The Hi Power and Standard Pressure Ammunition
I frequently hear from folks wanting to know if they "have" to use +P or +P+ ammunition in their pistol for it to be an "effective stopper." I also am asked if those carrying the hotter loads for serious purposes need to practice exclusively with hot ammunition (ball or otherwise) rather than standard velocity since they're opting for the "chili pepper" loads for defense.
In my opinion, the answer to both questions is no.
I do believe based on what I've read and seen that the best defensive 9mm loads are to be found in the +P and +P+ loads, but that does not mean that effective standard pressure loads cannot be had. It seems that with a handgun caliber, people shot fall down and "stop" what they were doing to get shot for either physical or psychological reasons. Those who will not stop for the latter usually will not be instantly stopped unless the shot hits the brain or the spinal column or a support structure like a femur is broken. Even these hits are not 100% sure all of the time. Depending upon the angle of entry and what the bullet actually destroys in the brain, the results might very well be blindness or a lobotomy of sorts, but not always instantaneous death. Even the relatively high velocity 9mm (for pistol rounds) can be deflected and skim around the skull's exterior under the skin. A man with a severed spinal column will go down, but might not be out of the fight, as that which is above the wound will not be paralyzed. Likewise, an opponent with a broken leg will probably fall, but he may very well continue to shoot at you. What Iím getting at is that just using a hotter load in 9mm (or any pistol caliber) does not in itself guarantee success.
There are several standard pressure 9mm loads that I'd feel confident using for self-protection. These include Federal Classic 115-gr. JHP, Remington 124-gr. Golden Saber (can be had in +P, too), Speer 124-gr. Gold Dot (also available in +P), or the discontinued Federal 124-gr. Nyclad hollow points. I've seen the two Federal loads used on animals and read the autopsy report where the 115-gr. was used on a felon and have no complaints with either. I have not done the same with the others in their standard velocity loads, but have seen the +P versions used effectively on various animals. This and my own informal testing coupled with "anecdotal" stories from folks who have shot people with it leads me to believe that it would work well in most instances.
People chide me sometimes for the following statement, but I am convinced that placement remains the primary factor in "stopping power." That it is difficult to attain in a fight does not mean that it isn't true.
As to the practice ammunition thing, I do not believe that there is enough of a difference in either POI vs. POA or felt recoil between standard and +P ammo to say that one cannot achieve very good training/practice with the lower priced standard pressure ball that's readily available. At the same time, I do strongly suggest shooting your "carry loads" in practice now and then simply so that you can say that you have practiced with the ammunition you carry. It's also a good way to retain confidence in your pistol's reliability with that load. One might practice with ammo that's been in the gun a few months as well as with some of the new, just to be sure there are no unwelcome surprises.
This business of practicing with ammo you carry started for a couple of reasons:
1. When US police forces primarily carried revolvers, it was not uncommon for the duty load to be a full-house .357 Magnum while qualifications were done with the light 148-gr. target wadcutter. There is a very noticeable difference in firing a 148-gr. bullet at around 700 ft/sec and a 125-gr. JHP at 1400 ft/sec. To avoid civil liability, most police agencies require that a certain number of shots be fired with the duty ammo at qualification testing. The difference in a Browning's felt recoil with a 115-gr. FMJ "range load" at 1140 ft/sec is not significantly different than a +P 115-gr. at 1300 ft/sec or a 124-gr. +P at 1200 ft/sec. In no way can it compare to the very real difference in felt recoil between the full-house magnums and the target wadcutters. In actuality, police were qualifying with one caliber, but carrying another!
2. With the move to semiautomatics, the need to make sure that law enforcement pistols functions reliably with a specific load is paramount. Most do, but the automatic remains more susceptible to malfunctions because of bullet shape than did the revolver.
Some respondents have expressed concerns that their Hi Power would not hold up if they fired +P ammunition. The gun will not explode or break, but the hotter the load, the greater the wear. In other places on this site, this topic and "remedies" have been discussed, but some simply do not want to use +P ammo.
I'd try any of the standard pressure loads mentioned for both reliability and accuracy and go with what I liked best. If you can make the hits, I do not believe that the hotter stuff is significantly better. Given equivalent hits, the hotter round might shave a second or two off the time the attacker is ambulatory, but this cannot be quantified. Therefore, I do not know that for sure. I do believe that either will be effective as a pistol round can be with good hits. I do not believe that the hotter load is so much more potent that a mediocre hit will be as effective as the better hit with the standard pressure ammunition.
If the use of standard pressure vs. +P ammunition is a concern, I suggest doing most of your shooting with standard pressure loads but some with the carry load. When you pick a serious purpose load, be absolutely sure to test it for reliability in your pistol before depending on it.
I've had no reliability problems in several Mk III Hi Powers with any of the standard or +P loads mentioned.