Tips for Reloading Man-Stopper Bullets for Self-Defense

9 mm HP bullets 110 gr made by CMA bullets
9 mm HP bullets 110 gr made by CMA bullets

U.S.A.-( Ever since handguns were invented, one of the goals of the makers is to make more efficient guns and ammo. There are some objectives such as more accuracy, power, and range. Another objective is more firepower. These are things that have and are still being worked on today.

Another important objective is stopping power. Many folks today buy handguns for home and self-defense. With that thought in mind a number of companies are designing ammo strictly to defend one’s life or those that we care about. I have tested various brands and they really have some novel solutions. Keep in mind that nothing is 100% effective but some come pretty close.

When you are faced with a life and death situation, you want a gun and ammo to work. The objective is to instantly stop an aggressor from harming you or someone you care for. Some other important objectives are 100% reliability. If your weapon isn’t reliable then you have a paperweight. You have to be able to trust it to perform as there are no timeouts.

It has to have enough power to achieve the objective of saving your life. For a house gun, it can be larger and more powerful than a carry piece because you don’t have to carry it. Many people carry a gun that is comfortable to carry but that is the wrong reason to choose a certain type of gun. In any situation, you should have the most powerful gun you can handle. That differs from person to person. A couple of generations ago a home burglar seldom carried any firearm. They thought if they got caught stealing sentences were relatively light. On the other hand, if they killed a homeowner they were swiftly punished frequently they sat in the electric chair. Those were the days when criminals were punished and not coddled. These days burglars are more vicious and are likely to be carrying a weapon.

For home defense shotguns are very good options. With the amount and weight of the shot or slug, a decent hit usually settles the matter. The downside is the size and recoil of some of them, especially a 12 gauge. They are starting to come out with more compact models. Another good option is to use reduced loads. There are some 2” loads in both shot and slug loads. They cut down the recoil but are still effective. A 7/8 OZ slug will do the job while reducing recoil. In addition, a pump gun can hold extra rounds and if they feed that would be a plus.

1 OZ 12 ga slugs work fine even at lower velocities. That along with weight can cut down on recoil
A 7/8 OZ 12 ga slug will work fine even at lower velocities. That along with weight can cut down on recoil.

Until 1886, the only propellant available was black powder. One of its limitations is the lack of velocity, especially in a handgun. There is only so much powder that can be consumed. The most obvious solution is to have a large caliber expelling a heavy projectile. Until the advent of the revolver, most were single shots though there were some weird repeaters and double barrel guns. If you only had one opponent and placed your shot chances were pretty good that it would do the job. That would be assuming that you had a large caliber gun. The idea of a self-defense gun is to stop the aggressor from doing whatever they were up to. A large caliber slug would stand a better chance of obtaining your objective.

There were small handguns and they were liked because they were small and easy to conceal. The downside is they are not very effective in most instances though they are better than nothing. The early revolvers were small calibers such as the 31 and 36 rounds. Since they are repeaters that mitigated to an extent the lack of power. Pinfire revolvers were very underpowered but they are relatively fast to reload so they were generally well liked. Even the larger rounds such as the 12 mm were underpowered. Another factor that helps is good shot placement with small caliber rounds. The 36-caliber revolver was very accurate so it was popular at one time.

When smokeless powder came into general use that provided more options for good self-defense and hunting ammo. Velocities can be increased and jacketed bullets came into use. Of course there were and still are some issues when designing a jacketed slug for social use. There has to be a balance between expansion and penetration. Many designs failed because they didn’t expand on a regular basis which also caused over penetration in some cases. Sometimes they came apart prematurely which gave less than desirable results.

Most modern self-defense ammo is based on high velocity and lighter than standard bullets. One example is the Liberty line. They are lightweight and produce very high velocity. They are lead-free and when they hit something they expand to a much larger caliber then they originally were. That coupled with the high velocity would make them effective. There is a verity of designs that use that technology to obtain the desired results. Some have pre-cut petals that expand out upon impact. As a rule, they feed ok in semi-autos and produce the advertised velocity. If there is a downside it would be the cost though most folks wouldn’t need a lot of them.

