purpose of this guide is to relay information which may assist the law
abiding citizen select the best ammunition for a defensive firearm.
"Best" is a very elusive attribute, and any recommendations given
should be viewed in the context of the gun owner's personal knowledge and
data regarding one shot stopping capability of a particular cartridge have
contributed to the formulation of the ammunition performance
recommendations. Such information is derived
primarily from the real world shooting experiences of law enforcement
"One shot stop" refers to a cartridge's ability to
make an aggressor immediately cease their threatening behavior when shot once in
the torso. Head,
neck, and multiple shootings are not considered in the data. "One shot stop" does not necessarily infer that a mortal wound was
inflicted. It merely means that the shooting created physical injury or
psychological trauma sufficient
to result in cessation of aggressive or violent behavior. Death may or may
not have resulted.
addition to "one shot stop" statistics, keep in mind that a bullet
striking the torso of one's adversary ideally must penetrate deeply enough to
encounter and disrupt vital organs, arteries and blood vessels.
Penetration, indeed, is paramount.
enforcement agencies continually seek to identify "best" calibers,
brands and types ammunition by conducting firearms workshops which attempt to
recreate real world shooting environments. Some workshop data on bullet
penetration can be accessed on-line. An ammunition manufacturer's website,
such as Speer's, can be a helpful resource in this regard, particularly if data
lend credence to a company's product marketing program.
will find that the penetration characteristics of various bullet calibers
complement the "stopping" information obtained from actual shootings.
Penetration data are largely developed from shots fired into a ballistic gelatin
designed to approximate bodily tissue. Such data also serve as the basis
for the recommendations which follow regarding ammunition for personal
be overstated that proper shot placement under stress is the single most important skill brought to
bear in a self defense situation. Proper shot placement involves shooting
the attacker in the head, the cervical spine, or the torso.
A head or
spinal neck shot will immediately incapacitate. The goal of a torso shot
is to produce hemorrhage by rupturing the heart or any of the major blood
vessels. This will result in relatively quick cessation of
hostilities. Forced collapse from blood loss will take several seconds to
occur, even when primary blood vessels such as the aorta or vena cava have been
destroyed. When the blood supply is disrupted in this manner, the brain of
one's assailant is deprived of oxygen needed for conscious
organs and cardiovascular structures reside deep within the human body.
Hence, in addition to proper shot placement, one must possess a caliber of
bullet capable of reaching them. Under favorable conditions, 6 to 8 inches of
penetration will incapacitate an assailant. As a degree of
insurance, the bullet should be capable of plowing through tissue into the
attacker's bodily core from any angle of engagement, considering that vitals may
be obstructed by an arm, extremely heavy clothing, or large body mass.
reason, ten to twelve inches of penetration potential is regarded to be the
acceptable minimum for a caliber chosen for self defense. Fifteen is
considered by the FBI to be the
maximum, considering the danger to innocent bystanders represented by a stray
bullet which exits the assailant's body. "Over kill" is
unnecessary. One gains little from enduring the blast , recoil, and
potential loss of control necessary for accurate follow up shots that are
associated with excessively large "hunting" calibers.
identical conditions of shot placement, a larger caliber bullet with a
penetration of 10 to 12 inches will inflict more damage to an attacker's vital
organs and structures than will a smaller caliber bullet capable of the same
mind, however, that disabling hits from a small caliber
firearm, inflicted with deliberate accuracy by the intended victim, will
devastate an unskilled, erratic attacker possessing a more powerful weapon.
Mentally review and practice the "double tap" drill: two quick shots to the
chest in rapid succession. Follow up with a shot to the head if
hostilities haven't abated.
Be aware that people can move very quickly, covering in excess of twenty feet within
one and one-half seconds. In any event, be sure to fire multiple shots at
Tactics and marksmanship will save lives of potential victims
and diffuse or terminate violent encounters. Using the "best"
cartridge for one's caliber of firearm merely gives the armed citizen a
technological edge in any defensive situation.
compared to rifles and shotguns, handguns are not the most potent form of self
protection. In fact, the vast majority of people shot with handguns, in
excess of 80 percent, survive. Hence, seek to incapacitate an attacker
with a combination of skilled shot placement and proven ammunition.
You are encouraged to visit the Armory munitions room "Self
Defense" to review the physiology and psychology that deters an assailant
when shot by the intended victim.
For recommendations regarding the
"best" ammunition to use for self defense or hunting, follow the links
below or in the navigation bar on the side of the page.
is a good idea to actually put into practice the concepts embodied in the
motto "be prepared". This means possessing adequate
ammunition before the need arises. For a shotgun, in addition to acquiring at
least 100 rounds of your favorite buck shot load, consider picking up
four to six boxes (20-30 shells) of rifled slugs. While not
an arsenal by any standard, this inventory will command respect should
the need arise during riot or civil unrest.
handguns and rifles, most "preppers" will work towards assembling a
cache of at least 1,000 rounds for each firearm. Remember, those zombies
don't come wandering in one at a time. They come in hoards!
ammunition in a cool, dry place that is protected from direct exposure to
sunlight. Military surplus ammo cans are handy for storage, especially the
30- and 50-caliber size. When full, the 50-caliber can will weigh in at
approximately 40 to 50 pounds, so it won't be too heavy to lug around. The
50-caliber size has a good capacity and stacks nicely. To maintain the
integrity of the lid to seal, try to find cans that aren't dented.
Cosmetically, surplus ammo cans tend to be dirty and greasy. This isn't
much of a problem: just remove the lid and run both can and lid through the
dishwasher! Let them dry thoroughly before using.
up those little silica gel desiccant packets that come in almost everything one buys these
days. You know, the packets that advise you "not to eat" (as if
finding one with the purse, tool belt, or electronic device you just purchased is going to
bring on inexplicable hunger pangs!). They can be reused after heating
them in a conventional oven for a couple of hours. Place on an aluminum
foil covered cookie sheet and dry at approximately 200 degrees F. Make
sure they don't catch fire. Allow them to cool. Store them in a
resealable plastic baggie for later use. When storing ammunition, add a few to
the ammo can before you close it up. Of course, you can just buy new
silica gel packets instead of "recycling" old ones.
manufacturers consider properly stored ammunition to have a
10-year shelf life. The experience here at the Armory suggests that this
time frame is probably reasonable with regard to rim fired ammunition. It
is extremely conservative for center fired cartridges.
stored correctly, center fired ammunition will very likely still be reliable
after 50 years. During the Cold War, the U.S. purchased, manufactured and stockpiled
massive amounts of munitions that date back all the way to the 1950's.
This buildup consisted of both conventional and nuclear weaponry.
he U.S. Army Depot at Hawthorne, Nevada stores a vast array of conventional
explosives, and tests everything from grenades to artillery shells on a regular
basis. One malfunction or "dud" is grounds for condemning and
demilitarizing the entire lot it came from. Fine quality .50 caliber
machine gun ammunition manufactured in the 1950's has been routinely shipped out of
Hawthorne to the Armed Services, and found
prolific use in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.