Ammo & Gear Reviews

Massad Ayoob: Police ammo for the rest of us?

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By Massad Ayoob, American Handgunner

The suggestion has often been made that you should find out what your local police agency carries for ammunition, and then load the same stuff into your concealed carry and defense guns. That way, any opposing lawyer painting you as a malicious sadist for using hollow nose “dum-dum” bullets would run up against your solid defense: you were carrying the same ammo as the cops he works with daily. Are they malicious sadists, too?

I didn’t come up with the idea, but I like it in theory. The “evil dum-dum bullet” argument does get used by prosecutors and plaintiffs’ lawyers alike, whether out of deception or cluelessness. Just make sure your local lawmen are using good stuff. I wouldn’t have bought into this strategy in the mid-1990’s in New York City, when the NYPD was issuing 115-gr. full metal jacket 9mm for the street.

The armed citizen isn’t using the same ammo as police because they use it; that would open the door to the “wanna-be cop” smear the nation saw used so brutally against an armed citizen in a recent high-profile case. Rather, the armed citizen uses that ammo for the same reasons the police do.

Reasons One and Two convinced even anti-gun chiefs to go to hollow points and buck political correctness when the ACLU made a big deal about “dum-dum bullets.” First, those projectiles will generally stay in the body of the offender with a solid hit, reducing the danger to innocent bystanders from over-penetrating bullets. Second, their cookie-cutter shape makes them less ricochet-prone than round-nose, and therefore less likely to glance off a hard surface or even heavy bone and go on to strike down one of those innocent citizens.

The third and fourth reasons are somewhat intertwined. History shows with modern hollow points, the bad guy is simply stopped faster. Stopping the bad guy from doing horrible things to good people is what makes shooting him justifiable in the first place. Society seems to understand the sooner he’s stopped, the better; and since the officers are going to shoot him until he stops doing his bad things, the sooner he’s stopped, the fewer times he has to be shot. This segues into the fourth reason. The sooner he stops, the fewer the wounds, and at least in theory, the more likely the bad guy is to survive. This constructs a strong argument that hollow point is actually more humane for the bad guy who forces the good guys to shoot him.


Suzi Huntington, editor of FMG’s American COP magazine, digs a Gold Dot
round out of a gel block at a recent LE seminar sponsored by ATK. Photo: Aimee Grant


What Cops Carry

While there’s lots of good ammo out there, most departments are using premium loads from the “Big Four” brands. Those would be, in alphabetical order: Federal HST, Remington Golden Saber, Speer Gold Dot and Winchester Ranger. All of these loads have been exhaustively, expensively developed to meet the demanding performance specs of the FBI in terms of expansion and penetration. Because these rounds are tracked regarding field performance, they are the ones that have the most documentable records.

HST? Portland, Ore., reports extreme satisfaction with its performance in 147-gr. 9mm configuration. San Diego issues HST in every authorized caliber and is very happy with it. LAPD reports the 230-gr. +P HST to be performing superbly in the .45 ACP’s that thousands of their officers have bought on their own.

Golden Saber? Sources at FBI tell me it works fabulously as the standard 230-gr. load for the optional .45’s of field agents and the .45’s issued to SWAT and the Hostage Rescue Team. I’m advised Tulsa found the Golden Saber 165-gr. .40 much more effective in their issue Glock 22s than the 180-gr. subsonics they used before.

Gold Dot? The 124-gr. +P has delivered awesome performance in the 9mms of NYPD’s nearly 35,000 officers. Las Vegas Metro uses Gold Dot across the board in three approved calibers, and their firearms instructors have told me the 124-gr. +P 9mm is every bit as effective as the 180-gr. .40 and the 230-gr. .45 ACP. From Texas Department of Public Safety to the Virginia State Police and Richmond PD, 125-gr. .357 SIG Gold Dot is dropping felons with amazing alacrity. Secret Service and Federal Air Marshals also issue .357 SIG 125-gr. Gold Dot.

Winchester Ranger? LAPD and LA County report high satisfaction with the 147-gr. 9mm version, and the 165-gr. .40 and 230-gr. .45 are awesome performers in the field.



A Caveat

Some of these JHP rounds, such as the Ranger-T, are “LE only” by manufacturer’s policy. I double-checked this with ace researcher Gary Slider at the blue-chip resource site, and neither he nor I know of anywhere outside San Francisco where it’s actually against the local law to use them. In New Jersey, no hollow points can be carried in public on a permit, but they can be used at the range or in the home. Should that “Police-Only JHP” argument be used against the civilian in court, the logical rejoinder is, “Counselor, if the police thought it was the best thing for them to use for protecting me and my family, it seemed obvious it was the best thing for me to use to protect myself and my family.”

Thanks to American Handgunner for this contribution. Click here to visit them – click here to get American Handgunner delivered to your door for $9.95 a year.