Best 9mm Self Defense Ammo: 5 Top Choices Used By Law Enforcement

Your life and the lives of those you protect depend on it: use one of these time-tested hollow point rounds preferred by U.S. law enforcement for your 9mm self defense ammo.

The good news: Top ammo manufacturers have worked tirelessly to develop law enforcement ammo that provides amazing performance for self defense.

The bad news: With so many rounds, tests, and data, finding the best 9mm self defense ammo (among the top handgun calibers in terms of popularity) can be a daunting task.

The best news: Law enforcement rounds are just a manufacturing label. In most cases, they can also be used by civilians.

When it comes to self defense rounds, ammo makers are always looking for the optimal balance between reliability, velocity, expansion, penetration and weight retention.

Too much expansion can cause issues penetrating some barriers such as glass, metal or heavy clothing. Not enough expansion and you lose effective stopping power. Reliable performance and consistent feed rates are critical.

With these factors in mind, here's a breakdown of the five best personal protection rounds that are widely available for civilian use. These products have also been verified to be used by law enforcement agencies in the U.S.

Yes, there are debates surrounding the use of .45 ACP or .357 Magnum as personal defense rounds. For our purposes, we're focusing on the 9mm round.

The ammo listed below includes a variety of sizes that enable shooters to find an optimal round for their 9mm.

Federal Premium LE HST

federal premium hst 9mm

A common choice for law enforcement agencies, this 9mm ammo has scored well in FBI and independent ballistic tests. The Federal HST LE bullet is designed to expand to create a large wound cavity.

The ammo provides a good combination of expansion consistency, penetration depth, and reliability for self defense use. This is trustworthy defensive ammunition, if you believe in the testing. It comes in the two common bullet weights for 9mm, and the FPS numbers are impressive.

Features: Pre-skived bullet, reloadable, non-corrosive, boxer-primed, low flash propellants, nickel plated cases and 100% weight retention through most barriers.

Available Rounds:

9mm Luger, 124 grain LE JHP
9mm Luger, 124 grain +P LE JHP
9mm Luger, 147 grain LE JHP
9mm Luger, 147 grain +P LE JHP


speer gold dot 9mmSpeer developed the GOLD DOT with proprietary uni-core technology that bonds the jacket one molecule at a time. The process eliminates jacket separation while allowing optimal weight and thickness.

Speer uses a two-stage process to create the hollow point to control size and rate of expansion. Regarding terminal performance, Gold Dot rivals some of the best.

Features: lead alloy core, bonded bullet, CCI primers, low flash propellants and nickel plated casing.

Available Rounds:

9mm Luger, 124 Grain JHP LE
9mm Luger, 124 Grain +P HP LE
9mm Luger, 147 Grain JHP LE
9mm Luger 147 Grain Bonded HP LE G2

Winchester PDX1 DEFENDER

winchester defender pdx1 9mm

Winchester uses a proprietary bonding process that keeps the jacket fused to the core. This creates a round with versatility.

According to the FBI, the PDX1 9mm loads provided great ballistic performance in a wide range of barrier tests. The wound channel it creates is just what a 9mm self defense ammo should do.

Features: bonded, threat stopping technology, hollow point, notched jacket

Available Rounds:

9mm Luger, 124 gr +P Defender
9mm Luger, 147 gr Defender

Hornady Critical DUTY

hornady critical duty 9mm

Designed specifically for law enforcement and tactical pro's, this Critical Duty line of ammo provides what Hornady calls "barrier blind" performance. This means that the round has similar expansion, penetration and weight retention on typical barriers such as glass, metal, wood and clothing.

Note that these rounds are designed for full sized handguns and are not optimal for concealed carry guns (or EDC) with short barrels. If you need carry ammo for a smaller sized gun, this isn't it. And it's not to be confused with Hornady Critical Defense, which lacks the stringent testing protocol.

Features: full power loads, heavy jacketed bullets, primer sealant.

Available Rounds:

9mm Luger 135 grain Flex Lock
9mm Luger 135 gr +P Flex Lock


remington golden saber 9mm

Remington developed an optimized round that uses a fully brass jacket rather that copper gilding. The jacket is also "nose cut" which assists with control of expansion.

Ammo tests resulted in 100% weight retention over several different velocities with excellent barrier penetration results.

Features: Bonded bullet, brass jacket, nose cut, patented spiral pattern

Available Rounds:

9mm Luger 124 gr Brass Jacketed Hollow Point
9mm Luger 124 gr +P Brass Jacketed Hollow Point
9mm Luger 147 gr Brass Jacketed Hollow Point

9mm Ballistic Gel Tests

With so many types of ammo available, it's difficult to find one conclusive form of testing for every product. You can still piece together useful data from several excellent resources available online.

Lucky Gunner has done a comprehensive ballistic gelatin test that includes 9mm ammo. Range Hot did a test of several popular 9mm rounds.

Choosing the Right 9mm round for Your Firearm

Ballistics data and product information is helpful for choosing the best 9mm ammo for personal defense or home defense. These tests are not conclusive on their own; all of these products have impressive test results.

You should realize that everyone has a different size 9mm handgun (there are big differences between a full-size gun and a compact one), and can find themselves in different self defense situations. That is why it's important for you to shoot and test specific handgun ammo in your own firearm.

Test these self defense loads to ensure you are accurate and maintain flawless feed rates.

I hope to never shoot my gun in self defense, but when if I do, then I want to be 100% sure I have the ammo to save lives!