On Carrying Zombie Ammo

SayUncle links to a story that suggests it might not be a wise idea, especially when considering Hornady’s disclaimer. The best advice I’ve ever heard for carry ammo was to find out what your State Troopers carry, and carry the same. That pretty much defeats any prosecutor’s argument that you were carrying shred-o-matic rounds of mayhem and destruction in your carry piece.

Robb has some contrary thoughts on the matter. I tend to think the odds of this coming up in a case are slim, but I believe this advice is based on an actual case that I’ve read about. I just can’t remember the case name, or where I read about it. It might be a story told by Massad Ayoob, who had been expert witness is a number of cases. I think the reason most lawyers suggest carrying ordinary factory self-defense ammo is because, in a self-defense case, there are going to already be enough factors for your attorney to deal with, and there’s not much good sense in introducing yet another element that’s going to make the case complicated for them, and by association you, the defendant. One thing to remember about the legal process, is that much like the political process, it’s a game. It’s about what you can convince a jury to do. One the prosecution decides to bring a case, and they generally won’t bring a case they believe they are certain to lose, they are going to use every angle they can possibly thing of in order to discredit you in the eyes of the jury. If they have to go after the ammunition you carried, they certainly will. That will be one more expert witness you’ll have to pay for, and several more hours of your lawyers time to deal with that issue.

Everyone has to weigh the risks versus the benefits. Personally, I think factory self-defense ammo works well enough to rely on it. In fact, I will trust it over my own loads. I just don’t see the advantage to carrying hand loads, or other unusual ammunition for self-defense purposes, enough to make up the downside.

45 thoughts on “On Carrying Zombie Ammo”

  1. I don’t understand people who want to argue with Mas Ayoob. His advice has always been grounded in the reality of how shooting cases are prosecuted and defended.

    1. Because Appeal to Authority isn’t exactly my favorite argument technique. If I see a flaw in logic, it doesn’t matter who said it. I respect Ayoob’s opinion, but it’s not perfect.

      As Sebastian has said…. ONE CASE can be brought up. One. Out of how many? I’m trying to find out how many self-defense cases even bring up the particular brand of ammo.

      I like to base how I do my risk stack by balancing probabilities, not possibilities.

      1. I’m not sure, when it comes to self-defense cases, that appealing to Ayoob is so much an appeal to authority as to experience. He’s been an expert witness in a lot of self-defense cases.

        But still, I think it’s one or two cases at most that I’ve read about where this has been an issue. It’s just something else to weigh in your calculus as to what to carry. For me it shifts to carrying factory. For Robb it’s different.

        And Robb also lives in Florida, where they are much more friendly to armed self-defense then they are in, say, Philadelphia.

      2. As Sebastien points out, I think you are fuzzying your logical fallacies here.

  2. [quote]The best advice I’ve ever heard for carry ammo was to find out what your State Troopers carry, and carry the same.[/quote]

    Sounds like a good idea for a website ;)

    anyway, what ammo does the PSP carry?

    1. I used to carry Cor-Bon DPX for a while. I don’t think it’s a bad choice, really, if it’s common self-defense ammo. The State Police advice is mostly just along those line. If you choose a common brand of self-defense ammo, there’s probably a department somewhere that issues it.

      I do carry gold dot now, because it’s cheaper to practice with. Cor-Bon ammunition is more expensive.

      1. The DPX is all copper, and certified lead free, thus environmentally friendly. That should help win over some left leaning jury members.

  3. “I tend to think the odds of this coming up in a case are slim, but I believe this advice is based on an actual case that I’ve read about. I just can’t remember the case name, or where I read about it.”

    Are you thinking about the Harold Fish case in Arizona? Fish claimed self defense, but was convicted. As I recall, one of the prosecuters arguements was Fish’s choice of ammunition: 10mm hollowpoints.


    1. That’s the one I was thinking of, myself. The Fish case is a worst case scenario, and Fish screwed the pooch seven ways to Sunday in how he handled his case. With proper representation, half of the crap they threw at him would have never been attempted.

      They argued against *hollowpoints* for pete’s sake. Doesn’t matter that the PoPo carry them too.

      The argument on carrying what the cops do is ridiculous. My dad’s a cop. Know what he carries? 45 GAP. So… you can kiss my ass if you think that’s a valid point ;)

  4. My primary reason for carrying my own load is because I shoot it exponentially more than any factory load. I know the characteristics of my own better, it’s basically tuned for my pistol, and I have as much trust in my own ammo doing what it’s designed to do as I do that my cooking won’t kill me.

    The added risk (and there is one, I do not deny it) of some prosecutor glomming onto the actual bullet / powder / casing / primer combo I had, to me, is not worth losing sleep over.

    If you’re more comfortable carrying quality, factory ammo, you are not in the wrong and I don’t fault anyone for doing so.

