self defense ammunition

3 Classic Self-Defense Ammo Brands For Carry

There sure are a whole lot of brands and lines of self-defense ammo out there, but how to separate the wheat from the chaff? The creme-de-la-creme from the...well, the regular creme? The practice ammo that's just had a hole drilled in it from the genuine article?


One good tip? Get the stuff that is known to work, that's been in use for years with police departments, federal agencies, the military (though most ammo is hardball thanks to Geneva Convention) and so on. Ballistic testing is all well and good, but there's no substitute for a real track record. With that in mind, here are 3 classic loadings that can be used as self-defense ammo without having to think twice.


Federal Hydra-Shok


hydra shok ammo

There's no question that modern ammunition for both semi-autos and revolvers is better by leaps and bounds than it was in past decades, and the round that's responsible is Federal Hydra-Shok.


Hydra-Shok was developed in the late 1980s at the behest of the Federal Bureau of Investigation after the 1986 Miami shootout. During that engagement, the FBI found that their standard ammunition was not sufficient to stop rampaging suspects (caliber and weapons also played a role as most of the agents involved were carrying snub-nose .38 Special revolvers which aren't the best when taking on heavily armed perpetrators) and asked Federal to come up with a new loading for them.


The Bureau temporarily switched to 10mm as their standard-issue caliber and Federal released Hydra-Shok, a new and improved hollowpoint round. When the Bureau changed their ammunition testing protocols, one of the findings was that Hydra-Shok was one of the few rounds that excelled in nearly all calibers.


Hydra-Shok was able to penetrate multiple layers of strata and still hit ballistic gelatin well; this included thin sheet metal, drywall and through multiple layers of clothing. As a result it became widely issued in police departments and many civilians started carrying Hydra-Shok as well.


In recent years, it has been outclassed somewhat by Federal's HST line, which is now far more prevalent in police departments than it's older sibling. That said, it's a proven performer, it's very widely available and it will do the trick if called upon.


Speer Gold Dot


gold dot ammo

Another classic carry and duty round is Speer Gold Dot, which - much like Hydra-Shok - was made famous by it's law enforcement roots. SGD came out in the mid-1990s, but what made it famous was a single loading.


The load in question is Speer's .38 Special 135-grain +P JHP load, which was created at the behest of the New York Police Department for their plainclothes and off-duty officers snub .38 Specials. This loading, unlike the old standby 158-grain +P semi-wadcutter hollowpoint, was designed to work best in short-barrel firearms like a 2-in snubbie.


The "New York load," as it's often called, quickly gained plaudits for reliable penetration, expansion and efficacy in the field, which quickly established Gold Dot as quality carry ammo. It has since proven itself in other loadings (the 124-grain 9mm +P and .45 ACP 230-grain Gold Dot loads are highly regarded as well) for both standard and short-barrel pistols. As a result, it has become standard issue in police departments across the United States.

It's also standard duty ammo for basically all police in France, including the Gendarmerie (basically the French FBI), customs and other law enforcement agencies.


The march of time hasn't resulted in Gold Dot becoming any less relevant, as more than 20 years on it's still one of the most reliable ammunitions available. Speer has added a refreshed version, called Gold Dot G2, and Short Barrel loadings for use by concealed carriers as well.


Remington Golden Saber


golden saber ammo

Another long-serving defense and duty round that's performed well enough to merit picking up is Remington Golden Saber. Golden Saber has been around roughly the same amount of time as Gold Dot and Hydra-Shok, and just like these two loadings, has been employed in police service across the country and has a civilian following as well.


The original line of Golden Saber is a classic and a proven performer in all the common calibers (9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP) but the line has expanded since the original flavor to include variants such as Golden Saber Bonded and Black Belt lines of bonded hollowpoints (where the bullet is bonded further to the case than by mere crimping) that have been getting rave reviews.


However, Remington is a little stingy about selling this ammunition to the public. They used to only sell them (by choice - no ammunition is legally forbidden for civilians to purchase) to police, so not every gun store will have it. Plenty do, as do plenty of websites that have no problem selling them to you.




Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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