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Ammo selection and self defense (legally)

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by danmoultrie, Aug 15, 2008.

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  1. danmoultrie

    danmoultrie Member

    Aug 14, 2008
    Cary, NC
    Hi all,
    I have been trolling for a while, and I like what I have seen here. I appreciate the great discussions of our rights and responsibilities as gun owners. You really have taken the "high road". (pardon the stupid pun)

    So, as my inaugrial post, I submit a thought exercise.

    Assume there is a legal self defense situation. Guy threatens me in my house with a gun, I get him before he gets me. I kill him, with a little help from my speer 180 grain jacketed hollow points or hydra shoks. Am I opening myself up to a legal fight, based on my selection of ammo vs. ball or fmj? I can see some newbie DA trying to prove that my ammo selection was an aggrivating factor in what would otherwise be a clear self defense situation.

    Any thoughts?
  2. oneshooter

    oneshooter Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    TEXAS, by God
    It depends on your location.
    "Mandatory Texas answer"

    It will make no difference, "a good shoot is a good shoot".

    End of "Mandatory Texas answer"

    Livin in Texas
  3. Rmart30

    Rmart30 Member

    Nov 10, 2007
    I think any factory ammo you would be fine with ona good shoot.
    I would not at all use handloads in my SD gun...... lawyer would love it.... the defendant shot my client not with factory ammo but with hopped up ammo meant to maim and kill .
  4. General Geoff

    General Geoff Member

    Nov 28, 2006
    Allentown, Pennsylvania
    Any and all ammo is capable of incapacitating and/or killing a person. Even using hand loads, what's the DA going to say? That you intentionally loaded them hot to cause more suffering? The hotter the load, the better the penetration, the more likely it is to stop the threat. It's the same as a DA arguing that your .454 Casull was excessive force, by virtue of caliber alone. Lethal force is lethal force, end of story. Unless you're using explosive/incendiary rounds or some type of crew served weapon, I wouldn't worry about allegations of excessive force.
  5. bragood

    bragood Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    A good rule of thumb is to never use handloads as it could be made to look as if you sat at home for weeks on end developing a load to kill because you are bloodthirsty as someone already said. A good idea would be to find out what your local pd or state troopers carry as it is likely winchester ranger or federal hydrashok and use this.
  6. JimmerJammerMrK

    JimmerJammerMrK Member

    Jun 30, 2007
    In Kali I've seen DA's try to spin a story around HPs. Pretty ridiculous, but it is Kali.
  7. Gentleman Ranker

    Gentleman Ranker Member

    Jul 9, 2008
    Fairfax County, VA
    danmoultrie (Yesterday 10:58 PM) #1 says:

    Not to be pedantic, but I think you mean lurking. In an internet venue, to lurk is to read without posting, to troll is to deliberately make provocative comments for the purpose of starting trouble.

    IANAL, but probably not.

    About ten years ago, I had access to the online legal database LEXIS, and I got interested in just that question. I searched and searched LEXIS for legal cases where ammunition had been any kind of issue whatever, and couldn't find any.

    This does not necessarily mean that there couldn't have been one that I missed, or that one hasn't happened since then, or that such a case won't come up in the future. But think about it a moment. In general, self-defense law (both statutes and cases) is about the use of deadly force, not about particular hardware. If your use of deadly force was proper, it isn't very likely that your hardware is going to be that much of an issue unless that hardware is already a problem (think "unregistered Class III weapon" or something similar).

    Attorneys will sometimes try to demonize you with arguments that aren't pertinent to the law in question, but if you have a good attorney and a fair judge, they shouldn't get very far with it. Someone who is arguing that your firearm or ammunition was somehow "bad" probably doesn't have much of a case for your actions having been wrong in the first place. Remember that attorneys trained and hired to spin things, and if they're spinning something like that it's because they don't have anything better.

