Best 9mm Ammo [2020]: Self Defense & Range Shooting

Find out the best 9mm ammo for self-defense based on ballistic gel tests that cover penetration depth and expansion.

9mm (115gr vs 124gr vs 147 HP)
9mm (115gr vs 124gr vs 147 HP)

Plus the best range plinking ammo for bulk shooting.

Ballistic Gel Testing
Ballistic Gel Testing

*June 2020 Update* It’s still slim pickings after some hoarding issues. These have been in stock for the most part:

How We Picked The Best Ammo

Read on to see how we chose them and the best place to buy them for cheap!

Testing Procedures

The below pictures and data are from a super in-depth post from Lucky Gunner plus a few of our personal criteria.  Here are some details of the test which closely mimic FBI protocol:

  • Shot 10 feet away
  • 4 layers of fabric in front of the ballistics gel to simulate a “worst case” scenario of clothing
4 Layers of Clothing
4 Layers of Clothing
  • Ideal penetration of 12-18 inches.  More than 18 inches might go completely through the target and hit something beyond.  While a 12-inch minimum protects against thicker targets and possibly hitting something like an arm first before the torso.
  • 5 shots for more data
5 Shots into Ballistic Gel
5 Shots into Ballistic Gel
  • Shorter barreled gun.  Most tests are run with a full-size pistol, but Lucky Gunner used an S&W M&P9C which has a 3.5″ barrel.  Their thought was most people carrying a handgun most likely have a compact sized one.  So for those of you with a longer barrel, the penetration and velocities might be slightly higher.

Here are our recommendations for each of the most common weights of bullets: 115, 124, & 147 grain.

This way you can shoot the same weight of bullet as your more common range ammo.  And because these are self-defense rounds, they are all jacketed hollow points (JHP) for reliable expansion.

We personally prefer the 124 gr since it is less “snappy” than the 115 gr to us.   But we recommend you try a couple weights and make sure they cycle 100% in your self-defense gun.

Bullet Weight Scale
Bullet Weight Scale

Best 9mm Ammo

Self Defense

1. Gold Dot 9mm 115 gr

Penetration depth is right in the middle of the zone, great expansion, and good velocity for a short barrel.

  • Average Penetration: 16.4″
  • Average Expansion: .55″
  • Average Velocity: 1143 ft/sec
115 Gold Dot Expansion
115 Gold Dot Expansion

2. Magtech Guardian Gold 9mm 115 gr

The sweet spot of penetration, expansion, and velocity.

  • Average Penetration: 15.2″
  • Average Expansion: .56″
  • Average Velocity: 1175 ft/sec
13.25
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

115 Magtech Guardian Gold Expansion
115 Magtech Guardian Gold Expansion

3. Federal HST 9mm 124 gr

Great penetration, the biggest expansion, and velocity for those who like shooting the slightly heavier 124 gr rounds.  Overall best recommendation.

  • Average Penetration: 18.3″
  • Average Expansion: .61″
  • Average Velocity: 1135 ft/sec
Best 9mm Self-Defense (124 gr)
25.75
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

124 Federal HST Expansion
124 Federal HST Expansion

4. Federal HST 9mm 147 gr

Penetration in the sweet spot zone, great expansion, and good velocity for the bullet weight.  My personal favorite since I like the shooting impulse of 147 gr bullets.

9mm 147 Federal Hydrashok HST
9mm 147 Federal Hydrashok HST
  • Average Penetration: 15.2″
  • Average Expansion: .61″
  • Average Velocity: 973 ft/sec
Best 9mm Self-Defense (147 gr)
22
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

147 Federal HST Expansion
147 Federal HST Expansion

Readers' Ratings

4.88/5 (585)

Your Rating?

Best Range Ammo

Range ammo is more about reliability and cost-effectiveness.

Here are a couple of our recommendations for the common 115 and 124 gr bullet weights.  We’ve shot thousands of these and they are reliable, clean shooting, and economical.  We suggest trying out both weights to see what you and your gun prefer.

5. American Eagle 9mm 115 gr

Best deals on AE 9mm rounds so far since I think there’s a huge surplus.

Best 9mm Range Ammo
10.49
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

6. CCI Blazer Brass 9mm

When pennies count…the cheapest reliable brass cased 9mm.  But…the brass is a little difficult to reload.  Perfect for ranges or classes where you can’t pick up brass.

One of my favorites and what I shoot the most now.

7. PMC 9mm

What I’ve shot the most previously.  Always goes bang and the brass is great for reloading.

12.75
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Conclusion

These are our favorites for 9mm self-defense and range ammo.  What did you end up choosing and how does your gun like it?  And if you want to see the full results from Lucky Gunner, check out their post here. Need a 9mm? Check out Best 9mm Handguns.

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109 Leave a Reply

  • MIchael

    Check out the LUCKY GUNNER ! Very good articles on ammo testing.

    1 week ago
  • Michael

    I have tested the HST ''LE TACTICAL'' several times .Shooting thru up to 8 layers of denim, shot thru med jacket, thru Roasts.The HST le tac. always opens and blooms.I have to say both of the hornadys with the red tips are overrated. The sig crowns are ok. The win rangers are good.The cor-bon all copper rounds come the closets to the HST le tac.Alot of people DO NOT buy the right Hst's.They buy the PERSONAL DEFENSE rd's not the same!

    1 week ago
    • J.Easley

      I agree with this statement. Testing of 200 rds through everything from billows to b.Gel. HST in just about all grain ct. Are top performance. If your not getting full affects of your ammo your stopping power goes way down. I personally use Corbin 45acp ammo. Have had to use this ammo in a real defensive situation and it worked just as well in the field as testing.