Liberty makes some fine light weight bullets at high velocity 357's
Liberty makes some fine light weight bullets at high velocity 357’s

Another item that may enhance modern ammo is the case. There is a company that makes a two-part case that is lighter and stronger than a typical case. I have tested them in 9 mm and they perform well and was published previously in Ammoland. For some reason, 9 mm is the only round offered at this time though a rep from the company told me that other calibers will be offered. It is puzzling as to why they are not available. If you have to carry a large amount of ammo this case with a lightweight bullet will enable to achieve that objective. Hoping for 45 autos among others for more info you can go here for info.

If you are in a situation where it would be required to carry a lot of ammo then using a lighter then standard case would be one way to reduce weight along with lightweight bullets. An example is a Shellshock case loaded with 60-grain bullets weighs 95 grains. A typical 9 mm round weighs between 125 and 180 grains depending on what bullet is used. Do the math as to what the difference would be between a thousand rounds. I have used 7 grains of Tite Group with a 60 grain and obtained 1629 FPS and that is fairly mild. It can be driven faster though I would carefully work up the loads.

Based on my observations these cases are here to stay.
Based on my observations these Shellshock cases are here to stay.

The Liberty line employs extremely lightweight bullets at very high velocities. Many handgun loads exceed 2000 FPS. For instance, the 40 auto and 10 mm uses a 60-grain bullet and all loads that I have tested clock above the advertised velocities. My 10-mm revolver shoots it at over 2500 FPS. Some of the loads chronographed show impressive velocity and good accuracy. The Liberty bullets are silver colored and possess hollow points. I have done some of these loads in rifles and the gain in velocity is very impressive. If you are looking for some modern high-performance ammo then you should give this product a serious look. Hopefully, at some point, Liberty will offer bullets for reloading. For info on their ammo go here.

BulletVelocityBarrel Length
50 Grain, 38020255"
50 Grain, 38018852"
50 Grain, 38 Spec14692"
50 Grain, 38 Spec15204"
50 Grain, 35720864"
60 Grain, 40 Auto21104"
60 Grain, 10mm 23386"
78 Grain, 45 Auto19195"
78 Grain, 45 Auto17483"
78 Grain, 45 Auto17104"
78 Grain, 45 Colt19084"

High tech bullets are the rage of the day. They are designed for high velocity and can be very effective. The only real downside is they are expensive but a prudent shooter will practice with generic loads and carry the good stuff for social purposes. If you reload so much the better but if not buy your practice ammo in large quantities which will help keep the cost down. Serious ammo cost should not be a factor since your life may depend on how good it performs.

Another high-tech ammo is the ARX Line. They have loaded ammo and bullets available for the handloader. They are light for their caliber which allows for high velocity. They are injection molded with some sort of a resin and metallic mixture. The formula is proprietary so we don’t know exactly what they have in their bullets. Like some of the other lightweight bullets, recoil is less than normal due to the weight. That makes the gun easier to control.  I have some results with factory and handloads. Their line is expanding and for more info, you can go here.     

The new ARX bullets have a lot to offer a 40 cal weighs 88 grains
The new ARX bullets have a lot to offer a 40 cal weighs 88 grains
380 Factory56 grain12583.25"Nice Load
38 Spec, 10 grains Red77 grain18644"Consistent
357, 11 grains Target86 grain18444"Mild
40 Auto, 10 grains Red88 grain16645"Nice
10mm, 13 grains Target88 grain2210 6"HOT!!
45 Auto, 8.5 grains Red114 grain13465" Nice

There are some companies that offer loaded ammo using these bullets also. This seems to be an upcoming trend so in the future several companies will offer variations of this with the two-piece cases which weigh less.         

