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This is a guide to help you select the best ammunition for your defensive firearm. Most of these opinions are based upon the work of Massad Ayoob, Evan Marshall and Ed Sanow, police officers who have extensively studied the issue of firearms, ammunition and stopping power. I refer all interested parties to the excellent series by Ayoob (In the Gravest Extreme, Stressfire, The Semi-Automatic Pistol in Police Service and Self-Defense, Stressfire II: Advanced Combat Shotgun) and the comprehensive book Stopping Power by Marshall and Sanow.
I cannot stress too heavily that the primary determinant of stopping power is BULLET PLACEMENT. A cool, deliberate marksman with a little .32 Walther PPK will beat a panicky, inaccurate man with a .357 Magnum or $1200 customized .45 auto every time. Whatever firearm and caliber you select, you must practice firing hundreds, or thousands, of rounds in realistic defensive scenarios until you can confidently make disabling hits on your target. Tactics and marksmanship win gunfights, not having the latest wonder bullet in your gun.
Self Defense Ammunition Generally
American ammunition is the best in the world. Stick to Federal, Cor-Bon, Hornady, Remington, Winchester, Speer or CCI ammunition. Some foreign stuff is pretty good (PMC, IMI-Samson, Fiocci), some foreign stuff is great (Dynamit-Nobel, Norma, GECO), some foreign stuff is practice-only junk (e.g. Wolf, CDM - Mexico, military surplus), but no foreign stuff is anywhere near as good as domestic ammunition when it comes to vanquishing hostile attackers. Buy American.
Never use hand loaded or reloaded ammunition for self-defense. You may encounter some joker who says he can hand-load ammunition so powerful it will knock anything on two legs down for the count, but don't buy it. This junk will either misfire or ruin your gun. Use only fresh factory-loaded cartridges.
Hollowpoint ammunition is NOT more lethal than ball (full metal jacket) ammunition. You may have seen media hype about "killer dum-dum bullets," but this is nonsense. Hollowpoint bullets usually expand and stop in the human body and thus the attacker absorbs much more of the bullet's kinetic energy than if the bullet had merely zipped through him and left two small holes. Hollowpoint ammunition is also safer for all parties concerned.
You are safer because your attacker is more likely to be incapacitated after one or two shots and thus unable to fire back, stab you, or whatever. The decreased likelihood of your attacker dying from hollowpoint bullets saves you the moral and legal complications and expense you will experience from killing a man.
.22 Long Rifle
You should really be using something bigger than a .22 for self-defense, but even a .22 beats nothing. There are some really nice .22 pocket autos and NAA mini-revolvers, and they make sense for women reluctant to tote a bigger gun around. Choose any Federal, Remington, Winchester or CCI copper-plated 37 grain (or lighter) high velocity hollowpoint round. I recommend CCI "Stinger" 32 grain or Remington "Yellow Jacket" 33 grain hollowpoints, as they have been very reliable in my Beretta 21A and Walther TPH pistols and have the highest stopping power ratings.
Shoot a lot of rounds through your self-defense .22, the ammo is cheap and you want to be sure to pick a reliable round. If high-velocity solids don't cycle reliably, try standard-velocity. There is little difference in power but it may improve your gun's reliability (e.g. Jennings J-22 pistols are more reliable with standard-velocity solids). Marksmanship is crucial with such a tiny gun, so practice drawing your .22 and firing it rapidly into a melon at ten feet or so. Also, keep your .22 autoloader meticulously clean; these tiny guns cannot function reliably with gunk in them. If you carry your .22 in a pocket, purse or ankle holster, inspect it daily and brush off any dust or grit with an old toothbrush. Lubricate it properly. This is very important.
Much better than the .22 LR and perhaps better than most calibers smaller than .35. 40 grain JHP loads are the traditional choice, with Winchester's 40 grain JHP load scoring highest in 4" and longer barrels. The recently introduced Speer 40 grain GDHP-SB load was tailored for use in mini revolvers with 2" and shorter barrels.