      1 day ago
  • David W Schlegel

    Sig is always ignored here. They've had ammo for months. The Sig V Crown and ball ammo run perfectly through all my handguns an pcc's.

    4 weeks ago
  • Tom J

    Any thoughts on the Speer G2 ammo?

    1 month ago
  • George

    Barnes, and Winchester T Series are better than anything listed here.

    1 month ago
    • Chad Miears

      Absolutely, This must of been what I'm guessing there personal test

      1 month ago
  • B CORDELL

    NO TESTING WITH THE CIVIL DEFENSE ROUNDS BY LIBERTY ? BY FAR THE BEST 9MM ROUND AVAILABLE SMH ALL MY SPECIAL FORCES BUDDYS USE THEM FOR A REASON

    1 month ago
  • Jordan

    Look up Fort Scott Munitions ammo

    2 months ago
  • ARMED CITIZEN

    Greetings Eric: In my EDC 9mm (Taurus G2C or G3 as I have both) I use a combo load; 115 grain Geco JHP, 124 grain+P Speer Gold Dot JHP, and then the Federal 147 grain JHP High-Shok. I call this my "defensive cocktail" loads, so if one does not stop the agressor, another different loading will if I do my job and put the rounds in the right place!

    2 months ago
    • Justin Henderson

      That’s ridiculous. If someone dosent “stop” after being shot with one of those rounds it probably has less to do with the type of bullet than it does with the bullet striking a part of the central nervous system or enough blood leaking out of a vital organ. Your “Defensive Coctail” is amateurish and makes you look like a clown. God Bless.

      1 month ago
  • Bob Thompson

    Why nothing about Honey Badger ammo from Black Hills Ammo?

    2 months ago
  • ZadaAnn Bozzi

    I recently purchased the CPX-3-.380 pistol. I have also signed up for practice at a local gun range. My questions are, What is the best bullets to use at the gun range for shooting target's and also what is the best bullets to use for self defense and protection for my self and family. Is there any difference between the two?

    2 months ago
    • PUNISHER

      best .380 round for short barrels, is the Hornedy, xtp.

      2 months ago
      • PUINISHER

        ALSO THE UNDERWOOD PENITRATOR. FLUTED SLUG.

        2 months ago
    • Jon

      I would go with a cheap brass cased round that is full metal jacketed.

      2 months ago
  • Robert Waddell

    Israelis know a thing or two about self defense shooting, and I buy IMI’s!

    2 months ago
  • Robert Waddell

    What about IMI’s?

    2 months ago
  • Al Petrie

    Hi Eric, really like all your gear reviews! I used to shoot the “White Box” 100 round .45 ACP box from Walmart. Cheap and not super reliable, and that’s exactly what I wanted for practice; every once in awhile I’d get a stove pipe or other jam. So that gave me practice in learning to clear the jams and I never know when it would happened, so I liked that it wasn’t that reliable! But, sadly, they don’t sell them anymore. Keep up the good reviews, I’m learning a lot, thanks!

    3 months ago
  • MSEDC

    FPE is the most overrated statistic talking SD ballistics. You can talk weight, expansion, and penetration all day but it’s the energy you put into your target that’s gives you that “knockout” punch. It’s what makes a 7mm rifle round so much more devastating than a 9x19 from a handgun. It’s why I carry Liberty Civil Defense in my EDC. I’m not interested in poking the biggest or deepest hole. I’m interested in stopping the threat immediately.

    3 months ago
    • Eddie. C

      That is why now that I'm retired I carry Double Tap 124 grain 9mm +P bonded in my EDC. In my H&K I carry 135 grain in 40 S&W from Corbon.

      3 months ago
  • Jerome P. Lisk

    What about underwood 9mm xtreme defender 90 gr ? The would cavity and penetration seem to our perform the other bullets.

    3 months ago
  • Eddie. C

    I agree, as a recently retied Deputy from South Florida and a big agency they decided to jump on the FBI train and make switch to 9mm. Saw many females along with smaller stature men not be able to make the 80% qualification score. I have carried a 40 S&W since 1998 and never had an issue with quals and classes taken. I personally like loads at higher velocities Corbon, Double Tap have always performed very well for me. Imagine if we could bring some of the Old West gun fighters and they saw all the nonsense over caliber, they'd probably take out their single action pistol and Pimp Slap you to death with it at tell you to quit your crying .

    3 months ago
  • Tacoma236

    Horsesqueeze, handgun bullets DON'T put people down..Been hearing that crap about "The .45 will knock you down" Bs for over 30 years. What stops an attacker is shot placement, pure and simple. There are slews of reports of suspects hit multiple times with big stuff that keep fighting. And I have seen victims hit in a sensitive area drop with a .22. So go ahead tell your loved ones..."HARUMPH you need a bazooka of a handgun". I will tell my friends "I would rather you hit 5 times with a .22 than miss 6 shots with a 454 . If the punishment the shooter gets make them not want to practice or worse, not want to properly aim..its worthless. As for ballistics its getting real close in depth. Yeah 9mm was garbage in the 1980s. But the improvements with powder and reliability has more than made up for it.

    4 months ago
    • amirite

      Nah, those old fools would get decimated by any young gangbanger with higher capacity semi-auto gear.

