The Best Defensive Ammo – Rifle, Handgun and Shotgun

in Authors, For Handguns, For Rifles, For Shotguns, Gear Reviews, Travis Pike

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Ammo isn’t just ammo. Any experienced gun owner will tell you that you have to choose the right ammo for the job. We use FMJs for training, we use soft points in rifles for hunting, we use steel shot to avoid polluting wetlands, and we use specific ammo for self-defense. There isn’t just one answer for defensive ammo because there isn’t just one type of self-defense firearm. Today, we are going to dig into the best ammunition for a variety of weapons with a focus on the three most popular types of defensive firearms. 

We use good defensive ammo because the task at hand is so important. Not only that, but we want a round that penetrates deep enough and does enough damage to effectively shut a threat down. At the same time, we want a round that is less likely to create a danger to other people and our loved ones. 

Those are the principles that guide our choices when it comes time to choose the best defensive ammo. This isn’t a be-all, end-all list by any means, but think of it as an easy button for your ammo election. There are tons of excellent options out there these days, and my selection reflects some outstanding options in the self-defense world. 

The Best Defensive Ammo Choices 

Full-Size and Compact Handguns – Speer Gold Dot 

If you’re carrying anything between the size of a Glock 19 and a SIG P320 X5, then Speer Gold Dot has you covered. Speer Gold Dot is a classic option for defensive ammo. It’s one of the most common choices of American police forces and is an outstanding option for defensive applications. Speer Gold Dot covers a number of different cartridges and loads. 

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Speer Gold Dot LE Duty 9mm Luger Ammo 115 Grain Jacketed Hollow Point

They make high-quality self-defense ammo for 9mm, 40 S&W, 45 ACP, 10mm, 38 Special, 357 Magnum, and many more I’m not listing. They produce high-quality ammunition for basically any major caliber on the market. This includes +P options as well as numerous projectile weights to match your barrel length, recoil considerations, and beyond. 

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Speer Gold Dot is well-proven, easy to find, and perfectly suited for self-defense use. These rounds are known for their reliable penetration and excellent expansion. They are also very reliable and produced with premium components for smooth feeding and low flash. They’ve worked for a long time and continue to be a favorite option for a reason.  

Micro Compact Handguns – Federal Personal Defense HST 150 Grain 9mm 

If you have an ultra-compact handgun, you have to be very picky about your ammunition selection. Shorter barrels tend to affect velocity, and velocity affects penetration and expansion. With this in mind, if you carry a Glock 43X, a P365, or a similar-sized firearm, you’d be best suited with ammunition that works with these ultra-small firearms. 

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Federal’s own Micro Compact Personal Defense HST load does just that. This cartridge utilizes a 150-grain projectile that’s quite a bit heavier than you’d expect. That heavier projectile ensures the round penetrates deeply and even expands when fired through thick clothing decently well. The 150-grain projectile moves at a lower velocity, which also helps maintain low and controllable recoil. 

These rounds produce a lowered flash for the shorter barrels, which helps keep things comfortable in low-light environments. The rounds are premium grade, well-made, and perfectly reliable in self-defense scenarios. 

AR-15 Rifles Defensive Ammo Choices

For home defense, the AR-15 is an excellent choice. It’s lightweight, easy to handle, reliable, has low recoil, and packs thirty rounds standard. It also has the benefit of penetrating through less drywall than most guns due to the design of the projectile. It’s a surprise winner for home defense. 

5.56 – Hornady Critical Defense FTX 

There are a lot of reasons to appreciate the Hornady Critical Defense FTX loads. Obviously, it’s a Hornady defensive load, so it’s a premium-grade rifle round. The cases are nickels to resist any metal tarnishing, which could, in fact, create feeding issues. They also come in either 55-grain or 77-grain weights. The heavier loads tend to work for shorter barrels, and lighter bullets work well in the standard 16-inch carbine. 

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The FTX load uses a FlexTip in front of the bullet. Underneath the FlexTip is a hollow cavity for total expansion. The FlexTip keeps it from filling with heavy clothing and prevents it from expanding. The Hornady Critical Defense FTX load is perfect for your standard 5.56 carbine regardless of the barrel length. It’s the perfect defensive ammo for the AR-15.

.300 Blackout – Barnes Vor-Tx 110 grain TAC-TX 

Barnes makes some outstanding ammunition, and they are known for pushing the boundaries of what a defense projectile can do. With the rising popularity of .300 Blackouts, it’s not a big surprise that so many people use the load for defensive use. It’s perfect for short barrels, and short barrels excel indoors. The Barnes TAC-TX lineup is absolutely fantastic. 

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The 110-Grain Vor-TX loads are supersonic hit hard and expand quickly and effectively. It’s a fast-moving, hard-hitting load that expands rapidly. This creates excessive damage and will ensure a threat is stopped. If you’re using a short-barreled rifle or AR pistol, the Vor-TX 110-grain TAC-TX load will get it done. 

Defensive Ammo For Shotguns 

Shotguns are an old classic when it comes to home defense. They waned in their popularity but have since returned to the limelight. Modern semi-auto shotguns have certainly returned to the world of home defense. Part of that return has been an awesome increase in ammunition potential. 

Federal FliteControl 8 Pellet Buckshot 

The king of defensive ammo comes from Federal in the form of FliteControl. The eight-pellet FliteControl load is absolutely fantastic for defensive use. The pellets are encapsulated by the FliteControl wad the entire time they travel down the barrel, and the shot doesn’t leave the wad until the entire was leaves the barrel. This creates a shotgun load that is extremely tight. At ten yards, it leaves a hole the size of a 50-cent piece. 

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The round has reduced recoil and makes it easy to handle in any shotgun. It handles with ease and makes fast follow-up shots easy to make and control. The tight patterning design ensures you know exactly where your pellets are going, and you have little worries about where the pellets are going to go with a proper sight picture. 

Fiocchi Defense Dynamics 8 Pellet Buckshot 

If you want a more budget-friendly option for defensive ammo, then the Fiocchi Defense Dynamics is the way to go. It packs eight pellets of 00 buckshot fired at 1,325 feet per second. That’s a velocity that works with a multitude of shotguns. It’s low-recoiling enough to be easy to handle in a pump action but powerful enough to cycle semi-auto shotguns in a problem-free manner. 

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The Defense Dynamics load keeps a fairly tight pattern and patterns predictably. The ammunition cycles properly and is the right length to prevent the loss of a round in a magazine tube. It cycles in and out of guns without a problem, and it’s easy to find nearly anywhere you can purchase ammo. 

Beware of Gimmicks 

The Defensive ammo market is full of craptastic stuff that acts as what’s essentially snake oil in the firearm market. A lot of this miracle ammo is ineffective and overly expensive. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Stick to proven loads that have a history of being functionally capable. 

That’s the best advice I can give you in terms of defensive ammo selection. There is plenty of independent testing out there that confirms what ammo works and what doesn’t. Hopefully, we’ve given you a few options that will make it easy for you to find the right round for the right purpose. 

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