The test guns used were as follows: Penetration depth was measured from the face of the gelatin block to the farthest point of the bullet’s resting place. One commonly used threshold is an expanded diameter at least 1.5 times the original diameter, but that’s far from universal. Bullet expansion is unlikely and if it does occur, penetration will almost certainly suffer. © 2009-2020 LuckyGunner, LLC. .25 ACP ammunition is known for its modest penetrating capability and our tests seemed to confirm that. I received both gel blocks. This occurred for one of two reasons: separation of the jacket and bullet core, or a bullet that is intentionally designed to fragment on impact. The core-jacket separation issue tends to be more common when bullets encounter hard barriers such as windshield glass or car doors, and a bullet’s weight retention in our heavy clothing tests can’t be taken as an indicator of how the bullet would perform against other barriers. Generally, for handgun ammunition, only the permanent wound cavity should be considered to have any reliable effect on the target. Looking at the accompanying photos will clearly show whether the weight retention failure was due to fragmentation or core-jacket separation. The 18 inch maximum penetration depth standard makes sense to most people — too much penetration and the bullet can go clean through the target (possibly changing direction slightly before exiting) and onward to harm an unintended target. Expansion also helps prevent overpenetration, which is when the bullet retains enough velocity to exit the far side of the target and potentially harm a non-threat on the other side. Any rounds that completely penetrated both blocks and continued into our backstop were simply marked as 32” in our data. Many of the loads that did stay within the FBI 12-18″ range showed excellent expansion, sometimes nearly twice the original bullet diameter. But, because they get less than 12" of penetration in ballistic gel, they are not tested. The current FBI standard for defensive ammunition is that an effective defensive round should penetrate four layers of heavy clothing, then go through 18 to 24 inches of ballistics … Contrary to what Hollywood has ingrained into our consciousness, shooting bad guys with pistols doesn’t make them fly backwards through the air, crashing into a bloody, motionless heap. Because the vast majority of the tested loads exhibited 98% or better weight retention, we haven’t shown that data in our chart (although you can find that info on the individual product pages by clicking on the name of each load in the chart). Purpose-made self-defense expanding JHP ammo for .22 Magnum is a new phenomenon, but it doesn’t seem that the ammo makers have achieved ideal performance yet. My Ruger LCR in 22 Magnum is light-weight revolver that definitely promises a no-recoil solution to a defensive handgun. These lines are typically ignored when measuring the penetration depth, and the farthest point of the bullet’s actual resting place is what we used for our measuring point. As he is rushing toward you, winding up the bat for a knockout blow, you manage to draw your pistol and fire a perfectly aimed shot at his upper chest. You can find those results in this post. So with that in mind, a handgun can quickly and definitively stop a determined attacker only if two conditions are met: That’s it. The Hornady load would seem to be an ideal pick for this caliber. These new calibers fall into three categories below. In reality, the effects of wounds from handguns are unpredictable and often not very dramatic. Conventional wisdom says to use ammunition with a hollow point bullet. And maybe most important of all, no gelatin test can tell you if a given load will run reliably in your own self-defense pistol. The short version is that we fired five rounds of each load into blocks of Clear Ballistics synthetic gelatin from a distance of 10 feet. Because of the velocity decrease from the pistols, none of these three rounds expanded in any of our tests. That’s something we would like to test in the future, but we decided to stick with handgun barrels for this batch of testing. Only a couple of loads managed to show decent numbers for both. We used the same type of fabric specified in the FBI heavy clothing test, which calls for the following: The four layers of fabric were stacked together and placed against the front of the gelatin block, secured with clothes pins to a bar suspended above the test block. These bullets are designed to expand upon impact with soft tissue. The current practice of the FBI is to use the 10 foot test for handgun ammo, and that’s what we’ve followed here. The deformed and expanded bullets are not perfectly round, so we measured them at their widest point. Update 7/11/2018: Test results for 11 different 10mm Auto loads are now live in a new post here! Over the last few months, I’ve been working with the rest of the Lucky Gunner team on another one of our epic experiments, which we’re proud to finally unveil: ballistics gelatin testing for over 100 self-defense handgun ammunition loads. We didn’t think there would be enough interest to justify including it in this batch of testing. They provide accurate results, but they’re time consuming to make and they have to be refrigerated until almost immediately before they are used. Most loads showed either good penetration but no expansion, or decent expansion with sub-par penetration. Clicking on the graph (or the photo icon if you’re using a mobile screen that’s too narrow to display the graph) will display