      3 months ago
  • Nick

    9mm is junk. Watch Paul Harrels 9mm vs .40s&w. 9mm compared to .40s&w and .357sig always fail to expaned. 40s and 357sigs blossom like roses on a warm morning. Agencies changes 'cause it's cheaper and slightly easier to shoot. I agree it won't be long before cops go back to .40s&w. The videos of police shootings I've seen with .40 put bad guys down quick, lots of blood loss due to better penetration and expansion. Any .40 cartridge, cheap or not, will always out perform any and all 9mm. DON'T PUT A PRICE TAG ON YOUR LIFE AND THE LIVES OF YOUR LOVED ONES. p.s. Hornady Critical Defense 9mm 135 grain are crap and don't expaned worth a damn. Speer Gold Dots are the key. Choose wisely.

    5 months ago
    • Graham

      This is about the most ignorant post here.

      3 months ago
      • Justin Henderson

        I think the guy up top that likes to carry a “defensive coctail” of three different ammo types has him beat. He’s a complete moron.

        1 month ago
  • Jeff

    What makes the blazer brass harder to reload? Just picked 2000 rounds and was curious as to what I've gotten myself into

    5 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Reload as in reloading the spent brass yourself and making more ammo from it. The brass itself is a bit finicky and might need extra steps such as deburring, annealing, etc. If you are not planning on reloading your spent brass, then this is a non-issue!

      5 months ago
  • Michael Tippett

    what is your opinion about Fiocchi ammo, I like it because it has less of a kick. it seems to be more accurate, I use to use Federal American Eagle 124 grn. but it started to get vewry dirty,It seems snapier than the Fiocchi. I am having a hard time finding ballistics on the Fiochhi.

    5 months ago
  • Elvis Robinson

    Hey how are you, I'm surprised not to see my favorite on your list ( hornady critical duty) 135, is it that it is not as good as the others.

    5 months ago
  • Lincoln

    For the range, I love firing the Federal Syntech 9mm. Low recoil and pretty clean. For personal defense, I mix in some Black HIlls HOneyBadger and Hornady Critical Defense, as well as Federal HST.

    8 months ago
  • Krys

    Have you tried the 9mm from USAC? They are cleaner and more accurate than Blazer ... though Blazer is my backup ammo. They are also hard to find in stock :)

    9 months ago
  • pig4bill

    Why is Blazer Brass difficult to reload?

    9 months ago
  • Zeke2A

    I have been shooting the .40 cal since the early 90’s when it first arrived on the market , my first handgun was a S&W 411 , I own 2 other .40’s one Beretta Px4 Subcompact and one Smith M&P . I recently about 2yrs ago got a Beretta Px4 Storm Compact 9mm . It has become my Primary EDC. I still enjoy the 40 but as I get older the shootability of the 9mm has its merits. As info I use 124gr Federal HST in my 9mm and 165gr Federal HST in my 40’s. I do not feel under gunned or underpowered with either.

    11 months ago
    • Joshua

      40 is my favorite round. 140-165 are by far the best choices for performance. 124 IMO is the best weight for 9mm. Perfect weight. 124 Gold dots or Hat's are my favs. Pew Pew and carry on.

      7 months ago
  • Greg Morden

    Hello, what the best IWB Holster for the Springfield Xde 9mm? Sincerely, Greg

    11 months ago
    • Frank

      Crossbreed

      9 months ago
  • Hammer

    I'm already looking forward to people recognizing that 9mm is mediocre again. Wait for it - as soon as the infatuation with "new bullet advancements" smacks up against reality, we'll see agencies once again picking up .40 S&W and .357 Sig and the 9mm will be relegated to its place at the lower end of the "mid-calibers."

    11 months ago
    • Tucson_Jim

      Not likely... it's the same old argument of .45 ACP vs. 9mm... which the 9mm has won both times. The 10mm is "superior" to the .40 S&W... and the .50 caliber is "better" than that... but, a rifle caliber pistol is even better... so, carry a 5.56 X 45... no, make that a 7.62 X 51 FAL pistol... where does the "size is better" argument get stupid? "I can scare them to death with the mere size of my gun !"? My friends have all poo-poohed my 9mm as a girl's gun... I love the look on their faces as I out-shoot every one of them with their own guns, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum... I am not the least-bit recoil shy, but, I actually PRACTICE regularly. The 9mm was designed to emulate the .38 Special, which was designed to penetrate, and kill. The .45 ACP was designed to "STOP"... not kill... the Moro, Muslims we were fighting in the Philippine-American War, because of the .38 Long Colt's failure to do so. If I have to empty 15 rounds into my opponent's chest to stop him, at least I will be able to do so.

      10 months ago
  • Dixieland Gunsmithing

    Please read all before thinking I'm knocking your list. I mean no disrespect or maliciousness. Your wrong with the Gold Dots. The rest is pretty much on point. The one thing you HAVE to include in your testing and that's pork ribs( they are the closest thing to human bone) You MUST as with any test I do using Clear Ballistics 10% gel. As you know the first 3-5 inches of Ballistic gel is considered to be the epidermis. You wrap the pork ribs in a piece of sweater or sweat shirt & a piece of denim. Shooting through the material and busting through the bone THEN see the how the bullet holds up after busting through clothing Bone and traveling through the epidermis and tissue. And THE best round OR the round that causes the most lethality in 9mm # 1) Federal 147gr HST + P the same in 124gr HST + P.... A 1.A)-1.B) #2) Barnes 115gr TAC-XPD + P 3) Winchester PDX1 Defender 124gr + P 4) Federal Premium 124gr Hydra Shock + P 5) Hornady 135gr Flexlock Critical Duty/ as with #1. There is a # 5.B) 5.B) Corbon 125gr JHP + P

    1 year ago
    • Crom

      Or just watch Paul Harrell videos on Youtube where he shoots the meat target.

