Being the most common round in America means many manufacturers, types, and prices. The best 9mm ammo for one scenario may be different than for another. Whether your life is on the line or you just want to have some fun practicing on targets, we have compiled a list of the best 9mm ammo available.
Don’t get caught up using the wrong ammo; it may cost you more than money can buy. Keep yourself equipped for all situations that may come your way so you can save some Benjamins.
I’ve trained with many different types of 9mm since I started shooting. Some being more catastrophic than others.
Remember, it is wise to train with the same grain weight you would use defensively. For example, if you use 124gr ball as your range ammo, you should use 124gr JHP as your defense ammo. The lighter the bullet weight, the lighter the recoil.
Best 9mm Ammo & Recommendations
In this list, we will review the best ammo for various situations and why we believe you should trust them. These ammunition types and brands went through strict testing when being considered, and any munition that we thought may be troublesome to you was cast off into the great beyond immediately.
We will only ever give you what we recommend to a friend or family member if their life depended on it.
For example, due to the additional testing done for Speer Gold Dot, we recommend that round to anyone looking for a reliable self-defense round (Law Enforcement does use it, after all)
Have I lost you yet? Let’s jump in.
Best Overall – CCI Blazer Brass 115gr
CCI has been around for the longest time, and every shooter that uses Blazer Brass can attest that it is maybe the best 9mm ammo you can buy.
I have shot Blazer Brass through many different pistols over the years and have never experienced any malfunctions. Not one. It’s insane.
It’s cheap, accurate, and reliable. Every time you shoot the Blazer Brass, it will go boom. There is not enough space to talk about how great this ammo is, but I can tell you CCI is exceptionally tight regarding the tolerances for their ammunition.
CCI primers are used by Speer, who has the contract for Law Enforcement, and the FBI
CCI makes their ammo according to SAAMI (Sports Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute) standards and with strict ISO systems. Meaning that their ammo is held to the highest standards. I mean, how else would they have been around so long?
It may make your handgun or AR pistol a bit dirty after use due to the brass casing used instead of the metal casing you usually see, but you will save a ton of money in the meantime.
Maybe enough to buy another gun?
|Head Shape||Round Nose|
Pros & Cons
- Low cost for extra shooting
- Extremely reliable
- May cause dirtier firearm
- Not usable by firearms with ported barrels
- Not usable by firearms with compensator
Best Value – Magtech 115gr FMJ
|Jacket||Full Metal Jacket|
Pros & Cons
- Accurate as you are
- Goes boom every time
- Available in both subsonic and supersonic
- Some guns don’t do well using Magtech
- Can be a bit dirty
- May not be accurate with different gun brands
Magtech ammo is made by a company in Brazil using all in-house products. Magtech makes everything from the gunpowder to the casings and primer. They are owned by CBC, which has been manufacturing ammo since 1926.
Yes, your great-grandpa probably used this ammo in the war.
There is a reason why it has been awarded the contract for 20 different law enforcement agencies worldwide and why many ranges only allow you to use Magtech ammo in their rented firearms.
It is reliable and low-priced compared to other firearms manufacturers in the 9mm realm. Magtech uses high-quality smokeless powder and boxer-primed brass, which are suitable for reloading purposes.
Magtech has built its brand on quality, consistency, and reliability. They have been around since 1990 and are one of the most successful ammunition brands in the world. They are also one of the biggest suppliers of ammunition to NATO.
Trusted by Law Enforcement, trusted by NATO, trusted by you.
Best Self Defense – Speer Gold Dot 124gr JHP +P
|Jacket||Nickel Plated Brass|
|Head Shape||Hollow Point|
Pros & Cons
- Trusted by LE/FBI
- Extensively tested on different firearms
- CCI Primers (Same as Blazer Brass)
- More expensive due to round type
- Some weapons have a problem with magazine failures
- Heads round out if rechambering round
The difference between a hollow tip and round tip ammo lies in the expansion of the bullet. It is primarily used in self-defense because it can stop in the target and not pass through. Essentially, this helps prevent any collateral damage that may come when a self-defense shooting may occur.
Speer Gold Dot is the standard issue ammo for law enforcement agencies all around the country, showing how much testing this round had to go through before becoming a round that serves our men and women in uniform.
We went with the 124gr over the 115gr due to the extra penetration power that comes with the heavier weight of the bullet, which may prove critical if your target has heavy clothing.
It is also used by the FBI for their standard issue pistols for its remarkable ability to stop a target in its place. With that in mind, we can put the argument that 9mm is not suitable for home defense to bed, and we can agree that Speer Gold Dot is likely to be the best 9mm ammo for self-defense.
Best Range Use – Federal Syntech Range 124gr
|Head Shape||Synthetic Flat Nose|
Pros & Cons
- Reduces heat and friction
- Extends barrel life
- No lead exposure when used indoors
- Could resemble dummy rounds
- More expensive than standard ammo
- Issues with loading due to synthetic head have been reported
Federal is ahead of the game with their Syntech 9mm ammo. It is very distinctive with the red cone-shaped nose that you don’t see on usually see on a 9mm cartridge.