Full metal jacketed bullets are not generally desirable for social use as they don’t expand and may over penetrate. To an extent, a large caliber works better such as the 45 ACP with a 230-grain FMJ bullet. For the most part, they should be used for practice as they are less expensive to purchase. Full metal jacketed bullets are required in some areas such as the military in which case the larger caliber the better. There are some custom makers that make lightweight HP bullets in 45 calibers that weigh 125 grains, another interesting offering. Bullet design is only limited by your imagination.

Many other odd bullets are out there such as button bullets. They are very light for their caliber but you can put 2 or 3 in a round. 45 weighs about 85 grains but 3 can go into a Colt case and at close range, they should be effective since you are putting 3 holes in the target as opposed to 1. Another item is shot loads. At close range, they should discourage an intruder. Speer makes capsules or you can load your own using a gas check to hold everything in. In rifles such as the 444 Marlin or 45-70, they make decent small game loads out to 15 to 20 yards.  

44 spec with Speer shot capsules good for close range
44 spec with Speer shot capsules good for close range

Another way to approach the problem is an old school method. Use a soft lead bullet with a large hollow point. Such bullets will expand even at low velocities. Due to their weight, penetration is very adequate. Other nice things are since they operate at low velocities pressures are kept down. That allows them to be used in older guns. The 38 hollow base wadcutter loaded backward is an old example of such bullets. If they open up, they can be devastating though sometimes the jacket folds over which prevents full expansion. Accuracy with these bullets isn’t the best though it is more than adequate for close range work. The British used such bullets in the 38 S & W and 455 Webley rounds until they were banned. The British had a man stopper bullet for their various Webley revolvers which is basically a hollow base wadcutter loaded backward. They are presently available in several calibers from the 32 to the 45.

Any self-defense load has to be controllable otherwise it is useless. You can have a short barreled 454 Casull but the recoil is so severe that most people can’t control it. It would have the accuracy and power of any conceivable self-defense situation but if you can’t place the shot or take a follow-up shot then it’s usefulness is limited. If you take a lower velocity soft lead bullet and can place it then you have a load that is more useful than one that you can’t control. Another advantage of low tec bullets is they are easy to make. Most are molded which anyone can do if they want or buy them from a number of sources. Several lead bullets are shown and the same bullet can be made to look different by adjusting the forming die. For making bullets for semi-autos that feature may come in handy as you can shape the bullet so it feeds in your gun. Some of the bullets shown look odd but they work.

Old design man stoppers from 32 to 45 no need for high velocity as they will expand
Old design man stoppers from 32 to 45 no need for high velocity as they will expand

Another easy bullet to make is a half jacket hollow point. They require a little more tooling and material but if the desire is there then you can make some nice bullets. Since the jacket is the only part that contacts the bore they can be driven at high velocity without fear of leading. As a rule, they are lighter than normal so they are easy to control. I use a 134 grain 41 caliber and a 170 grain 44 and both work well. The 9 mm and 38 bullets can be made this way in addition to a 45 caliber. As for cores you can cast them or cut them from lead wire. Pure lead is the best material because they are easier to swage and they are more likely to expand. Pure lead is also easier to work with in regards to swaging.

Another type is a jacket with BB shot swaged in it forming a bullet. Glasser makes a verity of those and is still in business as far as I know. Years ago, I made my own by buying jackets and dies from CH as they make dies for making handgun slugs. It is time-consuming but I found them every destructive on groundhogs and similar animals. Since they are lighter then standard high velocities can be realized. Upon hitting anything they come unglued and accuracy is good enough for its purposes. I made some for a 35 Remington and 444 Marlin and I could hit a groundhog out to a hundred yards or so. There are other similar bullets available from some custom makers.  

I have various calibers of man stopper bullets from Bob Hayley. They are the Wad Cutter shape with a large hollow point. In a 45-caliber handgun they weigh 230 grains and at 7 to 800 FPS would be adequate for social purposes. That would make almost any 45 a decent man stopper even a 455 Webley as long as it is in good condition.  These loads are using bullets made by Bob Hayley. He can cast these bullets in various weights and calibers and prices are reasonable. He has no website (old school) but he can be called at 940-888-3352.

