clutter of bullets

The Best Bullets for Self-Defense: A Comprehensive Guide

When you find yourself in a situation where self-defense is necessary, the ammunition you use can be the difference between life and death. In this blog post, we'll discuss the best bullets for self-defense to ensure your safety. Let's get started.

Factors That Define a Good Self-Defense Bullet


pointy bullet on cement floor
Credit: Envato Elements/ Bykfa

When it comes to self-defense, the choice of ammunition plays a significant role. But what are the attributes that make a bullet effective for self-defense? Scroll down below to find out:

1) Stopping Power

The bullet's stopping power, or its ability to incapacitate an attacker is one of the most critical factors. Stopping power is often associated with the size and speed of the bullet, along with its ability to transfer energy upon impact. A bullet with high stopping power can neutralize a threat more quickly, increasing your safety in a self-defense situation.

2) Reliability

In a self-defense situation, reliability is paramount. You want to be certain that the bullet will fire as intended every single time you pull the trigger. Unreliable ammunition could lead to jamming or misfires, potentially putting you at risk during a critical moment. Therefore, the reliability of a bullet in terms of its performance and consistency is a significant factor.

3) Penetration

A bullet designed for self-defense should provide sufficient penetration to reach a vital area of an attacker's body, thus efficiently getting rid of the threat. However, it's equally crucial to avoid over-penetration, as bullets that penetrate through the target can potentially harm innocent bystanders or damage property. Hence, the right balance in penetration is essential.

4) Recoil Management

Recoil refers to the backward momentum a shooter feels when the bullet leaves the gun. Heavy recoil can make the firearm difficult to control, especially for follow-up shots, which might be necessary in a self-defense situation. Therefore, good self-defense bullets should have manageable recoil.

The Best Bullet Types for Self Defense


gun with bullet casings
Credit: Envato Elements/ AtlasComposer

Now that you know what makes a good self-defense bullet, below are the best types:

1) Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP)

When we talk about self-defense ammo, jacketed hollow-point ammunition often steals the show. Designed to expand on impact, these bullets ensure maximized stopping power while minimizing over-penetration. The jacket—typically of copper—helps maintain its shape during flight, promoting accuracy. This combination of stopping power and accuracy makes JHP bullets a go-to choice for many when it comes to personal defense.

2) Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) Bullets

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) bullets are commonly used for target shooting and military purposes. They have a design featuring a fully encased lead core, covered by a harder metal shell. This design ensures the bullet's integrity, reduces barrel fouling, and promotes reliable feeding and ejection in semi-automatic firearms. While not always ideal for self-defense, they can still serve as a backup option when JHP ammunition is unavailable.

3) Frangible Ammunition

Frangible ammunition is another excellent choice for defensive ammo, particularly in situations where over-penetration could lead to collateral damage. This bullet-type is designed to break apart upon impact, meaning it deposits most of its energy into the target and reduces the risk of harm to others in the vicinity. This makes frangible bullets an especially suitable choice in confined spaces or urban environments where bystanders might be present.

4) Open Tip Match (OTM)

Although they appear similar to hollow point bullets, Open Tip Match (OTM) bullets serve a distinct purpose. Despite featuring an open tip, OTMs do not expand upon impact like JHP bullets. Instead, the primary goal of OTM bullets is precision. Their design aids in stable flight, helping shooters hit their targets accurately. While they may not be the first pick for some, their precision can be a game-changer in self-defense shooting situations where accuracy is critical.

5) Bonded Bullets

Bonded bullets offer another reliable option for self-defense. These bullets feature a bonding process that welds the bullet's core and jacket together. This bonding prevents the jacket and core from separating upon impact, leading to deeper penetration. The potential advantage here is that bonded bullets can be more effective against attackers wearing heavy clothing, or when you need to penetrate light barriers. If you anticipate such scenarios, bonded bullets may serve you well.

