What Kind of Ammo Should You Buy for an AR-15?

The AR-15 is as American as it’s possible for a rifle to be. Originally designed for the U.S. Armed Forces by the late, great Eugene Stoner in the 1950s, the AR-15 would go wherever our troops went – first as the M16, and then as the M4 carbine. Thanks in no small part to veterans’ preference for a firearm they’re already accustomed to firing, the AR-15 has become the most popular rifle in the American civilian firearm market – the world’s largest civilian firearm market, needless to say.

But it’s not just the AR-15’s history that makes it American. The rifle’s intuitive, ergonomic design and ease of operation make it truly accessible to anyone, whatever their experience with firearms might be. The AR-15’s customizability also makes it an everyman’s rifle. You have total control over your own AR-15’s parts and accessories and can swap them out in a matter of minutes whenever the mood or need strikes you.

Don’t let Big Tech or the Woke Left convince you that the AR-15 is some dangerous “weapon of war that has no place on our streets.” It owes its popularity to good, law-abiding citizens who want a rifle they can easily build, maintain, and master, and is a true symbol of the average American’s right to defend themself and their own. It’s also a real hoot when you’re just looking to have some fun at the range.

Another reason for the AR-15’s popularity is the great variety of ammunition it can fire. Without question, 5.56×45/223 Rem are the most popular cartridges for AR-15 builds, but a few new parts will adapt an AR-15 for several other cartridges including 300 AAC Blackout, 7.62×39, 450 Bushmaster, 9mm, 40 S&W, and even 22 LR.

Lots of folks who just bought their first AR-15s often ask: What kind of ammo should I buy for my rifle? Well, that largely depends on what kind of shooting you plan on doing. Target shooting? Home defense? Hunting? There are ideal cartridges for all of these applications.

Before we start talking about ammo, let’s briefly touch on the differences between 5.56×45 and .223 Rem. The vast majority of AR-15s can fire both, but that comes with a caveat.

5.56×45 vs. 223 Rem: What’s the Difference?

Let’s not get too bogged down in cartridge specifications and technicalities here. In short, 5.56 and .223 cartridges share virtually identical physical dimensions. If you placed the two next to one another, you’d be hard-pressed to tell which is which without looking at their headstamps.

The major difference between the two rounds is one you can’t see: The 5.56 is loaded to generate a slightly higher chamber pressure. This basically means the 5.56 round produces a more powerful explosion than the .223 during ignition.

What does this mean? Only that a firearm chambered for 5.56 can also safely fire .223, as it is more than capable of absorbing the slightly weaker round’s chamber pressure. But the opposite is not true. A firearm chambered for .223 can become badly damaged by firing 5.56 ammo.

This isn’t a big problem for AR-15 owners, as their rifles nearly certainly have more versatile 5.56 chambers. On a final note, look into the .223 Wylde chamber if you are able. It is similarly designed to fire both 5.56 and .223 ammo safely, but its internal geometry is better optimized to give both cartridges their best accuracy.

Best AR-15 Ammo for Target Shooting

Targets aren’t going to fight back. While you would ideally avoid failures to feed and extract while you’re doing your thing at the rifle range, a dud isn’t going to compromise your safety. A squib load can hurt you, however, as it will deposit a bullet in your barrel to cause the next shot to blow up your rifle, but the point we’re getting at is this: You’re allowed to buy cheap ammo for the rifle range.

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)

The FMJ is the simplest bullet design for a semi-automatic firearm. This bullet has a solid lead core and gilding metal jacket, and will feed smoothly, prevent excessive barrel fouling, and maintain a flat, accurate trajectory throughout its effective range.

Not all FMJ bullets are created equal. Many cartridges (mostly steel-cased ones from Russia) are loaded with bullets that have bimetal jackets. Bimetal jacketed bullets are functionally identical to regular FMJs. Their jackets are made of cost-effective steel with a thin copper wash coating on the exterior. The main shortcoming with bimetal jacketed bullets is that they have a higher chance of creating sparks or a ricochet, as well as damaging range equipment. This is why several commercial ranges ban “magnetic” ammunition.

