8 Best AR-15 Ammo for Self Defense & Range


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January 3, 2023

Sports rifles continue to be in high demand, and the AR 15 continues to be the best of the best. AR 15s are incredibly versatile and come in a wide range of calibers, making them a favorite among gun enthusiasts. And while choosing the right gun and caliber is essential, you also need to consider the right type of ammo for your gun as well. 

Here, we look at the best ammo for range and self-defense purposes. It is also worth mentioning that self-defense is very different from range ammo. The point of self-defense ammo is to stop the attacker without penetrating their body and putting someone else in danger.

Best AR-15 Self-Defense Ammo

Self-defense rounds usually have the stopping power necessary to bring an attacker down. And they should also be able to do the most damage by breaking apart upon contact. So with that in mind, here are a few of the best self-defense rounds that can work in most situations. 

Speer Gold Dot Duty 55 gr .223

speer gold dot duty 55 gr .223

Speer Gold Dot Duty 55 gr is the gold standard for self-defense ammunition. The guns have a good record of accomplishment with various law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Easily its most stand-out feature is its jacket and core joining process, which significantly reduces the risk of bullet failure. 

The uniform jacket thickness also works in its favor, allowing the bullet to offer incredible accuracy. It can also retain its weight through various barriers, even ones as tough as auto glass. The 55-grain cartridge can reach a velocity of 3,220 fps and energy of 1,266 ft-lbs. 

Hornady Critical Defense 55gr .223

hornady critical defense 55gr .223

Hornady is possibly the most popular name that you hear about in self-defense ammunition. And while the defensive 9mm rounds never fail to disappoint, their Critical Defense line of .223 Remington rounds are also exceptional. The unique FTX design of these rounds ensures optimal expansion without over-penetrating. 

The nickel-plated cases reflect more light in low light situations, feed smoothly, and reduce flash when firing. The optimized propellants also limit the muzzle flash and reduce recoil, making it dependable in all situations. While being designed for short-distance self-defense situations, they still have the speed and power of most loads. It can reach a total velocity of 3,240 fps, along with an energy of 1,282 ft-lbs. 

Federal LE Tactical 

federal le tactical

The Federal LE tactical is possibly the most reliable .223 Remington round here, specializing in offering accurate results every time. Each round features a brass case with a Boxer primer and a 55-grain soft point. This specific rounds line is designed to work in most assault rifles, both old and new. 

The soft point is easily the load’s defining characteristic, with each one can deeply penetrate with controlled expansion. The lack of a hollow point also ensures nothing clogs it, reducing its penetration. Upon firing these cartridges, they will reach a velocity of 3,220 fps and can output energy of 1,266 ft-lbs. 

Best AR 15 Rounds for the Range 

Practice rounds should not just be cheap to buy, but they should offer subpar accuracy. The whole point of the cartridges is to help you practice and improve your accuracy. With that in mind, here are some of the best AR 15 range rounds.

Tula & Wolf Polyformance

tula & wolf polyformance

The best thing about the Tula & Wolf Polyformance is that it is very cheap. So if you want to save and still get fairly good performance, then coated steel or Russian steel cartridges are a good option. The .223 Remington load is a 55-grain hollowpoint, which can reach a velocity of 3,205 fps and produce a power of 1,260 ft-lbs. 

You should first check to see if your AR will accept them, as some ARs can be a little picky when using certain rounds. While some complained about the gun acting weird when firing, cleaning the barrel before and after shooting solved the issue. 

Federal Gold Match 69-grain

federal gold match 69-grain

Federal easily offers some of the most accurate rounds that you can find on the market. The hollowpoint boat-tail load gives shooters an edge when firing at the range for the best performance. It also comes with a unique primer design, which gives the most consistent results out of any other cartridge. 

The Federal Gold Match offers the most consistency out of any other cartridge. The 69-grain .223 Remington load also has a uniform jacket for consistent long-range shooting. Upon firing this magnificent round, the load can reach a velocity of 2,950 fps, and it can output energy of 1,333 ft-lbs.

Wolf Gold

wolf gold

Wolf Gold is easily the most affordable option on this list and can offer decent performance. But unlike other Wolf ammo that comes from Russia, the Wolf Gold comes from Taiwan. And even though most people dismiss the Wolf Ammo for its steel casings, these do not have any steel. 

Since it does not use any steel, the jacket and bullet are not magnetic, and the brass jackets are more appealing to some shooters. People who are worried about the steel casings and the effect they can have on a gun will be especially happy with its price and construction. The 55-grain load can output 1,289 ft-lbs at 3,250 fps. 

PMC Bronze

pmc bronze

The PMC Bronze is another affordable brass ammo. The .223 Remington round features a brass jacket, which makes reloading a joy, and also has surprisingly low recoil for the energy that it outputs. At 1,250 ft-lbs of energy, it can reach a velocity of 3,200 fps easily. 

The copper jacket keeps lead buildup in a modern firearm at a minimum and also reduces the mushroom effect of lead bullets. It is an excellent load for any rifle and is especially good at long ranges, thanks to the low recoil. 

American Eagle XM855 

american eagle xm855

The American Eagle XM855 is a favorite green tip among many gun enthusiasts, specifically its supersonic velocities. At 3,020 fps, these bullets impact at a staggering 1,256 ft-lbs of energy. The penetrator full metal jacket comes with a boxer primer, which means it can be reloaded. 

The brass case makes for easy reloading and is smooth when going through the barrel. While a little pricey, it offers the best recoil and accuracy of any other projectile on this list. 

Choosing the Best Bullet

Throughout this list, we have mentioned different types of bullets, each with its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. These two include the hollowpoint and the full metal jacket. They come at different prices, but each of them proves to be very different in the range and self-defense situations. 

Full Metal Jacket

The FMJ is easily one of the best types of rounds to use in a range. Better known as ball ammo, these loads are always easy to find, but they are also very cheap. They can also be good for plinking and low-end tournaments where you want to have some fun. However, open-tips are much better for competition.


Hollowpoints work better in self-defense or hunting situations. They offer plenty of stopping power and expand on impact to keep the risk of over-penetration at an all-time low. Along with being better for a more dangerous situation, these also happen to be the most expensive options to choose. People will usually not prefer using these rounds for anything other than their intended purpose.

With a better understanding of the type of bullets we have mentioned here, you will make a better decision.


These are the best range and self-defense rounds that work effectively in their respective leagues. Better yet, the rounds we mentioned for the hollowpoints can also make for good hunting rounds, as they have the stopping power to stop most mid to large-sized games. But for targets, you want to be using FMJs, as you can save a lot of money while practicing. 

Every product is hand selected by our editors. We may receive commissions on purchases from a link.

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