Subsonic Ammo: Does It Live Up to the Hype?

Subsonic Ammo: Does It Live Up to the Hype?

Superman's "faster than a speeding bullet" nickname may have been impressive when 1950s audiences tuned in for the Adventures of Superman, but subsonic ammunition doesn't have sound barrier-breaking speed on the mind. While the term "faster than a speeding bullet" implies moving faster than the speed of sound, subsonic ammo is precisely engineered so the bullet can travel below the sound barrier.

Why would a bullet be designed to travel below the speed of sound? This in-depth look into subsonic ammunition will explain all and demonstrate the unique uses for this type of ammunition.

What Is Subsonic Ammunition?

Subsonic ammunition's name gives away what subsonic ammo is designed to do. Subsonic literally means "below the speed of sound", so subsonic ammunition is designed to travel at a maximum speed that is less than the speed of sound.

Subsonic ammunition is officially rated as below 1,125 feet per second. Calculating whether a round is truly subsonic is a simple matter of following math formulas and scientific principles.

Of course, hunters and ammo enthusiasts care less about the science and more about why the ammunition is useful. Fortunately, the ammunition is useful for everything from effective home defense to covert hunting.

Using Subsonic Ammunition for Home Defense

If you are planning on using subsonic ammunition for home defense, it is important to understand the limitations of the ammunition. For starters, a slower round in general does less damage than higher velocity loads. That said, don't assume that subsonic ammunition cannot be powerful. In some calibers such as 9mm, .22 and .45 ammunition, the loads are naturally subsonic. Despite this, owners of these firearms know they can pack a punch if needed.

Most subsonic ammunition strikes the right balance by using heavier bullets that retain the most energy possible while traveling at lower velocities. While they are slower than standard bullets, heavier bullets can actually have greater stopping power because their retained energy carries more force.

For example, the famed M1911 .45 ACP has been touted as "history's best handgun", and its 230 grain ammunition traveled at velocities which fell within the subsonic classification of ammo. The larger, heavier bullet weights provided the military with a powerful and reliable pistol that was in service for decades.

Using pistols of this caliber with subsonic ammunition can be immensely useful for home defense, but hunters arguably have the greatest use for subsonic ammunition thanks to the ammunition's ability to reduce sound.

Subsonic Ammunition Is a Huge Help for Hunters

shooting prone with a silencer on a rifle

It is no secret that military special forces need subsonic ammunition to carry out their clandestine and covert special operations. According to Pentagon officials, this ammunition provides "superior covert and stealth capabilities", and hunters can take advantage of these benefits. While subsonic ammunition greatly aids stealth forces thanks to the reduced noise when firing weapons equipped with silencers, hunters equally benefit by using subsonic ammunition.

Without a silencer, subsonic ammunition can be just as loud as supersonic (faster than the speed of sound) ammunition. Some ammunition salesmen erroneously state that subsonic ammo is much quieter, and without a suppressor, this is not necessarily true. With a suppressor, however, subsonic ammunition becomes invaluable for hunters.

The speed with which a bullet travels affects the max velocity cracking sound as it travels through the air. Supersonic loads break the barrier of sound, which results in the resounding crack that gun enthusiasts enjoy so much. Subsonic loads travel below the sound barrier, and as such, the cracking sound will never occur.

As a result, using a subsonic load with a suppressed weapon stays whisper quiet thanks to the lack of the in-flight cracking sound. With traditional ammunition, a silenced weapon is not as effective since the crack will still make noise. For hunters, this can be the critical difference between scaring away game and remaining unnoticed for a few more shots.

While subsonic ammo is a huge boon for hunters, it is important for hunters and general gun owners alike to consider the right subsonic ammo caliber based on the reasons for purchasing the ammunition.

Choosing Subsonic Ammo Calibers

When choosing the best subsonic ammo caliber and/or type, start by deciding whether you need pistol or rifle ammunition. Heavier loaded handgun cartridges are a great home defense choice, and there are a number of great options to choose from, including:

The majority of these ammunition types will be subsonic, providing heavier projectiles that can be helpful for home defense purposes. There are also handgun caliber rifles that may benefit from heavier rounds as well. 9mm rifles with long barrels can benefit from the heavier 158 grain 9mm rounds. When equipped with a suppressor, these rifles are effective when hunting smaller game.

For larger game, look to a more powerful subsonic round that benefits from both accuracy, silence and enough damage to take down larger animals. The .300 AAC Blackout Subsonic ammunition is a great choice for this purpose. The "silent" factor of these rounds helps hunters reduce unwanted noise while still enjoying the benefit of powerful rounds that expand upon penetration. The penetrating and expanding capability gives hunters some leeway on their shots. Should a hunter miss a key organ by a few inches, the expanding capability of the ammunition will still inflict massive damage.

With advantages like these, subsonic ammunition is no longer just for military covert ops. Subsonic ammo provides noteworthy advantages for a variety of uses and purposes. Feel free to reach out to us with questions about subsonic ammunition and/or our other ammunition types.

Have you used subsonic rounds in the past or do you plan to after reading this article? Let us know in the comments below.

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