Testing Defensive Carry Ammo


You’ve read all the online reviews, watched the YouTube videos, and examined the gel tests. You’ve selected what you want to be your next carry ammo. Now it’s time to test how it performs in your gun.

How many rounds? What are we testing for?

Let’s answer that first question last, because the second question is really far more important.

We are testing for three things:




Feed is the action of the bolt stripping the top round off the magazine and feeding it into the chamber. This is an important test with any new ammunition as it is a complex set of steps involving the action of the slide, the magazine, feed ramp, and bullet profile. As such it’s important to test every magazine you intend to use for carry purposes with the new ammunition.

Function is everything that is involved in ignition, firing, and extraction of a round. This cycles back to feeding at the conclusion of the firing cycle.

POA,POI refers to Point Of Aim/Point Of Impact. With bullet weights and muzzle velocities differing from training ammo your point of impact might be quite different than your point of aim. Ideally your sights are set for a POA/POI with your defensive loads. Let your practice ammunition be slightly off, or look for a practice load that closely mimics your defensive load.

Since defensive ammunition is expensive it is best to establish a protocol that will effectively test those factors with the fewest possible rounds. I use the following protocol when testing new ammo. You’ll need:

-Three magazines (or less, adjust as necessary)

– 40 – 50 rounds of your defensive ammo

-100 or more rounds of practice ammo (how much more depends on your magazine capacity)

It’s best to test with a gun that isn’t very dirty, but not quite freshly cleaned as well. I like having run a few magazines through previously, but I don’t want it so dirty that it might cause problems that get falsely attributed to the ammo.

Load each magazine so that the very bottom round and the top three rounds are your new ammo. Make up the additional rounds for a full magazine with practice ammo, so in a 12 round magazine it would be 1 test round, 8 practice rounds, 3 test rounds. We use this protocol because magazine issues like weak springs, bent feed lips, and other problems will be exaggerated at the the extreme ends of the spring travel, either fully compressed or fully extended. You’ll want to chamber a test round in your gun before loading the full magazine each time.

From a benched position, at 7 yards fire three slow, precision shots at your target. Take careful note of your point of aim and point of impact. Expect it to be different than what you have when shooting practice ammo or other carry ammo. Complete the magazine shooting rapid doubles or triples at the target. Our form tends to break down during rapid fire strings, so you’ll see if things like limp wristing or your grip shifting create feed problems. Take note of any failures you experience, which magazine it was and whether it was with the test ammo or training ammo. Repeat for all three magazines, taping or replacing targets as necessary.

If you have adjustable sights make any adjustments needed for point of impact between strings based on the three shot groupings at the top of every magazine. With fixed sights you may have to learn the proper hold for accurate shot placement.

Repeat at least twice for each magazine. If you experience any failures during this testing that involve either the firing or feeding of one of the test rounds load that magazine with only test rounds and try again. Depending on your comfort level for reliability you may consider using that ammunition as your daily carry round if no further malfunctions occur. If you experience more than one failure, especially failures from multiple magazines you have more to consider.

If your gun is reliable shooting other ammunition from the same magazines it may well be an ammunition compatibility issue. If the problem is confined to one magazine, especially in non-factory magazines that might be your problem. Additional testing will be required to figure out exactly what is going on and you might choose to try a different defensive carry round altogether. Different bullet weights, tips, and profiles could solve your feed issue.

Using this testing method a 50 round box of ammo is good for 10 magazine cycles, or testing three magazines three times each, with one magazine getting a fourth cycle. For me this is enough to feel comfortable that the ammunition will feed properly and plenty of rounds to let me dial in my POI/POA.