5.56 Timeline

Duty/Defense Carry Ammunition Selection

We get a lot of questions about what is the best duty or defensive ammunition for your carry firearm. I really like to simplify this question for people and here it is: If the round does not meet FBI standard test protocols for Law Enforcement Duty Carry, (meaning it has actually been tested by the FBI and meets their standard), then it more than likely will not perform to the standard you want for defensive carry.

Having witnessed several department tests on duty rounds and their performances on different barriers, I have several rounds that I prefer. One thing that I have noticed through testing on duty ammo, is the manufactures don’t bring any of their civilian production lines of defensive ammo. This says something to me, like those rounds are not going to perform like the FBI tested rounds.

What is the FBI test Protocol? Well the FBI is looking at expectable penetration in barriers; including bare ballistics gel, heavy clothing, drywall, plywood, sheet metal and auto glass, of 12 to 18 inches in soft tissue, after passing through these barriers. Also, uniform expansion and bullet retention weights after passing through those barriers and impacting soft tissue. You should probably not be carrying anything else in your defensive firearm that is not listed below.

Handgun Ammunition Penetration
Handgun Ammunition Penetration

Now there are several rounds that are not listed, that I would carry, as they are by trusted manufacturers and are the civilian equivalent of the LE/FBI tested rounds. I would say, you are safe if you carry any defensive HP round from Speer Gold Dot, Federal Tactical/ Bonded or Winchester Ranger T. as they are consistently listed. While there are round’s that say they meet FBI test protocols, these test are done buy the particular manufacture, who is trying to sell ammo to you.

Before you decide to carry a round for self defense, research it and don’t just believe what the manufacturer claims the round will do.  I personally will not carry any round in 9mm, .40 or 45 that is not from Federal, Speer Gold Dot or Winchester Ranger. Ammunition is constantly evolving and over the last 15 years great strides in bullet technology have been made. When new ammunition comes out, that claims to be better than all others that have come before it, ask yourself has this been tested by those who carry everyday and demand performance in all barriers?

Federal HST 9mm 147 gr. JHP

ATK is  a defense company that the FBI usually awards contracts to for ammunition. ATK consists of Federal and Speer Gold Dot LE ammunition.  In late 2012 ATK was awarded a 5 year contract with the FBI and DOJ to supply Speer Gold Dot. 40 cal and Federal 5.56mm ammunition. These contracts are revolving. In 2009 Winchester was awarded a large contract. Consistently over the past two decades, Federal, Speer and Winchester have been the awarded winners in testing and contracts, for a few of the rounds they produce , that meet the testing protocols. Currently the FBI is carrying 40 caliber duty firearms but a move back to 9mm has been rumored as round technology has advanced. It is rumored that new FBI Academy attendees are being issued Glock 17’s. This is following a nationwide trend of departments switching from 40 cal to 9mm. My former department switched from Glock 22’s to Glock 17’s last year and I have been seeing this trend with other department. Most recently Texas DPS switched from .357 Sig to 9mm.

Speer Gold Dot 9mm 147 gr. JHP

The list below is not all inclusive, but it gives you a large section of ammunition to look at. Several rounds have been tested by the FBI and have been approved for carry or carried by the FBI at some point. A few of the rounds below, may or may not currently be in production. The rounds below do reflect a large amount of independent testing (i.e. by LE Departments or Subject Matter Experts) not the manufacturer. I have personally seen extensive testing on Federal HST, Gold Dot and Winchester Ranger-T, in 9mm 147 gr, 40 cal 180 gr. and  45ACP 230 gr. This is why the three particular rounds are my personal choice’s in these calibers.


The Rounds listed bellow in 9mm, .40 Cal and 45 ACP, have been tested extensively and/or meet your carry standard.


