Liberty Ammunition Review: Civil Defense Line

Stopping power has been the subject of heated debate for a very long time. It is easy for me to imagine some of the first musketeers arguing over the proper powder charge to get the best effect on the field of battle.

Liberty Ammunition is selling a line of ammo called Civil Defense. The ammo takes a non-traditional approach to build a better bullet and offers loads in the most popular handgun calibers.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on several hundred rounds of the stuff in various calibers to test. Hopefully, this Liberty Ammunition review will give you a better understanding of what this line of ammo is, and if it makes sense for you.

Who Is Liberty Ammunition?

Based in Sarasota, Florida, Liberty Ammunition is the brainchild of PJ Marx. Marx has an extensive engineering and entrepreneurial background. For those with an interest in guitars, you may recognize Marx from his work in the music industry, both as a musician and a designer of world-class pickups.

Liberty Ammunition factory

After September 11, 2001, Marx decided to devote his engineering talents to help protect US combat troops who were called to war. As a result, Marx began work on ceramic armor designs and specialized military ammunition. Later, Marx founded Liberty Ammunition with the intent of developing small arms ammo that would most effectively stop an attacker.

What Is Civil Defense?

Civil Defense is the company’s line of civilian ammunition. Put simply, it is designed to cause rapid incapacitation of a violent attacker by causing massive hemorrhaging while still providing enough penetration to crush bone and reach vital organs.

These loads use a bullet that is lighter-than-typical for the caliber, plus a few other tricks, to achieve very high velocities from standard handguns. Unlike some of the hyper-velocity loads that have been offered in the past from companies like Magsafe and Glaser (Corbon,) the Liberty bullets use a comparatively normal hollow point design.

Deep Hollowpoint Photo

The Civil Defense bullet is a monolithic copper design with a very deep hollowpoint. The huge hollow area allows the load to maintain the correct overall length for the caliber while keeping the bullet much lighter than one would ordinarily expect.

Looking at the rounds, the silver color of the bullet jumps out at you. The color comes from the nickel jacket that is used in bullet construction. Copper is a relatively (for metal) sticky material. Even so, copper is used to jacket lead bullets because (1) lead is even softer and stickier than copper, and (2) copper is still soft enough to make it easy to work with.

Nickel, on the other hand, is well respected for its lubricity. By jacketing the copper bullets in nickel, friction in the barrel is reduced. This allows the bullet to travel faster on the same powder charge. It also has the side benefit of eliminating copper fouling of the bore.

Using a non-copper bullet jacket is not a new idea. A variety of alloys (mostly aluminum-based if I recall correctly) have been used by Winchester Ammunition to jacket their Silvertip line of hollowpoints. Federal Premium uses polymer as a jacket for their Nyclad bullets.

Liberty Ammunition currently offers six handgun loads in the Civil Defense line. The loads are

  • 380 ACP – 50 gr JHP @ 1,500 fps
  • 38 Special – 50 gr JHP @ 1,500 fps
  • 9mm – 50 gr JHP @ 2,000 fps
  • 357 Magnum – 50 gr JHP @ 2,100 fps
  • 40 S&W – 60 gr JHP @ 2,000 fps
  • 45 ACP – 78 gr JHP @ 1,900 fps

There are rumors of additional loads coming out in the near future, but unfortunately not anything I can confirm or deny. I have to wait until the 2015 SHOT Show like everyone else.

Got Me Under Pressure

References to ZZ Top aside, many people are understandably concerned about the pressures produced by high-velocity cartridges. All of Liberty Ammunition’s loads are within SAAMI specs for pressure and dimensions. In fact, Liberty Ammunition is a SAAMI member company, which is something that a number of other popular ammo companies cannot claim. [Ed. note: Liberty was a SAAMI member, but it is no longer listed as member.]

Pricing

Self-defense ammunition is rarely inexpensive, and the Civil Defense loads are no different. Today’s defensive ammo is vastly superior to what was available several decades ago. However, the improvements require a great deal of engineering and development. This costs money – a lot of money.

Liberty Ammunition costs are in line with other top shelf ammo. The MSRP is $26.49 – $34.99 depending on the caliber. Actual prices in the store are likely to be cheaper.

