Any cartridge/ammunition combination you rely on to save your life needs to provide 100-percent reliability, but, from a terminal performance standpoint, is there a benchmark to reference when making these decisions?
Home Defense Loads
For the most part, the de facto standard lies with law enforcement. As a result of wound research and ballistic testing the FBI has standardized, law enforcement generally considers a handgun load to be suitable for duty use if it will penetrate at least 12 inches, expand to at least 1.5 times its original diameter and still retain at least 80 percent of its original weight. The penetration stipulation carries over to carbine and shotgun ammunition, too.
As definitive as these specifications might seem, they are really nothing but a guide because these criteria are based on the notion that 10-percent ballistic gelatin replicates the bodies of bad guys. Lots of loads from lots of cartridges meet or exceed this standard, but the existence of the standard does not mean loads that fall just shy in one or more of the performance categories will not work. Just as important is the fact that for concealed carry or home defense, you may not need the same level of barrier-defeating penetration as required by law enforcement.
As a bullet geek, I spend a lot of time testing ammunition in gelatin and through various barriers. It’s given me great insight into terminal performance, and based on what I’ve learned, here are what I consider the centerfire loads I would trust for home defense and/or concealed carry.
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Buffalo Bore Ammunition
Federal Premium Ammunition