You may encounter M193 ammunition during your search for FMJ ammo. This is a military designation and simply means the cartridge has a 55-grain FMJ loaded to a muzzle velocity around 3,240 feet per second (fps). Like all FMJs, the M193 round’s bullet is not designed to expand as it penetrates soft tissue. That said, it will likely fragment into three or more pieces of shrapnel following impact at 2,500 fps or faster, which does make its terminal ballistics more effective for personal protection.

You may also encounter M855 ammunition. This is also an FMJ cartridge, but its 62-grain bullet is not magnetic because it has a bimetal jacket. The M855 bullet’s jacket conceals a seven-grain steel “penetrator” tip, which enables it to pass through sheet metal and other obstinate barriers. The M855 round’s combat applications are self-evident, but you may also use it for target shooting. Just take care that it will damage a steel target!

Frangible

Frangible bullets are essentially made of compressed non-lead metal powders including tin and copper. When a frangible bullet strikes a surface harder than itself, it will instantly disintegrate. This makes target shooting safer as the frangible bullet virtually eliminates the chance of a dangerous ricochet or splash-back. Lead-free frangible bullets also keep an indoor range’s air much healthier to breathe.

Some people use frangible bullets for home defense. They do so because frangible bullets are less likely to pass through several walls to jeopardize an innocent bystander. Adopt this home defense strategy with a grain of salt, though – a frangible bullet can still punch through a human-sized target and several layers of wallboard.

Boat Tail Hollow Point (BTHP)/Open Tip

BTHP and open tip bullets may superficially resemble the kinds of hollow point projectiles you would use for self-defense with a handgun, but they are in fact not designed to deliver terminal expansion within soft tissue (with a few exceptions, such as the Berger Hybrid Hunter). These bullets’ nose cavities exist because their lead cores were poured into place while they were still molten. As the result of their form-fitted cores, these bullets boast superior rotational stability.

BTHP and open tip bullets are favored for long-range target shooting. Their balanced cores promote greater accuracy, as do their ballistically efficient boat tails (which help the bullet retain more velocity throughout its trajectory so it can fly flatter and resist wind deflection). These bullets are generally manufactured according to a higher standard than regular FMJ bullets.

Best AR-15 Ammo for Home Defense

To be very certain, any target shooting cartridge is capable of quickly neutralizing a human-sized threat. An FMJ bullet may not expand, but at the end of the day, a sharp piece of copper-coated lead traveling at nearly three times the speed of sound cannot do any favors to its target.

That said, there are better solutions for self-defense than FMJ, BTHP, or frangible bullets. You would ideally have terminal expansion – in which the bullet widens inside of its target – for three reasons:

  1. An expanding bullet gouges a wider wound channel into its target to inflict greater damage.
  2. An expanding bullet exerts more of its energy in lateral directions instead of only forward, which similarly inflicts greater damage.
  3. An expanding bullet is less likely to pass through its target, thus reducing the chance of collateral damage (i.e. hitting an innocent bystander).

Soft Point (SP)

SPs are the most popular self-defense projectiles for AR-15 rifles. The SP’s jacket stops just short of covering its lead core at the tip. This enables the pliant lead core to flatten down throughout penetration, taking on a mushroom shape in the process.

Higher quality SP bullets will have bonded jackets. Bonding helps to prevent the SP’s jacket and core from separating from one another. As the result, the SP retains more of its mass as it tunnels into its target, which in turn preserves the momentum the bullet needs to penetrate deeply.

SP bullets may be marketed for deer hunting instead of self-defense. These projectiles are absolutely suitable for defending your homestead, however, as the terminal performance which fells a deer is by all means powerful enough to neutralize a tenacious threat.

Note that an SP bullet may also be called a jacketed soft point (JSP). For all intents and purposes, it is the same type of projectile.

