Skip to main content

Hornady Critical Duty vs. Critical Defense

Hornady Critical Duty vs. Critical Defense

It should be well-known that when looking for ammunition to be used for personal defense in a handgun, you should use some sort of expanding bullet. The most common type of these are jacketed hollow points (JHPs), and they are preferred to full metal jacket bullets (FMJs) because as a mechanism of their expansion they transfer more energy to the target. Also, because they expand, there is much less chance of them over-penetrating.

Just about every ammunition manufacturer offers some sort of JHP round for every caliber they make. That said, this is America, so many ammunition makers are not satisfied with just making "hollow points"...so we have Hydra-Shoks, XTPs, Gold Dots, and the famous, eeeeeevil Black Talons.

Hornady is currently offering two lines of hollowpoints with similar names- Critical Defense and Critical Duty. There's a difference, but I don't know if Hornady is doing that good of a job explaining exactly what the difference is between their two ammunition lines. Let me try, and I'll start with the newest first.

Hornady's Critical Duty ammunition is high-performance full power hollowpoint ammunition not just designed for full-size duty weapons but designed to pass the famous and stringent FBI ballistic protocols. What are those protocols?


The FBI protocols are a specific set of tests for handgun ammunition where they are fired through a number of intermediate barriers into ballistic gelatin. Penetration is the only fixed requirement- if the bullet doesn't penetrate a minimum 12" of ballistic gel after passing through the barrier, it doesn't pass. Expansion isn't required, but the more expansion a bullet shows (provided it penetrates the required distance) the better.


There are eight test events:

1. Bare gelatin.

2. Through heavy clothing into gelatin

3. Through 2 pieces of 20 gauge steel (sheet metal) into gelatin




4. Through wallboard into gelatin

5. Through ¾" plywood into gelatin

6. Through angled automobile glass into gelatin.

Recommended


All of the above tests are done at ten feet, and the heavy clothing and auto glass tests are done again at a distance of 20 yards for the final two tests.


The FBI protocols are used by just about every police department in the country when it comes to picking out duty ammunition- if your company's ammo doesn't pass, they probably won't buy it. That said, any ammunition which can pass these tests tends to have stout recoil, and is best suited for full-size guns. It also tends to be loaded with very tough bullets which will definitely penetrate, and probably expand.

With their Critical Defense line of ammunition, the engineers at Hornady realized that most citizens looking for ammunition for their concealed handguns aren't likely to be shooting through sheet metal or auto glass, and will most likely be carrying smaller, lighter guns. Making ammunition for this target market didn't require slavish devotion to the FBI protocols, because the needs of the private citizen were different. Also, most carry guns have shorter barrels, and so this ammunition is optimized for use in short-barreled pistols.

Small, light guns, especially those small enough to fit in pockets, are very convenient to carry, but loading them with hotloaded +P ammo originally designed for big heavy guns can make them tough to shoot. Considering the circumstances in which most concealed carry guns will be used (conversational distances, with little or no intervening barriers), sometimes less is more.

Both Critical Duty and Critical Defense rounds are tipped with what appears to be Hornady's FTX bullet, but that's not the case. The Critical Defense rounds are loaded with the FTX bullet, which has a flexible polymer insert in the "Flex Tip" hollowpoint cavity which resists clogging when flying through thick clothing and/or drywall, and yet initiates expansion when it actually hits someone. The Critical Duty line is loaded with the "FlexLock" bullet. The FlexLock has the Flex Tip point, but it is paired with their InterLock band which locks the jacket and core together. This bonded core stays together better when going through intermediate barriers (i.e. the FBI protocols).

The Critical Duty line of ammunition is still new, but even so, it is aimed more at the law enforcement market than Hornady's other lines of hollowpoints. I'm guessing it will never be offered in that many calibers. Currently Critical Duty ammunition is only available in 9mm, 9mm+P, and .40 S&W. The Critical Defense line is offered in 12 different calibers, starting at .22 WMR- any caliber you're likely to use for self defense.

 
 

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Federal's new.30 Super Carry pistol cartridge offers the equivalent of 9mm Luger performance with recoil and muzzle blast comparable with 9mm. Here's a first look.
Handguns

First Look: Federal .30 Super Carry Pistol Cartridge

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.
Learn

Bad Shooting Advice

Rich Nance shows us a drill that helps with target transition and accuracy.
Learn

Skills Drills - 3 Second Headshot

It is important to train in various shooting positions. Rich shows us some kneeling positions here.
Learn

Shooting from Kneeling

Scott Rupp highlights the Taurus GX4.
Handguns

Taurus GX4

Richard Nance shows off this easy to carry flashlight from Streamlight.
Gear

Streamlight Wedge

In early 2021, Taurus introduced the GX4, its entry into the micro-compact concealed carry pistol market. Now the company has added red-dot sight capability with the new T.O.R.O. (Taurus Optic Ready Option) version.
Handguns

First Look: Taurus GX4 T.O.R.O. Optics-Ready Micro-Compact 9mm Pistol

Widely known for their duty retention holsters, Safariland is bringing the security and safety of their LE products to the civilian world with the 575 GLS holster.
Gear

Safariland Holsters

Smith & Wesson has expanded their M&P Shield Plus pistol line to include a 3.1-inch optics-ready slide option. Scott Rupp, editor of Handguns, is with Matt Spafford, of Smith & Wesson, to check out this "sweet spot" optics-ready concealed-carry pistol.
Concealed Carry

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus Pistol Series Expanded with Optics-Ready Versions

Handguns Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Handguns App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Handguns stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now