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.357 SIG Defensive Ammo: Effective and Underrated

.357 SIG Defensive Ammo

.357 SIG (or 9x22mm) may not have set the handgun world on fire quite the way Federal and SIG Sauer wanted it to, but that wasn’t necessarily the round’s fault. Since its introduction nearly 30 years ago, it has gained a niche but loyal following and proven itself to be a worthy defensive cartridge.

Of course, as with any round, high-quality, purpose-built defensive ammo makes a world of difference compared to standard target ammo, so it’s important to run something you can depend on when you need it most.

The best .357 SIG defense ammo is the 125gr Speer Gold Dot GDHP Hollow Points.

Still, there are a host of other options out there worth considering as well, especially if you like to experiment with your carry ammo to find the best possible fit for you and your gun.

Best .357 Sig Ammo for Self Defense

Speer Gold Dot 125gr GDHP - Best Overall


  • Bullet Type: Gold Dot Jacketed Hollow Point
  • Bullet Weight: 125gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1375fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 525ft-lbs
  • Casing Type: Nickel-Plated Brass


  • Proven track record in law enforcement use
  • Nickel-plated casing for more reliable function in semi-auto handguns than brass cases
  • Very high muzzle velocity for consistent penetration and expansion
  • Meets or exceeds FBI penetration standards


  • More expensive than other similar options like Speer Lawman
  • Hard to find in stock at times

Why We Chose It

Speer Gold Dot Hollow Points are one of the premier hollow point options out there and have proven themselves in the hands of state and federal law enforcement for decades now.

This .357 SIG ammo functioned reliably in every semi-automatic handgun we tested, including in my own Glock 32 concealed carry and a SIG P229 Nitron. 

These 125-grain JHPs pass the FBI’s penetration test in ballistics gel, and the stellar Gold Dot design provides extremely uniform and consistent expansion.

The Uni-Cor bonding method and pressure-formed projectile core ensure the copper jacket and lead core stay together and don’t separate when passing through a hard barrier. 

At 525ft.-lbs of energy, this is also one of the most powerful .357 SIG cartridges on shelves right now.

Other .357 SIG Ammunition Recommendations for Defense

Federal Personal Defense HST 125gr Jacketed Hollow Point


  • Bullet Type: Federal HST Jacketed Hollow Point
  • Bullet Weight: 125gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1360fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 513ft-lbs
  • Casing Type: Nickel-Plated Brass


  • Ideal penetration in ballistics testing
  • Proven HST hollow point design
  • Used by multiple state law enforcement agencies, as well as federal agencies abroad
  • Lightest recoil on our list


  • Expensive
  • HST Hollow point expands less consistently after passing through a hard surface like a windshield

Why We Chose It

Federal’s HST hollow point design is another proven contender in the world of defensive ammunition. This high-velocity ammo is nickel-plated for reliable feeding and features sealed primers for stellar function in adverse conditions (or if you’ve left your ammo loaded in your mag a little long).

The HST bullet is designed to maintain mass as it travels through soft tissue while still expanding reliably to cause sufficient wounding and prevent overpenetration. In testing, it maintained the most mass after full penetration of any round on this list. 

That means that when the round gets to where it's going, it's still mostly intact and transferred more of its energy to the target (a gel block in this case) while expanding. Like our top pick, it meets FBI penetration test standards and is used by numerous state-level police agencies and investigation bureaus. 

Federal Premium Law Enforcement 125gr JHP


  • Bullet Type: HST Jacketed Hollow Point
  • Bullet Weight: 125gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1360 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 513ft-lbs
  • Casing Type: Nickel-Plated Brass/ Plain Brass


  • Similar performance to Personal Defense line above
  • Much more affordable than other premium hollow points
  • Available in bulk


  • Hard to find the nickel-plated variety
  • Typically only available in 50rd+ boxes

Why We Chose It

It's never a good idea to be too cheap when it comes to your self-defense ammo, but Federal has still got the misers among us covered with their SIG .357 Law Enforcement 125gr JHP ammo.

