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Recommendations regarding rifle ammunition for self defense follow:


.22LR (Long Rifle) Caliber
Recommended Cartridges:

CCI "Stinger" LHP 32 grains
Remington "Yellow Jacket" LHP 33 grains

Use any high or hyper velocity .22LR ammunition.  In a self defense situation, shoot repeatedly and with accuracy.  Multiple hits on an assailant are crucial with a .22LR.

If your rifle is fed from a detachable magazine, use factory magazines only.  Avoid after market plastic magazines that may be unreliable.  Have at hand a few extra loaded magazines.

Rifles with attached tubular magazines are typically high capacity, allowing for sustained fire power without reloading. 

.22 Magnum Caliber: (.22 Winchester Magnum Rim Fire; .22WMR)
Recommended Cartridges:

CCI "Maxi-Mag" JHP 40 grains
Winchester  JHP 40 grains

Any high or hyper velocity hollow point will be fine.


.223 Remington Caliber: (5.56x45mm NATO, 5.56 NATO)
One Shot Stopping Success:  93-100%  (Actual)
Recommended Cartridges:

Remington JHP 60 grains 100%
Winchester "Match" JHP-BT 69 grains 100%
Federal JHP 40 grains 99%
Winchester  JSP 55 grains 96%
Winchester  FMJ 55 grains 96%
Federal JHP 55 grains 95%
Remington FMJ 55 grains 95%
Federal JHP 62 grains 94%
Remington JSP 55 grains 94%
Federal FMJ-BT 55 grains 93%

The .223 Remington is normally referred to as the "two-two-three", or more commonly, the "two-twenty three".

The 5.56x45mm cartridge is a standard NATO rifle round.  It is similar to its cousin, the .223 Remington, but is not identical.  It is typically loaded to pressures that are slightly higher than those of its civilian counterpart.  Before shooting the 5.56 NATO round, check to see that your rifle can handle the "hotter" loads.  The barrel should indicate "5.56 NATO" rather than ".223 Remington".  

The 5.56 NATO chamber has a 1/8-inch longer throat, allowing approximately one more grain of propellant to be added to the 5.56 NATO cartridge.  This produces about 58,000 psi, approximately 5% greater pressure than that of the .223 Remington, and is conducive to better performance. 

The differences between the 5.56 NATO and the .223 Remington cartridges can create problems when firing a 5.56 NATO round in a rifle chambered for 223 Remington. Due to the longer throat in the 5.56 NATO chamber, this combination will cause a .223 Remington chambered rifle to run at approximately 65,000 psi or more. This is 10,000 psi higher than the normal functioning pressure of the .223 Remington, which is 55,000 psi. This is not safe.  Excessive pressure can cause primers to back out of the cartridge. Even worse, it can injure the shooter, damage the rifle, or both.

The reverse of this situation, firing a .223 Remington cartridge in a 5.56 NATO chambered rifle, is not dangerous, but is not optimal. The throat difference between the two chambers will cause a lack of pressure to be developed in a .223 Remington cartridge fired from a 5.56 NATO chamber.  The .223 Remington will not attain its normal pressure of 55,000 psi.  Velocity and resulting performance will deteriorate somewhat.

Problems from inadequate .223 Remington pressure may also cause a 5.56 NATO carbine with a short 14.5 inch barrel to cycle unreliably.  Such short barreled carbines are legal for civilians to own if a permanently affixed flash suppressor brings the overall length of the barrel to 16 inches. Rifles chambered in 5.56 NATO that have barrels longer than 14.5 inches should function properly when firing .223 Remington ammunition.

The Lake City Army Ammunition Plant manufacturers 5.56 NATO M193 55 grain FMJ-BT for Federal Cartridge.  Brass isn't polished and packaging isn't pretty.  The 5.56 NATO in 62 grains is the M855.  Lake City is a great source of high quality, low cost ammunition when you desire to "load up" for those zombie hoards that inevitably are coming.  Remember, head shots for zombies!    

