Concealed Carry Ammunition

The General Trend Is Toward Lighter Bullets, Which Means Higher Velocity and Greater Expansion

By James E. House

It has been stated that there are three types of people: sheep, sheep dogs, and wolves.

The wolves prey on the sheep who are protected to some extent by the sheep dogs  when the sheep are able to dial 911. This is not always possible so in some instances the sheep must take steps to protect themselves.

That is where concealed carry comes in. All states except one have some provision for concealed carry. Only the enlightened state of Illinois doesn’t know or care that legal concealed carry has resulted in a decrease in violent crime in jurisdictions where that mode of first response is permitted.

So if you are contemplating exercising your right to concealed carry, you must first deal with all of the legal issues that apply in your area. That probably means an application, a background check, taking a class of some sort and some instruction by a qualified instructor at a range. If you have already done those things, you must decide what type of weapon you will carry. Making that choice is the subject of other articles in this collection.

Once you have decided on the weapon you will carry, it is now time to consider the important issue of what to load it with. I am convinced that handgun ammunition today is the best it has ever been. Moreover, the selection available is incredible.

There was a time when about the only types of bullets available were lead projectiles that had round noses or a flat-pointed lead wadcutter for target shooting or full metal jacketed bullets. Handgun shooters today have not only those types available but also jacketed hollow points in numerous styles, jacketed soft points, hollow points with polymer inserts, and lead-free types among others.


Choosing Ammunition

A quintessential carry piece such as this Smith & Wesson Model 60 is still a good choice when loaded with appropriate ammunition such as the Winchester Silvertip.

After dispensing with the legalities and choice of armament, the next issue is the choice of ammunition. The choices rival the selection of cell phones available, if that is possible.

Until comparatively recently, those who carried a handgun were limited to general purpose loads that utilized lead or full metal jacket bullets. All that changed when cartridges loaded with jacketed hollow point bullets became available.

Now, not only are such loads almost the norm, but also a large number of types of ammunition are available specifically designed for defensive purposes. All of the major ammo makers and several smaller ones have entered this market. No attempt will be made to catalog the offerings of defense ammunition, but the major types are listed.

Keep in mind that these types are generally available in most popular calibers and in some cases with a choice of bullet weights. In addition to the defense ammunition, each manufacturer also offers general purpose ammo loaded with jacketed hollow point bullets that would also be appropriate for defense purposes. The accompanying table shows the general selections available.


This is not an article based on performance and testing of ammunition. Bullets loaded in ammunition intended for defense have been designed to give optimum performance in terms of penetration and expansion. They have been extensively tested and in most cases they provide the highest level of effectiveness for a given caliber handgun.

The general trend is toward bullets of lighter weight for the caliber which results in higher velocity and greater expansion. Speer has developed the Gold Dot Short Barrel line that features a large cavity so the bullets expand well even when driven at the lower velocity that results with a short-barreled handgun.

In non-scientific, non-rigorous ways, I have tested several types of defense ammo. All have performed so well that I have no clear-cut favorite.

Based on a lot of research by the manufacturers, defense ammunition is well designed so it should be effective and it certainly is. It almost comes down to what color box you prefer because you will be well protected with a weapon loaded with any of the specialty types.

The Writer: For Jim House, participation in shooting sports began almost 70 years ago with a single shot Daisy BB gun. After graduating to a rimfire, he was a member of the ROTC rifle team at Southern Illinois University. Writing about shooting sports and related topics has resulted in well more than 200 articles and four books. Jim and his wife, Kathy, are avid photographers and frequently work together on projects.

Top Choices

A Selection of Ammunition for Concealed Carry and Defense

Manufacture Defense Line

General Line


Corbon  Self Defense JHPDPX Handgun

Federal  Premium Personal Defense Hydra-Shok Personal Defense

Hornady  Critical Defense Custom XTP HP

Magtech First Defense Guardian Gold

PMC  Gold Line Starfire Bronze Line

Remington  Golden Saber Home Defense

Speer  Gold Dot Personal Protection

Winchester PDX1 Bonded Silvertip

Fast Facts

  •  Bullets loaded in ammunition intended for defense have been designed to give optimum performance in terms of penetration and expansion;
  • They have been extensively tested;
  • In most cases, they provide the highest level of effectiveness for a given caliber handgun;
  • The general trend is toward bullets of lighter weight for the caliber, which results in higher velocity and greater expansion.

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