FROM THE CONTROL BOOTH : Test Your Ammo Before You Carry It


By Steve Tracy I Editorial director

Test Your Ammo Before You Carry It

A Commander once asked me, “What kind of gun do you carry as a backup?” I safely unloaded my stainless-steel Walther PPK .380 and showed it to him. This was around 1989 and many police officers carried a .38 snub nosed revolver or a .380 pistol like my Walther for backup or off-duty carry.

I explained the advantages of the flat little Walther and my reasons for choosing it. I also gave my opinion that the PPK was a better option for concealment over the PPK/S. The PPK has a shorter grip (by a quarter of an inch) and the back strap is covered by wraparound plastic instead of the longer and heavier steel grip of the PPK/S. I further explained that the PPK/“Special” was a product of the Gun Control Act of 1968 and was produced by mating a shorter PPK slide with a longer and heavier PP frame.

The smaller PPK could not be imported into the United States post-1968; however, that did not stop Interarms from setting up a plant to manufacture it here. A few days later, the Commander proudly showed off his newly purchased Walther .380 pistol. It was a PPK/S. The salesman had told the Commander that the “S” was better because it held one more round in its magazine. Also, the store didn’t have the smaller and lighter PPK in stock and would take weeks to get one.

Another week later, the Commander disgustedly told me the Walther I “made him buy” was a piece of junk. I was dumbfounded when he told me the Walther jammed incessantly and that he sold it to another officer at a substantial price loss just to get rid of it.

I later spoke with the officer who bought the PPK/S from the angry Commander. He laughed and said he ought to turn himself in because, “I stole it from him! He shot it with that hollow point ammo the gun store sold him. Everyone knows that stuff’s long overall cartridge length won’t feed in a Walther! Well, almost everyone I guess,” he laughed. “I fired regular hollow points and full-metal jacket ammo and that Walther is totally reliable.”

Some semi-autos are picky with the cartridges they’ll feed reliably. This was more true 20-some years ago than today. Most of today’s modern duty guns will feed almost anything and ammunition manufacturers work very hard to make sure their cartridges are extremely reliable.

However, officers are still known to load up brand-new pistols with ammo they’re never fired in their new gun. The opposite extreme is also true, where officers will refuse to carry a new type of ammunition until they have fired several boxes of it through their carry gun. At today’s prices, that can get a bit expensive.

You should shoot enough magazines through your own guns to satisfy your personal preference. Reach your own level of comfort with the knowledge that your gun and ammo will work well together.

While many departments issue a particular pistol and ammo that is proven to be a reliable combination, other departments only issue ammunition. Weapon choice is left up to each officer, usually from a list of various handguns. If your department has a smattering of different pistols on officers’ duty belts, switching to a different brand of carry ammo necessitates a bit of testing. PM

Back to Top