Shooting Meat, Jello and Cars

Back in June, I got my first real exposure to the Civil Defense ammo at the Make Big Noise event in Shackleford, VA. Russ Datson, the company’s Director of Sales, was on hand with a bunch of the 9mm ammo to shoot. Everyone had a chance to put some rounds through a variety of pistols, plus some of the G4S International Training staff shot the ammo into gelatin, meat and cars.

The gelatin tests were pretty standard fare. Rounds were fired into gel blocks, both bare and denim covered. One attendee even had a towel on hand, so the ammo was shot through eight layers of terrycloth at his request. All of the rounds expanded and created rather large “wounds” in the gel. After about four inches of penetration, the core of the bullet continued straight, penetrating to about 12″.

The petals from the hollowpoint would peel back and then separate around the 3-4″ depth range. According to Datson, the bullets are designed to do this to maximize stopping power.

BBQ Pork – Hold the Lead

Datson also had a few pork roasts on hand. The G4S staff happily shot a roast with the Liberty ammo and then shot a second roast with a Hornady XTP 147-grain round. The difference in damage to the meat was quite dramatic. The Civil Defense ammo caused massive damage through the meat, while the XTP punched through the meat with a comparatively small wound track.

In fairness, I would never recommend anyone carry the Hornady XTP load as a self-defense round, but some people do. So, maybe the comparison is fairer than I give it credit for.

It Was No ’64 Skylark with Positraction

G4S staff pushed an 80’s era Buick onto the range, and we moved the testing to it. First up was the car door. Two rounds were shot through the passenger side, rear door from the outside of the car. One round was the Liberty Civil Defense while the second was the aforementioned Hornady XTP.

64 Buick Skylark with positraction

The Liberty round penetrated the steel door, inner door panel and then the door panel on the opposite side of the car. The XTP round penetrated the exterior steel but was stopped in the inner door panel. Granted, there are a lot of variables that can account for a lack of penetration by the XTP round. Considered on its own merits, the Civil Defense round certainly had enough juice to get to the passenger compartment.

For those that are curious, those 80’s Buicks were heavier than I remembered. I grew up riding around in a 1970 Plymouth Fury III, so an 80’s era car seemed pretty lightweight at the time. But compared to the downright anorexic cars of today, that 80-something sedan was a very solid beast.

Windshield glass is notoriously tough stuff for bullets to punch through. Frequently, a bullet will deviate from a straight path when hitting the glass.

The designated shooter from G4S fired rounds from inside the passenger compartment through the windshield. The rounds struck a target in front of the car at the point of aim without any obvious deviation from a straight path. Unfortunately, we did not have any additional gelatin on hand to see how well the bullet would have performed after encountering the laminated glass.

Rounds were also fired from in front of the car into the passenger compartment through a different section of the windshield. These rounds showed a very slight rise in the bullet’s path. Typically, a significant drop is seen with traditional ammunition. Again, we did not have any gelatin to measure the performance of the round once it had passed through the glass.

At the Range

Since June, I have shot the Liberty Ammunition through several guns as part of the testing of the pistols. For example, I shot a bunch of the 9mm Civil Defense ammo through the new HK VP9. Recently, however, I loaded a huge bag with many boxes of the ammo and headed out to a local range.

When I started to unload my bag onto the bench, one of the range officers came over. He silently watched me pull box after box of ammo out. Then he watched as I set more than a dozen handguns on the bench. He was understandably curious about why I was shooting so much ammo, and why I was using so many guns to do it.

Civil Defense ammo in Glock 19

I told him about the ammo, and about my intentions to give it a test in all of the guns for both functioning and velocities. He was intrigued and spent much of the afternoon helping pick up brass, adjusting my chrono placement and generally helping out. (Thanks Paul!)

Recoil

With ammunition that is rated at such a high speed, it is perfectly understandable to be cautious about the recoil it might generate. However, the felt recoil was no worse than that of other self-defense ammunition. The notable exceptions were the 40 S&W and 45 ACP loads that had less felt recoil than “normal” defensive rounds.

