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)