Defensive Use of Firearms
1. Ammunition for the Self-Defense Firearm[FAQ Maintainer: Note that this article covers some very subjective topics. Any recommendations given are based only upon the opinions of the author of this article, and the rec.guns FAQ nor its maintainer necessarily endorses or denies any claims or statements made below. Others (including manufacturers) are welcome to submit articles that provide alternative viewpoints.]
by Author Anonymous
AMMUNITION FOR THE SELF-DEFENSE FIREARM v. 1.6
This is a guide to help you select the best ammunition for your
defensive firearm. Most of these opinions are based upon the work of
Massad Ayoob, Evan Marshall and Ed Sanow, police officers who have
extensively studied the issue of firearms, ammunition and stopping power.
I refer all interested parties to the excellent series by Ayoob ('In the
Gravest Extreme,''Stressfire,' 'The Semi-Automatic Pistol in Police
Service and Self-Defense', 'Stressfire II: Advanced Combat Shotgun') and
the comprehensive book 'Stopping Power' by Marshall and Sanow. In
particular, it cannot be stressed too heavily that all gun owners should
own a copy of 'In the Gravest Extreme' and re-read it periodically. Once
you have read it you will understand why. Buy it. (The Ayoob titles - and
other items like Cor-Bon ammunition and Spyderco 'Clipit' folding knives
- are available mail order ($9.95@ and $3.95 shipping and handling) from
"Police Bookshelf," P.O. Box 122, Concord NH 03302; telephone #
1-800-624-9049. American Express, VISA, Mastercard, and Discover cards
gladly accepted. Order today - you will be grateful.)
These three policemen are the world's foremost authorities on
choosing ammunition for real-world defensive use. Their views are based
on exhaustive review of thousands of police and civilian shooting
incidents, autopsies, and ballistic tests. Some other authorities rely
entirely on the latter (e.g. Dr. Martin Fackler, the FBI Wound Ballistics
Lab, the National Institute of Justice Ballistic Research Laboratory)
which is insufficient to make reliable predictions. Human beings react
differently to being shot than gelatin, goats, or other test media, and
bullets that perform spectacular feats in the laboratory sometimes give
mediocre results on the street. A perfect example of this are the silly
1989-90 FBI tests which resulted in the FBI choosing the mediocre 10mm
S&W Model 1076 and the 180 grain JHP round. For this reason, I have
chosen to rely on Ayoob, Marshall, and Sanow when it comes to selecting
my ammunition and strongly advise you do the same. What follows is
essentially a distillation of their opinions. I urge you to research the
sources listed for a more detailed discussion than is possible here.
I cannot stress too heavily that the primary determinant of
stopping power is BULLET PLACEMENT. A cool, deliberate marksman with a
little .32 Walther PPK will beat a panicky, inaccurate man with a .357
Magnum or $1200 customized .45 auto every time. Whatever firearm and
caliber you select, you must practice firing hundreds - thousands - of
rounds in realistic defensive scenarios until you can confidently make
disabling hits on your target. Tactics and marksmanship win gunfights -
not having the latest 'wonder bullet' in your gun. Unfortunately, I
cannot teach you tactics in this short essay, only recommend proven
ammunition. You MUST seek out competent training in tactics and
marksmanship from a qualified instructor in your area. In the meanwhile,
studying Ayoob's great book 'Stressfire' will get you off to an excellent
SELF-DEFENSE AMMUNITION GENERALLY
American ammunition is the best in the world. Stick to Federal,
Cor-Bon, Remington, Winchester or CCI (the Big Five) ammunition. Some
foreign stuff is pretty good (PMC, IMI-Samson, Fiocci), some foreign
stuff is great (Dynamit-Nobel, Norma, GECO), some foreign stuff is
practice-only junk (e.g. CDM - Mexico, military surplus), but no foreign
stuff is anywhere near as good as domestic ammunition when it comes to
vanquishing hostile attackers. Buy American.
Never use hand-loaded or re-loaded ammunition for self-defense!
You may encounter some joker who says he can hand-load ammunition so
powerful it will knock anything on two legs down for the count, but don't
buy it. This junk will either misfire or ruin your gun. Use only fresh
factory-loaded cartridges, period. There are NO EXCEPTIONS to this rule:
use factory-loaded cartridges only.
One should carry only hollowpoint ammunition in a defensive
handgun. Hollowpoint ammunition has much better stopping power than full
metal jacket or round-nose lead, and stopping power is what you need when
being assaulted. The point is not to wound or kill the adversary: the
point is to stop him in his tracks and make him cease attacking you.
"Stopping power" (sometimes called "knock-down power") refers to a
particular bullet's ability to incapacitate an attacker - the greater
that ability, the less chance that your attacker will be able to continue
shooting, stabbing, or beating you after you have shot him. Handguns are
not death-rays; despite what you see in the movies, the vast majority of
people shot with handguns survive (over 80%).
Handguns are weak compared
to rifles and shotguns, and thus you want every edge you can get. Great
ammunition is no more expensive than mediocre ammunition, so carry the
best. Rifles and shotguns have stopping power to spare; handguns do not.
Thus you must select your handgun load very carefully, and the detail of
the handgun ammunition section reflects this.
Hollowpoint ammunition is NOT more lethal than ball (full metal
jacket) ammunition. You may have seen media hype about "killer dum-dum
bullets" but this is nonsense. Hollowpoint bullets usually expand and
stop in the human body, and thus the attacker absorbs much more of the
bullet's kinetic energy than if the bullet had merely zipped through him
and left two small holes. Hollowpoint ammunition is also safer for all
* You are safer because your attacker is more likely to be
incapacitated after one or two shots and thus unable to fire back, stab
you, or whatever. The decreased likelihood of your attacker dying from
hollowpoint bullets saves you the moral and legal complications and
expense you will experience from killing a man.
* Innocent bystanders are safer because hollowpoint bullets are
less likely to exit the attacker's body and go on to injure anyone else.
The ricochet danger is also much lower than that of ball ammunition, and
hollowpoint bullets are less likely to penetrate walls or doors and
strike uninvolved third parties. Furthermore, if your foe is
incapacitated quickly he won't be spraying wild bullets around,
endangering uninvolved third parties.
* Lastly, your attacker is safer because he is far less likely to
die from one or two hollowpoint bullets than the five or six round-nose
slugs you would have had to fire to put him down. Most gunshot deaths
occur from shock and loss of blood, and ball rounds tend to make entry
and exit wounds, whereas hollowpoints go in and stay put. An attacker
shot twice with ball ammo will probably have four holes in him rather
than two, and is thus in far greater danger of death from blood loss. If
you can avoid killing your attacker you should, for both moral and legal
There are some exceptions to the "carry only hollowpoints in a
Some older or cheaper automatic pistols, will jam with hollowpoint
rounds. With these guns one must use ball rounds (or "full metal jacket"
rounds - the terms are synonymous), and I specify "reliable with ball
only" models by caliber. It is crucial for you to test your pistol to
make certain it is reliable with specific loads - don't rely on my
advice. My life will never depend on the reliability of your handgun.
Your life may.
Generally speaking, hollowpoint bullets are the best choice for
rifles. Some soft-point designs are recommended, and these will be
Use buckshot. Slugs and birdshot are useful in some limited and
A NOTE ON EXOTIC AMMUNITION
There are several exotic ammunition designs on the market today,
such as the Glaser Safety Slug, Mag-Safe, GECO BAT 9mm, Thunderzap, et
cetera. Generally speaking, I recommend that you avoid them. Exotic
ammunition is expensive, inaccurate, and often unreliable. These rounds
cost so much ($2-$4 each) that you will never practice with them and thus
will not be certain of their reliability and accuracy in your gun. This
is a big mistake: you should not carry a particular type of ammunition
until you have fired at least 150 rounds through your semi-automatic gun
to ensure reliable feeding (this doesn't really apply to revolvers, but
you should still fire the ammunition you intend to carry to assure
yourself of its accuracy).