      11 months ago
  • Andrew

    I think you left off 3 brands that outperform all of the 5 you selected. First, the Fort Scott brand has a large wound channel and great penetration through denim and solid objects such as wood, glass or metal. These are my current CCW load. Prior to this I carried the Winchester Ranger T. Ammo Quest on You-Tube did a great 9mm comparison and the Ranger T outperformed the Speer, Federal HST, and all the Critical Defense/Critical Duty line. With the leaps in technology the Ranger T are probably a bit outdated, but they are definitely a great round in the 147gr size. Lastly, and I am less knowledgeable on these, but the Lehigh Defense rounds perform well and are similar to the Fort Scott in technology. I would choose any of these 3 over the 5 in the article. Regardless of what you choose in the end, and even though it will be expensive, shoot a box of your carry ammo at the range. It would be unfortunate to carry quality ammo that the gun doesn't feed well and to find that out when you need your firearm the most. Practice, practice, practice.

    1 year ago
    • Mark Hollingsworth

      And you're wrong. The FBI performed extensive testing with Ranger T ammo and found both the HST and Gold dots were superior in penetrations, expansion, and bullet retention. The other two are too new to say they're superior. Dead is dead. At some point you're splitting hairs.

      1 year ago
      • WILLIAM ORR

        Mark Hollingsworth you are absolutely right...Splitting hairs now.

        4 months ago
    • Dixieland Gunsmithing

      I didn't include Fort Scott in my test list because it hasn't had enough time to really prove itself. But sitting by me right now where I sleep is 15 rounds of 115gr Fort Scott. When it gets more "experience" under it I think it will be One of the three best absolutely and I am the one who left you the plus review I was surprised to see you knew what Fort Scott Was I seriously doubt the writer of this post has a clue what it is lol. It is fairly new to his defense but it's tumble Upon impact it's not just a Gimmick it actually works every single time regardless of caliber. The way they make the round is amazing all from one Copper Strand

      1 year ago
  • Gregory sdry

    Why did you leave out critical duty 135 flexlock . How about some American gunned +p . It seems like you don’t know what good 9mm ammo is. I like the hst but the other three shouldn’t be in this list. Seems like you left slog of good stuff out. Please rewrite this article.

    1 year ago
    • Mark Hollingsworth

      Seriously? He picked the most popular 9mm rounds that are the most readily available.

      1 year ago
  • Greg

    Is the much difference. Between Federal and American eagle., I'm there standard ie cheapest rounds since they are the same company? Ford vs Lincoln

    1 year ago
  • David

    Test ARX? I did and is NY choice

    1 year ago
  • Johnny

    What's the cleanest subsonic ammo for target and suppression? I would also like to reload the brass.

    1 year ago
  • Bennett P.

    Just purchased a S&W M&P 2.0 9mm and I’m looking for range ammo, any suggestions on what to use?

    1 year ago
    • Joshua

      HST 124, 124 SIG V-CROWN, CRITICAL DEFENSE(you get 5 extra rounds), 124 Standard Pressure Gold Dots, and Gorilla Ammo Inc. makes some gangster wickedly awesome stuff in both 115 and 135. It's pricey but go big or go home. Hope that helps ya Bennett.

      7 months ago
  • Tommy

    I run S&B 124gr through my CZ SP01 & P01. Clean, flawless and cheap.

    1 year ago
  • Allen

    I'm really curious why the author was so focused on velocity and penetration and completely ignored energy. This is much more of a factor in defensive ammo selection than penetration. I'd much prefer a round that will penetrate 12" and delivers an extra 100+ foot pounds of energy over a round that penetrates 18". This article is in bad need of a re-write.

    1 year ago
    • Michael

      Similarly, I'd like to know the power factors of the ammo as this matters in competition (USPSA, etc.).

      1 year ago
      • David, PPT Editor

        Exact power factor will depend on your firearm, a barrel length difference between our gun and your gun will change the velocity and thus the power factor. However, Dillon Precision has a great online calculator that can help.

        1 year ago
    • Steve

      Also keep in mind that force is physics energy is mass × velocity squared so you actually get more bang for your buck so to speak out of velocity. Moreover if a bullet fails to penetrate its energy is expended to quickly.. Expansion, also equals damage. Part of why military hates 55gr FMJ its like laser and lack of expansion also means low energy transfer So in the end expansion velocity and penetration are the keys energy is the by product

      1 year ago
      • Nick

        Jesus, FMJ don't EXPANED. Where do you come from?

        5 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Generally speaking, energy isn't as important when you're looking at rounds within the same caliber when they are at similar weights. Using the first 3 ammo types listed in the table, Federal HST 124gr, Federal HST 147gr, and American Eagle 115gr - the energy difference between the highest and lowest is only 38 ft.lb or 51 Joules. That is incredibly low.

      1 year ago
  • Paul S.

    Anyone try the liberty civil defense ammo?

    1 year ago
    • Steven P

      My father in law swears by it, but it is pricey! I have seen testing of the 9mm and it rips right through IIIa... but then, if you get any round going fast enough it will too

      1 year ago
    • David

      I've used it but very limited amounts. Not remotely worth the price from what I saw, there are a number of better defensive round options at half the price. I'm not a fan of super lightweight ammo though.

      1 year ago
  • Wallace Nichols

    Walter c c p 9mm

    1 year ago
  • Wallace Nichols

    Walter c c p 9 mm

    1 year ago
  • Jon

    Check out Sellier&Bellot 124gr ball ammo. Always spotless and never a malfunction in 1k rounds. It's loaded slightly hot. I use it at the range to mimic my defensive ammo weight (124gr HST). Excellent price point. I just picked up a case of 1k rounds for like $185.

