How a charging moose made me change what I carry…

I did a podcast interview a couple of weeks ago with Jeff Anderson from Modern Combat And Survival Magazine.

Here’s a link to the podcast:

I was staying at Jeff’s a few months ago and he was fascinated with how I loaded my Glock magazines and wanted to share it with his subscribers.

So, today, we’re going to talk about the “unusual” way I load my mags…but I need to share a quick story for it to make sense.

A few weeks ago, I was trail running with my dog…a 90 pound Malinois.

She typically runs ahead a bit and then comes back to see why I’m taking so long.  Occasionally, she’ll take a detour to protect me from a squirrel or grouse.

So, this day, she runs around a bend like normal and is suddenly making a bee-line back to me…and past me…and she laid down right behind my feet.

I looked up and what must have been a 7,000 pound moose with smoke rolling out of it’s nose was charging me.  (ok…it was probably only 1,000 pounds and there was no smoke, but it was HUGE and MAD)

I found myself on a 10 foot wide logging road, my guard dog faithfully protecting my Achilles, a near vertical embankment on my right, a dropoff on my left, and an angry moose charging at me.

In the past, I would have freaked out.  This time, I was ready…not cocky or arrogant, but ready.

I quickly picked my line I was going to take over the dropoff, drew my Glock 26 subcompact pistol that I run with, and, in my best command voice, yelled, “STOP!”

And she actually did.  She stopped, turned around, and slowly walked away.

You see, this wasn’t my first time being charged by a moose.

Fortunately, I haven’t had to shoot one yet.  Technically, it would be legal to defend myself, but it would be a pain in the butt and I wouldn’t get to keep the meat,  so I’ve chosen to not shoot…even when the smart move probably would have resulted in at least a couple of dead moose.

Now, if you’re thinking that a Glock 26 (9mm) subcompact is no match for a charging moose, I’ve got a surprise for you.

What if I told you that I load my pistol magazine in such a way that I can effectively engage porcupines 10 feet away with a rock wall behind them, 2 legged attackers, as well as bears and moose?

If you think it’s impossible, you would have been correct a few years ago, but ammo has made dramatic leaps forward in what it’s able to do in specialized situations.

Here’s how I do it.

Keep in mind that I load my magazines for MY situation.  I don’t suggest that you load your magazines the same way, but you might want to think about how you load your magazines as a result of reading this.

Also keep in mind that no matter how you load your magazine, you’re compromising.  There is no perfect, one size fits all solution that works for everyone and every situation.

My Glock 26 has a 10 round capacity and I use a +2 mag extension.  I take out my round in the chamber almost every day and have found that it works best for me to store it in the magazine…so I carry 12 instead of 12+1.  I also carry a 17 round spare magazine about half the time…loaded the same way that I load my primary.

Here’s how I load my magazines…

My top 2 rounds are frangible.  I do that because I live in a canyon with a lot of rock walls and I end up shooting predators with my carry gun when I’m outside around the house, hiking, or trail running.  Since I’m just doing my thing and not on a range shooting, I normally don’t have any kind of eye protection on.  This creates a very real situation with ricochets.  Since I’ve taken spall (ricocheted metal) several times and had a ricochet lodged in my cheek bone, this is real world for me.

Frangible rounds are highly compressed copper powder held together with an epoxy.  When they hit steel, concrete, brick, or rock, they disintegrate.  For me, it means that if I shoot into rock, there will be rock and dust fragments flying, but no spall.

These are very effective self defense rounds, so I’m not compromising by having them as my first 2 rounds.  They could easily stop a threat if need be.  In fact, some of the most respected security personnel who work in environments with high pressure pipes oftentimes use frangible ammo because of how effective it is on people but not on metal.

That being said, if I’ve got a 2 legged threat in front of me, I want every advantage possible, so my next 3 rounds are Speer G2 147 grain polymer filled hollowpoints.  These are incredibly effective rounds that open consistently and open WIDE when they encounter fluid…even after going through a wall, windshield, or car door.

