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The Ideal Carry Load for 9mm?

Choice choices. Having considered whether to hand load your own carry ammo or not, I decided against it. The hypothetical downsides to hand loading carry ammo are just that, and I think the odds of it becoming a factor are very remote. But we carry firearms to ward off the possibility of an incident which is itself remote, and even though I think it’s terribly unlikely to end up having to explain your load in court, I also think the upsides to using hand loads are too trivial to risk even this remote possibility. As best I can tell, you save money, and if you’re a good reloader, get something that’s about as reliable as factory carry ammo. To me that’s not enough upside.  Plus, I’d have to take time to develop a load I feel confident in.

So now it’s back to factory ammo. Traditionally I have carried Cor-Bon DPX, in 115gr.  But it’s expensive. I decided to give Speer Gold Dot a try, because it’s cheaper. That round is probably carried by more police agencies than anything else, so I can’t imagine it has an awful reputation. But what load is ideal? I carry a 9mm Glock 19, which means I have a choice between 115 gr. GDHP, 124gr GDHP and 147gr GDHP.  Velocities on those are 1210fps, 1220fps, and 985fps, with energies of 374ft/lbs, 410ft/lbs, and 317ft/lbs.  The 124gr load is +P.

Now, if you look at Cor-Bon loadings, their 115gr is their most energetic load, at 466ft/lbs, but it achieves this with a velocity of 1350fps.  Since energy is 1/2mv2 you get a lot more out of speed than mass, energy wise. But it’s regarded that momentum, which is just mass times velocity, has more relation to stopping power than energy, which means a slow, heavy bullet will stop an attacker more readily than a light, fast one. Light, fast bullets also have the disadvantage of penetrating farther. But it takes speed to get a jacketed hollow point bullet to expand reliably, so there are tradeoffs.

I think the 124gr Gold Dot is probably the best offering from Speer. Even though I’ve carried both the 115gr Cor-Bon JHP and 115gr Cor-Bon DPX in the past, I think Speer’s heavier offering is better than their lighter one. I don’t want to seem like I’m religious about loads, because I’m not. Load differences isn’t going to amount to much if your shots are poorly placed. But if I do, heavens forbid, have to use my firearm in self-defense, I’ll need all the help I can get.

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

27 Responses to “The Ideal Carry Load for 9mm?”

  1. Robb Allen says:

    I just want to chime in to say I applaud your choice. You’ve thought it through, realized what was important to you, and decided on the course of action you felt was the best fit for your situation. Do not let anyone tell you that you’re wrong! And this is coming from the guy who was adamant that he was perfectly comfortable with carrying his reloads.

    I can’t speak to 9mm loads, though, so I’ll defer recommendations to others who might have experience.

  2. W says:

    I, too, carry a G19 on a regular basis but I use Corbon PowRBall in 9mm. It is very “hot” and is 100% reliable. For my backup magazines I also have their DPX rounds.

    Federal EFMJ is similar to the PowRBall and works quite well. The PowRBall also has a low flash signature for low light scenarios. I have, however, heard from impeccable sources that Winchester Ranger SXT 127 +p+ is ” the bomb” in 9mm. It’s an LE round but you can pick it up at gun shows.

  3. Sebastian says:

    Thanks, and for the record, I don’t think anyone carrying hand loads is crazy :)

  4. Sebastian says:

    It’s interesting to ponder at what price point I’d change my calculus. If a box of 20 were 100 dollars, that would probably do it.

  5. Jim W says:

    The upsides to loading are not insignificant for low pressure cartridges like 380 and 45 acp. Also not insignificant if you carry a caliber that isn’t one of the half dozen common pistol calibers.

  6. SayUncle says:

    anyone looked at the 9mm +P stuff?

  7. Jim W says:

    And I vote gold dots as well. It’s my carry ammo for 380.

  8. Jason C says:

    I carry the 124gr. +P Gold Dots as my personal carry. In my opinion, they were the best balance of ballistics and price. While I have never had any issues with them in my Glock 17, you should follow the traditional advice and test each load in your personal firearm. Finding out that they jam your gun when you really need it is a bad thing.

  9. Jim W says:

    +P or not depends on the weapon.

  10. Crucis says:

    This always seems to go back to the old “Fast/light” cartridge vs. “Slow/Heavy.” Not that I mind. :-)

    That said, I use 147gr, GDHP in my M&P9C. Weight/Mass = momentum. I like that.

  11. Jeff says:

    I’m quite happy with Federal HST in 9mm. I carry the non +P 124gr. Some testing I looked at online a while back showed excellent results. I think any brand name defensive ammo is probably pretty close. If you stick with HST, Gold Dot, Win Ranger, or CorBon, you’re good to go. I went with HST because it had great test results and I could get it locally in boxes of 50 for the same price as the GoldDot boxes of 20.

  12. Noops says:

    I pick any load that Doctor Gary Roberts puts on his list and feeds reliably in my weapon. right now it’s Speer 53617, 9mm 124 gr. +p gold dot for me.

  13. Andy says:

    Speer Gold Dots 124g +P in my P6. Like was posted, it fit the bang/buck (no pun intended… well, maybe a little) value equation. 250 rounds in bulk pack for $110.

    I tend to cycle the ammo at the 6-12 month timeframe. I don’t have any questions about the ammo, it’s more of a check to make sure the magazine is working properly, etc.

