Is Reloaded Carry Ammo a Good Idea?

Is Reloaded Carry Ammo a Good Idea?


Been thinking about using reloaded handgun ammo as your concealed carry choice? It's not as cut-and-dried as you might think.

Reader Question:

I’ve been thinking about reloading carry ammo for my personal defense gun, but I’ve read a lot on forums that it’s a big no-no. I reload for hunting and matches to get the best performance, so why not do the same for the ammo I bet my life on? —Bill McDonald, Powell, Wyo.

Gun Digest Responds:

Thanks for writing in, Bill. This really is a hot topic among lay shooters and personal defense experts alike. The reason for so much of the debate is that there’s not a simple, black-and-white answer. Most notably, perhaps, Massad Ayoob has argued in Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self Defense that reloading for self defense is a serious mistake. Ayoob argues that standard forensic testing after a shooting relies on powder residue from factory loads, and since handloads throw off this data, it could potentially allow prosecuting attorneys to vilify defensive shooters. Another concern, according to Ayoob, is that attorneys could somehow prove malicious intent by the mere act of reloading, as if it were some kind of premeditated form of bloodlust. As an expert witness and authority on legal matters relating to self defense, Ayoob’s argument has serious weight. For that reason, many folks opt for factory ammo when it comes to their carry gun.

On the flip side, many reloaders are more comfortable defending themselves with ammunition that’s been personally inspected and loaded to their level of personal satisfaction. They carry confident with ammo they’ve honed to perfection. Like you said, Bill, if reloading gives you the best all around load, why not go that route? At least that’s one side of the argument. As always, it’s paramount that you do your homework, know the laws in your state and make a decision that’s best for you and your loved ones.—Eds.

This article appeared in the July 31, 2015 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Click here to download the full issue.


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  1. Regarding hunting in general, the use of reloaded ammunition is generally not recommended…there is the added element of human-induced Errors, (Bullet improperly seated preventing the win from loading or going into battery, falty primers or poor powder Etc…) but there are also those who have perfected the powder formulas and bullet measurements and tolerances to ensure reliability. My stepfather is one of these people who have perfected the art and have clients who will only use his ammunition when hunting dangerous game in Africa! This is not the norm but rather the exception regarding its use in court to prosecute one if it is used as defense ammunition against a potential violent threat the court will try to determine State of Mind and the intent of the user and purpose of the ammo. This can only be determined by the producer of the ammunition and any incriminating information that they may provide regarding the intended use of the ammo. Etching into the side of your breast “Defender or Punisher” would not help your case. It leads one to believe that you are out seeking violence.

  2. I will not profess to be expert enough to verify Mas Ayoob’s conclusions. He is far more experienced than I will ever be. One must simply remember that a jury of your peers may be much less than that when it comes to an understanding of firearms. For this reason, I will always use factory ammo that is identical to that which is carried by my local LEOs. The reason (if you are asked under oath), as Mas has explained, is that you carry what the police carry for the same reason that they do.

  3. I am a retired police officer and also a retired criminal defense investigator and I will tell you why it is a really bad idea to reload your carry ammo. By doing this you are giving the defense a door to burst through to paint you (the shooter) as an inspired assassin. Do NOT giggle at this, If your loads are a little hotter than factory or not, if your choice if projectile is a little more destructive the defense will eat you a new one. Just remember all it takes at a trial is to convince ONE juror by creating doubt.
    There are just too many good factory loads available to use. Just don’t do it.

  4. Ayoob’s statement has a lot of truth to it. if you get a prosecutor trying to make a name for him self, he will try and make you look like you are preparing to kill someone for a long time and now you got the chance. even right people get convicted. it evens happens more often now. why because the government is going towards guilty until proven innocent. maybe reloads in your second or third mag. then hopefully you never have to use any rounds ever. never give up never say die, if shit happens you do your very best. i am not religious but if they feed me to the lions, that lion will know he has had meal. i will bite it’s ear off and poke out it’s eyes. he will remember me.

  5. Ayoob’s premise seems a little out there, I’m finding it hard to imagine a situation where the reload would really be a factor in a court case. That kind of thing would have more to do with the jurisdiction anyway, some states will be looking to punish you for using a gun to start with.

    Reloads are fine, if you’re careful, there should be no reason a reload wouldn’t be even more consistently reliable than factory loads.


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