LoadBulletVelocity Comment
5.5 grains Red125 grain MS 9mm1057.86Consistent
5.5 grains Red125 grain MS 9mm1068.7High ES

The 38 WC loaded backward is an old idea. While not the most accurate bullet if it expanded good stopping power is possible. Sometimes though one side would fold which cut down on its effectiveness. Driven too fast frequently ruined its accuracy. Flat nose cast bullets could be effective especially larger calibers.

4 grains 23132 mag case 100 grain829.64OK
12.5 grains 5744Cast FP 327 case,125 grain1265Good Load
6 grains Red148 grain HB-WC backwards867Consistent

There is a lot of work going into making good self-defense ammo. Who knows in a few years something may come out that will make this stuff obsolete.

About Bob ShellBob Shell

A Custom Reloader of Obsolete and Antique Ammo, Bob Shell, writes about the subject of Guns, Ammo, Shooting and Related Subjects. Visit:

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For Roy D and the other Iv’e done it for thousands of years and never been there for real experts–who have never shot anyone in self defense. Great to be macho–like jacking jaws about shooting down a “black” chopper with your semi, but just venture into the non-macho talk of the real world just once and you will get a real taste of what some of the been there done that experts are warning of. Just use the damn factory stuff–if you do your job it will too and you may stay out of prison. But a good self defense… Read more »

Roy D.

John, I hear your mother calling you from up the stairs. Best go see what she wants.

Roy D.

It is really too bad that all of you whining about the need to use factory ammo live in non-free areas. I would say, “Move to a free state”, but then I wouldn’t want you to move to mine. I have fired several hundred thousand centerfire rounds in the last 37 years and not one of them has been a “factory round.” And I have “carried” for the last 40 years without having to shoot any bad guys, though the presentation of a firearm has stopped bad guys several times in those forty years. Of course, your mileage may vary.


Thanks to all the “shit-house lawyers” for ruining a good discussion.

Bob Shell

Again I see a lot of chit chat but not 1 case where someone went to prison solely because they used handloads as opposed to factory. I have nothing against factory ammo in fact some of it is great and if you don’t handload there are some good choices for social ammo. I have listed & written about some of them & they are impressive. Anyway still looking for that case mentioned earlier


What a bunch of crap. The article is crap. The comments are crap. Nothing new or interesting. Find out what round you local LE are carrying and use that. Problem solved.

Bob Shell

We have all of these armchair experts saying that using handloads will put you in legal jeopardy as they are much more devastating then factory fodder. I beg to differ. Such factory loads as the ARX and Liberty ammo will do some serious damage to a body. There are others to be sure so. You can buy that ammo if you want but I for one would like to see actual cases where someone went to jail solely because they used handloads. If there are such cases I would like to see them rather then some armchair quarterbacks repeating each… Read more »

Wild Bill

@Bob Shell, I like that Liberty in .45, too. Nor do I think that Liberty ammunitions gives any clues to intent.

A. White

Some of you are getting way off track! The article I believe is about self defense at HOME/PRIVATE businesses. CCW holders no the rules buy which they must obey to carry lawfully. Out of place comments just confuses the Gumps.

A. White

Now to think of it I knew a cop who used lead wadcutters instead of the the issued/required FMJs thru the 70’s and 80’s without any trouble.


Best use for handloaded SD rounds is practice. Find a factory SD round that works for you and then reload, as close as you can, the SD load and then use it for practice. It will be cheaper than using the factory loads at the range and will provide a better practice session than the cheap FMJ rounds found at the box store. You should really only carry factory SD rounds and preferably what your local LEOs carry. Don’t givean aggressive prosecutor any ammo (pun intended) to use against you.


