Shopping for ammunition can often seem like a daunting task. With consumer overload from the different brands and an abundance of uses, when you’re looking at shelves of ammunition it can be difficult to figure out which type of ammo works best for your firearm and what is legal for you to have.
Common slogans on ammunition advertisements include: “This ammunition is designed for military specifications, for consistent stopping power,” “Deep penetration and bullet expansion for the largest exit wound,” “This ammunition has been improved with engineering genius, ensuring the ability to stop any threat,” or “One of the few bullets to pass the FBI’s testing requirements,” followed quickly by, “Buy this ammunition!” These can make it difficult to figure out what will work best for you.
Based on comments in the blog, many Cheaper Than Dirt! readers who might be forced to defend themselves with a firearm worry about how the effectiveness of their ammunition may prejudice how they’re viewed by the courts. So we asked Kirk Evans, president of Texas Law Shield and U.S. Law Shield, to give us some insights into whether the law should affect your ammunition purchases: CHEAPER THAN DIRT!: From a legal perspective, does it matter what ammunition I use in my handgun? Evans: This is one of the most frequently asked questions of Law Shield’s program lawyers. The short answer is, probably not. But for the purposes of this discussion, let me be very clear — we’re talking only about Texas law here. Unfortunately, not every state can be as reasonable as ours. Some ammo may or may not be legal for possession or use in other states, so be sure to check the local laws to make sure what you are carrying is legal.
CHEAPER THAN DIRT!: You said, “probably not.” That is not a “No, it doesn’t matter.” Evans: From the Texas law point of view, if you have been forced to use your firearm to defend yourself, others, or property, usually the ammunition used will not be the main focus of the legal inquiry. Generally, the focus is instead on the circumstances and facts surrounding “why” you had to fire your gun in the first place: that is, was deadly force immediately necessary to defend yourself from death and serious bodily injury? CHEAPER THAN DIRT!: But the ammunition may come up in court? Evans: If you have been forced into the court system after you have used your gun and are relying on a justification defense, such as self-defense, a prosecuting attorney may attempt to argue that, because you used a certain ammunition, that you were looking for trouble. However, a competent defense attorney should be able to explain that a gun is just a tool, and you simply used the best tool to defend yourself. We recommend you use the best ammunition that you believe will protect you, period.
CHEAPER THAN DIRT!: Full metal jacket, personal-defense rounds, or any other legal ammunition are okay? Evans: It may be that you are more concerned with stopping power rather than barrier penetration, or you may want frangible ammunition to minimize the chances of accidentally shooting through a wall and hitting a loved one. These are ballistic issues to think about when looking over the vast array of ammunition. Ammunition is nothing more than a means to an end of safety, merely a tool; so use the best legally available resources you can find for your situation.
CHEAPER THAN DIRT!: What about ammunition marked as “law enforcement only?” Evans: This ammunition is still legal for private persons in Texas to buy, provided that it is not armor-piercing handgun ammo. Manufacturers may make the choice to brand it as law-enforcement ammunition for marketing purposes, or they may have been trying to avoid an excise tax. Either way, the result is the same: it is legal to own and possess in Texas. After all, if this ammo is considered reliable enough for the fine men and women of law enforcement to trust their lives to, what better ammunition to trust with your family’s safety? CHEAPER THAN DIRT!: You mentioned “armor piercing” ammunition as being illegal? Evans: One kind of ammo that is not legal is armor-piercing ammunition. “Armor-piercing” handgun ammo is illegal to possess under both Texas and federal law. Texas Penal Code §46.01(12) defines armor-piercing ammo as handgun ammunition designed primarily for the purpose of penetrating metal or body armor and to be used primarily in pistols and revolvers.
Federal law in 18 U.S.C. 44 §921(17)(B) is even more technical. It defines armor-piercing ammo “as a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, depleted uranium, or a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber, designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.” CHEAPER THAN DIRT!: But aside from armor piercing…? Evans: If you have a chance, experiment with different types of ammunition until you find what works best for you.
Do you use commercial ammunition or handloads for your personal carry? Tell us about your choice in the comment section.
Click here to ask a confidential legal question of Texas Law Shield.