Polymer Tip

Although some polymer tip bullets are strictly designed for long-range target shooting, polymer tip 5.56/223 rounds are virtually exclusively intended for hunting or self-defense. When a polymer tip bullet that is designed for self-defense plunges into soft tissue, its tip smashes into its lead core’s concealed nose cavity to force the bullet to spread outward in a rapid display of terminal expansion.

A caveat about polymer tip bullets: Even if they are designed for hunting, they may not necessarily be ideal for personal protection. A polymer tip varmint hunting bullet is designed to expand and/or explode in a flurry of shrapnel the instant following impact. This makes its terminal ballistics extremely deadly to rodents and other small game, but also makes it unable to reliably penetrate to the depth where a human-sized threat’s vital organs are stored.

Best AR-15 Ammo for Hunting

The important question here is what kind of hunting you want to do: varmint (and possibly predator), or whitetail. Small game is best hunted with bullets that expand very quickly, whereas medium-sized game demands significantly deeper penetration to ensure a fast, humane kill.

Varmint: Polymer Tip or JHP

You can go varmint hunting with any kind of bullet. A ground squirrel, which weighs about a pound, is absolutely going to die when an FMJ hits it. But you can do better by selecting hunting ammo that is specifically marketed for varmints.

Whether it’s a polymer tip bullet that’s designed for virtually instantaneous expansion following impact (such as the Hornady V-MAX or Barnes Varmint Grenade) or a JHP (such as the Speer TNT Green) that is similarly optimized for fast terminal expansion, it’s an excellent choice for varmint hunting. You may also look for ammo that’s optimized to deliver superior accuracy because hitting so small a target at long range can be quite difficult.

Deer: Soft Point (SP) or Polymer Tip

For deer hunting, you would be well advised to pick an expanding bullet. A 5.56 or 223 cartridge is relatively weak as far as deer hunting is concerned, so terminal expansion will help to drop so rugged an animal that much faster. Furthermore, many jurisdictions require expanding bullets during deer season for ethical reasons.

SP bullets are excellent for deer hunting. Winchester’s Power Point and Remington’s Core-Lokt are the two most popular brand name deer hunting bullets in America, and both are available loaded in 5.56 cartridges. Federal Premium’s Fusion SP bullet, which has the bonded jacket and core which together promote deeper penetration, is also exceptional.

SP bullets that are marketed for self-defense, such as Speer’s Gold Dot, also deliver deadly enough terminal ballistics within their target to make them suitable for deer hunting. A generic SP is also perfectly acceptable for deer hunting. The bullet’s design may be simple, but it hasn’t stuck around for so many decades because it is ineffective.

Several polymer tip bullets for deer hunting are also available, such as the Barnes TTSX. When selecting a polymer tip bullet for deer hunting, just make sure it’s not designed for varmint hunting for the aforementioned reason: It will not penetrate to the ideal depth to kill medium-sized game quickly.

A Final Note

Most people aren’t going to use their AR-15 rifles for hunting. They’re considered less than ideal for deer anyway. If you purchased your AR-15 for home defense only, then here’s my advice: Buy enough good self-defense ammo to fill at least one magazine. That will prepare you for a home intruder or some other unfortunate circumstance which a rifle is equipped to handle. You would ideally get enough specialized self-defense ammo to do a little target shooting as well, just so you can familiarize yourself with its unique performance.

Once you’ve got self-defense ammo covered, keep at least one 1,000-round case of FMJ ammo somewhere dark, dry and temperature-stable. Certainly buy more if you intend to fire it during target practice, but a single case of FMJ ammo won’t take up much space, is much more affordable than specialized self-defense ammo, and is still plenty capable of neutralizing threats during a prolonged or catastrophic emergency.

But more ammo is indeed always better as far as prepping is concerned. Lots of folks would tell you 1,000 rounds won’t get you far if the you-know-what really hits the fan – or during a global pandemic that causes an ammo shortage.

The Best .45 ACP Ammo for Range Training

The .45 ACP is perhaps the most iconic of all pistols on the market today. It was designed by firearms legend John M. Browning for Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company in 1905. The round was tested over a period of six years alongside the Colt M1911 pistol. Both excelled during strict military testing and were quickly adopted by the U.S. military as a standard issue equipment, replacing the .38 Long Colt. The M1911 is the longest-standing military and  law enforcement handgun in the world.

