Choosing Good Defense Ammo

This is a guest post by Andrew Bettsdefense ammo

Just because something does well in one area doesn’t make it suitable for a given task. Let’s say you need a ladder truck for your job as a general contractor. Engine torque and fuel economy are important factors for a work truck but a Corvette or a Prius aren’t trucks. Likewise, accuracy, expansion, even the ability to perforate body armor are desirable traits for defense ammo but if it doesn’t meet the FBI recommended 12” minimum, it simply isn’t defense ammo.

Liberty 50 gr Civil Defense is a good example of this. People tell me “But it can penetrate soft armor!” and that’s true. As incredible as it sounds, this stuff actually produces a solid 2,000 fps from a 4.5” barrel and will easily perforate soft armor.

Why wouldn’t you want a defense load that can punch through a perpetrator’s vest like it wasn’t there? If it could do that and also perform adequately in the 99.9% of cases where the attacker wasn’t wearing ammunition, it would be an easy choice. That’s one of the reasons that patrol carbines are gaining such popularity. The problem is that the light bullet doesn’t have the sectional density to reach deeply enough into an attacker who isn’t wearing armor and damage vital organs.

The base of the projectile stops far short of the 12” mark. It might have stopped sooner than that in a fresh block. You’ll note that it deviated from its original path and seems to have slid along the track from another test in the same block. In any case, 9.5” is nowhere near the minimum and the minimum is just that; it is not the ideal. Of course, many folks are unaware of the reason for the 12” minimum and will proclaim that 9.5” is enough to get through the average person’s chest. That is true, but the reason that 12” is the minimum is that shootings don’t occur with the threat squared off and with his hands at his sides. Bullets fired in a fight almost always impact the torso at an angle and often strike a limb or other object before reaching the torso. That’s because the threat usually has his arms in front of him holding a weapon. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be a threat and that would be called “murder”.

“But look at that damage,” someone might say. It does look impressive, but it was mostly limited to the depth that the BB used to calibrate the block penetrated to. In that perspective it doesn’t sound nearly as impressive, does it? That area of disrupted tissue from the fragments would almost certainly result in a painful, but not remotely disabling, flesh wound.

Please, folks, stop falling for these gimmick snake oil rounds. There are plenty of solid choices in defensive handgun ammo including HST, Gold Dot, and Ranger. These choices meet or exceed all performance standards. They are not as interesting, but that is because they simply do their job the way they ought to. As always, training is more important than equipment. No matter what ammunition you choose, getting the round to the target on time is the most critical part of the equation.


Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan. Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.

Photo credit – The Chopping [email protected]

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