Mixing Loads In One's Handgun: Good or Bad?

This is a discussion on Mixing Loads In One's Handgun: Good or Bad? within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; This is a topic of some importance. Readers of the Forum should give due consideration to the manner in which they load their defensive weapons. ...

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Thread: Mixing Loads In One's Handgun: Good or Bad?

  1. #1
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    Mixing Loads In One's Handgun: Good or Bad?

    This is a topic of some importance. Readers of the Forum should give due consideration to the manner in which they load their defensive weapons. This practice of mixing ammunition is quite common with both the handgun and the shotgun.

    My view of this practice is that it is of dubious value. I've encountered the practice many times, both on forums and with gun owners I have known.

    Choosing to load one's weapon with a smörgåsbord of ammunition types seems to indicate that one is insecure with one's ability to effectively use the weapon when called for in an emergency situation and that one is indecisive about one's ammunition choice. I've not heard nor seen any convincing reason to mix up ammunition in a repeating weapon for a civilian user. The military has done it for many years, using tracers, ammor piercing, incendiaries, etc. I can't see a valid application for home defense or concealed carry purposes.

    I can see some REAL problems with this method of loading weapons. Does one really need the additional concern of keeping up with which type of ammunition is "up next" when stressed with the realization that one is involved in a defensive shooting situation? Will the actual application of lethal force really depend on the exact sequential delivery of the chosen loads? Will the sequence in which the ammunition is loaded properly address each and every defensive situation that one could face? A concern of the semi-auto pistol might be that its user could have an elevated risk of malfunction with different loads in the same magazine.

    I've been acquainted with a number of law enforcement officers who were knowledgeable gun cranks as well and aware of the myriad types of high performance ammunition available. Though their duties include drug busts and forcible entry into lawbreakers' lairs, to a man they don't choose to load their weapons with more than a single type of ammunition. None of them carry the more esoteric premium Glaser, Hydrashock, etc. either.

    When someone begins to regale me with the reasons they alternate loads in their revolver's cylinder or semi-auto's magazine between "Atomic Annie's All-Annihilating ACP Ammo" and "Mighty Mo's Mutilitating Missiles of Megadeath" I mentally fade out.

    I would suggest that one test several likely looking ammunition candidates for function, first and foremost. Then perform whatever expansion or penetration tests one may desire. Make a decision and go with it. Expend enough time to acquire skill to accurately place shots on target and practice to retain that skill. Shot-placement is far more important than what kind of antics the bullet may or may not perform. I take a dim view of expanding handgun bullets but that is because I haven't tested any since the mid 1980's, and the ones I tried before that time didn't expand reliably in my non-tests. My bad. I should avail myself of some of the newer technology now available in expanding handgun bullet designs. I like healthy loads with sharp shouldered SWC's in revolvers or good ol' 230 grain round nose in the .45 ACP. I've spent the past 10 years stoking my defensive handguns with factory ammunition because of the litigation bugaboo addressed in my first concealed carry class in 1995. I'm about to return to assembling my own handloaded defensive ammunition because I can do a better job than can the ammo plants. I've never spent $15.00 on some blister pack of six rounds of whiz-bang specialty ammo and won't be.

    A really dangerous practice in my view is loading a few "snakeshot" loads in one's home defense weapon. Most folks who do this claim that they will only wound the assailant with the first shot(s) and have the "good stuff" in reserve. Some seem to think that they can be more certain of hitting an assailant with the pattern that is thrown. These folks are relying on the shot load to break off an attack with less chance of greatly harming the assailant. This represents a charitable view towards the assailant but is risky. These loads are paltry when compared to a shotgun, with thin, patchy patterns of very small shot. Keep a handgun loaded with them for snakes in the flowerbed if you must but load the household defense handgun with something more substantial.

    I gained a measure of confidence in my ability to effectively operate a handgun under stress when I began competing in shooting events that included a required reload and featured rapid-fire and timed fire. In my case high-power rifle shooting was of great help but regular participation in bullseye pistol competition would be beneficial as would the action pistol events. Early in my high-power career I got flustered over mandatory reloads in a rapid-fire stage. I even got flustered while preparing during the three-minute prep time before the stages. Once confidence was established that I could preform under stress it transferred to a feeling of overall ability to use weapons. Military training would certainly be helpful and many of the best and coolest shots I know have a military background. We all need to acquire and maintain confidence in our ability to effectively use a weapon when it is vital that we do so. Shooting sports competition is the best way that I can recommend to gain that confidence.

    I hope I'm never faced with the decision to pull the trigger on another human being. The incident that causes me to do so will be grave in the extreme.

    These are only my views on this topic. What are your views on this topic? Especially welcome any dissenting views.
    Last edited by bmcgilvray; September 1st, 2007 at 10:19 PM.

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    I often carry 2-.38 shot rnds and 4 ball when afield and your right it does get mixed up sometimes; but, with a snake a near miss usually
    is useless. In other applications I use all the same, non shot rnds.

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    Member Array Brian D.'s Avatar
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    In general I'd agree that carrying a mixed load isn't very useful. And there's a further caveat worth adding:

    Semiautos that use a rimmed round such as .32acp or .38 super should not be carried for serious use with ammo of varying lengths in the magazine. What can result is called "rimlock", let me elaborate.

    If a round of shorter OAL is beneath a longer one in the magazine--let's say a hollowpoint atop a ball round--the hollowpoint can go forward (typically caused by recoil) enough to catch the rim of the longer round above it. Then, that upper round may get stuck and not feed. This is often a tough malfunction to clear, in fact a complete stoppage sometimes results.

