With all of the advancements in modern defensive ammunition, it’s easy to forget that we’re talking about something very simple: throwing a piece of metal hard enough and fast enough to make bad guys reconsider their choices in life. Private citizens require the same performance from their ammo as does law enforcement — they need it to stop the threat.
Every year, manufacturers introduce new types of defensive ammo, and this year the introductions are many. We rounded up the best new personal defense ammunition for 2014 to keep your sidearms loaded with the latest and greatest.
Critical Duty ammo tends to offer non-traditional bullet weights, such as a 135-grain 9mm or a 220-grain .45 ACP. The reason for this is simple: The engineers at Hornady designed Critical Duty ammo to pass very exacting FBI protocols, and — starting from scratch — they designed the cartridges to meet and exceed those protocols.
Each cartridge is tipped with Hornady’s FlexLock bullet. The hollowpoint cavity is filled with a rubber solid that initiates expansion and prevents the hollowpoint from becoming clogged as it passes through clothing or intermediate barriers such as drywall. The bullets are also cannelured, which helps prevent set-back in the case. The cases are nickel-plated as well for natural lubrication to reduce malfunctions.
The Black Belt bullets have — unsurprisingly — a visible black belt around their middle. Remington uses this black-colored brass band to mechanically bond the core to the bullet. Bonded core bullets enhance expansion as well as penetration, but most bonded bullets have their cores chemically or electrically bonded. Golden Saber bullets have traditionally been very good looking (as bullets go) because of their hue, and the Black Belts have a very striking appearance as well.
Initially, Remington was marketing Black Belt only to LE/Government agencies — the traditional way to roll out new defensive ammo — with a plan to bring it to the commercial market at the end of this year. However, training and ammo budget dollars are drying up quickly for LE, whereas private citizens still can’t find enough ammo to buy. Look to see Remington Golden Saber Black Belt at gun stores sooner rather than later.
Some companies such as Glaser and MagSafe went a different route, constructing bullets stuffed with smaller projectiles (i.e. shot pellets of various sizes) that were designed to come apart upon impact. The newest ammo of this type is the Radically Invasive Projectile (R.I.P.) from G2 Research.
Instead of being filled with lead shot, R.I.P. bullets are machined from solid copper alloy and feature pointed spears known as trocars. R.I.P. bullets look a lot like a barrel if someone took off the lid and sharpened the tops of the staves on the sides. For those of you who have heard of them, think flechettes. The 9mm features 8 mini trocars (plus the base) for a total weight of 96 grains and an advertised velocity of 1,265 fps.
Upon impact these metal splinters (in theory) will separate and spear deep into the target, perforating organs and blood vessels. G2 Research has some cool videos on their website showing these bullets penetrating water and ballistic gel where the copper trocars perform exactly as advertised. Whether they will do the same (or just collapse inward) when shot into an actual human being with muscle and bone remains to be seen, but kudos to them for trying something different.
The projectiles are made from a nickel-plated copper alloy. The bullets feature massive cavities that are wider than the hollow points in the tips. The tips are mechanically closed just after the cavity is made. Liberty’s 9mm load sends a 50-grain bullet traveling at 2,000 fps, and that reduced weight is due solely to the huge size of the internal cavity and the lighter-than-lead property of the copper alloy construction. They also make .380 ACP, .40 S&W and .45 ACP ammo, all of which feature very light-for-caliber bullets traveling very fast (50-78 grain bullets travelling between 1,500-2,000 fps). The combination of a light bullet moving at a high velocity yields rapid expansion.
During demos, melons and hams literally exploded from the violent expansion of the bullets. But expansion is worthless without penetration. We saw a local police officer shoot a target inside a Jeep Cherokee with a .40 Civil Defense round from his duty Glock. The bullet penetrated the windshield of the vehicle without a problem, staying in one piece all the way through the driver’s headrest before exiting the vehicle. When the officer shot another .40 S&W round into the side of the Jeep, it went through the passenger door, through the driver’s door (in one piece) and kept on going.
The sides of the bullet are actually thicker toward the nose than at the base. When shot into a hard surface, the bullet stays together and penetrates very well. As for how they perform in tissue stimulants, it appears that when hitting meat/melon/water, the base of the bullet is detaching and then blowing through the nose cone, which causes the entire bullet to disintegrate rapidly.
SIG ammo features their V-Crown jacketed hollowpoint design, which has a smaller hollowpoint stacked behind/below the main cavity. This is intended to ensure consistent controlled expansion across a wide range of velocities. The bullet has a toothed cannelure to lock the jacket to the core, and the jacket is skived and scored to assist expansion.
The cases appear to be nickel coated but are actually brass coated with “techni-chrom” for enhanced lubricity, corrosion resistance, reliability and extraction. All of the initial SIG ammo offerings are standard pressure loads with modest recoil, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see some +P loads in the near future.
Not so much “Train & Defend” as “Train or Defend,” Winchester has designed an ammunition system, starting from the ground up with boxes very clearly marked with a “T” or “D” inside a yellow square.
Train & Defend ammo is offered in four handgun calibers: a 95-grain .380 ACP at 950 fps, a 147-grain 9mm at 950 fps, a 180-grain .40 S&W at 925 fps and a 130-grain .38 Special at 925 fps. Projectiles in the Train offering are FMJ bullets; in the Defend line all the choices feature bonded JHP bullets with velocities identical between the two ammo lines.
Winchester Train ammo has lead-free primers for a more user-friendly experience at indoor ranges. Train ammo is sold in 50-round boxes and Defend ammo in 20-round boxes. Defend ammo has nickel-plated cases, whereas the Train ammo has traditional brass cases.
The Train and Defend ammunition lines are aimed at new shooters or those with slight builds and are designed to limit felt recoil. Many instructors say you should train like you plan to fight, and having practice and defensive ammunition with the same felt recoil and muzzle blast is crucial.
Currently offered in three calibers (9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP), buyers have their choice of two bullet styles: a traditional bonded core JHP and a polymer-tipped bullet with a bonded core.
Nosler first tipped the cavities of rifle bullets with polymer decades ago in their Ballistic Tip line of projectiles, a design that a number of other ammunition manufacturers are now utilizing. The rounded polymer tip of their bonded performance handgun bullets gives them an FMJ profile and aids in smooth reliable feeding. It also prevents the cavity from getting clogged as it passes through intermediate barriers such as drywall or clothing.
The 124-grain 9mm+P offers a velocity of 1,250 fps. The 200-grain .40 S&W heads out of the muzzle at 1,000 fps (not technically a +P but still hot), and the 230-grain .45 ACP+P has a velocity of 950 fps.