'Glaser Safety Slugs' are one exotic round I can fully
recommend, but only for revolvers in a few scenarios. The Glaser is a
proven man-stopper and has very good quality control, but may not feed or
cycle reliably in your automatic pistol. Because you cannot afford to
fire enough Glasers to establish that it feeds reliably in your pistol
(i.e. 100 test-fire rounds will cost $300), I cannot recommend them for
pistol owners (if you insist on Glasers, carry one in the chamber and
load the magazine with a proven hollowpoint. Be aware, however, that the
Glaser may not have the power to cycle your slide, and thus you may be
carrying a single-shot gun.
You can always cycle the slide manually, of
course, but this takes time and both hands; two things you may not be
able to spare when fighting for your life. The Walther PPK, H&K P7
series and SIG P230 are notorious for this failure-to-cycle problem with
Glaser Safety Slugs).
With revolvers feeding is not an issue, of course, but there are
other factors to consider. The Glaser is designed for easy break-up and
minimal penetration, which is great for cutting down ricochet and
over-penetration dangers but drastically limits its ability to penetrate
light cover between you and your foe. A car window, hollow-core door, or
even thick winter clothing between you and your assailant can cause the
Glaser to disintegrate and leave him unharmed. Bad news for you....great
news for him.
There are some situations where the Glaser is a good choice,
however. I keep my bedside .357 revolver loaded with .38 Special+P
Glasers because I live in a thin-walled apartment building and want to be
able to put down an intruder rapidly without worrying about injuring my
neighbors. I chose .38 over .357 Magnums because I am likely to be in a
just-awakened daze and would rather not be blinded and disoriented by the
flash, kick and blast of firing a .357 Magnum in a (probably darkened)
You may have a similar situation (e.g. retail store defense) where
injury to third parties is of concern, and you'll likely be facing an
assailant at extremely close range where the Glaser's inaccuracy and
inability to penetrate cover will not be drawbacks. In these narrowly
defined scenarios, the Glaser is a good choice, but keep a couple of
speedloaders of hollowpoints handy, just in case. I do.
Glaser Safety Slugs are available in "Blue" or "Silver" versions.
The latter are a little heavier for better penetration, but performance
is similar. I would be happy with either, but Sanow prefers the Silver.
It's up to you.
Mag-Safes are imitations of Glasers, and I cannot recommend them
due to poor quality control. Reliability is the number one requirement of
a self-defense handgun, and Mag-Safes don't make the grade.
GECO "Blitz Action Trauma" or BAT 9mm rounds from Germany are a
proven design. Called the "GECO Action Safety" in Europe, this is a high
velocity (1400 feet per second) lightweight (86 grain) hollow bullet that
has proven itself to be very reliable and successful on the street. I
recommend them, but they are very tough to find. Save yourself the
trouble and use a good American-made hollowpoint.
Thunderzaps are ultra-lightweight bullets made of aluminum. They
are made in .38 Special caliber only, as of this writing, and have not
yet been proven on the street.
Other exotics are best avoided. You may occasionally encounter
"Omni-Shocks," "Terminators," "Annihilators," "Kaswer Law Grabbers," and
other such marginalia in gun shops. Stay away. If you want to gamble, go
to an Indian reservation. Don't gamble with your life, or the lives of
others. Glasers and GECO 9mm BATs are the only proven exotics.
I have tried to keep specialized technical jargon to a minimum,
but it will be helpful for you to understand a few terms and acronyms:
- "Ball" is round-nosed metal jacketed ammunition. It is used for
self-loading firearms like pistols. All military pistol and rifle
ammunition uses full metal jacket bullets. Synonyms for ball include FMJ
("full metal jacket"), MC ("metal case") and TMJ ("totally metal
jacketed," a term used only by the ammunition maker CCI). Ball rounds do
not expand and are always the worst choice in a defensive round. The
military uses ball because it feeds well (i.e. rarely jams), penetrates
far, and the military is required to use ball under the Geneva
Convention. Fortunately, you are free to choose better ammunition, and
should use ball for practice only.
- 'Wadcutters' and 'semi-wadcutters' are sharp-shouldered revolver
bullets with an odd cylindrical appearance. True wadcutters are very weak
rounds used for target shooting only. Unless you own a .38 or .357
revolver, forget about these.
- 'Jacketed soft-points' are jacketed bullets with exposed lead at the
tip. These make poor defensive rounds for handguns but may be effective
for rifles, due to the latter's high velocity. Never use JSP rounds in a
handgun for self-defense. Never.
- 'Jacketed hollowpoints' are the best choice for handguns and most
rifles. JHP rounds have a hollow cavity in the nose and usually expand
(and stop) in the body of your attacker, transferring all their kinetic
energy for maximum stopping power. They are the safest and best bullets
available. JHP bullets are always best for self-defense.
-'Round-nose lead' (or RNL) are generally revolver bullets without any
metal jacket around the bullet. These are worthless for self-defense, and
I don't even use them at the range. If you come upon a bargain lot of RNL
ammo, feel free to buy it for target practice. You will be scrubbing out
your barel until the wee hours, however, as all-lead bullets scum up
barrels something fierce. Use 'Flitz' metal polish to scour out the grimy
HANDGUN AMMUNITION BY CALIBER
(note: for an excellent and comprehensive look at the best handgun rounds
by caliber, see the article 'What Are The Best Loads For Defense?' by Ed
Sanow in the July, 1995 issue of Petersen's 'HANDGUNS' magazine)
.22 Long Rifle
You should really be using something bigger than a .22 for
self-defense, but even a .22 beats nothing. There are some really nice
.22 pocket autos, and they make a lot of sense for women reluctant to
tote a bigger gun around. Choose any Federal, Remington, Winchester or
CCI metal-plated 37 grain (or lighter) high velocity hollowpoint round. I
recommend CCI "Stinger" 32-gr. or Remington "Yellow Jacket" 33-gr.
hollowpoints, as they have been very reliable in my Beretta 21A and
Walther TPH pistols. Shoot a lot of rounds through your self-defense .22
- the ammo is cheap and you want to be sure to pick a reliable round. If
high-velocity solids don't cycle reliably try standard-velocity.
little difference in power but it may improve your gun's reliability
(e.g. Jennings J-22 pistols are more reliable with standard-velocity
solids). Marksmanship is crucial with such a tiny gun, so practice
drawing your .22 and firing it rapidly into a melon at ten feet or so.
Also keep your .22 autoloader meticulously clean - these tiny guns cannot
function reliably with much gunk in them. If you carry your .22 in a
pocket, purse or ankle holster inspect it daily and brush off any dust or
grit with an old toothbrush. Lubricate it properly, too. This is very
.25 ACP (6.35mm)
The best .25 load is the Hornady 35-gr. XTP-HP round. If it
jams, use any Federal, Remington, or Winchester 50 grain ball round.
Winchester has an odd 45 gr. "Expanding Point" round that should be OK if
it is reliable in your gun (it seems to work fine in Beretta 950 pistols,
for example), but don't expect any improvement in performance over the 50
grain ball rounds. The excellent Walther TPH .25 should be loaded with
ball. The Hornady 35 grain JHP should be considered only if it is 100%
reliable in your pistol - fire 200 rounds through your gun to see.
Ed Sanow recommends the MagSafe 22 grain "Defender" and Glaser 40
grain Safety Slug.
.32 ACP (7.65 mm Browning, 7.65x17mm)
Use the Winchester 60 gr. Silvertip Jacketed Hollow Point
(X32ASHP) if it is reliable in your gun. I personally would only carry
Silvertips in a Seecamp LWS .32. Most of the common .32 autos on the
market are only reliable with 71 grain ball: Llama, Walther PP and PPK,
Czech CZ-24 and CZ-70, Davis P-32, Colt Pocket Model, Mauser HSc, etc.
.32 Smith & Wesson Long
The best defense load for this obsolescent revolver caliber is
the Federal 98 gr. lead wadcutter (32LA). Shoot carefully.
.32 H&R Magnum
Federal 85 gr. Jacketed Hollow Point (32HRB). Stock up; this
ammunition won't be available for long. Federal will drop it soon due to
lack of demand.