    1 year ago
    • switchblade327

      I have been using this ammo for about 3 yrs, it has alway worked in all of my pistols and it seems to run cleaner than other ammo I have tried but I keep going back to S&B

      1 year ago
  • DrRJP

    I like using the Winchester 147gr Train & Defend series. They are standard pressure rounds where the FMJ Train round has the same shape and ballistic performance as the JHP Defend round, Ammoquest rated it as best 147. grain round they tested: Ammo Quest 9mm: Winchester Train and Defend 147gr Ammo Test

    1 year ago
  • Tyrone Leak

    Great reporting

    2 years ago
  • John Woodward

    I shoot Federal's American Eagle 115 gr FMJ for practice and Federal's HST 147 gr hollow points for defense. I also use the Lucky Gunner tests as a primary criterion in making the decisions. Some folks want +P and other ammunition that will penetrate beyond 18 inches. I am somewhat concerned about hurting an innocent person with a bullet that passes right on through an attacker. I recognize that bones etc in the human body can turn the bullet or do other strange things that keeps it inside but the ballistics of the HST 147 gr seems to be the best compromise. My HK VP9 sk seems to like this ammunition very much. but it is not at all temperamental with anything I feed it.

    2 years ago
  • 7seasdiver

    Hornaday isn't even mentioned. Am I missing something?

    2 years ago
    • Chuckles McFat

      IMO Hornady is overrated, overpriced and over-marketed to gun owners who otherwise don’t know any better. Suggest you lookup Lucky Gunners handgun defensive ammunition ballistic testing reviews for 9, .357, ,40, and ,45 calibers and properly educate yourself—link below. You’ll see that the Hornady is low on the list. There’s a reason Federal Premium HST 124 and 147 gr loads are consistently rated 1-2. (You can also find a 50-round box of HST for the same price as a 25-round box of Hornady.) https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/self-defense-ammo-ballistic-tests/

      1 year ago
      • David, PPT Editor

        You may want to review the testing, Hornady has very good 9mm, .45 ACP, and .380 offerings.

        1 year ago
  • Jim Ahmann

    Have you tried the Underwood Extreme Defense ammo in the 9mm?

    2 years ago
    • Wayne

      I have, and don't like it because while all the numbers sound right, it doesn't live up to the hype. Example: I carry a Ruger P95 with 65 grain Xtreme Defenders factory loaded in the +P category rated at 1800 FPS while delivering something like 465 FPE to the target at 10 yards. Well, it finally happened. I had to use it just the other night on 19 MAY 2018 while driving home from a night of singing in the deep-rurals of Wisconsin. First, let me clarify by saying that I don't smoke, don't drink, and don't do drugs. I have 8 yrs of military service (4 Air Force as a firefighter and EMT, and 4 US Army Combat Medic.) And, I have been trained on firearms through my local PD for a conceal carry permit. I am also a storm chaser for the state, as well. So I'm driving home during a cold downpour, when I see a pair of reflected eyes tracking my vehicle from off the side of the road as I drive by. Because I have two of them at home, I immediately recognize it as a cat: one that had been struck by a car. So I back up, and there it is with it's head up looking around trying to pull itself to safety but couldn't. When I put my tactical light on it I could see a huge gaping wound to its mid section, exposing a lot of muscle. I was talking to it trying to comfort it, and all during that time it never moved its hind legs, or even flinched its tail: something all cats are hard-wired to do. No matter what I did, or how I tried, it wouldn't let me get near it as it became fierce enough to put the fear of God in me. And then it started shivering, even uncontrollably as it eyes rolled back into its head. As I tried to scoop it up, it again reminded me that it wouldn't be trifled with. My thought now was that I was going to have to watch it die a slow, agonizing death, or I could put it out of its misery. And it was suffering terribly. So I pulled my pistol out loaded with said rounds, and placed a kill shot at point blank rage for what should have been a perfect heart/lung money shot only, it made things worse. I watched in horror as someone's pet cat went through every death throe imaginable, and that surely wasn't my intent. I agonized over putting another round through it, but couldn't get my emotions around having to pull the trigger a second time on a furry critter that I loved. If that frickin' bullet would have just done all that hydro-shock stuff it talks so much about, but no. The cat finally expired about a minute later because it bled out. It wasn't pretty to watch. And now I was soaked down to the bone, and starting to shiver like the cat I had just dispatched. The thing is, it was maybe only about six pounds so it should have died quickly. Suffice it to say that I emailed the manufacturer, and of course they were sorry for what I had to go through (screw me, just imagine what it was like for the cat!), stating that all properly placed rounds take a minute to deliver any prey to death's doorstep. So I said, what about that hydro-shock stuff and that 2.5" wound channel it's suppose to create? Their reply was to next time shoot it at the base of the skull. Hell, I could have done that with a rock! So here it is Tuesday 22 MAY 2018, and I'm shopping for a more humane round because, far be it from me if the next one has to go into a school shooter or something.

      2 years ago
      • Kevin

        From a veterinarian--one other reason to go for a head shot, particularly on severely wounded animals. There is not telling what the current chest cavity configuration may even look like. Beleieve me, I have seen lungs and hearts back in the abdomen and intestines up where the heart should be in many hit by car cases. Go for the head shot--the brain is either there or not.

        4 months ago
      • Doug Burnham

        Serious lack of experience is what tripped you up. I had learned the same way you did. Myself and thousands of police officers have learned it is ALWAYS a shot into the skull from top down. instant death. That heart/Lung shot is useless with most guns. Cats, dogs and other animals really suffer from that. I learned shooting hot 45 rounds through a dog. As soon as I saw the poor thing start suffering, I dumped the whole mag into him and reloaded. It is a bad way to learn for me, but NEVER go for a heart lung shot on a wounded or injured animal. It causes needless suffering.

