Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Your First Handgun: Qualifying Your Defensive Ammo

It is certainly understandable that a newly minted concealed pistol licensee (CPL) would be eager to start carrying his firearm as soon as he had physical possession of the permit, but he should wait at least until a very important test has been conducted. A defensive handgun should be qualified to work with a selected brand of defensive ammunition before it is to be replied upon as a personal protection tool.

Why Defensive Ammo Should Be Qualified
Some handgun models are very sensitive with respect to the brands of defensive ammunition they can be reliably called upon to discharge without a malfunction. In contrast, many of the more established quality handgun models will successfully fire just about any brand of defensive ammunition you load into it. Thus, the reliability of a handgun's ability to fire cartridges of any brand can essentially be thought of as a function of its brand reputation or brand quality.

All CPLs do not have unlimited financial resources to purchase top-of-the-line firearms. As such, a few trade-offs will be made. If a CPL is carrying a defensive handgun for personal protection, he should be reasonably certain that his chosen handgun buying criteria did not compromise his firearm's ability to fire the selected brand of defensive ammo without malfunctioning in his time of need.

How To Qualify Defensive Ammo
It is a fairly simple and straight-forward task to qualify defensive ammunition in a handgun. In a nutshell, it only requires shooting 200 rounds of appropriate cartridges at a proper target.

The ammunition selected for this test should a brand of defensive ammunition - jacketed hollow points (JHPs) - that the handgun owner feels that best meets his quality and budgetary requirements. JHPs should be loaded into a defensive handgun when carried for personal protection because they are designed to stop in the first target.

As a consequence, JHPs are not inexpensive. For example, a generic brand of 9mm caliber practice ammo can be purchased for roughly $20 for box of 50 rounds. In contrast, a box of 20 rounds of premium brand 9mm claiber defensive JHPs could cost as high as $30.

If you were qualifying a 9mm defensive handgun with the pricing info listed above, you would need to buy 10 boxes of defensive ammo comprised of 20 defensive catridges per box. As a consequence, your total ammunition cost for 200 rounds - not including any state sales taxes - would be $300. It is important to note that the price estimates given above are quotes for 9mm caliber ammunition in my local area at this current time.

If your handgun was able to successfully discharge all 200 rounds of your selected defensive ammunition without a malfunction (e.g. misfeed, double-feed, or jam), you have found a brand of defensive ammo that can be used for personal protection with your handgun.

However, if you experienced any malfunctions while discharging your defensive handgun with your selected brand of defensive ammunition, you will need to repeat this experiment with another brand of defensive ammunition. As such, you will need another financial outlay of cash to purchase 200 additional rounds of premium ammo. You will repeat this cycle of trying different defensive ammunition brands until you are confident that a succesful experiment has qualified a good defensive ammo brand for your defensive handgun.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to theorize that purchasing a quality handgun, which is not likely to be 'ammunition sensitive,' will lead to lower qualification expenses. On the other hand, everyone doesn't have enough money to buy an expensive Kimber handgun so numerous and expensive tests may be necessary when qualifying a less expensive firearm.

Other Considerations:
When qualifying your ammunition in your defensive handgun, you need to be sure to use the right caliber defensive cartidges that were designed for your firearm. If you are unsure, consult with a knowledgeable authority before loading your handgun. Using the wrong ammo in your firearm can have disastrous consequences.

Secondly, when conducting an defensive ammunition qualification you should be shooting at an authorized target. Ideally, you will be on a target range with a ballistically safe backstop. You should wear your safety gear (i.e. safety glasses and hearing protection) and obey the fundamental gun safety rules:

  • Always Treat A Firearm As If It Is Loaded.
  • Always Keep Your Firearm Pointed In A Safe Direction.
  • Always Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Ready To Shoot.
  • Always Keep Your Firearm Unloaded Until It Is Ready For Use.
  • Always Be Sure Of Your Target And What Is Beyond It.

Bottom Line:
Until a handgun owner has properly qualified a defensive ammunition brand to be satisfactorily discharged from his firearm, he should not rely upon it for personal protection. In most cases, just simply buying a top-rated and high quality handgun will minimize the need for a qualification test. However, given that we are currently mired in an economic recession, lesser known brands may find enhanced popularity and will need to be tested. As always, when firing a handgun use proper protection and obey gun safety rules.

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