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Concealed Carry Ammo – What's In Your CCW?

Overpressurized (+P) or standard grain?

Hollow point or regular full metal jacket?

When it comes to your personal defense, what type of ammunition is in your pistol?

In this article, we'll discuss the pros and cons of various types of ccw ammunition and then go further into where they apply best. If this is a topic that's popped up into your mind, your questions are about to be answered.

CCW Ammo - Overpressure Ammunition (+P)

ammo for concealed carry

Believe it or not, ammunition used to be made at higher pressures. This resulted in a much higher muzzle velocity – great for defensive purposes. However, in 1972, ammunition manufacturers across the board decided to drop the standard pressure of their rounds, resulting in lower muzzle velocities for the common ammunition sold on the market. You can still purchase those high pressure rounds under the designation of +P or +P+. They're called “over pressure”. But what's the advantage?

PROS: High pressure munitions travel faster. That means there is more energy behind the force of impact than a standard bullet.

CONS: Some pistols are not rated to accept +P munitions due to their engineering. That means not all handguns should be fired with +P. Check with your handgun's owner's manual to determine if your pistol is one of those that is not rated for +P.

“What if I fire +P munitions with a non-+P rated handgun?”

In most cases, likely nothing in the immediate short term. For example, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is not rated for +P. Firing +P munitions out of it, over a long period of time, will likely degrade components such as the barrel, firing pin, etc. This will likely result in the failure of the firearm given enough regular usage. That exact amount has yet to be determined. In general, if your firearm isn't rated for +P or +P+, don't use that ammunition.

Over Pressure Hollow Point Ammunition (JHP+P or HP+P)

concealed carry hallow point ammo

A lot of self-defense rounds are made over pressure and with a hollow recess at the front of the bullet. With a standard, non-over pressure hollow point, the muzzle velocity is reduced due to the change in aerodynamics of the bullet. The extra pressurization of the round makes up for that gap while still delivering a round designed to create a grisly wound channel.

PROS: Statistically greater chance of inflicting a critical wound channel rather than penetrating through the target cleanly as with a full metal jacket.

CONS: More expensive than standard, non -+P full metal jacket (FMJ). Some handguns aren't rated for +P. Hollow points sometimes fail to expand when they hit flesh or expand too soon when they hit clothing.

Standard Grain Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)

concealed carry ammo

A bullet with a full metal jacket is simply a bullet that is uniformly coated in either a copper or brass layer that is designed to improve aerodynamics and deliver great penetration of a target.

PROS: Affordable for all calibers. In general, greater muzzle velocity in comparison to non-+P JHP. Great for target practice and marksmanship.

CONS: Over-penetration of target. Does not create catastrophic wound channels unless it collides with vital organs or arteries.

There are a lot of different types of bullets out there on the market and it's up to the concealed carrier to determine what types of ammunition work best for his handgun and shooting capabilities. For those curious, check out HydroShok and PolyGram's ATX series, and others to get an idea for new, innovative rounds designed for self-defense applications.


About The Author

James England (@sir_jim_england) is the contributing editor for Alien Gear Holsters. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and private defense contracting in Afghanistan.