Can Your Ammo Choice Be Used Against You?
Updated: Sep 25, 2019
DOES YOUR AMMO CHOICE MATTER?
A question I am frequently asked is: "can the choice of ammunition hurt a person at trial if they are forced to defend themselves and later charged with a crime?"
The short answer is yes, but it isn't something I generally tell people to worry about, as long as the ammunition they use is legal. You should carry what you train and are comfortable with.
No matter what type of ammunition a person uses, at trial, you can be almost certain that a prosecutor will parade it in front of a jury and make it sound scary; "FULL METAL JACKET" (we know it as target ammunition); "HOLLOW POINT" (the most widely used rounds for self-defense); and the list goes on. This type of argument is a plea to jurors' emotions, rather than the law and common sense among gun owners. That is why it is crucial to have an attorney who understands the nuances of self-defense, firearms, and ammunition.
WHAT IS LEGAL AMMO?
How do you know if your ammunition is legal?
Federal law defines ammunition and armor piercing ammunition. "Ammunition" means ammunition or cartridge cases, primers, bullets, or propellant powder designed for use in any firearm. See 18 U.S.C. § 921(A)(17)(A). "Armor piercing ammunition" means a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile. See 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(17)(B).
Texas law does not define ammunition (generally), but does define armor-piercing ammunition. "Armor-piercing ammunition" means handgun ammunition that is designed primarily to penetrate metal or body armor and to be used principally in pistols and revolvers. See Texas Penal Code § 46.01(12).
What You Need to Know
Armor-piercing handgun ammunition is the only explicitly defined ammo that is illegal under both federal and state law. This means if it is not armor-piercing ammunition designed exclusively for handguns, it's legal. This includes ammo marked as law enforcement-only, critical defense rounds, hollow-point rounds, zombie defense rounds, and the list goes on. The critical takeaway: if you can find it at your local gun store—you should be good to go.
Author: Richard D. Hayes, II
DISCLAIMER: The information on this website does not contain legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Every case is different, and this material is not a substitute for, and does not replace the advice or representation of, a licensed attorney.