    On the other hand, things could be different in a civil trial, where standards of evidence and law are much more freewheeling, so it's not a silly thing to think about. The best course is to learn something about how the law works (Nolo Press has some good books of the "Law for Dummies" type) and read some court cases on self-defense from your jurisdiction. It can be tedious going until you get used to the legal language, but once you can follow the arguments and reasoning it can be very educational.

    If you want to play it as safe as possible, try to find out what ammunition your local or state police use and use that. IMHO you don't really have to do so, but it's probably as safe as you can get on this subject (though even then, an attorney could argue that you were a "cop wannabe" or something). I am not aware of any sizeable agency that uses ball or FMJ anymore.

    Hope that's helpful. Comments from actual attorneys would be welcome.


    Last edited: Aug 16, 2008
  8. qajaq59

    qajaq59 Member

    Dec 7, 2005
    S. C. Florida
    Pick the one that you think is best.

    Scenerio #1, The DA goes after you because of your choice of bullets.
    Scenerio #2, You are dead because you didn't fire.

    Problem solved.
  9. Starship1st

    Starship1st Member

    Feb 4, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    Don't forget that just because the DA clears you of all criminal charges some family member of the intruder does not try and get a civil suit brought against you? :cool:
  10. jad0110

    jad0110 Member

    Feb 28, 2006
    Somewhere between the Eastern Block states and Flo
    Well, being that you live in Cary NC, I think this is something worth looking into:

    Overall, NC is a gun friendly state. But Cary (and the Chapel Hill / Durham area in general) is a known stronghold of antigun and anti self defense sentiment. Though as others have pointed out that a DA singling your ammo out is unlikely, a civil trial is a different story.
  11. JoeCWales

    JoeCWales Member

    Feb 12, 2007
    West Central FLA
    I see yer in NC.
    Is that Open Cary or Concealed Cary where you live?

    Mas Ayoob write in Guns or American Handgunner a couple of years ago on this subject. He had ben called as an expert witness for the defense of a fellow who defended himself using handloaded ammo.
    The prosecution did try to make an issue out of the whole handloaded "killer" ammo idea.
    The resolution was that to be safe one should always use factory ammo for self defense. I've always taken this advice because if I ever gave to defend myself with a firearm, I want to leave as little as possible to complicate the incident.
    Mas also recommended using the same self defense ammo used by your local PD.
    Keep the Faith,

    edit: source,

    American Handgunner May/June 2006
    The Ayoob Files p.46
    "Reloaded Ammo Nightmare."
  12. memphisjim

    memphisjim Member

    Jul 15, 2008
    hey at least you are still there to fight
  13. Deanimator

    Deanimator Member

    Mar 30, 2006
    Rocky River, Ohio
    It will only matter in places where there are actual prohibitions on certain types of ammunition, such as New Jersey. Most other places, if you have a good shoot with normal commercial ammunition of any kind (or reloads for that matter), you'll be ok.

    If you're really concerned, find out what your local cops carry and use that.
  14. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator

    Apr 29, 2006
    California - San Francisco Bay Area
    There's a risk to everything. The question becomes whether there's some appreciable benefit to justify the risk.

    In the case of HPs, they are more likely to be more effect and there is, therefore, some good reason to take the [relatively small] risk. And a decent answer to why you used HPs is that the police use them (almost all police agencies now use JHP ammunition).

    On the other hand, I don't see that I gain anything material by using handloads compared with good quality, commercial ammunition. So why take any risk, no matter how slight, for no benefit.
  15. GRB

    GRB member

    Feb 25, 2005
    I live in New York state just outside of NYC. I cannot see that even here in this den of ultra leftists. About the only place I can imagine that happening is in NJ wherein hollow points are mostly illegal as I understand the situation there.

    All the best,
  16. MinnMooney

    MinnMooney Member

    Mar 9, 2007
    east-central Minnesota
    I see, as usual, that there have been several 'flippant' answers to your very serious question that can have huge monetary consequences.