380 ACP Performance

Barrel LengthVelocityEnergy
Bersa BP380CC3.3″1,400 fps218 ft-lbs
Glock 423.3″1,368 fps205 ft-lbs
KelTec P3AT2.7″1,294 fps186 ft-lbs
Rock Island Armory Baby Rock3.8″1,388 fps214 ft-lbs
Ruger LCP2.8″1,310 fps191 ft-lbs
Ruger LCP II2.8″1,353 fps203 ft-lbs
SCCY CPX-33.0″1,379 fps211 ft-lbs
SIG SAUER P238 Spartan2.7″1,373 fps209 ft-lbs
Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 3802.8″1,337 fps198 ft-lbs
Smith & Wesson M&P380 EZ Performance Center3.8″1,514 fps255 ft-lbs
Taurus Spectrum2.8″1,341 fps200 ft-lbs
Performance measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at an approximate distance of 15′ from the muzzle of the pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots.

The Civil Defense 380 ACP load was the weakest of the bunch that I tested. That said, these rounds still were zipping along at more than 1300 fps from both the Glock 42 and Bodyguard 380.  I shot quite a bit of this ammo through the G42 and it ran 100%. It was an accurate combo, and at any range from about 15 yards in I would have no issue hitting what I needed to under stress.

Liberty Ammunition Review BG380

With the Bodyguard 380, the ammo was just as accurate as it was with the Glock. However, I did have two malfunctions. Both problems were failures to fire. Inspecting the cartridges, it looked like both primers were struck, but not very hard. Compared to the Glock, the BG 380 seemed to be striking the primers with a lot less force.

Although I am unable to prove it, it is my belief that the problem was gun-related, not ammo-related.

9mm Performance

Barrel LengthVelocityEnergy
Bersa BP9CC3.3″1,952 fps423 ft-lbs
Black Creek Precision AR Pistol10.5″2,473 fps679 ft-lbs
Custom AR Pistol Build7.5″2,386 fps632 ft-lbs
CZ P-07 Duty3.8″2,015 fps451 ft-lbs
Dark Storm Industries DS-916.0″2,563 fps729 ft-lbs
Diamondback AM23.5″1,922 fps556 ft-lbs
Glock 17 Gen44.5″2,087 fps483 ft-lbs
Glock 17 Gen4 in CAA RONI carbine kit16.0″2,509 fps699 ft-lbs
Glock 19 Gen24.0″2,069 fps475 ft-lbs
Glock 19 Gen44.0″2,025 fps455 ft-lbs
Glock 263.4″1,935 fps416 ft-lbs
Glock 433.4″2,028 fps457 ft-lbs
HK VP94.1″2,057 fps470 ft-lbs
Kahr CM93.1″1,857 fps383 ft-lbs
Just Right Carbines Takedown17.0″2,509 fps699 ft-lbs
Kalashnikov USA KP-99.3″2,415 fps648 ft-lbs
Kalashnikov USA KR-916.3″2,549 fps721 ft-lbs
Kel-Tec Sub2000 Gen 216.3″2,510 fps700 ft-lbs
Ruger American Compact3.6″1,950 fps422 ft-lbs
Ruger PC Carbine16.1″2,500 fps694 ft-lbs
SCCY CPX-23.1″1,825 fps370 ft-lbs
SIG SAUER MPX16.3″2,390 fps634 ft-lbs
SIG SAUER Ultra Compact 19113.3″1,924 fps411 ft-lbs
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield3.1″1,899 fps400 ft-lbs
Springfield Armory Hellcat3.0″1,863 fps385 ft-lbs
Springfield Armory XD Service Model4.0″2,042 fps463 ft-lbs
Springfield Armory XD Subcompact3.0″1,915 fps407 ft-lbs
Springfield Armory XD-E3.8″2,064 fps473 ft-lbs
Springfield Armory XD-S 4.04.0″2,001 fps444 ft-lbs
Steyr S9-A14.5″1,948 fps421 ft-lbs
Taurus 905 (revolver)2.0″1,927 fps412 ft-lbs
Walther Creed4.0″1,997 fps443 ft-lbs
Walther PPS3.2″1,934 fps415 ft-lbs
Walther PPS M23.2″1,805 fps362 ft-lbs
Wilson Combat WCP320 Carry3.9″2,017 fps452 ft-lbs
Performance measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at an approximate distance of 15′ from the muzzle of the pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots. All measurements are an average of five shots. 

In 9mm, the Liberty is a screaming fast round. Out of the Glock 17, I saw an average of nearly 2,090 fps. Several individual rounds broke 2,100 fps. That seemed incredible for SAAMI-spec ammo from a duty-sized pistol.

