If Your Life Depends On It

Which Box

The deeper I look into the selection of defensive ammo the less certain I am. At first it was easy; hollow point, not +P. But it seems there’s been a renaissance of new ammo loads lately and a lot of them make magical claims. The ideal round functions flawlessly, performs accurately, and somehow vaporizes the bad guy yet creates no blinding flash and cautiously doesn’t over penetrate. The ideal round does not exist.

Just as handgun selection is always a matter of compromise so is picking munitions. To gain in one direction you must give from another. That micro-compact is not going to have all the features and comforts of a full-size and you know that, so why expect it from ammunition? It seems as if manufacturers are betting that if they make the packaging flashy enough and charge you enough you won’t want to test more than a couple shots. After all who likes paying $2 for what looks like the same hole in the paper as the $0.20 shot?

With this in mind we set out to test some of the common and some of the exotic rounds available on the market today. Not every gun is the same and so we tested in both a 3.2” barrel and a 4” barrel as both are representative of most defensive guns. What difference could .8” make? A lot. Less barrel means less time for pressure to build resulting in a less stable bullet and less available energy to cycle the gun. Manufacturers do what they can with spring rates to keep them reliable with most range ammo, but the exotic stuff advertising nearly twice the velocity of normal ball and the stuff advertising reduced recoil achieves those things in different ways that may not result in enough energy to cycle the gun. Adding to the complexity is the reduced room for rifling. Either the rate has to be increased, or we take our chances on a bullet that hasn’t been guided as much before it leaves the gun. With so many factors it’s not a surprise that one manufacturer might have three or four different loads under the same name, but why they might have three or four different lines I do not understand. Is there really such a thing as budget defense? Would General Motors put lesser seatbelts in their Chevy Line than in their Buicks? Does a Lincoln have better airbags than a Ford?

To see tests released so far check the playlist here:


Keeping all of that in mind we tested with our own carry guns which happen to be from the same manufacturer and that helps reduce variables. The Walther P99 AS and Walther PPS. Recognizing that Walthers are not as popular as Glocks we used a Glock 19 for the gel test as its rifling and barrel length probably represent what a lot of people use for a defensive gun. This testing will be an ongoing series so check back with the playlist from time to time. If you have a particular brand you’d like to see, or if you’re a manufacturer send us a box and we’ll add it.

Which Round

                Loads in the test so far include:

Allegiance 70gr OneShot

Allegiance 90gr PowerStrike

 (clarkarmory.com/products/allegiance-9mm-powerstrike-ammunition )

ARX Inceptor 74gr

ARX Inceptor 80gr +P

Barnes 115gr +P TAC-XPD

( clarkarmory.com/products/barnes-bullets-9mm-tac-xpd-ammunition )

Colt Defender 115gr

Cutting Edge Bullets PHD 90gr

( clarkarmory.com/products/cutting-edge-bullets-9mm-personal-home-defense-ammunition )

DRT 85gr HP

( clarkarmory.com/products/drt-9mm-terminal-shock-ammunition )

Federal XM9001 115gr

Federal 115gr Hi-Shok

Federal 115gr JHP

Federal 115gr JHP (grey box)

Federal 115gr JHP (blue box)

Federal Premium GuardDog 105gr

Federal Premium 147gr Hydra Shok JHP

Fiocchi Extremma 115gr

Fort Scott Munitions 80gr

( clarkarmory.com/products/velocity-tactics-9mm-fort-defense-ammunition )

Hornady American Gunner 115gr XTP

Hornady Critical Defense Lite 100gr FTX

Hornady Critical Defense 115gr FTX

Hornady Critical Duty 135gr +P FlexLock

HPR BlackOps 85gr

( clarkarmory.com/products/hpr-black-ops-85gr-9mm )

ICC Duty & Defense 100gr Frangible

( clarkarmory.com/products/icc-9mm-duty-defense-ammunition )

Liberty Ammunition 50gr LA-CD

Liberty UltraDefense USM4 50gr

( clarkarmory.com/products/liberty-ultra-defense-usm4-9mm-p-ammunition )

Magtech First Defense 92.6gr

Magtech First Defense Bonded 124gr JHP

Magtech First Defense Bonded 147gr JHP

Magtech Guardian Gold 115gr +P

Magtech Guardian Gold 124gr

Magtech 95gr JSP Flat

OATH Tango 110gr

( clarkarmory.com/products/oath-9mm-tango-ammunition )

PMC Starfire 124gr


Remington Golden Saber 124gr +P

Remington Golden Saber 147gr

Remington HTP 115gr

SIG EPA 115gr

SIG EPA 124gr

SIG EPA 147gr

Speer Gold Dot 115gr

Team Never Quit 100gr

Winchester “D” 147gr

Winchester Kinetic HE 115gr

Winchester PDX1 124gr +P

Winchester PDX1 147gr

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