Why Hollow Points Are The Only Option For Self-Defense

Every so often we come across opinions on the wonderful World Wide Web that makes me scratch my head a bit. One of those things is when I read comments about people saying “this is why I don't use hollow points.”

A lot of the time these comments come from less-experienced gun owners who just need more information, but not always. Even though I've covered this topic to some degree in the past, I just saw a comment in a gun forum that stated something similar to carrying FMJ, and I just wanted to share our opinion on this.

To be clear, if you can use hollow points, you should use hollow points. They are much better suited for self-defense than other types of ammunition are.

While other ammunition is sufficient if it's all you have, hollow points are better at stopping an attack than their full metal jacket cousins are, for a few different reasons.

But the moment you can load up proper self-defense ammo, you should.

Let's take a quick look at just two of those reasons —

More Incapacitating:

Hollow points usually create more damage on the inside of the body because they expand and get bigger once they hit something wet, like the inside of a human body. The key to the word “usually” in the previous sentence, is that not all hollow points are created equally.

I personally use Federal HST, SIG V-Crown, and Hornady Critical Duty in my defensive guns and recommend each one of those on a caliber by caliber basis. (I've linked another article below that covers this more in detail.)

Hollow points just create more damage to the inside of the human body. They create what is known as a bigger wound channel that creates more damage. And, since the bullet is bigger it has a better chance at hitting a vital organ.

Even if it doesn't hit a vital organ, the chance for bleeding is better, which is another way an attacker can be stopped even if it takes longer.

Less Penetration:

I just read a defensive gun use story that I considered covering, but decided this would be a better way to say it. There was a 21 year old son who defended his parents against an attacker. The attacker died, but the woman, his mom, was accidentally shot in the process.

While I don't have enough details on the shooting to say what happened and why the mom was shot, there is at least the possibility that a round passed through the bad guy and then into the mom's leg.

Of course, there is also the possibility that the kid just accidentally shot his mom. We don't know because we don't have enough details. But, this is important enough that we should at least mention it because a hollow point is designed to have less penetration than an FMJ target round is.

In other words, you don't want the round to pass through your attacker and into someone else. Hollow points expand more which slows them down faster meaning they lack the velocity necessary to push them back out of the body and into someone else.

When to use FMJ:

Whenever you're target practicing, using FMJ is totally advisable. Though, you should shoot at least a magazine of your hollow points in your gun to make sure it feeds and cycles the firearm properly. I write more about this topic, here.

Is there any point when FMJ is acceptable to use for self-defense? Well, for one, if your home state is New Jersey and you follow the law, hollow points are illegal.

Of course, any ammunition is better than no ammunition. So, if all you can find and buy is FMJ, I'd rather have a gun on me with target ammo than leave the gun at home because I don't have self-defense ammo. Just know the risks, which are that they're not as good at stopping an attack and they run the risk of exiting your attacker and hitting an innocent with greater ease.

But if it's all I had, you're darn straight I'd carry it in my gun, as I continued my search for proper ammo. Matthew listed his top 3 choices for self defense ammo in this post, is yours on the list?

Leave your thoughts on this in the comments below, and then read this next:

Best hollow points.

About Joshua Gillem

Josh is a lifelong practitioner and student of the gun. He grew up shooting/hunting with his dad, and was given his first gun, a 12 gauge shotgun, when just a small boy. After high school, he joined the Marines where his love for firearms blossomed as he qualified with an M16A2, an M9, and a 240G. Josh has been writing about firearms and tactics for several years, owns the blog Gunners Den, is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, and believes that each individual person has the right to self-defense by any means necessary. Currently residing in gun-friendly NC, he carries a concealed gun on a daily basis, even in his own house.


  1. JDM on October 7, 2020 at 6:32 am

    When I took my Basic Handgun class, the instructor said in no uncertain terms that he would consider us guilty of negligent discharge if we used FMJs for self-defense. I live in an apartment, so I suspect I’d be charged of the severest neglect the county has in such a case.

