Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense Review

Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense(Ed. note:  Richard of and was kind enough to review this ammunition for me.  He is a true gentleman, experienced law enforcement officer and writer, and a really bad joke teller.)

Knocking someone through a plate glass window with a single shot from a pistol is the stuff of TV fantasy.  Handgun ammo is just not that powerful.  In fact, pistol calibers are generally considered marginal for stopping a violent attacker when compared to rifle and shotgun loads.

Even so, there are definitely differences between handgun ammunition designs that can affect how quickly an attacker is stopped when shot.  Some rounds have built reputations as being effective on the street, while others have been dubbed “widow makers” because of the poor results experienced by the officers relying on them.

Liberty Ammunition is a Florida company building unconventional ammunition for self-defense.  The company’s Civil Defense line of handgun ammo uses a variety of techniques to create significant wound channels that are likely to quickly incapacitate an attacker.

Generally, Liberty Ammunition uses lighter-than-typical bullet weights in each caliber.  This allows the bullets to be driven to much higher velocities while still staying within the pressure specifications set out by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI.)

Energy can be described as the potential amount of work done.  Since the energy is measured as the mass times the square of the velocity, dropping the bullet weight while increasing the speed can actually produce a load that has more energy than a conventional load design.  The idea is the more energy a bullet has, the more work – or damage – it can do to the attacker.

The Civil Defense line of ammunition uses solid copper hollowpoint bullets that are nickel plated.  Nickel has very good lubricity, meaning that it slides through a gun barrel easier that copper.  Less velocity is lost due to friction in the barrel and that translates to both a faster bullet velocity and less barrel fouling.

At the Range

Randall provided me with several boxes of .380 ACP and .40 S&W Civil Defense ammo for testing.  As is my normal M.O., I am happy to shoot someone else’s ammunition.

I shot the .380 ACP ammo through two guns: a Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380 and the Glock 42.  I then shot the .40 S&W loads through a SIG SAUER P226 and a Glock 22.  All four guns shot the ammo with no problems.  All of the pistols functioned with 100% reliability.IMG_4615The velocity measurements were quite interesting.  Both loads came in under the advertised velocities, but were still significantly faster than anything else I have shot in these calibers.  I measured the velocities with a Competition Electronics ProChrono digital chronograph set up at 15’ from the muzzle.  I should note that Liberty Ammunition is a member company of SAAMI.  All of its ammunition meets SAAMI specs.

From the Bodyguard, the .380 ACP averaged 1319 fps across the chronograph.  Out of the Glock 42, the velocity was a bit faster at 1354 fps.  Breaking out the calculator, the load produced 193 ft-lbs and 203 ft-lbs of energy respectively.  The manufacturer rates this load at 1500 fps from a test barrel.

The .40 S&W load averaged 1989 fps out of the Glock 22.  From the SIG P226, the velocity was slightly less at 1978 fps.  This works out to be 527 ft-lbs and 521 ft-lbs of energy respectively.  These velocities come very close to the stated velocity of 2000 fps.

Even though the velocities were much higher than one would normally achieve in these calibers, the felt recoil did not seem to be any more than other ammunition.  In .40 S&W, the recoil actually felt less than other self-defense ammo.

Penetration Concerns

One of the concerns that people bring up with ammo that uses light bullets driven to high velocities is adequate penetration.  For law enforcement use, there are generally three areas of concern regarding penetration:

1. Will the bullet penetrate to an adequate depth in the body to reach vital organs?
2. Will the bullet penetrate intermediate barriers and clothing yet still perform in flesh?
3. Will the bullet over-penetrate and possibly injure or kill another officer or bystander?

The Civil Defense ammo uses bullets with very deep hollowpoints.  When striking flesh, these bullets rapidly expand creating a large wound channel.  The petals of the hollowpoint tend to shear off and form their own wound tracks, causing further exsanguination.

IMG_4599 IMG_4604However, the central part of the bullet continues to penetrate deeper into the body – typically to a distance of 12” – 14” in ballistic gelatin.  A penetration depth of 12” in ballistic gelatin is the arbitrary minimum distance the FBI determined was suitable for the needs of its agents.

I had a chance to see a demonstration of the 9mm Civil Defense ammunition at the Make Big Noise event this summer.  Shooting the temperature stable Clear Ballistics gelatin, the 9mm rounds consistently penetrated beyond 12”, and never exited the 16” blocks.  This included shooting through t-shirts, towels and other clothing material that participants wanted to shoot.

