Top 5 Target Loads for Handguns

Whether you’re spending time plinking or you’re focused on honing your defensive handgun skills, you probably use some target ammunition. Sure, you could use defensive loads like hollow points to train with, but that gets cost-prohibitive. If you’re trying to figure out what the best target loads are for handguns, we’re here to help. We have a few suggestions for ammunition specifically designed for target use with handguns. Check out our top five handgun loads for trigger time at the range, in no particular order, of course.

Federal American Eagle

federal american eagle ammo
Federal’s American Eagle line of target loads is vast, so they probably have what you need. (Photo credit: Federal Premium)

The American Eagle line produced by Federal has a lot of fans and for good reason. It’s relatively reasonably priced and performs reliably. Consistency in loads is important, and the American Eagle is one of those lines of target loads you can count on to have been properly loaded at the factory. This is also a target load that tends to feed well in all handguns (that’s not something you can say for every ammo out there).

This line of ammunition is available in myriad target loads for handguns, including 9mm Luger, .380 ACP, 10mm, .45 ACP, .327 Federal Magnum, and .357 Magnum. And yes, .30 Super Carry is offered, too. These are full metal jacket (FMJ) rounds manufactured with new brass in a variety of bullet weights. That means you can take your pick from 9mm loads, including 124-grain, 115-grain, and 147-grain. If you’re trying to keep your training loads as close to your defensive loads as possible for felt recoil and trajectory, it’s a good idea to get the same grain bullets in target and defensive load. Of course, it’s even better if they’re from the same company. Yes, Federal does make target and self-defense ammo packs.

SIG Sauer Elite Performance

SIG Sauer target ammo in 38 spl
SIG Sauer’s Elite Performance line includes FMJ loads for target practice. (Photo credit: SIG Sauer)

The FMJ loads in SIG Sauer’s Elite Performance line of ammunition are designed to be a ballistic match for the company’s V-Crown line of defensive ammo. That means the felt recoil, muzzle rise, and accuracy of the FMJs and JHPs should be quite similar, creating a more useful training experience. After all, one of the downsides to training with FMJs instead of your chosen defensive loads is that they frequently have a significant difference in performance. But if you use SIG Sauer V-Crown for your defensive ammo and their Elite Performance FMJs for training, you should have better results than you might otherwise.

SIG Sauer Elite Performance FMJs are made using new brass, which means you could reload them if you wanted to do so. Bullets are copper jacketed for reduced fouling and, as FMJs, do not expand on impact. SIG says they use the same premium components for their target loads as they do for their defensive loads. Consider this line if you want to take steps to match the performance of your training loads and defensive ammo.

Remington UMC

remington umc handgun target ammo mega pack
Remington UMC is a great line of target ammo that’s perfect for getting trigger time in without breaking the bank. (Photo credit: Remington)

Remington UMC is a longtime favorite of many handgunners and is back in production now that Remington’s ammunition line has been taken over by Vista Outdoor. This is a line of reliably performing FMJs produced under the UMC name, which stands for Union Metallic Cartridge (UMC was an ammo company founded back in 1867). It’s a relatively clean shooting ammo and utilizes the manufacturer’s Kleanbore primers. Ammunition is made in the company’s Lonoke, Arkansas plant, as it has been for years.

This line of training ammunition is offered in numerous calibers, so you’re probably going to find what you need without any issues. New, quality brass is used, so reloading is possible. It’s a great mid-range target load for plinking and focused training applications. And if you want to get your FMJs and defensive rounds from the same company, there’s a line of defensive ammunition offered as well.

CCI Blazer Brass Case

blazer fmj ammo
The entire line of Blazer ammunition is good, but their brass case target loads are fantastic. (Photo credit: CCI Blazer)

The Blazer line of target loads is popular because it feeds and fires reliably. It’s made under CCI, a company known for high-quality products, and has been proving itself for decades. As with all loads in this list, Blazer’s FMJs are manufactured using brand-new brass cases and quality components. The Blazer Brass Case line of target ammo is offered in several calibers, including 9mm Luger, .357 Magnum, .40 Smith & Wesson, .45 ACP, .38 Special, .380 ACP, and 10mm Auto. There’s also an aluminum-cased line of training rounds.

When you’re choosing target loads, it’s important to go with a brand that’s known for consistent cycling. Certain lines of ammunition are prone to light primer strikes, inconsistent feeding, and poor quality control that leads to bullets seated at different depths. Blazer Brass is a fantastic line of ammo and well worth considering for use in your training rotation.

Aguila Ammunition

aguila fmj ammo
Aguila is an underrated manufacturer that produces some great ammo. (Photo credit: Aguila)

You might be wondering where the line of ammo’s brand designation is, but that’s it. Aguila Ammunition produces some good ammunition, and they should get props for it. Their FMJs are great for target practice and plinking, and they’ve been historically reliable. Yes, Aguila got their start as a foreign manufacturer in Mexico, but they’ve expanded. Today there’s a second manufacturing plant in Texas. The company even began holding an annual Aguila Cup in Decatur, Texas, in 2018.

These are not remanufactured rounds. Aguila uses new brass and carefully selected components to ensure quality loads. One of the great things about this particular company is they do have some calibers others are less likely to stock, such as 25 Auto and 32 Smith & Wesson. Running Aguila might save you a little money. To date, these loads have worked well for me in a variety of calibers. The biggest downside is that the ammo maker doesn’t make very many defensive loads. So, if you want to use the same brand of target loads as you do defensive ammo, you’re probably out of luck.

Choosing the Right Target Load

Not every gun that exists is going to feed and fire ammunition the same. That means you might need to do some checking before finding the right target loads for your practice time. It might be tempting to go with the cheapest ammunition you find, but that tends not to work well in the long run. After all, you need your trigger time to be used wisely. Although learning to clear malfunctions is a good skill to have, it doesn’t need to be a constant.

What’s your favorite target ammo? Drop your experiences in the comments section.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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