6) Soft Point (SP) Bullets

Soft Point bullets, or SPs, feature a soft lead tip exposed at the top while the rest of the bullet is encased in a harder metal shell. When an SP bullet strikes a target, it expands more slowly than a hollow point bullet. This controlled expansion results in a balance of penetration and wound channel size, making them a viable choice for self-defense, especially in scenarios where over-penetration could be a concern.

How to Choose the Best Bullets for Self-Defense


man holding bullets in hand
Credit: Envato Elements/ osbmxhouse

The selection of the best self-defense bullet isn't just about the bullet itself. It's also about you, the shooter. Let's look at some key considerations when choosing the best bullets for self-defense:

1) Understand Your Needs

First, consider your specific needs. Do you need ammo for self-defense, or do you need concealed carry ammo? The answer to these questions will guide your choice.

2) Know Your Firearm

Understanding the type and caliber of your firearm is crucial. Not every bullet type is suitable for every firearm. Consult your firearm's user manual or speak with a knowledgeable professional to ensure compatibility.

3) Consider Bullet Weight

The weight of the bullet, measured in grains, is another essential factor to consider. Lighter bullets generally travel faster but may offer less stopping power. On the other hand, heavier bullets may have slower velocity but can provide more stopping power due to their weight. It's essential to test different bullet weights to see which offers the best balance for your needs.

4) Test and Practice

Once you've made your selection, purchase a small quantity of the chosen ammunition and test it. Practice firing these rounds to assess their reliability, your comfort with the recoil, and your accuracy. No bullet can be deemed suitable for self-defense unless it's thoroughly tested and you feel confident using it.

Top Calibers for Self Defense


single bullet casing
Credit: Envato Elements/ mirarahneva

When discussing self-defense, merely understanding bullet types is not enough. The bullet's caliber is equally important. The right caliber for self-defense delivers adequate stopping power and can be managed effectively by the shooter. Let's explore some of the top calibers used in self-defense and consider why they could be suitable for you:

1) .380 ACP

Compact, manageable, and effective, the .380 ACP is a caliber worth considering. It fits perfectly in smaller handguns and provides a manageable recoil. Although the .380 ACP may not deliver the same stopping power as some larger calibers, it can still effectively protect in a self-defense situation. When loaded with high-quality ammunition, a .380 ACP can be a formidable tool in your self-defense arsenal.

2) 9mm Luger

The 9mm Luger is a caliber that has stood the test of time. It offers a perfect blend of power and recoil management, making it one of the most popular choices for self-defense. The 9mm Luger's moderate recoil allows for better control and faster follow-up shots, which could be crucial in a self-defense scenario.

Moreover, when coupled with high-quality self-defense rounds, like Jacketed Hollow Points (JHPs), the 9mm Luger delivers formidable stopping power. The popularity and widespread use of this caliber mean that ammunition is readily available, a vital consideration when choosing your self-defense bullet caliber.

3) .45 ACP

The .45 ACP caliber is renowned for its impressive stopping power. This caliber has long been a favorite among many law enforcement agencies and military units, and it is easy to see why. It is a reliable and powerful round, potentially stopping an aggressor quickly and efficiently.

However, this increased power comes with a higher level of recoil. While more challenging to manage than the 9mm Luger or .380 ACP, with regular practice and familiarization, many shooters can effectively handle the .45 ACP.

4) .40 S&W

Another option to consider is the .40 S&W caliber. With less recoil than the .45 ACP but greater stopping power than the 9mm Luger, the .40 S&W presents a middle-ground option for those looking for balanced characteristics in their self-defense ammunition.


All the rounds discussed in this blog have proven track records in self-defense situations, so your decision should depend on your comfort and control. Remember, a bullet is only as good as the shooter. With regular practice and the right bullet, you can ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.

If you're looking for a versatile shooting target that accommodates various bullet types, including both rifle and handgun bullets, check out EasyShot shooting targets. Our shooting targets are designed to enhance your target shooting experience, providing a convenient solution for all your shooting needs. Shop with us today.

Back to blog