Two varieties of the same ammo: one for practice, the other for self defense.

Two varieties of the same ammo: one for practice, the other for self defense.

When it comes to designing ammo, many of the objectives conflict with each other – you can’t have them all. For example, perfect ammunition would have all of the following:

  • Low recoil
  • Low blast and muzzle flash
  • Low noise
  • Reliable expansion, even after passing through tough barriers like 10 copies of the New York Times Sunday edition
  • Deep penetration
  • No over penetration
  • High velocity
  • Weight retention
  • Auto replenishment. Ok, no one has figured that out yet, but I did say “perfect” ammunition, right?

Given that you can’t have combinations like Mach 7 velocity, 4x expansion after passing through Iron Man and no measurable recoil, ammunition manufacturers decide in advance what performance they want and for what purpose the ammunition will be used.

Both 9mm and .40 S&W Defend loads were tested with bare gelatin and multi-layer fabric.

Both 9mm and .40 S&W Defend loads were tested with bare gelatin and multi-layer fabric.

Winchester Ammunition launched its new Train and Defend line with some pretty clear goals. According to the company, Train and Defend is aimed (see what I did there?) at “new shooters interested in training to become more proficient with their personal defense ammunition.”

What does that mean?

First, there are two varieties of the ammo: Train, and, you guessed it, Defend. Both are loaded to yield the same basic performance and feel. If you fire a round of Train ammo, followed by a round of Defend, you won’t be able to tell the difference. This is kind of a big deal.

Winchester Train ammo

Usually, practice ammo is lower powered and, therefore, much more mellow to shoot. When you load a round of full powered self-defense ammo, you’ll feel it. The blast and recoil will be substantial in most cases. Not so with Train and Defend – both rounds feel the same and perform similarly. The Train version is loaded with full metal jacket bullets which result in a much lower cost per round – appropriate for practice. On the street, expect to pay less than half the price of a Defend round for each Train round. It’s easy to identify as it has a big “T” logo on the box.

Winchester Defend ammo

When you’re finished practicing, load your magazines up with Defend. This is what you want for personal protection and home defense applications. The Defend ammo uses bonded projectiles that ensure the bullet stays intact and retain its original weight. The cases are nickel-plated for corrosion resistance and improved feeding. You’ll spot the Defend version by the big “D” logo on the box.

I tested the 9mm Defend load with a Beretta 92FS. Using the SilencerCo Octane suppressor was added fun as this load is subsonic.

I tested the 9mm Defend load with a Beretta 92FS. Using the SilencerCo Octane suppressor was added fun as this load is subsonic.

I got all geeky about how the Train and Defend ammunition is put together and posed some questions to the product manager. Are the Train and Defend Loads identical except for the projectile? Do they use the same powder?

Here are the answers from Winchester:

The Train and Defend loads do not use the same powder and there is a good reason for that. We utilize low-flash powders in our Defend options, because a defensive situation is likely to occur in low-light conditions; it is important that night vision not be impacted due to a bright muzzle flash. HOWEVER, these low flash powders have a tendency to be slightly dirtier burning, so they are not great options for our Train round. We developed Train to be a great high-volume training round so we utilize some of our cleaner burning propellants in these loads. Train would be great for competition, low recoil, 180 grain in 40 S&W will make for a great competition load.

Performance

Velocity

As part of the design goal of Winchester Train and Defend ammunition is to offer lower and more controllable recoil, they’re manufactured to travel at lower velocity. I measured both 9mm and .40 S&W versions using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph placed 15 feet down range.

40 S&W Train, fired from a Glock 22: 885.3 fps
40 S&W Defend, fired from a Glock 22: 907.7 fps
9mm Defend:, fired from a Beretta 92FS: 936.3 fps

Expansion

I shot both 9mm and .40 S&W loads into Clear Ballistics 6x6x16 inch gelatin blocks. According to the manufacturer, the blocks are calibrated to 10% ballistic gelatin standards as used by the FBI for ammunition testing.

Assuming that penetration of these lower velocity rounds would be less than 16 inches, I only brought one block to the range. You know what they say about assuming right? Exactly. All of the 9mm and .40 S&W rounds tested exited the block and were stopped by my expired Kevlar vest backstop, so the only penetration measurement I can offer is “more than 16 inches.” That’s plenty.

For both 9mm and .40 S&W Defend loads, I fired two scenarios. For the first, I used bare gelatin. For the second, I covered the front of the gel block with the new standard light denim, multi-layer fabric designed to simulate average street clothing layers.

The 9mm projectile surprised me somewhat. Projectiles fired into bare gel and those shot through the test fabric all expanded properly. The bare gelatin bullet expanded to a smaller diameter than the one fired through fabric layers. That might have been caused by gel anomalies or perhaps the lower overall resistance allowed the bullet to travel at higher velocity, thereby pushing back the petals further. I measured expansion of this projectile at 0.535 inches. The projectile fired through the fabric layers expanded to 0.605 inches diameter.

The Defend .40 S&W rounds expanded beautifully in bare gel and after passing through fabric barriers.

The Defend .40 S&W rounds expanded beautifully in bare gel and after passing through fabric barriers.

The .40 S&W Winchester Defend projectiles also expanded properly in both test scenarios. The bare gelatin projectile expanded to 0.690 inches while the projectile fired through fabric layers expanded to 0.685 inches diameter.

In summary, I found this ammo comfortable to shoot and performance matched its design goals. Expansion worked properly after passing through “normal” clothing layers. Winchester Train and Defend ammunition is a great option for newer shooters where the reduced recoil will help keep shots on target and allow for faster and more accurate follow-up shots.