Concealed Carry Corner: Factory Ammo Vs Hand Loads By: Matt E


The debate of using factory self-defense ammo or hand loading your own ammo has been going on for quite a while. With ammo scarcity becoming a real problem in the last few years, the transition to reloading has been a popular choice to fill that void. Typically, in the past, older guys who enjoy shooting were the main ones doing reloads but with the ammo shortage, the idea of reloading has become more mainstream. Over the years, I have been on both sides of this issue and it’s a fairly interesting one to consider when looking at the big picture. Let’s take a closer look at factory ammo vs hand loads.

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Concealed Carry Corner: Factory Ammo Vs Hand Loads

Factory Ammo

When it comes to self-defense ammunition, buying factory ammo is the fast and easy way to get rounds. Heading into any store and picking up a box of 20 or 50 rounds is by far the fastest way to get upgraded rounds without much hassle. Factory rounds oftentimes were engineered from the ground up with a specific powder charge and bullet in mind making it a complete system. Oftentimes I will compare factory ammunition and hand loads to a factory sports car and one built by someone in their garage. The overall quality will be higher from a manufacturer than someone reloading in their basement but this isn’t always the case.

Quality and reliability are the two big factors to look at when talking about self-defense ammunition. It’s incredibly easy to crush a primer if you’re not paying attention and factory ammo, especially self-defense ammo, has significantly less chance of having these issues than if you reload. I have had some incredible reliability out of factory self-defense rounds. Certain small details like nickel-plated casings ensure proper ejection every single time. This may not be the case when reloading which is the big argument for factory ammo. Ammunition manufacturers have a massive budget for research and development along with quality control. It’ll definitely be great ammunition but the price will reflect that.

Reloading For Self Defense

Getting into reloading is typically a result of wanting to shoot more without paying a ton of money for ammo all the time. Reloading can cut ammo costs in half if not more but requires a ton of attention and ensuring every process is done correctly. The biggest benefit of reloading is the cost savings but it also allows you to create custom bullet and powder combinations for your carry gun. With the shortage really destroying self-defense ammo stocks in stores, it was easier to find self-defense bullets and certain powders than it was to find certain brands of self-defense ammo.

The biggest difference between hand loading rounds and buying factory rounds is the overall cost. If you start to reload consistently and perfect the process, you can get ammo costs down to a half or even a third depending on what components you use. If you want to train with self-defense ammo, this is one of the best ways to make it financially feasible.

There are certain guys out there who want to train with the exact ammo they carry and hand loads can absolutely let you do that. Combine those cost savings with the ability to make consistent powder charges to create an ammo type that’s extremely consistent. I typically use an RCBS Charge Master to get the powder charge exact. It may be slower than other methods but it’s incredibly precise. With a bit of practice, hand loads can be a real option to train with self-defense ammo without breaking the bank.

Reliability Of Both

When it comes to ammo reliability, I’ve had zero issues with factory self-defense ammo yet. Don’t get me wrong, weird things happen and there’s always a chance of getting a bad round. With my experience though, self-defense ammo across the board has been 100% reliable. Whether it’s Hornady with their Critical Duty/Defense ammo, Federal HST, Speer Gold Dot, or SIG V-Crown, they all have done exceptionally well. The additional price of factory ammunition gives you the peace of mind of being reliable under any circumstances.

Hand loads can be incredibly reliable and consistent with enough practice over time. For individuals who have a solid grasp on how to reload, I would say hand loading your self-defense ammo can be a fantastic way to create high-quality self-defense rounds. If you haven’t reloaded a decent amount or still working towards being proficient with it, I wouldn’t risk making a bad round. There are too many mistakes that can happen for me to confidently say go for it. Something like a crushed primer can happen easily without someone with reloading experience to catch it while it’s in the press.

Overall Thoughts

Hand loading rounds can be an incredibly rewarding experience that lets a shooter train for significantly less money. When ammo prices become inflated like they currently, hand loading can be a fantastic way to keep training for less money. When it comes to self-defense loads, unless you’re not fairly well experienced with reloading, I would stay away from it. Factory ammunition is extremely reliable and gives you peace of mind when it comes to reliability. Experienced reloaders can most certainly make self-defense rounds. If you’re a new reloader I would test out a fair amount of rounds before trusting your life to them.

What do you guys think about carrying hand loads versus factory ammo? I truly think hand-loaded self-defense ammo can be a fantastic option if you have experience with reloading but for a beginner, I would still continue to use factory ammo. Do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments below. If you have questions about concealed carry or firearms in general, feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there!

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