        8 months ago
      • David

        I'm sorry you had to go through that, I actually had to deal with almost the same situation a few weeks ago minus the storm. This might seem cold but this is actually a great learning opportunity: what kind of ammo you use depends on what you need it for and not all meat targets are made the same. I haven't used that ammo before because I flatly disagree with pistol ammo that tries to deliver damage through hydro-shock. The speeds required for that to work effectively is almost impossible to reach in a pistol, especially in 9mm. While it works in a rifle, I have yet to find a pistol ammo that relies on it and delivers remotely close to what the marketing departments say it will. While a lung/heart shot is what you normally choose for a clean animal kill, such as hunting game, it probably isn't the best for putting an animal out of its pain. In that case, I would have to agree with the manufacturer you spoke with and go for a base of the skull shot. That said, even though it didn't go as planned - you still did the right thing and at least shortened the cat's suffering. If you're still looking for a defensive ammo, I recommend Hornady Critical Duty. It's what I load in my 9mm, 45ACP, and .38 Spl. guns.

        2 years ago
        • Mark Wynn

          If you use Hornady Critical Duty, as do I ... wondering why it wasn't included in recommended ammo. It certainly has all the right test data numbers ....

          1 year ago
          • David

            The list was made before I was an editor here ;) next time we update it I plan on adding Hornady Critical Duty Duty +P, and Defense

            1 year ago
            • Duke Aquaro

              I would like to see ARX added to the review's. I have shot it in most calipers it is available in and I like the way it reacts in every gun I'v tried. Reduced recoil in small guns is especially good and getting off a second shot is much easier.

              1 year ago
        • Wayne

          Thank you for the kind words. We're all bad-asses until were not. I used to sneer at war movies when I'd see a solider acting out of character, but will now see past that. Why I couldn't bring myself to deliver a second shot will haunt me for some time, but I learned from it. And while some will surely say, "Dude, it was just a cat let it go!" they too, will one day have a reckoning when they least expect it. That's just the way it is. For me, my soft spot happens to be dogs and cats. And yes, I am now studying up on "better" 9mm ammo. Thanks for the advice.

          2 years ago
  • John O\'Renick

    Too bad you don’t really know what you are talking about, Eric. The U.S. Border Patrol gets in more gunfights than any other American police agency. When high-capacity “wonder nines” became popular in the 1980s, Border Patrol agents wanted to carry them. The BP was skeptical; macho types have always denigrated the 9mm. Two BP agents were tasked with researching stopping power, and after a year’s work recommended that BP agents not be allowed to carry anything producing less than 400 ft. lbs. kinetic energy at impact. 9mm doesn’t cut it. 9mm+P and +P+ do. The “12 to 18 inches” nonsense comes from the FBI, who blamed their weapons instead of their inept tactics for the disastrous 1986 Miami-Dade shootout. Eighteen inches is clear through the average bad guy’s shoulder and chest sideways-or through the average male chest cavity (10”) from the front, and six or eight inches into the innocent beyond. Nine to 12” penetration is adequate for civilian self-defense, less likely to keep going and hurt a good guy after you’ve (hopefully) stopped the bad guy, and you are using all of the bullet’s very limited energy to injure and stop your attacker, rather than wasting much of it on the landscape beyond. Ballistic gelatin doesn’t shoot back, and you are not using the math reported by Ed Sanow to predict stopping power from gelatin results. If you want to know what works, get Evan Marshall’s latest stopping power book, or better, all three. He’s been gathering shooting/stopping power statistics for—must be 50 years now. Many wedded to their pre-conceived notions—the late Martin Fackler most notably—vehemently put down Marshall and his work, but it jibes with everything I’ve learned in 50 years of hunting, handloading, testing bullets in wet newsprint before I use them on game, and autopsying, not just butchering, my game. The bullet’s design and its velocity at impact are far more important than caliber—a good 9mm+P hollowpoint works far better than .45 ACP hardball, and the right bullet in 9mm works better than the wrong bullet 100-200 f/s faster in .357. And what works best in 9mm seems to be: 1) The sadly out-of-print Triton Quik-Shok, and 2) The fastest 115-grain +P or +P+ JHPs available, doing better than 1300 f/s. The design of the bullet is vital; the best seem to spin off a few large fragments while 2/3 or so of the bullet, well expanded, goes all the way through, or stops under the skin on the far side. Remington’s “fish lips” JHP, Sierra’s, Nosler’s, and whatever Cor-Bon is using these days all work well. 3) +P or +P+ 124-grain loads, same criteria, same bullets except weight, doing at least 1250 f/s at the muzzle, are almost as good, and a way to get deeper penetration with—otherwise--the same-performing bullets. I carry Cor-Bon 115-grain +P JHP (1350 f/s, 4” bbl, maybe 1300 from my shorter gun) in my Kahr; 9” of penetration, one-shot stops with a hit to the body cavity ~90% of the time (about as well as you can do with the 9mm, which is the least-powerful fully-adequate cartridge for serious self-defense, in my long-and deeply-considered opinion), and good accuracy—except that around home where I have neighbors in all directions to not injure, the magazine in the gun is loaded with Glaser Silver. Penetration is not what I’d like, except directly from the front; but shredding a volume of tissue about the size of a 16-oz beer can should get a perp’s attention even if he’s on PCP, and it will go through fewer walls—and so neighbors--than anything else I consider adequate. 9mm bullets lighter than 115 grains rarely penetrate adequately. The 147 grain is way too slow, usually under-loaded so they don’t always even function the pistol reliably, least kinetic energy, least likely to expand, and then not much, and most likely to over-penetrate There seems to be a threshold somewhere between 1200 and 1300 f/s where cavitation (splash cavity, temporary cavity) starts to contribute to the size of the permanent wound cavity—tissue is liquefied and splashed sideways fast enough to crush and tear the surrounding tissue, and you get a wound larger than the expanded bullet. At less than the speed of sound, bullets have to be >.40 caliber to work well; at only 830 f/s, the .45 ACP only works because it is a .45. Otherwise, it is just a scaled-up .380. Nine-em-em is easy to shoot, and so easy to shoot accurately; the least expensive of all centerfire cartridges, so you can afford more practice; and with the right loads JUST enough gun to stop a human attacker with a single hit to the body cavity 90% of the time. The best you can do with any handgun seems to be 96%: the least effort with which you can do that is a 135 grain .40 S&W at 1350 f/s (Cor-Bon). But don’t take my word for it. Consult a real expert, like Evan Marshall.

