Budget Priced Defensive Ammo

This is a guest post by Andrew BettsIMG_8158

Why does each round of defense ammo have to cost as much as a taco? Do I really need to spend $1.25 a round or more for decent defense ammunition?

Can low cost ammunition be relied upon to perform when you need it? It’s fairly well known that plain, ball ammo is less than ideal for defense. It doesn’t expand and, in pistol calibers, it doesn’t fragment. It’s also pretty well known that modern defense ammunition is extremely reliable, very accurate in most firearms, and more terminally effective than anything that has come before. There are quite a few great loads out there that can expand and/or fragment as they are designed to do across a wide range of velocities and even intermediate barriers. But Gold Dot, TSX, and the like are very expensive.

What good is it to have excellent terminal performance if I can’t afford to fill two magazines, let alone purchase enough to verify point of impact and assure myself that the ammunition works well in my own firearm? ammunition

What if I could buy ammunition that costs the same or only slightly more than the cheap practice ammo that I already buy and get good terminal effect from it? If that were the case, then I could train with the same ammunition that I keep for defense. It would have the exact same point of impact and recoil impulse. I could even buy it in bulk when it was on sale to keep on hand for training or for preparedness. All would be well in the world. As it turns out, there are a few choices out there that offer good terminal performance at a reasonable price.

One example is Fiocchi .223 55 gr PSP. It is brass cased, boxer primed, and non corrosive. It chronographs at just under 3,000 fps from a 16” barrel. It expands well and penetrates a perfect 12.3” in calibrated gelatin with a very impressive temporary cavity and substantial fragmentation. That makes it a seriously decent choice for defense, especially if you are looking for something with limited penetration that still meets the minimum requirements. At $10-$12 for a box of 20 and with bulk discounts from some vendors, it is cheap enough that you can afford to buy a lot of it. Being a soft point, its terminal effect isn’t as sensitive to velocity, either. That also makes it a good choice for an AR pistol or SBR and you won’t have to worry about its ability to perform at any distance that you can reasonably imagine needing it, even if nuclear Nazi Ebola zombies take over the planet.

That doesn’t mean that you can choose just any ammo and count on it for defense. Sure, anything that feeds reliably and is accurate enough is good enough to give a bad guy a few custom speed holes and that’ll ruin anybody’s day. The problem is that if the projectile doesn’t expand or fragment properly, it doesn’t cause as much trouble for the bad guy as it could. Worse, by not using some of that energy disrupting bad guy organs, the bullet has a lot left over to go on down range and possibly hurt good guys. Let’s take a look at this Silver Bear 9x18mm (Makarov) 115 gr JHP. It’s certainly cheap.

The problem is that the poorly designed hollow point clogs and does not expand when fired through heavy clothing. It penetrates nearly 30” of gelatin. That’s, like, half way through Michael Moore. On the other hand, when fired into bare gelatin it expands beautifully but only penetrates about 9”, missing the FBI recommended 12” minimum by a full 3”. The worst part, though, is that this particular ammunition doesn’t feed at all in my Arsenal Makarov. Other people have reported similar trouble with this ammunition feeding in their own Makarovs.

So defense ammunition doesn’t have to break the bank, but not everything is created equal. It is very important to do your research and know how the ammunition you intend to use performs. Search the internet for gel tests or do your own. Test the ammo in water jugs if you can’t afford or don’t have the time for gelatin. It won’t tell you much about penetration, but it will tell you whether a given load is capable of expanding and/or fragmenting as designed.

For pistol ammunition, don’t forget to test with and without heavy clothing. Most importantly, be sure to fire at least a few magazines through your gun to be sure it functions correctly. Finally, don’t take this to mean that money spent on quality defense ammo is wasted. Decades of research and extreme attention to quality control go into premium defense ammo and you really do get what you pay for. If you can afford it, buy the good stuff, be sure it functions in your weapon, and rest easy. If you can’t afford it, though, there are other options.

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.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.

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