The Syntech round uses a synthetic head instead of the normal copper one. The idea behind using the synthetic head is to reduce lead exposure when firing indoors and reduce splash-back when shooting steel targets.
The design also lends itself to producing less metal-on-metal contact, which enhances the barrel’s life and reduces copper and led fouling as well as heat and friction.
I could not think of a better round for the range, especially if you shoot steel targets as I do. Federal also makes a self-defense round with the same synthetic head, with different capabilities than a normal JHP round.
It is also highly accurate, which is a big worry for those who want the best out of their ammo at the range; this is partly due to the reduced felt recoil that takes place when using the Syntech round.
Now, for my science-y people, the Syntech round uses the Catalyst lead-free primer that utilizes nitro-thermite technology to produce high-sustained heat. Bismuth is also used with thermite, creating excellent heat transfer.
Okay, now my brain is tired. Thanks, Bill-Nye.
How We Chose our Top Picks
When choosing our top picks, we factored in many variables.
Price per round, failures when shooting, consistency, and accuracy were all taken into consideration. We were most definitely unforgiving when testing it out. When I say we, I mean myself and a friend of mine who currently attends Sonoran Desert Institute.
We could not forgive any major malfunctions caused by the ammo, and we have some horror stories.
What is a pistol without ammo? Answer: A Club. And a poorly designed one at that. Ammunition is the most crucial part of a firearm, and choosing the best ammo for your gun is of utmost importance, mainly depending on your use.
For the range, you want ammo that is low-cost but reliable. You don’t want to shoot your hollow points at the range; that might be expensive.
Having a good understanding of the right type of ammo to buy can save you a ton of money when buying ammo.
What is the difference between range and self-defense ammo?
Range ammo is usually rounded or flat-tipped and comes with a full-metal jacket designed to penetrate further than defense ammo. This is perfect for practicing on both steel and paper targets since you get that extra penetration.
Self-defense ammo usually comes with a hollow tip designed to spread on impact to stop over-penetration and damage muscle tissue and vital organs. Using self-defense ammo is a great way to ensure you protect everyone around you from a round that went through the intended target.
Self-defense ammo is more expensive than range ammo, so you don’t want to shoot it for fun. We do not recommend using range ammo for self-defense.
What is the difference in grain weight?
|115 Grain||124 Grain||147 Grain|
|Muzzle Velocity||1180 fps||1110 fps||990 fps|
|Velocity at 100 Yards||961||949||891|
|Energy at 100 Yards||236||248||259|
9mm comes in 3 standard weights. 115gr, 124gr, 147gr, and you can sometimes find them in 125gr.
The higher the grain weight, the harder the round hits, with more recoil and cost. I usually find myself in the happy medium of shooting 124gr since it has a good balance between the two.
It is vital to find which round suits you best. As I mentioned, the heavier the grain, the more recoil you face. If you find yourself in a jam and don’t know which round to pick, try the 124gr.
What rounds does the military use?
Winchester-Western is the primary source of small-arms ammunition for the U.S. Military. They currently use M882 NATO (North American Trade Organization) manufactured with the U.S. Government contract.
Having shot these rounds, I can say they are pretty good. Very dirty, though. That’s due to the extra pressure that comes with these rounds to ensure the pistol will function, even if it hasn’t been cleaned in a while. This brings me to my next subject.
What do +P and +P+ mean?
+P means the round has more pressure than a standard 9mm round. 10% more, to be exact. While most 9mm rounds have a maximum pressure of 35,000 psi, the maximum chamber pressure for +P is 38,000 psi.
There are no SAAMI specs for +P+, but it is safe to say that it has more pressure than +P rounds.
Someone may use +P rounds to enhance speed and terminal ballistics in their standard 9mm.
Here is an extensive video on 9mm ammo
What caliber is 9mm equal to?
.38 Special, .357 Magnum, and .380 ACP all share the same diameter of the 9mm. They are different in how they function, and we do not recommend firing any other kind of caliber from what your pistol/rifle is meant for.
Is 9mm enough for self-defense?
Most definitely. Police around the country use 9mm with Speer Gold Dot as do the FBI, and those folks have to rely on their firearms to get the job done every day. Just make sure you use hollow tip ammo and train often.
What is the deadliest 9mm round?
Lehigh Defense’s Extreme Defense round was designed to produce tremendous expansion. No other round that I have fired has created the kind of wound cavity seen with Extreme Defense.
What grain 9mm should I use for target practice?
Whichever round you feel best. If you don’t want to deal with larger amounts of recoil, I would say the 115gr is your best bet. 147gr will produce the most recoil out of a 9mm round, so if you want more recoil, go with this grain.
That’s it already? Wow, how time flies. We hope this article has helped you make good decisions on purchasing the right ammo.
Just remember, save your Benjamins. Don’t go shooting hollow tip ammo at the range for fun, and don’t use round or flat-tipped ammo for defense.
One last item – don’t forget to pick yourself up some ammo cans. The last thing you want is to have a bunch of boxes laying around that you will have to pick up later, and ammo falling all over the place.
Trust me; you don’t want to make that mistake. Like the great Maury Povich says, “Until next time, America.”