Pick your ammo, and move on

Continuing the discussion on “pick your gear, and move on“.

I was having a discussion with a fellow KR Training assistant instructor about the differences between different brands of ammo, I came across this posting from DocGKR (a well-respected authority on such matters, real name is Dr. Gary Roberts). There’s more stuff from DocGKR here, and if you just search the Internet for anything DocGKR writes on ammo, you can rest assured you’re getting the best information on ammunition selection.

See, there’s all sorts of gimmicky ammo that comes out from time to time, claiming to be mostest more betterer than ammos that came before – it’s t3h d3adl3y! It all looks good on the slo-mo video against those evil watermelons. But name me one law enforcement agency willing to bet their lives on it… and oddly there are no takers. Not to say law enforcement agencies are any sort of gold standard, but these are people who put their lives on the line every day and whose job description necessitates the need to sometimes use a gun to stop bad people from doing bad things. Thus, these are people who need proven tools and will not accept anything less; they are a fair reference point for “what works” and is worth entrusting your life to.

It’s pretty simple: there are well-known, well-established brands of ammo that perform well and do the job as needed to be done. Yes, from time to time this list gets revised because technology! (e.g. Hydra-Shoks are old tech, HST is a superior replacement) But on the whole, there’s established stuff so just pick one from the list, make sure it runs in your gun (e.g. run 200 rounds through your gun and ensure you get 200 successful shots; yes that’s expensive, but isn’t your life worth it?), and then put this issue to bed because there’s really no need for debate, discussion or deep research into the matter.

Yes, there are some differences. For example, the discussion I was having was regarding the differences between Federal Tactical Bonded and Federal HST (which isn’t bonded). It was a minutia discussion, and there can be some relevance to such a discussion. But on the whole for most private citizens, DocGKR lists:

Federal Tactical 124 gr JHP (LE9T1)
Federal HST 124 gr +P JHP (P9HST3)

So according to DocGKR, either are fine. Pick one, move on.

Incidentally, shortly after I penned this article, Duncan Larsen over at LooseRounds.com reposted an article from the FBI Training Division regarding ammunition selection, mostly as it pertains to caliber. I’ve seen this article in other forms before, but Duncan’s posting of it was timely. For the tl;dr crowd, here’s the conclusion:

While some law enforcement agencies have transitioned to larger calibers from the 9mm Luger in recent years, they do so at the expense of reduced magazine capacity, more felt recoil, and given adequate projectile selection, no discernible increase in terminal performance.

Other law enforcement organizations seem to be making the move back to 9mm Luger taking advantage of the new technologies which are being applied to 9mm Luger projectiles. These organizations are providing their armed personnel the best chance of surviving a deadly force encounter since they can expect faster and more accurate shot strings, higher magazine capacities (similar sized weapons) and all of the terminal performance which can be expected from any law enforcement caliber projectile.

Given the above realities and the fact that numerous ammunition manufacturers now make 9mm Luger service ammunition with outstanding premium line law enforcement projectiles, the move to 9mm Luger can now be viewed as a decided advantage for our armed law enforcement personnel.”

For those curious, I carry Speer Gold Dot 9mm 124 grain +P in all my 9mm semi-autos. In my snub-nose revolver I carry Speer Gold Dot .38 Special 135 grain +P. Why? They’re proven to perform reliably and be optimal for the platform, so ’nuff said.

Pick your ammo, and move on.

4 thoughts on “Pick your ammo, and move on

  1. You’re spot on. When I started the discussion (prior to attending Dave Spaulding’s Vehicle Combatives hosted by KR Training), I imagined that there might be a difference in consistency between the performance of the Federal bonded vs. HST ammo passing through a hard barrier (a car body or windshield). After watching the performance of about a dozen different bullet designs (FMJ, cast, HST, GoldDot, Ranger, Silver Tip, Critical Duty, Critical Defense, XTP, etc.) in pistol, rifle, and shotgun calibers ranging from .22 LR to 12 ga. slug, I didn’t even bother to fire any of the Federal Tactical Bonded Ammo into the cars that were available. Why?

    1) Shot placement on the vehicle body determines if your bullet will make it in/out/through. Without X-Ray specs you can’t know if your shot placement is good or bad. It’s kinda like shooting at a bad guy, but all his internal organs have been randomly rearranged.

    2) Windshields, side, and rear windows behave substantially differently from one specimen to the next. Only shooting exactly through a hole you’ve already punched in glass will allow you to precisely place your shot on a bad guy across the glass. Assume all your other shots will be deflected by 1-12 inches.

    Bonded ammo does give you a better chance of the projectile remaining intact after traversing the barrier, but getting well-documented bullet performance when I place my shots is my dominant concern. I brought those boxes of Federal Tactical Bonded ammo home and put ’em in the ammo can.

    • I’ve been meaning to follow-up with you to get your AAR.

      This is good info. Thank you for sharing it.

      Oldest and I were out at the ranch a couple days ago and shot a bunch through the cars. Not just handgun rounds, but also rifle rounds… from plinking .223 55gr FMJ loads, to some 5.56 TAP rounds.

      Sure enough, much inconsistency as to what would happen. Some rounds went right through, some stopped dead in the first door. No real consistency because, as you said, you just can’t know what’s inside the door to affect the path of the bullet. I read Glenn Meyer’s AAR on the class and IIRC he said a shotgun slug went through the door and took a sudden southward turn due to the internals.

      Of the TAP I shot through, some stopped in the first door, some others did fragment as designed and you saw the exit hole with a larger center hole but numerous small (fragment) holes around it.

      Quite interesting stuff for sure.

      So it seems, bullet construction does matter and depending upon your need and application, there can be argument for choosing one construction over another. But on the whole, it’s of less concern than, as you said: getting well-documented bullet performance when you place your shots.

    • Yup. That arfcom write-up is all centered around DocGKR’s writings and findings.

      Can you expand upon what you found in the HST 124 gr vs. the 147gr +P?

      Frankly, I’m just seeing no reason to switch from Gold Dots (124 gr +P).

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