Why Bet Against the Odds?

Any good “Texas Hold’em” player can calculate at the drop of each card what his or her chances of winning that particular hand are. And even novices know that drawing to an inside straight is a losing proposition. So why do some in the carry community seem to insist on tempting fate when it comes to self-defense ammunition?

On a gun-friendly bulletin board last week, a discussion was taking place regarding the pros and cons of carrying hand-loaded versus factory ammunition. Most of the participants recommend sticking with factory defensive loads, for a variety of reasons.

First, reliability: Every top-shelf manufacturer applies much tighter quality-control standards for defensive rounds than for target or practice ammo. Of course they do. No company wants to have a story sweeping through the internet about how some cop (or private citizen) got killed because their ammunition failed.

Second, major manufacturers spend thousands of hours (and a lot of ammo) testing their defensive loads as well as analyzing police shooting data. And their research and development is ongoing — involving such improvements like bonded bullets (that resist jacket separation) and non-clogging polymer tipped projectiles that expand more reliably.

And if that’s not enough, the internet is awash with YouTube videos of amateurs and experts alike, all putting the popular brands through a variety of tests (from wet newspapers to gelatin blocks). You can even find some more inventive types shooting into beef and pork roasts!

What this means is that even the most obsessive-compulsive shooter should be able to find more than enough information in order to choose a brand and caliber that suits his or her needs. So, why would anyone insist on carrying hand-loaded ammo?

Well, one of the posters in the discussion mentioned above claimed that his home-brewed loads were “far more accurate” than factory rounds in his gun. He did not specify what that meant, but it’s almost beside the point.

I’ll confess, I DO use custom handloads in my long range 308, which I have shot out to 600 yards. Yet even there, Federal Gold Medal Match factory rounds are very nearly as accurate, and virtually identical at 300 yards or less.

However, at the extremely close ranges at which the overwhelming majority of defensive gun uses occur, accuracy is virtually irrelevant. The difference between guns at typical distances like 3 to 5 yards is negligible, and ammo even less so, especially when rapidly fired in the midst of chaos. In reality, handloads (and to be fair, some “bizarre” factory loads) really don’t offer any tangible benefit over factory ammunition.

But such ammunition does have a serious potential downside. I’ve literally lost count of the number of times I’ve sat in court and heard a state’s attorney refer to the defendant’s “cop-killer bullets” or “excessively lethal” ammunition. And it certainly can affect the jury. So, given all the high-quality factory ammo available, why risk it?

Interestingly, when this was brought up in the forum discussion, one proponent of handloading adamantly argued that such legal concerns are a “myth” and demanded to “see the case law.” Even after several of the other participants (some of whom were attorneys) verified that, yes, your ammunition can indeed be used to turn a jury against you, he refused to accept it.

You’re free to carry whatever you want. But while I use tons of reloads for practice, when carrying, I always load up with quality, name brand, factory ammunition.

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