Latest Greatest Home Defense Handgun Ammunition

I wanted to start a thread on the subject of “Home Defense” ammunition.

I know this will be a matter of some personal opinion, but I know their are many different manufactures of ammunition geared specifically for home defense. These cartridges utilize all sorts of different designs to avoid over penetration and insure 100% of the impact force is absorbed in the target.

It has been many years since I researched what the latest greatest ammunition is for this purpose. I currently use what I think are MAGSAFE rounds in my 9mm. I think they are Magsafes but I chucked the box years ago when I loaded my clips. They appear to have a few large pellets inside the hollow cavity sealed with some type of clear resin. I bought them a long time ago when I lived in an apartment and was concerned that in a time of emergency one of my shots would over penetrate and travel threw multiple apartments. I was told that this round had on average a 1 shot kill ratio and had a light weight projectile traveling at super high velocity.

I know their is CORBON and other specialty ammunition for this purpose. I recently discovered a home defense round called POWRBALL ammunition that uses a plastic ball shoved in the hollow point which aids expansion.

Anyhow, is the Magsafes still top on the list or is it out dated now. Any other types of similar ammunition specific to home defense needs?


Say what you will about many of these below, Here is a list of all of the most popular “premium self-defense” loads for pistols (in rough alphabetical order). Personally, I like the PMC Starfire, and the Federal Tactical HST. Most of these are still produced, but some are not anymore:

  1. Aguila IQ
  2. Armscor Strike-Three
  3. BBM hardcap shotshells
  4. Black Lightning
  5. Corbon DPX
  6. Corbon Hunter
  7. Corbon Pow’R’ball
  8. Extreme Shock
  9. Federal EFMJ
  10. Federal Hydrashock
  11. Federal Tactical HST
  12. Geco B.A.T.
  13. Glaser safety slugs
  14. Hornady XTP
  15. Magtech First-Defense
  16. Magtech Guardian gold
  17. Magsafe
  18. Omnishock
  19. PMC Starfire
  20. Personal Protection systems MMC - MSC - MTT - MRP - MPP
  21. RBCD performance plus (fraudulent junk)
  22. Remington Golden Saber
  23. Safe Stops
  24. Samson Die-cut Ultra
  25. South African “Eliminator”
  26. Speer Gold Dot
  27. Taurus HEX total copper
  28. Thunderzaps
  29. Triton Hi-Vel
  30. Triton Quick-Shok
  31. Winchester Black Talon
  32. Winchester Ranger SXT
  33. Winchester Silvertip
  34. Winchester platinum tip

and the newest entrant into the game (a total copper version of the typical silvertips, but with a moly coating):
33. Winchester “SXZ”.

There’s more of course, but these are most of the known ones, and basically all of the commercial ones. There’s also the “exploders” such as from Bingham, National cartridge, Velet (Velex), Rhino (blam-o loads) and Hi-Vel.

Magsafes are top on the list of pretty much only Magsafe’s in-house list. The so-called Strasbourg tests are completely unknown to anyone outside of Magsafe, and are unverified. The fact that Magsafes are loaded with pellets, have low-weight, and super high pressure will lend itself to causing fairly severe wounds at close range, but they have limited accuracy at longer ranges, and they can damage pistols which are not strong enough to handle them. For consistency’s sake, and for jack-of-all trades sake in terms of penetration, wound damage, recoil control, reduced muzzle flash, and accuracy, I have to give it to the standard loads from PMC starfire, Federal Tactical HST, and Winchester Ranger SXT.

I have to whole-heartedly agree with DK on the SD ammo.
Glasers safety slugs are an option only if overpenetration or richochet is the utmost concern.
Federal HST would be at the top of my list, followed by Win. Ranger Talon. Starfire is great stuff as well. The primary thing is that you get something that you can afford enough of to practice with out of your SD gun. Handguns can be particular, and you need to make sure that the gun that you are going to be depending on for your life will function with whatever ammo you choose. Also, practice will give you point-of-aim reference and confidence in your ability to hit your target.

I agree too. A good, full weight hollow point known to expand will out-do any of the wonder bullets for self defense. Some of the fast expanders will do hideous damge to boney facial structures, like the jaw, etc. They do not penetrate enough or mash enough tissue to be used for all purpose defense.

