Why Pistol Ammo Is So Important

Why Pistol Ammo Is So Important

When the price of ammo goes up, everyone rushes to the store to make impulse purchases. Their first considerations are usually rifle, shotgun and then pistol. Surplus ammunition deals for 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 Auto have steadily pushed a lot of the consumer market into those calibers.

As a concealed carrier, I love a good deal and I definitely take advantage of quantity over quality. I don’t, however, load it into my magazines for my everyday carry gun.

Surplus or bulk ammunition is perfect for range time. I buy a lot of it online and have it shipped to my house. When it comes to my daily carry ammunition, I’ll actually walk into a gun shop and browse.

There’s two major factors I look at in defensive pistol ammo: expansion and penetration. I’m not looking to punch through NIJ III armor — I just want to have the bullet punch through the surface of the bad guy and expand to twice its surface area. I’m not even really interested in that bullet exiting. That’s his problem.

With Full Metal Jacketed ammunition, I’m going to make nice clean holes. The bullet enters the body, punches through soft tissue, cartilage and organ tissue, and usually pops right out the other side. If it strikes a bone, it’ll probably splinter it and pass through. Unless I hit a very vital set of organs — brain or heart, usually — my opponent is going to be able to keep pushing for at least a few more minutes.

That’s bad news bears for me.

Nope. That’s why I use specialized jacketed hollow points or center point expanding cartridges for my concealed carry pistol. I want that round to balloon, mushroom, and punch deep. The bigger the wound channel, the faster blood displaces into the gap and the greater the chance my opponent loses consciousness. Stop the threat, right?

Some people may think of FMJ as a humane option because it does so little immediate damage unless it hits a critical region. I don’t. I see it as a great choice for honing my marksmanship skills at the range. For combat, I want to disable the threat. My concealed carry pistol will likely be the first recourse I have to do that. I want every hit to count. If I wing a bad guy in a non-vital region, I want him to stop immediately.

When it comes to overpressurized ammunition, I’m less worried about it. Most defensive ammo usually comes with a few extra grains. High velocity and big expansion. Not every round is equal, though. I suggest testing out a prospective defensive ammunition at the range. Check it against an old cooked turkey or ham bone special. If it impresses you against meat, it should do the same against a bad guy. Ballistic gel is fantastic but not everyone wants to commit the time and energy to recreating that test.

The point: test your ammo before you load it into your everyday concealed carry pistol.

Your defensive ammunition is important. You SHOULD absolutely carry defensive ammunition. And you should chose that ammunition based upon what feeds best through your gun and does what you’re looking to do to a threat.

Read More: How often should you change your concealed carry ammo?

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Luke McCoy is the founder of USA Carry. In 2007, he launched USA Carry to provide concealed carry information and a community for those with concealed carry permits and firearm enthusiasts.
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But what if you shoot through a slanted window to get the bad guy ?
FMJ has its uses, I’d rather keep a magazine of each on me.
Quality over quantity is true, if vendors didn’t betray patriots and raise prices with every political alarm.


Alternate Buffalo bore and Hornady Critical Duty


I’m talking about cheap alternatives, we’re not all rich enough to pay $1+ per round.


You only buy them once and hopefully you will never have to use even one.
Practice with the cheapos.


If I am good with “cheapos” I will use them in battle when I need them, I do have JHPs for carry and I stock 124 grain FMJ for 9mm, use 115gr. FMJ for practice.


I hate hype, I don’t buy hype, I will shoot what I practiced with.
You do as you train. Change that ammo and you are out of training.


I’m not interested in being humane if I shoot someone, nor do I want to have to fire an entire mag because the FMJ is just punching nice, neat little holes through him which may or may not strike something vital. I want to destroy and obliterate my threat as quickly and efficiently as possible, and FMJ isn’t gonna cut it. I use that for the range.


FMJ is for the range, plinking, and competition shooting. For defensive use the only time I’d use a FMJ is if I felt the need to load up some tracers, and who makes tracer rounds in 40S&W?!?


What you do have to worry about when the FMJ passes clean through the bad guy is what is behind him. You are ultimately responsible for every bullet that leaves your gun.

Denis Biller

Are you allowed to use hollow points in Pennsylvania? I know I can use in home defense , but am I allowed to have it loaded at all times?

Tony A

I just bought 550 rounds of ??? .40SW JHP for $100 at a show, these look inferior to say Federal Hydrashok, Critical defense etc… without the use of Ballistic Gelatin, what would be the best way to test the expansion,penetration etc? I also some of that polymer corkscrew stuff, tried it on a 2x and it told me nothing..