One of the most common short-barreled handguns is the snub-nose revolver, and ammunition manufactures have for some time been offering loads developed specifically for this belly, ankle and pocket gun. However, over the last decade, the compact autopistol has seen a serious increase in sales, and the need for ammo engineered to work from short-barreled autoloaders is now at an all-time high. Read on to learn about five short-barreled handgun loads.

Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense

The use of light-for-caliber bullets is an approach taken by Liberty Ammunition with its Civil Defense loads. By using nickel-plated, hollow-point, copper bullets that are insanely light, Liberty can push these bullets to insane velocities; its 50-grain 9mm load will do 2,000 fps form a 3.5-inch barrel. These fragmenting loads, which penetrate solid barriers create massive wound cavities but struggle to reach the 12-inch minimum.

Related: Liberty Ammunition Adds .38 Special to Civil Defense Lineup


* Copper, Monolithic, Hollow-Point Fragmenting, Personal Defense Round
* Weight: 50gr
* Velocity: >2000 FPS
* Kinetic Energy: >450 FPE
* Accuracy: <2″@50mtrs * Terminal Effect: >3 ½ “W x 12” D
* Rounds: 20 per box

Hornady Critical Defense

With its Critical Defense loads, Hornady reengineered its famous XTP pistol bullet and added a polymer tip. This new Flex Tip (FTX) bullet will provide good terminal performance from just about any barrel length, and the hollow point cannot clog with material to prevent expansion. If there’s a downside to the Critical Defense loads, it’s that in most cases the expansion just meets the 1.5-times minimum.

Related: Hornady’s Newest Critical Defense Ammo


* Unaffected by thick and heavy clothing, including denim and leather.
* FTX bullet delivers superior controlled expansion and large, deep wound cavities over a wide range of velocities.
* Clean burning and efficient propellants reduce recoil in lightweight handguns, and perform consistently at all temperatures.
* Minimal muzzle flash protects night vision.
* Feeds reliably in pistols.
* Silver nickel plating prevents corrosion and is easily visible in low light situations.
* Bullets are custom designed for individual loads.

For more information, visit

Speer Gold-Dot
Speer Gold-Dot

Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 135

Speer took a different approach and redesigned its Gold Dot bullet, which has such a great track record with police departments. Gased on my testing, these loads will deliver the wide expansion expected of Gold Dots, but penetration can be a tad on the short side.

Related: Speer Gold Dot Hollow Points


* True, bonded-core bullet velocity-tuned for optimum terminal performance
* Nickel-plated case
* Low-flash propellant
* Famous CCI primers

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Remington’s Ultimate Defense Compact 124

One of the latest entries into the short-barrel handgun ammunition market is Remington’s new Ultimate Defense Compact Handgun loads. These loads utilize a re-engineered Golden Saber bullet and will be available in .380 ACP, 9mm, .38 Special, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. To date, only the 9mm load has been released, but preliminary testing has shown it to meet the standard established by the FBI.

Related: Remington’s Ultimate Defense Ammo

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DoubleTap 160gr. Barnes TAC-XP (Mann Load)

You might find it surprising that ideal terminal performance, regardless of barrel length, can be had without going with a +P load or a specially engineered bullet. Sometime back, I asked Mike McNett of DoubleTap Ammunition to put together a non +P .45 ACP load using the 160-grain Barnes TAC-XP bullet; one that would provide optimal terminal performance from any barrel length. I knew this was possible because I had tested that bullet within a velocity range of 800 and 1,300 fps and found the terminal performance to vary only minimally. This load, which DoubleTap lists as the Mann Load, will do 1,050 fps from a 5-inch barrel and about 950 from a 3.5-inch barrel. It will always expand beyond 1.5 times the original diameter and will penetrate between 13 and 16 inches. In fact, it has been my experience that you can expect this type of terminal performance—regardless of barrel length—when Barnes TAC-XP bullets are used in 9mm and .40 S&W cartridges, too. This all-copper bullet with a deep hollow-point cavity seems to always expand and in most cases provide at least 12 inches of penetration.


* Caliber: .45ACP
* Bullet: 160gr. Barnes TAC-XP Lead Free Richard Mann Load
* Ballistics: 1050fps – 392 ft./lbs. – 5″ 1911
* 15.0″ penetration and .81″ expansion in 10% ordinance gel
* Box of 20rds.

For more information, visit

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