  • Barnes XPB 115gr HP (35515) such as loaded by Cor-Bon (DPX09115)
  • Winchester Partition Gold 124gr JHP (RA91P)
  • Winchester PDX1 124 gr +P JHP (S9MMPDB)
  • Winchester PDX1 147 gr JHP (S9MMPDB1)
  • Winchester Ranger-T 124 gr +P JHP   (RA9124TP)
  • Winchester Ranger Bonded 124 gr +P JHP (RA9BA)
  • Winchester Ranger-T 127gr JHP +P+   (RA9TA)
  • Winchester Ranger-T 147gr JHP   (RA9T)
  • Winchester Bonded 147gr JHP   (RA9B/Q4364)
  • Speer Gold Dor 124gr JHP
  • Speer Gold Dot 124gr JHP +P   (53617)
  • Speer Gold Dot 147gr JHP   (53619)
  • Remington Golden Saber 124 gr +P JHP bonded (GSB9MMD)
  • Remington Golden Saber 147gr JHP (GS9MMC)
  • Federal Tactical 124gr JHP   (LE9T1)
  • Federal Tactical 135gr JHP +P   (LE9T5)
  • Federal HST 147gr JHP   (P9HST2)
  • Federal HST 124gr JHP +P (P9HST3)

.40 S&W

  • Barnes all-copper bullets (140 & 155gr) loaded by: Cor-Bon (DPX40140)
  • Winchester Partition Gold 165gr JHP   (RA401P)
  • Winchester PDX1 165 gr JHP (S40SWPDB)
  • Winchester PDX1 160 gr JHP (S40SWPDB1)
  • Winchester Ranger 165gr JHP   (RA40TA)
  • Winchester Ranger 180gr JHP   (RA40T)
  • Winchester Bonded 180gr JHP   (Q4355)
  • Speer Gold Dot 155gr JHP   (53961)
  • Speer Gold Dot 180gr JHP   (53962)
  • Federal Tactical 165gr JHP   (LE40T3)
  • Federal Tactical 180gr JHP   (LE40T1)
  • Federal HST 180gr JHP   (P40HST1)
  • Remington Golden Saber 180 gr JHP (GS40SWB)


  • Barnes XPB/TAC-XP 185gr HP loaded by:
    • Cor-Bon (DPX45185)
    • Taurus (TCB45ACP185HP)
  • Winchester PDX1 230 gr JHP (S45SWPDb)
  • Winchester Ranger-T 230gr JHP   (RA45T)
  • Winchester Ranger-T 230gr JHP +P   (RA45TP)
  • Federal Tactical 230gr JHP   (LE45T1)
  • Federal HST 230gr +P JHP   (P45HST1)
  • Federal HST 230gr JHP   (P45HST2)
  • Speer Gold Dot 230gr JHP   (23966)
  • Speer Gold Dot 230gr +P JHP (53969)



Guest Submission by Mark Stanfill On Self Defense And The Folly of The Shotgun Myth


After an open invite on the looserounds facebook page, this opinion piece was submitted by Mark Stanfill. 

The Myth of the Shotgun
I have asked many times, what is the best home defense weapon. Over the years the universal answer always seems to be the shotgun. I, like many that have had “professional” time behind the trigger, tend to disagree.

The explanation always stays the same for those that have never been in a close quarters battle. The wide pattern of the shotgun, the less demand for accuracy, the simplicity of the weapon, the unmistakeable sound of a pump shotgun, and the universal fear of facing a shotgun at close range. While these may all be reasonable beliefs, they do not make the shotgun the answer.

Here are a few little tidbits of info that many people seem to overlook. In a self defense situation an individual’s visual acuity begins to decline along with a rapid increase in heart rate and blood pressure. The body is releasing adrenaline by the ton (so to speak) and fine motor skill and dexterity becomes almost none existent. Well, you may think that these are even more reasons to use a simple weapon that does not require aiming. Here is the truth of the matter, however. When you pick up a shotgun, it is nearly three feet long. Now, you must navigate dark hallways and rooms with your muzzle leading you by 36 inches. Add in the fact that you are losing fine motor skill and dexterity as well as bubbling over with fear and adrenaline, and you now have a bumbling, clumsy nightmare. You simply CANNOT effectively clear a corner with a shotgun because of the weapons length.

So, now you are asking how a pistol is any better, right? The answer is quite simple. Most people shoot their handguns regularly. They shoot them often and are intimately familiar with their operation. This alone is the short answer. When your brain starts to shut down, it will revert to doing what it “instinctively” knows how to do. Many people have practiced the self defense battle over and over, that is what their brain knows how to handle. Even without a “love” of firearms and familiarity with dozens of different weapons, people know their pistols.