    1. You shoot a hollow-point for practice and maybe competition???

      That said, if you can document “this is the load I shoot zillions of rounds of” it gets around Ayoob’s point, which is that you shouldn’t be reloading “special” (my word) ammo just for self-defense. That’s the opening you don’t want to give an abusive prosecutor, i.e. “So normal ammo wasn’t good enough for you, you had to make your own extra deadly ammo?”

      Said to a jury which probably won’t have a single member who knows how reloading is ubiquitous and probably views your making your own ammo as … not good, shall I say, until your lawyer starts explaining why (it’s cheaper, etc.). But even then, for those of us satisfied with factory loads (Gold Dot for me) it’s one can of worms the prosecutor can’t open.

      1. You shoot a hollow-point for practice and maybe competition???

        I do. But they are my own loads. I just don’t carry those loads.

        Or I should say did… after my job situation changed I haven’t honestly been shooting much at all.

      2. Yup. Just few years ago, the cost difference between 1000 solid copper-jacketed bullets and hollow points was 10 or 15 bucks. So it wasn’t cost ineffective to use them so long as you bought them in bulk.

        1. Hmmm, and today the prices are a lot closer than I thought they might be, although e.g. my favorite Gold Dots are still quite a bit more expensive than bulk high quality FMJ rounds (230 gr .45).

          The cost of base metals must be more of a factor, and I’m sure lead is more expensive because of environmental issues (and there are very real ones with lead production).

  5. Just like most fishing lures are actually designed to lure fishermen, this Zombie stuff is the Billy Beer of ammo, designed to get everybody to buy a box, even non-shooters.

    1. The thing to keep in mind though, is that, at least with the pistol calibers, it’s just their standard Critical Defense load with unplated brass, and a different colored polymer insert in the bullet cavity. That’s it.

  6. I have to agree with Robb- my point in carrying is to defend myself and others. I’m not going to be worried about the legal aftermath. And I’d rather have done the right thing and be thrown in jail than dead or alive but regretting my inaction or inability.

    I carry Winchester Ranger-T, which I know are technical LEO-only. But I consider them the best out there.

    1. That brings up an other interesting topic. I have some magazines for my Glock 19 stamped “Restricted, for Government and Law Enforcement Use Only. 9.14.1994” that I bought the day the ban expired. Interesting question as to whether that could create a potential legal issue.

      1. Anything an over zealous prosecutor or victims’ attorney can throw into the courtroom will potentially be a legal issue.

        I’ve heard raising red herring arguments equated with throwing a skunk into the courtroom and then advising the jury to disregard the smell.

    2. There is precisely one way you should be worried about the legal aftermath: you need to be very familiar with the gist of Self Defense Law. If you shoot someone you shouldn’t have shot, or don’t shoot someone you should have, then you are going to be in a world of hurt!

      Fortunately, there are plenty of books, websites, and courses you could go through, that will help you through this!

  7. You do have to respect Ayoob’s opinion. But I don’t follow his advice.

    A good friend spent decades in law enforcement in California. He assures me that in that state, the question of handloads definitely will come up in the discovery phase.

    Here in Utah, the laws are quite different. If you shoot a home invader out of fear for your life, you can’t be sued or prosecuted. There won’t be any discovery phase to worry about. That doesn’t cover all instances, but the attitudes and laws here don’t make me worry about carrying handloads.

    Besides which, I only recently discovered that you can actually buy ammunition already put together. What a concept!

    1. It’s not so much discovery phase… if you use a gun to shoot someone, that firearm will be taken, along with its magazine, which unless you really got unlucky and run it dry, is going to have rounds remaining in it, will be taken into police custody as evidence. I’m hard pressed to believe there would be any state where this would not happen.

      1. Serious question. Let’s say I was in a shoot and the cops take my Glock 20 and the remaining ammo. Are they going to look up the manufacturer of the round? How will they do that?

        I use Starline brass, which is used by a few other factories. I use Hornady XTP bullets, much like other factories. The primers have no markings on them to indicate their CCI and you’d be hard pressed to tell me they pull the bullets and test the powder to discern that it’s Titegroup and not the mass stuff that I can’t get but the factory ammo people do.

        I’m being serious in my question – how will cops know it’s not some factory load? Heck, I’ve shot BVAC loads which are remanufactured, so the brass is mixed. Factory, yes, but not identifiable. They sell bulk hollowpoint as well.

        I realize they may test fire the weapon to recover the bullet and do some forensics to ensure that’s the weapon used, but even a mix of brands of ammo isn’t uncommon so what is going to tip off the cops / prosecutor that the ammo isn’t ‘the good kind’?

        1. Which makes me ask another question: have you ever seen in any shooting the type of ammo being used? Other than the scare hollow points?

        2. A good point. I can’t imagine dismantling rounds in the magazine and examining them scrupulously is standard procedure. They’d likely note the ammo’s manufacturer as being whatever is on the head stamp, unless something was obviously amiss to someone.

          I wish I could remember where I read this had become an issue in a case. It would be interesting to learn how that came about. I do know of the one mentioned in one of the earlier comment, but that was a prosecutors indictment of hollow point in general. I seem to recall there was specifically a case where hand loading came into play.