This stuff is very similar to the more expensive Personal Defense line above and provides the same bullet moving at the same velocity (and thus with the same energy). It has proven extremely reliable in our testing and works great in most common .357 SIG handguns.

The downside is it's hard to find in the nickel-plated casings, so you’re left with the more corrosion-prone brass cases most of the time. Is that a problem for most people? Maybe, maybe not. Just make sure you’re checking your carry ammo occasionally, and you’ll be fine.

Other than that, it can be hard to find in 20-rd boxes, so you might occasionally need to buy 50+rd boxes but…I find it difficult to call having more ammo a bad thing.

Honorable Mentions

There are a few other options that we either haven’t tested in a wide enough variety of guns yet or that we’re just waiting on manufacturers to restock. These are rounds that I personally trust, from manufacturers with a reputation for quality. I’d carry any of these (and have in some cases).

Hornady Critical Duty .357 SIG 135 Grain FlexLock:  A solid performer that features Hornady’s no-clog Flex-Tip projectile that is designed to better deal with thick clothing, plus an InterLock band that helps keep the projectile intact for maximum penetration and expansion.

It also passes all FBI ammunition tests, is nickel-plated for more reliable feeding, and uses proprietary powder formulations to reduce muzzle flash.

Underwood Ammo .357 SIG 147 Grain Jacketed Hollow Point: A great option that uses Hornady’s excellent (and field-proven) XTP hollow point coupled with a nickel-plated case for reliable feeding and ejection. Also uses low-flash powder to preserve vision when shooting in dark environments.

Winchester Defender 125gr Bonded JHP: Winchester’s proven bonded jacketed hollow point design has passed every FBI penetration test and evaluation protocol and is in use by multiple State police departments and federal organizations. It has a proven track record in the field and is a good value as well.

Remington Golden Saber 125gr JHP: Another law-enforcement favorite, Remington’s Golden Saber line is a great option that functions well, and won’t break the bank. This is a notable step up in performance from say, Remington’s UMC line, and is perfect for self/home defense.

Fiocchi 124gr FMJ-TC: This one is a little bit different in that it isn’t a hollow point at all and shouldn’t be used for defensive purposes. Why is it on our list, then? Because it is an affordable flat-nosed training bullet. It leaves very clear holes in paper targets and is perfect for competition scoring.

If you’re looking to shoot something like an IDPA or USPSA match with your chosen carry gun, pick up some of this stuff instead of shooting the much more expensive hollow points to ring steel and punch paper.

Buyer’s Guide: The Importance of Selecting the Right Defensive Ammo (.357 SIG or Otherwise)

When it comes to choosing defensive ammo, there are a few things to keep in mind. At the end of the day, you’re carrying this ammo in case you need to stop a threat in a life-or-death situation, and that means your ammo absolutely cannot be found wanting.

When looking at defensive ammo in general, the main things to look for are reliability, penetration, and expansion

You need ammo that is going to function reliably in your gun, and you need to know that it is going to penetrate deep enough to do its job. Expanding ammo is also a must in order to cause a significant enough wound to stop a threat with a handgun.

The .357 SIG may have been intended to mimic the .357 Magnum when fired from a semi-auto handgun, but that doesn’t mean you can skimp and shoot a typical target FMJ instead of a purpose-built defense round and expect to stop a threat reliably.

You also need something that is controllable, and .357 SIG definitely is that. If you’re used to something like .45 ACP or 10mm, this will be a cakewalk. It’s a touch more recoil than a 9mm and about on par with .40 S&W.

Factors to Consider when Selecting .357 Sig Self-Defense Ammo

Choosing a .357 SIG round for carry means picking something that is going to expand consistently, defeat barriers like thick clothing or the arm of an assailant, and still penetrate deeply enough to cause significant trauma to a vital organ. 

That means the ammunition we choose needs to be a high-quality controlled-expansion hollow point that penetrates 12”-18” in ballistics media. 

Why that distance?

That range is the ideal range to make sure you get enough penetration when striking a human attacker to go through an arm, thick clothing, or something like a windshield or car door (both of which are more of a police issue than a civilian issue) and still have enough energy to reach a vital organ.

