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7,226 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
To the numbers, abbreviations, +P, etc... and what they all mean.

I have had so many different ammo recs that I am more confused than ever. My dad says something about red tips since they don't exit the body... I have heard hollow points, fire tipped hollow points, all kinds of stuff that just makes me want to go to the and let the.guy behind the counter hand me WHATEVER because my brain is fried.

Translate please!

I have been told to avoid lead until after I have the baby.


2,227 Posts
With all due respect, the best way to learn and remember, for the next trip to the gun shop, is to Google all your questions regarding types of bullets and cartridges.

For example, google what are hollow points bullets, self defense loads, +P cartridges etc. From there, you can continue the search and learn.

I am telling you this because there are so many different bullet types, cartridges, loads etc. that one or two pages of this thread would not be enough.

Good luck and have fun.

6,425 Posts

Not only is there a bewildering array of variables in ammunition, there's a bewildering array of opinions about each variable as well as how important each variable is.

It might be instructive to learn the "why's" behind the recommendations you're getting. That will help you learn what to pick for your own personal circumstances.

I carry (spelling out each variable):
  • Larger calibers usually have more recoil. I choose to minimize recoil for easier shot-placement with multiple shots.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]
  • Smaller calibers are starting to get too small for effective defense.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]
  • 9mm is very popular and cheap enough to buy for semi-frequent target practice. Larger calibers are more expensive.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]
  • Can carry more rounds. 9mm pistols typically can hold 15-17 rounds.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]
+P (Overpressure ammunition)
  • Extra pressure makes faster bullet, which puts more energy into the target.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]
  • Extra speed also makes the bullet more likely to expand[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]
  • Note that while +P is a defined pressure rating by SAAMI other designations like +P+, ++P, P++, whatever, are just marketing jargon without a specification.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]
Gold-dot Hollow-points
  • Hollow-points spread out and shed more energy into the target.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]
  • "Gold-dot" is a brand of bullet that is bonds together the jacket and bullet. If the bullet has to go through something first like a windshield or car door, the bonding keeps it from breaking into pieces before getting to the bad guy.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]
124 grain
  • While some people tout the 147gr size, a bigger bullet goes slower. Speed gives you more energy than weight. A lighter, faster bullet has more energy than a heavier, slower bullet. If you look in the energy formula, velocity is squared, while weight is not. A little more velocity does more than a little more weight.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]
  • I think I read in one of Massad Ayoub's books that based on police department experiences, 124gr +P 9mm seems to be the "sweet spot" in effective stopping power.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]

Variables I've thought about changing.
  • Hornady bullets - these have a plastic plug in the hollow-point that defeats the tendency for clothing (winter coats) to clog up the cavity and prevent the bullet from expanding.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]
  • Larger caliber, like .45 but in heavier gun. Heavier gun would lower the perceived recoil.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]
  • Smaller gun - I carry a P89 which I can carry IWB tuckable, completely concealed, or OWB. Something smaller would be easier to conceal, but smaller guns have more felt recoil and the few I've rented are no fun to shoot for practice.[/*:m:hzvyyzq1]

If you want to read up more on the mechanics and history of bullet cartridges, you might like Wikipedia's article on Cartridges

******* Engineer
1,838 Posts

Cartridges are composed of 4 components. They are-


Unless you are going to begin reloading your own ammo, the only one that you should be concerned about is the 4th, the bullet.

So, lets look at the basics...

Say you pick up a box of Cor-Bon 9mm Luger 115 gr. +P JHP.
Sounds foreign, right?
It's actually pretty easy.

First is usually going to be the company name. In this case, it's Cor-bon.

Second will be the caliber, in this case 9mm Luger

]Third will be the weight of the bullet, in this case 115 gr.

+P, (or any variations you see) simply tells you this cartridge will cause higher pressures than normal cartridges. IMHO, all this means to me is that it will possibly damage the firearm if it's not rated for it and will tend to have heavier recoil

Last will be the type of bullet. In this case JHP, or Jacketed Hollow Point.

Mainly, the things you want to be concerned about is the weight and (especially) the type of bullet.

Just remember the basics. FMJ for the range, JHP for the body.

JHP, or any type of Hollow Point, is a good self defense round because it should spread on impact. This maximizes damage and stopping power while preventing over-penetration.

FMJ is Full Metal Jacket (no, not the movie in this case.) Good practice and range rounds, but not so good in Self defense situations because the jacket keeps the bullet from expanding as easily as a hollow point, which can allow for over-pentration and possible collateral damage.

I do recommend rugerers explaination, and the article he links too. I am simply giving you another way to look at it.

Lawyer and Gun Activist
28,700 Posts
One thing a beginner has to realize is that manufacturers name cartridges based on marketing hype and feedback from focus groups.
The names of different calibers, bullet types, etc. do not always accurately describe what the bullet is.
They also have about a dozen different names for a hollow-point.
And sometimes manufacturers will make claims about a bullet that just aren't true.

Keep in mind, whatever ammo you choose for self-defense, make sure it's affordable enough and available easy enough that you will not hesitate to test some of it at the range when you first choose it, and then you need to burn up your carry ammo about once a year and replace it with fresh carry ammo that has been stored under good conditions (in your home). Ammo that has been carried or left in your vehicle for a year can get degraded and become unreliable due to the extremes of temperature, humidity, etc.

847 Posts
Although only my Part II was Part I ammo comparison was meant to share my own just-starting-out ammo buying experience. Maybe it'll provide some insight for you as well.


Hope it helps.
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