    2. Are you sure you’ll never be carrying on a visit in a state with reciprocity but in an area that has a less congenial attitude towards self-defense? Especially a big city where you’d also have a higher probability of having to defend yourself?

        1. Well, neither do I and in part for those same reasons—but I wasn’t talking about “shitty” gun laws (well, excluding Ohio where the burden of proof is on you to prove self-defense, yet it’s still shall issue) so much a “community standards”. I’m sure Sebastian factors those in when he visits Philadelphia and legally carries concealed. Except for the letter of the law, he might as well be in New Jersey, right?

          But back to where we might travel: I might, for instance, have to travel to some foreign, exotic city someday for medical treatment, or the treatment of a relative. My parents are in their late ’70s, after all….

        2. I won’t go to states with shitty gun laws ;)

          That’s why I won’t go to Florida, Must-Keep-It-Concealed Lad. ;)

          1. Eh, Florida’s gun laws are “Pretty darned good minus 3 or 4 stupid things”.

            Plus, we have that wonderful preemption that makes politicians cry those sweet, sweet tears.

  8. Re-reading the comments, it’s the same “I heard of a case.” Anyone know what the case was? Could the prosecution hinging on reloaded ammunition be an urban legend among shooters?

    1. You might try rereading it paying attention to the case of Mr. Fish. When the prosecutors makes a big deal of it, the defense lawyer fails to rebut adequately and the jury says the choice of ammo was a factor in conviction I find it hard to argue with (granted, it was evidently his choice of 10 mm more than handloads, but ammo was front and center in that case).

      What I found compelling was the “standard ballistics” argument: if you use a standard round, with some slop (see below) its ballistics are both known and it can be used to recreate the conditions of the shooting. And given how high a fraction of self-defense cases happen at or near arms length that could make a difference in the more ambiguous cases.

      Slop: the powder we get for reloading is much more regular than what the manufacturers use. They buy huge lots, test each lot and make the adjustments necessary for the round to perform as desired.

    2. There was another case, the name of which I cannot remember off the top of my head, where a guy was accused of killing his wife, and he said that she had shot herself, and the gun was loaded with his own handloads, which were fairly mild loads and didn’t cause the amount of powder burns the ME was used to seeing from factory defense loads at near-contact distances…

        1. There we have it, three cases with pointers to the primary sources, not including Fish, plus a cited case where gunshot residue (GSR) made it crystal clear the perp was lying when the officer was subject to both criminal and civil prosecution.

          I submit to all of us that this does a good job of backing up Ayoob’s claim, and that it’s certainly not theoretical.

          And boy did Bias go through a nightmare, 4 trials, and a conviction of Reckless Manslaughter; in New Jersey, that’s not “voluntary” manslaughter shall I say, that’s a case where (these quotes are from NJ government jury instructions):

          In order for you to find the defendant guilty of reckless manslaughter, the State is required to prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

          (1) that the defendant caused (insert victim’s name) death, and

          (2) that the defendant did so recklessly.

          One element that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant acted recklessly.

          Extending that to Aggravated Manslaughter requires adding this:

          (3) that the defendant did so under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life.

          One element that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant acted recklessly. A person who causes another’s death does so recklessly when (he/she) is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death will result from (his/her) conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and purpose of defendant’s conduct and the circumstances known to defendant, (his/her) disregard of that risk is a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would follow in the same situation.

          In other words, you must find that defendant was aware of and consciously disregarded the risk of causing death. If you find that defendant was aware of and disregarded the risk of causing death, you must determine whether the risk that (he/she) disregarded was substantial and unjustifiable. In doing so, you must consider the nature and purpose of defendant’s conduct, and the circumstances known to defendant, and you must determine whether, in light of those factors, defendant’s disregard of that risk was a gross deviation from the conduct a reasonable person would have observed in defendant’s situation.

          Another element that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant acted under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life. The phrase “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life” does not focus on defendant’s state of mind, but rather on the circumstances under which you find (he/she) acted. If, in light of all the evidence, you find that defendant’s conduct resulted in a probability as opposed to a mere possibility of death, then you may find that (he/she) acted under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life. On the other hand, if you find that (his/her) conduct resulted in only a possibility of death, then you must acquit (him/her) of aggravated manslaughter and consider the offense of reckless manslaughter, which I will explain to you shortly.

          The explanation that follows is almost word for word identical to the above (there’s a the->that) except for an added sentence about vehicular manslaughter.

          1. But… but… Sheepdog! Woof woof!


            Hey, I had a real live prosecutor agree with me in my comments section, but what does he know?

            1. Perhaps he doesn’t know or accept the depravity of other prosecutors?

              And anyway that’s an appeal to authority, which is what has always caused the fuss with the simple “don’t do that because a prosecutor might” presentation of Ayoob’s concept.

              1. Harold,

                Your sarcasm detector needs recalibrating.

                Said prosecutor agreed with me, you, and Ayoob. Relax.

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