7.62x25mm (a.k.a. 7.63mm Mauser)
If you're using this obsolescent communist caliber I can only
assume that you have an old CZ-52 or Chinese Tokarev. Only 87 gr. ball
ammo is available, so leave the cheap Chinese military stuff for practice
and carry Fiocchi 7.63 Mauser ball in your gun.
.380 ACP (9mm Short, 9x17mm, 9mm Kurz)
Now we're getting into some decent stopping power. The three or
four best .380 JHP rounds have better stopping power than ANY bullet
fired out of 2" barrel .38 Special snub-nose. All of the Big Five make
good hollowpoints for this caliber. The Remington 88 grain JHP is the
most reliably-feeding hollowpoint but slightly less effective than the
Hydra-shok or Cor-Bon. Reliability is crucial, and thus you must test the
rounds before carrying. I recommend the following two cartridges above
-Federal 90 gr. Hydra-shok (P380HS1) - the best standard-pressure .380
JHP load, period.
-Cor-Bon 90 gr. JHP (the most powerful .380 hollowpoint, bar none)
These are the two best .380 loads, and I recommend them for these guns:
SIG/Sauer P230, Beretta 84/85, Browning BDA, CZ-83, H&K P7K3, Walther PPK
and PPK/s. The Russian, East German, Chinese and Bulgarian Makarov
pistols are apparently perfectly reliable with the hot Cor-Bon, and the
strong all-steel construction of these guns should stand up to an
infinite amount of these potent rounds. I have heard that the Colt does
also well with the hot Cor-Bon JHP, which you should definitely look into
if you own a Colt .380.
You have better stopping power than any .38 snub-nose revolver (the
long-time favorite concealment sidearm) when you load your .380 with
these two rounds.
Other good .380 ACP jacketed hollowpoints:
- Remington 102 gr. Golden Saber BJHP (GS380M) - Another excellent .380
load (the BJHP stands for "Brass Jacketed Hollow Point"), the heaviest
one available. I prefer the Cor-Bon and Hydra-shok, but many (including
Sanow) like this new Remington round for its deeper penetration. I'll
stick with the Cor-Bon and Hydra-shok, but the choice is yours.
- CCI-Speer 90 gr. Gold Dot JHP A good all-around hollowpoint.
- Remington 88 gr. JHP (R380AI): A good high-velocity hollowpoint that
feeds well in:
Colt Government Model .380, H&K HK4, Taurus PT-58, older PP and
PPK, Bersa .380, Beretta 70s, Makarov and Hungarian FEG. These are all
good guns that might choke on other hollowpoints but they will probably
feed the Remington fine. This hollowpoint was redesigned in 1993 and
gives excellent performance while retaining its rounded shape for
positive feeding. If your .380 chokes on other JHP loads, try fifty
rounds of the Remington 88 gr. through your gun and see if it improves.
.380 ACP hollowpoints to avoid
-Winchester 85 gr Silvertip (X380ASHP)
I really cannot recommend this weak and jam-prone round. It works
reliably in a few modern European guns (e.g. SIG 230, Beretta 84F), but
every load named above offers better performance. The Silvertip will
likely jam in any American-made .380 automatic. Russian .380 Makarovs and
PPK series guns may jam with the Silvertip, as well. The .380 Silvertip
was once state-of-the-art, but has since been superceded by superior
designs. It is also quite expensive. Look elsewhere.
- PMC-Eldorado Starfire 95 gr. JHP
This round is similarly weak and jam-prone.
- Federal 90 gr. JHP (380BP) (see below)
- Hornady 90 gr. XTP-HP (9010) Both the Federal 380BP and the Hornady
XTP-HP never expand and may jam many guns due to their truncated-cone
bullet nose profiles. Pass these two by.
- 95 gr ball:
Davis P-380, Accu-Tek, EAA .380, Tanarmi, AMT/OMC/TDE "Back-Up,"
Heritage, FIE, Jennings, Bryco, Lorcin, Llama, or "other." Hollowpoints
should never be used in these low-priced guns.
9mm Makarov (9x18mm)
Cor-Bon makes the only 9mm Mak hollowpoint on the market, an
excellent 95 grain JHP that is totally reliable in all East Bloc pistols.
Go buy it. If you cannot find it, order it by mail. Use ball only as a
last resort, or for practice.
Loads for Full-Sized .38 Revolvers With 4" or Longer Barrels
The Numero Uno .38 Special defense load for your 4" barrel
revolver is the Cor-Bon .38 Special+P 115 grain JHP. It is very
high-pressure load and should be used only in modern six-shot revolvers.
It has less felt recoil and muzzle flip than the #2 choice, which
follows. When I carry a 4" .38, I want it loaded with this cartridge.
The second-best choice is the .38 Special+P 158 grain lead
semi-wadcutter hollowpoint (LSWCHP) available from Federal, CCI,
Winchester and Remington. Ayoob has found the latter to have the greatest
expansion, so I would choose Remington (catalog #R38S12). This
unjacketed all-lead round (often called the "FBI load" or "Chicago
load") is a proven manstopper, about on par with .45 ball, when fired
from a 4" barrel. Your fixed-sight .38 revolver it will shoot to
point-of-aim with this load: lighter bullets will shoot low (some very
low). All fixed-sight .38s are regulated at the factory to shoot
accurately with 158 grain bullets, as this was the weight of the
long-time standard American and Canadian police load.
* Federal makes the FBI load in their Nyclad line covered with a
thin Nylon jacket (#P38G). I don't know why you would want this over
their all-lead version (#38G), but if you like it, fine. It works as well
as the all-lead round, and you won't have to worry about airborne lead
particles clogging up your lungs, or whatever.
* CCI offers the famous FBI load in their economical aluminum-cased
Blazer line (#3523). This is a bargain. What I really recommend, however,
is that for practice you use the CCI Blazer 158 grain JACKETED
hollowpoint (#3526) because it duplicates the ballistics and recoil of
the FBI load without fouling your barrel with hard-to-scrub-out lead
deposits. These are a bitch to clean (I use 'Flitz' metal polish with
good results. It will also remove unsightly "burn rings" from the
cylinder face of your stainless-steel revolver).
Note: .38 Special ammunition is loaded to two pressure levels: standard
pressure and +P.
Standard pressure loads may be used in any .38 Special revolver, but +P
loads should be fired extensively only in steel-frame .38 Special
revolvers. Firing a few (under fifty) +P loads in your aluminum-framed
.38 Special revolver will not destroy it or cause it to explode, but will
damage your aluminum-framed revolver if you fire more than a hundred
rounds. If I carried an aluminum-framed .38 Special revolver for
protection, I would not hesitate to carry +P .38 Special loads yet use
mostly standard pressure loads for practice. The main problem with
carrying +P .38 Special loads in an aluminum-framed .38 Special revolver
is that the kick is nasty and slows repeat shots. Thus I recommend
standard pressure ammunition for aluminum-framed .38 Special revolvers,
as it is much easier to score fast hits.
Other .38 Special Loads for Your 4" Barrel Revolver:
IMI-Samson also offers a lightweight, very high pressure load,
the 110 gr. +P+ JHP. This is said to be a ballistic duplicate of the
law-enforcement-only "Treasury" load that T-men used to carry. Who cares?
The Cor-Bon 115 gr. +P load is superior. And never use any 147 grain
bullet in any caliber. They are cursed.
All major manufacturers catalog light .38+P hollowpoints, from
95-129 grains. None of these are as successful as the Cor-Bon .38 Special
+P 115 grain JHP or 158 grain +P LSWCHP, so why carry them? Light +P
loads only make sense in a 2" barrel snub (more on this later). The
Federal Hydra-shok and Winchester Silvertip may look cool, but the
boring-looking Cor-Bon and FBI loads do the job in a 4" revolver. Stick
PMC makes a bizarre 66 grain tubular hollow bullet load. Some
enthusiastic gun-shop salesman may try to sell it to you. Refuse
politely. Stay the hell away from the weird and idiotic Remington
"Multi-Ball" (R38SMB) - I have no idea what they were thinking when they
created this worthless load. Also avoid the Remington 95 grain +P SJHP
(R38S1) : inadequate penetration.