    To say something like,
    :banghead: WRONG - Problems now start!

    I think it is very childish and worthless information. Yes, you'll still be alive but you would have been alive with factory, personal defense ammo also. If you get sued in civil court, the lawyer fees that you'll be forced to pay will wipe out some folks' savings. So to say something that is clearly not thought out and adolecent (just to get a post and get your numbers up) is in very poor taste. It is definately not 'The High Road'.

    This is from JoeCWales and is more in keeping with a researched, thoughtful answer and it's the thought that I'll be taking away from this discussion :
  17. FCFC

    FCFC Has Never Owned a Gun

    Jan 11, 2007
    Was this case one of self defense in the home or at some public place?
  18. Steve in PA

    Steve in PA Member

    Dec 29, 2002
    NE PA
    Justified use of deadly force is just that, justified no matter what you use, be it a certain type of ammo, or a spear gun you have hanging on the wall.

    As for Ayoob's claim, they did NOT try and make an issue of the handloaded "killer" ammo. The shooter's claim about the events that happened were suspect.

    There is absolutley no differnce between ammo that I reload, and ammo that I pay someone else to load.
  19. 545days

    545days Member

    Oct 21, 2007
    The problems begin when the shoot is in the many shades of grey rather than black and white. If you shoot a convicted felon who has broken into your daughter's bedroom at 3:00 AM carrying rope, knives and and a gag then you have nothing to worry about.

    On the other hand, if you shoot your no-good brother in law, who is living in your spare bedroom, after you have both been drinking... you will likely have problems. This doesn't mean that your brother in law didn't threaten your life, or that it wasn't a good shoot. It means that the police and grand jury (or civil court jury) will have a harder time determining that they believe it was a good shoot. Anything that paints you as especially bloodthirsty could be used to build evidence towards your bad intent.

    That said, the advice to load the same round as local, state or federal law enforcement is prudent. It is not necessary, but it is prudent. (Kicking out your worthless brother would be good advice as well.)
  20. GRB

    GRB member

    Feb 25, 2005

    If you primarily are worried about getting charged criminally or about being sued civilly, then maybe it is best you do not carry a gun at all. Maybe it is even best never to attempt to defend yourself at all because the chances of either one of those things happening is pretty high if you do injure or kill someone even in a pretty clear cut case of self defense. You need, as I see it, to make a decision now - are you more concerend about losing your life savings, or are you more concerned about losing your life or your ability to ever earn again.

    The whole idea of which ammo to use is pretty important. Allow me to address this after having put some thought to issues like the thread starting question over the course of the past 28 plus years:

    If you have not asked yourself these questions, be sure a DA will do so: Have you fired your rounds of choice in practice over and over again? Does your firearm shoot accurately using them? Are you a trained and or qualified shooter, if not why not? Are the rounds commercially available? If hand loaded were they loaded within specifications acceptable in the industry? Does the ammunition have any attributes known to make it more deadly that regularly available ammunition – such as Teflon coating, explosive bullet, alterations made by the shooter (cutting into the bullet to enhance expansion), powder charge above the recommended charge? To simply choose the same round as used by your local police department could be quite the big mistake for more than one reason.

    Police departments often use less than desirable ammunition in their duty weapons because of departmental policy that has been effected by political agendas. Case in point: For years, beyond other departments or LE agencies, the NYPD was still carrying underpowered round nosed revolver ammo. So that was potentially bad advice from a self defense point of view, at least bad for those of us in an area where a department has been ruled by political folly. Some police departments also use ammunition that is labeled by the manufacturer as Law Enforcement only, or that is normally only available to LE agencies. Use of this ammunition by a non LEO would be akin to legal suicide when the issue gets brought up in court; it would probably look worse than using hand loaded ammunition. Yet some other police departments use ammunition that is legal for them, but actually illegal for the non law enforcement public to use.

