Hornady Critical Defense Ammunition: “Purpose Built for Concealed Carry Guns”

Hornady Critical Defense 357 Magnum Review

Hornady Manufacturing recently announced a new line of personal protection ammunition: Critical Defense.  The Critical Defense line of ammo is specially designed for small, compact firearms frequently carried concealed for self-defense.

The Critical Defense ammunition features a hollow point bullet the same style of “Flex Tip” polymer tip that Hornady uses in the LEVERevolution line of ammunition.  The tip prevents the hollowpoint from being plugged with clothing and helps ensure expansion.  Because of the Flex Tip technology, Hornady claims to achieve “100% reliable expansion every single time.”  Subsequent gel testing by independent parties seems to support this claim.

The new Hornady ammo is not designed to meet the FBI test protocols used by some law enforcement agencies when choosing ammunition.  Rather, Critical Defense ammunition is designed to operate in small, concealed carry guns against clothed attackers–not through steel and glass as required by the FBI testing.  For ammo that meets FBI protocols, scroll down this page for information on the company’s new Critical Duty line of ammo.

Critical Defense ammunition is being introduced in 9mm, .380 ACP, standard pressure .38 Special, and .38 Special +P.  Ammunition is starting to ship and should be on the shelves by the end of the month.

The Hornady ads and literature feature the Ruger LCP, so I don’t know if this was the purpose-built ammunition for the LCP that Michael Bane refered to in his podcast.

November 2009 Update

Hornady added a 00-buck 12 gauge round to its line of popular Critical Defense ammunition.

This 12 gauge round is a 2 3/4″ shell with eight .33 caliber pellets.  Hornaday is using the Versatite wad for “ultra-tight” patterns from standard production shotguns.

Hornady promises proper functioning in both pump and semi-auto shotguns.

November 2011 Update

Critical Duty

Hornady is rolling out a new line of ammunition designed for police work.  The Critical Duty line of ammunition is a new series using the company’s Flex Tip technology found in the Critical Defense line of ammo.  The Flex Tip combined with a integral bullet band called the InterLock make a new bullet design called the FlexLock bullet.

The Critical Duty line will initially ship two 9mm loads and a .40 S&W load.  I put together a more in-depth look at the Hornady Critical Duty line of ammo at

Expect to see more on this line of ammo at the 2012 SHOT Show.

November 2012 Update

Hornady .30 Carbine ammoShooters of a great old cartridge, the .30 carbine, are getting another choice in ammo with the introduction on the Hornady Critical Defense load.

The .30 carbine has been considered by many to be a step up from the power of a pistol, but that it is nowhere near the effectiveness of a true rifle cartridge for self defense.  A good ammo load can help overcome any perceived deficiencies in this cartridge.

Like the others in the Critical Defense line, the .30 carbine uses a polymer-tipped FTX bullet to help assure expansion without jamming the hollowpoint with foreign debris.  This load uses a 110 grain bullet that leaves an 18″ barrel at 2000 fps.  Generated energy is slightly under 1000 ft-lbs, measuring 977 ft-lbs.

The bullet penetrates about 15″ of gelatin and makes “extremely large wound cavities,” said Dave Emary a senior ballistician for Hornady.

I’ve always liked the idea of a M1 Carbine as a self-defense and home defense gun.  With the new Critical Defense ammo in .30 carbine, I like the idea even more.

Hornady .30 Carbine ammo


Critical Defense Lite 9mm

Hornady announced at the 2014 NASGW show they would be shipping a new lighter-recoiling 9mm load in the Critical Defense line. Although perfectly useable by men with difficulties in handling recoil due to arthritis and other infirmities, the company decided to go pink with the packaging as if to indicate only women need light-recoiling loads.

I wish the company would merely introduce the load as a normal round and not try to cater it to a specific gender. Last I saw, there weren’t a lot of women running Hornady, which may have something to do with the marketing decisions.

The load uses a 100 gr FTX round with a pink tip running at 1125 fps from a 4″ test barrel. I’d expect that to be around 1,000 fps out of a 2″-3″ pistol.

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

22 replies on “Hornady Critical Defense Ammunition: “Purpose Built for Concealed Carry Guns””

Love, love, love this ammo ! It’s hot, hard hitting, consistent, penetrative, expands well, and it looks cool. I use it in 40 S&W, 357 Mag, and 45 ACP {when I could get it in 45} Hornady makes quality stuff. The copper used in their bullets is a purer copper than most other brands, that’s why they have a darker color.
The cases are hard and smooth feeding. i never get dents in Hornady cases at all. They hardly even scratch, other brands especially Federal’s nickel dent pretty easy. Especially their HST line for some reason. Hornady is the best quality out there.

I have used the 125 gr XTP standard pressure .38’s with from Hornady with good results. I will try the FTX. Sounds like a round worth testing in my 2″ j-frame.

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