The Glaser Safety Slug is a good choice for self-defense in a .38
revolver of any barrel length (see caveats under "exotic ammunition,"
above). It is crucial to keep the chambers and frame interior absolutely
free of oil or solvents when carrying Glasers, as you don't want any
Breakfree CLP or Hoppe's #9 solvent seeping into the primer pocket and
deactivating the round. This is important for all rounds, of course, but
the Glaser isn't known for particularly good sealing against such
mishaps. You may also want to consider carrying two Glasers as the first
rounds to be fired, and JHP loads for the rest. This gives you a bit of
insurance if your assailant tucks himself behind a sheet rock wall or
doorway or some other flimsy cover that JHP rounds can blast through.
A Special Note on Snub-Nose .38 Revolvers With 2" or 3" Barrels
The Cor-Bon .38 Special+P 115 grain JHP and 158 grain LSWCHP FBI
load are not the best choice for 2" or 3" barrel revolvers. The short
barrel does not provide enough velocity to ensure reliable expansion with
these load, and the unpleasant and hard-to-control recoil hurts snub-nose
accuracy (as well as your hand). Controllability is crucial, and I
recommend lighter +P loads, or even non +P standard pressure loads, for
the .38 snub-nose. Good +P choices for a steel-frame 2" .38 snub-nose
* Federal 125 grain +P Nyclad LSWHP (P38N) - my preferred .38 2"
barrel snub-nose revolver load (a.k.a. the "Chief's Special Load")
* Federal 129 grain +P Hydra-shok JHP (P38HS1)
* Remington 125 grain +P Golden Saber HPJ (GS38SB)
* Cor-Bon 115 grain +P JHP - I would recommend this
ultra-high-pressure load only for the sturdy (and heavy) Ruger SP101
snub-nose .38 or .357 Magnum revolver.
Standard Pressure (non +P) Loads
If you carry an aluminum-frame snub nose .38 (e.g. S&W Model 38
Bodyguard, 642, 442, 37, or Colt Cobra) I urge you to carry a standard
pressure (non +P) .38 round. Firing a few +P rounds won't ruin your gun,
but extended +P use will cause some damage (say, over 100 rounds).
Lightweight snubbies kick like a mule with the FBI load or other +P
rounds, and more controllable standard loads will enable you to get more
hits in rapid fire (remember - only hits count). The best standard
pressure .38 load is the Federal 125 grain Nyclad lead hollowpoint
(P38M). This P38M hollowpoint - known as the "Chief's Special load" - was
specifically designed to expand at lower velocities and is the industry
leader in standard pressure .38 rounds.
I particularly recommend this
round for women who carry .38 snubs (steel- or aluminum-framed), as women
tend to be weaker and more sensitive to blast and kick. This may seem
sexist, but it's also true. Another acceptable standard pressure .38 load
is the Winchester Silvertip 110 grain JHP (X38S9HP), but I strongly
prefer the Federal Nyclad P38M .38 Special.
Note well: if you have a J-frame Smith & Wesson snub-nose .38
(i.e. the five-shot Model 36/37 Chief's Special, Model 38/49/649
Bodyguard, the 640/642/442/940 Centennial) you can greatly improve the
controllability of your gun by installing Uncle Mike's "Boot Grip." This
is a $14 godsend. The skinny little wooden grips that come on these guns
are worthless. Installing good grips does wonders for your ability to
control your .38 snub-nose revolver in rapid fire for more hits.
9mm Parabellum (9mm Luger,9x19mm, 9mm NATO, or simply "9mm")
This is unquestionably the world's most popular pistol round. For
this reason it has been the subject of a lot of experimentation, because
9mm ball - used by every army in the Western world - is a mediocre
manstopper. Jacketed hollowpoints are a must if one wishes to rely on the
9mm as a defense round. Use ball ammo for practice only.
9mm ammunition is available in two pressure levels: standard and
"+P." The latter should only be used in newer guns (made since 1985 or
so), and is best used sparingly. I will deal here with only commercially
available ammunition: there are specialized loads available only to law
enforcement personnel. Civilians should not worry, as there are
commercial loads as good or better than anything restricted to law
I will now tell you the best 9mm Luger load for self-defense: it
is the Cor-Bon 9mm 115 grain +P Jacketed Hollowpoint. This is the most
powerful and street-proven manstopper available in this caliber. It is a
high velocity (1340 fps) and high pressure round, and more effective than
any load restricted to law enforcement use (such as the Federal 9BPLE).
Unfortunately, it is also likely to jam many older guns. For this
reason I add a table at the end of the 9mm section discussing round
suitability for different guns. Modern hollowpoints may either (a) jam,
or (b) be too powerful for some older guns. This load is suitable only
for First Class pistols (see table).
The best standard pressure 9mm load is the Federal 115 grain JHP
(9BP). Its effectiveness and accuracy make it the world standard. Buy
several boxes. Other excellent standard pressure 9mm loads are the
Winchester Silvertip 115 grain (X9MMSHP), Federal 124 grain Hydra-shok
(P9HS1) and Federal Nyclad 124 grain (P9BP) JHP. The Nyclad may feed
better (than the metal-jacketed 9BP) in some older guns - such as
Browning Hi-Powers - which is good enough reason to use it in your older
pistol. It is nearly equal to the excellence of the 9BP in terminal
For guns that may jam with the Cor-Bon or Federal 115 grain
hollow-points, the Remington 115 grain +P JHP is a good choice (R9MM6).
For older guns I would use the Remington standard pressure 115 gr. JHP
Now it is time to impart some crucial information: NEVER use 147
grain ammo in a 9mm pistol! There was a stupid fad for 147 grain
hollowpoints a few years ago, and many were suckered into buying these
weak, worthless and malfunction-prone rounds. I don't care what you've
heard: never use any 9mm hollowpoint heavier than 125 grains. 147 grain
hollowpoints often jam in many popular 9mm guns like the Browning
Hi-Power, SIG, Beretta 92, S&W and Glock. Ignore the gun magazine hype
and stick to what works. If you want to gamble, go to Reno. Don't gamble
with your life. 147 grain ammo sucks.
German GECO "Blitz Action Trauma" or BAT 9mm rounds are a
proven man-stopping design. Called the "GECO Action Safety" in Europe,
this is a high velocity (1400 feet per second) lightweight (86 grain)
hollow bullet that has proven itself to be reliable and successful on the
street. I recommend them, but they are very tough to find. Save yourself
the trouble and use good 115 grain hollowpoints like the Cor-Bon or
Remington +P or Federal 9BP.
Bad 9mm Loads to avoid (and certainly NEVER carry). Numbers given.
Federal Gold Medal 9mm 147 grain JHP (9MS)
Federal Hydra-Shok 9mm 147 grain JHP (P9HS2)
Winchester 147 grain 9mm Silvertip Subsonic JHP (X9MMST147)
Winchester 147 grain 9mm Black Talon JHP (S9MM)
Winchester 147 grain 9mm Super-X Subsonic (XSUB9MM)
Remington 147 grain 9mm JHP (R9MM8)
Remington 147 grain 9mm Golden Saber JHP (GS9MMC)
Remington 140 grain 9mm JHP (R9MM7)
Remington 88 grain 9mm JHP (R9MM5) This bullet is far too light.
CCI Lawman 147 grain 9mm PHP "Plated Hollow Point" (3619)
TABLE OF 9mm PISTOLS
(note: just because your pistol appears in Class 3, say, doesn't mean it
is unreliable: it may indeed feed hollowpoints. But you must fire at
least 200 rounds of your chosen JHP carry load to determine if your
pistol will feed them properly. I have placed pistols in each category
according to reputation and experience. These are only meant as
guidelines - your pistol may feed JHP rounds better - or worse - than
this table indicates)
First Class pistols are ultra-reliable and high-quality new guns than can
feed any hollowpoint and tolerate +P loads with no problems:
SIG/Sauer P220 series. Czech CZ75 and CZ85. Walther P5, P5C, and
P88. Heckler and Koch USP and P7 series. All Glocks. All Ruger 9mm
pistols. Taurus PT-99, PT-92 and PT-92C. Steyr GB. Beretta 92 series.
