There is some great work being done to advance the state of the art in self-defense-specific handgun ammunition. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the price: It’s always expensive. Yet in using it you are trusting your life to it. So, how to you test it for function and reliability without breaking the bank? It doesn’t matter how many new features your ammunition has if it won’t cycle through your gun.

I have a quick test for new ammunition, and it requires only three rounds. Better yet, only two of those rounds have to be the expensive stuff. For the other round, you use your normal ball ammunition.

Here’s the test:

  1. Load a magazine with three rounds, two self-defense rounds and a round of ball ammo on top.
  2. At the range, insert the magazine into an empty gun.
  3. Cycle the slide to chamber the first round (the ball ammunition) from the magazine.
  4. Commence fire.

If you can fire all three rounds without a problem, then the self-defense ammunition works with your gun. If it fails to fire, fails to feed, or fails to eject, it’s not the ammunition for you.

Loading the round of ball ammunition on top ensures that the gun is working normally.