    Heck if you really take that advice from Ayoub, then if you normally carry a .45 and the PD carries a 9mm - what are you going to do - change your gun and ammo to meet the ammo they carry! Instead of using what the local PD uses just because Mr. Ayoub said to use it, why not do some research first. Find out what they use and why. Some departments use whatever they can get least expensively that meets certain other criteria. Some use ammunition not available to the general public. Some departments use rounds known for over penetration, my agency did just that for several years. Some departments use +P ammo. Will your firearm even handle those rounds reliably? Of course, some agencies and departments use ammunition that is well suited to be a self defense round used by anyone. Do your homework if you are that concerned over legal or civil suits and still want to carry.

    If you use hand loaded ammunition and you if have loaded to specs found in an industry standard hand loaders manual, you will probably be alright in the eyes of a jury, regarding your choice of ammo, no matter how bad a picture the DA wants to paint. That is if you have a smart attorney, and if you have not otherwise painted a picture of yourself as a crazed wanna be killer.

    Regardless of what I consider my well thought out answer above, in essence it comes down to this: In an emergency where your life is in danger, or you are in danger of serious bodily injury, or same for a loved one or other innocent party, it does not mater much what ammunition you used to defend yourself or the other person as long as it was within reason. As to carrying a type of ammo day to day, the choice may make somewhat more of a difference in panting a negative picture of you by a DA. So in essence, commercially available (in the USA) hollow points manufactured for self defense, if legal in your area, proven as a reliable round, and with which you are familiar and relaibly able to hit your mark, are reasonable as a defensive round (in the USA) regardless of what you local police department uses. So are hand loaded rounds that were loaded to normal industry specs. So, if your firearms and ammunition are legal, it does not necessarily, but certainly can, boil down to this:

    1) the District Attorney who is anti-RKBA goes after you for whatever reason he can do so to get political brownie points

    2) You are injured or dead and no one goes after you criminally

    No, when you think about it, that information basically the same as offered by someone else who you hamered is neither childish nor worthless, at least certainly not as I see it. It was just not explained, in my opinion, as well as it could have been explained. Some might even see it this way: Whining about it may be what is worthless, insulting the person who wrote it may be childish, not offering up anything else but regurgitated information given by others may be pointless. I think most would agree though: Thinking about the issue, then discussing it without insults is the true High Road way, and is the way that will benefit most of us here who may one day be involved in a courtroom scenario over a shooting incident.

    All the best,
    Glenn B
  21. Old Grump

    Old Grump Member

    Jun 30, 2008
    Blue River Wisconsin
    Used to be a lot of talk about people making dum dums

    Okay I am aging myself once again but basically it was cutting notches in your bullets so they would cause more damage. Modern hollow points and high velocity bullets do much worse. My worry would be does the gun go bang every time you pull the trigger and can you hit what you are aiming at. Liberal anti-gun DA's are going to make an issue out of your ammo no matter what you use. Google the Harold Fish story for an example. I would be more worried about being the guest of honor at the funeral. Use what works, the truly exotic stuff is to expensive to be practical anyway.

    With a 380 you would already be at the low end of a practical self defense firearm. With a magnum like a 357 or 44 not even considering the 454 you would be at the top end of impractical for an in house shoot because the recoil and muzzle blast can deafen and take away night vision and slow down your reaction time for a second shot if needed. You were talking about 180 gr. hydra shocks so I am assuming a 45 cal. Same issues for in house, a 230 gr hollow point would be a little easier on you but if it was a you or me situation and all I had was your named choice I'd say do it and worry about the paperwork later. Just don't shoot him 4 times after he is down on the ground or shoot him in the back unless its to stop him from hurting somebody else and you should be okay.
  22. xdoctor

    xdoctor Member

    Feb 10, 2004
    It was once suggested to me that I call the local PD and ask what type of ammo they issue to their officers. If it runs reliably, use that for self defense. Its hard to argue in court that you were using special rounds meant to kill when you're using the same thing the local LEO's are using to defend their own lives.
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