Browning BDM and Hi-Power (if it says "Portugal" on the slide). All Smith
& Wessons with a four-digit model number (e.g. 5906, 3913, 6904, 5903)
and the Smith & Wesson 900 series. Star M28, M30, M31, and all Firestars,
Megastars, and Ultrastars.
Second Class pistols are high quality guns that may not feed all
hollowpoints reliably. Remington 115 gr. hollowpoints are recommended for
Smith & Wessons with two or three digit model numbers (e.g. 659,
39-2, 469, 59, 39). Heckler and Koch VP70 and P9S. Beretta "Brigadier"
M1951 and the Egyptian copy, the Interarms "Helwan." Colt M2000
"All-American" (now discontinued, for good reason), Colt Series 70
Government Model, Series 70 Commander. Astra A-70, A-75 and A-100. AMT
"On Duty." Daewoo. Bersa 'Thunder 9'. EAA Witness, and all other CZ-75
copies (e.g. Tanfoglio, Tanarmi, Springfield Armory P9). Taurus PT-908.
Walther P4. Star BK, BKM, Model B and 'Super.' Browning Hi-Powers
without the word "Portugal" on the slide. Llama Model 82. IMI "Jericho"
Third Class pistols should generally be loaded with ball for best
reliability - experiment with your gun extensively before carrying JHP:
Walther P38, P4 or P1. Luger. Llama. Maverick. MKS Model JS.
Intratec CAT-9, DC-9, KG-9, etc. SWD Cobray Model 11/9 and similar
models. Scarab Scorpion. Kimel AP-9. Bryco Jennings Model 59. All KBI
Hungarian pistols (e.g. GKK, PJ9C, P9HK and other "FEG" products).
"Norinco" or "Sportarms" Chinese Tokarev pistols. Lahti. Radom. MAB P15
and Model 1950.
Cor-Bon, Winchester and Remington all make good jacketed
hollow-points in .38 Super. I like the Cor-Bon 115 and 124 grain
hollowpoints the best. The Remington will feed more smoothly in many
guns, however, especially Colts and Colt M1911A1 copies like the
Springfield Armory and Auto-Ordnance. The Llama .38 Super tends to jam
with anything except ball.
The most effective handgun round on the market - regardless of
caliber - is the Federal .357 Magnum 125 grain jacketed hollowpoint
(357B). This load has more stopping power than any other handgun bullet
(and this includes more powerful rounds like the .41 and .44 Magnums). I
advise all experienced revolver men to carry the legendary Federal 357B
in a .357 revolver, or the equally good Remington full-power 125 grain
semi-jacketed hollowpoint (R357M1).
There is one caveat, however. The 357B and other full-power .357
Magnums have a lot of blast and kick. If you are not comfortable with the
buck and roar of full-house .357 Magnums, I would strongly suggest that
you use a lower-recoil round. Controllability is important, and you will
be able to fire lower-recoil rounds more rapidly and accurately. All of
these .357 loads have excellent stopping power, so don't worry that you
are giving up too much. In descending order of severity of recoil (i.e.
the Silvertip kicks the most) I recommend the Winchester Silvertip 145
grain JHP (X357SHP), The Remington Golden Saber 125 grain JHP (GS357MA),
Federal 110 gr. JHP (357D), Remington Medium Velocity 125 grain
Semi-Jacketed Hollowpoint (R357M11) and the Cor-Bon 115 grain JHP. The
latter two are excellent rounds I strongly recommend for .357 Magnum 2.5"
and 3" barrel snub-nose revolvers like the S&W Models 66, 19, 65, 13, the
Colt King Cobra, the Ruger GP100 and especially the small-frame Ruger
SP101. If you still find that your .357 kicks too much, carry the Cor-Bon
.38 Special+P 115 grain JHP discussed above. Two or three hits with good
.38+P slugs beat any number of misses with .357 slugs.
(Note well: if you are using the factory wood stocks on your S&W
or Taurus .357 revolver, you are a fool. Ruger and Colt .357 Magnums
come factory-equipped with recoil-absorbing ergodynamic rubber grips, and
I have no idea why S&W and Taurus continue to put wood grips on their
.357 revolvers. The difference in control is enormous. Get some good,
compact rubber grips from Uncle Mike's or Pachmayr and slap them onto
your .357 revolver ASAP. I used to cringe every time I fired a full-power
load in my .357 Magnum snub-nose. Once I put some compact Pachmayr grips
on it, however, I had no problem firing the 357B accurately and rapidly.
These grips only cost twenty bucks. Buy some.)
Other good .357 Magnum loads
The 125 grain jacketed hollowpoints by Cor-Bon, Winchester, and
CCI are all good stoppers. The CCI Blazer 125 grain jacketed
hollow-point is a very good buy, both for practice and self-defense use.
The 110 grain jacketed hollowpoints by Winchester, CCI and Remington are
all good for use in snub-nose revolvers, or for those sensitive to
recoil. You never go wrong with a 110-125 grain .357 jacketed
hollowpoint from the Big Five. All are great stoppers.
Crappy .357 Magnum loads you should not carry for self-defense
Never carry soft-points, semi-wadcutters, or any of the 158 grain
or 180 grain jacketed hollowpoints - these are solely for hunting or
target use. Stick to jacketed hollowpoints under 150 grains in weight.
The heavier bullets kick heavily and will shoot high and confuse you.
All-lead bullets are okay for practice but you will have to spend twice
as long cleaning your gun. And stay the hell away from the bizarre and
idiotic Remington "Multi-Ball" (R357MB) - I have no idea what they were
thinking when they created this worthless gimmick load.
There is only one .357 SIG JHP available, the Federal 125 grain
jacketed hollowpoint, so use it. I am unsure what advantage this caliber
is supposed to have over the .40 S&W, but it should prove to be a good
stopper on the streets. .357 SIG ballistics are quite impressive.
.40 Smith & Wesson
This new caliber is establishing an excellent track record on the
street. Smith & Wesson and Winchester really did their research when they
invented the .40 S&W. Your choice comes down to either the 180 grain
jacketed hollowpoints or the 135-155 grain jacketed hollowpoints by
Cor-Bon, Winchester, Federal, CCI or Remington. All are good stoppers,
but the lighter weight bullets have the best stopping power records on
The real-world shooting database is small, but clearly favors
the lighter 135-155 gr. JHP loads. I personally would carry the potent
Cor-Bon 135 or 150 grain jacketed hollowpoint or the Winchester Silvertip
155 grain jacketed hollowpoint (X40SWSTHP). The 135-155 grain JHP kicks
less and has higher kinetic energy and stopping power than the 180 gr.
JHP loads. The 135 gr. JHP appears to be a real stopper.
In short, you cannot go wrong with the .40 S&W - unless you carry
ball. Choose a good hollowpoint and stick with it. Leave the ball for
practice (the CCI Blazer 180 grain TMJ is a good inexpensive practice round).
The 10mm is not living up to expectations. It was thought to be
the ne plus ultra of pistol rounds when introduced in the late 1980's,
but hasn't turned out to be superior to the better 9mm, .40 S&W or .45
ACP jacketed hollowpoints. This isn't to say that the 10mm Auto sucks -
it is a fine stopper. It's just that we hoped for so much more.
10mm Auto ammunition is available in two power levels -
"full-house" and medium velocity, as used by the FBI (sometimes called
"10mm Lite"). The "full-house" loads should be left for hunting use: they
kick heavily, blow right through assailants, and are very hard on your
gun. Stick to the medium velocity ammo. I would pick the Cor-Bon 135
grain Nosler JHP, Federal 155 grain JHP (10E), or Federal Hydra-shok 155
gr. JHP (P40HS2). The "FBI load" is the 180 grain subsonic JHP, and
Federal, Winchester, and Remington all produce good ones. Take your pick,
but you are silly to ignore the superior real-world performance of the
lighter 135-155 grain jacketed hollowpoints.