    I've done this on purpose with a few .32acp autoloaders, such as the Beretta Tomcat and KelTec P-32. Haven't witnessed it with a .38 super but I'm betting it's quite possible, particularly with a double-stack magazine.

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    Consistency - consistency - and more consistency! Why introduce variables.

    Same exact ammo - thru and thru - and hopefully stuff with a good rep' and which the gun eats well. That's it
    Chris - P95
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    I only mix loads testing a new handgun to see if I can induce some sort of feeding failure. Other than that I stay with an specific round.
    You have to make the shot when fire is smoking, people are screaming, dogs are barking, kids are crying and sirens are coming.
    Randy Cain.

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    anyone ever thought of using ( http://ammunitiontogo.com/catalog/in...?cPath=199_200 )this stuff for a first round. As a deterant to deadly force or so that u could say I shot first with a non-lethal round?

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    If your life is worth such a silly argument, then go for it. Be my guest.

    I'm going to load my gun with effective ammo, all of it the same. My intention is not to pummel the intruder in my home with rubber bullets, but to make him stop being a threat to me and mine. If that means showing him the gun and making him run away, I am very, very happy with that. If it means dissolving his body in some sort of laser death ray, I am equally happy. The end result is the same.
    I'll take a .45 and a large side of JHPs, please.

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    Good post.

    I pretty much agree with you that it's bad to mix ammo. If you are going to do it, you should do it with the same bullet weights though. So, POI doesn't change.

    I don't think carrying an extra mag of something else would be harmful though. Like hardball in your 3rd mag or something. Odds are you would never have to use it anyway, but if you did, something different might be in order.
    ...He suggested that "every American citizen" should own a rifle and train with it on firing ranges "at every courthouse." -Chesty Puller

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    Quote Originally Posted by Irontoad View Post
    anyone ever thought of using ( http://ammunitiontogo.com/catalog/in...?cPath=199_200 )this stuff for a first round. As a deterant to deadly force or so that u could say I shot first with a non-lethal round?
    Considerded then thought, naw.

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    The rubber rounds are a bad idea for a first or even second shot option as a means of less lethal. If you read to the end of the marketing text concerning these rounds, they have a warning stating that they are not capable of cycling semi-auto pistols. Here it is in their own words:

    "This ammo will not cycle semi-auto weapons."

    Not a good idea for combat scenarios. Having to manually clear and chamber each round is not the way to win a gun fight.

    So if you wanted you could use it in a revolver but then you are limiting yourself to even fewer lethal rounds. This round seems pointless to me and even dangerous if used ignorantly in a semi-auto.

    I haven't had the training yet, but it seems to me that from what I have read, that if you decided you must draw your weapon it should no longer be a question of whether lethal force must be applied.

    Am I incorrect in this statement? If so, please by all means educate me.

    We talk about maintaining simplicity of the weapon so why introduce new varibles with multiple types of rounds? My vote says one type of round.
    HK USP .45
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    I believe there's truth in the idea that a gun gets to "liking" a steady diet of a given load. Once a gun is loose enough to handle any loads it's given, then there is much less to worry about. Indeed, a variety of loads to speed the break-in process might actually accelerate the break-in. Until that time, though, certain guns most definitely do behave better with certain loads. Most everyone has experienced this. From the perspective of reliability, alone, it simply isn't worth the risk of failure at the crucial moment, at least in a concealed-carry weapon.
    Your best weapon is your brain. Don't leave home without it.
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    The only time I've heard of mixing ammo was from Ron Hood's DVD on urban survival when he was talking about bug out bags and got down to the bottom where the firearms were. He pulled out his wife's revolver and said the first chamber was loaded with snake shot. He said that although it most likily wouldn't bring anyone down, a load of that in a BG's face "will definitely change a BG's day".

    I think there is some use in mixing loads, I've done it in shotguns. But for most defensive carry uses I think it's probably better to keep it all the same. Your firearm is a tool, nothing more. If your chosen load of self defense ammo fails to produce results, then it's either time to change tactics or run away if you can. In my mind, pick something you're confident with, stick with it, and hope you never have to use it.
    Eat a moose... 50,000 wolves can't be wrong.

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    I've been acquainted with a number of law enforcement officers who were knowledgeable gun cranks as well and aware of the myriad types of high performance ammunition available. Though their duties include drug busts and forcible entry into lawbreakers' lairs, to a man they don't choose to load their weapons with more than a single type of ammunition. None of them carry the more esoteric premium Glaser, Hydrashock, etc. either.
    I've given my opinion on this on several other threads, but I wanted to mention one thing: Hydra-shok rounds are not "esoteric" or otherwise particularly unusual - they are basically just JHPs. Also, they are used by many law enforcement agencies, including my own. Not that we all didn't know that already... :)
    A man fires a rifle for many years, and he goes to war. And afterward he turns the rifle in at the armory, and he believes he's finished with the rifle. But no matter what else he might do with his hands - love a woman, build a house, change his son's diaper - his hands remember the rifle.

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    Senior Member Array Joshua M. Smith's Avatar
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    In a shotgun, yes. I keep mine downloaded by one (seven round mag downloaded to six) so that I can load with an additional 00 buck or a slug, my choice.

    The reason for this is simple: We have coyotes and wild dogs here. They're out of control and they get shot. At 50 yards 00 buck is kinda' inhumane, and though my sidearm will do the trick more times than not at that range, I really prefer a longarm. That means, for me, a shotgun with slugs.

    I am looking into a 9mm carbine, but until that time...

    Josh <><

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