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Training is important, but training with the actual gear you use for duty or for personal protection is even more important. Sub-caliber practice, laser trainers and airsoft all have their place, but at the end of the day, you really need to get out there with your carry gun and shoot it.

Optimally, that will be with the load you intend on carrying in it so you know it’s reliable and where it hits with that load, as well. Generally, the problem is that quality self-defense rounds are expensive, and most of us can’t afford to put hundreds of rounds downrange with them in a practice session. So, we end up substituting cheaper practice ammo that doesn’t perform the same as our duty rounds. They might recoil less, probably don’t hit to the same point of aim and generally don’t give you the same experience as your defense load of choice. The folks at Winchester are among those manufacturers that have recognized the problem. Their solution to it is the Train & Defend line of ammunition.

 

Common Defense Calibers

Winchester offers the Train & Defend line in most of the common defense and law enforcement calibers, including .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, .38 Special, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. The theory behind Train & Defend is that you match up a practice round with a carry round of similar weight and velocity so they handle the same. The training rounds are full metal jacket (FMJ), and the defense loads are jacket hollow points (JHP). Both loads are designed to have less recoil to help with putting accurate rounds on target quickly. You get 50 rounds to a box with the training loads, and they carry an MSRP of $17 to $25 a box, depending on caliber. Defense loads come 20 rounds to a box, and they run $16 to $23, again, depending on caliber.

“The rounds are accurate, easy to shoot and mirror each other … ”

The process is simple: Do your sight in and practice with the Train loads, run a few mags of Defend through your gun to make sure it feeds in your particular weapon, and then fill your carry mags with Defend hollow points. For practice, stock up on the affordable Train loads.

 

Train & Defend on the Range

I picked up a quantity of the 9mm Train & Defend loads for testing and decided to see what they would do out of variety of guns. The 9mm load is a 147-grain bullet listed at 950 feet per second (fps) and 205 foot pounds of muzzle energy. To see what the load would do in an array of defense guns, I rounded up a compact S&W M&P SHIELD, Beretta M9A1 service pistol, CZ Scorpion EVO3 S1 and a Kel-Tec SUB-2000 carbine. What I found was that the Train & Defend ammo was very manageable, even in the compact Shield, and that it did, indeed, hit to the same point of aim with both loads. Velocity was pretty much on the money with the 5-inch Beretta, with a slight drop in the shorter, 3-inch-barreled SHIELD and some gain in the 8-inch Scorpion and 16-inch Kel-Tec—which is to be expected.

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The author acquired a variety of 9mm defense pistols and a carbine to test the Winchester Train & Defend ammo. They were (clockwise from top) a Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Carbine, Smith & Wesson M&P SHIELD, CZ Scorpion EVO3 S1 and a Beretta M9A1 pistol. Barrel lengths varied from 3 to 16 inches.

Interestingly enough, there wasn’t much velocity gain between the Scorpion and the SUB-2000. While there was some minor deviation in velocity between the Train & Defend loads, it wasn’t enough to see any discernible difference in point of impact when shooting. Generally speaking, the ammunition was very consistent, and the FMJ training loads and JHP carry loads performed equally. In fact, without looking at the loaded magazine, I couldn’t tell which round was which when I was behind the trigger of the gun and shooting.

 

Conclusions

Based upon my use of the Train & Defend round, I’d say that Winchester has hit its mark for a complementary product line designed to take you from the training range to the street. The rounds are accurate, easy to shoot and mirror each other in felt recoil, point of impact and accuracy. Reliability was 100 percent with both loads through all four weapons tested, as well. With a reasonable price for training loads and a competitive cost for defense loads, Winchester has come up with a concept well worth looking at if you shoot any of the calibers in the Train & Defend line.

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The Defend load (left) uses a nickel-plated case and 147-grain JHP bullets. The Train load is housed in a brass case and uses 147-grain FMJ bullets.

Train & Defend Velocity Results

Weapon

147-Grain FMJ Train Load

147-Grain JHP Defend Load

S&W M&P SHIELD, 3.1-inch barrel

868 fps

905 fps

Beretta M9A1, 5-inch barrel

944 fps

947 fps

CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1, 7.72-inch barrel

1,042 fps

1,037 fps

Kel-Tec SUB-2000, 16-inch barrel

1,053 fps

1,098 fps

All shots fired with the chronograph placed 10 feet from the muzzle. Ambient temperature: 54 degrees (F). Velocity ratings are the average of multiple three-shot strings.
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The Winchester 9mm 147-grain jacketed hollow point is designed for maximum expansion and stopping power.

 

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the May 2016 print issue of Gun World Magazine.