Rifles produced by manufacturers that adhere to military specifications (mil-specs), such as those from Colt's Manufacturing Company and Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM), will reliably cycle the 5.56 NATO round.  This isn't necessarily the case with other manufacturers.

Indeed, although they may look quite similar to one another, AR-15 rifles and carbines differ markedly in quality from one manufacturer to another.  You can't always tell by price.  For additional information on this topic, visit "Rifles: Self Defense".

If there exists any doubt about capability of an AR-15 styled firearm, be sure to contact the operations manual or other guidance provided by the rifle maker.  

Essentially all configurations of the .223 Remington or 5.56 NATO provide excellent one shot stopping ability.  These rounds are ideal for self defense.  

 At relatively close range, a 55 grain FMJ bullet will easily penetrate 1/4-inch steel plate, but is not capable of piercing steel plate that is 3/8-inches thick.  

At a velocity in excess of about 2700 feet per second, a 55 grain bullet will tumble and fragment in human tissue.  This desired effect produces devastating damage.  See "Tech Tips".  As a generality, a 55 grain round will sustain velocities in excess of 2,700 feet  out to the following distances: 20-inch barrel: 200 yards; 16-inch barrel: 150 yards; 14.5-inch barrel: 100 yards.

Many manufacturers design .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO cartridges with law enforcement in mind.  There rounds will expand rapidly and cause maximum wound cavitation without significant risk of over penetration.  Some of these rifle rounds exhibit penetration that is less than that of many common service pistol cartridges.

While the AR-15 can handle foreign ammo that has a varnish coating on steel cartridges, special attention must be paid to cleaning the firearm.  Gunk tends to build up in the receiver.  It is probably a good idea to restrict the use of foreign ammunition to rifles such as the AK-47 and SKS, which don't exhibit the relatively tight manufacturing tolerances which typify the AR-15.  You will find that domestically produced  ammunition from any of the six leading manufacturers tends to be reliable and trouble free, attributes desirable in any self defense situation.

With .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO ammunition, the twist of the rifling in the gun's barrel plays an important role in stabilizing the bullet for long, accurate shots.  The following table depicts the loads best suited for specific barrel lengths and twist rates.  

Colt AR 15 Sporter SP6920 1 in 7 16" 55-75 grains
Colt AR 15 Match Target MT 6551 1 in 7 20" 55-80 grains
Colt AR 15 Match Target HBAR MT 6601T 1 in 7 20"  Heavy 55-80 grains
Colt AR 15 Match Target  HBAR MT 6700 1 in 9 20"  Heavy 40-75 grains
Colt AR 15 Match Target HBAR MT 6731 1 in 9 16"  Heavy 40-69 grains
Colt AR 15 Colt Accurized Rifle CR 6724 1 in 9 24"  Heavy 40-75 grains
Ruger Mini-14 1 in 10 16" 40-64 grains
 AR 15 Older Model   1 in 12 40-55 grains

While each rifling twist is capable of producing acceptable accuracy from most common bullet weights, the 1 in 9 twist tends to favor the light to mid-plus side, while the 1 in 7 twist favors the mid to heavy side.  It is too fast a twist rate for frangible hunting bullets such as soft points.  They tend to fly apart.  The 1 in 7 twist is ideally suited to self defense applications, using the preferred bullets FMJ and JHP.  The 1 in 7 twist is mil-spec.    

The advantage of an "assault rifle" when compared to a "battle rifle" primarily relates to the fact that 5.56 NATO ammunition is about half the weight of 7.62 NATO.  This enables infantry troops (and you) to carry twice as much ammunition. 

Consider visiting the Armory munitions room "Tech Tips" for additional discussion regarding the wounding properties associated with the .223 Remington/5.56 NATO rounds.


7.62x39mm Soviet Caliber: (7.62mm Russian Short, 7.62 ComBloc)
Recommended Cartridges:

Cor-Bon JSP 125 grains
Federal JSP 123 grains
Remington   JSP 125 grains
Winchester JSP 123 grains

For self defense, some prefer the 7.62 ComBloc cartridge to the .223 Remington/5.56 NATO.  This excellent round is most commonly used in SKS and AK-47 derived rifles, as well as in some rifles of domestic manufacture.  Foreign ammunition in foreign rifles is OK for practice.  Note that Ruger advises against using any ammunition of foreign manufacture in the Mini-30.  Such ammunition is prone to either bend or break the firing pin.

