Best 9mm Ammo: Self Defense & Range Shooting

0
111

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

Popular 9mm Ammo
Popular 9mm Ammo

Plus the best range plinking ammo for bulk shooting.

THE QUICK LIST

Show more (1 item)

*October 2023 Update*: Things were holding steady through summer but the latest Israeli conflict has sent prices a little up for 9mm. Here’s what we’re seeing in stock at the time of writing with AAC going in and out of stock. “CPR” = cost per round.

How We Picked The Best Ammo

Read on to see how we chose them and the best place to buy them for cheap!

Lots of Ammo
Lots of Ammo

Testing Procedures

The below pictures and data are from a super in-depth post from Lucky Gunner plus a few 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
  • 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
  • Shorter barreled gun. Most tests are run with a full-size pistol, but Lucky Gunner used an 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.

Here are our recommendations for each of the most common weights of bullets: 115, 124, & 147 grain.

See also  Toxic Plants That Look Like Food: 30 Plants You Need To Know

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 also broke down the ammo into two major categories…ammo for the range/plinking and self-defensive hollow-point ammo.

Best 9mm Range Ammo

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.

Editor’s Range Ammo Pick – AAC 9mm

Specs

  • Bullet Type: Full-Metal Jacket
  • Case: Brass
  • Bullet Weight: 115gr or 124gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1165 fps or 1150 fps

I’ve shot a lot of AAC this year since it’s been the most affordable and probably more important…most available.

AAC 115gr 9mm
AAC 115gr 9mm

And so far it’s been great…every time I wanted it to go bang it did in a variety of handguns and pistol caliber carbines (PCCs).

Plus no feeding issues across dozens of tested guns for the site.

The only complaint I can have is one time I ordered it from PSA and the box came slightly dinged…but nothing wrong with the ammo.

Runner-Up Plinking Ammo – CCI Blazer Brass 9mm

Specs

  • Bullet Type: Full-Metal Jacket
  • Casing Type: Brass
  • Bullet Weight: 124gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1090 fps

When pennies count…one of the most reliable and affordable brass cased 9mm. However, the brass is a little difficult to reload.

CCI Blazer Brass 9mm
CCI Blazer Brass 9mm

Perfect for ranges or classes where you can’t pick up brass.

See also  What Is It And How To Tie A Chatterbait

One of my favorites and what I used to shoot the most until this year…to the tune of likely 10,000+ rounds total.

Also Great Range Ammo – American Eagle 9mm 115 gr

Specs

  • Bullet Type: Full-Metal Jacket
  • Casing Type: Brass
  • Bullet Weight: 115gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1180 fps

One of my favorite through the years. I stocked up when they had some great rebates (those were the times).

Not the cheapest available but they will serve you well if you run into it.

Federal American Eagle 9mm
Federal American Eagle 9mm

Most Likely in Stock – PMC 9mm

Specs

  • Bullet Type: Full-Metal Jacket
  • Casing Type: Brass
  • Bullet Weight: 115gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1150 fps

I’ve shot A LOT of PMC ammo through the years in both pistol and rifle cartridges.

They always go bang and the brass is great for reloading.

No matter through thick or thin…they are usually plentily available.

Best Self-Defense 9mm Ammo

These are hollow-point rounds that expand when they hit something. They range much higher in price since they are what you should load in your defensive guns.

However, I recommend buying more and trying them out at the range too.

FedHST
Federal HST

Editor’s Self-Defense Pick – Federal HST 9mm 147 gr

Specs

  • Bullet Type: Jacketed Hollow Point
  • Casing Type: Brass
  • Bullet Weight: 147gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1000 fps

Penetration in the sweet spot zone, great expansion, and good velocity for the bullet weight.

Federal HST 147gr 9mm
Federal HST 147gr 9mm

My personal favorite since I like the softer shooting impulse of 147 gr bullets.

Here’s the data from the Lucky Gunner test:

  • Average Penetration: 15.2″
  • Average Expansion: .61″
  • Average Velocity: 973 ft/sec
See also  Smart Strategies During the Craziness of the Mule Deer Rut

What do you think of Federal? Rate them below!

Also Great Self-Defense – Gold Dot 9mm 115 gr

Specs

  • Bullet Type: Jacketed Hollow Point
  • Casing Type: Brass
  • Bullet Weight: 115gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1210 fps

Penetration depth is right in the middle of the zone, great expansion, and very good velocity for a short barrel.

Here’s what the testing yielded:

  • Average Penetration: 16.4″
  • Average Expansion: .55″
  • Average Velocity: 1143 ft/sec

Runner-Up Self-Defense – Federal HST 9mm 124 gr

Specs

  • Bullet Type: Jacketed Hollow Point
  • Casing Type: Brass
  • Bullet Weight: 124gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1150 fps

Great penetration, the biggest expansion, and velocity for those who like shooting the slightly heavier 124 gr rounds.

Try these out if you don’t like the super heavy 147 gr HST.

  • Average Penetration: 18.3″
  • Average Expansion: .61″
  • Average Velocity: 1135 ft/sec

Also Good Self-Defense – Magtech Guardian Gold 9mm 115 gr

Specs

  • Bullet Type: Jacketed Hollow Point
  • Casing Type: Brass
  • Bullet Weight: 115gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1246 fps

We’re big fans of Magtech’s regular FMJ ammo…

Magtech 9mm 115gr
Magtech 9mm 115gr

But here we’re talking about their JHP (jacketed hollow points).

The sweet spot of penetration, expansion, and velocity. The +P designation of extra pressure helps with all of the data:

  • Average Penetration: 15.2″
  • Average Expansion: .56″
  • Average Velocity: 1175 ft/sec

Conclusion

These are our favorites for 9mm self-defense and range ammo. If you want to see the full results from Lucky Gunner, check out their post here. Want more calibers and choices…check out Best Places to Buy Ammo Online.

More Popular Ammo Brands
More Popular Ammo Brands
Previous articleB&C Confirms Largest Hunter-Killed Nontypical Whitetail | Deer & Deer Hunting
Next article[Buyer’s Guide] Best Remington 700 Models
Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>