  14. Anon Reader Dude says:

    I, too, favor the Speer Gold Dot 124 gr +P load, No. 53617. (There is also a regular-strength 124 gr GD, but I stick with +P.)

    Basically my decision resulted from the following factors:

    1. I got a good deal on a large supply of the stuff.

    2. Gold Dot is a reliable JHP bullet design that expands and holds together.

    3. Someone I respect a lot advised a bullet weight minimum of 120 gr for defense, and for better or worse it always stuck with me.

    4. I have a short-barreled, compact pistol, so I need the oomph of a +P load to keep the muzzle velocity at normal 9mm service pistol levels.

  15. aeronathan says:

    I carr 124gr GDHPs but the at the time I bought them, the one overwhelming quality they had was that they were available….

  16. J Richardson says:

    Have you considered Hornady’s Criticial Defense 9mm ammo? It is a hybrid hollowpoint with the cavity filled with a soft rubber compound. It is meant to penetrate clothing and then expand evenly. It also has a flash suppressent in the powder to lessen muzzle flash.

    I am seriously considering using it for my carry ammo in my Ruger SR9.

  17. Clint says:

    I say go with the Cor-Bon DPX, in 115gr because you are used to it. Go with what you know is generally good advice.

    Other than that, ANY of the loads you mention are “good enough” and that is all we can expect out of a handgun anyway.

    Personally, I carry Gold Dots in two guns. 200gr +P in the 45acp carry gun and 124 +P in the 9 mm house gun.

    While 115 gr loads today are most likely just as good as the rest, I agree that I don’t trust 9 mm in anything less than 120 gr.

    Also, I waited an extra 6 months to rotate my carry ammo this last go around due to lack of availability. If the prices are up because of shortages you could wait another 3-4 months and buy your chosen ammo then.

  18. Bob says:

    This Interview with Keith Jones on the Proarms Podcast has some great input on the topic.

    http://proarms.podbean.com/2009/07/05/031-a-conversation-with-keith-jones/

  19. Carl from Chicago says:

    W said:
    “I have, however, heard from impeccable sources that Winchester Ranger SXT 127 +p+ is ” the bomb” in 9mm. It’s an LE round but you can pick it up at gun shows.”

    That is what I use when I carry 9mm.

    RA9TA
    Win Ranger 9mm Luger +P+ 127 “T” Series
    Vel muzzle 1250
    Energy muzzle 441
    4″ bbl

  20. Carl from Chicago says:

    But I will add to this what I tend to add to any “best defensive ammo” thread …

    The best defensive ammo is the one you can reliably, efficiently, and confidently put on target when you want to.

    Finding the very best performing handgun rounds should never come at the expense of proficiency in shooting, and getting good hits. If you do your part … pretty much any of the standard and common defensive rounds are just fine.

  21. Mad Saint Jack says:

    Here is 250 rounds of 124g +P for $120.

    http://www.shootersjax.com/speergolddot-9mmluger124gr.aspx

  22. Michael Bane says:

    I carry Corbon DPX 9mm, a round heartily endorsed by various LEO guys I occasionally hang out with. Realistically, good hits trump ammo every time…

    Michael B

  23. MNStan says:

    If you think it “may” not be enough, shoot twice.

  24. Wes S. says:

    The only experience with the Gold Dot loads I have is with the 200-grain .44 Special version. Out of my 5 1/2″ Ruger Blackhawk in that caliber, they have pretty much the same recoil (to me) as Remington 158-grain +P .38s out of my similarly-sized Anniversary Blackhawk in .357…with, I expect, somewhat better stopping power…

    Since I have three boxes of the proven Remmy .38s on hand for my Anniversary Blackhawk and Smith 638, I’ve not felt the need to experiment with anything else.

    For 9mm I personally use either Remington or Federal standard-pressure 115-grain JHPs, whichever is available. My older model Beretta (92SB Compact) tends to prefer 115-grain loads; I’ve had problems with certain 124-grain loadings, and 147s just won’t feed at all.

    Personally, I’d feel comfortable with the Gold Dots, if your gun will feed them. In fact, I might buy a couple of boxes of the 115-grain 9mm version this weekend, and try them out the next time I take my Beretta to the range…

  25. Blake Sobiloff says:

    I’m stunned no one has pointed to the AR15.com collected wisdom for terminal performance at . Noops alluded to it. Lots of good, empirical data behind the recommendations. It looks like either weight of the Gold Dots performs admirably.

  26. Dave says:

    I stay away from 147 grain for carry. Capitol police were using it until a few years ago when some crazy guy stormed a congressional office building. They shot him 7 times or so and the 147 gr loads failed to expand. He killed two officers before expiring and they switched to .40 S&W.

    Middleweight ammo (124-127 gr) in either Ranger T or Federal HST is reportedly the best carry ammo out there. I’ve heard this from several LE friends.

    I got a good deal on HST at http://www.ammunitiontogo.com

  27. Kim du Toit says:

    Any of ’em will pretty much do the job: Hydra-Shoks, Gold Dots, Silvertips, Golden Saber — hell, even old JHPs are quite respectable. Can’t remember what The Mrs. is carrying in her High Power — oh, wait, Hydra-Shok 124gr — but I’d happily take any of the others.

    The “1911 instinct” in me says go with slightly heavier than 115gr, just for the added punch, but if all I had was 115gr Silvertips, I’d also feel fine.

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