8 Aug 19

Ammunition Tests:

At a training course last weekend in PA, my students and I had the opportunity to test a number of popular high-performance pistol rounds on blocks of ten-percent gelatin. All rounds had to penetrate four layers of heavy denim before entering gelatin block(s).

Rounds were also chronographed:

Here are some conclusions:

1. European (eastern and western), Mexican, and South African ammunition is usable for practice, but significantly below American standards.

We noted wild variations in velocity, from round to round, with foreign ammunition, sometimes in excess of 200 f/s! This results from substantial variations in case dimensions, inferior propellants, inferior primers, and sub-par quality control during manufacture.

American-manufactured ammunition, from Federal, Hornady, Black Hills, Cor Bon, Super-Vel, Lehigh, Speer, Underwood, Winchester, et al is appreciably superior in all respects and still represents the best choice for serious use. Federal’s quality control is probably the best in the industry, but all manufacturers mentioned above produce a very acceptable product.

Foreign ammunition is recommended for practice only.

2. All-copper DPX pistol bullets expand consistently, even through fabric, and represent a good choice for personal defense, probably the best choice currently.

With 9mm HP bullets, 115gr represents the best compromise between penetration, expansion, velocity, and feeding reliability

3. FTM bullets render a nearly identical effect to DPX bullets, despite non-expansion, at least in gelatin.
Lehigh’s all-copper 90gr 9mm FTM produces a wound channel and penetration depth indistinguishable from 115gr DPX. FTM’s velocity from my SIG320 is in excess of 1400 f/s. Round-to-round velocity variation is less than 20 f/s!

4. I continue to not recommend any 147gr 9mm round. Performance is consistently inferior to alternatives mentioned above.

5. I continue to not recommended any pre-fragmented (frangible) bullet. I don’t like bullets that break into pieces, neither big pieces, nor small pieces. They are never as effective as bullets that stay in one piece!

6. 5.56×45 (223) 55gr hardball (from an M4) penetrates to the same depth as typical 9mm high-performance HP bullets.

Ammunition terminal performance has come a long way in just the last twenty years!

While we must always guard against “unrealistic expectations,” I am persuaded modern DPX and FTM bullets, even in 9mm, will stop fights much faster and any pistol bullet, in any caliber, would have when I first became a police officer, so many years ago!