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Does Range Ammo Matter?

August 27, 2020
David Workman

Paid promotional consideration made possible by Black Hills Ammo

We all know how expensive defensive ammo is, so we don’t shoot it much. Instead, we grab a bulk pack of ball ammo when we head out to practice. It’s just more practical. But should we care about what practice ammo we use?

As a musician, I’ve heard the Golden Rule of Practice my whole life: “As ye practice, so shall ye perform.” In other words, how you train is how you’ll react when the stuff hits the fan. So how does that play out regarding what you shoot at the range?

You probably know from experience that different ammo performs differently. It’s not just from brand to brand. In fact, that should be fairly consistent. A 124-grain Black Hills round should shoot the same as a 124-grain Fiocchi round, at least as it pertains to the action of the gun and shootability. Every 124-grain round should create the same recoil regardless of brand. While a chronometer will detect slight differences among supposedly identical bullets, the average shooter won’t know the difference in felt recoil and performance. However, throw a 100-grain bullet into the middle of a magazine full of heavier rounds and you’ll feel a big difference in performance for one shot.

Great range ammo like the FMJ from Black Hills Ammo makes a difference quality practicing.

This may seem like a miniscule issue to some people. What’s the big deal? If you can shoot the gun, it doesn’t matter what ammo is in it, right? Well, not exactly. While it is true that the weight doesn’t make any round impossible to shoot, we’re not talking about possible. We’re talking about what’s best.

If your defensive round is 100 grains, such as the Black Hills HoneyBadger round, you will get the best, most practical training from shooting 100-grain practice ammo on the range. This consistency will help you acclimate to the felt recoil and performance of the same weight round if you ever find yourself shooting in a real defensive situation.

Does this mean that you should never, under any circumstances ever shoot a weight other than your defensive rounds? Of course not. Sometimes we shoot just for fun or for competition or just to get outside and enjoy range time with family and friends. For that, shoot whatever you want! But for serious training, when you’re in the defensive prep mindset, working on practical drills that might save your life, try to stick with ball ammo that mimics your defensive rounds as closely as possible.

One last note: When you choose or change your defensive loadout, always run at least two magazines full through your gun just to make sure it works and your gun likes it. Never carry ammo that you’ve never shot on the range. What if it doesn’t work? I’ve changed my defensive ammo choice several times over the last few years, as new projectile technology emerged and round performance improved, and each time I had to (pun alert!) bite the bullet and throw some expensive defensive rounds downrange in my EDC to be confident it will perform when needed. So far, every round I’ve shot worked great, which is great, but the last thing you want to learn when the bullets fly is that yours can’t. ~ David

David Workman
David is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. In addition to being an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and RSO, David trains new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as you possibly can. "Real life shootouts don't happen at a box range."

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