The 7.62x39mm is capable of penetrating 3/8-inch steel plate.

The AK-47 is a firearms legend.  It is very likely the consummate "assault rifle".  This Russian-designed rifle is tough, supremely reliable and virtually indestructible.  It is easy to handle, field strip and clean.  Because some parts are normally stamped instead of milled, tolerances are not tight.  On the one hand, this means that accuracy is just average.  On the other, it means that this rugged rifle is utterly dependable.  It has been produced more than any other rifle in history, with approximately 50 million built world wide.


.30-30 Winchester Caliber:
Recommended Cartridge:

Federal HP 125 grains

This venerable old "cowboy" cartridge has been around for ages.  It has survived so long for one reason: it works.  The .30-30 (pronounced thirty-thirty) is among the most common rounds found in North America.  It can be purchased nearly everywhere: from urban discount superstores to backwoods general stores.  Soft points are better suited for hunting and practice than for self defense.  


.308 Winchester Caliber (7.62x51mm NATO, 7.62 NATO)
One Shot Stopping Success:  97-100% (Actual)
Recommended Cartridges:

Remington JHP-BT 168 grains 100%
Federal JHP-BT 168 grains 99%
Winchester  JHP-BT 168 grains 97%

The .308 (pronounced three-oh-eight) is among the finest rifle calibers in the world.  It is essentially the same as 7.62 NATO, and can be fired interchangeably.  Quality JHP-BT ammunition made by any of the top domestic manufacturers will produce excellent results in any self defense situation.  The "BT" stands for "boat tail", a slight taper at the back of the JHP bullet which enhances its aerodynamic qualities in flight.

Numerous makes of "battle rifles" are chambered in this caliber, including some which utilize the AR platform.  A relative new entry in this field is the Colt SP901.  This 7.62 NATO carbine is unusual because it will also accept mil-spec 5.56 NATO Colt uppers.


.30-06 Springfield Caliber:
Recommended Cartridge:



JHP-BT 168 grains

The .30-06 (pronounced "thirty ought six"), is among the most versatile and time honored cartridges in existence.  There are numerous excellent loads available in this caliber.


.357 Magnum Caliber:
Recommended Cartridges:



JHP 140 grains


JHP 140 grains

CCI "Lawman"

JHP 140 grains


JHP 140 grains

Preferred carbine ammunition differs from handgun rounds in the same caliber normally selected for self protection.  The longer carbine barrel boosts muzzle velocities by at least several hundred feet per second.  The lighter bullets: 110 and 125 grains, can be too fragile to endure extreme velocities and may disintegrate.  Equally undesirable, the heavier bullets: 158 and 180 grains, will likely pass through an assailant, thereby endangering innocent bystanders.  Consider the 140 grain JHP to represent the optimum round for conflict resolution when a carbine chambered for .357 Magnum is used for personal protection. 

The .357 Magnum is an excellent carbine round for urban self defense.  A carbine chambered in .357 will also shoot .38 Special ammunition, . just like a .357 Magnum revolver.


.44 Magnum Caliber:
Recommended Cartridges:



JHP 200 grains


JHP 200 grains

Winchester "Silvertip"

JHP 210 grains

Federal "Hydra-Shok"

JHP 200 grains

Due to increased velocity, carbine ammunition for self defense differs somewhat from its counterpart recommended for handguns.  The 180 grain bullet may be too friable; the 240 and 300 grain bullets will tend to over penetrate.  The 200-210 grain bullets represent an excellent compromise. 

Again, consider the lever action carbine, this time in .44 Magnum.   In a manner similar to a revolver, this carbine will also chamber the .44 Special.

For self defense, don't use soft points.  These hunting rounds will blow right through an assailant.


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