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Choosing The Right Pistol Ammo For Self Defense

Many firearm enthusiasts will tell you that nothing beats having the ability to legally carry your handgun on your person using a combination of the right holster and the appropriate concealed carry attire.

However, if you ask these same veteran gun owners about what type of ammunition to purchase specifically for self or home defense and whether self-defense ammo is worth it, prepare to hear many different answers and opinions.

Anyone who has tried to buy ammunition in the last two years knows that manufacturers aren’t exactly having clearance sales on match grade rounds or hollow point 9mm. When it comes to purchasing ammo, it’s basically come down to you must take what you can get when you can get it.

It’s essential to remember that ammo you use when at the range spending a few hours shooting for recreation may not be the best type of rounds for personal home defense. When choosing what works best for you, here are a few things to consider.

The general rule of thumb is ammunition that focuses on personal and home defense should have three specific capabilities you’ll need to consider – safety, stopping power, and reliability.

Target Shooting at the Range

Typically, most target ammunition will be a variation of FMJ or Full Metal Jacket ballistic. Also known as “range rounds,” these types of ammunition have a softcore lead bullet wrapped in a metal jacket of much harder metals.

An FMJ round ballistically has higher muzzle velocity while minimizing the amount of lead that ends up deposited in the bore of your pistol or rifle.

While most of these types of ammunition are typically cheaper because they’re easier to produce, how the bullet reacts when fired is one of the best reasons you shouldn’t consider using them in a dynamic home defense situation.


FMJ rounds penetrate more than expand by design, resulting in a dangerous and challenging situation when fired inside your home. When fired at a close-range target, an FMJ bullet is likely to pass through the target, inflicting minimum damage, and continue traveling, potentially passing through sheetrock walls, and striking an unintended family member hiding in the next room.

Not only will firing range ammo leave the threat in a sufficient enough condition to continue advancing and inflict damage on you but protecting your home with an FMJ round may result in a terrible outcome to you and your family members.

Even though over penetration is less of a concern with hollow point ammunition, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still practice the “know your target and beyond” quintessential gun safety rule. No matter the ammo, know your target and beyond.

Stopping Power

After you factor in the results of what a high-velocity FMJ round might do when fired inside the home, your next focus should be to stop intruders in their tracks. You already know what could happen when a range round is fired in the house, so the next logical thing you’ll want is ammunition that expels significant energy upon impact, such as hollow points.

When impacting the target, hollow point home defense rounds provide maximum bullet expansion that creates sufficient damage to an intruder’s vital organs to stop them from advancing. In addition, depending on the caliber fired, a hollow point home defense round is more likely to knock an intruder off their feet and stop their advance immediately.

Suppose you’ve not yet concluded that hollow point self-defense ammunition is worth the money. In that case, there are two other things to understand that will probably help you decide to purchase home defense rounds. Creating a high-quality, less expensive home defense round for most ammunition manufacturers is a careful balancing act.

If the lead bullet overexpands upon impact with the target, deep enough penetration to hit vital organs probably won’t happen. Conversely, if the bullet under-expands, it will be like firing a range round, and the ammunition may pass through the target without causing as much damage.


Although every ammunition manufacturer in the business attempts to ensure a dependable round, home defense rounds have proven to be some of the more dependable ammunition for home or self-defense. These home or self-defense rounds withstand months or years of humid conditions, whether loaded in your firearms or sitting on a shelf in your house.

You can still do a few things to maintain fresh from-the-box ammunition reliability. At least twice a year you’ll probably want to shoot more at the range for the fun of it and then reload your home defense ammunition in your gun with fresh cartridges.

Another thing you’ll want to do to ensure a reliable load is to inspect any cartridges you may have ejected during your practice sessions and intend to reload. To prevent jams or misfires, you’ll want to ensure the bullet isn’t damaged and the seating depth in the magazine mirrors the other rounds.

For rounds that have been rechambered several previous times, it’s best to include these cartridges with your range rounds and load your home defense firearm with fresh cartridges. If these reliability habits sound expensive, they’re not.

Expect to spend between twenty-five and fifty dollars a year on self or home defense ammunition which is an excellent investment for the personal protection of you and your family.

While you’ll always want to keep your powder high and dry and your guns in functional condition, using home or personal ammunition will give you a sense of relief, knowing these rounds won’t fail you if or when the time comes to protect you or your family.

What Makes the Decision Easy?

If you’re still on the fence about whether home or self-defense ammunition is worth the money, do a little checking to see what your local law enforcement officers carry in their duty pistols.

Suffice it to say, any law enforcement agency in the country will want their officers to load ammunition that’s effective for either terminal or stopping effect when the need presents itself.

Another thing that makes choosing home defense rounds so easy is that several well-known ammunition companies such as Remington, Hornady, Winchester, and lately Sig Sauer offer excellent self or home defense rounds at competitive prices.

It parses down to if you want to ensure you have the right kind of ammo loads that guarantee you and your family will come out on the other side of a dynamic situation, home defense rounds are certainly worth the money.

Yes, you’ll still want to purchase ample supplies of cheaper ammo to fire on those trips to the range. And yes, you can still use target or full metal jacket ammo for self-defense, after all anything is better than nothing.

However, when the range shooting has stopped, and it comes time to clean and reload, make sure you load your gun with the right kind of ammo that will perform as it’s supposed to when you or your family’s lives are on the line.

*I wish to thank Paul Barnett for writing this particular article and also thank our friends at Primary Arms.



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