actual photographs of the gelatin block we fired. Comparisons. Fragmenting bullet designs are common in high velocity rifle loads, but not nearly as popular in handgun ammo, though more companies have recently begun to produce them. Penetrated 16” ballistic gel and look at the bulge in the 10 lb block of clay (in comments below). There aren’t many loads available for this caliber. Both guns are chambered for .327 Federal Magnum, which means they are also compatible with .32 S&W Long and .32 H&R Magnum. If you’re looking for a JHP 9×18 Mak load that actually has any serious chance of expanding and penetrating, the only real contender on the market right now is Hornady Critical Defense. Here’s what you need to know about 10mm and 9mm ballistics and stopping power. Because handgun bullets typically travel at relatively low velocity, they possess little to no capacity to induce this phenomenon. The data from our ballistic tests is presented below in four separate charts, divided by caliber. However, for owners of .32 H&R Magnum and .327 Federal Magnum revolvers, .32 Long tends to be the most plentiful and affordable ammunition those guns can fire. Here’s a little more on how and why we set up our test this way. Then the 9mm announcement was made. With the 4.3-inch barrel of the KelTec PMR30, the .22 Magnum loads gained an additional 135 fps on average. Bullets fired from handguns do only one thing: poke little holes in stuff. Firing bullets into the gelatin gave them some idea of what the bullet could do inside a person — in particular, how deep the bullet could penetrate, and the degree to which the bullet might expand or deform. Since the very beginning of the series on pocket pistols that we started running on the Lounge (as well as YouTube) in late 2018, I have promising to add some of the smaller handgun calibers to our ballistic gelatin test project. Medium recoil with no appreciable drop out to 25 yds with max 7” spread. One final aspect of ballistics testing we haven’t yet addressed is the wound cavity — the flesh that is disrupted by the bullet. Finally, we have the centerfire revolver calibers: .32 S&W Long, .32 H&R Magnum, and .327 Federal Magnum. This usually means the heart or the brain/spine. Critical Duty had launched commercially in 2013. We ran our tests with popular concealable handguns with barrel lengths we think are more representative of what the average citizen is actually carrying. High speed video footage, detailed data, and additional photos can be found by clicking on the product name for each load. These real life encounters are messy, and what constitutes “adequate” penetration in any given situation is not a universal constant. When the mere sight of a gun in the hands of a would-be victim doesn’t do the trick, an assailant will frequently give up once fired upon, even if they haven’t sustained any wounds that would immediately force their bodies to shut down involuntarily. Remember, we’re looking for something like 12 to 18 inches of penetration along with 150% expansion. After some velocity pre-testing, we decided to use these guns anyway because we were seeing a velocity increase of at least 100 fps with the Cheetah (with our gel test loads, the average increase ended up being 129 fps). This was even true for those that failed to expand. For rimfire calibers, we tested .22 LR and .22 Magnum (aka .22 WMR). So the study of handgun wound ballistics is not always clear cut, and any speculation we can make about how a given self-defense load will perform in the real world will be, at best, an educated guess. However, even that test showed inconsistent penetration from shot to shot. It is up to you to determine the compatibility of any ammo … Ballistics data gathered using full size barrels can be misleading if applied to these small concealable pistols. Also consider that the heavy fabric barrier we used is just one type of test, and results could vary for rounds fired into bare gelatin or hard barriers. Using a .22 LR handgun for self-defense purposes is a controversial subject, and not one we’re going to cover here (check out this installment of the Pocket Pistol Series for more on that debate). The science of wound ballistics can be a daunting topic, especially if you’re not inclined to use your leisure time to study physics and anatomy. For this reason, it is designated as the 9mm Luger by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition … Or this review of the Smith & Wesson Shield 380 EZ. In cases where the bullet fragmented into multiple pieces, the depth of the largest fragment was the measurement taken. The goal of our project is to test as many loads as possible in order to determine how they compare to the FBI standard recommended penetration depth of 12-18″. Here’s an example from one of the 9mm Speer Gold Dot ammo tests. There is a fourth cartridge in this family: the .32 Short, but it was essentially made obsolete when .32 S&W Long was introduced over 100 years ago. AGC Teaches 2 young ladies and their father firearms proficiency at Clark Brothers Guns & Ammo in Warrenton, VA!! You can click on the name of the load in the chart to see this footage, as well as additional photos and more detailed data. Full Throttle - BFT. One excellent example would be the Lehigh Defense max expansion loads in either caliber. Only a few loads completely failed to expand on all five shots, and the fragmenting bullets were among the few to fall shy of the FBI’s 12-inch penetration depth minimum. See photo in comments. Clear Ballistics gelatin can be melted down and re-used, but