Home Culture The Best .40 S&W Ammo for Self Defense: Stop the Threat

The Best .40 S&W Ammo for Self Defense: Stop the Threat

When your life is on the line and seconds count, you don’t have time to wonder if the best 40 S&W ammo for self-defense is loaded into your Sig Sauer P226 or Glock 22. Thankfully, you found this article and we are going to tell you exactly what self-defense ammo you need to stop a threat.

Below are our top 5 (plus some honorable mentions) best 40 S&W personal defense ammo picks so you know exactly what to load into your CCW mags before you hit the streets or tuck your loved ones in for the night.

If you can’t wait, the best 40 SW ammo for self defense is Speer Gold Dot 165 gr JHP, but if you scroll down just a little further you can see all our top 5 picks.

Also, if you’re new to 40 S&W and want to understand why we made the choices we did, make sure to check out our 40 S&W Buyers Guide by Clicking HERE.

Otherwise, roll that mouse wheel down or swipe up and check out our top 5 list!

The Top 5 Best 40 S&W Ammo for Self-Defense

  1. Speer Gold Dot 165 gr JHP
  2. Winchester PDX1 Defender 165 gr JHP
  3. Hornady Critical Defense 165 gr JHP
  4. Remington Golden Saber Bonded 180 grain JHP
  5. Sellier & Bellot XRG Defense 130 gr JHP

Speer Gold Dot 165gr JHP


  • Bullet Weight:165 gr
  • Bullet Type: Gold Dot Hollow Point
  • Casing Type: Nickel-Plated Brass
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1150 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 484 ft-lbs


  • Trusted duty-ammo for professionals
  • Reasonably priced
  • Amazing terminal ballistics


  • Nickel-plated casings can be tricky to reload

Why We Chose It

Speer Gold Dot is the most-trusted duty ammo carried by law enforcement agencies across the nation. Meeting all the FBI ballistic gel testing requirements for expansion and penetration, the Speer Gold Dot hollow point is the benchmark that all other ammo manufacturers use when it comes to terminal performance.

This round features a structurally plated pressure-formed core that prevents core-jacket separation. The result is a devastating wound channel and deep penetration that will quickly and effectively stop any bad guy who threatens your life.

Another major selling point for the Speer Gold Dot is its budget-friendly price point. This allows shooters to practice with their self-defense rounds while not boring out the X-ring of their ammo budget.

If you like to handload, the nickel-plated brass cases used by Gold Dots can be tricky. However, the increased corrosion resistance and reliability of nickel-plated brass cases far outweigh the drawbacks, making it some of the best ammo on the market for self-defense.

Winchester PDX1 Defender 165 gr JHP


  • Bullet Weight: 165 gr
  • Bullet Type: Bonded jacketed hollow point
  • Casing Type: Nickel-Plated Brass
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1140 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 476 ft-lbs


  • Bonded jacket provides excellent weight retention
  • Controlled expansion reduces over-penetration


  • Expensive

Why We Chose It

Descended from the legendary Winchester Ranger hollow point bullet, the newer PDX1 Defender represents the company’s latest advancements in hollow point technology.

Featuring a notched hollow point design, the PDX1 is designed to expand rapidly into six even segments when it encounters soft tissue.

Not only does this create an absolutely devastating wound channel that will stop a bad guy in their tracks, but it also reduces the potential for over-penetration and keeps your rounds inside the bad guy (where they belong).

Engineered for deep penetration to reach the vital organs while staying within the requirements of the FBI gel test protocol, the PDX1 provides maximum stopping power and the ultimate in self-defense ammo.

The only downside to the PDX1 is that it is slightly more expensive than Speer Gold Dots. But it’s a small price to pay for the terminal performance that the Winchester PDX1 offers!

Hornady Critical Defense 165 gr FTX


  • Bullet Weight: 165gr
  • Bullet Type: Flex Tip jacketed hollow point
  • Casing Type: Brass
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1175 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 506 ft-lbs


  • Reliable expansion
  • Extremely accurate


  • Low availability

Why We Chose It

Hornady Critical Defense FTX offers top-of-the-line performance thanks to features like the patented Flex Tip. This tip allows maximum penetration while eliminating hollow point clogging that can occur when a bullet passes through clothing.

Hornady Critical Defense bullets are manufactured with quality propellants that help reduce recoil while maintaining velocity under a wide range of temperatures.

These 40 S&W rounds made by Hornady are some of the most accurate cartridges on the market in our hands. We tested them in multiple Glocks, Smith & Wesson, and Sig semi-auto pistols and they all produced exceptional accuracy.

The only gripe we have with the Hornady Critical Defense 165 gr FTX is that it is sometimes tricky to find. So if you do find it, make sure to stock up and you’ll be very happy with this exceptional 40 S&W ammo.

Remington Golden Saber Bonded 180gr BJHP


  • Bullet Weight: 180 gr
  • Bullet Type: Bonded Jacketed Hollow Point
  • Casing Type: Nickel-Plated Brass
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1015 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 412 ft-lbs


  • Long track record of proven performance
  • Bonded jacket increases weight retention


  • Expensive

Why We Chose It

The true “meat and potatoes” hollow point, the Remington Golden Saber remains one of the top self-defense ammo choices for law enforcement and civilians.

