pay attention too. If the rim gets two beaten up from loading and unloading, it will cause malfunctions.

  • I agree with Walt. I reload, and rarely buy factory ammo. My reloads work fine. I reload jacketed hollow points, round lead and semi-wad-cutters for my .1911 (.45 ACP). When I go to the range, I shoot a magazine of the JHPs and then a bunch of lead rounds, then, after a good cleaning, reload my mag with new JHPs. Seems to work out well.

  • Robert McCabe

    I figure like a lot of police departments do: switch it out yearly by shooting it. Verifies that the ammo is good, that it functions reliably through the gun, and your carry ammo is never more than a year old.

  • ponoboy

    Good morning!
    I only carry new factory rounds in my walk around pistol.
    On my monthly visits to the range, those are the first rounds I fire

  • Guy Bennett

    Also watch for “OAL Creep”
    As our +1 rounds hit the feed-ramp of our weapon, force IS exerted on the round pressing it into the casing.
    If your round is pressed into the case too far it WILL cause over-pressurization and potential catastrophic weapon failure

  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    No set time frame on when I shoot the ammo I carry and cycle in and out of my weapon(s) when I carry them. Some may have been cycled 100 or more x’s before I finally shoot it; have never experienced any issue regardless of the caliber or brand of ammo, or the brand of firearm.

  • Teddy

    I’ll recycle mine when the Cubs win the World Series.

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    • khanj42

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  • If you are not going to a range or confidence course frequently enough to ‘rotate your ammo’ at least every three to six months, “stale” ammo is the least of your worries.

    But what do I know, I’m just a conflict weary old ex spook.

  • Also: Frequent re-chambering of the same round MAY drive the bullet back
    slightly into the casing. (especially in non-crimped, rounds.)
    This increases the case pressure and though it’s unlikely, this may cause ‘unanticipated results’ when that round is fired.”

    In the “Olden Days” reloading pistol ammo 9mm and smaller just wasn’t cost effective.

    Today, however, every ‘serious’ shooter should consider loading their own. The equipment is not cost prohibitive, but, like Brain surgery, there is ZERO room for error.

    I have found this to be far more consistent in accuracy than random factory ammo.

    When done right, with a quality progressive press/powder delivery system , however, you can churn out 500 to 1,000 rounds in an evening with little effort. The danger is that you may get into such a “Set-Pull-Repeat” routine that the occasional anomaly slips through.

    Use the cheapest crap stuff when you are plinking at cans for fun, but when the SHTF quality, predictable, custom-loaded ammunition reigns supreme. Also – NEVER trust anyone else’s reloads.

  • Jt

    Very good and informative article

  • Jerry Grimes

    My 9mm EDC ammo is Federal HST 124 gr std pressure. Nickel plated, they don’t corrode. As an experiment I chambered one round 30 times in a row with no measured setback whatsoever. I don’t worry about them. I do always carefully check the round I’m chambering though, since it’s critical to operating in a self defense situation.

    My wife’s EDC is a Sig P238, with Precision One XTP. Those do suffer from setback. They’re emptied from her carry mags and reloaded at least twice weekly for range sessions. I check them with calipers for setback every couple of months. Over 0.5 mm and they go in the dead ammo bucket at the range. Up to 0.5 mm and they get fired at the next range session. Only rounds with no setback get put back in EDC.

  • tom.55350

    I have to take the advice of so called experts who don’t know the difference between a “bullet” and a cartridge as the author does in this article with several large grains of salt…

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