The truth of the whole matter is simply when faced with a gun battle or deployment of lethal force, we stop thinking. Our brains generally cannot handle the massive data overload that it is facing. The truth is most people cannot effectively fight with a firearm. At least not without hundreds if not thousands of hours of training. I can tell you from experience that the first time you find yourself engaged in a gun battle you get scared. You forget everything you have learned and you fight ONLY for your survival. There is no technique or form that you will employ, only any means necessary to win.

On that note, when you are seeking out schools or firearms training classes, look for ones that will teach you about real life situations. You are not a private security contractor, or a Navy SEAL, or a hitman. Leave the fantasy camps to the wannabes. Train for situations that you may actually find your self in one day. Also remember that one class will not teach you how to win a gun fight. The class will merely give the foundation and basics of what you must continually practice once you leave the class.

The Colt Defender.

I am not a fan of subcompact guns for CCW or duty use.  A lot of people will tell you how much they love their tiny ittty bitty whatever model and how well it works and how small and comfortable it is to carry.  They will tell you all of this in all sincerity.  What most of them are really saying, if you read between the lines, is how much they love it because it is small and light and they don’t notice they are carrying it.  Not many of them have shot any of the subcompacts enough to really know how it will perform.   Or course an argument could be made that you do not need it to fire hundreds of rounds in a self defense situation and so on, but the truth is that it you keep it long enough, it will be eventually fired to the point where it starts to malfunction.  They are based on full-sized guns that work well.  Just like when you shoehorn a piston into the AR15 platform, when you make the same gun a lot smaller, it doesn’t always pan out.

Now with that out of the way I do like them for certain uses.  My main use of the subcompact is for a backup gun to my main full-sized EDC piece.  Now, for a subcompact, I mean anything smaller then a commander sized gun.  I know there are a lot of different ideas about what is a subcompact, but for now, I mean smaller than a commander.  I consider an Officers model and a Defender to both be a subcompacts.

I had a Defender for a few years and only sold it when I saw another full size 1911 I HAD TO HAVE.  I do not regret that one bit, but I do miss it.  I served me well and I had a little over 1,000 rounds through it.  I trusted it, but not like I trust a Gov model.   I carried it on my ankle and sometimes on my alternate killing hand side, depending on the weather and what I would be doing for most of the time I had it on.


The Defender came with the always nice Novak sights and a Hogue rubber grip.  I detest the Hogue grip , so I replaced it with a set of wooden grips.  I also added an STI extended thumb safety.   The frame was alloy and light and was hard to notice when you had the gun with you. The pistol came with two 7-round stainless steel Colt mags as standard.   The magazines are the interesting and most important part to me and the reason I am writing about it.

Since I carried the Defender as a backup, I always had two guns chambered in the .45 ACP round.   I love having two side arms that chamber and fire the same ammo, and I adore having two guns, of two sizes, that will use the same mags.


The defender does use as standard, a shorter mag than the full sized gov model or the Commander, but it will accept and work perfectly with the full-size mags.  I could carry the full-sized 1911 with two spare mags of 8 rounds each, plus the Defender with its standard magazine around my ankle just to keep it as small as I could.

My thoughts were that if my full sized gun was hit, dropped , became to jammed up or rendered inoperable in some way, the Defender would still work with my spare mags.  Anyone can see the appeal to this.  Being able to use any 1911 mag in the Defender was handy indeed.


In the picture above, the Defender has a Wilson Combat 8 round mag in it.  Of course the mag sticks out the bottom of the well a little, but it harms nothing. In fact, it even aids in control of reloading in some ways.

At the time, I did not have the Wilson 10 round mags , but if I did, I would use them the same as I do now and have the 10 rounders ready as reloads, just the same as I do now,only I would use them in my back up defender. They work perfectly, just like the other mags.


The mags fall out nice and clean and always lock back when empty.  I guess some would say you can over insert them, but I see that as a training issue. I have never seen it happen anyway, so it is not much of a concern to me.


For a small pistol chambered in the .45 ACP, it handles and shoots well. It does have a little more bit to it, but nothing uncomfortable.  The shorter sight radius requires perfect alignment and trigger control with little room for forgiveness. But that’s something you need to be paying attention to anyway.  For most uses they will claim these types of guns are for close range and not for anything much else.  My friend and I have fired them out to typical hand gun ranges with the same success as the full-size pistols.  I found myself having to slow down when doing hammered pairs, double taps and and rapid fire strings, not because of the small sized gun causing me grip problems, but because of the more noticeable recoil.  After a little practice you get used to it and can go to the same speeds you usually work with comfortably.

