What is the Best Ammo for Self-Defense?
Let’s open a can of worms to start off the New Year’s right and ask what you think is the best ammo type for self-defense. Like most opinions, everyone has one and most of them are deeply rooted in their mind as the best, and anything else must be wrong because I could never be wrong on my choice. Unfortunately, these types of questions don’t often lend themselves to rational thoughts, because if you don’t use a super-duper frangible hollow-point full metal armor piercing whatever you are wrong…but not everyone is in the same situation or preparing for the same eventuality.
Most people would recommend a hollow point made by a reputable manufacturer for concealed carry, and most conventional wisdom would support that. They expand rapidly (theoretically) and cause massive damage and blood loss, leading to incapacitation. However, I have seen on more than one occasion where the hollow point failed to expand well, and one time when shooting ballistics gel with clothing on it became a glorified FMJ round. It also is not the best for a dangerous game. I recall an article where a fellow shot a bear 6 times with hollow point .357 magnum ammunition, but it didn’t even make it to the bear’s vitals. The rounds were recovered when the bear was brought down with a rifle, all stuck in the fat. In this case, hard cast rounds might be preferred. What if you are shooting through barriers like glass? Hornady Critical Duty is supposed to be better about that threat, but glass was notorious for wreaking havoc on shot placement versus FMJ. It also depends on the gun. You are not supposed to shoot lead from a Glock barrel, so hard cast is out, and 1911s can be finicky using some hollow points, even with a very well-polished feed ramp. What if your target is running armor? Things to think about.
Now you are in your castle, so how are you defending it? The most recommended home defense gun that I have heard of is the shotgun, as it is easy to use in low light/hard-to-aim situations, and just cocking it will send people running. I also heard a politician say that you should just fire two blasts in the air from one and that will solve everything. Now we know that is not only crap advice (and illegal in most places you can live), so what rounds will you choose? I have heard “00 Buck” as the go-to answer, which shooting 9 30 caliber pellets can be a great personnel stopper, but it also has a nasty habit of going through walls. Slugs are a great option for armor and for distance, but they will go through a ton of drywall before they slow down. Another option I like is the #4 Turkey shot. Lots of pellets, designed for distance, and not as bad at over-penetration. I would highly discourage flechettes, Dragons Breath, or other exotics as it looks really bad in court, and have varying degrees of effectiveness.
Stuff hath hit the fan, and following LtCol Cooper’s advice you used your sidearm to get to your main gun, so where is that at? If it is a 30 caliber like the good Col recommended, I sure hope you have ear protection indoors and that your neighbor’s dog isn’t in the line of fire three doors down. The standard AR is a decent room clearing or distance option but which round? 62-grain green tip (M855) was designed to go through Soviet steel helmets at 500m…so overpenetration might be a thing, however, a good option if your threat has armor, especially steel.
Other options might be nostalgic from the 30 carbine to 9mm ARs to Grandpa’s M1 Garand from WW2. All of these are great in the right circumstance, but 30 Carbine was notorious for lack of stopping power with FMJs during Korea (I can attest the FMJ was not good against hogs at 100 yards, but the soft point was much improved). For out in the woods, soft points are king with most animals, and do a great job at two-legged threats as well. FMJ rounds are ok to train with, but if you have ever tried to group them at 100 yards I would be shocked if you got accuracy greater than 3” at 100 yards.
So, what are your favorite defensive rounds, and why? What scenario do you see as most likely and does your round go 75% of the situations you see yourself in having?
Also, be sure to check out JM4 Tactical for your holster & coffee needs!
Author: Ian Bolser