The first requirement for any ammunition carried for self-defense is that it must be reliable.  Only after you have determined to your complete satisfaction that the ammunition is reliable enough to bet your life on can any other item be considered. An article by Patrick Sweeny in a 2007 issue of Guns & Ammo demonstrates how far a serious self-defense shooter will go when approaching the topic. Mr. Sweeny recounts the testing protocol of a former Detroit policeman and gun fight survivor. His procedure included:

1st – Slide the cardboard off the tray and visually inspect each primer

2nd – Run a fingertip over each row to physically check each primer

3rd – Roll each round over a flat surface to check for uniformity 

4th – Visually inspect each round for imperfections   

5th – Drop each round in a chamber, close and rotate the cylinder

6th – Weigh each round (A job made easy with a digital scale) Author Sweeney offers a suggestion for optimizing the use of the digital scale. He suggests putting five rounds on the scale, then weigh and divide by five to get an average. Then identify that round that weighs closest to the average and use it to zero out the scale. It is then a simple matter to check each round on the scale and removing any round that weighs five-to-ten grains above or below the zero.

Each round that passed every test was designated as a duty round. Any round that failed any test was consigned to the training ammo pile.

The above testing protocol checks for every thing except the flash hole, but according to the author that was why the officer used a revolver.

Now the casual shooter and even some self-defense shooters might view the above tests as extreme but if you were planning for a shooting match and knew that a single malfunction would cost you to both your home and life savings you might attend to the ammunition with just as much care.  Isn’t it just as reasonable to demand as much care with the ammunition on which you risk your life?

Only after you have established the reliably of the ammunition can you then start looking for ammunition that possesses a second level of desirable features.