Is 9mm Self Defense Ammo the Best? Check Out These Tests

Overview of 9mm self defense ammo

When it comes to self-defense, choosing the right ammunition is just as important as selecting the best 9mm handgun for self defense. 9mm self defense ammo is one of the most popular options in the market as it is affordable, easily available, and offers manageable recoil compared to other calibers. However, not all 9mm self defense ammunition is created equal. The type of bullet, its weight, and the amount of powder used in the cartridge can all affect the performance of the ammunition.

In this article, we will explore the different types of 9mm self defense ammo and their characteristics. We will also look at various tests conducted on these ammunitions such as FBI Ballistics Test, Ballistic Gel Test, Water Jug Test, and Accuracy Test. The results of these tests will help us determine the best performing 9mm self defense ammo. We will also discuss the factors that need to be considered when selecting self defense ammo, such as penetration depth, expansion, weight retention, and recoil. So, if you are looking for the best 9mm ammo self defense for your 9mm self defense pistol or 9mm self defense revolver, keep reading.

Types of 9mm Self Defense Ammo

When it comes to self-defense ammunition for your 9mm handgun, there are several types to choose from. Each type has its own unique characteristics that can make it more or less suitable for your specific needs. Here are the four main types of 9mm self-defense ammo:

Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) is a type of bullet that has a soft lead core encased in a harder metal, such as copper. This type of ammo is commonly used for target shooting and plinking due to its lower cost. However, it’s not the best choice for self-defense because it tends to over-penetrate, meaning it can go through the target and hit something or someone behind it. This can cause unintended harm and reduce the effectiveness of the bullet.

Jacketed Hollow Point

Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) is a type of bullet that has a hollow cavity in the nose, which allows it to expand upon impact. This expansion creates a larger wound channel and increases the bullet’s stopping power. JHP ammo is the most common type of self-defense ammunition and is widely available. It’s also the most recommended type of ammo for self-defense purposes.

Polymer Tip

Polymer Tip (PT) ammo is similar to JHP, but it has a polymer tip on the nose. The polymer tip helps the bullet to expand more reliably and consistently, even at lower velocities. This type of ammo is a good choice for those who want a little extra insurance that their bullet will perform as intended.

Frangible Bullets

Frangible Bullets are made of compressed powder or metal particles that break apart upon impact. They are designed to reduce the risk of over-penetration and ricochets, making them a good choice for self-defense in urban or indoor environments. However, they may not be as effective as other types of ammo in terms of stopping power.

When selecting self-defense ammo for your 9mm handgun, it’s important to consider the type of ammo that best suits your needs. The JHP is widely regarded as the best choice due to its expansion upon impact and increased stopping power. However, the other types of ammo may be more suitable for specific circumstances.

Tests for 9mm Self Defense Ammo

Once you have narrowed down your choices of 9mm self defense ammo based on your priorities and preferences, it’s important to consider how each type of ammo performs in different tests.

FBI Ballistics Test

The FBI Ballistics Test is a standardized test that involves firing bullets into a set of ballistic gel blocks to simulate the density and consistency of human muscle tissue. The test measures the bullet’s ability to penetrate through different layers of clothing and human tissue to reach vital organs. The FBI recommends that self-defense ammo should penetrate between 12-18 inches in ballistic gel and maintain its weight and shape to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Ballistic Gel Test

The Ballistic Gel Test is similar to the FBI Ballistics Test, but it is not standardized like the former. In this test, a bullet is fired into a block of ballistic gel to simulate the density and consistency of human muscle tissue. The test measures the bullet’s ability to expand and retain its weight while penetrating through different layers of clothing and human tissue.

Water Jug Test

The Water Jug Test is a simple test that involves lining up multiple water jugs and firing a bullet through them to measure the bullet’s expansion and penetration. This test is not as precise as the previous two tests, but it can give you a general idea of how a bullet performs when it strikes a target.

Accuracy Test

An accuracy test is designed to measure how accurately a bullet can hit a target. This test is conducted by firing multiple rounds from the same firearm and measuring the grouping of the shots. The tighter the grouping of the shots, the more accurate the bullet is said to be.

It’s important to note that while these tests can provide valuable insight into the performance of 9mm self defense ammo, they are not the only factors to consider when selecting the best ammo for your needs. Other factors such as penetration depth, expansion, weight retention, and recoil should also be taken into consideration.

Results of the Tests

After conducting various tests to compare different types of 9mm self defense ammo, we have come to the conclusion that the jacketed hollow point (JHP) is the best performing ammo in terms of its ability to stop a threat effectively. It is designed to expand upon impact, which leads to better stopping power.

On the other hand, the worst performing ammo was the full metal jacket (FMJ) as it tends to over-penetrate, which could cause collateral damage. The FMJ is best suited for practice purposes and not recommended for self defense.

The average performance of the polymer tip and frangible bullets was decent, but they don’t perform as well as the JHP. The polymer tip ammo has an added tip to improve accuracy and expand upon impact, while the frangible bullets break apart on impact, reducing the risk of over-penetration. However, they lack the stopping power of the JHP.

It is important to note that the results of these tests are based on various factors such as the type of gun used, the distance from the target, and the angle of impact. It is recommended to conduct your own tests and choose an ammo that suits your specific needs.

For more information on 9mm self defense ammo, check out our guide to find the best ammo for your 9mm handgun.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Self Defense Ammo

When it comes to choosing the right self defense ammo, there are several factors that you should keep in mind. Here are some key things to consider:

Penetration Depth

One of the most important factors to consider is penetration depth. This refers to the distance that the bullet will travel through the target before stopping. In general, you want a bullet that will penetrate deep enough to reach vital organs or other critical structures. However, you also need to be mindful of over-penetration, which can occur if the bullet travels too far through the target and potentially harm innocent bystanders.


Another important factor is expansion. This refers to the bullet’s ability to mushroom upon impact, creating a larger wound channel. A bullet that expands properly can help to stop an attacker more effectively. However, if the bullet fails to expand or fails to expand fully, it may not be as effective at stopping the threat.

Weight Retention

Weight retention is also an important factor to consider. Essentially, this refers to how well the bullet holds together upon impact. A bullet that retains its weight well is less likely to fragment or break apart, which can reduce its effectiveness at stopping the attacker.


Finally, it’s important to consider recoil when choosing self defense ammo. This refers to the amount of kick or backward force that you’ll feel when you fire the gun. Recoil can impact your ability to shoot accurately and quickly, so it’s important to choose a load that you can handle comfortably.

Keep these factors in mind when choosing 9mm self defense ammo. By doing so, you can ensure that you’re selecting a load that will be effective in stopping a threat while also being manageable for you to shoot.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right 9mm self defense ammo is crucial for your safety and protection. Based on the tests conducted, the jacketed hollow point (JHP) ammo performed the best as it offers deeper penetration and expansion upon impact. However, this does not mean that the other types of ammo are inferior. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses, and your choice should ultimately depend on your personal preferences and needs.

When selecting self defense ammo, consider factors such as penetration depth, expansion, weight retention, and recoil. These factors are important in determining the effectiveness of the ammo in stopping a threat. Additionally, it is important to practice with the ammo you choose to ensure accuracy and familiarity with how it performs.

Remember that the best 9mm self defense ammo is useless without a reliable firearm. If you haven’t already, check out our article on the best 9mm handgun for self defense to find the one that suits you best.

Lastly, always keep in mind that self defense is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly. Seek proper training and education on the use of firearms and self defense tactics to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.

Darren is a proud and patriotic individual who firmly believes in upholding the principles of the Second Amendment. As a concealed gun carrier, he understands the importance of personal protection and the right to bear arms.