What’s New in Defensive Ammo?

Self-defense ammunition gets better all the time. Here’s a look at some new introductions you might consider.
What’s New in Defensive Ammo?

The U.S. small caliber ammunition market accounted for $3.14 billion (USD) in 2022 and is estimated to reach around $4.54 billion by 2032, growing at a CAGR of 3.8% from 2023 to 2032, according to a study published in October 2023 by Precedence Research.

Precedence states that in North America, the small caliber ammunition market is characterized by several prominent trends, including sustained demand for self-defense ammunition driven by personal safety concerns, a surge in civilian gun ownership, particularly during periods of uncertainty, and innovations in bullet design and materials that are gaining traction and enhancing ammunition performance.

“The region also faces regulatory changes and safety concerns, prompting manufacturers to focus on compliance and safety features in their products, reflecting evolving consumer needs, and government regulations,” Precedence adds.

These factors outline the importance of retailers being acutely aware of new offerings and features to help customers match their needs and identify the rounds that perform the best from their firearms.

“The biggest sellers in this marketplace will always be 9mm rounds,” says Kevin Michalowski, editorial director for Delta Defense, the managing company of the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), and a renowned firearms expert. “Over the years, terminal ballistics have improved to the point that most any big-name ammo maker will have an effective 9mm round. 

“In my experience, Hornady Critical Defense has had the best and most uniform performance across a wide variety of testing media, including gel, common household barriers, and clothing,” Michalowski adds. “It provides excellent penetration, expansion, and terminal performance.” Hornady was selected as the Ammunition Manufacturer of the Year in October 2023 by the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers.

“As far as trends, the popularity of the .40 S&W continues to slip,” Michalowski continues. “It’s an effective defensive round, but most shooters are faster and more accurate with 9mm. The improved terminal performance is every bit as good as the .40 without the added recoil.”

He also states the .30 Super Carry has been slow to take off but suggests people should give it another look, stating it’s an effective round that’s smooth to shoot and provides a bit of increased capacity.

Finally, Michalowski points out that ammo makers continue to work on creating more effective .380 ACP loads, because there are several excellent guns on the market now, including new offerings from Beretta and Walther.

Regardless of the calibers being considered, your customers must find the exact round that shoots well from their guns. Firearm-ammunition marriages can be finicky. Guns and matching ammo don’t always perform well together. Retailers should encourage customers to test a variety of ammo with their firearm — and that means explaining the importance of the customer spending up-front dollars to find the brand and specific round that shoots reliably. It’s perhaps the most important money they spend in your shop. Instilling confidence in a customer’s self-defense gear is paramount to them knowing they can effectively protect themselves.

This year, several manufacturers have augmented their existing self-defense ammo lines or are offering new rounds. Here’s a snapshot of those receiving the most industry chatter.


CCI’s introduction of its Uppercut .22 LR ammunition is a self-defense game-changer for those who are recoil adverse, have difficulty racking a handgun, and/or want economical ammo. Although Federal began catering to those who use the .22 for defensive purposes with its Punch ammo, which, according to CCI, was designed for deep penetration, not expansion, CCI’s Uppercut bullet is focused on expansion and weight retention with excellent penetration. Uppercut achieves 8 to 10 inches of penetration in ballistics gelatin with controlled expansion. The 32-grain hollowpoint, optimized for performance through semi-automatic handguns with 2.5- to 4-inch barrels, boasts a muzzle velocity of 950 fps. The ammunition features unwaxed bullets and reliable CCI priming and powder for consistent, reliable performance. 


Federal unveiled two new defense offerings, one in its Personal Defense Hydra-Shok Deep line and one in the Punch line. Federal tapped modern bullet technology to give the classic .32 Auto defensive cartridge a new life. The new Personal Defense Hydra-Shok Deep .32 Auto, 68-grain load maximizes the cartridge’s available energy to deliver penetration to critical depths through bare ballistics gel and heavy clothing. The new Personal Defense Punch .25 Auto, 45-grain solid load is designed around the unique properties of the specific cartridge to provide caliber-optimized terminal performance. To that end, it features a deep-penetrating solid bullet design.

Freedom Munitions

Freedom Munitions presented X-DEF, a personal defense round designed to break the mold but not your wallet. Engineered from the ground up with optimum penetration and weight retention in mind, the X-DEF projectile features penetration of 12 to 18 inches in Clear Ballistic gelatin, with at least 99% weight retention. To break the mold, Freedom stated it had to go one step further. X-DEF is packaged in 50-count boxes for the same price as competitors’ 20- or 25-count offerings.


Hornady unveiled 5.7×28 ammunition in its Critical Defense and Black lines. Hornady used carefully selected components to ensure reliable cycling, and optimized propellants that burn quickly to reduce recoil and limit muzzle flash. The new 5.7x28mm features a 40-grain FTX bullet in Critical Defense and a 40-grain V-MAX in Hornady Black. Hornady reports conventional hollowpoint pistol bullets have historically performed well but have never delivered 100% reliability, especially in self-defense situations. The patented Flex Tip technology used in Critical Defense ammo eliminates the clogging and inconsistency that often plague hollowpoint bullets. Hornady achieved this by using the same tip material used in its LEVERevolution ammunition. Upon impact, the soft tip compresses into the bullet, initiating immediate expansion across a wide range of velocities. All Critical Defense ammunition is loaded in nickel-plated cases for increased visibility in low-light situations. Premium low-flash propellants deliver proven performance, even in very short-barreled handguns, and won’t disrupt the shooter’s vision.