The potent Winchester Silvertip 175 grain JHP (X10MMSTHP) is
close in power to the "full-house" loads, and may be a good choice for an
experienced shooter who is used to heavy recoil. I personally would only
carry the Silvertip or "full-house" loads in the field, where I might
have to shoot big, cranky animals that seem interested in munching on my
bodily parts. In this role the 10mm auto excels.
The best defense choice for this hard-kicking caliber is the
Winchester Silvertip 175 grain JHP (X41MSTHP2). The Remington 170 grain
Semi-Jacketed Hollowpoint (R41MG3) is also a good round.
By far the best choice for your .44 Special revolver is the
Cor-Bon 180 grain JHP. Glasers or the Winchester Silvertip 200 grain JHP
(X44STHPS2) are also good rounds, particularly for any 5-shot .44 revolver.
The blast and kick of this powerful caliber make it less than
optimum for defense use, despite what you have seen in the movies.
Cor-Bon's 180 grain or Federal's 180 grain (44B) medium-velocity JHP are
the hands-down choices in this caliber. Glasers, the Winchester Silvertip
210 grain JHP (X44MSTHP2) or the Federal 240 grain Hydra-shok (P44HS1)
are also acceptable choices.
.45 ACP (occassionally called "11.43x23mm" by some silly Europeans)
The .45 ACP is a recognized manstopper, and there are many
excellent loads in this caliber. Some of the best:
- Federal 230 grain Hydrashok JHP (P45HS1): a great load, and my #1
choice. It gives the most stopping power in this potent caliber.
- Federal 185 grain JHP (45C) another top-notch load from Federal. I
would choose this round for a compact, short-barrelled .45 like the Colt
Officer's ACP or the S&W 4516. It has lighter recoil than the Hydrashok
or CCI 200 JHP, and its higher velocity makes it more likely to expand
out of a short 3.5" barrel.
- Cor-Bon 185 grain Sierra JHP
- CCI Lawman 200 gr. JHP (3965). a.k.a. the "Inspector" or "Flying Ashtray."
- CCI Blazer 200 gr. JHP (3568). The "Flying Ashtray" in an economical
Both of these CCI loads use a wide-mouth hollowpoint bullet that
may jam some guns. It is 100% reliable in newer guns like the current
production "enhanced" Colt 1911A1, the SIG/Sauer P220, Star M45 Firestar
and Megastar, and all Smith & Wesson, Para-Ordnance, and Ruger .45
automatics and the Smith & Wesson Model 625 revolver. (Note well: if you
are one of those knuckleheads who install light springs in your gun to
get a lighter trigger pull you are asking for trouble. Never use CCI ammo
in such a gun, as CCI uses especially hard primers and your hammer might
not be able to detonate the round reliably, now that you have monkeyed
- Remington 185 grain JHP (R45AP2)
This is the best choice for older guns that may jam with other
hollow-points. I would select this load for the Heckler and Koch P9S,
Browning BDA, Springfield Armory, AMT and Thompson M1911A1, Llama, Star
- Cor-Bon and Remington .45+P 185 grain JHP (R45AP6)
These are very powerful and hard-kicking rounds best left to the
experienced shooter. They are pretty hard on your gun, especially an
aluminum-framed pistol like the SIG/Sauer P220 or Colt Lightweight
Commander. If you are sufficiently expert to confidently carry the .45+P
you certainly don't need my advice on load selection. That being said,
these +P rounds are second only to the famed Hydra-shok in stopping
power. They really sledgehammer the bad guys down.
Other good .45 ACP loads
The Winchester Silvertip 185 grain JHP (X45ASHP2), CCI Gold Dot
and Remington Golden Saber (GS45APB) are all good choices. If you like
them, fine, but they have no edge over loads mentioned above. Stick to
the tried and true, I say.
The .45 ACP "hardball" load (the standard military 230 grain full
metal jacket) is a pretty good stopper, the only FMJ round I would feel
comfortable relying on for defense. Save the ball for practice, but if
you must carry it (because your gun jams with hollowpoints) feel
confident that you will put any assailant down rapidly with one or two
well-placed hits. The Llama, Federal Ordnance, AMT, and Auto-Ordnance
M1911A1 copies often jam with anything except 230 grain ball. Never
compromise when it comes to reliability: if your gun only feeds ball,
then ball is what you carry.
I hope your self-defense .45 Colt is a good double-action design
like the Smith & Wesson Model 25 and not some single-action hunting gun.
Load your revolver with the Cor-Bon 200 grain JHP. The Federal 225 gr.
Lead Semi-Wadcutter Hollowpoint (45LCA) or Winchester 225 gr. Silvertip
JHP (X45CSHP2) are also good.
SHOTGUN AMMUNITION BY CALIBER
The shotgun is the ne plus ultra of manstoppers. No other weapon
will put a man down as reliably as a shotgun, and no other weapon is as
likely to hit your opponent as a shotgun filled with buckshot. No doubt
you have heard a lot of nonsense about the lethality of "assault rifles"
and "Uzi sub-machine guns" and the like. The fact is that the shotgun is
by far the deadliest and most effective firearm for short-range personal
defense. For example: an Uzi or Heckler & Koch sub-machine gun has about
340 ft-lbs. of impact energy - a 12 gauge shotgun has 2500 to 3100
ft-lbs. of impact energy, and it is a heck of a lot easier to hit your
target with a shotgun than a sub-machine gun.
The shotgun is not a magic weapon that will slay all foes, but it
is simply the most effective man-stopping firearm yet devised. I invoke
the Ascended Master, Massad Ayoob: "It is perhaps the most efficient
close-range killing machine in the world's arsenal of small arms." For a
discussion of the shotgun's strengths and weaknesses I refer all
interested parties to Ayoob's excellent and comprehensive book 'The
Truth About Self-Protection' (truly the best $8.95 investment you'll ever
make), which discusses every element of self-defense from locks, chemical
sprays and alarms to defensive driving, firearms and defending yourself
against dogs. A more in-depth treatment of the issue may be found in
Ayoob's book-length volume on shotgun technique, 'Stressfire II: Advanced
A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY
Shotgun ammunition falls into three general categories:
BUCKSHOT - shell loaded with large-diameter lead balls (.24" and up) used
for big game hunting and self-defense. The number of pellets in 12 gauge
buck-shot varies from eight .36" balls in "000 buck" to 27 .24" pellets
in "#4 buck". Buckshot ratings are archaic and hard to understand (as are
shotgun specifications and ammunition in general), but thankfully there
isn't much you need to learn. Simply write down the recommended loads,
walk into your local gunshop and announce your desired ammunition (note
that "00" is pronounced "double ought" and "000" is pronounced "triple
ought." Don't say "zero zero" or "oh-oh-oh buckshot" in front of gunshop
employees - they will snicker and mock you cruelly behind your back).
Then practice with both your selected defense load and low-cost birdshot
to fully familiarize yourself with the operation of your gun and its
terminal performance (e.g. patterns at various distances, the startling
effects of buckshot on ballistic melons).
BIRDSHOT- small-diameter pellets used for bird hunting. Its stopping
power is poor, except when used at very close range - out to 20-30 feet.
For that reason it is not generally recommended, except for home defense
SLUGS are solid lead bullets for shotgun use. These are big, heavy, fat
hunks of soft lead that have enormous stopping power (e.g. a typical 12
gauge slug is .73" caliber and weighs 438 grains - a 9mm bullet is .355"
and 115 grains). Use of slugs ruins the shotgun's main advantage -
superior hit probability - as slugs must be carefully aimed to be
effective. It is important to remember, however, that shotguns must be
aimed with shot, too - do not for a minute think that you can simply
point your shot-loaded shotgun at the foe and let loose. Shotguns must be
skillfully aimed and fired just like hand-guns and rifles. The shotgun is
simply much more likely to hit the attacker.
None of the above really applies in this weak caliber. The .410
is only a half-way decent manstopper with slugs. Choose the Federal
Classic (F412RS) or Winchester Super-X (X41RS5) 1/5 ounce (88 grain)
hollowpoint slug. Never use birdshot. American Derringer Corp. has
produced an odd buckshot load for the .410 (withthree 000 pellets), and I
advise you to ignore it. Lose the .410 and buy a 20 gauge pump shotgun.