.25 ACP (6.35mm)
The best .25 load is the Hornady 35 grain XTP-HP round. If it jams, use any Federal, Remington, or Winchester 50 grain ball round. Winchester has an odd 45 grain "Expanding Point" round that should be okay, if it is reliable in your gun (it seems to work fine in Beretta 950 pistols, for example), but don't expect any improvement in performance over the 50 grain ball rounds. The excellent Walther TPH .25 should be loaded with ball.
The Hornady 35 grain JHP should be used only if it is 100% reliable in your pistol. Fire 200 rounds through your gun to verify. Ed Sanow recommends the MagSafe 22 grain "Defender" and Glaser 40 grain Safety Slugs.
.32 ACP (7.65 mm Browning, 7.65x17mm)
Use the Winchester 60 grain Silvertip Jacketed Hollow Point (X32ASHP),provided it is reliable in your gun. Most of the common .32 autos on the market are only reliable with 71 grain ball: Llama, Walther PP and PPK, Czech CZ-24 and CZ-70, Davis P-32, Mauser HSc, etc.
.32 H&R Magnum
Federal 85 grain Jacketed Hollow Point (C32HRB).
Federal Premium 85 grain Hydra-Shok Jacketed Hollow Point.
7.62x25mm (a.k.a. 7.63mm Mauser)
If you're using this obsolescent communist caliber I can only assume that you have an old CZ-52 or Chinese Tokarev. Only 87 grain ball ammo is available, so leave the cheap Chinese military stuff for practice and carry Fiocchi 7.63 Mauser ball in your gun.
.380 ACP (9mm Short, 9x17mm, 9mm Kurz)
Now we're getting into some decent stopping power. The three or four best .380 JHP rounds have better stopping power than ANY bullet fired out of 2" barrel .38 Special snub-nose. All of the Big Five make good hollowpoints for this caliber. The Remington 88 grain JHP is the most reliably-feeding hollowpoint, but slightly less effective than the Hydra-shok or Cor-Bon. Reliability is crucial, and thus you must test the rounds before carrying.
I recommend the following two cartridges above all others:
Federal 90 grain Hydra-shok (P380HS1 H) - the best standard-pressure .380 JHP load, period.
Cor-Bon 90 grain JHP - the most powerful .380 hollowpoint, bar none.
These are the two best .380 loads and I recommend them for these guns: SIG/Sauer P230, Beretta 84/85, Browning BDA, CZ-83, H&K P7K3, Walther PPK and PPK/s. The Russian, East German, Chinese and Bulgarian Makarov pistols are apparently perfectly reliable with the hot Cor-Bon and the strong all-steel construction of these guns should stand up to an infinite amount of these potent rounds. I have heard that the Colt does also well with the hot Cor-Bon JHP, which you should definitely look into if you own a .380 Colt Mustang or similar SIG P238. You have better stopping power than any .38 snub-nose revolver (the long-time favorite concealment sidearm) when you load your .380 with these two rounds.
Other good .380 ACP jacketed hollowpoints:
Remington 102 grain Golden Saber BJHP (GS380M) - Another excellent .380 load (the BJHP stands for "Brass Jacketed Hollow Point"), the heaviest one available. I prefer the Cor-Bon and Hydra-shok, but many (including Sanow) like this new Remington round for its deeper penetration. I'll stick with the Cor-Bon and Hydra-shok, but the choice is yours.
CCI-Speer 90 grain Gold Dot JHP - A good all-around hollowpoint.
Remington 88 grain JHP (R380AI) - A good high-velocity hollowpoint that feeds well in Colt Government Model .380, H&K HK4, Taurus PT-58, older PP and PPK, Bersa .380, Beretta 70s, Makarov and Hungarian FEG. These are all good guns that might choke on other hollowpoints, but they will probably feed the Remington fine. This hollowpoint was redesigned in 1993 and gives excellent performance while retaining its rounded shape for positive feeding. If your .380 chokes on other JHP loads, try fifty rounds of the Remington 88 grain through your gun and see if it improves.