The .45 ACP was immediately lauded as the best ammo on the market and was also chosen by the U.S. Cavalry and the U.S. Army. The military used .45 ACP handguns as official sidearms throughout WWI and WWII. They were issued until they were replaced by 9mm semi-autos in 1985.

The .45 ACP has had a regular presence in the history books. It was used in many military conflicts including Iwo Jima, Normandy, Korea, and the Tet Offensive. It was used extensively at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and was a favorite of outlaws Bonnie & Clyde and John Dillinger.

The .45 ACP on the Shooting Range

The .45 ACP is a favorite for range training with amateurs as well as competition shooters. Known for its high accuracy and deep penetration, the .45 ACP is known as a high performance round. It is also preferred by those that like to reload their ammunition or create wildcat rounds, loading their own ammo instead of relying on factory rounds.

Choosing Ammunition

Range training generally has its own set of rules, just like competitions. While governing bodies of most shooting competitions will not recommend specific types or brands of ammunition, they do have guidelines. When choosing ammo for the range, it is best to seek the advice of someone who is accustomed to shooting your specific ammo. Have fun  target shooting with different guns as well as a variety of ammo.

Reliability

Shooters require reliable rounds, so choosing the right ammo for your gun is crucial. Try shooting various bullet weights and brands.

Consistency

Consistency is another important aspect of choosing the correct ammo. Range training is the perfect place to test different types of .45 ACP ammo to gauge what will work best for you and your gun.

Cost

Shooters who spend a significant amount of time on the range can go through hundreds of rounds in a short period of time. Buying ammo online is an easy way to save money. Also consider trying different brands or sampling bulk or surplus ammo. Serious shooters may want to consider reloading rounds.

Testing .45 ACP Ammo

The only way to test ammo is to shoot a couple hundred rounds. There are specific protocols used to test ammunition, even if you don’t feel the need to learn about each type’s ballistics. The data collected during this type of test will help you down the road with making the right choice for ammo, whether you’re a competition shooter, law enforcement, or target shooting on the weekend.

The following is common criteria for collecting ballistics data:

  • Shoot from 10 feet away, which is the average distance in defense situations.
  • Using 4 layers of heavy fabric in front of ballistics gel to simulate real life situations.
  • Ideal penetration is 12-18 inches, enough to do damage without the risk of over-penetration.
  • Make 5 shots with each brand of ammunition to establish an average.

Consider using a compact pistol with a smaller barrel, if you plan to carry concealed. However, a longer barrel will provide greater numbers for muzzle velocity. This information will help you to understand things like penetration and muzzle velocity, as well as how to compare different bullet weights and calibers.

The Best .45 ACP for Range Training

Federal Ammunition: American Eagle 230 Grain FMJ

Federal Ammunition is always at the top of the list for range training. It produces a 230-grain .45 ACP cartridge with a full metal jacket, non-magnetic lead core, and non-corrosive Boxer primer. The brass can be reloaded up to five times, which makes it an affordable choice. The American Eagle .45 ACP is Federal’s newest production ammo, featuring clean-burning powder and ballistics like Federal’s Premium Personal Defense rounds. It is an ideal for practice shooting purposes.

Federal American Eagle Non-Toxic Primer 45 ACP 230 Grain TMJ

Federal’s American Eagle line has a solid reputation for manufacturing quality ammo at a reasonable price. This 230-grain TMJ was made specifically for range training. TMJ bullets fully encase the lead core to include the base of the bullet. They primers are free from toxic metals. It has a muzzle velocity of 890 fps, which is similar to their 230-grain JHP loads. It’s a great product to carry in your range bag.

Federal Classic Hydra–Shok Persona Defense

This 230-grain round has been on the market for a long time. The bullet is made with a central lead post to aid in jacket expansion while keeping the bullet intact. This allows the bullet to give consistent performance and is preferred by agencies like the FBI.