    2 years ago
    • Hammer

      "....with the right loads JUST enough gun to stop a human attacker with a single hit to the body cavity 90% of the time....." Love to know where you're pulling that stat from.

      2 years ago
      • Brian

        Hammer, You can be sure he pulled that little bit of "wisdom" right from Marshall and Sanow; that's the sort of lingering damage those guys have done to discussions of terminal ballistics. The real question is, what did Marshall and Sanow have to do their data to make claims like that in the first place! One of them knew just enough stats to be dangerous. Too often, we still have to shovel their cherry-picked and mis-conceived work out of the way before any real discussion can start. You and Conner H did just that! But I am sure you both had a lot more to add if this discussion hadn't required putting M&S (once again, sigh) to bed. It is a shame to see people wasting their time on junk "science".

        1 year ago
    • Connor H

      I'm a diehard .40 S&W guy, but not for the ridiculous "energy transfer", "hydrostatic shock", and "knockdown power" myths you are espousing. No pistol round (save maybe hot 10mm and .454 Casull) has "knockdown power" or "hydrostatic shock" potential. That's what a rifle is for. Regardless, your meandering rant avoids the actual mechanism through which handguns incapacitate/kill quickly: central nervous system damage, or severe damage to crucial organs. Velocity is practically irrelevant until you get over 1500fps (preferably 2k). Shot placement + sufficient penetration to reach vital organs + max expansion is all that matters. In that order. Shot placement with handguns trumps all. 12-18" in gelatin does not directly translate to that same distance in living tissue; that number was decided upon based on comparison of the cartridges used in real life debilitating shots then being tested in gelatin. The gelatin exists to provide a COMPARISON medium between different rounds, as it is neither practical nor ethical to test competing cartridges on living targets. 16" gelatin penetration should not be taken as a guarantee of it's practical human penetration; it should be taken to indicate that with proper shot placement, it will do the job on a grown man.

      2 years ago
    • Brian

      Good review, Eric, even if I can't share your enthusiasm for 115 grain loads. But sorry, John, O., you clearly are the one who doesn't know what your are spouting off at such length about. You are way out of your depth, and decades out of date. Almost everything you wrote is, to some significant degree, wrong. Wrong. First of all, the penetration in ballistic gel does NOT equal penetration in human flesh inch-for-inch, as you clearly think. It is closer to 1-inch of flesh for several inches of gel. (I'll leave it to you to find more precise equivalents as you pursue your real education in terminal ballistics.). Get that straight before you try to do anything else. This why, for instance, that 12-inches of gel penetration is a reasonable minimum. You need to also realize that handgun bullets are all about the same in that they do not move fast enough to bring the mechanics we see with rifle bullets to bear in creating wounds. There is no borderline somewhere around 1200 to 1300 fps. That's pure imagination. Wishful thinking, John. The threshhold is much higher. As a long-time professor of biomedical science, I can tell you that while Marshall and Sanow's work was certainly well-intentioned, it fails on virtually every count to pass muster as any sort of "science". NO respected journal would publish their work. They wasted a lot of time and paper, and hurt real discussion of facts in terminal ballistics. Their work has been fully discredited and set aside in all serious ballistics discussion, just as is the use of meaningless media such as wet newsprint. We need to let their errors die a quiet desth ASAP. I don't doubt your opinion is long- and deeply-considered, which is great. But you should try to bring some current science into your thinking, and be willing to move forward. It was tough for many to abandon the idea that the Earth was at the center of the solar system, but as that happened to be the fact of the matter, those people had to adjust to the truth or find themselves left behind. So, are you going to get on the bus? Or just stay wedded to your out-dated ideas, which are contrary to the facts? For instance, +P or not +P (or +P+) is not relevant to the discussion; proven performance is. It is surprising how many loadings do about the same in terminal performance in standard and +P loadings.

      2 years ago
      • Nigel

        Seen a lot of shootings at the biomedical lab, have ya? You're a funny guy! Also funny is how you seek to belittle folks and projectile vomit generalities, but offer zero examples of what works better and why. Must be some REALLY good science happening in your lab. A lot of vicarious shooting anecdotes and recreational pharmaceuticals floating around? Very direct and to the point you are- NOT! Go take a hike, Brian- men are talking here.

        2 years ago
        • Brian

          What works better, Nigel, are facts and science. Examples? Easy. HSTs and Gold Dots pretty much own a majority of the the police market due to their excellent street performance, as was predicted in the lab. (NYPD and some of the French just fully jumped on board.) Civilians can safely buy either, or even the top performers from Winchester or Remington. Marshall and Sanow continue to slide further into a well-deserved oblivion. Your attempt to earn points by juvenile name calling should follow suite, because it just shows you to be an idiot.