.380 ACP hollowpoints to avoid:
Winchester 85 grain Silvertip (X380ASHP) - I really cannot recommend this weak and jam-prone round. It works reliably in a few modern European guns (e.g. SIG P230/P232 and Beretta 84F), but every load named above offers better performance. The Silvertip will likely jam in any American-made .380 automatic. Russian .380 Makarovs and PPK series guns may also jam with the Silvertip. The .380 Silvertip was once state-of-the-art, but has since been superceded by superior designs. It is also quite expensive. Look elsewhere.
PMC-Eldorado Starfire 95 grain JHP - This round is similarly weak and jam-prone.
Federal 90 grain JHP (380BP) - See below.
Hornady 90 gr. XTP-HP (9010) - Both the Federal 380BP and the Hornady XTP-HP never expand and may jam many guns due to their truncated-cone bullet nose profiles. Pass by these two.
95 grain ball:
Davis P-380, Accu-Tek, EAA .380, Tanarmi, AMT/OMC/TDE Back-Up, Heritage, FIE, Jennings, Bryco, Lorcin, Llama, and "other." Hollowpoints should never be used in these low-priced guns.
9mm Makarov (9x18mm)
Hornady offers a 95 grain JHP/XTP (#91002).
Loads for full size .38 Special revolvers with 4" or longer barrels:
The Numero Uno .38 defense load for your 4" barrel revolver is the Cor-Bon .38 Special+P 125 grain JHP. It is a very high-pressure load and should be used only in modern six-shot revolvers. It has less felt recoil and muzzle flip than the #2 choice, which follows. When I carry a 4" .38, I want it loaded with this cartridge.
The second-best choice is the .38 Special +P 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter hollowpoint (LSWCHP) available from Federal, Winchester and Remington. Ayoob has found the latter to have the greatest expansion, so I would choose Remington (catalog #R38S12). This unjacketed all-lead round (often called the "FBI load" or "Chicago load") is a proven manstopper when fired from a 4" barrel. Your fixed-sight .38 revolver it will usually shoot to point-of-aim with this load; lighter bullets will normally shoot low (some very low). All fixed-sight .38s are regulated at the factory to shoot accurately with standard velocity 158 grain bullets, as this was the weight of the long-time standard U.S. and Canadian police load.
Note: .38 Special ammunition is loaded to two pressure levels: standard pressure and +P. Standard pressure loads may be used in any .38 Special revolver, but +P loads should be used only in steel-frame, six shot revolvers. Firing a few +P loads in your aluminum-framed .38 Special revolver may not destroy it or cause it to explode, but will damage your aluminum-framed revolver if you fire more than a hundred rounds. The main problem with carrying +P .38 Special loads in an aluminum-framed .38 Special revolver, besides excessive wear and tear on the gun, is that the kick is nasty and slows repeat shots. Thus, I recommend standard pressure ammunition for aluminum-framed .38 Special revolvers, as it is much easier to score fast hits.
Other .38 Special loads for your 4" barrel revolver:
IMI-Samson also offers a lightweight, very high pressure load, the 110 grain +P+ JHP. This is said to be a ballistic duplicate of the law-enforcement-only "Treasury" load that T-men used to carry. Who cares? The Cor-Bon 125 grain +P load is superior.
All major manufacturers catalog light .38 +P hollowpoints, from 95-129 grains. None of these are as successful as the Cor-Bon .38 Special +P 125 grain JHP or 158 grain +P LSWCHP, so why carry them? Light +P loads only make sense in a 2" barrel snub (more on this later). The Federal Hydra-shok and Winchester Silvertip may look cool, but the boring-looking Cor-Bon and FBI loads do the job in a 4" revolver. Stick with them.
PMC makes a bizarre 66 grain tubular hollow bullet load. Some enthusiastic gun-shop salesman may try to sell it to you. Refuse politely. Also avoid the Remington 95 grain +P SJHP (R38S1), due to inadequate penetration.
