Defensive Ammo In 2024

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Building on the .22 for self-defense concept, CCI released Uppercut Defense — its
first .22 round designed for defensive use — earlier this year. (Image: CCI)

Jeff Cooper, the famed authority on defensive gunfighting, once pointed out it’s the bullet that stops the threat, not the gun. Given the ammo available in his formative years, it’s no surprise he became a champion of the .45 Auto cartridge. But his basic observation remains true today.

Some of your customers — and newcomers to the gun will be many of these — see the issue as “Guns are guns, bullets are bullets, just sell me something that’ll work in the gun you sold me.” On the other end of the spectrum, though, will be the customer who almost obsesses on “stopping power” and wants the latest, greatest, most powerful and “street-proven” ammo. Let’s start with the “latest.”

New-For-2024 Defensive Ammunition

Federal gets my vote for the most useful new ammo introductions this year. New-for-2024 defensive handgun ammo includes, according to Federal’s J.J. Reich, Uppercut Defense .22 LR, Hevi-Bismuth Pest Control Shotshell, 10mm Pest Control Shotshell and Blazer Brass low-recoil 9mm handgun ammunition.

He expounded, “Uppercut’s .22 LR, 32-grain, jacketed hollow point bullet features nose skiving that initiates full and reliable expansion through 2.5 to 4″ semi-auto pistols while retaining the weight needed to hit critical penetration depths needed for self-defense. 

“The new Hevi-Bismuth pest control centerfire handgun shotshells are loaded with the Catalyst lead-free primer and HEVI-Bismuth pellets. At 9.6 g/cc, the shot carries nearly the same density and downrange energy of lead but adheres to all non-toxic ammunition requirements. 

“The new 10mm Auto 105-grain No. 9 pest control centerfire handgun shotshells produce consistent patterns that make it easier to knock down nasty critters such as snakes and other pests in tight quarters. 

“New 9mm Blazer Brass handgun ammunition features reloadable brass cases, quality primers and clean-burning propellants.”

The 20-gauge shotgun is the neglected stepchild of home-defense long guns, so it’s good to see Federal released a No. 2 Buck load option.

Other stepchildren are served, in what might be called the “mouse gun” market — according to Reich.

“Federal is giving the classic .32 Auto defensive cartridge a new life thanks to modern bullet technology. The new Personal Defense Hydra-Shok Deep .32 Auto 68-grain load maximizes the cartridge’s available energy to deliver penetration to critical depths through bare ballistics gelatin and heavy clothing. The new Personal Defense Punch .25 Auto 45-grain Solid load is designed around the unique properties of the specific cartridge to provide caliber-optimized terminal performance. It features a deep-penetrating solid bullet design,” he concluded.

Remington didn’t have much new this year in the defensive ammo line. They’re seeing, as I am, a small but significant resurgence in .32 Magnum for pocket-size revolvers, and are offering both jacketed hollow-point and lead semi-wadcutter loads. 

Their new ammo for 2024 is geared mostly for hunting and target shooting, but the defensive shooter has to consider training ammo as mentioned above in regard to Federal. Since many ranges now demand lead-free ammo, Remington offers their product code R21420/.223 Rem. 55-Grain Lead Free Jacketed – UMC Leadless at $27.99 and R23809/9mm UMC Leadless 100-Grain Jacketed Lead Free at $31.99.

While Winchester makes some excellent self-defense ammo, I didn’t see much new in their 2024 lineup. However, in recent years they’ve reintroduced their Silvertip line, two standouts of which are the 175-grain load for the now resurgent 10mm Auto, and the 210-grain load for the .41 Magnum, which still has a small but devoted following.

Caliber Trends

We’re seeing a downward trend for the most part in caliber size, with the 9mm profoundly dominant. This has resulted in huge demand for the caliber. 

In my travels around the nation visiting gun shops, I see plenty of 9mm ball on the shelves these days but a dearth of good self-defense loads. They sell as soon as they come in. Do yourself a favor and order enough of the 9mm hollowpoints to keep a healthy stock!

In the gun magazines and on the gun-related internet, we’re seeing more and more experts endorse smaller calibers for self-defense handguns. The Federal .25 Auto load mentioned above is something you want to stock, not because so many people are buying .25s (they’re not!) but because so many people have .25s. Border crisis, crime trends and other issues make customers want to be able to defend themselves and their loved ones with everything they’ve got.

We’re seeing a small, but definite surge in some experts cautiously endorsing .22s for self-defense. There is, of course, the above-mentioned Federal load optimized for the smallest-caliber pocket pistols. The problem with small .22 Autos is reliability. The people who shoot .22s a lot in competition such as Steel Challenge are overwhelmingly favoring the Speer Mini-Mag series. (Hint, hint.)

In case you didn’t notice, .32 Autos are coming back. Notice KelTec has reportedly dropped their P-3AT, the .380 from which Ruger cloned its enormously successful LCP, but kept the P-32 in the line. These pistols are super tiny and super light … and in America, convenience sells. In this case, so will .32 ACP.

On the other end of the defensive pistol power scale, we are seeing a definite (though not gigantic) resurgence in interest in .45 ACP. Half a decade ago, one of the major manufacturers of high-end “boutique” 1911s said they were shocked to find they were selling more of them in 9mm than in .45 ACP … but in 2023, one of their executives privately told me their bestseller was the .45 again. 

In another exchange, I spoke with a gun shop’s representative who said they’ve sold more .45s in the past six months than they had sold in the past two or three years. The spread of magazine-limit laws tells a lot of customers, “If I have to have fewer bullets, I want them to be big bullets!”

In the middle, the small, light .38 Special snubbie remains in common use. Experts from the old International Wound Ballistics Association to Chuck Haggard today are recommending the old 148-grain mid-range wadcutter target load for self-defense. Penetration is adequate and it cuts a full-diameter wound channel. Its mild recoil is the big selling point. Federal’s Gold Medal Match is available but pricey; for close-range self-defense, Sellier & Bellot wadcutters are readily available and more affordable. (S&B has super-mild .32 Long wadcutters, too.)

The above was a snapshot of broader ammunition trends — your experience, of course, may vary. The important thing to keep a handle on is knowing what appeals to your self-defense customers, and how it differs from those out training and hunting.

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