Although not as flashy as some new hollow points like the PDX1, the Golden Saber Bonded still packs quite a wallop with its heavy 180 grain bullet weight while maintaining an impressive muzzle velocity.

If you’re looking for self-defense ammunition that simply works every time, then look no further than the 180 grain JHP Golden Saber. However, you’d serve yourself well by purchasing some full metal jacket ammo for practice, as the Remington offering is the most expensive ammo on our top 5 list.

Sellier & Bellot XRG Defense 130gr JHP


  • Bullet Weight: 130gr
  • Bullet Type: Jacketed hollow point
  • Casing Type: Brass
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1247 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 449 ft-lbs


  • Low recoil
  • Budget-friendly
  • Eco-friendly solid copper bullet


  • Low bullet weight

Why We Chose It

Rounding out our top 5 best .40 S&W ammo for self-defense is the Sellier & Bellot (S&B for short) 130 gr XRG hollow point.

The XRG hollow point is unique in the fact that it is a solid copper bullet, making it a great choice for lead-free ranges.

This also means that XRG hollow points will have a lower bullet weight than traditional 40 S&W ammo at 130 grains. However, don’t let this light bullet weight fool you, these XRG JHP had wicked expansion and have lower recoil than their heavier counterparts.

It is important to remember that the best grain for .40 S&W is not always the heaviest one. Shooters that carry lightweight handguns will appreciate the reduced recoil a 130 gr self-defense round offers compared to their 165-180 gr brethren.

Coming in at the lowest cost per round on our top 5 list, you won’t mind so much doing a little target practice with your self-defense rounds every time you hit the range.

The S&B XRG makes a great choice if you like carrying a subcompact handgun like a Glock 27 or the M&P 40C or if you are recoil sensitive.

Honorable Mentions

The self-defense rounds mentioned here are all exceptional hollow points that will protect your life if the need should ever arise. We simply couldn’t get all of them in the top 5 list but wanted to make sure that you knew about these excellent alternatives.

Federal HST 165 gr JHP – Federal HST hollow points are a mainstay in the self-defense shooting community. These hollow points provide exceptional accuracy, deep penetration, and massive expansion. They are the go-to duty ammo for many law enforcement agencies and a great choice for concealed carry or home defense.

Underwood Ammo 180 gr XTP JHP – Ever wonder what a 357 Magnum fired out of a semi-auto feels like? Grab some Underwood Ammo and find out! These 40 S&W defensive rounds are loaded hot with a massive 180 grain XTP hollow point. They are not for the faint of heart but pack a massive punch in terms of stopping power.

Barnes VOR-TX 140 gr TAC-XP JHP – The Barnes TAC-XP hollow point utilizes an incredibly wide and deep hollow point cavity. They boast double-digit expansion results for a round that will not over-penetrate and potentially hit an innocent bystander. Ballistic gel test results would suggest that penetration might be a little sub-standard for these rounds so you should test them in your CCW handgun before you carry them.

Federal 165 gr Hydra-Shok JHP – The Federal Hydra-Shok is the grandfather to the HST. Although he might be a little long on the tooth, the Hydra-Shok still has more than enough bite to stop any bad guy or would-be home invader. The nice part about Hydra-Shok ammo being older is that it is less expensive than more modern self-defense rounds, making it a great budget option.

Winchester Ranger T-Series 165 gr JHP – If you want the gnarliest, nastiest hollow point on the market, then look no further than the Winchester Ranger T-Series. Formerly known as “Black Talon” but renamed due to a negative market image, the Ranger T-Series of hollow point was designed to inflict the maximum amount of damage on a target. The hollow point expands out into six razor sharp talons that rip through flesh, bones, and organs to create an incredibly devastating wound channel. Typically reserved for law enforcement agencies, Ranger T’s are very hard to come by, so snatch them up if you ever see a box.

Parting Shots

Picking the best ammo for your favorite 40 S&W pistol centers around what works best for your budget. Practicing with your self-defense ammo is critical for developing proper muscle memory and marksmanship skills so you can stop a threat quickly and decisively.

We always recommend buying the best ammo that works in your handgun. But don’t be afraid to keep some budget-priced self-defense rounds on hand for when you feel like doing some target practice with your friends at the range.

You should always try to practice with your chosen self-defense ammo at least once per month, but any extra practice with less expensive ammo is going to help solidify your shooting skills so you can defend your life, or the lives of others should the need ever arise.

Buyer’s Guide

So, you got yourself a 40 Smith & Wesson handgun? Congrats! The 40 S&W is a powerful handgun round that surpasses the 9mm Luger in terms of kinetic energy and beats the 45 ACP in terms of magazine capacity.

It’s truly the “Jack of all trades, master of none” approach to handgun ammunition.

After its release in 1990, the 40 S&W cartridge became incredibly popular with law enforcement agencies who were looking for something more powerful than their 9mm’s but didn’t want to move back to the older 45 ACP and 357 Magnum.