The Glaser Safety Slug is a good choice for self-defense in a .38 revolver of any barrel length (see caveats under "exotic ammunition" above). It is crucial to keep the chambers and frame interior absolutely free of oil or solvents when carrying Glasers, as you don't want any Breakfree CLP or Hoppe's #9 solvent seeping into the primer pocket and deactivating the round. This is important for all rounds, of course, but the Glaser isn't known for particularly good sealing against such mishaps. You may also want to consider carrying two Glasers as the first rounds to be fired and JHP loads for the rest. This gives you a bit of insurance if your assailant tucks himself behind a sheet rock wall, doorway or some other flimsy cover that JHP rounds can blast through.
A Special Note on Snub-Nose .38 Revolvers with 2" or 3" Barrels: The Cor-Bon .38 Special +P 125 grain JHP and 158 grain LSWCHP FBI load are not the best choice for 2" or 3" barrel revolvers. The short barrel does not provide enough velocity to ensure reliable expansion with these loads, and the unpleasant and hard-to-control recoil hurts snub-nose accuracy (as well as your hand). Controllability is crucial and I recommend non +P standard pressure loads, for the .38 snub-nose.
Good choices for +P rated, steel-frame, 2"-3" barrel, .38 Special snub-nose revolvers are:
Federal Premium 125 grain Nyclad HP (P38MA) - My preferred 2" barrel snub-nose revolver load (a.k.a. the "Chief's Special" load.
Federal 129 grain +P Hydra-shok JHP (P38HS1)
Remington 125 grain +P Golden Saber HPJ (GS38SB)
Cor-Bon 110 grain +P JHP - I would recommend this high-pressure load only for the sturdy (and heavy) Ruger SP101 snub-nose .38 or a .357 Magnum revolver.
Standard Pressure (non +P) Loads.
If you carry an aluminum-frame snub nose .38 (e.g. S&W Model 38 Bodyguard, 642, 442, 37 or Colt Cobra) I urge you to carry a standard pressure (non +P) .38 round. The best standard pressure .38 load is the Federal 125 grain Nyclad hollowpoint (P38MA). This hollowpoint, known as the "Chief's Special" load, was specifically designed to expand at lower velocities and is the industry leader in standard pressure .38 rounds.
Another acceptable standard pressure .38 load is the Winchester Silvertip 110 grain JHP (X38S9HP). A third possibility is the Federal Low Recoil Personal Defense 110 grain Hydra-Shok JHP load (PD38HS3 H)
Note well: if you have a J-frame Smith & Wesson snub-nose .38 (i.e. the five-shot Model 36/37 Chief's Special, Model 38/49/649 Bodyguard, the 640/642/442/940 Centennial) you can greatly improve the controllability of your gun by installing Uncle Mike's "Boot Grip." This is a $14 godsend. The skinny little wooden grips that come on these guns are worthless. Installing good grips does wonders for your ability to control your .38 snub-nose revolver in rapid fire for more hits.
9mm Parabellum (9mm Luger, 9x19mm, 9mm NATO, or simply 9mm)
This is unquestionably the world's most popular pistol round. For this reason it has been the subject of a lot of experimentation, because 9mm ball, used by every army in the Western world, is a mediocre manstopper. Jacketed hollowpoints are a must if one wishes to rely on the 9mm as a defense round. Use ball ammo for practice only.
9mm ammunition is available in two pressure levels, standard and "+P." The latter should only be used in newer guns (made since 1985 or so) and is best used sparingly.
I will only deal with commercially available ammunition; there are specialized loads available only to law enforcement personnel. Civilians should not worry, as there are commercial loads as good or better than anything restricted to law enforcement usage.
I will now tell you the best 9mm Luger load for self-defense: it is the Cor-Bon 9mm 115 grain +P Jacketed Hollowpoint. This is the most powerful and street-proven manstopper available in this caliber. It is a high velocity (1350 fps) and high pressure round, more effective than any load restricted to law enforcement use, such as the Federal 9BPLE.
