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It was a beautiful fall morning when I decided to attend "The Nation's Gun Show" in Chantilly, Virginia. I had decided to make an important purchase there that day. One I did months of research on. I decided to buy a Springfield EMP in 9mm. For me, it was the perfect handgun to carry concealed in the warmer months and a handy back up for my duties as a police officer.

Now that I have the pistol, what kind of self-defense ammo should I feed it?

No matter what kind of firearm you own for self/home defense or how much you spent on it, one thing you can't skimp out on is the ammo. Self-defense ammunition is much higher in quality and ballistic performance than the cheaper ball ammunition used for range practice. And because of the higher quality components, it comes with a higher price tag. I wanted to use ammo through my EMP that would stop a charging rhino so I decided to buy Buffalo Bore's 147-grain 9mm +P+.

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Any ammunition marked +P or +P+ is a designator for overpressure ammunition. These pressure levels are much higher than in standard ammunition in order to increase muzzle velocity and stopping power. Sounds great, right? Not so fast. Depending on your handgun, it may be too much pressure to the point where it may not function or cycle properly.

As with any new ammunition in your carry gun, you MUST test it out at the range first. You need to be certain, with confidence, that the ammo will feed through your gun without any hiccups and that you can manage its recoil. Never take for granted that the expensive, shiny, ammo with the big name and fancy ads on TV or magazines will automatically run through your gun.

I was at my local range with my new EMP and loaded it with the aforementioned ammunition. I fired one round and the slide locked to the rear. I automatically performed the tap-rack-access immediate action drill. I fired another round and the same thing happened. After a few more of these shots I came to the conclusion that the +P+, 147 grain was just too hot for the subcompact EMP. Due to the combination of the increased pressure and higher grain weight, the gun would not cycle properly.

I was forced to take it down a notch and decided to run my next choice of ammo. I chose Hornady's 9mm Critical Duty, +P, 135 grain ammo. Hornady has one of the best reputations for its quality and performance of their hunting and self-defense ammo. I went back to the range and the EMP fired the Critical Duty flawlessly. The recoil was very manageable as well, whether shooting two handed or one handed.
Whether it's a new brand of magazine, aftermarket internal/external components, or self-defense ammunition, I cannot stress the importance of testing out your carry gun first at the range. You never want to hear the loudest sound in a gunfight...the "click" of a malfunctioning firearm.

-Leo Bello is an active 17-year veteran police officer and firearms instructor in Northern Virginia. He is also director of Systems Armament Firearms Education; a firearms instruction school for civilians.
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