If you’ve been around shooting for any length of time, you’ve encountered at least one member of the “Gun of the Month Club.” That’s the term used to describe the guy who carries or competes with a different gun every time he goes out.
One time it’s a Glock, the next it’s an XD, and after that … well, it’ll be whatever is on the cover of his favorite gun magazine that month. With a constantly changing manual of arms, folks like this never develop proper skills with the gun they claim to trust with their lives. The problems with carrying a different piece every other day are pretty obvious, except to the hapless soul who is so afflicted!
This desire to tote the newest thing on the block isn’t limited to hardware. There are members of the “Bullet of the Month Club” who do the same thing with ammunition.
The worst part of this affliction? By constantly changing bullets, these folks aren’t making themselves any safer—in fact, it may be quite the opposite.
Everything starts, or should start, with reliability. It doesn’t matter how good a shot you are, how fast you can draw, or how many inches of ballistic gelatin your round penetrates if your gun doesn’t work.
Autoloading pistols can be sensitive to small variations in cartridge length, bullet shape, bullet nose length, weight, velocity, and even the differences among plated, unplated, and aluminum cases. If you want to know for certain that your gun will properly feed, fire, extract, and feed another round, it’s necessary that you test any new load thoroughly. It’s the only way to make sure that the system of gun, shooter, and ammunition will in fact perform on demand.
By “thoroughly,” I don’t mean a magazine of ammo through the gun! It’s necessary to shoot sufficient rounds to know, without doubt, that the gun will run with that specific load.
If you adopt even the minimum testing regimen, it still adds up to a lot of ammunition to buy and shoot every time you change loads! At the price of defensive ammunition these days, the damage to the pocketbook is significant.
(Revolver owners have it a little better, as just a few cylinders are generally enough to make sure of ignition reliability. You still need to test, just not as extensively.)
Until you’ve personally verified the ammunition’s reliability, you don’t know if that new super-duper dragonslayer load will actually work in your gun. If it doesn’t, what advantage will it have? Changing ammunition for something more “effective” that renders your gun completely ineffective is not a recipe for success!
You have to make sure that the ammunition functions in your gun, but you also need to make sure it shoots where you expect it to!
Very few defensive guns boast fully adjustable (windage and elevation) sights, and will not shoot every single load to point-of-aim. There will very likely be differences in elevation between loads, and I’ve witnessed unexplained discrepancies in windage, too.
The courses of action are to a) adjust your sights to match the load you’re shooting, or b) find a load that shoots to the same point as your sights. Don’t neglect this! Shooting with a gun whose sights don’t accurately predict where the bullet is going to land isn’t the most efficient method of ending a fight.
If your gun has fixed sights, like many revolvers and subcompact autoloaders, they can’t be easily matched (“regulated”) for every load. Regulating these sights for a particular load means actual physical changes to the gun, which may not always be easy or cheap to do. Again, if you don’t regulate those sights, you’ll have to remember where the gun is shooting. It’s better to find the load that shoots to the sights!
Isn’t There a Benefit?
Those are the downsides. Is there an upside? Some would say it’s important to seek out the best, the most effective ammunition, to protect their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Not doing so, the argument goes, is settling for second best.
That would be true if there were significant differences among competing ammunition. In reality, there isn’t any solid evidence that one bullet truly outperforms another of similar construction.
If we’re comparing modern hollowpoint ammunition from major manufacturers (which is the only thing you should be carrying, in my opinion), there doesn’t appear to be a huge performance advantage to any given load. There may be small differences in specific performance criteria from bullet to bullet, but overall equivalent loads from different companies are going to produce substantially the same end result.
Getting beyond the hype, a defensive round only needs to do two things. First, it has to reach something the attacker’s body finds immediately important; second, it has to do rapid and significant damage once it gets there. While it’s expected that bullet makers will tout the advantages of their exclusive designs, the fact is that just about any modern hollowpoint design will do both of those things on a pretty regular basis.
Worrying about an isolated factor of ammunition performance, such as deciding whether or not you should change to a new type of ammo because it has a bonded bullet and your current ammunition doesn’t, is just a waste of your time (and money.) The chances are extremely high that the new stuff isn’t going to do anything your current load won’t.
One thing’s for sure: It will be more expensive!
What To Do?
Call me a Luddite if you will, but my motto is “Stick with what works.” Pick a modern hollowpoint load, from a major manufacturer, that proves itself to be reliable in your gun. Have the sights regulated properly (or pick the load that shoots to point of aim), and just use it.
Spend the money you save on practice ammunition. Better yet, spend it on training! Learning to deliver rapid multiple combat-accurate hits on target under realistic conditions is far more important than an extra tenth of an inch in bullet expansion.
Constantly switching between different bullets gains you nothing, and in a critical incident may cost you more than just money. Find what works in your gun, and stick with it!