I'll have what they're having

A good friend of mine is now the back page columnist in US Concealed Carry, and in the most recent issue she’s talking about ammo. If you’re not a member of the US Concealed Carry Association, I recommend that you sign up!  The membership is forty-seven bucks a year – and that alone is worth it for the US Concealed Carry Magazine and access to all the back issues of the magazine.  I read a lot of gun magazines.  A lot.  Full disclosure, I don’t pay for a lot of gun magazines, but if I did there are two that I would pay to get: US Concealed Carry and Shooting Illustrated.

Anyway, back to the ammo thing.  The fundamental point of the article (which you should go read) is that you shouldn’t agonize over your ammo choice.  There are so many Tactical DeathRay LaserPenetrator bullets out there that it would be EASY to get confused looking for the right one.  So just find out what your local PD is packing, and then go buy that.  In this case, I 100% practice what I preach.  My Ruger SR9c is currently loaded with Winchester 147 grain Ranger SXT hollow points.  This round is issued to about a hojillion different PDs and Sheriff’s Departments, not the least of which is the LA County Sheriff’s Office (editor’s note: the issue round of LASO may have changed in recent years, but last time I actually checked their 9mms were Winchester Rangers).

Now, I’ve said before that if your gun can’t feed hollowpoints you need a new gun.  However, for the moment let’s just say you’re on a really, really tight budget/hollowpoints are illegal/or for whatever reason we can imagine you just can’t get hollowpoint ammo for your 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP carry gun.  The “I’ll have what they’re having” still applies.  For example, if you have a 9mm and can only get ball ammo, then get Winchester 9mm NATO loads.  It’s a 124 grain FMJ bullet, and while sure it’s less than ideal it has also put more than a couple of smelly badguys in the dirt during its time.  The .40 is a little more tricky – the US Coast Guard when operating in military actions carries (I believe) 165 gr FMJ in their .40s (this could be wrong, I’m running on third hand info), also loaded by Winchester.  Finally, the .45 ACP option – 230 grain FMJ has put a lot of badguys in the ground in the 100 year service life of the pistol.

FMJ is less than ideal.  I think we can all agree that a modern hollowpoint bullet is the best choice…but if you’ve got to do it for whatever reason, look to the US military for your choice of ammo.  In fact, the 9mm NATO load is actually one of my personal favorites for 9mm pistols, because it’s got enough energy to run the slide of even the heaviest all steel pistol.


  1. How does one find out what the local PD carries?

    Seems like there should be a wiki someplace.

  2. If you know a cop you could always ask – but an even better bet would be to see what the Feds are carrying. So for example DHS carries Winchester Ranger .40 S&W 135 gr JHPs as their duty round, so PDs are starting to pick that up. As the feds go, so go the locals quite often.

  3. The reason I decided to go with a 45 acp is like you say 45 hardball has put a lot of bad guys away,but my main thought is…..many times hollow points don’t perform as expected,they get filled up with clothing or whatever and fail to expand, so if I go with a 45 hollowpoint 230 grain if it fails to open its still probably better or at least as good as a 9mm 147 grain hollowpoint that did open up.Also I have read that many times a .45 traveling at 850fps rarelr leaves an exit wound,I’m thinking thats good too as that means it has dumped all its energy in the bad guy and say a 357 is very much more powerful it generally makes an exit wound and I’m thinking any power after it leaves the body is just wasted energy.
    I may be wrong,thats just my thoughts. If I am wrong somebody please educate me and set me straight.

  4. Modern hollowpoints of proper construction rarely fail to expand when subjected to the FBI’s test protocols, which include being fired through clothing and other junk.

  5. For me, Its go with the heaviest hollow-point you can find for your cambering. After that bonus points for whoever pushes that round faster.

    My current carry ammo are 230 Gr. Federal HST +P .45 ACP, and Federal Hydra Shok 147 grain +P+ .38 Special.

    If I get me a 9×19, 147 grains sounds awful good to me!

  6. Don’t underestimate the importance of practice and shot placement. My guess is almost any round from a well trained shooter can be effective.

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