With so many different ammo varieties available, it can be hard to know which self-defense ammunition is best for your specific handgun.

In this Buyer’s Guide we will discuss several factors that can help you select the best ammo for your 40 S&W pistol. Just make sure to click the link at the end of the Buyer’s Guide to go back to our Top 5 list!

Bullet Weight

The majority of 40 S&W ammo will come in two varieties, 165 and 180 grain bullets. You’ll see some bullet weights below 165 grains, but 95% of the time you’ll be shooting 165 or 180 gr projectiles.

In general, most shooters agree that the 165 grain bullets are best for personal defense while the 180 grain bullets are best for target shooting.

This is because the 165 gr projectiles will have higher muzzle velocity and deeper penetration with slightly less recoil.

In contrast, the 180 grain bullets will have slightly higher recoil, lower penetration, but increased kinetic energy.


Let’s not kid ourselves about this, the 40 S&W cartridge is a very snappy round that has a lot of recoil for its size.

Developed from Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper’s 10mm Auto, the 40 S&W is a high pressure round that delivers a lot of punishment to a shooter’s wrists. Although not as snappy as something like a 357 Magnum, many new shooters have problems handling the higher recoil of the 40.

Many law enforcement agencies have moved back to the 9mm due to the high recoil of the 40.

If you are recoil sensitive but insist on a 40 S&W for personal defense, then you would be wise to choose a lower bullet weight to help keep recoil lower. However, if you can use a different caliber, a 9mm or 380 ACP might be easier to handle.

In general, 165 grain bullets will have lower free recoil than 180 grain factory loads.

For recoil sensitive shooters we would recommend cartridges like the Barnes VOR-TX 140 gr TAC-XP or Sellier & Bellot XRG 130 gr JHP.


If the ammunition you choose doesn’t fit your budget, you are less likely to get the essential practice you need. Always choose self-defense ammo you can afford to shoot through a box or two occasionally so you can stay in practice.

It’s always good to try and practice with your personal protection ammo, but most shooters prefer to shoot cheap FMJ ammo when they hit the range. Some of the most affordable practice handgun ammunition available for 40 S&W comes from Magtech, PMC, and Blazer Brass.

It’s always important to remember that full metal jacket (FMJ) rounds are great for target practice, but they are not suitable for self-defense.

FMJ bullets do not expand when they encounter soft tissue the way hollow points do. This means that FMJ bullets will most likely over-penetrate a bad guy and strike whatever is standing behind them.

One good way to keep your supply of FMJ ammo full is to buy bulk 40 S&W ammo. This keeps your cost per round as low as possible while ensuring you always have a supply of cartridges for practice.

For practice, use FMJ ammo and run at least one box of self-defense rounds through your CCW or home defense handgun each trip to the range.

For personal defense, make sure your mags are always loaded with the best JHP ammo that functions in your firearm.

Compatibility With Your Firearm

One aspect of shooting that some shooters overlook is your firearm’s ammo preference.

Like a picky toddler who only likes dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and fish sticks for dinner, some handguns are picky with the ammo they like to be fed.

It is critical that you choose a factory load that will reliably cycle in your pistol.

The best thing to do is to try out a few different factory loads to find out what your handgun likes. This way you can ensure your handgun likes what you’re feeding it before you put in a bulk 40 S&W order.

Now that you’ve got a better idea about what your shiny new 40 S&W needs, let’s get back to the Top 5 List by Clicking HERE.

The Best .40 S&W Ammo for Self Defense: Stop the Threat originally appeared in The Resistance Library at Ammo.com.

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Sam Jacobs
Sam Jacobs grew up in Southern New England, probably the part of the country with the weakest gun culture. However, from a young age he believed firmly in the right of self defense and the right to keep and bear arms. This, coupled with 12 years of education in public schools and an argumentative nature, meant that he was frequently getting into debates with his teachers about the virtue of the Second Amendment. A precocious student of history and the Constitution, Jacobs became interested in both the practice of armed self defense throughout history as well as the philosophical underpinnings of the Second Amendment. Jacobs has an affinity for the individual and the common man against centralized forms of power and elites, whether they be in the government or the private sector. In particular, he is interested in the ways in which private companies work to subvert the legislative process and to undermine American freedoms outside of normal legal channels. He considers the resolution of how corporate power can hem in Constitutional freedoms to be the most pressing political question of our age. The private sector and the public sector are increasingly indistinguishable from one another, both because of behind-the-scenes corporate chicanery that undermines the legislative process and because private companies are rapidly becoming far more powerful than the federal government. Thus, it is more important than ever to both fight the incursion of private companies into our government and to become independent and self-reliant enough to make it difficult for private companies to hem in your rights. So Sam believes. Jacobs is the lead writer and chief historian with Ammo.com, and is the driving intellectual force behind the content in the Resistance Library. He is proud to see his work name-checked in places like Bloomberg, USA Today and National Review, but he is far more proud to see his work republished on websites like ZeroHedge, Lew Rockwell and Sons of Liberty Media. You can catch him on Quora and Parler as well as on our very own Resistance Library podcast. How many firearms does Sam own and what’s his everyday carry? That’s between him and the NSA.