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What is +P and +P+ ammo and can I use it?

by Jessie Indracusin

I had a viewer asking me questions surrounding +P and +P+ ammunition.  The question came down to could his gun use it and more importantly what are the benefits of it.  So let me explain this.

What is +P and +P+ Ammunition?

Plus P and Plus P Plus Ammunition is high pressure ammunition.  If we relate this to 9mm and 45 ACP, standard grain for 9mm is 115 grain and 45 ACP is 185 grain.  Anything higher than that is considered high pressure ammunition.  Most +P ammunition is 10% above this standard.  Anything higher than +10% falls into the +P+ realm.  The goal of +P+ ammunition is to increase the stopping power of a smaller round and have it create similiar ballistic qualities of a larger round.  This is most common in home defense rounds.  Having a 9mm that can have similiar stopping power of a .40 S&W round is what +P ammunition is about.  When you add the extra stopping power to a hyper expansion round, like a Hornady TAP round, you can use minimal ammunition to create maximum stopping power into a target. 

This logic is very important in conceal carry handguns, where you may have more of a limited capacity of ammunition in your handgun, than a full size home defense handgun you keep by the bed.

What is the downside of +P and +P+ Ammo?

The use of higher pressure loads cause the gun to accelerate the need to replace and service the handgun.  You do NOT want to use hot loads for range shooting unless you are fine with replacing components in the handgun that will start to wear over time at a faster rate.  That all being said, there are a few critical things to do when deciding on using this type of ammo in your gun.

Critical Considerations with high pressure Ammunition

  1. Always check your owner's manual for specific mention of +P and +P+ ammunition for it being safe to use in your gun.  If you do not find any mention of it, NEVER assume that it must be okay. 
  2. If you have bought a used gun, keep in mind your gun might not operate with +P or +P+ ammunition correctly even if the manual says it will.  You may have to replace various components on your gun to make it work.
  3. If you decide to carry Special Designed Defense rounds in your Conceal Carry Gun or in your gun for home defense, thoroughly test that the ammunition does indeed work with the gun in question.  If you do not, this can have disasterous consequences of creating a malfunction in your firearm at the worst possible time.  Having issues with handguns on a shooting range is one thing, but when it happens in a life or death situation, the results are disastorous.
  4. Nearly all modern firearms can handle this type of ammunition.  However, if you buy a very cheap handgun, you need to be aware that running this type of ammunition can be a significant problem.  New Semi-Automatic Handguns from Heckler and Koch, Glock and Smith and Wesson, typically have no issue with this ammo.  Again, consult your owners manual or call the manufacturer prior to shooting this type of ammunition in your gun.
  5. Lastly, any modifications you may decide to make for your gun can possibly cause the use of +P and +P+ ammunition to not work.  If you are tricking out your gun and replacing internal components, barrels, etc. you will need to consult the manufacturers and retest all of your ammunition after each modification.

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