The Defender is just as accurate as a full-sized gun.  People who tell you that shorter barrels are less accurate should not be allowed to give you advice on fire arms.  A gun’s barrel length has nothing to do with its accuracy.  It only affects velocity and sight radius. A longer sight radius is easier to shoot.  A gun that is easier to shoot appears to be more accurate.  People have related this with barrel length having a physical effect on the accuracy.  In reality, it’s simply the lessened precision from aiming with a shorter sight radius.

Hits 100 yards on a man-sized target were achieved with the defender with careful trigger control and sight alignment. You know, the basics.


I don’t recommend to anyone to buy and use a subcompact anything as a standard every day carry CCW  handgun.  It’s just not a good idea.  For the new buyer and CCW card holder, they seem great. They are light and handy and easy to hide.  But the dark side is, they kick harder because they are lighter, and the shorter sight radius can frustrate new shooters.  They are not always 100% percent reliable, and the muzzle blast can be off-putting for some.  Of course at night the problem is intensified.  The idiotic porting on the early Springfield Armory subcompacts can really make for a fireworks show.  That is, when you could get them to actually fire.  When they hit a peak in popularity in the late 90s, a local shop ordered 5 of them.  Out of the five, not a single one could make it through 1 magazine without a double feed or worse.  The early Defenders had issues too, but not as severe and Colt worked them out pretty fast.  I have to say the Defender is oddly way more reliable then the older Mustangs and Ponies or any of the so-called pocket pistols and Officer’s models.   The worst I have seen are the Kimbers with the external extracts.   I am being extra hard on the subs because  I really feel you’re just asking for trouble if you carry them and expect them to take the abuse of a full-sized gun.   The absolute worst are always in the nearly worthless rounds like .380, .32, and .25.   I guess they might have a place in the world somewhere, but I just don’t see it.  Someone will chine in and tell me they have a Sig or some HK and it always works 100%, but if you hear that, take it with a grain of salt until you can test or see fired a model a few hundred times, get it hot and dirty and run it hard with hollow point ammo and make damn sure it will work. Remember that smaller guns take more abuse and parts wear out at a faster rate.

If you have to have one, or want a compact that is a damn good back up to a main gun, I do recommend the Defender.  You can now get the Defender in 9mm.  Colt and other makers of the 1911 make guns chambered in 9mm, so you can still have the two guns work with the same mags allowing use of the spare mags for a gun made in effective for whatever reason.   I would like to see a .38 Super combo like this, but I doubt it will happen.   The Defender as it is offers high quality and is the only subcompact 1911 that I would trust my life to.  With all things though, test out the subcompacts out for your self.  Don’t buy them just because you think it would be easier to carry.  That is absolutely the wrong reason to buy a gun to defend your life with. A little extra weight all day beats a  hole in your liver made by some cheap .25 ACP Lorcin pistol imply because your subcompact double-fed after the first round.

Question and Answer

This is a LooseRounds.com Q&A session.  If you have a firearms related question please email it to QA@LooseRounds.com. We will post the your questions anonymously and give you our answers.

We get a lot of smaller  questions sent to us weekly.  So today I am going to rapid fire answer a few of the easiest to get  the info out to those who want it.

What caliber of ammo was used in the m40 in viet nam?    7.62 NATO  M118 special ball

5.56 green tip vs car door?  Yes, M855 will go through a car door

What ammo for 1:7 twist?   Any ammo is fine for 1/7  despite what you may hear or read otherwise, 1/7 will shoot as low as 40 grain all the way to 90 grain

winchester unertl scope? Winchester did not make Unertl scopes, Unertl is the maker not the model. Winchester did sell scopes but they have another name and were used some in WW1 and 2

Does a colt le6920 have a firing pin spring? No,  the colt 6920 is the closest you can get to a military M4 and is milspec other then  the barrel length and full auto. The 901 does use a firing pin spring.

colt 901 dry or lube?  Lube. all guns need and work better with lube. Always.

