Ammunition for Your Fighting Handgun


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

June 11th, 2010




Everyday, and I mean every day, I receive email from readers who seek out and buy the best possible weapon to carry as an everyday defensive piece, but are disappointed in the chosen weapon’s reliability. In almost every case, the problem is traced to the ammunition.

Larger, full-size auto pistols such as the 1911 and other service size pistols are more forgiving, and will shoot anything from mild target loads to hot Plus P ammunition. They have large parts with plenty of weight, full-length springs, and a sizeable handle with which to hold the weapon, and can shoot most any decent ammo available.

Small, lightweight pocket pistols, and even abbreviated siblings of full size weapons are not as willing to accept substandard ammo. The pistols have smaller parts, shorter lengths, and must complete the firing, ejection, and loading cycle in a much shorter length of space and shorter span of time. The makers of these small carry guns MUST build these pistols to withstand the pressures of premium combat ammunition, so the springs and the timing of the operating cycle has to be spot-on for the fighting ammunition. If a pistol is set up to function with some hot Cor-Bon hollowpoint high performance ammo, it cannot be expected to run well on that box of cheap ammo that was made in Crapammostan and purchased for six bucks from If the gun maker sized the springs in the weapon to run reliably on that junk ammo, it would beat itself to death in short order when fed the high performance ammunition.

I know that it downright hurts to spend better than a dollar a pop on practice ammunition, and for that reason, I started loading my own ammo when I was just a teenager. Good ammo is expensive, but it is foolhardy to expect a premium gun to run on junk ammo.

The fighting weapon is a compromise. Knowing that a fight was coming, most of us would choose a good shotgun or rifle for a fighting weapon. At the least, we would grab a 45 caliber 1911 or something similar. However, as we go about our daily lives, most of us slip a small handgun into a pocket, knowing that most likely, a fight will not come today. Nevertheless, when a fight does come our way, we have to use the weapon that is at hand, and it will most likely be that gun that we carry everyday. It makes sense to load it with the best ammunition that we can buy, regardless of price.

There is a lot of good ammunition available. Some of the foreign stuff is very good. However, some of it is made to function in full-auto submachine guns, and has primers that are too hard to be reliably ignited by a small pocket gun. Some of the foreign “surplus” ammo is not really surplus at all, but is ammunition that has been rejected by some foreign government because it is substandard. Some of it is cheap because it was made from cheap components on cheap machinery. It is a lot like buying good hotdogs: they do not grind up premium beef and sell it for 89 cents per pound. Good hotdogs require expensive ingredients, and so does good ammunition. There is a legitimate reason that some ammunition costs two or three times as much as ammo that appears to be similar. If you have an American-made pistol, buy good quality American-made ammunition to feed it. Your pistol was built with that ammo in mind. It was tested with it at the factory. I have visited a lot of gun manufacturers, and none of them used cheap eastern European ammo to test their weapons. If you buy a new gun and it does not work properly, invest in a box of quality ammunition before giving up on it.

When you are facing some punk in the dark while holding a weapon that does not work, and the only warm feeling you get is running down your leg, that extra few bucks for that box of premium ammunition does not seem too expensive anymore.

Jeff Quinn


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Click pictures for a larger version.


A quality carry gun requires quality ammunition.




These small defensive weapons function very well with high quality ammunition.