• Mark

The Handgun Ammunition Dilemma: What to Buy and Where to Get It.

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

Gun owners new and old are struggling to find ammo for training and self-defense. There is ammunition available, but you have to work to find it and you will have to pay a premium for it. So, you go to your local gun store and buy a handgun. Now you need ammo. Hopefully, your local gun store has the ammunition you need. Let’s talk about how to find the right ammunition for you and your gun.


When firearms were invented, they shot simple lead balls. Even though we now have a lot of highly engineered cartridges to select from, the basic concept has not changed much. A powder charge is ignited by a primer. The gas produced is used to launch a projectile.

Some people call ammunition bullets but this is incorrect. A bullet is just one part of what is called a cartridge. Well, what is a cartridge? A cartridge is composed  of a primer, gunpowder, the projectile and the cartridge case. The projectile called a bullet. Bullets are measured by their size which is referred to as caliber.

Unless you have some heirloom antique, the barrel of your handgun is marked with the name of the round it will fire. The most common calibers are 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. What does this mean? It all starts with the diameter of the bullet. Caliber is the diameter of the bullet in inches. A .45 inch diameter bullet is .45 caliber. Some cartridges which originated in Europe are named in milimeters such as the 9mm.

There are some different rounds that share a caliber, but they have different lengths. Modern rounds have standard names, but with an old gun or old ammunition you have to be more careful. Rounds are named to make sure you get the right one. Both .40 S&W and 10mm share a common caliber but they have different lengths so they were given distinct names to avoid confusion.

9mm is 9x19mm. It is also called 9mm Lugar and 9mm Parabellum on some older ammo boxes. The ACP in .45 ACP stands for Automatic Colt Pistol. The is also a .45 GAP or Glock Automatic Pistol. .40 S&W is named for manufacturer Smith and Wesson.

Once you get the right round, you will probably have some choices about bullet weight and shape. Ammunition used for home-protection is usually more expensive. Shooters often buy lighter bullets to use in training to cut costs. The lighter recoil makes a day of training more pleasant.

How to Read an Ammo Box




FIND YOUR CALIBER The caliber of ammunition that your gun takes is marked on the barrel and/or frame of the handgun. This is called a "rollmark" and it is critical that you identify what your firearm caliber is and only use the ammunition that chamber is designed for. Once you know the caliber to look for, head online or to the shelves of your local gun shop and locate the ammo section. If they are organized, you'll be able to locate your caliber ammo by size and by gun type.


BULLET WEIGHT The bullet weight is usually written on the box in grains. This old unit of measure, abbreviated as “gr” is equal to one 7,000th of a pound. Another way to view this is one pound equals 7,000 grains. One ounce is equal to 437.5 grains. Bullet weight makes a difference in performance. A lighter bullet w