The Best Personal Defense Ammunition for Handguns, Rifles, and Shotguns

The best ammunition for handguns, rifles, and shotguns is not precise. Many factors can affect the best self-defense ammo type for your protection, including caliber size, barrel length, the weight of the bullet, muzzle velocity, and even projectile design. To assist you in determining which weapon is ideal for you, we’ve put up a list of our favorite ammunition types and weapons combinations to match your needs, no matter what gun or ammo you select.

The Best Personal-Defense Handgun Cartridges and Loads for You

Speer Gold Dot Personal Protection – Federal Magnum with 100-grain Gold Dot

The 100-grain Gold Dot from a .327 Federal Magnum is one of the most underappreciated and best-performing defensive rounds for a revolver. It epitomizes the word wickedness, as it’s jam-proof as well as being wickedly powerful.

This load will consistently penetrate 15 inches and deform with a more than half-inch frontal diameter across in 10-percent ordnance gelatin. And it does so while producing less recoil than comparable .357 Magnum cartridges. There aren’t a lot of .327 Federal Magnum revolvers to select from, but the excellent six-shot, 17-ounce Ruger LCR doesn’t require many options. The 20-round box costs $30.99.

Remington USP Tactical 9mm luger – Remington USP Ultimate Defense Full Size Handgun with a 124-grain +P load

Although some people think the latter is superior, the 9mm Luger is most commonly fired with a 115- or 147-grain projectile. The truth, like with many things in life, is in the middle. The Remington 9mm 124-grain +P Ultimate Defense Full Size Handgun load uses the Golden Saber bullet. According to some experts, it has a muzzle speed of around 1100 feet per second from most mid-size handguns and provides optimal terminal performance. 

The load that all 9mm defensive rounds should be compared to is the M-COR. This is the ultimate test for any 9mm defensive round. The Ultimate Defense Compact load is intended to expand to a depth of around 15 inches, expanding to roughly 1.8 times its original diameter, by National Institute of Justice specifications. If you possess an ultra-compact 9mm pistol, the Ultimate Defense Compact load will perform very effectively. Both are priced at $23.20 per box of 20 rounds.

Federal Premium 230-grain Personal Defense HST – 9x19mm.45 ACP

Even if the debate about the most exemplary defensive handgun cartridge leads to anywhere, the.45 ACP cartridge will always be a discussion point. It’s difficult to overlook a bullet that will create a nearly one-inch-wide hole—even if it doesn’t mushroom. The Federal HST isn’t as expansion-prone as other high-velocity, hard-nosed bullets. This is one of the most efficient. This round was designed to enhance the performance of the 38 Special by expanding at impact velocities as low as 800 fps and using low-flash fuel that won’t interfere with your night vision. It doesn’t matter whether you pick .357 Magnum or .38 Special; this load is excellent in either case. For $31.68, you may get 20 rounds.

The .38 Super/ .357 Magnum – Buffalo Bore Heavy 125-grain +P LV JHP

Even in the age of semi-automatic handguns, revolvers are a viable option for personal defense, and no revolver cartridge has a better track record for neutralizing criminals than the.357 Magnum. Compact revolvers chambered for full power.357 Magnum ammo, on the other hand, has hefty recoil. This is one of the most OK .38 Special loads available. Engineered to optimize the performance of the 38 Special, this round will expand at impact velocities as low as 800 fps and uses a low-flash propellant to avoid affecting your night vision. Whether you choose .357 Magnum or .38 Special, it makes no difference; this is an excellent load. For $31.68, you may purchase 20 rounds.

.40 S&W – Hornady Critical Duty 175-grain JHP

The 9mm Luger, while not as popular as it once was, is still just as powerful. While the.40 S&W isn’t quite as popular as it used to be, it is a deadly round. Keep in mind that the .40 S&W was developed due to the FBI’s search for an ideal-duty pistol cartridge. A person who understands defensive guns will quickly understand why many .40 S&W defensive loads expand substantially. While this does create a horrible wound cavity, penetration is lost. The Hornady Critical Duty load takes away all of those concerns and should drive to between 14 and 16 inches, ballooning to at least 1.5 times its initial diameter. A 20-round box costs about $26 on the street.

The Best Personal-Defense Shotgun Ammunition and Shots

The Federal Personal Defense Force X2 is a 12 gauge.

The Federal Force X2 12-gauge shotgun comes with nine copper-plated 00 FX2 buckshot pellets. These aren’t your granddad’s buckshot pellets; each pellet has a slot cut into it that causes it to fracture almost immediately after impact, increasing the wound channels from nine to 18. The Force X2’s larger shot results in more pellets on target, which is why it outperforms smaller split pellets. The diameter of the splitting projectiles after they’ve split is greater than that of smaller shots, resulting in more particles on target. The 10-round box costs $23 and has less kick than the 15-round box.

Federal Personal Defense 00 Buck, 12 gauge

Many people who consider themselves tactical experts will say that bird or small game shotshells are unsuitable for self-defense. They’re incorrect. However, unless you can consistently hit the target with a standard shot, it may not perform well past 10 feet due to pattern spread and poor penetration. If you’re shooting at targets or hunting big game, there’s no doubt that you’ll need buckshot. The Flitecontrol wad in this load is what makes it so unique. It can hold a nine-pellet 00 Buck pattern outside 25 and even 30 yards, which is remarkable. For around $9 per five-round box, I think it’s a fantastic deal.

