Handgun Ammo Comparison: Sizing Up Which Is Right for You

What is the Best Ammunition?

Gun folks love to argue. In fact, they will argue about almost everything about guns, from brands to caliber and even ammunition. Because of this, many new shooters have a hard time wading through the information provided, particularly regarding handgun ammunition. They often ask the question, “what is the best ammunition? The answer depends on the situation. 

Handgun Ammo Comparison

There are essentially two classes of handgun ammunition. These consist of full metal jacket loads, commonly known as ball, and defensive ammunition. Both have their uses, as well as proponents who point out pros and cons, such as price, penetration, stopping power and availability.

Full Metal Jacket 

Ball, also called practice, ammunition features a lead bullet surrounded by a copper jacket. It typically costs less and is the preferred target and training round for most people. Ball ammo comes in brass, aluminum and even steel cases, which makes prices vary. Of course, price is only one benefit. Ball ammunition provides deeper penetration on barriers and feeds better in semi-autos. On the other end, overpenetration can be a problem in some situations and ball loads typically ricochet easier. However, savvy shoppers can often find deals on ball ammunition with just a little bit of searching. 

Defensive Loads

Self-defense ammunition typically feature a hollow-point bullet, along with a higher concentration of propellant. These rounds are more powerful and more expensive. However, they perform significantly better in self-defense situations. The concave cavity of a hollow point expands, or mushrooms, when it hits the target. This causes more tissue damage and provides more stopping power against assailants. And while most have decent penetration against barriers, they also have less chance of passing through targets. 

While some shooters prefer one ammunition style over another, most purchase both ball and self-defense ammunition. They practice and train with the cheaper ball ammo, but load hollow points when carrying. This provides the best of both worlds, especially since ball ammo can be used for defense if necessary. 

However, shooters must be sure to use the right caliber for the gun; mixing calibers can be catastrophic. A 9 mm round will fit into a .40 S&W gun, .40 S&W rounds can fit into a .45 ACP gun and so on. Be aware and stay safe.