Nothing is more necessary for firearms than ammunition; without it, we’d be forced to just sit and stare at our favorite possessions. Every year sees a new crop of innovative defensive ammo pop up at SHOT Show, and 2019 was no exception. Some interesting new rounds came from the established names, while others came from newer makers out to make a name for themselves. Here’s a quick rundown on some of the best offerings for this year.
Norma Monolithic Hollow Point
Hunters and benchrest shooters have been relying on Norma quality ammunition for over 100 years. Now, defensive shooters can also turn to that century of experience.
Leading the charge into the defensive arena is a Monolithic Hollow Point, offered exclusively in 9mm for the introduction. Constructed entirely from copper with a large, hollow point cavity, the 108-grain bullet is launched from the muzzle at 1,312 feet per second with 418 foot-pounds of energy. Norma’s reps state the cold-forged copper projectile performs equally well through a wide range of barrel lengths, making the round ideal for everything from small-framed pistols to pistol-caliber carbines, offering excellent expansion at a variety of velocities.
Norma’s Monolithic Hollow Point is sold in boxes of 20; with a suggested retail price of about $22. — Joseph Albanese
Federal Shorty 1.75″ Shotshells
Chief among the benefit of reduced-sized shotshells are increased magazine capacity and lessened recoil, both of which are assets in a defensive situation. For 2019, Federal introduced a diminutive loading aptly named the Shorty.
The 1.75-inch 12-gauge loads are offered with three different payloads: No. 8 birdshot, No. 4 Buck, and a rifled slug. Of those choices, the No. 4 Buck is most useful for home defense. The 15 pellets are formidable medicine for any would-be attacker, but the smaller size keeps muzzle blast down, which can be disorienting in the tight confines of a hallway. Federal states the muzzle velocity is 1,200 feet per second, so there’s as much knockdown power as the shell’s full size brethren.
If there’s a downside to the short shells, it’s that they may not cycle in some semiautos. There is a potential for feed issues in some pumps, so you’ll want to verify they work in your favorite shotgun before something goes bump in the night. Expect to pay around $5 and up to $12 for a 10-round box, depending on the load. — Joseph Albanese
D Dupleks Broadhead and Kaviar Shotshells
Shotgun ammo manufacturer D Dupleks has been making solid steel slugs in a polymer wad for a number of years now. They introduced two new loads at the 2019 SHOT Show that are a definite departure from their original offerings.
The Broadhead line was launched in an attempt to provide the best load possible for bear, moose, bison, caribou, boar, feral hogs and large deer.
The 12 gauge load fires a 1 ⅛ ounce slug surrounded by six razor sharp steel petals. When the slug comes into contact with an animal, the petals expand and separate, creating seven separate wound channels, ensuring a quick and humane hunting experience.
The polymer bearing bands prevent contact with the bore, enabling it to be fired effectively from rifled and smooth barrels and with any choke.
The new Kaviar line fires a fragmenting slug ideal for competition shooters and self defense situations. Lead shot pellets are encased in a polymer material, seated on top of a polyurethane wad. The frangible design helps minimize overpenetration and reduces backsplatter. The sharp shoulders on the projectile’s round nose facilitate reliable breakup upon impact.
Like the Broadhead line, the Kaviar projectiles are also safe to be fired from rifled or smooth barrels with any choke. MSRP is approximately $13. For more info, visit www.ddupleks-usa.com. —T. Logan Metesh
Browning Trail Force .38 Special
Browning took the “snake shot” concept to the next level with the introduction of the Trail Force load in .38 Special. The new round combines two copper-plated lead discs with No. 9 shot for an increased defensive punch.
Designed for revolvers, Trail Force .38 Special will help keep serpents at bay on the Back 40, and can keep two-legged predators at arms’ length on the blacktop. The multiple projectiles contained in the Trail Force round combine to form a quarter ounce of payload, which isn’t bad coming from a wheelgun. The No. 9 shot provides excellent dispersion and the two copper-plated lead discs have some momentum behind them for additional knockdown power, and are sized to grab the rifling for accuracy.
If defending yourself from pests, venomous or otherwise, is a concern, consider stuffing your revolver with Trail Force .38 Special. Expect to pay about $17 for a box of 20. — Joseph Albanese
Federal’s Syntech Defense
Federal set the training world on fire a few years ago with its Syntech line of polymer-jacketed ammo that reduced splashback and increased barrel life. Now, the ammo giant is looking to revolutionize personal-protection rounds with the added layer of safety Syntech provides, without sacrificing performance.
Unlike the training round, the Defensive Syntech ammo has blue-coated bullets, and constructed with a deep, hollow-point cavity. Upon impact, the bullet splits apart into four sections: three petals and core. Each of the three petals separates from the core, creating its own wound channel, and penetrates to six inches.. The core penetrates even deeper, easily surpassing the 12-18 inches through heavy clothing as mandated by FBI protocols.