The 20 is an excellent self-defense caliber, particularly for
those who dislike the recoil of the 12 gauge. I recommend the 20 gauge
over the more popular 12 for home defense. Choose the 20 gauge 3" shell
Federal "Classic" #2 buckshot (F207-2-5PK) with 18 pellets, or the
Winchester "Double XX" Magnum #3 with 24 pellets (X203C3B). If your gun
cannot accept 3" shells choose the Remington #3 with 20 pellets
(SP20BK5PK-3). All of these loads provide definitive short-range stopping
power. I specifically recommend the 20 gauge for women and
recoil-sensitive men who dislike the blast and recoil of the 12 gauge.
"Delivering roughly the ballistic force of two .44 Magnum rounds at
once," comments the knowledgeable Ayoob, the 20 "delivers 75% of the lead
for only 50-60% of the recoil".
Many police departments have found their
officers shoot much more accurately in realistic training exercises with
the lighter-kicking but still potent 20 gauge. If you are new to
shotgunning and considering getting one for self-defense I strongly urge
you to buy the reliable and reasonably-priced "Mossberg 500 Special
Purpose" 18.5" barrel 20 gauge pump shotgun (catalog #50451). This
tried-and-true workhorse is the standard shotgun of the U.S. Armed Forces
and costs a little over $200. You'll be much happier with the
lighter-kicking 20 gauge than the 12 gauge version used by the military,
and - most importantly - you'll shoot the 20 more accurately and rapidly.
For an in-depth look at the 20-versus-12 gauge issue I recommend all
shotgun owners (and potential shotgun owners) read 'Stressfire II:
Advanced Combat Shotgun' by Massad Ayoob. Perhaps I am beginning to
sound like a broken record on the theme of Ayoob's books, but once you've
read them you'll understand why I recommend them so highly (and
repeatedly). Note: Ayoob dislikes the 20 gauge Remington 870 pump shotgun
and recommends you choose the Mossberg 500 in 20 gauge for general
self-defense and home-defense use. So do I.
For ultra-close range home defense birdshot will do the trick.
Choose any #4, BB or larger high brass lead hunting load, and have the
balance of the magazine filled with #3 buck in case the birdshot doesn't
put them down fast enough.
Avoid slug use in 20 gauge; you are better off defending yourself
with buckshot. If you must use slugs, pick the Dynamit/Nobel or Federal
"Classic" (F203-RS) rifled slugs. Using slugs requires careful aiming and
rifle sights: few 20 gauge shotguns have the latter.
The 16 has never caught on with Americans. As a result, no
shotguns made specifically for defense are available in 16. If you have a
sporting 16, however, it can do double duty as a great defense gun.
Choose the Federal "Classic" #1 (F164-1) or the Remington #1 (SP16BK-5PK)
If you have a 12 gauge shotgun you own the most effective and
devastating short-range firearm ever created. If you simply want to know
the best defense load, go out and buy: 12 gauge 2 3/4" shell 00 buckshot.
You shall live happily ever after, as this is the most effective
man-stopping firearm cartridge yet devised by man. I recommend the
Federal "Classic" (F127-00), Winchester Super-X (X12RB5) or Remington
Buckshot (SP12BK-5PK00) as the best double-ought buckshot defense rounds.
One of these rounds is virtually equal to a nine-round burst from a
submachine gun, with every round hitting.
Effective shotgun technique,
of course, requires that one hits with each shot. Don't think that you
can merely point the shotgun in the general direction of your attacker
and let fly. Read Ayoob's book 'Stressfire II: Advanced Combat Shotgun'
for the low-down on good shotgun skills and then practice, practice,
Many experienced shooters prefer #4 or #1 buckshot to 00. I
really cannot argue, but Lt. Marshall is on record as stating that 00 is
superior, both in penetration and stopping power. Good enough for me, but
if you have a #4 or #1 buckshot jones, go ahead (Ayoob favors #1). Stay
away from 2 3/4" Magnum or 3" Magnum loads, however - the brutal kick of
these rounds makes them a bad choice, and you gain nothing in stopping
power over the 2 3/4" standard loads. Controllability is important, and
standard 12 gauge shells have quite enough kick as it is.
A note on shotgun spread: firing your shotgun does not create a
diabolical cone of doom destroying all in its path. If you have a typical
defense or "riot" gun with an 18"-20" open-choked "cylinder" barrel, the
pellets will spread out about 1" for every yard of range.
This means that
the spread of pellets fired across a large room (18') will be 6" or so, a
circle the size of a coffee cup saucer. At 50 feet, the spread will be
the size of a large pizza (16"). Test-fire your shotgun at various
ranges, using big white butcher paper targets to get an idea of the
pattern you can expect. It is a common misconception that blasting at
foes ten feet away will take out two or three of them. The spread at that
range is just three inches, so you can see that I meant it when I said
that the shotgun must be skillfully aimed and fired just like handguns
and rifles. The shotgun is simply much more likely to hit - and stop -
Slugs are potent manstoppers, but have limited application for
self-defense. Slug use loses the one big advantage of the shotgun - its
high hit probability. Slugs have ferocious recoil and often
over-penetrate. There are special situations where slugs might be
preferred over buckshot (e.g. road-blocks, barricaded foes), but if you
are interested in such esoterica I again direct you to Ayoob's masterful
tome 'Stressfire II: Advanced Combat Shotgun'. This guide is for general
civilian readers; policemen, soldiers, and gun enthusiasts should rely on
Ayoob's in-depth expertise.
Don't be a knucklehead. Stay away from weirdo rounds like rubber
buckshot or neoprene slugs. These are riot-control rounds designed for
massed police use against violent mobs. Don't rely on such marginalia to
save your life.
Two things to keep in mind about birdshot. The first is that
birdshot is as lethal as buckshot at close range. Don't believe for a
second that you can just wound someone with birdshot and he'll go on to
live another day. If you aren't justified in killing a man, you aren't
justified in wounding him, either. Never "shoot to wound." I once again
direct you to read Ayoob's 'In the Gravest Extreme' and learn the truth.
The second thing is that birdshot makes a lot of sense for home
defense. I keep my home-defense 12 gauge loaded with two #4 birdshot
rounds followed by 00 buck.
Birdshot is much less likely to penetrate
thin interior walls and kill innocent people on the other side, and has
lower recoil than buckshot for faster follow-up shots (I live in a
thin-walled apartment house, however - if I lived in a solid house with a
lot of land around, I would definitely choose buckshot instead). The
stopping power of birdshot should not be under-estimated: at ranges out
to thirty feet or so, birdshot is virtually a solid column of lead
(imagine an angry swarm of bees chasing Elmer Fudd and you'll get the
idea). Choose any #4 or BB high brass lead hunting load.
I like the
Federal "Classic Lead Hi-Brass" #4 birdshot (HI26-4) and Winchester
"Super-X" #4 high brass birdshot (X12-4), but there is little difference
between the various choices. Buy whichever you please. If you're a bird
hunter, use your favorite hunting shells as long as they are #6 or larger.
Yow. Load your 10 gauge with whatever the hell you want.
RIFLE AMMUNITION BY CALIBER
Rifles aren't a great choice for most self-defense applications.
Quoth Ayoob: "The rifle is not well suited to the sudden, close-quarters
deployment and maneuvering that is required of a defensive firearm. On
the battlefield, yes. In civilian close combat, no way." Ayoob adds that
"the rifle is too bulky for maneuvering through doors and hallways, too
long to quickly and surreptitiously pick up when the attacker drops his
guard, and too easy for the criminal to take away if the homeowner's
attention is diverted."
That being said, if all you have is a rifle then a rifle is what
you use. Some liberal-infested cities ban handgun ownership (Chicago, New
York, Detroit), so you are stuck using shotguns and rifles for home
defense. Take some comfort from the fact that rifles have better stopping
power, are a strong visual deterrent, and are much easier to hit with
than any handgun.