Hits count. Remember what some of our police instructors call the “10” factor of “7” factor. Evidently in some local sutdies, the average non-professional gun user will, in a life and death situation, shoot “groups” ten times bigger than they would on a nice, relaxed target range, and even the average “pros” (trained police who are not necessarily really gun experts - they have training in stress control, shooting, etc., but aren’t going to win the Olympics in shooting) will shoot into seven times the area they would on the range. It has been a awhile since I took instruction, so my figures might be off a little, but you get the point. Practice, practice, practice and so the same thing everytime. Don’t wear a gun in fifteen different holster on fifteen parts of the body at different times. You won’t reach for the right spot when the proverbial substance hits the fan.

Self defense is a crap shoot. Guys have been peppered (no offense, Burrus) with .45s with good solid torso hits and still resisted. If one thinks that mental attitude of the person hit doesn’t play a role, read through a book of CMH citations, about young men in combat who resisted valiantly while shot full of holes with full caliber rifle and machine gun bullets. You just have to play the odds, using the most gun you can hadle well, with good, penetrating ammunition (10 to 14 inches of soft tissue is considered good), try to hit what you are aiming at, and hope for the best.

My opinion, and it is only that - avoid the “wonder bullets” like a plaque. The regular factories these days, unlike 40 years ago, all make good HP rounds that will do the job as well or better than any of the "special loads."
Overpenetration is almost a hoax. Remember, most shots fired with any ammo in stress situations miss - how’s that for overpenetration? It doesn’t mean you can get hurt ofr killed walking down the street and getting hit by a bullet that “dusted” someone a block away. The odds are greater, though, that an accidental target being hit will be the result of a missed shot, and the bullet fired in that case doesn’t enter into the equation. IKnow your target and its surroundings! If you kill two little old ladies in a fight with one felon, even if your life was saved, morally, it isn’t a good trade off. That’s a tough question to deal with and no one knows how they will react to a deadly confrontation until it happens, no matter how much training we have had or how much we talk about it. Training and practice do, though, generally pay off which is why street thugs don’t have a good win-ratio against police or armed citizens that are shooters by avocation.

Fantastic information and advice from everyone! I learned allot and will be ditching my Magsafes for a none hyped round. I am lucky that I am a very good shot with the weapons I carry and use for home defense. When I was younger, my father took me shooting every weekend and before he gave me any gun I had to “Qualify” with it proving proficiency. At that time, in order to conceal a weapon in Florida you were tested with it and the license was issued for that gun. Now you just need a clean record, a FBI check and take a gun safety course. Then I had to learn Florida self defense laws. Now I TP shoot all the time :-) to keep my training current.

One thing that makes allot of sense that you mentioned John is the ability to practice with the ammunition you carry. This is something not affordable with Magsafes and other “wonder bullets”. Great point John. Definitely time to replace and practice with a new self defense round. Thank you everyone for the great help and the large list of other rounds.


Jason - thanks for the kudos on the advice to practice with the ammo you carry, but that came from ASCorley, and I agree whole heartedly with him.

In fact, I don’t think I mentioned that because he already had and to me it is an absolutely obivous piece of advice. I will depart from it only slightly. I carry factory ammo in my guns. I will not bore people with my personal choices as I am not here to advertise any given brand of ammo. Since I reload extensively, I generally use my own handloads for practice. However, they are loaded to the levels of the ammo I use with each gun. Because of the heavy recoil of my Colt Cobra 2" revolver, in that particular handgun I carry it with factory wadcutter ammunition. I load my own wadcutters for practice (actually a bit hotter than factory, because it is a load I developed to work a custom 6" .38 special Colt Government with full length Bomar rib, making a very heavy slide that had to be oeperated. This insures that recoil and muzzle blast will not be a shock to me or a distraction if I need my gun in a pinch some time. I carry this gun for its size and weight as a compromise. I do not adhere to my own advice about one gun simply because for 36 years I handled just about every popular handgun on the US Market on an almost daily basis, and the mode of operation of each is virtually automatic with me. I could shut my eyes and if you put an S&W in my hand I would push the cylinder release forward and a Colt I would pull to the rear. I use only single-action cocked and locked pistols, and again, when the butt of one is in my hand working the various features of safety, mag release and slide stop are a purely auto reaction for me. For those without the amount of gun handling of various different makes, models and types of handgun, I stand by the recommendation that only one gun be used for self defense, and again, as ASCorley said, practice with the ammo you use and know where it hits. (My guns are sighted for the ammo I carry. If I want to shoot up other ammo for practice on occasion, I worry not at all where the bullet strikes the target, but rather simply the group size.)