Federal Ammunition Personal Defense

Federal Ammunition Company produces a 230 grain jacketed hollow point (JHP). It is often called the best large caliber for self-defense regarding to accuracy, precision, and penetration while maintaining close to 100% weight retention.

Hornady Ammunition Duty Defense JHP

Hornady manufactures this 220-grain, .45 ACP +P ammo is an FTX that offers ultimate stopping power. It has similar characteristics of Hornady’s cartridges, offering accuracy, precision, and penetration with maximum expansion.

Magtech Ammunition FMC

Magtech Ammunition has been manufacturing ammo since 1926. They produce all components used in their ammo including the powder, primer, and projectiles. The company’s strict quality standards ensure this 230-grain round will be reliable. Magtech’s reputation and high quality ammo have put them at the forefront of the industry.

Speer Ammunition Gold Dot JHP

Speer’s Gold Dot has an outstanding reputation for delivering clean products. This 230-grain jacketed hollow point (JHP) is an accurate round that gives controlled penetration that’s powerful enough to stop any threat.

Winchester Service Grade .45 ACP 230 Grain FMJ

Winchester is one of the oldest manufacturers in the country for good reason – they consistently deliver quality ammunition. Winchester Service Grade 230-grain FMJ is intended for those who spend a lot of time at the range and demand a reliable, clean-burning target ammo. They use new brass and Boxer primer to offer a highly accurate round to last you through your time at the range or throughout the competition.

Conclusion

Target shooting and range training are activities that can help you improve your skills while having fun with friends and family. Knowing which ammunition to use only enhances the experience as you hit the bullseye each time. To learn more about the .45 ACP check out this guide on “The Best .45 ACP Ammo For Self-Defense, Target Shooting, and More.”

Best Hunting Ammo

Best Hunting Ammo 

Hunters choose their ammunition for the same reason as other seasoned shooters; they know what works and you’re not going to change their minds. Hunting enthusiasts use the .30-06 more than any other firearm, although the market has plenty of other weapons to choose from including handguns and ARs.

Types of Cartridges

Some shooters say that choosing your bullet is even more important than choosing your gun. Old school or high tech weapons won’t do anything without the right type of bullet.

Buyers pick Speer, Winchester, Federal, Hornady, and Remington cartridges more than any other. The cartridge will keep about 50 percent of its weight, but will drop off with high impact velocity. Many call this type the “standard” hunting bullet, i.e., the most common.

The second type is a bonded, plastic-tipped boat tail. If the bullet is bonded, the jacket and core are bonded together, creating excellent ballistics. The round will keep 65 percent – 80 percent of the initial weight regardless of impact velocity. Hornady Interbond, Swift Scirocco, Speer Grand Slam, Nosler Accubond, and Nosler Partition offer the best rounds in this category.

The third type is designed for bolt-action rifles. Bear hunters prefer the reliability of a bolt-action rifle with a round that will make a sure kill. Experts like the .338 Remington Ultra Magnum, .338 Winchester Magnum,.338 Federal Premium, .340 Weatherby Magnum, and .375 H&H.

The fourth type includes deep penetrating rounds. The ammo doesn’t have quick expansion, but they keep 80 percent – 100 percent of their original weight, despite high impact velocity. Barnes X, Swift A-Frame, Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, and the Winchester Failsafe offer the most popular rounds in this category.

Buying Hunting Ammo Online

You can buy hunting ammo online to save money, especially if you plan to be out in the field a lot.  Hunters find ammo for every type of prey from whitetail to elk to bear to small game.

Top Picks:

Hornady® Superformance™ Rifle Ammunition

Hornady uses an innovative powder blend that yields an additional 200 fps from a Superformance round. It results in a flatter trajectory, reduced wind drift, and superior accuracy.

Remington® Premier® Core-Lokt® Ultra Ammunition

Premier Core-Lokt ammunition does the job for taking holds its own when confronting a bear. It offers excellent penetration, retained energy, and high accuracy. The round retains 95 percent of its original weight and gives expansion two times the original diameter. It’s rated for terminal performance up to 500 yards.

