No one loves premium bullets more than I do, but there is a downside to top-of-the-line ammunition: cost. You should carry the best ammunition that you can afford, but for the majority of practice shooting situations, there are more affordable options that will give make your range time more affordable.
Much of the ammunition that is more affordable comes with full-metal-jacket (FMJ) bullets, meaning there is no exposed lead at the nose, but there are exceptions. Let’s take a look.
The Blazer line of ammunition, from CCI/Speer, is a great value. Made with aluminum cases—you can’t reload these—they feature a 115-grain FMJ bullet that goes 1,145 fps from the muzzle. I’ve found these cartridges to be very accurate, and does a good job of mimicking the premium stuff. At about $12 to $14 per box of 50, you can spend a good amount of time at the range while keeping your costs down.
For a few dollars more, you can pick up the Blazer Brass ammunition, which features the same projectile, but has reloadable brass cases.
Federal’s American Eagle line of ammunitionis another good value. Using 124-grain full-metal jacketed bullets that leave the muzzle at 1,120 fps, in all brass, fully reloadable cases, these are produced at the same factory as the Federal Premium ammunition. This load is made to the same ballistic specifications as Federal Premium’s other ammunition, so there shouldn’t be much a difference in performance, if any. Of all the “inexpensive” lines of ammunition on the market, I’ve been a fan of American Eagle for years, both pistol ammo and rifle loads as large as .338 Lapua. It has proven its value time and time again. Priced at just over $14 per box of 50, with some packages offering practice ammo along with ballistically identical self-defense rounds, this is my favorite choice for plinking ammo in the 9mm handguns.
I also like the Remington UMC line of ammo, which is a reliable product at a decent price. UMC offers the classic recipe for 9mm: a 115-grain FMJ bullet at 1,145 fps. The brass cases are reloadable. The cost of this ammunition usually runs at just over $14 per box of 50.
If you handload your 9mm ammo, take a look at Falcon Bullets from Tennessee. David Moore of Falcon offers quality hard-cast lead bullets in a couple of different configurations for the 9mm, including the classic 115-grain round nose. I especially like the FalCoated bullets, which are cast-lead covered in a proprietary mixture that greatly reduces leading in your barrel–a common occurrence when shooting cast bullets. Falcon cast bullets are inexpensive and readily available. I’ve used Falcon bullets in a wide variety of calibers, and I’ve always had good results. Prices for the 115-grain round nose bullet are $31 per box of 500 uncoated, and $38 per box of 500 FalCoated.