Unfortunately, it is also likely to jam many older guns. For this reason I add a table at the end of the 9mm section discussing round suitability for different guns. Modern hollowpoints may either (a) jam, or (b) be too powerful for some older guns. This load is suitable only for First Class pistols (see table).
The best standard pressure 9mm load is the Federal 115 grain JHP (9BP). Its effectiveness and accuracy make it the world standard. Buy several boxes. Other excellent standard pressure 9mm loads are the Winchester Silvertip 115 grain (X9MMSHP) and Federal 124 grain Hydra-shok (P9HS1).
For guns that may jam with the Cor-Bon or Federal 115 grain hollow-points, the Remington 115 grain +P JHP is a good choice (R9MM6). For older guns I would use the Remington standard pressure 115 grain JHP (R9MM1).
Bad 9mm Loads to avoid (and certainly NEVER carry). Numbers given:
Federal Hydra-Shok 9mm 147 grain JHP (P9HS2)
Winchester 147 grain 9mm Silvertip Subsonic JHP (X9MMST147)
Winchester 147 grain 9mm Super-X Subsonic (XSUB9MM)
Remington 147 grain 9mm JHP (R9MM8)
Remington 147 grain 9mm Golden Saber JHP (GS9MMC)
Table Of 9mm Pistols.
(Note: just because your pistol appears in Class 3 doesn't mean it is unreliable; it may indeed feed hollowpoints. However, you must fire at least 200 rounds of your chosen JHP carry load to determine if your pistol will feed them properly. I have placed pistols in each category according to reputation and experience. These are only meant as guidelines; your pistol may feed JHP rounds better - or worse - than this table indicates)
First Class pistols are ultra-reliable, high-quality new guns than can feed any hollowpoint and tolerate +P loads with no problems: SIG/Sauer P220 series. Czech CZ75 and CZ85. Walther P5, P5C, and P88. Heckler and Koch USP and P7 series. All Glocks. All Ruger 9mm pistols. Taurus PT-99, PT-92 and PT-92C. Steyr GB. Beretta 92 series. Browning BDM and Hi-Power (if it says "Portugal" on the slide). All Smith & Wessons with a four-digit model number (e.g. 5906, 3913, 6904, 5903) and the Smith & Wesson 900 series. Star M28, M30, M31, and all Firestars, Megastars, and Ultrastars.
Second Class pistols are high quality guns that may not feed all hollowpoints reliably. Remington 115 grain hollowpoints are recommended for these guns: Smith & Wessons with two or three digit model numbers (e.g. 659, 39-2, 469, 59, 39). Heckler and Koch VP70 and P9S. Beretta "Brigadier" M1951 and the Egyptian copy, the Interarms "Helwan." Colt Series 70 Government Model, Series 70 Commander. Astra A-70, A-75 and A-100. AMT "On Duty." Daewoo. Bersa Thunder 9. EAA Witness and all other CZ-75 copies (e.g. Tanfoglio, Tanarmi, Springfield Armory P9). Taurus PT-908. Walther P4. Star BK, BKM, Model B and Super. Browning Hi-Powers without the word "Portugal" on the slide. Llama Model 82. IMI "Jericho" and "Kareen."
Third Class pistols should generally be loaded with ball for best reliability - experiment with your gun extensively before carrying JHP: Walther P38, P4 or P1. Luger. Llama. Maverick. MKS Model JS. Intratec CAT-9, DC-9, KG-9, etc. SWD Cobray Model 11/9 and similar models. Scarab Scorpion. Kimel AP-9. Bryco Jennings Model 59. All KBI Hungarian pistols (e.g. GKK, PJ9C, P9HK and other FEG products). Norinco or Sportarms Chinese Tokarev pistols. Lahti. Radom. MAB P15 and Model 1950.
I am unsure what advantage this caliber is supposed to have over the .40 S&W from which it is derived, but it is a good stopper. .357 SIG ballistics are quite impressive. Suggested loads:
-Federal Premium 125 grain jacketed hollowpoint (P357S1)
-Hornady 124 grain JHP/XTP (#9130)
-Remington 125 grain JHP (R357S1).
