Best 9mm Ammo 2017 for Self Defense & Range Shooting

Find out the best 9mm ammo for self defense based on ballistic gel tests that cover penetration depth and expansion. Plus the best range plinking ammo too.

Ballistic Gel Testing
Ballistic Gel Testing

Best 9mm Ammo for Self Defense

Testing Background

The below pictures and data are from a super in-depth post from Lucky Gunner plus a little bit of our personal criteria.  Here are some details of the test which closely mimic FBI protocol:

  • Shot 10 feet away
  • 4 layers of fabric in front of the ballistics gel to simulate a “worst case” scenario of clothing
4 Layers of Clothing
4 Layers of Clothing
  • Ideal penetration of 12-18 inches.  More than 18 inches might go completely through the target and hit something beyond.  While a 12 inch minimum protects against thicker targets and possibly hitting something like an arm first before the torso.
  • 5 shots for more data
5 Shots into Ballistic Gel
5 Shots into Ballistic Gel
  • Shorter barreled gun.  Most tests are run with a full-size pistol, but Lucky Gunner used a S&W M&P9C which has a 3.5″ barrel.  Their thought was most people carrying a handgun most likely have a compact sized one.  So for those of you with a longer barrel, the penetration and velocities might be slightly higher.

Recommendations

Here are our recommendations for each of the most common weights of bullets: 115, 124, & 147 grain.  This way you can shoot the same weight of bullet as your more common range ammo.  And because these are self-defense rounds, they are all jacketed hollow points (JHP) for reliable expansion.

We personally prefer the 124 gr since it is less “snappy” than the 115 gr to us.   But we recommend you try a couple weights and make sure they cycle 100% in your self defense gun.

Bullet Weight Scale
Bullet Weight Scale
  • Gold Dot 9mm 115 gr: Penetration depth is right in the middle of the zone, great expansion, and good velocity for a short barrel.
    • Average Penetration: 16.4″
    • Average Expansion: .55″
    • Average Velocity: 1143 ft/sec
115 Gold Dot Expansion
115 Gold Dot Expansion
  • Magtech Guardian Gold 9mm 115 grSweet spot of penetration, expansion, and velocity.
    • Average Penetration: 15.2″
    • Average Expansion: .56″
    • Average Velocity: 1175 ft/sec
115 Magtech Guardian Gold Expansion
115 Magtech Guardian Gold Expansion
  • Federal HST 9mm 124 gr: Great penetration, expansion, and velocity.
    • Average Penetration: 18.3″
    • Average Expansion: .61″
    • Average Velocity: 1135 ft/sec
124 Federal HST Expansion
124 Federal HST Expansion
  • Federal HST 9mm 147 grPenetration in the sweet spot zone, great expansion, and good velocity for the bullet weight.
    • Average Penetration: 15.2″
    • Average Expansion: .61″
    • Average Velocity: 973 ft/sec
147 Federal HST Expansion
147 Federal HST Expansion

Best 9mm Ammo for the Range

Range ammo is more about reliability and cost effectiveness.  Here are a couple of our recommendations for the common 115 and 124 gr bullet weights.  We’ve shot thousands of these and they are reliable, clean shooting, and economical.  We suggest trying out both weights to see what you and your gun prefer.

Blazer Brass 9mm
Blazer Brass 9mm
PMC 9mm
PMC 9mm

Conclusion

These are our favorites for 9mm self-defense and range ammo.  What did you end up choosing and how does your gun like it?  And if you want to see the full results from Lucky Gunner, check out their post here.

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13 Comments on "Best 9mm Ammo 2017 for Self Defense & Range Shooting"

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Ellwood Greiner
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do you have federal critical duty pistol ammo 147 GRAIN +P ON SALE

Shah Jahan
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Hello Eric,

Is SIG Sauer® Elite Performance Ammunition good ammo for SD?

Richard harbour
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I own three glocks, 17,26,and sf21. I also own a kel-technical sub 2000 with glock 9mm reliever. I love the 9mm round because it shoots clean and reliable. I shoot my glock 17 at the range and it is a great 9mm eater. My glock 26 is used for concealed carry and I recommend it for any cc. My clock sf21 is my nightstand gun. My kel-tec sub 2000 is just fun to shoot and eats 9mm like candy. The 9mm is a trusted round for range or self defence. My carry 26 is loaded with hollow points but shoot… Read more »
John
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Eric, what is the difference between a 9mm round and a 9mm Luger round? I’m a few weeks away from attaining my first 9mm Glock. Thanks

Joe Jackan
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All ammo test that I have seen rate stopping power. I would like to see a test rating control vs stopping power. My wife shoots a Ruger LCR. Using standard 38 loads in this light piece she can’t hit the side of a barn. I loaded some 110 grain wadcutters with 3 1/2 grains of Bullseye. She can group this load in a teacup. I think 2 or 3 hits with this light load would do more to discourage an attacker than all the sound an fury of bullets whizzing past his ears.

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