ENOUGH CHIT CHAT! Bottom line if you use special bullets you have loaded or modified –you may win the gun fight–good for you. But you may end up in prison for a “special intent to murder or kill” rather than to just stop the fight–and your family broke from the civil case—- IN TODAY’S WORLD it is easy to determine what was used, etc. There are plenty of incredibly effective types of factory ammo available–many way more devastating than homemade stuff. And as famed instructors John Farnam and Mass Ayoob (who is also a court expert witness) and most any… Read more »

Wild Bill

@jh45gun, Prosecutors are always making new arguments, and always trying to delve into the defendant’s intent. It is his job to prove intent. These cases are won and lost at critical points like motions in limine, motions to exclude, and jury selection. I would not change my shooting habits based upon what some prosecutor might argue.


Reloads in your carry gun are a bad idea legally. It will certainly be used against you in court. It is possible, through forensic science to tell which gun a bullet came from. Carry something like Hornady’s Critical Defense. Then you can claim that you purchased it because it was a “self defense” load. Perception is very important. (It’s a pretty good load from the expansion/ penetration perspective also. if you reload, and you want it to look factory because some rounds will presumably be left in your magazine, you must use exactly the same brass, bullets, primers, and powder… Read more »


Here’s the best tip for reloading man-stopper bullets for self defence: Don’t.
Reloaded self defence ammo will put a big smile on your prosecutors face and he will destroy any credibility you might offer six ways from Sunday. No matter what your excuse is or how careful you were, reloaded self defence ammo is the wrong approach. Police/Military/Security organizations use only factory ammo for a very good reason, Reloads are great for every other application except self defence.

A. White

Hint: Do Not tell them they were hand/reloaded ammo. Problem solved! If you’re real lucky the criminal basterd may have the same caliber as you. It was his gun that you used. Self-defense is self-defense but putting yourself in jail is plain stupid. Reloads are great for every other application except self defense. “I would rather be judge by 12 than carried by six.” Remember! Asking the perp to wait while you switch out ammo won’t work. What you have in your gun is what you have in your gun. Pull it out then tell the DA you didn’t shoot… Read more »


Hope you have a great lawyer and a large wallet to pay him with, A. White. Lying about which gun you used, lying about your ammo, or lying about anything implies that you think what you did may not have been legal. From a handgun, no hand loaded round will perform significantly better than a factory round. And I doubt that you have the facilities to put your round through the same rigorous tests that the FBI uses. Also, none of those novelty rounds provide any significant advantage in a full size or compact handgun. The lighter weight rounds will… Read more »

A. White

I know this guy who shot a robber of his business in self-defense and he used the gun he disarmed the robber to do it. They asked two (?’s), Where was his gun and why was there different ammo in the magazine (in a Blue State). No GSR test was performed and no search for another weapon was done. Although everything said and stated was and factual. You can see however that.there was wiggle room to adjust the as to maintain justifiably. He needed no lawyer, there was no grand jury and/or civil case. @Bret: Glad you got my drift.… Read more »


And that is based on -what- court case? Lethal force is lethal force, no matter how it is delivered. YOUR first responsibility is to YOU; to make sure you go home at night. You owe nothing to your attacker.


all true, Brett.. BUT we all know the court system operates in a different reality than we mere mortals do. The courts are not about “justice” they are about winning the case.. whichever side you are looking at. Andif your defense lawyer is ONLY about jusstice” and not all about “winning the case” fire him and get a REAL attorney. Go have a chat withMAs Ayoob, who serves as “expert witness” in quite a number of signfiant self-defense cases each year. HE relates that prosecutores, bent on WINNING, can, do, and WILL make a big deal on handloads and things… Read more »

Bob Shell

Again I am looking fot a case where someone went to jail SOLELY for using handloads. I see a lot of blather but no facts supporting it. You can quote all the experts you want but I don’t see anyone going to jail. I do agree that a prosecutor will do anything they can to win including lying and cheating but results?