Good self-defense ammunition comes in all shapes and sizes. The fourth round standing from the left is a 9mm full metal jacket practice round. The one on the far right is a Federal Guard Dog expanding full metal jacket round.

By Tom McHale

I had a lot of fun with the “Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting” series a couple of months ago, and hope you did too. I got to thinking about other sins—yeah, I know, thinking can hurt your brain—and it occurred to me that there are plenty of deadly sins when it comes to concealed carry. There are way more than seven, but as “Seven Deadly Sins” is kind of a thing, I’ll pick out seven interesting, and relevant, ones.

Ready? Let’s get started.

If you’ve ever seen a Wallace and Gromit movie, then you know that The Wrong Trousers can get you in a lot of trouble. So can the wrong ammunition. Using inappropriate ammo can ruin not only your life, but someone else’s too.
Don’t use practice ammo

I would classify “practice ammo” as anything designed to be frangible (for indoor or steel target shooting) or with a full metal jacket. Don’t get me wrong, practice ammo is not sub-par—it’s just designed for a different purpose than self-defense ammo. You can buy excellent and accurate practice ammo from all the reputable ammo companies. Some of it is designed especially for matches and is exceedingly accurate—with a corresponding price tag.

Self Defense Ammunition 1 340x217 The Seven Deadly Sins of Concealed Carry: #1 Using the Wrong Ammo

Good self-defense ammunition is designed to expand, deform, or otherwise slow down when it hits things.

As good as it might be, practice ammo is designed to follow a straightforward sequence of events: go bang. Fly straight. Punch a hole in a piece of paper. Plow into a big dirt, rubber, or steel backstop. Practice ammo is not designed to deform, fragment, or expand when it hits an organic target. While it may still have fatal results, it’s less effective at stopping a determined attacker rapidly. In fact, it’s capable of making small holes and then zipping right through to hit whatever is behind said attacker. So, in addition to not being as effective at stopping an attacker quickly, it increases danger to others nearby. That closed-nose projectile will go through all sorts of stuff before ultimately stopping.

Unless your locale forbids it, always carry high-quality expanding ammunition in your carry gun. Not only will it increase the odds of stopping an attacker, it provides a higher level of overall safety as it’s designed to slow down more quickly when it hits things, thereby reducing the risk of pass-through or ricochet damage. If you live in an area that outlaws hollow point ammunition, check out Federal Guard Dog. It’s a non-hollow point design that still expands when it hits things.

Just to be clear, shoot less-expensive practice ammo in your carry gun all you want while at the range. But when you get home, put the good stuff back in.
Buy, don’t build

I’m a fanatical ammunition reloader, because tactical cooking rocks! Not only is it a fun and relaxing hobby, you can create an endless variety of ammunition that is customized to your specific gun and intended use. Pick a caliber and there are hundreds of load options available to you. Once you get to know what you’re doing, you can experiment to find the right combination of ingredients and variables that make you specific gun perform to it’s maximum potential.

Ammunition Reloading bench 340x221 The Seven Deadly Sins of Concealed Carry: #1 Using the Wrong Ammo

When it comes to self-defense, don’t roll your own. You may just avoid a heap of trouble if you stick with factory ammo.

Even though I reload bajillions of rounds of rifle and pistol ammo every year, I only use it at the range or for hunting. For any gun I might use for self-defense, I only use premium factory ammunition.

Why? With enough care and high-quality components, I can make perfectly safe, reliable, and high-performance ammunition as well, or at least nearly as well, as many companies. The reason I always buy instead of build self-defense ammunition is strictly for my legal protection. Of course it’s legal to use your own ammo, but if I ever had to use a gun in self-defense, it’s highly likely that the wrath of an investigative and legal system would rain down on me. If there were questions of any type about circumstances of the self-defense incident, you can expect crime technicians to want to duplicate scenarios with the same exact type of ammunition used during the incident. For all you know, an aspiring CSI: Miami actor might try to determine just how far away you were based on powder or blast residue. Do you really want to risk muddying the facts because a lab won’t be able to replicate the exact ballistic footprint of your carry ammo? I also don’t want to be answering any outlandish accusations from opposing council about how “store-bought ammunition” isn’t good enough for me, so I had to make my own “quadruple lethal atomic-powered rounds.” Yes, all of these things could be successfully addressed in a courtroom, but invite the legal battle in the first place? If you find yourself on the witness stand, you’d probably rather say something like “I use the same ammunition that the police officer standing over there has in his or her gun.”

Picking the best ammunition for self-defense in any specific carry gun is a topic of endless debate, so these two considerations will just get you started. We’ll get into more detail about specific types of self-defense ammunition in later articles. For now, make sure you carry brand name “good stuff” in your carry gun. For your own protection.

Images by Tom McHale