Earlier this year we explored why self-defense ammunition costs about a dollar per round.
Knowing what goes into self-defense loads and what it’s supposed to do is informative, but until you know how it actually performs—after all, this is ammo that you may rely on to save your life—the job is not complete.
So we gathered together some common types of brand-name self-defense ammunition, created realistic test targets, and found out.
Four Essential Qualities of Self-Defense Ammo
Quality self-defense ammunition needs to do these four things, consistently and reliably:
- Absolutely, positively fire when you pull the trigger.
- Penetrate to an adequate depth.
- Expand properly and reliably through a range of scenarios.
- Stay in one piece throughout all that commotion.
In a perfect scenario, most self-defense ammunition should penetrate between 12 and 18 inches and expand to 1.5 times original diameter (or more) without breaking into pieces.
The FBI performs all sorts of scientific tests to make sure that ammunition will work as designed when it encounters various barriers. In law enforcement use, ammo might have to pass through not only heavy clothing, but objects such as automobile glass, walls, and sheet metal. The challenge for ammunition makers is finding the right balance between the opposing characteristics of penetration and hollow-point expansion. If a bullet expands too easily, it may slow down too rapidly and under-penetrate. That’s analogous to a belly flop from the high dive. You’ll make a commotion, but won’t go very deep.