Woops! I’m mental and mis credited the advice and will fix that. Very sorry ASCorley :-)

I grew up shooting and have shot allot of various rifles and pistols (NOTHING compared to you). With all my weapons besides my 9 that I use for home defense packed with Magsafes (Soon To Be Replaced) I do load with the same ammo I use with target practice. Their is just no way I could afford to practice at any great length with the magsafes. Yet another great reason to justify replacing them.

Thanks to everyone!

PS: I have a 1911 Gold Cup that I do like to carry and will also be looking for a replacement 45 cartridge. I like Black Talon & Starfire so far.

As far as ditching the Magsafe ammo, it’s still worth hanging onto for use with small snub-nose or pocket pistol type weapons that can handle it. I still think it’s ok for very close-range defense, or as having chambered as a “first round” for the initial shot. It’s the sort of thing that would do ok in a vehicle or in a home, but not for carrying on the open street as much. Honestly though, factory hollow-points will do fine for any well-practiced shooter. If it’s close range that is the major concern, then (cheesy as it sounds) something like an Armscor strike-three or any of the multi-projectile cartridges might be good for a first shot in order to get at least something on target during the first adrenaline-filled frenzied shot in order to offer partial incapacitation to better allow for a less-moving target on follow up shots with traditional ammo. There’s a great write up on this topic at:

Thank you DK!
I just bookmarked that article to read tomorrow morning. I think I will take your advice and use a Magsafe as the 1st round in the chamber and use factory hollow points that I can practice with for the gun I use specifically for close quarter home defense.



Choosing self defense weapons and ammunition are very personal and subjective decisions. You have to decide. But FWIW, here are my opinions.

I have been shooting competitively since 1954 and most of that time has been with pistols. I am a good pistol shot. Better than average. I’m not bragging. Just fact.

I would never carry any handgun except a revolver. By “carry” I mean concealed, in my car or in my bedroom for my own personal defense and that of my family. I have an Arizona CCC but I still take a refresher course every couple of years. I try to find an instructor who has real-life experience in LE, military, and forensics. And I look for a class that lasts at least 2 full days.

Never choose your ammunition on the premise that you will miss and the shot may hit someone else. Choose it based 100% on stopping power. I carry Magtech, but all of the premium PD rounds are good. I buy only 20 round boxes. Each summer, I buy a fresh box and use the old stuff for practice. All other practice is with handloads or any other factory ammo that I happen to have.



Again, Really fantastic information Ray. So grateful for the knowledge. I like my revolvers allot, especially their reliability and smooth trigger pull, but personally prefer Autos and like their extra capacity.

My father takes allot of tactical course. I will have to go with him on one soon. I really like Massad Ayoob and would like to take one of his courses.


I agree with the general ideal of not picking self-defense ammo on the premise that you will miss, and I know we all like to think we will defend as well as we practice, but most of us will be typical panicked civilians if the real thing happens. Unless you are an Olympic shooter, or unless you have Massad Ayoob type nerves of steel. A few things can be done to counter this:

1st thing: (and hardest thing) practice until you are a master with nerves of steel and a lightning-fast draw.

2nd thing: carry a easy-to-handle, well-balanced snub nose revolver (hidden-hammer style) / ultralight, etc… for easy carry and easy draw.

3rd thing: use multi-projectile ammo for at least the first shot. Quirky and sparse as this ammo is, at least it covers a slightly larger impact area for an initial pop.

4th thing: wear body armor ;-)

The first and hardest option is the safest bet, but as usual, requires the biggest commitment. To be really honest, usually when a gun is pulled on you, then you wont be able to respond since the perp will probably shoot you if you reach for a gun, so if you really want to deal with that, then might I suggest some tried and tested Israeli Krav-Maga:

More kick ass advice. I loved that video. I have watched a few documentaries featuring Krav-Maga, and holy CR-P it is the the real deal. Their was a documentary called, “The Science Of Fighting”, that had a episode with a IDF Special Forces type Officer using a very similar move but the gun was at the back of his head while he was walking. They had computers on him, the gun and the assailant and he snatched and brutally disabled the guy in fraction of a second.

Here’s another good website: by Evan Marshall who has authored 3 books by the same name, all variations on defensive ammunition, and abilities of various premium bullets. The forum is full of Q&A info similar to what is here at the IAA, but centered around premium defense ammo.

Thanx DK! That is a good website. I may have to buy one of his books. Appreciate the link.


I knew and really liked …may he RIP… Joe Zambone and also Kay Zambone and worked with them on the second gen 25acp magsafe load and the last gen .40s&w agent loads.I also was at many of Joes “exotic” test sessions when he was in washington state.He sold a vhs tape of some of these sessions…its a gold mine for the advanced exotic pistol round collector.