At the same event, we shot through car doors and windshields.  The 9mm round punched through one car door, entered the passenger compartment and embedded itself in the opposite door.  Another company’s self-defense round failed to completely penetrate the first car door.

Shooting the ammo from the inside of the car through the windshield, the rounds penetrated and struck point of aim on a target at about 15’.  Shooting through the windshield from the outside of the car, the ammo again penetrated, but with a very slight rise from the point of aim.  Typically, one would expect the bullet to deflect down, and by a larger distance than we saw with the rise in the Civil Defense bullet.

While I would want to do more extensive testing on barriers and gelatin before switching a department to this ammo, I will say I was impressed by the initial results.  The round appeared to penetrate to the FBI minimum without over-penetrating.  Additionally, the light round seemed to punch through sheet metal and laminated glass – two of the toughest barriers – without any problem.

Although it is not terribly scientific, we also got to see a few hams shot at the same event.  The damage done by the Civil Defense ammo was significantly more than that done by a another company’s self-defense load.

Final Thoughts

The Civil Defense ammo is a very interesting line of self-defense ammunition.  It seems to offer a lot of the things that people want such as reliability, penetration and massive wounding.  In addition to .380 ACP and .40 S&W, the company offers Civil Defense ammo in 9mm, .38 Special, .357 Magnum and .45 ACP.




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25 Responses to Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense Review

  1. Hi Randall,

    Thanks for posting my article. A quick correction, though. Looking back at my notes, I see I listed the “high” velocity as the “average” velocity for the SIG P226. It should be 1919 fps with a corresponding energy of 491 ft-lbs. Sorry for the confusion!


  2. Greg W says:

    Appreciated the article. Have a Glock 42 and have been very disappointed with its performance. More FTF then I can count using Winchester target rounds. Since I live in Georgia took it into Glock and they changed out the recoil spring, but were not sure that was the problem and suggested a lighter round. I’ll give the Liberty rounds a try in both my 380 and my 40 XD

  3. Greg W says:

    The worse ammo was the Winchester target rounds 95 grain. Since I have only been using them on the range this was more of an annoying problem. It did however make me question the reliability of the Glock 42’s perfection.

  4. Greg W says:

    I did try some JHP, but I do not remember the manufacturer. They also had some FTF.

    • Randall says:


      I try breaking in a new pistol with 400 to 500 rounds of various ammunition, usually starting with a lot of FMJ, before I will consider carrying it defensively. I expect the gun to have some FTF’s and other maladies until I get several hundred rounds through it. Unless the gun has some other serious mechanical issues, I have found that most all of my pistols work themselves into reliability with some patience. The exception to this was a Kel-Tec P-11 that I just could not square away. All my Glocks have been flawless out of the box. Hope you are able to get yours straightened out.


  5. Greg W says:

    Thanks, haven’t given up yet. I will change to defense rounds. Currently using my XD 40 with Federal defense rounds.

  6. Tim N says:

    I’ve seen some reviews that suggest sufficient penetration is an issue in the .380 round with both light and heavy clothing. However, when I actually looked at the measured ballistics gel penetration depths in one review for that round, with light and heavy clothing, they ranged 11-12 inches, so I’m not sure why some people are saying that. 11-12 inch penetration w/ fragmentation seems very adequate to me, not to mention being coupled with the huge entrance would this hollow point is going to make. The results for the .45 acp were only marginally better than the .380 in the same review.

    In regards to Greg’s post above about the Glock, this is an issue that concerns me with defensive carry of semi-automatics in general, not just with Glock. I have a Sig P238 and a Beretta Tomcat .32 acp for concealed carry, and though they are for the large part VERY reliable, and feel great, I occasionally get FTF’s and FTE’s. If that happens in a high stress confrontation where seconds count, that could spell disaster. For now, I’ve gone to a 6 shot Colt Detective .38 special revolver for defensive carry. I load it with Hornaday Critical defense 110 gr FTX. I just like the reliability of a revolver, and it’s much more accurate than many might think for a 2 inch barrel. You pull the trigger, and it goes bang, every time. I know that the Sig gives me two more rounds than the Colt, as does the Beretta, but honestly, I’m pretty sure that in the typical self defense scenario, 6 shots will be plenty. My father’s neighbor is a retired FBI agent. He also carries a revolver, and based on his many years experience, feels the same way I do. I’m sure I’ll carry my Sig and Beretta again, especially in warm spring and summer weather where concealment becomes more of an issue, but I just like the confidence of a revolver.