The round was smoking-hot out of the Black Creek Precision pistol. This gun is an AR-style pistol chambered in 9mm, and with a 10.5″ barrel the ammo averaged an amazing 2,473 fps. That is actually faster than 55 grain .223 ammo from Hornady and Corbon that I’ve measured out of other companies’ AR-pistols. This could be a perfect pairing for home defense.

Velocity dropped off as the barrel lengths decreased. However, even the Smith & Wesson Shield with a 3.1″ barrel managed a hair under 1,900 fps. Oddly, from the even shorter barreled (2″) Taurus 905 revolver, the 9mm load streaked over the chronograph at an average of 1,927 fps.

Civil Defense 9mm ammo in revolver

The 9mm ran perfect through all of my guns. One of the range officers had a SIG SAUER P938 that he offered to let me shoot. As it turns out, I experienced a failure to fire on the second round. Like the primers from the Bodyguard malfunctions, this primer was dented, but it was simply not as deep as the dents in the primers when shot from the other pistols.

On the fourth round with the SIG, I experienced a double-feed. After clearing the malfunction, I observed the rim of the fired case had a mark on it, presumably from the P938’s extractor. I shot the gun a few more times without any problems. I should again note that:

  • the gun was not mine, so I have no idea if it had any existing problems, and
  • all of the other 9mm pistols ran the ammo with 100% reliability.

I ran more than enough rounds through the SIG to get velocity recordings, but I failed to capture the information from the chronograph for this one. Doh.

40 S&W Performance

Barrel LengthVelocityEnergy
Bersa BP40CC3.3″1,875 fps468 ft-lbs
Glock 22 Gen34.5″1,989 fps527 ft-lbs
Glock 27 Gen 33.4″1,851 fps456 ft-lbs
Rock River LAR-4016.0″2,543 fps862 ft-lbs
SIG SAUER P2264.4″1,919 fps491 ft-lbs
Smith & Wesson Model 6104.0″2,078 fps575 ft-lbs
Smith & Wesson SD404.0″1,930 fps496 ft-lbs
Performance measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at an approximate distance of 15′ from the muzzle of the pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots.

I had three guns I tested the .40-caliber Liberty Ammunition in: a Glock 22, SIG P226 and a S&W SD40. All three guns ran the ammo with complete reliability. The advertised performance of the ammunition is 2,000 fps. Unlike the 9mm, I failed to meet or exceed that number in five-shot averages with these guns.

The G22 came the closest with an average of 1,989 fps. Two rounds did clock higher than 2,000 fps, but the five-shot average was less. The SIG and S&W pistols were closer to 1,900 than 2,000.

Liberty Ammo review

But, before anyone declares the load an underperformer, consider that even the slowest velocities I measured were making nearly 500 ft-lbs of energy. Considering the felt recoil on this load was less than that of other rounds in this caliber, I found that to be pretty impressive.

10mm Auto Performance

Barrel LengthVelocityEnergy
Smith & Wesson Model 6104.0″2,426 fps784 ft-lbs
Performance measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at an approximate distance of 15′ from the muzzle of the pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots.

Unfortunately, I do not have many 10mm firearms. However, with the upswing in guns being chambered for the round, I expect this will change.

So far, I have tested the ammunition in a Smith & Wesson Model 610 with a 4″ barrel. This is an N-frame revolver that fires both 10mm Auto and .40 S&W rounds using moon clips. I tested 2019 manufactured ammunition in the gun – both 10mm and .40.

While the .40 S&W load was impressive, the Liberty Ammunition 10mm round was incredible. It averaged 2,426 fps on six shots – nearly 350 fps faster than the .40 S&W with the exact same bullet.

The 10mm and .40 S&W rounds tested in the Model 610 were manufactured in 2019 and showed tight spreads in velocities. For example, the 10mm produced a standard deviation of only 7 fps. Not too shabby for mass production ammunition.

45 ACP Performance

Barrel LengthVelocityEnergy
Colt 1911 (circa 1972)5.0″1,918 fps637 ft-lbs
Glock 21 Gen34.6″1,916 fps635 ft-lbs
Kimber 1911 Classic Custom5.0″1,932 fps646 ft-lbs
STI Escort 19113.2″1,725 fps515 ft-lbs
Wilson Combat X-Tac Supergrade Pro5.0″1,844 fps589 ft-lbs
Performance measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at an approximate distance of 15′ from the muzzle of the pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots.

