Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ammunition Choice

One of the most vexing concerns in carrying a firearm is the choice of ammunition. What makes it confusing it that it is very difficult for the average shooter to determine the difference between offerings due to the fact that the effects can not be easily visualized.

The good news is that with the high quality of today’s ammunition, the differences between different manufactures and bullet designs is not very distinct. Meaning that most defensive ammunition from the top brands will work effectively. That statement could not have beeen made a decade or two ago as the art of bullet design has advanced tremendously in the last few years.

Here’s some guidelines for picking the right ammunition;

1. Pick an ammunition that works 100% of the time in your gun. Revolvers do not have feeding issues so reliability tests are not needed, but you MUST ammo test your semi-auto. For me, I won’t carry a gun and ammunition combination unless it can feed at least 200 rounds in a row flawlessly. If it fails, I either change ammo or send the gun to the smith, or both. Realizing the high cost of quality carry ammo, this can get expensive, but if you are going to bet your life on your gun, you have to know it’s going to work.

2. Pick an ammunition that works 100% of the time in your gun.

3. Pick an ammunition that works 100% of the time in your gun. See a pattern here?

4. Use hollow points. Round nose, often called full metal jacket (FMJ) tend to go right through the target with relatively little damage. Not only does this greatly reduce stopping power, the over penetration puts bystanders at risk. Hollow points are designed to expand (often to 150% of their original size), produce maximum wound cavities, and expend all of their energy inside the target—thus offering maximum stopping power. While hollow point bullets may seem “mean” and “extra deadly” to the uninformed, they are very easy to justify in court if needed. As a public-safety point of view, hollow-points are safer because they are less likely to over penetrate and hit bystanders behind the assailant, compared to round nose bullets. With the greater stopping power of hollow-points, fewer bullets would need to be fired, which increases overall chances of the attacker’s survival. Lastly, every local and federal law enforcement agency uses them. As of this date, I believe New Jersey outlaws the use of hollow points so it is important to make sure hollow-points are legal in your state!

In the past, I advised that since most of today’s high-quality carry ammunition performs pretty much the same, so it really didn’t matter what you carried as long as it functioned in your gun properly. Recently, that has changed as there is a new cartridge on the market which outperforms most others; the Corbon DPX (Deep penetrating round.) DPX testing has shown it to perform better in both hard cover (doors, glass) penetration tests and in soft penetration tests (gelatin, and four-layer denim gelatin.) Rather than fragmenting when hitting hard objects, DPX is able to hold together to offer good terminal ballistics even after passing through objects yet does not over penetrate when hitting soft tissue because of its expansion. A good test of how a bullet would perform through heavy clothing in the gelatin test is shoot through four layers of denim before entering the gelatin. Most traditional bullets tend to clog up in the demin test while DPX goes right through and still expands properly in the gelatin. DPX is loaded in all of my guns.

NOTE— The last paragraph may seem to contradict my opening statement that most quality defensive ammo performs roughly the same. DPX does perform better in some circumstances but that does not mean the other bullet design are not effective. It is important to understand that there is no magic bullet. A bullet is ONLY effective if you do your part; hit the target in the vital areas with multiple shots. It is vital that you keep shooting until the threat is stopped.

As long as you are using a cartridge designed for self-defense (not target use) by a top name brand manufacturer your choice of bullet is not as important as your ability to properly hit your target. The best performing bullet in the world won’t be effective if you don’t place your shots well.


Michael said...

No such thing as stopping power. Energy is energy and is transferred via Newton's 3rd law. That being said, HPs are better self defense rounds because they open up and transfer energy into a dense target effectively.

David Kenik - Armed Response said...

The discussion concerning the ability of a bullet(s) to stop a fight is commonly referred to as "stopping power" and is achieved by destroying the body's ability to move or negating the attacker's desire to continue.

Anonymous said...

Great post David, it's like a refresher course.

Allen said...

Thanks Dave. I'm linking to you.

Anonymous said...

If there were no such thing as stopping power we could all carry .22's for self defense and there wouldn't be all these calibers available!