The most effective handgun round on the market, regardless of caliber, is the Federal .357 Magnum 125 grain jacketed hollowpoint (C357B). This load has more stopping power than any other handgun cartridge and this includes more powerful rounds like the .41 and .44 Magnums. I advise all experienced revolver men to carry the legendary Federal C357B or the equally good Remington full-power 125 grain semi-jacketed hollowpoint (R357M1) in a .357 revolver.
There is one caveat, however. The C357B, R357M1 and other full-power .357 Magnums have a lot of blast and kick. If you are not comfortable with the buck and roar of full-house .357 Magnums, I would strongly suggest that you use a lower-recoil round. Controllability is important and you will be able to fire lower-recoil rounds more rapidly and accurately. All of these .357 loads have excellent stopping power, so don't worry that you are giving up too much.
In descending order of severity of recoil (i.e. the Silvertip kicks the most) I recommend the Winchester Silvertip 145 grain JHP (X357SHP), Remington Golden Saber 125 grain JHP (GS357MA), Federal 110 gr. JHP (357D) and the Cor-Bon 110 grain JHP. The latter two are excellent rounds I strongly recommend for .357 Magnum 2.5" and 3" barrel snub-nose revolvers like the S&W Models 66, 19, 65, 13, Colt King Cobra, Ruger GP100 and especially the small-frame Ruger SP101. If you still find that your .357 kicks too much, carry the Cor-Bon .38 Special+P 110 grain JHP discussed above. Two or three hits with good .38+P slugs beat any number of misses with .357 slugs.
Note: if you are using the factory wood stocks on your S&W or Taurus .357 revolver, you should try a set of rubber replacement grips. Ruger and Colt .357 Magnums come factory-equipped with recoil-absorbing ergodynamic rubber grips and I have no idea why S&W and Taurus continue to put wood grips on their .357 revolvers. The difference in control is enormous. Get some good, compact rubber grips from Uncle Mike's or Pachmayr and slap them onto your .357 revolver ASAP. I used to cringe every time I fired a full-power load in my .357 Magnum snub-nose. Once I put some compact Pachmayr grips on it, however, I had no problem firing the C357B load accurately and rapidly.
Other good .357 Magnum loads.
The 125 grain jacketed hollowpoints by Cor-Bon and Winchester are good stoppers. The 110 grain jacketed hollowpoints by Winchester, CCI and Remington are all good for use in snub-nose revolvers, or for those sensitive to recoil. You never go wrong with a 110-125 grain .357 jacketed hollowpoint from the Big Five. All are great stoppers.
Crappy .357 Magnum loads you should not carry for self-defense.
Never carry soft-points, semi-wadcutters, or any of the 158 grain or 180 grain JHP loads; these are for hunting, practice or target use. Stick to jacketed hollowpoints under 150 grains in weight. The heavier bullets kick hard and will shoot high and confuse you. Lead (un-jacketed) bullets are okay for practice, but you will have to spend twice as long cleaning your gun.
.40 Smith & Wesson
This caliber has established an excellent track record on the street. Smith & Wesson and Winchester really did their research when they invented the .40 S&W. Your choice comes down to either the 180 grain jacketed hollowpoints or the 135-155 grain jacketed hollowpoints by Cor-Bon, Winchester, Federal, Speer or Remington. All are good stoppers, but the lighter weight bullets have the best stopping power records on the streets.
The real-world shooting database clearly favors the lighter 135-155 grain JHP loads. I personally would carry the potent Cor-Bon 135 or 150 grain jacketed hollowpoint or the Winchester Silvertip 155 grain jacketed hollowpoint (X40SWSTHP). The 135-155 grain JHP kicks less and has higher kinetic energy and stopping power than the 180 grain JHP loads. The 135 grain JHP appears to be a real stopper.
In short, you cannot go wrong with the .40 S&W, unless you carry ball. Choose a good hollowpoint and stick with it. Leave the ball for practice.
