Train and Defend Ammo

Black box with red and gold lettering of JHP training loads 50to a box on a white background

Train and defend are simple watchwords. About 99 percent of the ammunition we fire is in practice. Competition shooting takes a lot of ammunition, although staying sharp also demands its share. The problem often is finding a good practice load.

Black box with red and gold lettering of JHP loads 25 to a box v
There are 25 JHP loads per box.

We spend plenty of time considering factory gelatin results and empirical test procedures and performing our own testing. The defense load must first be reliable.

  • The self-loading handgun should feed, chamber, fire and eject with every pull of the trigger.
  • The powder burn should be clean.
  • A revolver should always go bang, and the ammunition should be accurate enough for personal defense.

Some regard practice ammunition as second-rate and buy the cheapest thing we can. That is not the best basis for procedure. A training program will not go well if malfunctions plague you. Generic ball ammunition, such as Winchester USA, has been a big help in that regard. The recently introduced Win1911 loads also are good choices for .45 ACP. Yet, we must address other problems with defense loads.

For example, if you adopt a fast 9mm load, such as one of the +P loads, the chances are that your practice loading may not strike to the same point of aim. That is a huge deal to those who value accuracy and strive for the best possible consistency in practice. When you know you can count on a load for reliability and accuracy, your confidence in a firearm is higher. And when you know that the practice load and duty load strike to the same point of aim your confidence level is higher.

Black box with red and gold lettering of JHP training loads 50to a box on a white background
Training loads come in an affordable 50-round box.

Another reason to keep on hand a reasonable stock of high-quality practice ammunition is that you just might use it for competition or small-game hunting. My ratio of practice to defense loads in the ammo locker is about 20 to 1. However, that does not reflect the use of the loads; I probably fire closer to 250 rounds of practice loads for each service-grade expanding-bullet load, and that is to proof a handgun for that load and be certain it is properly sighted.

Winchester offers a new line called Train and Defend. The concept is to offer both a training and defense load with the same weight bullet at the same velocity. That means the training load duplicates the point of impact relative to the sight picture with the service load.

Just as importantly, the training load duplicates the recoil and muzzle blast of the defense load, which is an important consideration. While the loads are not +P rated, not everyone can handle a +P load with the attendant heavier recoil, particularly in a lightweight handgun.

Currently, Train and Defend is available in .380 ACP, .38 Special, 9mm and .40 caliber. I tested the loads in .380, .38 and 9mm. The training loads are 50 rounds to a box, while the defensive loads have 25 rounds in a box.

.380 ACP

Open box of Winchester .380 ACP Loading showing the cartridges
The Winchester .380 ACP loading demonstrates excellent cartridge integrity.

I tested the 95-grain training load in a Ruger LCP and GLOCK 42. The load ran fine and burned clean. In the GLOCK 42, both loads ran fine and gave good accuracy. The GLOCK 42 is surprisingly accurate, and each load worked well in that exceptional handgun.

Limited testing showed the bullet expands even at LCP velocity. Remember, an FMJ bullet simply pushes flesh aside. Any expansion results in a blunt profile and cutting, rather than pushing flesh aside. A JHP also is less likely to bounce off a bone. The Defend load has a lot going for it.

9mm Luger

Those loads come in 147-grain weight. Accuracy with the combination is potentially high, and penetration is the long suit. Lighter loads expand more and penetrate less. The 147-grain weight is easy to control and provides excellent accuracy.

I fired a box of the hollow-point loads each in a Smith and Wesson Shield 9mm and CZ 75 B. The loads functioned as expected—excellently. However, the powder burn was unusually clean. I sat at the bench and registered a 1.8-inch, 5-shot group with the super-accurate CZ 75 B.

Control was never an issue, and both loads cut one ragged hole in the target, each centered on the same aiming point.

.38 Special

Brown gripped .38 special in a black holster with a box of Winchester ammo on a gray-to-white background
The .38 load proved accurate in several .38 Special revolvers. This is the author’s long-serving M13 .357 Magnum. More than 90 percent of the rounds fired from it are .38s.

Those loads are each in 130-grain; the Train version is a flat-topped FMJ and the Defend, a JHP. In that version, I cheated because I used a handgun I wanted to test for absolute accuracy.

The Colt Officer’s Model 6-inch .38 was the top target .38 of the day. Sitting down for a group, I fired a box of the Train version from the bench. The tight old Colt delivered a 1.5-inch, 25-yard group. That type of accuracy is not demanded of a training load but, just the same, it is nice to know the 130-grain FMJ is accurate enough for competition and hunting.

I fired five rounds of the JHP with similar results and a number of the JHP loads in my backup Smith and Wesson 442 with good results. There was no point in bench-resting that one because I am not that sure and steady with a 2-inch .38.

The J frame, in common with most 2-inch 5-shot .38s, fires a bit low at 15 yards. Both the Train and Defend loads struck to the same point of aim. Those are not high-velocity loads. The 130-grain Defend clocked 809 fps from the 6-inch Colt and just more than 750 fps from the Smith and Wesson.

Two Options are Better Than One
Sometimes a single option is not good enough.

As I said, they are controllable loads, accurate and clean burning. They serve a real need, and the quality is all Winchester.

Have you used the new Winchester Train and Load in your favorite handgun? What were your results? Share your thoughts in the comments section.



