Best 9mm Defense Ammo and Bulk Cheap Range Ammo for Practice

Ammo

9x19mm Parabellum (9mm NATO, 9mm Luger) is the most commonly used handgun caliber for defense among military forces, police, and civilians worldwide. In this guide, we'll give you our picks for the best 9mm ammo for self-defense and range practice. We'll also give you a breakdown of how we came to choose these picks.

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For those of you who can't wait, here's a preview of our top picks for best 9mm ammo for self-defense:

Best Ammo Preview

AmmoAverage PenetrationAverage Expanded DiameterAverage Velocity
Federal 124 gr HST JHP (small)

Federal 124 gr HST +P

18.3 inches.66 inches1168 fps
Federal 124 gr HST

Federal 124 gr HST

18.3 inches.61 inches1135 fps
Winchester 147 gr Ranger T-Series

Winchester 147 gr Ranger T-Series

16.5 inches.74 inches941 fps
Remington Golden Saber 124 gr +P

Remington Golden Saber 124 gr +P

18.2 inches.66 inches1170 fps

And here's our picks for the best cheap bulk 9mm range ammo for practice:

AmmoCost Per Round
Blazer Brass 115 Grain FMJ

Blazer Brass FMJ

$0.18 / Round
Sellier & Bellot

Sellier & Bellot

$0.17 / Round
American Eagle

American Eagle

$0.18 / Round

Not only is Lucky Gunner our go-to platform for buying ammo online at the best prices, but they've also put a lot of time into testing to find the best 9mm hollow-point ammo for self-defense. (Though we'll briefly touch on it below, you can learn why hollow point ammunition is preferred for self-defense in our "Hollow Point vs Full Metal Jacket" guide.)

To do this, they shot 5 rounds of various ammo choices using a S&W M&P9C at ballistic gel covered by heavy clothing barriers. All shots were fired about 10 feet away.

  • Penetration Depth - The FBI recommends a penetration depth of 12 to 18 inches. Shallower penetration may not reach the vitals of an attacker, and deeper penetration can over-penetrate your target—making it more likely that you cause accidental harm to bystanders. With that said, I tend to prefer ammo with an average penetration on the deeper side of the FBI's recommendation.
  • Bullet Diameter - Expanding hollow-point ammunition is designed to improve stopping power by transferring more energy to your target. However, ammo that expands too large, too fast, can hurt penetration. Therefore, it's generally best to choose ammunition with the largest expanded-bullet diameter that still offers a penetration depth that reaches 12 to 18 inches.
  • Velocity - If self-defense ammo performs well in the two above factors, I'm not as concerned about velocity. The exception to this is when velocities really start to get on the low side, as they may not function reliably in heavier handguns.

Before jumping into the picks, we should point out that hollow-point ammunition is far more expensive than FMJ range ammo. In my opinion, it's not a place to go cheap, as the performance of this ammo may be used to save your life. With that in mind, we didn't factor price into our considerations too much. Ideally though, you would be able to occasionally shoot the hollow-point ammunition you plan to use for concealed carry at the range. This allows you to ensure your handgun can handle it and keeps you confident shooting this ammo.

Also, some of this is +P ammunition. Check your owners manual to be sure your gun is rated for +P before using this ammo.

Lastly, 9mm self-defense ammo is less readily available than FMJ; so you may need to check around multiple websites if your choice is out of stock.

Federal 124 Grain HST 9mm +P - Best 9mm Self Defense Ammo

This ammo is regularly available, has the second-largest expansion on our list, and the second-highest velocity. This nickel-plated brass ammunition has become my go-to for concealed carry and 9mm defensive purposes.

  • Average Penetration - 18.3"
  • Average Expanded Diameter - .66"
  • Average Muzzle Velocity - 1168 fps

They also make this in 147 gr, but its gel test statistics aren't as favorable.

Federal 124 Grain HST 9mm Ammo

Federal also makes 124 gr HST 9mm ammo that's not +P. This will cause less wear on your pistols, but at the cost of bullet expansion and velocity.

  • Average Penetration - 18.3"
  • Average Expanded Diameter - .61"
  • Average Muzzle Velocity - 1135 fps

Winchester 147 gr Ranger T-Series

Unfortunately, these seem to less often be stocked, but they were the best performing ammo in terms of bullet expansion and are in the sweet spot in terms of penetration. I've only shot one box of these, but had no issues, for what that's worth. Being 147 gr, they do have a lower velocity than the lighter rounds.

  • Average Penetration - 16.5"
  • Average Expanded Diameter - .74"
  • Average Muzzle Velocity - 941 fps

Remington Golden Saber 124 gr +P

Remington's Golden Saber 124 gr +P ammo is a great alternative to Federal HST +P, performing similarly in Lucky Gunner's tests.

  • Average Penetration - 18.2"
  • Average Expanded Diameter - .66"
  • Average Muzzle Velocity - 1170 fps

For range ammo, I look for cheap and reliable brass-cased ammunition.

I'd also highly recommend buying it in bulk online, as you can save substantially on a price per round basis.

Blazer Brass 115 Grain FMJ 9mm Ammo

~$0.18 Per Round

Prices accurate at time of publishing

1,000 Rounds of Blazer Brass 9mm 115 Grain FMJ ($179)

Blazer Brass 115 Grain is my choice for the best 9mm practice ammo, as it's mostly what I use at the range. It took thousands of round before having my first potential ammo-related malfunction, but I didn't even investigate too closely. In other words, this could have been a malfunction related to the gun.

This stuff is some of the cheapest brass ammo, while still being VERY dependable. You can also find it for around the same price in 124 Grain.

Sellier & Bellot 9mm 115 Grain FMJ Ammo

~$0.17 Per Round

Prices accurate at time of publishing

1,000 Rounds of Sellier & Bellot 9mm 115 Grain FMJ ($169)

While writing this article, I decided to check and see what brass-cased options I could find for even cheaper than the ammo I usually shoot. And this lead me to find Sellier & Bellot 115 gr, the cheapest (brass-cased) per round option on Lucky Gunner.

Though I haven't shot this myself, I just bought 1,000 rounds to test after reading the reviews. It has 5 stars in over 300 reviews, with many recent reviews praising it.

I'll update this with my experience, but it seems to be the current cheapest 9mm ammo that's high quality.

UPDATE: Made it through the 1000 rounds of 115 grain Sellier & Bellot fairly quickly. I had no malfunctions or issues related to this ammo or otherwise, shooting it mostly with my (super dirty) SIG P320 and Glock 17. I'll definitely be using this ammo regularly so long as it stays at least as cheap as the other listed options.

You can also find cheap bulk Sellier & Bellot 124 Grain.

American Eagle 9mm 115 FMJ

~$0.18 Per Round

Prices accurate at time of publishing

1,000 Rounds of American Eagle 9mm 115 Grain FMJ ($179)

My last pick is another option that I've shot for thousands of rounds: American Eagle 115 gr 9mm made by Federal.

My local indoor shooting range always has this, so I've used it a bunch when I forgot my own ammo or didn't bring enough. It's performed as well as my usual Blazer Brass and can be purchased online for roughly the same price.

It can also be found in 124 gr or 147 gr, at a slightly higher price per round.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article helped you find some great hollow-point and range ammo!

If you decide you want a new handgun to shoot it, check out our lists of the best 9mm pistols and the best 9mm single stack pistols.

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