Nosler Partition

Nosler is a good all-around bullet. It lacks high accuracy compared to some but has high terminal performance.

Federal Premium Trophy Bonded Tip Rifle Ammunition

Vital-Shok line is modeled after the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw® cartridge but gives increased performance. The polymer-tipped, boat-tail cartridge has downrange accuracy, and the solid copper shank has reliable penetration.

Conclusion

Experts know that almost any type of ammo will work well if you’re a good shot, but it doesn’t hurt to start off with the best.

 

 

Best Ammo for Competition Shooting

 

Best Ammo for Competition

Competition shooters use a variety of ammunition to achieve the best possible score. Regulations for competitive matches do not specify what ammunition should be used. Long time competitors and serious firearms enthusiasts use wildcat rounds, loading their ammo rather than relying on factory brands. However, novices shoot factory ammo most often, as it is less expensive. Others prefer factory ammo because of the reliability.

Choosing Ammunition

The governing bodies of shooting competitions do not recommend specific brands of ammunition, but they do have guidelines. Shooters may reload their ammunition or use factory brands. However, experts give recommendations to newcomers on choosing the right ammo for the right match. Seasoned shooters have preferences as to the caliber they shoot, so it is wise to ask several different people for advice. A 9mm enthusiast won’t give good intel on shooting a .357 Magnum, just as a fan of a .45 ACP probably won’t have an opinion on the best .22 LR.

Compatibility

Guns deliver ammo in different ways, so it’s important to find ammo that is compatible with your gun. Shooters use different guns for different competitions, so it’s likely that the ammo will change as well. Experts show newcomers the importance of finding ammo that their guns like, meaning that they will perform as expected without misfires or jams.

Reliability

Shooters rely on their guns and ammo to perform every time, so reliability is a crucial part of choosing the right ammo. Competitors dealing with misfires and other issues get distracted and could possibly lose the match. Besides, using an unreliable tool is an annoyance.

Consistency

Consistency goes hand in hand with reliability. Competitors need a round that will perform correctly, not only the first time, but every time. The ammo must fire properly and maintain accuracy throughout each shot and each round if the shooter has any hope of winning. Smart shooters pay attention to grain as a way of gauging a consistent and accurate round.

Accuracy

A gun determines its accuracy. This means that a gun with a heavy recoil tends to be less accurate than a lighter gun since it can throw off your aim. Competition shooting is about hitting the target, not taking down an assailant. For that reason, choosing a smaller caliber, such as a .22 LR or 9mm may deliver the best results in certain categories.

Cost

Competition shooting requires many hours of range practice. Therefore, shooters use a massive amount of ammo. Buying ammo in bulk is the best way to go to reduce cost. Competitors using large calibers find that buying bulk or surplus ammo can save a great deal of money. Wildcatters also have an advantage if they are able to buy their supplies at a discount price.

Seeking Advice

New competitors often seek advice from seasoned shooters on the range or at competitions. Old timers are happy to share their experiences, including what ammo might work best for your particular event.

 

 

 

Rocking the .38 Special

.38 Special ammo remains popular

Smith & Wesson Introduced .38 Special ammo in 1898. S&W designed the centerfire cartridge as an alternative to its .38 Long Colt. The military had used the Long Colt as a service cartridge, but complained that it lacked stopping power in battle. Law enforcement officers from the 1920s up until 1990s, used the .38 Special as a standard issue service cartridge. WWI soldiers carried the round into combat. The revolvers and ammunition faded from every day use, but remain the symbol of the law.

Shooters buy .38 Special rounds frequently for competition shooting, pest control, target practice, and self-defense. Most opt for a full metal jacket round for plinking or range training while jacketed hollow point rounds are chosen for self-defense and personal protection.

Military Use

The U.S. Army used the .38 Long Colt as a standard issue sidearm from 1892 – 1911. However, as the M1892 progressed, the military said that the round was no longer effective. They complained that it performed poorly during the Spanish-American War as well as the Philippine Insurrection. Soldiers said the ammo wasn’t accurate, nor did it have adequate stopping power.

