Gun owners spend a great deal of time choosing the ideal firearms and accessories for various applications, such as hunting, competition, training, or plinking. However, the conversation surrounding equipment for self-defense isn’t complete without first discussing ammunition.
Even if you have the ideal weapon platform for home defense, concealed carrying, and general personal protection, your ability to defend yourself successfully directly depends on the type and quality of your ammunition. Here are today’s best self-defense rounds for the most popular calibers.
Hornady Critical Defense 9mm 115gr. FTX
Hornady is a well-known American ammunition manufacturer, producing some of the world’s highest-quality ammo for every application, including the best calibers for self-defense like 9mm, .45 ACP, and .357 Magnum.
Hornady’s Critical Defense line of ammunition and reloading projectiles is oriented towards self-defense, recognizable by their anti-corrosion nickel-plated cases. All pistol-caliber Critical Defense ammunition uses precision-machined Hornady FTX hollow-point bullets, recognizable by their distinctive red polymer tip inside the hollow-point cavity.
The FTX bullet is one of the most consistent and effective projectile designs available today. Upon impact with a target, the polymer insert compresses into the bullet, assisting the cavity’s expansion.
A fully-expanded pistol-caliber FTX bullet typically spreads into six petals, increasing the bullet’s frontal surface area, ensuring reliable expansion, and maximizing the size of the permanent wound cavity.
FTX projectiles also feature a mechanical interlocking design to prevent the lead core and the copper jacket from separating, improving terminal effectiveness.
Critical Defense 9mm ammunition uses a 0.355” diameter, 115-grain FTX bullet and is engineered to provide optimal performance out of a compact handgun with a 3” to 4” barrel, making it ideal for concealed carrying applications.
Independent testing shows that even from compact handguns, the 9mm FTX projectile performs with a high degree of consistency and an ideal amount of penetration. Each bullet typically reliably expands to a diameter exceeding 0.50”.
Penetration typically averages between 12” to 14” through both bare gelatin and denim-covered gel blocks, well within the FBI’s performance recommendations in ballistic gel (12” to 18” of penetration).
In short, Hornady Critical Defense 9mm 115-grain is the textbook example of a quality self-defense round, ideal for concealed carrying and personal protection.
Winchester PDX Defender 124gr. +P 9mm
Winchester’s Defender line of ammunition is a comprehensive collection of self-defense rounds for handguns, rifles, and shotguns.
Winchester Defender ammunition uses the patented PDX1 projectile design, a proprietary hollow-point bullet with multiple advanced ballistic features.
All PDX1 bullets benefit from Winchester’s advanced bonding process, chemically joining the lead core and copper jacketing at the molecular level to prevent core-jacket separation.
Bonded bullets retain more weight upon impact, improving terminal effectiveness and increasing penetration, mainly when traversing hard or dense surfaces, such as bone or dense muscle.
PDX1 projectiles also feature six-segmented designs, ensuring that a fully-expanded bullet forms six sharp petals. This design is similar to the brand’s older hollow-point lines, such as the Winchester Ranger Bonded.
The primary difference between Defender and Ranger is the intended application behind each brand: Winchester Defender ammunition is oriented towards civilian personal defense, whereas Winchester primarily markets Ranger Bonded toward law enforcement.
The Winchester PDX Defender 9mm 124-grain +P is one of the two 9mm offerings in the Winchester Defender lineup, the other being a standard-pressure 147-grain.
The +P rating denotes a higher amount of chamber pressure than standard 9mm ammunition; make sure your gun is certified to handle +P ammunition before loading.
Winchester PDX 124-grain +P is suitable for general personal defense, delivering excellent performance regardless of the length of your barrel.
Federal Premium 9mm 147gr. HST
Federal has nearly 100 years of experience making ammunition and developing new technologies for ballistic applications.
The Federal Premium HST line is one of the most popular brands of hollow-point ammunition in the United States, favored by law enforcement agencies of all sizes, including agencies under the Department of Homeland Security (e.g., ICE.)
Although there are many types of Federal 9mm ammo available on the market, the 147-grain version of the HST bullet is one of the best-performing and most popular choices.
Federal Premium 9mm 147-grain HST offers a combination of high projectile weight (147-grain is one of the heaviest available bullet weights in 9x19mm) and relatively high muzzle velocity, producing 1,000 ft/s on average out of a 4” barrel.
The heart of Federal Premium HST ammunition is its high-performance HST projectile. HST bullets feature a wide hollow-point cavity, a distinctive center post protruding from the lead core, and a notched copper jacket encouraging high expansion. Unlike many JHP bullet designs, Federal HST features a fully jacketed base with no exposed lead on the underside, reducing the risk of core-jacket separation.
Upon impact with the target, the HST projectile will “mushroom” out, causing the lead core and copper jacket to develop arrays of sharp petals, causing large permanent wound cavities and delivering optimal performance. Additionally, expanded HST bullets exhibit little to no fragmentation, further enhancing their terminal effectiveness.
When fired into certain media, standard hollow-point bullets may become “plugged,” a phenomenon where the cavity becomes filled with foreign materials, inhibiting or preventing it from expanding. The lack of expansion causes the bullet to effectively perform no better than a full metal jacketed (FMJ) projectile, making it unsuitable for self-defense.
The purpose of the HST bullet’s cavity post is to combat the phenomenon of cavity plugging. This post physically keeps the foreign materials out of the cavity, ensuring reliable and consistent expansion.
In turn, the shooter can use Federal HST and expect reliable terminal performance, even if the bullet must pass through tough media, such as drywall, automotive glass, or multiple layers of fabric. On average, an expanded 9mm 147-grain HST bullet will expand well past 0.60” of diameter, even after passing through 4 layers of denim.
This bullet’s high performance and barrier blindness are the primary reasons cited by law enforcement agencies when recommending Federal HST. This ammunition is an excellent choice for both police duty and civilian self-defense applications.
Carry Your Favorite Handguns and Ammunition Confidently
At We The People Holsters, we want gun owners to carry the best possible equipment to defend themselves as effectively as possible.
Complete your everyday carry setup with one of our high-quality holsters, suitable for IWB and OWB carry and compatible with handguns by the world’s most dependable manufacturers.