Finding the best ammo for home defense is paramount. We’ll discuss why it’s so crucial over the next few minutes. 

If you think that using ball or target ammo for self-defense (home defense, concealed carry, etc.) is a good idea, let’s talk. The pistol, rifle, or shotgun ammo you use on the range differs significantly from the ammo you should use to protect yourself and others. 

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Federal Top Gun 12 Gauge 2.75" #8 Ammo
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Federal Top Gun 12 Gauge 2.75" #7.5 Ammo
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I will start by explaining why you shouldn’t use your range ammo for defensive purposes. Then, I’ll give you my recommendations based on what I and many other shooters use and recommend. 

Let’s dive in. 

Why Not Use Range Ammo? 

Range ammunition was not designed for defensive purposes. Ball and other range ammunition do not expand upon impact, so little force acts against them when they travel through a barrier. 

This increases the probability of the bullet traveling through the intended target and out of the other side.

For defensive and liability purposes, this is not the optimal outcome. In a perfect world, the round will stop after it enters the intended target, and the threat will be neutralized.

spread ammo

Defensive ammo is meant to spread like this. Source: mtstate

Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) rounds were created to mitigate overpenetration and maximize stopping power in pistol and rifle rounds. 

Best Pistol Ammo For Home Defense 

It would take too long to go over my recommendations for every pistol caliber out there, so we’ll go with 9mm for discussion purposes. If I had to give you only one suggestion for defensive use, I would recommend the 124-grain Speer Gold Dot. Not only do I carry it daily, but 3,000+ law enforcement agencies nationwide do, too. 

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Speer 9mm Gold Dot Personal Protection 124gr Hollow Point Ammo
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Since law enforcement agencies use it, ample research, testing, and development have been done to ensure that the ammo will perform with the utmost reliability, accuracy, and terminal performance while limiting any liabilities that may come with overpenetration. 

The ammo can be pretty expensive, but when you consider the amount of R&D behind it, it’s easy to see why. 

A couple of other defensive rounds I would recommend are Federal HST and Hornady Critical Defense. Each line offers different caliber options, so you should be set regardless of whether you carry 9mm. 

Best Shotgun Ammo For Home Defense 

Shotguns have been a favorite for home defense for decades. Most of us who grew up around firearms had parents or grandparents who swore by shotguns for home defense. After all, what’s better than a scattergun for defending against an attacker or two? 

My recommendation for home defense shotgun ammo is Federal Flitecontrol 04 Buckshot. I’ve found it to be the most consistent in spread and accuracy against many other shotgun loads I’ve tested through my Remington 870.

Federal Flitecontrol

Federal Flitecontrol provides consistent accuracy based on my own testing. Source: federalpremium

Buckshot is a decisive round, and its close-quarters effects on targets are devastating. You’re firing multiple projectiles at one time, and the pellets and BBs don’t start spreading until about 15 yards, so all of those are entering the target at one time. 

However, if you use a shotgun for home defense, be careful where those pellets fly. Ensure you know what’s beyond your target as best as possible in case of overpenetration

Why Not Use Slugs? 

Not only do slugs tend to have significant recoil, but they will also penetrate almost anything in their way. You would need a bunch of drywall and concrete in one spot to stop a slug. 

Slugs are also a one-projectile load, so they lose much of what makes the shotgun so lovable for home defense: the “scatter-ability.” 

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Federal Shorty Shotshell 12 Gauge Rifled Slug 1.75" Ammo
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When choosing a home defense load for your shotgun, it’s best to avoid slugs unless you live alone and have no neighbors nearby. 

Best AR-15 Ammo For Home Defense

In addition to shotguns, the AR-15 has been a staple in home defense for decades. Considering how light and efficient they can be, it’s easy to see why many rely on the venerable AR-15. 

But if you make the mistake that many other shooters do and use M855 ‘Green Tip’ ammo for home defense, you can find yourself in a world of trouble. Don’t be that person. 

Instead, I recommend Black Hills 62-grain dual performance. I’ve discussed it in previous articles and use it in my AR-15 beside my bed. 

Only a few 5.56×45 defensive rounds exist outside the ones I’ve tested, and I’ve been very impressed with how this ammo has performed from a penetration and accuracy standpoint. 

Like any other hollow point, the tip expands upon impact, creating a more significant wound cavity, resulting in a world of hurt for the intruder and minimal penetration through walls. 

Surprisingly, only a few even know it exists. It is pretty pricey at roughly $1.80 per round, but it’s defensive ammo, so you won’t have to buy a case unless you live in Chicago.

Black Hills 62-grain Dual Performance

It doesn’t get much better than the Black Hills 62-grain Dual Performance rounds. Source: guntalk


Of course, training is just as important, if not more, than the ammunition you run. So before you rely on your designated firearm for defensive purposes, ensure you’re training with it to be as prepared as possible in the event you ever need to use it.

Don’t worry too much about the price; your defensive ammo won’t be used like your range ammo, so you won’t have to replace it often. 

Ensure the ammo works well with your firearm, and always know what’s beyond your target. 

Be good and take care.

Brian Zerbian
Brian is a USMC Veteran and avid gun enthusiast from New Jersey who loves to spend his time shooting, writing, listening to classic rock, and learning new things.
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