Smith & Wesson produced the .38 Special Military and Police revolver in 1902, which quickly gained recognition among troops and civilians.

In 1909, Colt also introduced a revolver chambered in .38 Special ammo. The gun compared to the .38 S&W Special, however, Colt’s firearm had the flat-pointed bullet design.

The Colt Detective Special

John Henry Fitzgerald, an employee at Colt, designed the “Fitz Special” in the mid-1920s. Fitzgerald’s snubnosed revolver was a pared down version of the .38 Special Police Positive Special. He believed that reducing the barrel size would make it easier for law enforcement officers to carry concealed. He shortened the ejector rod and removed the front of the trigger guard. Fitzgerald shortened the ejector rod, removed the trigger guard, and changed out the hammer spur so it could be a faster draw. Colt made some alterations to the design of the Fitz Special and rebranded it as the Colt Detective Special. Since its release in 1927, the six-shot revolver has been called the most iconic snubnosed revolver in firearms history.

Self-Defense

People choose the .38 Special as a standard for self-defense purposes. Police officers carried lead-nosed rounds, dubbing the ammo “.38 Special Police.” It is known for deep penetration and causing extreme damage to its target. Shooters choose the .38 Special for concealed carry when use with snubnose revolvers. The small size is easy to conceal in a purse, jacket, or in an ankle holster.

Target Shooting

Competition and target shooters purchase full metal jacket bullets as a preferred round, followed by hollow point. Likewise, when range training, the FMJ is the preferred choice as it doesn’t expand when impacting a soft target. Target shooters choose the ammo for its economical price and aren’t dissuaded by the less than perfect performance.

Experts train novice shooters with .38 Special ammo because of the ease of use, low noise, and low recoil.

.380 for Self-Defense

.380 is a popular off duty weapon for police.

People who carry concealed for self-defense often choose larger calibers for their stopping power. The .380 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) remains one of the most popular rounds on the market. Shooters prefer the round because it is lightweight and easy to carry with minimal recoil and muzzle blast. Police officers often carry a .380 as a backup weapon. Hobbyists and competition shooters choose the ammo for backyard shooting, competition and plinking.

 Development of .380 Ammo

John Moses Browning created .380 ammunition for the Colt Model 1908 Pocket Pistol in 1908. Browning designed the ammo after the .38 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) cartridge, which was made for blowback pistols. The military used .380 ACP ammo until it was replaced with the 9mm.

In 1912, .380 ACP ammo was introduced in Belgium, where it was named the “9mm Browning Short.” Military forces used the round throughout World War II until many replaced it with the more popular 9mm cartridge.

Other names for .380 ACP cartridges  include 9mm Browning, 9mm Browning Court, .380 Auto, 9mm Short, 9mm Corto, 9mm Kurz, and 9×17mm. The .380 Auto should not be confused with .38 ACP.

The .380 Auto for Self-Defense

People looking for a self-defense weapon may choose the .380 ACP for its accuracy. The round has a moderate recoil and muzzle blast which works well for novice shooters. The round feeds easily and the guns chambered for this round are dependable. The ammunition is better than the .32 Auto, especially when it comes to stopping power. As a result, the .380 ACP has become the standard minimum chambering for law enforcement, military and self-defense use.

The popularization of the 9mm caused a decrease in sales for the .380 ACP until the mid-2000s, when the demand increased for lightweight pistols suitable for carrying concealed. Manufacturers have responded to the demand for weapons chambered in .380 ACP and have also begun to mass produce the ammo to be sold in bulk. The mass production allows consumers to buy .380 rounds for less money at retail sites as well as through online markets.

Stopping Power

The stopping power of .380  ammo is sufficient to stop a threat.  Some experts dismiss the round because it is smaller and less effective than larger handgun calibers. For example, the 9mm has more firepower, but the performance isn’t much different. The .380 round performs like a .45 cartridge rather than the .32 ACP, which is closer to its size.