Why is there an upper range? Because if a bullet over-penetrates, you risk striking an innocent bystander, and at best, you’re wasting energy. We want a bullet that expends all of its energy on the assailant, not the wall behind them.

Let’s take a look at the types of bullets that can provide this type of performance.

Types of .357 Sig Defense Ammunition: Bullet Types Explained

Full metal jacket (FMJ): FMJ rounds consist of a lead bullet with a (usually) copper coating around the exposed lead. This creates a projectile that holds its shape as it strikes a soft surface. These rounds are very affordable and great for target shooting.

However, since they don’t expand when striking a soft surface, they’re not ideal for self-defense. 

Total Metal Jacket (TMJ): TMJ rounds are similar but feature a copper coating on the rear of the bullet to completely enclose the lead projectile. This is ideal for indoor range shooting as it lowers lead exposure and is required in some cases. They’re still not ideal for self-defense.

Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP): A jacketed hollow point is the preferred carry round of almost all police and law enforcement agencies. These rounds feature a copper-wrapped lead projectile, just like the two choices above.

However, these rounds have a hollow nose, which causes the round to mushroom open to almost twice its initial diameter when striking a soft surface. This effectively turns a .357 caliber projectile into a .70+ caliber projectile after it hits an assailant.

This makes them much more effective at stopping a human threat and also keeps them from over-penetrating and thereby wasting their energy on something you don’t want to put a hole in, like your apartment wall or an innocent bystander.

Solid-Copper Hollow Point (SCHP): A solid-copper hollow point is exactly what it sounds like. These rounds are more expensive and rare in the .357 SIG space, but companies like Buffalo Bore do make them. These hollow points penetrate more than is strictly necessary for a human-sized threat and are more intended for dealing with large game animals.

How to Test 357 Sig Defense Ammo

When you’re testing any defensive ammo, as long as you’re going with an expanding projectile from a reputable name in the industry, you don’t really need to break out the ballistics gel yourself. Chances are, somebody online has already done that testing for you.

What neither I nor anyone else on the internet can do for you is test your chosen defensive ammo in your gun

Defensive firearms have gotten a lot less picky about bullet weights and projectile profiles over the years, but it's still important that you take your ammo to the range and test it extensively. I personally go through about three or four boxes or so of my chosen ammo each time to make sure it functions reliably in a new gun.

I know that’s expensive, but I’d rather know my ammo works. At the bare minimum, shoot a couple of full mags at real-world distances. Pick a handgun self-defense drill and run through it a few times to make sure your gun will cycle your chosen ammo well.

Real-World Effectiveness of .357 SIG Defense Ammo

Despite the seeming lack of popularity of the .357 SIG, it’s still proven itself in real-world use by major state and federal law enforcement agencies. 

On the state side of things, the Texas Hwy Patrol and the state police forces of Delaware, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia have all used .357 SIG duty weapons.

On the federal side, the Secret Service, Bureau of Industry and Security, Air Marshals, Customs and Border Patrol, and FBI have all used .357 SIG as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between 9x22mm ammo and .357 sig ammo?

There is no difference between 9x22mm ammo and .357 Sig ammo. They are the same rounds.

Is the 357 sig too much for self-defense?

No, the 357 Sig is not too much for self-defense.

Can you use the 357 sig for home defense?

Yes, you can use the 357 Sig for home defense.

Is 357 SIG a good defensive round?

Yes, 357 Sig is a good defensive round. Even though it's not the most popular caliber, it's more than capable of stopping a threat.

Parting Shots

.357 Sig is a great option for self-defense, with a lot of great factory ammo options available that will help keep you and your loved ones safe. The round may be a bit niche, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective, and the ammo we’ve discussed here definitely proves that.

With the best .357 Sig defense ammo, you should feel confident with wielding a SIG .357 in defense of hearth and home, and you’ll have the bonus of probably being the only one of your buddies to carry one. 

For more info, check out our complete list of .357 SIG ammo, or check out our in-depth comparison of .357 SIG and 9mm to see how this slightly niche round stands up to the self-defense king. We also have more info on this great round and how to choose the perfect ammo below.

Matt Collins
Written by
Matt Collins

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