  2. Peter on October 8, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    Some calibers/firearms are not effective in hollow point form, and generally experts agree for these you need FMJ. Examples would be .25 ACP, .32 ACP, and sometimes .380 ACP, either because the pocket pistols don’t generate enough velocity to cause expansion, or the expanded bullet doesn’t penetrate enough. The Honey Badger rounds might be the answer, if they feed reliably. Ideally you would get a better weapon, but that isn’t always an option.

  3. Mike on October 10, 2020 at 11:59 am

    Last time I checked, hollow point ammo is not illegal in NJ. It can be purchased, transported directly to your place of residence and used in and around the home for self defense. In addition, under the right procedures it can be transported directly to a place of practice (a range registered with the state police) and directly back to the residence in a locked container separate from the firearm which must be transported in a different locked container.

    • Gary on January 1, 2024 at 1:49 pm

      If that is the law in new jersey than their law enforcement people have to follow the same rules fair is fair. If new jersey will not let their citizens use hollow point ammo, their law enforcement people can’t use it either because law enforcement people are law abiding citizens. Only the criminals can use hollow Point ammo that is the law in new jersey how stupid is that welcome to the great state of new jersey no wonder people die there and no wonder nobody goes there law abiding are not allowed to defend themselves

  4. Joe on October 16, 2020 at 5:42 pm

    My first choice would be a quality JHP that functioned in my gun. My second choice would be a factory FMJ. My third, and at this time my only choice, would be my Blue Bullet lead hand loads. Again operating on the presumption that a loaded gun, whatever the load may be, is better than an empty gun. The hand loads are just under factory spec for FMJ. Don’t see that I have much choice until ammo comes back.

  5. Pioneer on October 16, 2020 at 9:26 pm

    The primary reason I stopped wasting my time on gun forums! Despite the passage of time and improved terminal ballistic ammo, some old wife’s tales and myths seem to have a life of their own.

  6. Mike in a Truck on October 17, 2020 at 4:35 am

    Use the ammunition that functions reliably in your semi auto. Every time. Everything else is secondary. The best hollowpoint made is useless if it causes a stoppage.I have a old 1911 Remington- Rand surplus that only likes FMJ. I also have newer 1911’s that will work with HP just fine.

    • Brian on October 19, 2020 at 2:31 pm

      IMHO the heavy, slow-moving .45 acp was originally designed for FMJ “Ball” ammo. Consequently, the 1911 platform is still most effective…and reliable…using the original spec 230 grain hardball. I once owned a .45 acp handgun and did some testing with jacketed hollow point ammunition fired into a phone book. The results were dismal. Most projectiles didn’t even make it past 1/2 inch into a phone book and often the jackets separated and were found outside the phone book. FMJ performed much better.

      • James E Ray on November 20, 2020 at 5:45 pm

        Same here. It’s fat and slow and gets the job done and reliably functions in my .45.

  7. cgray on August 14, 2022 at 2:42 pm

    There is ZERO evidence that hollow points are more effective at stopping a human attacker than FMJs. ZERO. If even a single study that established that existed, it would be all over the Internet and cited repeatedly. Doesn’t exist. Keep handing over your cash to the ammo makers, though. I’ll just sit here and laugh at you.

    • Rok on April 30, 2023 at 12:52 pm

      While you do seem to be correct that there is a lack of objective evidence that hollow points are quantifiably better than fmj ammo, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that they are. When the NYPD first issued 9mm semi autos they used fmj ammo. The police union complained that the ammo over penetrated and was not quick to stop those they shot. When Speer gold dots were issued the complaints went away. Even earlier, other forces issuing .38 revolvers saw a similar increase in effectiveness when going from lead round nose to hollow points. As long as they penetrate enough, hollow points work well, but in weaker rounds ( like .32 acp) use solids to get deep enough.

Leave a Comment