Like the training round, Syntech Defense is wrapped in a polymer jacket that can prolong barrel life by lessening friction and tempering heat—while eliminating lead or copper fouling. Federal’s lead-free Catalyst primers are used, making the blue-jacketed rounds “green,” and ideal for use in indoor range. Look for Syntech Defense to start at $20 and go up to $25. — Joseph Albanese
SIG Sauer M17 9mm +P
SIG Sauer seems hell-bent on dominating every category of firearm components and accessories. This has taken them down many roads, including the production of quality centerfire ammunition.
SIG just released the new P320-M17 commemorative pistol, and, along with it, some high-performance M17 9mm +P rounds. Those who carry in the line of duty or for defense will be interested in in 124-grain SIG Elite V-Crown Jacketed Hollow Point personal-defense loads, designed for weight retention with exceptional on-target energy and optimal expansion for stopping power. To compliment the carry ammo, a 124-grain SIG Elite Full Metal Jacket round is available for training, with similar ballistics so hits on the range should translate to hits when it counts.
Look for the military-grade carry and practice rounds at retailers starting now. You’ll fork over $19 for the practice rounds and $21 for the personal defense loads, both sold in boxes of 20. — Joseph Albanese
Winchester Ranger One Defensive Rounds
Designed specifically for law enforcement, Winchester Ranger One is a bonded, jacketed hollow point with a unique rigid core that is designed to prevent the bullet from being affected by drywall, clothing, or other material that can adversely hinder expansion.
Ranger One was designed to defeat the intermediary barriers that law enforcement officers may find themselves dealing with in a shoot out, such as vehicle glass or an overturned desk. The exclusive polymer insert is designed to channel fluids away and help with expansion, while ensuring effective penetration.
Ranger One’s 9mm bullet weighs 147 grains, and is stuffed in a nickel-plated case. Out of a four-inch barrel, you can expect the projectile to travel at about 1,010 feet per second. A little rain shouldn’t be an issue, as the primer is sealed with lacquer and a waterproofing agent is applied to the mouth of the case.
Right now, Winchester is only selling Ranger One to law enforcement agencies, but a little bird told me that could change in the future. — Joseph Albanese
PMC SFX Ammo
PMC introduced the SFX lineup at the 2018 SHOT Show, but never managed to bring them to market. They were back at this year’s show, this time with a tentative release date.
Designed for personal defense, the SFX line meets law enforcement protocols so it may eventually work its way into some duty holsters. The 9mm load is engineered to expand and shed energy if it hits a barrier such as a wall, to minimize the potential risks to bystanders in a police setting. A re-imagining of the company’s previous Starfire line, the SFX bullet is designed for smooth feeding to maintain reliability in semiauto handguns.
Start looking for SFX at your local gun shop in April. Prices have yet to be released. — Joseph Albanese
Federal Premium Hydra-Shok Deep
For 2019, Federal Premium adds 40 S&W and 45 Auto loads to its line of Hydra-Shok Deep defensive ammo.
Federal first started developing its now-iconic Hydra-Shok bullets back in the 1970s. The latest iteration, Hydra-Shok Deep, was fine-tuned to defeat intermediate barriers such as automotive glass or wallboard and still provide an optimal 14 to 16 inches of penetration in the 10-percent ballistic gelatin medium that forms the crux of the FBI testing protocols. The secret to the deep penetration is the unique center post design, which has been beefed up in the Deep line. This allows the core to punch through tough materials while still allowing the hollowpoint to expand and deposit its energy in soft tissue.
Look for the new calibers to start around $25 retail. — Joseph Albanese
Doubletap Hardcast Solids in 10mm
Doubletap takes defensive rounds into the woods with their Hardcast Solid bullets.
The Hardcast Solid bullets tip the scales at 200 grains in 10mm, giving you plenty of weight to throw at a charging predator of the two- or four-legged variety. Cast with a hardness of 21 brinell, the heavy rounds will penetrate through soft tissue, heavy bone, and hide exceptionally well, delivering deep penetration.
The bullet features a wide, flat meplat on the nose that cuts a large, clean hole without any flight deviation or deflection. The back of the round features a gas check, which helps prevent the hot gases created by ignition from melting the lead and fouling the barrel—making them ideal for use in your Glock 20. For those that take longer pokes while handgun hunting, you can expect 1,105 feet per second and 542 foot pounds at 100 yards out of your G20. At the muzzle, the rounds produce 1,300 fps and 750 ft. lbs.
The 10mm Hardcast woods defense rounds are available now for about a buck a round, at $50 for a box of 50. — Joseph Albanese
Aguila Jacketed Hollow Point
Aguila Ammunition encourages you to fight like you train, using bullets of similar weights so that point of impact won’t be affected when you swap the training rounds for the defensive ones.
To that end, Aguila has introduced a line of 9mm Jacketed Hollow Points that weigh much less than the typical 124- or 147-grain projectiles found in defensive ammo. Many use whatever cheap ammo they can get their hands on to keep trigger time from costing an arm or leg. In the case of 9mm, that’s often a 115-grain full metal jacket round. The new defensive rounds only weigh 117 grains, better matching the lighter weights typical of training ammo. The lighter bullet also translates to less recoil, which is a boon to sensitive shooters.
Aguila produces most components used to manufacture their ammo in-house, which keeps costs down. You can expect the new 9mm JHP rounds to retail for around $18 for a box of 50. — Joseph Albanese