A common question I get asked has to do with defensive ammunition. These days my answer is pretty simple, get whatever is available because anything is better than nothing.

Understanding The How

There is of course more to the story. Defensive ammunition is in short supply and usually more expensive. While all ammunition is becoming more difficult to purchase, defensive ammunition is proving even more challenging. Let’s get one thing clear, you don’t need premium self-defense ammunition to defend yourself or your family. It does help improve the chances of stopping the threat faster. A couple of well placed rounds with ball ammunition can do just as good a job in some cases. To understand the “how” means you need to understand a little about terminal ballistics. I love talking about ballistics. Over the years I have tried to improve my delivery and keep people engaged. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it can get a little dry.

We Are A Very Durable Species

When it comes to stopping a deadly force threat with a firearm, the stop generally occurs because you have delivered a projectile to the vital life processes. As a result, the threat either stops fighting on their own accord, or they are no longer capable of fighting mechanically. This represents the conundrum of terminal ballistics. The difference between the bad guy choosing to stop fighting or not being able to continue to fight. Humans are very resilient and capable of sustaining a terrible amount of damage. To mechanically stop the threat, you need to disrupt or destroy the body’s vital life processes. That is the body’s ability to produce oxygenated blood, to transport oxygenated blood and the central nervous system.

Its Not Science

To that end, you are looking for a couple of characteristics, four to be exact. The first is reliability. I need the chosen round to go bang every time I pull the trigger. To make sure, you will have to function test a sampling of the ammunition using my intended firearm and magazine. The second is accuracy and probably the most important in my opinion. You must strike the vital anatomy, meaning shot placement is king. If you don’t hit what you are aiming at, then everything else is academics. Third is penetration, the ability for your projectile to penetrate to the vitals. Every human is different so at a minimum 12 inches to a maximum of 18 inches will ensure I penetrate deep enough. Lastly and probably the lowest of these characteristics is expansion. It is ideal if the bullet can expand to create a greater surface area. The larger the surface area will create more damage and has the potential to stop the threat faster.

What’s The Difference

The important take away is premium self defense ammunition differs mainly in the last category. Reliability, accuracy and penetration are all achieveable regardless of the type of round. Expansion is limited to only hollow point designed rounds. If you are using full metal jacketed rounds they should achieve the first three characteristics. They will not achieve the last, however. This is not to say you should forgo premium hollow point ammunition. Merely you can still achieve peak terminal performance with a well placed round that penetrates deep enough. I remind folks as they search for the “best” self defense round, they will all do a better job than you.

You do not have to dive into the weeds about which one is the best. Best is going to be the one you have when you need it most, the rest is going to be on you and your shot placement.

2 thoughts on “In Defense Of Self-Defense

  1. Brian S. says:

    IMHO accuracy is probably the least important factor. In the majority of self defense incidents involving handguns, distances range between 5 feet and 25 feet maximum. That’s mostly a point-and-shoot situation…and IMHO it wouldn’t matter one bit whether said ammunition has the capability to shoot a 2 inch or 6 inch group when using a benchrest and a paper target. In short, there will be no 100 yard shots. It would be better to talk in terms of “precision” and consistency of POI…eg. can you put the bullet where it needs to go. If someone is closing in on you at a rapid pace, there isn’t going to be time to line up the sights on a particular spot on the assailant…other than center mass. Again, accuracy refers to group size when all other variables are controlled for. Our needs in dealing with a bad guy in a dark parking lot are quite different.

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      You misunderstand the accuracy component I believe. The accuracy component is not necessarily how precise the round is, but your ability to deliver accurate rounds on the target. Accuracy is your ability to place the bullet(s) where you want it and precision is how tight a shot group you can deliver. Or, accuracy is the closeness to true value and precision is the degree to which you can repeat the true value. The two are somewhat the same, but different. Hope this helps.

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