4 June 19

Ammunition performance:

In PA last weekend, during a DTI Urban Rifle Course, we had the opportunity to test terminal performance of high-performance pistol ammunition on blocks of ten-percent gelatin.

My long-time friend, Mike Shovel, currently sales manager for Cor-Bon, made all this possible.

Mike has been in the serious ammunition business longer than nearly any of my other friends, and has forgotten more about the subject than I’ll ever likely know.

When Mike talks, I listen!

Gelatin, as a ballistic test-media, or “human tissue ‘simulant’” is surely not without critics!

Homogeneous (and mostly transparent), “ballistic” gelatin may be useful for comparing various brands of serious ammunition, and it is probably as close to “reality” as we’re likely to get, but its “predictive ability” is far from universally acknowledged!

Thus, we need to be cautious about making sweeping conclusions, derived solely from gelatin data.

Still, I test ammunition in gelatin every chance I get!

FBI testing protocol correctly requires that bullets first penetrate “normal” clothing before entering the gelatin block itself. “Normal clothing” is usually defined as four layers of substantial denim, as one would typically find in denim work pants.

That fabric “barrier” is significant! I’ve witnessed more than one high-performance hollow-point bullet monotonously expand “by-the-book” when penetrating bare gelatin, but perform significantly less well, and with far less consistency, when penetrating fabric barriers first.

Under these conditions, I like bullets that reproducibly penetrate twelve to eighteen inches of gelatin (FBI Standard), but many of my colleagues believe nine to fifteen inches of penetration represents a more delineative standard, particularly for personal defense.

A persuasive argument can be made either way!

Out of my SIG 320 (9mm), with its 3 and 5/8 inch barrel, we tested:

Super Vel 115gr SCHP (Solid Copper Hollow Point), my current carry-round.

Cor-Bon 95gr DPX (current production)

Lehigh Defense 90gr Extreme Defense (FTM bullet)

Cor-Bon 165gr PowerBall (45ACP) from my Kahr PM45, and current back-up pistol, with its 3-inch barrel.

These four turned-in superior performance, expanding consistently/symmetrically (with the exception of
Lehigh’s FTM bullet) and penetrating to a uniform fifteen inches.

Cavitation in the gelatin between the four was essentially identical!

Tissue destruction is accomplished via bullet expansion and jagged frontal area (after expansion) with conventional hollow-point bullets. Something similar is accomplished via plasma jets created by Lehigh’s FTM bullet (which does not change shape) as it passes through tissue.

In any event, between the four, I was able to see no difference in shape, nor appearance, of wound channels.
Velocity variation between rounds, with all four, was small, less than 30f/s, indicating excellent quality control during manufacture. Super Vel’s velocity was the most consistent, but all were very acceptable.

My conclusion is that any of the above four represents as good a performance as we are ever likely to see from serious pistol ammunition, from serious carry-pistols.

Poor performance was turned-in by Federal Hydra-Shok, 124gr. Expansion was generally incomplete and consistently inconsistent.

Federal is a fine company, and their quality control is probably the best in the business, but the Hydra-Shok round, while still in production, represents a dated technology and is mostly obsolete, in my opinion.

Federal’s 124gr HST represents a much better choice!

Hornady’s 124gr Critical Duty also represents a good choice

The foregoing is, of course, my observation and my opinion. When you carry a 9mm pistol, I can comfortably recommend any of the rounds I mentioned favorably.

I should add that ammunition from companies I did not mention, like Underwood, Gorilla, and Black Hills also enjoy good reputations.

Eventually I’ll test them all!