Never use ball (FMJ) for self-defense in a rifle.
.22 Long Rifle
A good semi-auto .22 rifle like the Ruger 10/22 or Marlin Model
60 can do the job when nothing else is available. Use any high-velocity
round (I like the CCI "Stinger" or CCI "SGB" hunting load, #0058) and
fire repeatedly. Multiple hits are crucial with a .22: shoot and shoot
and shoot some more. Stay away from the after-market large-capacity
magazines made by Ram-Line, Eagle, Hot Lips, etc: these plastic
nightmares are unreliable, jam-prone and easily breakable. Use factory
magazines only for self-defense, and keep a few spare loaded magazines handy.
.22 Magnum (.22 WMR)
Any high-velocity hollowpoint. Try the CCI 'Maxi-Mag' 40 grain
hollow-point (0024), CCI 'Stinger', Remington 'Yellow Jacket', or
whatever you prefer.
.223 Remington (5.56x45mm NATO)
This is the standard NATO rifle round and the best choice for a
self-defense rifle. Many top-notch rifles are (or were) available in this
caliber: the Colt AR-15, Ruger Mini-14, Steyr AUG, FN FNC, et cetera. All
good .223 defense rifles have been banned as "assault rifles" - Thank
you, Democrats - but you may already own one. If so, lucky you.
All .223 hollowpoints are good stoppers. I really like the
Federal 40 grain P223V high-velocity hollowpoint (formerly called the
"Blitz" round). Marshall says this is the #1 urban defense load. It is
lighter than other .223 bullets, however, so you'll need to adjust your
sights if you carry the P223V (it shoots lower than all other .223 loads).
If you want better penetration than the P223V offers, choose any
good 55-69 grain hollowpoint from a big name manufacturer (I like
Federal). Softpoints offer even greater penetration, probably more than
Note: older .223 guns with a 1 in 12" rifling twist shoot more
accurately with 55 grain bullets (as they were designed for the old U.S.
Army M193 ball round). Newer rifles with a faster 1 in 7" twist (this
includes the AR-15A2 and nearly all European models) prefer the heavier
60-70 grain bullets (like the M855/SS109 ball round). Ruger Mini-14
rifles have a 1 in 10" twist and do well with either bullet weight. This
is only important at longer ranges.
Save the cheapo ball rounds for practice.
7.62x39mm Soviet(7.62 mm Russian Short, 7.62 mm M43 Combloc)
Some prefer this East Bloc cartridge to the .223 for defense use.
It is an excellent round, most commonly used in SKS and AK-47 derived
rifles, as well as the Ruger Mini-30. Use any 123-125 grain softpoint
from Cor-Bon, Federal, Winchester, or Remington. PMC makes a good
low-priced 125 grain softpoint (PMC762B) you might like if you have a lot
of magazines to fill. Russian hollowpoints have been imported recently,
but I know little of them.
.30 M1 Carbine
Never use ball in your M1 for defense! .30 Carbine ball sucks,
but .30 Carbine hollowpoints work very well. Buy the Winchester 110 grain
Hollow Soft Point (X30M1) and forsake all others. I mean it.
This hoary old round has survived so long for a simple reason: it
works. Load your Winchester or Marlin .30-30 lever-action rifle with any
hollowpoint - I recommend the Federal 125 grain (3030C). Leave the
soft-points for hunting and practice.
.308 Winchester (7.62x51mm NATO)
An excellent rifle cartridge, perhaps the best. The best .308
round in the world is the Federal Gold Medal 168 grain Boat-Tail
Hollowpoint Match (GM308M).
Other boat-tail hollowpoints are good, too. This is an excellent
rifle caliber, the world standard.
Generally the same as for pistols, above. The neat and handy
Marlin Camp Carbine is totally reliable with Remington 115 grain jacketed
hollow-points (R9MM1), so use them. Heckler & Koch, Uzi and Colt 9mm
carbines will feed anything, so I recommend the Cor-Bon 115 or 124 grain
+P JHP. Any reliable hollowpoint is a good choice in a 9mm carbine, and
the long barrel makes for high velocity and effectiveness.
This excellent and time-proven cartridge has too many top-notch
loads to list. Knowledgeable men like the Federal Gold Medal 168 grain
boat-tail hollowpoint (GM3006M), using the superlative bullet that made
the .308 Federal Gold Medal a world-beater.
Follow the guidelines for revolvers, above. The .357 makes an
excellent carbine round for urban self-defense in a Marlin lever-action
or (my favorite) an Action Arms/Israeli Military Industries "Timber Wolf"
.357 pump-action carbine.
Pick any good hollowpoint, using the guidelines for revolvers
(above). Don't be tempted to use softpoints - these hunting rounds will
blow right through your foe.
Select your hollowpoint according to its reliability in your gun,
using the guidelines for auto pistols, above. The neat and handy Marlin
Model 45 Sport Carbine is totally reliable with Remington 185 grain
jacketed hollow-points, so use them. The long barrel gives you +P
velocities without the damaging effects of +P pressure loads (which
should NOT be used in a Marlin).
Auto-Ordnance Thompson semi-autos are only reliable with 230
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Exclusive: What or who ordered US army not to interfere in Basra?
April 8, 2008, 7:58 PM (GMT+02:00)
Sadr's Mahdi Army militia
US Iraq commander, Gen. David Petraeus, strongly criticized the failed offensive led by prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to subdue Shiite militias in Basra last month in his testimony to the US Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, April 8. He called it ill-prepared and planned but, above all, underscored the destructive role Iran plays in the training, arming and funding of insurgent militias, as demonstrated in Basra, citing the activities of Tehran’s forward arms, IRGC’s al Qods and the Lebanese Hizballah’s Iraq cells, in the fighting.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly 343 of April 4 described in detail how Iran intervened in the Basra campaign to the detriment of US efforts in Iraq. The following excerpt posed this question: How come the US army failed to counter this intervention?
Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s decision to launch 20,000 troops in a crackdown on the Shiite militias rife in southern Iraq took the US army and intelligence commands completely by surprise, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and intelligence sources report.
Because the US military command was not approached for assistance, Tehran stepped into the breach with logistical support to supply food, water, ammo, fuel and vehicles for mobility.
All the Iranian military and intelligence agents and cells who were working undercover in southern Iraq, behind such fronts as charitable foundations, medical facilities and religious seminaries, were quickly mobilized. Armed with fistfuls of dollars, they hired a fleet of hundreds of trucks and pick-ups to ferry Iraqi government forces fighting to dislodge armed groups between Basra, Kut, Nasiriya, Dawiniya, Al Amara and dozens of small townships and villages.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers distributed the vehicles among the sectors. They delivered ordnance from Iraqi army stores across the country and food to the soldiers in the South, filling the tanks of Iraqi armored vehicles. Pick-ups rounded up the wounded from the battle arenas and drove them to hospitals.
IRGC agents also succored the militias, notably Moqtada Sadr’s Mehdi Army, which government forces were fighting to quell. This militia too depended on the Iranians for supplies, food and vehicles. (The al Qods Brigades are responsible for running Iran’s external terrorist organizations in Iran, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and the Gulf.)
By keeping its hand on the levers of the two Shiite antagonists, Tehran was able to govern the level and intensity of combat. This control was further exercised by attaching Iranian intelligence officers to the militia chiefs and their commands. Their biggest gun, Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, chief of the IRGC’s al Qods Brigades, was attached to the largest and most powerful militia, the Sadrist Mehdi Army.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report that the Americans stood by and did not interfere with the Iranian initiative, only ascertaining that they stayed out of four towns, Baghdad, Najef, Karbala, and Samara. The Iranians, understanding they were warned off, treated the four towns as no-go zones and moved around without restraint in the battle arenas.
End of quote
DEBKAfile’s military sources note that Israeli leaders prefer to ignore Hizballah’s role as Iran’s proxy in Iraq, because it would shoot down prime minister Ehud Olmert’s portrayal of the Lebanese terror group as weak and scared of Israel’s long arm. In reality, the Shiite Hizballah is capable of holding down two fronts and not afraid to take on US forces in Iraq.