Liberty Ammunition

Liberty Civil Defense’s 10mm self-defense handgun round is the most powerful the company makes. It travels at 2,400 fps out of a 5-inch barrel and delivers energy without over-penetration. Liberty calls it the perfect home-defense round. The company states its projectiles function differently than other self-defense rounds. It’s designed to eliminate threats with one round, by creating the maximum amount of damage and tissue disruption. They do well against barriers, but when they encounter cavity fluids, the hydraulic pressure builds in the projectiles until the side walls explode, resulting in rifle-sized temporary cavities and hydrostatic shock, reportedly increasing stopping power tenfold. Following the explosion, the bullet fragments into a starburst-shaped pattern, creating multiple wound channels. The process also affects overpenetration, lessening the risk of unintended casualties. The lighter projectile leads to less muzzle flip for faster follow-up shots.


SIM-X, the manufacturer of DEFENSECORE self-defense ammunition, announced the launch of RANGECORE ammunition. RANGECORE addresses the needs of firearm users looking for a cost-effective practice solution that replicates the power of the self-defense version they carry day-to-day. SIM-X reports the ammunition creates its own category of projectile technology with its patented synthetic core inside a precision alloy jacket. The synthetic core is a heavy-duty material that cycles firearms smoothly and effectively. It does so without any modification to the firearm or added wear, tear and recoil of a +P cartridge. RANGECORE is the first in a line of SUBMASS projectiles that boasts twice the velocity but only half the recoil of any other training round on the market. This Performance Recoil & Hyper-Velocity round translates into greater accuracy with more rounds on target in a shorter amount of time. RANGECORE ammunition is offered in Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) configurations in 9mm, .40S&W, and .45ACP.


New to Remington’s High Terminal Performance (HTP) line of ammo is the .32 H&R Magnum load. It fires an 85-grain jacketed hollowpoint (JHP) bullet at a muzzle velocity of 1,120 fps, making this a suitable self-defense round for .32 H&R magnum revolvers and a great low-recoil personal-protection load for .327 Federal revolvers. In addition, a second offering, the new Performance Wheelgun .32 H&R Magnum load, fires a 95-grain, semi-wadcutter, hollowpoint bullet at 1,020 fps, making it a great all-round .32 H&R. It’s a great option for small-game hunting, defense and target shooting.

Expansion and Penetration

The marriage of expansion and penetration are two key elements to discuss with customers.

Brass vs. Lead: Lead bullets tend to expand very rapidly because lead is a soft metal. For this reason, all-lead bullets aren’t considered an optimum choice for self-defense. Even in powerful calibers like the .40 Smith & Wesson and .45 ACP, lead bullets tend to deform rapidly and don't penetrate as well as copper-jacketed bullets. That lack of penetration can cause serious problems in a defensive shooting situation.

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ): At the other end of the spectrum are FMJ bullets. These bullets have a core (usually made of lead) that is fully surrounded by a copper jacket. Because copper is harder than lead, these bullets tend to penetrate very well because they do not expand; however, there is relatively little transfer of energy or damage when compared to other bullet designs.

Therefore, FMJ bullets offer great penetration but don’t shed a lot of energy or create a lot of shock, which are important to stopping an attack. In a self-defense situation, over-penetration is not desirable due to the increased risk of collateral damage to bystanders who may be in the path of the bullet.

Precedence Research – Small Caliber Ammunition Market – Additional Information

US Market

Small Caliber Ammunition Market in the U.S. 2023-2032: The U.S. small caliber ammunition market size accounted for USD 3.14 billion in 2022 and is estimated to reach around USD 4.54 billion by 2032, growing at a CAGR of 3.8% from 2023 to 2032.

U.S. Small Caliber Ammunition Market Size 2023 To 2032

North America has held the largest revenue share, 43%, in 2022. 

Global Market

The global small caliber ammunition market size was evaluated at USD 12.2 billion in 2022 and it is expected to hit around $17.29 (USD) billion by 2032, poised to grow at a CAGR of 3.6% during the forecast period 2023 to 2032.

Small Caliber Ammunition Market Size 2023 To 2032

Key Takeaways of the Research:

  • North America has held the biggest revenue share of 43% in 2022.
  • By size, the 7.62mm segment contributed the largest revenue share of 38.5% in 2022.
  • By size, the 5.56mm segment is expected to expand at a significant CAGR of 5.8% between 2023 and 2032.
  • By applications, the military segment captured the largest market share of 49.3% in 2022.
  • By applications, the civilian segment is predicted to grow at the fastest CAGR over the projected period.
  • By casing type, the brass segment registered the highest market share of 56.8% in 2022.
  • By casing type, the steel segment is anticipated to grow at the fastest CAGR over the projected period.


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