Choosing the right ammunition for your conceal-carry weapon and home-defense firearm can be difficult. With target-shooting rounds, you can basically select a budget-friendly box of bullets and head to the range. If they cycle with relative consistency, don’t harm your firearm, and deliver at least moderate accuracy, most gun owners are happy. But for personal […]
Choosing the right ammunition for your conceal-carry weapon and home-defense firearm can be difficult. With target-shooting rounds, you can basically select a budget-friendly box of bullets and head to the range. If they cycle with relative consistency, don’t harm your firearm, and deliver at least moderate accuracy, most gun owners are happy.
But for personal protection, you need to be diligent with your selection. There are many brands available, but one of the most popular is Hornady’s Critical Duty, a multi-cartridge line of ammunition finely tuned for tactical personnel and law enforcement professionals.
Although made for someone who carries a firearm as part of their job (aka their “duty,” hence the name), the ammo can also be useful for private citizens who own a full-size firearm and want the same level of trustworthy performance.
Even though Hornady makes and brands this ammo for police, private citizens who prefer full-sized handguns for their defense tools can use it too. The main purpose of these cartridges is to provide superior firepower and match the carefully-designed specifics of law enforcement weaponry.
Released in 2011, this ammunition was originally available only for 9mm Luger and .40 S&W shooters. The line has since expanded to include numerous handgun cartridges, giving excellent firepower to more handgun owners.
Critical Duty: Key Features
Key Feature 1: FlexLock Bullet
The main feature of Hornady’s Critical Duty line of ammunition is the FlexLock bullet. All Critical Duty products, regardless of caliber, are loaded with these projectiles. This gives gun owners who prefer a full-sized handgun superior barrier penetration and reliable terminal performance.
The FlexLock bullet is a jacketed hollow point projectile. You can easily distinguish it from other bullets due to the red tips embedded in the front of the bullet. This not only helps identify Critical Defense rounds, it also makes feeding more smooth.
Two sub-features really give the FlexLock bullets their power.
Hornady has implemented the Flex Tip design into their FlexLock ammunition. This patented design reduces clog and enhances bullet performance at the target, creating more reliable, consistent expansion.
The other feature of the FlexLock bullet is the InterLock band. This is a large, mechanical jacket-to-core band that keeps the bullet and the core from separating upon impact. This results in maximum weight retention, consistent penetration, and superior expansion. In the end, this means a higher potential for stopping a threat to your home, family, or personal safety.
Key Feature 2: Bright Nickel-Plated Cases
Another important part of the Critical Duty lineup is the nickel-plated cases. According to Hornady’s marketing material, the brighter nickel plating simplifies chamber checks in dark lighting. Essentially, bright nickel is more visible in the chamber against the dark metal of a firearm, so chamber checks are more consistent.
There is also the belief that nickel-plated cases deliver smoother feeding from the magazine to the chamber and out the ejection port, although Hornady does not discuss this as an advantage for Critical Duty. Nickel plating also has corrosion resistance, but this is, again, not advertised as an advantage.
Key Feature 3: Low-Flash Propellants
Inside the nickel-plated casing, you’ll find low-flash propellant, which reduces the chances of a blinding flash when using the ammo in low-light situations.
According to crime data from multiple U.S. cities, 65% of murders and non-negligent manslaughters, 59% of sexual assaults, and 56% of robberies happen at night. While you may not be a night owl, these stats give weight to the need for low-flash ammunition.
Key Feature 4: Heavier Bullets
If you compare Critical Duty ammunition to “typical” ammunition from the same cartridge, you will often find that the Critical Duty bullets are heavier. For example, the typical 9mm Luger round is about 115 to 124 grains. Yet, two of the three Critical Defense 9mm rounds pack 135-grain bullets.
Likewise, most .45 Auto rounds are somewhere between 140 and 200 grains, while the Critical Duty .45 Auto +P cartridge packs a 220-grain round. They are not the largest you could possibly find, but Critical Duty tends to be at the heavier end of the scale.
What Calibers are Available for Critical Duty?
Although not manufactured for every handgun in the country, Hornady makes Critical Duty ammunition in many of the most popular cartridges.
Available options include:
Critical Duty Ammo for Sale
|Caliber||Grain - Rounds||Grain - Rounds||Grain - Rounds||Grain - Rounds|
|9mm Luger||135 Grain - 25 Rounds||135 Grain - 250 Rounds||135 Grain +P - 25 Rounds||135 Grain +P - 250 Rounds|
|40 S&W||175 Grain - 20 Rounds||175 Grain - 250 Rounds|
|45 ACP||220 Grain +P - 20 Rounds||220 Grain +P - 200 Rounds|
|357 Sig||135 Grain +P - 20 Rounds|
|10mm||175 Grain - 20 Rounds|
Owners of some firearms, such as ones that take .380 ACP cartridges, will need to look elsewhere for their defense ammunition. (Fortunately, Critical Duty’s sister line, Critical Defense, has .380 ACP and other options.) Hornady manufactures Critical Duty in calibers that are more common among law enforcement departments and agencies. Typically, you’re not going to departments use the real niche stuff. So, think 9mm Luger, 40 S&W, and .45 Auto.
NOT Ideal Short-Barreled Weapons
One thing that gun owners should understand is that this line of ammunition is not meant for short-barreled and compact weaponry. It is instead intended for the full-sized firearms typically used by law enforcement personnel.
According to Hornady, they are designed to work in all handguns, but are not optimized for short-barreled handguns. In other words, they are saying “yes, Critical Duty will work just fine in a short-barreled or compact handgun, but they will give the best performance in a full-size weapon.” For many concealed-carry weapons, a better option would be Hornady’s Critical Defense. They’ve optimized that line of ammo for compact handguns.