That said …Joe was a master BS and also at marketing hype and but he also was a master at mixing powders( a dangerous game). Out of this came magsafe .

Knowing what I know…I would NEVER carry magsafe for SD use.

I also had acess to a ammo test lab and have tested for myself ,most odd ball self defence type loads from the early 1980s to the late 1990s …from the common to the most insane rounds made and beyond…ABC & omnishock come to mind right away.

I have many pics to prove this…its not just BS.In fact I have a great pic of over 100 exotic rounds in their post test form…I took and will post.

To sum it all up…99% of the exotic rounds are crap…none are something I would want to be shot with but none are something I would carry in my personal weapon either.

Normal rounds like ranger t,gold dot,etc…are very hard to beat.

Cobb, that is fantastic inside information and history. With advice from many here, I am totally ditching my Magsafes in my SD guns. I totally bought into the hype way back when, when I bought them. I bet they would look cool sectioned!

I am really looking forward to seeing your pictures of the test.

Again, super appreciative for the great information.


Jason - I agree with Cobb entirely. I knew Joe also, and talked to Kay a couple of times, but I can’t say I knew her. Joe used to give me test rounds he had tried and abandoned. He came into our store to see us anytime he was in the Northern California area. We were a fair customer for him, although after a time, his ammo died in sales, and we sold a lot of it for a couple of bucks a pack when we closed. I thought about buying it all for collector;s dupes, but since I was in the process of losing my job, figured that wouldn’t be too swift! That stuff is ok for collecting, but that’s all. He was a showman, but you couldn’t help but to like the guy, and I did.

He gave his wife some 50 AE rounds with a red star, like the teacher puts on a paper because the lst grader did so well, under the plastic tip. Very showy.
She actually sent one down to me as I recall, not Joe.

Well, all those weird wonder bullets look nice in a collection anyway.

Thanks John. I am totally turned off the “Wonder Bullet” concept now :-) I would like to section one or just see one sectioned.

Yellow/lazy dog is from a odd reloadable captive piston type "silent"12ga that used them for the projectile.

Spiw was from a custom made tire guage gun that some vet chambered for the spiw round.

The rest are just all kinds of odd rounds…ktw,omnishock,tubulars,talons,steel core stuff,pre frag,magsafes,glasers,bulleted shot shells,explosive,abc xal,alloy bullets and on and on.

None of the “exotics” are really great…heres some odd facts

Small caliber ktw are really poor ap rounds …any thing below a 38spl is really NOT AP !

Explosive rounds of the common type i.e. black powder & primer…always expand and really work well in soft tissue but their problem is that they expand to soon and cut down penetration to a few inches…The real deal delayed explosive rounds are really cool and work great.

Western Metal piercing type rounds in 38spl and 357mag are really good soft armor defeating rounds and not to bad on metal …in fact I like them better in 38spl than ktw.

All pre frag rounds like glaser,magsafe,beehive,etc…are to shallow in their penetration of soft tissue.

Tubular rounds made of steel are OUTSTANDING at piercing aramid.Copper versions are NOT AP at all and are a poor round overall…brass version is a poor ap type round but better than copper version.

Most KD agent rounds sold by magsafe were NOT really KD at all.

bulleted shotshells have a future and are really not to bad for a cloase range SD load.I think 3-ten is still around and has done some work on them.I was shocked that they worked as they seem to just be another gadget round.

Thunder zaps in 38spl and 45acp are a loud flashy JOKE ! 1 INCH IN TISSUE !

SENTRY type rounds based on thv are a very poor round.

THV work great close up.

Early hivel/pps type all copper rounds were bad but new dpx type copper rounds work great…strange ??

rbcd,Extreme Shock type rounds are a scam…IMO Their are versions of the rbcd based on the original patent but they are NOT sold…they work .All rbcd sells is a cheap scam bait and switch lead version thats sold to the public.

Pistol caliber multi bullet duplex,tri plex,etc…type designs…offer NO real advantage and in fact offer a problem with the extra bullets going off point of aim and killing the wrong target.

and on and on until even the most hardcore are bored to tears…

To sum it up ,I have found its really hard to beat a old school lead core with a copper jacket and a modern hollow point design for self defence use…and as far as pistol AP its really hard to beat the old 08 mE 9mm pulled and reload to +p + specs for metal,aramid,whatever…nuff said.