    • Randall says:

      Tim, if you’ve been reading TBF, you’ll know I have a warm place in my heart for revolvers. I just wrote an article about Smith & Wesson Centennials that will appear on a manufacturer’s newsletter. It will be posted here in a few months, per our writer’s agreement. I have two Colt Cobra’s and I love ’em!


      • Chris B says:


        I have a Stainless Taurus 450 in .45 LC 2″ ported barrel. Taurus said that every firearm the’ve made since 1997 will handle +P ammo. Since Liberty makes this in that caliber what do you think of this ammo for the above firearm?


        • Randall says:


          If your gun will handle this ammo, I will default to Richard’s recommendation as a defense round. The Liberty ammo I shot fed well on my Kel-Tec.


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  8. Adam says:

    These rounds are no good. I have an XD9 mod 2 and have put hundreds of rounds through it. I loaded a mag with these civil defense rounds fired one shot then jam. They are to light in the front and it impedes them going into the chamber. It could have been a fluke but I know I won’t be carrying them.

    • Tim N says:

      I have put several rounds of Liberty Civil Defense 9mm through my HK VP9 without a malfunction. It might be premature to disregard this round. Your experience could have just been a fluke. FTF’s and FTE’s can happen with ANY round. Look at the kinetic energy calculations on the 9mm round, and you may reconsider your decision. The muzzle velocity of ~2000 fps generates a massive muzzle energy. This is true because velocity is the most critical factor in calculating kinetic energy: KE=1/2(M * V2). As well, given that it is a lighter round, the felt recoil is lighter, resulting in a better chance of getting your shot on target. You may be quick to judge here.

      • Adam says:

        I was a bit too hasty. It probably was a fluke. Went to the range today, put a hundred target rounds down range then fired 20 liberty civil defense rounds and they performed well with a noticeable reduction in recoil.

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  10. Greg W says:

    Just as a short update. Recently put a box of Hornady 90grain FTX 25 rounds thru my Glock 42. Very happy with the results. Not a single FTF. I know this not a lot rounds, but it is the first brand without a single FTF. I will try some other brands including the Liberty. The gunsmith at G!ock had suggest something below the 95 grain ammo.

  11. jc says:

    I am at an impasse with these civil defense rounds, I just purchased the M&P Shield 9mm, used 124 grn Aquilla rounds for the range. My range manager suggested the Liberty 9mm+P for my defense rounds. Problem is, S&W says this in their instruction manual…”+p ammunition generates pressurs in excess of standard ammunition. Such pressures may effect the wear characteristics or exceed safety margins…” Am I over-thinking this could damage my pistol or void my warranty, or should I trust that my range guy knows his stuff? Do you have any experience with the 9mm+p ammunition, and the Shield?

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  13. MaruSkipper says:

    I have been using Liberty exclusively as my defense ammo for two years. It performs flawlessly in both my Glock-23 (.40 Cal.) and my Ruger LC9S Pro (9mm). It is amazing stuff and 100% reliable. Because of Liberty, I can feel more confident in carrying the smaller calibers. I think even .380 would be lethal and effective.

    If you have never seen the video, I suggest that you go to YouTube and check it out. The results of the ballistics gel tests are amazing. It makes your weapon much lighter in weight and reduces recoil dramatically. I recommend it without hesitation.

  14. Chris B says:


    I ask because this is a revolver and you seem to have an affinity for revolvers as do I – Local Gun Smith said it would handle the round.


  15. Chance says:

    If you are having failure to feed issues, you can try using a Dremel tool with the polishing attachment with some Mothers automotive polish, or other comparable polish. I do this to the feed ramps of all of my pistol barrels and they eat all types of ammunition like a champion.

  16. Gene Gallaugher says:

    Go to the Liberty site, FAQ’s I think.., therein Liberty states that ALL of their Ammo (including +p) is mfd to SSAMI pressure Specs.
    I’m not sure why they print +p on their Boxes??

    I’d like it if Ammo Mfr’s would share Mv for their Test Barrel and different Barrel lengths we might be using, say Mv w/ 2.5″, 3″, 4″, 5″, etc.!!!

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