12 Gauge – Winchester PDX1 Defender

The disadvantage of shotshells, regardless of shot size, its range, and effectiveness at a distance. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll need to shoot in self-defense at a long distance, the necessity might still arise. The 12-gauge shotgun slug is one of the most powerful projectiles that can be fired from a handgun and reach 100 yards and beyond. The 1-ounce rifled slug and three plated 00 Buck pellets in this Winchester PDX1 Defender load provide an intriguing answer to the issue of buck or slug. It’s available in boxes of 10 for $18 with a suggested retail price tag.

3 Buck Managed Recoil 20 Gauge Remington Ultimate Defense

When it comes to self-defense, the 12-gauge shotgun is unquestionably the monarch. Its payload is so big that lesser gauges can’t compare to it. That does not, however, indicate that a 20-gauge shotgun will not deter an attacker. Remington’s Ultimate Defense load consists of 17 No. 3 buckshot pellets packed in it. In other words, 17 shots in the threat you’re fighting against (or whatever amount you calculate). The recoil of a 20-gauge shotgun is also significantly reduced than that of a 12-gauge. A five-round box costs $5.58 on the market.

.410 – Winchester 3-inch Defender

What about the .410? Is it possible to use it as a powerful self-defense weapon? With the appropriate ammo, yes, it can. Winchester offers a unique load for the .410 with a 3-inch shell loaded with four plated 0.40-caliber disks and 16 plated 0.17-inch BBs, and a muzzle velocity of around 750 ft/s. As later established by authorities, the culprit behind the fatal wounds was a 56-grain FMJ loading with a muzzle energy of over 500 foot-pounds. This load works in both shotguns and Taurus Judge revolvers, but it has less range. A 2 5″ shell loaded with three discs and 12 BBs is also available for sale at $18 per round.

The finest personal-defense rifle cartridges and loads

.223 Remington/5.56 NATO – Speer 62-grain Personal Protection Gold Dot

When it comes to rifles for self-defense, all rifle cartridges are effective if they’re appropriately loaded with the appropriate bullet. The most popular self-defense rifle cartridge is the.223 Remington/5.56 NATO, owing to the popularity of the AR-15 platform. The 5.56 NATO has a bad reputation among some shooters for delivering less-than-desirable outcomes in battle. But here’s the thing: the Speer 62-grain Gold Dot load is being avoided by military organizations. This gorgeous projectile will double in diameter and go through 16 inches of flesh. A 20-round box costs $26.

.300 Blackout – Hornady Black 110-grain V-Max

Although the suppressed .300 Blackout’s forte is subsonic fire, subsonic .300 Blackout loads are not optimal for personal protection because expansion is restricted and penetration may be high. That isn’t the case with this load. Pushing a 110-grain V-Max bullet at a speed of more than 2300 fps ensures that this projectile will violently expand and inflict significant internal damage. A popular choice among hunters, it also works well in bolt-action rifles. A .300 Winchester Magnum is capable of launching 250+ grains at 3,000 feet per second. -> Hornady Black ammunition is designed to function and cycle in direct impingement and gas piston weapons, whether suppressed or unsuppressed. For $25 per box of 20 rounds, you may get a box of this stuff; however, for $198.24, you can buy an ammo can with 200 rounds.

.30-30 Winchester – Federal 125-grain JHP

The .30-30 is not commonly regarded as a self-defense round. However, for many years, in many homes, a .30-30 lever rifle has been the all-purpose weapon of choice behind the door. A light rifle and an effective .30-30 caliber round are ideal for self-defense. The self-defense .30-30 Winchester cartridge has never been produced by a gunmaker, but any.30-30 Winchester load will cause significant damage to human predators. What you’re searching for is something that won’t spread as much collateral damage. The solution? Federal’s 125-grain JHP bullet. It violently expands and only goes about 14 inches deep. The suggested retail price of 20 rounds is $23.

.308 Winchester – Speer 150-grain Personal Protection Gold Dot

Let’s be clear about something: If you hit a bad guy with any load from a .308 Winchester, it will inflict an incalculable amount of damage. However, what you want is lethality without over-penetration while still allowing you to penetrate intermediate barriers and remain effective. The 150-grain Speer Gold Dot round will do all of that while also ensuring that the projectile will never go deeper than 20 inches—regardless of the barrier—and that it will almost always mushroom to at least double diameter. The suggested retail price is $31.

9mm Luger – Speer 124-grain Gold Dot

The 9mm Luger isn’t typically regarded as a rifle cartridge, but we’re seeing a rise in pistol caliber carbines like the Ruger PC Carbine for home defense. It’s a beautiful concept. Recoil and noise are considerably less than with comparable rifle cartridges, making it highly manageable. However, ammo choice is critical; 16-inch carbine barrels produce around 200 fps more velocity. It’s also essential to ensure that the bullets are strong enough to stay together after being struck. Speer’s 124-grain Gold Dot load, which is fine for handguns as well, generally expands to almost twice its original diameter and penetrates between 16 and 18 inches out of a pistol caliber carbine. A box of 20 costs $29.

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