The stated velocity for the 45 ACP load is 1,900 fps. Actual performance was zippier from both a Glock 21 and a Kimber 1911 (5″ barrel.) Out of the 1911, this load approached 650 ft-lbs of energy. For a self-defense handgun, that is incredible. A traditional load will not approach that level of energy.

Final Thoughts

At this point, I’ve put hundreds of rounds of Civil Defense ammunition down range. Outside of the Liberty Ammunition company, I am probably one of only a handful of people who can honestly say that. What’s my verdict?

I like the ammo, and I would consider carrying it in my own firearms for protection. However, I do hesitate to be an early adopter of any new product that I would rely on to save my life.

Ammo and guns are not like the latest tablet or iPhone. If a tablet or other entertainment device fails, it can be annoying. Should a piece of life-saving gear fail, the consequences are grave indeed. I like being an early adopter for consumer tech, but not for life-saving tools.

Civil Defense Ammunition Review P226

The malfunctions with the ammo in the Bodyguard and P938 are concerning, but not deal killers for me. The ammo ran flawlessly in all of the guns I have carried or would carry for self-defense.

The range officer’s SIG pistol that experienced problems is an unknown to me, so I have no way of judging what the cause of the malfunctions truly was. The Bodyguard 380 was a bit concerning as it has been an otherwise flawless performer. However, other people have reported problems with these guns. Read through the comments here to see some of the reported problems with the Bodyguard 380.

I am intrigued by the Civil Defense line of ammo from Liberty Ammunition. I think it is quality ammo that is priced in line with other self-defense loads. While I think it is more than merely a gimmick, I know that its street performance will ultimately prove if this is true or not.

However, until there is some body of evidence to show the rounds work in self-defense and law enforcement settings, I will continue to carry and recommend Federal HST and Speer Gold Dot rounds.

Disclosure

Unfortunately, there are a variety of information outlets online and in print that will run favorable reviews of products in exchange for money or other consideration. GunsHolstersAndGear.com is not one of them.

The ammunition used in this ammo review was provided to me by Liberty Ammunition and by Randall of Thin Blue Florida. I agreed to test the ammunition and publish my review here. I made no promises to provide anything other than my honest opinion on the ammo, which I have done.

At the time of this writing, Liberty Ammunition is not an advertiser, nor am I in talks with them to become one. Randall’s a friend, and I would never charge him for advertising anyway.

GunsHolstersAndGear.com is a for-profit website. I do not charge readers a dime to access the information I provide.

Some of the links on this page and site are affiliate links to companies like Amazon and Palmetto State Armory. These links take you to the products mentioned in the article. Should you decide to purchase something from one of those companies, I make a small commission.

The links do not change your purchase price. I do not get to see what any individual purchases.

Last update: July 10, 2021

22 replies on “Liberty Ammunition Review: Civil Defense Line”

Great review. The only thing I found missing were data from say a Glock 27 and a Sig P224, i.e. short-barreled, larger caliber concealed carry guns. I see that you included a Glock 26, which is great, but for me it is still a minimum caliber. With loads this light it makes larger, heavier guns more comfortable to carry and, as you note, more comfortable to shoot with noticeably lower recoil as well. That makes the .40 cal. and .45 cal. guns more appealing and a higher likelihood of being carried for some people. Still, a very helpful review, and greatly appreciated.

Hi Bevan,

Thanks for the feedback. You make a great point about the ammo in larger caliber handguns. Unfortunately, I don’t have any short barrel pistols in these two calibers right now. However, as I get different guns for testing, I will run the ammo through them and update the information on this page.

Richard

I just bought some of the .380. It will go in a Bodyguard. It just seems that a bullet this light will generate much less energy for cycling the action. It mostly goes out the front because there is not much weight for it to push against. That may be what happened with the cycling issues. These little pistols have heavier springs since there is much less distance for the slide to travel.

HI Gary,

All of the Liberty ammo is SAAMI spec, so it should work just fine. I always suggest running a box or two through the gun before carrying it just to make sure, but that is with any ammo you might consider.

Best,

Richard

Was the Bodyguard 380 the new M&P version like the picture, or the previous version connected to the link you provided? I’m considering the purchase of and M&P Bodyguard and, since I already use Liberty’s 9mm ammo, was thinking of using their 380ACP. Just doing do diligence before deciding on both. Thanks!

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