Defensive Handgun Ammo

Don’t Obsess Over “Magic Bullets.” Real World Criteria Are Sometimes Deceptively Simple.

One of the more popular Internet gun forums,, recently introduced a question/answer section they called GATE, which stands for Go Ask The Experts. I wound up doing the Self-Defense section. I had expected it to be heavy on tactics and mindset issues, but I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when the most common question turned out to be, “What’s the best self-defense round for my (insert make, model and caliber here)?”

This is an issue I’ve studied seriously for an adult lifetime. It is a learning experience that has taken me from ammo factories and sit-downs with their engineers; to major police departments to debrief the personnel on ammo performance in the field; to gelatin binges, to autopsy observation and necropsy of many animals that died by gunfire under test conditions. The answers are not what I might have expected 40 years ago.

Before I even look at accuracy—which, with a very few exceptions, is generally “adequate” across the board—I look for five other baselines. Most defensive shootings take place at relatively close range, and the single most important factor in the outcome is going to be shot placement and what parts of the body are rendered at least temporarily inoperable by the given gunshot wound.

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One thought on “Defensive Handgun Ammo

  1. MEC

    This article really hit the spot. It doesn’t hurt that I am a big fan of GoldDot bullets but, even without that bias, Ayoob takes his usual sensible approach.


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