          1 year ago
  • Stephen Boland

    I've put at least 1000 rds of American Eagle 115 through my M&P9c without a single malfunction. It's a really great range choice!

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      Nice...glad to hear, Stephen!

      2 years ago
  • Mark Wynn

    Curious why Hornady ammo not considered. My favorite for "defense" purposes in ..45 APC, .9 and .380. A bit costly for range use.

    2 years ago
  • Ellwood Greiner

    do you have federal critical duty pistol ammo 147 GRAIN +P ON SALE

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      Hi Ellwood, you'll have to check the links, we don't sell any ammo or guns on our site.

      2 years ago
  • Shah Jahan

    Hello Eric, Is SIG Sauer® Elite Performance Ammunition good ammo for SD?

    3 years ago
    • Connor H

      See lucky gunner ammo test results. But generally yes, Sig's ammo performs above average in most calibers, and very well in some.

      2 years ago
  • Richard harbour

    I own three glocks, 17,26,and sf21. I also own a kel-technical sub 2000 with glock 9mm reliever. I love the 9mm round because it shoots clean and reliable. I shoot my glock 17 at the range and it is a great 9mm eater. My glock 26 is used for concealed carry and I recommend it for any cc. My clock sf21 is my nightstand gun. My kel-tec sub 2000 is just fun to shoot and eats 9mm like candy. The 9mm is a trusted round for range or self defence. My carry 26 is loaded with hollow points but shoot plenty a 9s through it ato the range. 9mm is perfect for practice or purpose.

    3 years ago
  • John

    Eric, what is the difference between a 9mm round and a 9mm Luger round? I'm a few weeks away from attaining my first 9mm Glock. Thanks

    3 years ago
    • ehung

      Hi John, they are the same round. You'll see it as 9mm, 9mm Luger, 9mm Parabellum, or 9x19mm. There's other rounds with 9mm projectiles, but chances are if you see a bare 9mm...it's the one we listed above.

      3 years ago
      • John

        Thanks for the reply Eric. Your site is helping me a lot. Cheers

        3 years ago
  • Joe Jackan

    All ammo test that I have seen rate stopping power. I would like to see a test rating control vs stopping power. My wife shoots a Ruger LCR. Using standard 38 loads in this light piece she can't hit the side of a barn. I loaded some 110 grain wadcutters with 3 1/2 grains of Bullseye. She can group this load in a teacup. I think 2 or 3 hits with this light load would do more to discourage an attacker than all the sound an fury of bullets whizzing past his ears.

    3 years ago
    • Connor H

      "Control" is a subjective term. I find .380 in most blowback snappier than 9mm in most subcompact locked breach firearms. The reason you don't see tests like that is because of the difficulty of testing felt recoil. Unless you have the exact same gun as the tester, the results may or may not be accurate. If she's fixed on a revolver, the 357 LCR weighs a good bit more, and loaded with .38 would be more controllable. However, a semi-auto pistol will ALWAYS be more controllable than a revolver, because the slide soaks up a significant portion of the recoil. I might suggest a Ruger EC9S or S&W Shield, both have notably lower recoil than my LCD, even with stronger rounds.

      2 years ago
      • Mark Wynn

        Was surprised how easy to control 115 grain 9 mm is in the Ruger EC9s I recently purchased and have taken to the range twice. I still don't know how Hickock 45 does it ... but at 10 yards I can at least keep all in a 5" circle ... and I'm getting better. This, after being spoiled by a Gold Cup all these years.

        1 year ago
  • Joe

    Whats the difference between hp and jhp . Feder hydra shok comes in hollow point too.

    3 years ago
    • ehung

      Hi Joe, good question...HP stands for hollow point while JHP stands for jacketed hollow point. Almost all good self-defense ammo is JHP while there's some unjacketed lead hollow points in revolver calibers (such as .38 Special).

      3 years ago
  • Tom

    New to your site and enjoying the articles. I was looking for informational videos for Glock mods when I came across PPT. You have tested and recommended what you consider the best 9mm SD round. I am curious to know which 45acp rounds you would recommend and why you didnt mention the 45 for sd? (I realize the 9 would be easier to handle for a beginner shooter and I do have a Taurus PT 92 that was my duty weapon and has never failed me.) My edc and primary home defense is the Glock 30SF. Not criticizing whatsoever, I am enjoying your info and just curious to hear your ideas on the 45. Thank you.

    4 years ago
    • ehung

      Thanks for reading! And of course I can go over why I prefer 9mm over .45... -Price per round: Roughly 2-1 ratio which means I can buy much more ammo to train with at the range -Recoil: I'm definitely better at follow-up shots with a 9mm when compared to a .45 even in my heavy 1911's. Plus now I'm recently married...the wife can shoot the Glock 17 relatively easily while she hates the .45. -Technology of new hollow points: The results of the HST speak for themselves. -Capacity: 17 for my Glock 17 vs 13 for the .45 Glock I'll be writing a .45 self defense ammo article soon...but it will almost likely lean towards Federal HST as well.

      4 years ago
      • Dan Maloney

        Hi Eric, Really great site!!! we are of the similar mindset with our passion for firearms. I recently purchased a S&W M&P .45 and really like the way it shoots. I put 100 rounds through it at 10 yards and was pleasantly surprised at the the accuracy of the groups and mild recoil, but wow what a powerful firearm. I am going to equally enjoy this along with my modest collection of 9mm. Very insightful information that the novice and expert can both understand. Keep up the good work!!! DM

        3 years ago
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