Carry Loads by Phillip Hayes

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Carry Loads by Phillip Hayes: Choosing the best self-defence ammunition

The test report on Peregrine’s self-defence bullets in the November 2016 edition of Magnum resulted in several readers contacting us to ask about the best choice in carry loads and the legality of using expanding bullets.

Advising on the suitability of specific self-defence ammunition is fairly straightforward, but choosing a favourite load from the various quality brands is not that easy. It is a controversial subject with widely varying opinions and can lead to heated debates.

I do not believe there is a single brand of ammo that, shot after shot, will perform in the field according to its design theory or laboratory test results. Experienced hunters know this – there are simply too many factors involved under field conditions to guarantee a specific outcome with every shot. However, with hunting ammunition, I have learned that a premium grade bullet is the way to go. The same applies to self-defence loads: proven premium grade ammunition consistently outperforms standard or conventional ammo, and to attain this consistency manufacturers spend a lot of money and time on research and development.

In the 1990s, after having studied the performance of a wide range of ammunition in real-life shooting incidents, Evan P Marshall & Edwin J Sanow published Handgun Stopping Power: The Definitive Study. Their work drew a lot of criticism, but I found it interesting and informative – at that time they were two of very few who seriously tried to provide an evaluative guide for civilians to determine the suitability of various bullets in a defensive role. Overall, the book contained a lot of practical information that I could learn from, some of which I used when choosing my personal-defence ammo, settling on a 125gr JHP for my .357 Magnum.

But time has moved on and today’s ammunition has several advantages over that which I used in the 90s. Now we have low-flash powders and increased velocities: .380 velocities are now as high as those of the 9mmP back then, and some 9mmP offerings clock velocities previously achieved only by .357 Magnum ammo. And we now have superior bullets, due to advances in engineering and metallurgy, and improved quality control.

Keeping all this in mind, how should one go about choosing self-defence ammunition?

Read the full article in the March 2017 issue of Magnum.

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