The 10mm has not lived up to expectations. It was thought to be the ne plus ultra of pistol rounds when introduced in the late 1980's, but hasn't turned out to be superior to the better 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP jacketed hollowpoints. As a result, many 10mm loads have been discontinued. This isn't to say that the 10mm Auto sucks, as it is a fine stopper. It's just that we hoped for more.
I would pick the Cor-Bon 135 grain JHP or 150 grain JHP offerings for personal protection. The potent Winchester Silvertip 175 grain JHP (X10MMSTHP) may be a good choice for an experienced shooter who is used to heavy recoil. I would only carry the 175 grain Silvertip in the field, where I might have to shoot big, cranky animals that seem interested in munching on my bodily parts. In this role the 10mm auto excels.
The best defense choices for this hard-kicking caliber are the Cor-Bon 170 grain JHP and Winchester 175 grain Silvertip JHP.
By far the best choice for your .44 Special revolver is the Cor-Bon 165 grain JHP. Glasers or the Winchester Silvertip 200 grain JHP (X44STHPS2) are also good rounds, particularly for any five shot .44 revolver.
The blast and kick of this powerful caliber make it less than optimum for defense use, despite what you may have seen in the movies. Cor-Bon's 165 grain JHP or Federal's 180 grain JHP (C44B) loads are the hands-down choices in this caliber. Glasers, the Winchester Silvertip 210 grain JHP (X44MSTHP2) or the Federal Premium 240 grain Hydra-shok (P44HS1) are also acceptable choices.
.45 ACP (occassionally called "11.43x23mm" by some silly Europeans)
The .45 ACP is a recognized manstopper and there are many excellent loads in this caliber. (Note well: if you are one of those knuckleheads who install light springs in your gun to get a lighter trigger pull, you are asking for reliability problems now that you have monkeyed with it.)
Some of the best .45 ACP defense loads:
Federal Premium 230 grain Hydrashok JHP (P45HS1) - A great load and my #1 choice. It gives the most stopping power in this potent caliber.
Federal 185 grain JHP (45C) - Another top-notch load from Federal. I would choose this round for a compact, short-barrelled .45 like the Colt Officer's ACP or the S&W 4516. It has lighter recoil than the Hydrashok or CCI 200 JHP and its higher velocity makes it more likely to expand out of a short 3.5" barrel.
Remington 185 grain JHP (R45AP2) - This is the best choice for older guns that may jam with other hollow-points. I would select this load for the Heckler and Koch P9S, Browning BDA, Springfield Armory, AMT and Thompson M1911A1, Llama, Star PD, etc.
Cor-Bon 180 grain JHP +P and Remington Golden Saber JHP 185 grain +P - These very powerful and hard-kicking +P rounds are best left to the experienced shooter. They are pretty hard on your gun, especially an aluminum-framed pistol like the SIG/Sauer P220 or Colt Lightweight Commander. If you are sufficiently expert to confidently carry the .45+P you certainly don't need my advice on load selection. That being said, these +P rounds are second only to the famed Hydra-shok in stopping power. They really sledgehammer the bad guys down.
Other good .45 ACP loads:
The Winchester 185 grain Silvertip JHP (X45ASHP2), Speer 185 and 230 grain Gold Dot and Remington 230 grain Golden Saber (GS45APB) are all good choices. If you like them, fine, but they have no edge over loads mentioned above. I say stick to the tried and true.
Save the 230 grain ball (FMJ) loads for practice. Carry FMJ ammo only if you must, because your gun jams with hollowpoints. The Llama, Federal Ordnance, AMT and Auto-Ordnance M1911A1 copies often jam with anything except 230 grain ball. Never compromise when it comes to reliability: if your gun only feeds ball, then ball is what you carry.
I hope your self-defense .45 Colt is a good double-action design like the Smith & Wesson Model 25 and not some single-action hunting gun. Load your revolver with the Cor-Bon 200 grain JHP. The Federal 225 grain Lead Semi-Wadcutter Hollowpoint (C45LCA) or Winchester 225 grain Silvertip JHP (X45CSHP2) are also good.