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Understanding Ammo Choices: Practice vs Defense Ammunition


In this two-part overview, we’ll explore the differences between types of ammunition, focusing on practice ammunition vs defense ammunition, as well as the differences between Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) and Hollow Point (HP) bullets.

We propose that it’s crucial to understand the appropriate uses, performance characteristics, and costs associated with each type of ammunition. 

In this post, part 1, we’re going to cover the differences between practice and defense ammo, highlighting their intended purposes, design features, and why choosing the right type is essential for specific applications like training or self-defense.  

In next week’s post, part 2, we’ll dive into a detailed comparison between FMJ and HP bullets. We’ll delve into their design, ballistic behavior, and the science of how they interact with targets upon impact.

To finish things off, we’re going to address the differences in investments between HP and FMJ ammunition. This section explains how the complexity of design, manufacturing processes, material usage, market demand, and other factors contribute to the cost disparity, offering insights into why HP ammunition is generally more expensive than FMJ. 

Together, these two parts offer a thorough understanding of key ammunition types, providing valuable knowledge for anyone interested in firearms, whether for sport, training, or personal defense.  

In part one, we’ll discuss the differences in practice and defense ammunition. In part two, we’ll dive deeper into FMJ vs HP.  Let’s go!

Part 1: Practice v. Defense Ammunition

a handful of 9mm bullets on a white background
These 9mm full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets are typical of what you might use for practice ammo.

Let’s start by understanding two different intended uses for ammunition: practice rounds and defense ammunition. 

The difference between practice and defense ammunition primarily lies in their intended purposes, design, and cost.

Purpose and Usage:

Practice Ammunition: Also known as range or training ammo, is designed for use in practice, training, and recreational shooting. Primarily, practice ammo provides a cost-effective way for shooters to improve their skills. 

Defense Ammunition: Also known as self-defense or tactical ammo, is specifically designed for self-defense or law enforcement use. This type of ammunition is optimized for reliability, stopping power, and effectiveness in real-world defensive situations. 

Design and Performance:

Five different types of hollow point bullets on a grey background
Five different caliber hollow point bullets, a 380. 40. 44 special, 45 ACP and a 454

Practice Ammunition: 

  • Typically features full metal jacket (FMJ) or ball bullets. 
  • Designed to be less expensive, focusing on reliability and cost-effectiveness rather than terminal performance. 
  • Generally does not expand upon impact, making it less effective for stopping threats. 

Defense Ammunition: 

  • Often features hollow-point or other expanding bullet designs. 
  • Designed to expand upon impact, causing more damage to the target and reducing the risk of over-penetration. 
  • Engineered for maximum stopping power and effectiveness against an assailant. 


Practice Ammunition: Usually less of an investment than defense ammunition, compelling shooters to buy in bulk and shoot at a substantially higher volume. 

Defense Ammunition: Greater investment due to its specialized design, obvious utility, and of course the higher quality control standards. 


Practice Ammunition: Suitable for training, target shooting, and general practice at the range. 

Defense Ammunition: Recommended for carry in self-defense firearms and for use in situations where stopping a threat is paramount.

It’s important for gun owners to understand these differences and choose the right type of ammunition for their specific needs, whether it’s for regular practice or for defense purposes. 

Check in next week when we post part two of this blog and explore the differences between FMJ and HP ammunition. Sign up for our email list to make sure you never miss a blog.

We offer both training and defense ammunition. You can purchase our 9mm FMJ for training, and Civil Defense 9mm +P for defense.

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