does colt rail gun come with night sights? No, the USMC  rail gun does, not the current civilian model. The USMC model will be sold in 2013


How are Super Sniper scope?  SWFA SS scopes are generally considered good for the money.  Their HD line receive excellent reviews.  I owned a side focus 10x and thought it was very good for a cheap scope.  I also owned a 5-20 and thought highly of it.  However SWFA has been criticized for how they have been handling some sales and preorders.

how to modify 25 ammo for better performance?  We highly recommend against modifying factory loaded ammunition for self defense.  Modified ammo can have various issues from poor feeding to blowing out the center of the projectile when fired, and leaving a ring shaped section of the bullet in the neck of the barrel.  As for .25 ACP, often a round that has good penetration is recommended for self defense.  A large part of ammo selection for the .25 is finding what will work reliable in your firearm.  The various 50gr full metal jacket rounds from the major ammunition manufactures are what is often recommended.


Barnes TSX test ( 70 gr) PART 2

Today I tested some more of the barnes triple shock X  bullets ( TSX ). I have wanted to see how the 70 grain bullet would do for a long time now so I put up a windshield  and a stack of soaking wet phone books. I wanted to test for penetration, expansion and for any point of aim point of impact changes after the round went through the auto glass.

I fired several rounds through the glass and into the books but was not able to recover many of the fired shots. Most of the rounds went through the glass and did in fact stay on track with not noticeable deflection. But, a lot of the bullets went through the glass and all of the books. One was found in the next to last book turned sideways. I am not sure it if tumbled through the book but I believe it did. The other I found in the last book setting just as it should have been.

One thing I found impressive was the damage done to the books as the bullets passed through.

As can be seen in the photo, the path of the bullets created wound channels bigger then the bullet diameter. Of course this is desired. One thing to note is the bullets did not deflect hardly at all even while traveling through glass, then the books.

Even though there was several feet between the glass and my target behind the glass, the round traveled as I had hoped. So it can be assumed that if you intended to hit something ( someone) behind auto glass, that you could hold on the target and reasonably expect to hit it. I did angle the glass to imitate glass in a car/truck. Even though, the round did not follow the curve of the glass to any amount I could detect with a dowel rod inserted into the holes.

Now the kind of bad news. If you know anything about the tests done on the TSX and the 70 grain version in particular, you have heard that the tips have been known to collapse inward and then act as a  ball round. Well, this happened to me as well. I figure this is why I was not able to recover many of them.  Although they did not open up the way intended they still preformed very well. I expected them to act  in this way and would have been surprised to see a perfect mushroomed TSX after going trough glass.  Remember that glass is not muscle,skin,blood and bone. So do not be afraid to use this bullet for self defense or hunting. Nothing in a body will act like auto glass. The fact that they did expand slightly is a good thing, but even better is they stayed on track, did not explode or frag into tiny pieces and not penetrate much. They did the opposite of that, and I would want them to work this way if I needed to shoot something inside a vehicle.

Here you can see how they did slightly expand. You can also see how they tucked in to render them a ball round slightly bigger then its original size. You may notice how much longer they are then 75 or 77 grain OTM. The rounds fired are setting they way they would be in a case.  The 70 grain TSX  absolutely requires a 1/7 twist. I am not sure if a 1/8 twist would work because I am too lazy to check right now.


Here are two more fired bullets to show how they behave with regularity when shot trough the glass.

All of the ammo was handloaded to 556 pressure to try to match the “brown tip” load the military has been supposedly issuing to special forces troops. I have no idea about muzzle velocities or pressure of the “Brown tip” So I played it by ear. I do know the bullet is the same used so that will just have to do.  This load and bullet combo is my current favorite for hunting and other use. I do not want anyone to get the wrong idea about this round/bullet from the pics above and not seeing a perfect mushroom. So I want to point out again that any round fired through glass will never act the same as it will when fired in tissue especially something meant for meat.  If you want to see how it does on game, the hog hunting forum on ar15.com is the place to go. Members there take 250 to 300 pound wild hogs using this bullet regularly and with ease. So don’t mark this bullet of  the list of game  or self defense use based on barrier performance. But try to keep in mind this is what you want when shooting through a car window. The round acts exactly they way it is intended when hitting living tissue and is very, very impressive.