While the cartridge may be weaker than larger calibers, the lower recoil is a benefit to novice users since the gun is easier to fire. The shooter also has less recovery time and can fire faster, which means a great deal when the shooter is acquiring a target. Manufacturers continue to chamber handguns for the .380 ACP, including subcompact models that are ideal for concealed carry.

 

9mm: America’s Most Popular Ammo

9mm handgun

Designed by DWM weapons designer, Georg Luger, the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge was introduced in 1902. Luger designed the round as a service cartridge for the DWM Luger semi-automatic pistol known as the Pistole Parabellum, more commonly known as the Luger.

The cartridge was compact and accurate, an improvement over previous ammo which was heavy. Pistols chambered for 9mm ammo held more cartridges than previous models, and they were highly accurate, surprising for its small size. Luger intended for the round to be lethal at 50 meters.

Alternate Names

  • 9mm Luger
  • 9mm Parabellum
  • 9x19mm Parabellum
  • 9mm NATO
  • 9-millimeter
  • 9mm
  • 9mm Para
  • 9mm P

Law Enforcement and Military

When World War I occurred, the military introduced submachine guns. Chambered for 9mm ammo, the guns were able to penetrate field gear, an essential part of eliminating the enemy. The submachine guns were fully automatic, and magazine-fed, firing up to 900 rounds per minute.

In 1935, the Browning Hi-Power was introduced. The gun played a large part in World War II, and therefore, 9mm ammo became widespread. Not long after the war, law enforcement agencies adopted the cartridge, replacing the .38, a standard issue sidearm. Civilians followed suit, using the 9mm for self-defense due to its size, weight, and low recoil.

Other milestones include:

  • In 1955,  NATO adopted the 9mm Parabellum as their official sidearm round.
  • The U.S. Military replaced the .45 ACP with the 9mm as their standard cartridge.
  • Law enforcement agencies, including the NYPD and LAPD, adopted the 9mm cartridge.
  • In the 1990s, many civilians replaced .38 Special and .357 Magnum handguns in favor of 9mm semi-automatic pistols. Being able to buy cheap 9mm ammo has encouraged users to keep up the trend.
  • In 2014, The Federal Bureau of Investigation returned to 9mm ammo after graduating to 10mm cartridges.

Police cite the following reasons for their preference:

  • Shootability: High accuracy, easier to shoot, low recoil.
  • Selection: The selection of pistols is vast. Many law enforcement agencies allow their officers to select their choice of guns chambered in the cartridge.
  • Longevity: Less wear and tear on the firearm. 9mm pistols will fire as many as 100,000 rounds.
  • Increased Capacity: Most 9mm duty pistols have a capacity of 17 rounds; extended magazines can hold 20 rounds or more.
  • Reliability: They are the most reliable handguns.
  • Ammo variety: Ammo has many variations and is easy to obtain.
  • Cost: Low-cost ammo, especially when buying in bulk.

Over 60% of police forces in the U.S. use 9×19mm Parabellum pistols.

9mm Ammo Design

The 9mm cartridge is a well-known handgun cartridge. However, it has reinvented itself over the last century. Pocket pistols, full-size handguns, revolvers, and submachine guns, among others all use this cartridge.

The 9x19mm Parabellum measures 9mm in diameter; its tapered case measures 19mm in length. Derived from Latin, the name “Parabellum” comes from DWM’s motto, “Si vis pacem, para bellum,” which means “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

Self-Defense Ammo

The ammo is often chosen for self-defense purposes due to its lightweight and mild recoil. Women and novice shooters tend to prefer it over a .45 caliber weapon. The FBI has run field tests to dispel the myth that the load doesn’t have the same stopping power as a .40 or .45 caliber firearm. In combat, proper shot placement proves that the 9mm is equally lethal.

Civilians prefer the caliber for its excellent control and accuracy. Gun owners tout the ease of  carrying concealed with a subcompact gun.

With the wide variety of uses and easy access to bulk 9mm ammo, the round is sure to remain popular for many years to come.