The vast majority of self-defense shootings with a pistol last less than 3 seconds and use less than 3 rounds, so the chances of needing more than 5 rounds against a 2 legged threat are slim but…

I’ve got another class of real-world threats just on the other side of my bedroom window that are 3-5 times bigger than a man…and that take more penetration and a different bullet design.

As I told you, I run into moose fairly often, but we also have bear and sometimes elk in rut in our canyon.

So, in the fall and winter, my next 5 rounds are Buffalo Bore 147gr hard cast bullet.

Most defensive bullets are designed to have around 18” of penetration.  The Buffalo Bore hard cast frequently have 48” of penetration and have been proven for bear defense for almost 2 decades.

Where a full metal jacket round has a rounded nose and slips through tissue and deflects off of bone, the flat nosed hard cast bullets punch through like a fist.  Which means if a bear or moose or elk are charging, I’ve got a tool that can finish the job.

In addition, if you remember anything about geometry or trig, a flat angle sends massive energy waves out perpendicular to the direction of travel, which means more tissue damage and more potential for shock.

Is there risk of over-penetration?  Yes.  There is a risk of shooting through a bad guy who’s posing a lethal threat to you and hitting someone behind them…but there’s a much higher risk of missing the bad guy completely and hitting someone behind them.  And, where I live, a round that may work well in summer may not penetrate as effectively on big guys wearing winter leather over Carhartt coveralls.

I mentioned that I carry this way in the fall and winter, but I don’t carry hard cast the rest of the year.  Instead, the rest of my magazines are filled with G2s.

Now, don’t read too much into what I’m saying about the Buffalo Bore hard cast bullets…they’re not something you want to hunt with and they’re not a guaranteed big game threat stopper.  My strategy is to get rounds on target while keeping a tree between me and the threat in hopes that the threat will stop before the threat figures out how to out-manuver me around the tree.

I know that it’ll take at least 1 second of shooting to fire the first 5 rounds and to chamber the hard cast rounds and that a moose can travel 30-40 feet in that time…and unless they hit the central nervous system, it’ll take time for them to have an effect.

Because of that, when I know I’m going to be in the woods a lot, I’ll switch my load to 2 frangible, then 5 hard cast, and the rest G2.

When it’s all said and done, it’s still a 9mm and not a .454 or a shotgun slug…but it’s way more effective than a typical self-defense round.

If we make this personal, how’s this apply to you?

Well, my exact setup isn’t going to be practical or necessary for most people.

Most people don’t need to draw and fire their carry pistol to defend their livestock and pets as a regular part of their life.

Most people don’t need to worry about the best ammo for punching through the skull of a charging moose.

But a lot of people could benefit from having a frangible round in their chamber and 1-2 more on the top of their magazine.  My go-tos for frangible are either Team Never Quit from Marcus Luttrell and Polyfrang.




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  • William D Moody

    Reply Reply December 9, 2018

    Thank you for sharing this about what rounds to carry and why. I often hunt deer in black bear country and carry my S&W 9mm (17 rd mag) as backup protection just in case I need it. A question: would the “Honey Badger” round be effective for bear?

    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 10, 2018

      My initial thought is that it wouldn’t be effective on bear, but that’s based on physics, terminal ballistics, and an educated guess…not actually shooting stuff with it. Here’s why:

      1. The Honey Badger is light. The Buffalo Bore 147s are 50% heavier. My GUESS is that the Buffalo Bore will punch through bone/sinew better.
      2. Honey Badger is designed to meet FBI specs…12-18″ of penetration. Buffalo Bore is designed as a defensive load (not hunting load) for big game.

      This isn’t a slight against the Honey Badger…I’m a BIG fan of the ARX and other non-expanding bullets and I think that they’re a great choice for 2 legged threats and up-to-man-sized problems that you may face in the wild.

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