Reloading Ammo for Personal Defense

When it comes to self defense ammunition, the author has found Hornady's XTP bullets the right medicine for aggressive mammals of every strip.
When it comes to self defense ammunition, the author has found Hornady’s XTP bullets the right medicine for aggressive mammals of every strip. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

It’s a hot topic, rife with debatable points valid and invalid, legal and ethical.

Depending on the laws of your particular state, defending one’s life may pose a legal problem, but that’s not what I’m here to discuss. What I do want to discuss is the loading of ammunition that you must bet your life on.

I’d like to preface this piece with the following piece of information: I wish to live out my days having never pointed a firearm at any human being with the intent to do harm; however I firmly believe that every single one of us has the God-given right to defend ourselves when life and limb are threatened. Ok, politics over.

If you ever have to reach for a pistol or rifle that must be called upon to protect you and your family from threat, be that threat two or four legged, logic dictates that you would want that firearm loaded with best ammunition available. If you believe that factory ammunition is the way to go, so be it; but I feel better knowing that every stage of that ammunition has been hand assembled and inspected by me.

When we go hiking in the mountains of Upstate New York, the presence of bears is always a reality. Most of the time the bruins will flee upon seeing or smelling humans, but if you have the misfortune of getting in between a mother with her cubs, things can get ugly in a hurry.

Monometal bullets are a good choice for personal defense. Give their lighter weight, they can be pushed to high velocities. And they are highly frangible, protecting against pass through.
Monometal bullets are a good choice for personal defense. Given their lighter weight, they can be pushed to high velocities. And they are highly frangible, protecting against pass through. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

I’ve even had coyotes in my yard while out walking our tiny little Shih-Tzu. At a whopping eight pounds, it wouldn’t be hard for her to be taken. In these types of situations, I prefer a heavy for caliber hollowpoint pistol bullet. Hornady’s XTP is a tough bullet that can end an argument with irate mammals quickly.

When it comes to defending your life against human attack, there is an entire market devoted to suitable projectiles. I’m no self-defense instructor, and I’ve never served in the military, but I have a few choices that I feel safe carrying.

Cutting Edge Bullets Raptor bullets make a solid choice. They are lathe turned, highly frangible (to prevent over penetration in an urban situation) and should impart a whole bunch of impact energy should the need arise. I like the way they shoot, and being lighter, due to the all copper construction, they can be driven to a higher velocity in your chosen handgun.

The aforementioned Hornady XTP and Sierra’s hollowpoint jacketed pistol bullets are very reliable, as well. Whichever projectile you choose, be sure you spend ample time at the range to know exactly how they shoot. Practice turns into instinct in the midst of a stressful situation.

Put away the progressive press when reloading for personal defense. Take the time to load your ammunition to the tightest possible tolerances, so it's ready to go bang when it's most needed.
Put away the progressive press when reloading for personal defense. Take the time to load your ammunition to the tightest possible tolerances, so it’s ready to go bang when it’s needed most. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

The loading of this ammunition is where our good techniques will come into play.

I would advise that you abandon the progressive press for this project. When I load the ammunition that I carry in my handguns for defense, I use a single stage press. Every case and projectile is rigorously inspected, the flash holes are reamed and primer pockets well cleaned to ensure ignition. Primer seating is inspected and I hand weigh each and every powder charge. I don’t want any room for error. Bullets are seated to the proper depth, and verified on a micrometer.

In a situation where your life is on the line, a misfire could equal death. Speed of production is irrelevant when it comes to ammunition that you desperately need in a pinch.

Many good volumes have been published on choosing the best projectiles for defense, and I recommend you pick up a couple and educate yourself well, then take those projectiles to the range so you can feel confident in your choice. You’ll sleep much better!

reloading press

Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Enjoy the improved accuracy of hand-tuned ammunition, and gather the necessary information needed to get started with the reloading process. You’ll benefit from this reloading guide if:

  • You want to learn how to reload rifle and pistol ammo
  • You need to know the necessary tools required for reloading
  • You’d like to learn the benefits of reloading ammo

Also checkout the companion book to this blog, How to Reload Ammo with Philip Massaro.


  1. You are crazy!!!!

    When you use hand loaded ammo in a self defense!!!!

    There is to many state laws, that can and will put in PRISON for using hand loaded for self defense!!

    You are 100% libel for all criminal and civil liability!!!!

    When you make it you risk losing everything you own and love.

    The ammo companies have insurance for this, YOU don’t.

    You will become the most , eval person in world, in criminal trial!!

    Like, how you made the, ammo to do the most harm, you could inflict on the person you shot!!!!

    Look at the mess going Ferguson Mo.

    If that officer, had used hand loaded ammo he would be locked up for life!

    We walk a fine line with guns, ammo and self defense, if you make one mistake
    you go to prison, for a long time.

    Hand loaded ammo can get you there faster than anything else.

    You can have the cleanest shooting in the world, go very bad using,
    hand loaded ammo.



    Good luck.

  2. You forgot to mention oil and water contamination of reloaded ammo which would be far more likely as most people will not even bother to oil proof their cartridges. Factory cartridges are oil proofed but how well depends on the maker. Home brewed ammo can be made more oil proof by putting a drop of polyurethane on each primer but that still leaves the bullet in the case mouth not being oil proofed. Many years ago Hand-loader magazine had an article on how to use asphalt cement to do this but it is messy, long and tedious. The other point is primers not seated all the way down which will cause a misfire in pre-loaded striker fired weapons like the Glock and copies of it but the hammer fired weapons are usually way more reliable and will drive a high primer right back down into the pocket and ignite it. So much for the pre-loaded striker pistols being very reliable as sometimes they even fail with high primed factory ammo and yes it does happen.

    • Upon reading this article I find one glaring issue and/or fallacy in the author’s assertion that it is better to use his/her own reloaded ammo instead of factory ammo.
      As a former cop, I can ASSURE you that should you elect to use your home brewed ammo, you will be eviscerated by the local prosecutor or decedent’s family attorney.
      You see, given that ammo manufacturer’s have built ammo long since before most of us have been alive, THEY are the experts and you ARE NOT! Period, end of story. Ask any reputable attorney and I assure you that you’ll be raked over the coals for making such a foolish mistake.
      You see, you’ll be portrayed as creating ammo that you INTENTIONALLY designed to inflict the greatest amount of suffering and carnage as opposed to just stopping the Little Choirboy, Johnny, from taking your lunch money or, more likely, asking for directions to the nearest church and you INTENTIONALLY created loaded ammo designed to inflict the most harm and pain.
      As someone that has more than just a passing interest and experience in seeing these kinds of things happen in court, I would urge the author to recant his assertion that it is better to use home grown ammo over factory fodder.
      Doing so invites risk to those that don’t have a working knowledge of criminal law.
      If you doubt me, make an appointment with your local prosecutor and ask him which is the better suggestion.
      Shoot a bad guy with ammo YOU created that the jury will be instructed to see as designed to shoot through every school bus in town filled to capacity with children or ammo which a KNOWN manufacturer has designed, and proven through various shooting tests via cops against bad guys and civilians in justified self defense shootings and various test media to perform identically time after time after time.
      I know which version I’d put MY life’s savings on.
      However, if you are foolish enough to follow the advice of the author, get a list of family and friends together so they can visit you in prison.
      Your mileage may vary, but may The Force be with you.
      You’ll need it!!

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