These are our top five choices for .40 S&W self-defense ammo.
Just like with the .38 Special, 9mm Luger and .45 ACP cartridges, there are a lot of .40 S&W self-defense loads to pick from. In fact, there are so many choices that it can be really tough to separate the good from the bad. Remember, you're literally trusting your life to your ammunition, so it's important to choose wisely.
The good news is there's currently a great selection of .40 S&W ammo available. However, the bad news is it's really tough to pick a single load in particular and label it as the best .40 S&W self-defense ammo.
In this post, I'm going to talk about why these are the specific .40 S&W self-defense ammo loads you should be using in your Glock, Sig, Smith & Wesson or other handgun you carry for personal defense or concealed carry.
All of the self-defense rounds on this list have been thoroughly tested using the FBI standards in ballistic gelatin by Lucky Gunner. They all offer excellent terminal performance, good stopping power, high weight retention, deep penetration and reliable expansion.
So, here are, in no particular order, my picks for the best .40 S&W self-defense ammo based on their performance under controlled conditions and their prevalence among major law enforcement agencies.
Remington 180-Grain Golden Saber
Remington also offers their Golden Saber line of ammunition in .380 ACP, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, and .45 ACP, but their 180-grain .40 S&W load may be the best-performing self-defense load of the bunch. Indeed, it embodies all the traits good self-defense ammo should have: it's accurate, reliable and it offers really good expansion and consistent penetration. Honestly, there isn't much else to say about this particular round because it's just so darn good.
Federal 165-Grain Tactical Bonded
The 165-grain Federal Tactical Bonded HP (hollow-point) line of ammo is another great choice for personal defense. Built for law enforcement use, these bullets have a bonded core, making them almost immune to core-jacket separation. For this reason, they have a really good reputation for weight retention, deep penetration and reliable expansion.
While this ammunition was originally designed for police use (when it might be necessary to shoot through some sort of barrier), this is also really good .40 S&W self-defense ammo for use in cold climates or other situations where the bad guy might be wearing heavy clothing.
Winchester 180-Grain Train & Defend
Winchester had a brilliant idea when they developed their Train & Defend line of ammo.
The "D" loads use a bonded jacketed hollow-point bullet and the "T" loads use a full metal jacket bullet. Since they're loaded to the same ballistic specifications, the cheaper "T" loads are ideal for practice at the range and the "D" loads are designed for self-defense. Since they both shoot to the same point of impact and have the same amount of recoil, this ammunition is ideal for realistic training without having to shoot the more expensive .40 S&W self-defense ammo for practice.
Even though the Train & Defense line of ammo is a lighter load than most other .40 S&W ammo loads designed for self-defense (and thus has a lighter recoil), those bonded JHP bullets still have lots of stopping power and consistently performed very well in tests.
Winchester 165-Grain Ranger Bonded
Like the Federal Tactical Bonded load discussed previously, the Winchester Ranger Bonded self-defense ammo also incorporates a bonded JHP bullet to reduce the chances of core-jacket separation and it also has an superb reputation for high weight retention, deep penetration and reliable expansion. For this reason, many law enforcement agencies use Winchester Ranger Bonded ammunition, as it's an excellent choice for .40 S&W self-defense ammo.
Speer 180-Grain Gold Dot
The Speer Gold Dot line of ammunition revolutionized self-defense and law enforcement ammo when it first hit the market in the 1990s and became the gold standard for self-defense ammunition. While other loads also perform really well, the Gold Dot still has a stellar reputation for high weight retention, deep penetration and reliable expansion and remains an outstanding .40 S&W self-defense ammo choice.
These are far from the only good choices for .40 S&W self-defense ammo. Among others, the 165-grain Winchester PDX1 Defender, the 180-grain Federal Hydra Shok, the 165-grain Hornady Critical Defense, and the 180-grain Remington Ultimate Defense are also solid performing loads.
Federal's 180-grain HST load also performed well in tests, but had more than the recommended amount of penetration (just over 18 inches in each case). If over-penetration worries you, stick with the JHP bullets above. However, if that's not a big concern for you, the Federal HST is another worthwhile choice.
As always, test the accuracy and reliability of your chosen .40 S&W self-defense ammo at the range before you start carrying it to ensure that it functions reliably and shoots accurately in your particular handgun.