About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (10)

  1. Having registered one of the first negative comments on this stuff I have to chime in – check out the review from “shootingthebull410” on Youtube. His methods are way more methodical than mine and the results were impressive.

    I will definitely be giving this ammo a second look. Love shooting the 147 gr bullets in 9mm.

  2. I’ve tried the “Train” FMJ that Winchester sells on two occasions for the express purpose of breaking in a new gun (and breaking in the owner of the new gun – me ). The heavier bullet puts more weight on the mag springs and the recoil springs. The fact that it is subsonic makes it more quiet and with only 295 of FPE at the muzzle, the felt recoil is very low.

    The specs on it are 950 fps @ 295 FPE.

    The JHP “D” version have the same specs so the logic of keeping them the same on the surface appears to be a good idea.

    At 3 to 7 yards, the 147 gr. Winchesters hit point-of-aim. However, the placements at distances beyond 7 yards were all over the place compared to the consistently tight groupings I get using Federal Premium 115 gr. FMJ whose specs are 1140 fps @ 332 FPE.

    I also find that some very good performing defensive ammo like the Hornaday 124gr. XTP also does not have predictable placements beyond 7 yards – although they are far better than the Winchester 147gr. . So, at defensive distances, shot placement is not the issue. Penetration and energy transfer from large bullet mushrooming is the key.

    The higher the bullet’s momentum at impact, the more it will mushroom – which is why +P loads with higher velocities generally perform better than standard loads – although the velocities of standard loads has increased substantially over the past five years.

    The magic number for +P used to be 1200 fps, but there are many loads, including the Wincheser White Box, that are rated at 1180 and 1190 with energy ratings of 362 FPE.

    The bullet’s design is more important that raw speed and muzzle energy, and the defensive hollow points that have polymer tips to facilitate mushrooming as well as reducing clogging of the hollow points perform the best without over-penetration.

    Some people take a mix and match approach with their EDC’s by loading up the first two or three rounds with the powerful CORBON +P rounds like the 89 gr. Glaser or Pow’R’Ball 100 gr. and the rest with standard defensive ammo. Given the cost of these and the likelihood of not needing the more potent rounds for the entire magazine (which may never have to be fired if the first rounds did their job) sounds like a good plan to me despite the caveat of not mixing ammo. As long as you know what’s in it, then you’re OK.

    It’s the same strategy used in home defense shotguns. You don’t need an entire tube of “00” buck.

  3. Lou
    Don’t beat yourself up over the lack of scientific method I agree with you. NO expansion for me means a big problem even at 2′. I would think at that close distance with the lower velocity of the shorter barrel it should have mushroomed to some extent and not gone right thru. Is it possible that the box was Training loads in a Defense box? If not I agree with you completely to heck with the way you did the investigation the bullet needs to be modified to allow the load to push it wide upon impact not keep the shape as it heads thru the wall killing the neighbor’s sleeping infant. Dr Dave

    1. Dr Dave

      I’m sure I put the D rounds through the block and not the Training rounds. I’m super careful and methodical when I’m at the range – especially when I’m firing at the block. Where my tests are lacking is calibration of the block and other things the FBI test protocol requires.

      I’ve also had similar failure to expand with the 147 gr Golden Saber, another heavy-for-caliber bullet I like shooting but won’t carry. If you watch some of the ShootingTheBull410 vids on Youtube, it’s remarkable how few 9mm hollow points are effective from a short barrel pistol.

      I hate bashing a round which may well function perfectly with a longer barrel, but for me it’s not worth the risk based on my limited testing, which I consider better than no testing at all.

  4. I had a chance to fire 4 rounds of the 147 gr 9mm Defend into an 18″ reusable gel block. All the rounds went clear through the block with minimal evidence of expansion, which I consider inappropriate for a carry round.

    Note that i was firing from 24″ away through a 3.4″ barrel. It may be a great round through longer barrels, but the combination of short barrel and heavy bullet seems marginal at best. My testing protocols are pretty bush league, so your mileage may vary.

    It’s unfortunate, as I really like shooting the lower velocity 147 gr bullets from a recoil and control standpoint. I guess its back to the HST’s and Gold Dots for carry rounds, both of which have tested well in the same block.

    1. Bob
      I understand that I was talking dollars and cents not design. How much savings in money is the training bullet over the defense bullet. If the savings in money is not great enough I would just use the defense round all the time and not worry about learning to compensate one round to another. To me the only reason to not fire the daily carried round is usually the defense rounds are costly so if you are going to put a few thousand rounds down range to practice the money adds up but if the price is nearly the same the loss in muscle memory isn’t worth it. Dr Dave

  5. Hey Bob what is the basic difference in price between T and D loads?
    I like the idea of very similar characteristics of training and use loads. I got pretty spoiled since ammo cost was never an issue so we shot what we used but now with being retired and with shortages of basically everything here in the Orlando area a big savings would be nice if the shot characteristics are the same
    Dr Dave

  6. I bought two boxes 100 rds each Winchester white box. These we inter- mixed I has a F/T nearly one in every mag. load. Hunted around and have been using Amscore with the best of results and the cheapest that I found. I fire a G36 and also CC it with Federal Hydra-Shok 230 gr all that ammo has gone off AOkay as well I have fired a couple of hundred through a G21 g3 50 with reman and the rest with Amscore not one prob. My 36 fails to eject or feed about once every 100 rnds with cleaning after each shoot. I am seriously thinking about trading the 36 in on the 21. I also shoot much better with the 21.

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