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Preferred Ammunition Loads for Self Defense

Preferred Ammunition Loads for Self Defense

This subject could come up a lot more because for a newer shooter going into the ammo store to buy self defense rounds has a lot of choices and odds are the sales person has no clue either. Which is better? Does it matter? Yes, it does.

Dave Spaulding
Dave Spaulding

Normally I would be teaching my class this coming Saturday. I’m not because I’m going to take a shooting class myself. It’s called continuing education. In self defense training I am constantly learning and one of my mentors is Dave Spaulding from Dayton, OH. I’ll be taking a class called “Adaptive Concealed Carry”. It’s a 2 day class in Cresson, TX at the Triple C Range. We’ll shoot about 1000 rounds and I’ll continue to hone my skills with this excellent instruction. If you have a chance, take one of his classes. See what he offers at Handgun Combatives. Pay attention and listen to his video on the lower home page, 6 great minutes.

I said all that as the information that follows is from Dave. He knows his stuff and so for I’ve never found him to be in error about stuff like this, or much else in guns, except he likes his Glocks more than I do.

“I get several requests a week for my “preferred loads”, meaning the ammo I carry in my handguns in varied calibers. I started looking at the subject of “handgun stopping power” around 1979 after reading somewhat conflicting articles on the subject between Mas Ayoob and Jeff Cooper. Over the years I got to know both men and have GREAT respect for both! I learned a ton from each.

I began by talking with the local coroner, the ballistics expert at our local crime lab and folks who had actually been in shootings, something I had started while in the academy in 1976. I also read everything on the subject I could find. My research accelerated when I decided to write my Master’s Thesis in Criminal Justice entitled “The Incapacitation Effectiveness of Police Handgun Ammunition”.

I was given permission by the Sheriff at that time to use department letterhead to reach out to agencies across the nation for any shooting, autopsy or related reports or info regarding ammo effectiveness. While some ignored me, I received and INCREDIBLE amount of support! I was amazed at the information I received…I had a dining room table covered with reports from across the nation. The problem became the contradiction in performance…it seemed for every load/caliber in which I got a “success”, I also got a “failure”. I became a bit disheartened.

What I did develop, however, was a network of officers across the nation to share shooting info. It became pretty apparent over the years that handgun bullet effectiveness came down to “where you shoot them and how many times you shoot them” regardless of caliber. It seems that you need to shoot until THEY take notice, your viewpoint does not count. They may also not have read the same ballistic report or magazine article you did, so they do not know how they are supposed to respond to being shot by your favorite load.

In recent years, the data has dried up as I and my network have retired from LE. I do get an occasional report as well as the feedback I get from students in my classes, which include members of the military and LE. Based on the decades of feedback I like the following rounds. PLEASE DON’T ARGUE BECAUSE YOU DISAGREE OR I MISSED YOUR FAVORITE LOAD! I DON’T CARE AND YOU WON’T CHANGE MY MIND! I have been looking at this longer than most of you have been alive. I will not argue with you. TROLL TURDS: I will just do what you dread most…I will delete and ban you so your stupidity cannot be heard/seen.

Sorry to get a bit red, but I need to try and ward off the bottom feeding, low brow tacti-trolls who live for this kind of stuff. They ruin it for the folks who really want to learn.

My preferred loads. They are based on a combination of testing and street results. Keep in mind there will also be failures out there…nothing is 100%. Hopefully this will save folks from reaching out. I know many TRUELY want to know, so here it is:

.380: Not a real fan. This is mostly about the round feeding in many of the new-age small guns. I consider this round marginal. Federal HST, all copper hollow points by varied manufacturers or Hornady Critical Duty. MAKE SURE THEY FEED!

.38 Special: 158 grain all lead hollow point. Most all of the major manufacturers offer this load. Yes, I know it is old school and recoils, but it has been WORKING FOR 50 YEARS! I just got a success report a few weeks back out of a three inch J Frame.

Speer 135 Grain Gold Dot +P . Originally made for the NYPD as a snub load. Street results are very good as is testing.

Federal 130 grain HST +P. Not a lot of street data but the testing is VERY promising. I know of two shootings and it worked well.

9mm: Federal 124 or 147 HST. You do not need +P velocities with the HST bullet design. I would use the 147 in 4 inch barrels or longer, the 124 in shorter barrels. The 147 is VERY accurate, but if all you want is “minute of chest cavity” at 15 yards and in, both are a good choice.

Speer 124 +P Gold Dot. The NYPD load as well as many federal agencies. Again, the street results speak for themselves.

115 gain all copper hollow points by several manufacturers. While I only know of a couple of shootings, this load is VERY promising. Yes, it is expensive due to how it’s made, but it performs like a bullet of heavier weight. The testing is very good as well.

.40 S & W: I just don’t hear much about this caliber any longer. Based on past experience, I would choose Speer 165 Gold Dot or Federal 180 grain HST. Again, street results from years past. (John’s note: .40 is dying, 9mm has killed it, more rounds per magazine and just as effective with less recoil.)

.45 ACP: Federal or Speer 230 grain HST or Gold Dot. The old Federal 230 grain Hydra-Shok was a REAL good load in its day…I have no reason to think it has regressed.

I hope this helps. Have a great day!”

I’ll continue my education and bring back to my classes the additional knowledge and training I receive. The next class is December 7. Get aboard for a day of great training.

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