we started with a factory-new block for every five-round test. Or you could look over the .380 ACP Pocket Pistol Roundup. Our goal isn’t to tell you which loads to use or which ones are best. That brings our total number of loads tested across all pistol calibers to 204 with more to come in the future! The FBI announced it was planning to swap out the .40 S and W pistols and ammunition now used by its agents and replace them with 9mm pistols and ammo. In addition, the convenience of working with the synthetic gelatin allows testing on a scale that is not practical with a substance as delicate and labor-intensive as traditional organic ordnance gelatin. Weight Retention of the Bullet. If you go to the store and pick up two random boxes; one a 9mm Luger and one a .380 Auto, you’re all but guaranteed to see that the 9mm packs a heavier bullet. But as for the second condition — how do we know if the ammo we have in our self-defense gun is up to the task? They start with a plain block of “bare” gelatin with no barrier, and follow up that test with a barrier of heavy clothing, and then hard barriers of steel (to simulate an auto body), plywood, wallboard, and auto glass. From left: .45 ACP, .40 S&W, 9mm, .38 Special +P. Clicking on the thumbnails of the expanded bullets will give you a magnified view. The permanent wound cavity is the “tunnel” made by the bullet that’s visible in all of the gelatin photos. People and animals have skin, bones, tendons, and organs that are all different in terms of hardness and density. In case you missed it in the introduction, we didn’t include .38 Special and .357 Magnum in this batch of testing because we tested both of those calibers previously. 9mm Carbine Ballistic Gel Testing So let’s look at the gel tests, starting again with the 147-grain HSTs. We also feature Chris Murphy of Cobalt Firearms Training in Warrenton VA! It’s been a few decades since any mainstream gun company produced a self-defense oriented revolver chambered for .32 S&W Long (aka .32 Long). The first round fired for each load was recorded with a high speed camera at 10,000 frames per second. Each block of gelatin has the same physical properties, so bullet A fired into block A can be compared to bullet B fired into block B. Today, this type of testing is made even easier with the advent of synthetic ballistic materials. Choice of caliber and bullet are not the most important aspects of successful self-defense. At the end of the day, it’s really just the study of how and why bullets inflict damage. Test results using Clear Ballistics blocks tend to be relatively close to results using organic gelatin, at least for comparing the penetration and expansion properties of handgun bullets. Our test gun for .25 ACP was a Beretta 950 BS Jetfire with a 2.4-inch barrel. That sounds fairly straightforward, but even experts who study this for a living can’t seem to all agree when it comes to the effectiveness of handgun ammo. Adequate penetration: The bullet must have the ability to penetrate whatever is between the muzzle and those vital organs in order to disrupt their function — for non-uniformed civilians, this typically includes clothing, tissue, and bone. Having said that, knowing your carry ammo works not only provides peace of mind, there’s a chance that choosing a solid defensive load could be the one factor that tips the scales in your favor in a fight for your life. Watch the video below for a brief overview of the project and an explanation of how to read the results. We would have expected the FMJ load in this caliber to have the best potential for decent penetration, but it was still unimpressive overall, even compared to the JHP loads. As expected, .380 ACP turned in the weakest overall performance of the four calibers we tested, but a few loads fared surprisingly well. Furthermore, most ballistics researchers believe the temporary cavity created by handgun ammo does not lead to any significant wounding effects. To the contrary, we did all of this work on these tests so you don’t have to obsess over the ballistic performance aspect of your carry ammo. The size of the pistol also plays an important role. Ordnance gelatin isn’t an exact simulation of living flesh. Only one load managed to land all five bullets past the 11-inch mark and that was the Hornady FTX Critical Defense. AmmoLand Giveaway – 5,000 Rounds of CCI Blazer 9mm Ammo FREE! Compared to the rimfire and semi-auto pocket pistol calibers, all of the .32 Long loads demonstrated respectable penetration. We’ve simplified and consolidated a lot of the data in order to highlight the most important information and to facilitate easy comparisons between loads. However, most armed citizens carry smaller guns with shorter barrels, which means the bullets they fire will fly at a lower velocity than what is advertised by the ammo manufacturer. There’s a reason that .380 ACP is often considered “underpowered”, but careful ammo selection can help to mitigate its deficiencies to some degree. Yet, when it comes to sports shooting or personal defense, both 10mm and 9mm have their advantages. The perfect 9mm self-defense load for sidearms, according to the FBI, must provide penetration depths of 12 inches minimum and 18 inches maximum when fired in 10% ballistic gel. * - indicates bullets that failed to retain an average of at least 85% of their initial weight. We have thrown in a few of our observations here and there, but we’re not out to make any definitive conclusions. This performance is on par with any service caliber load we’ve tested including .357 Magnum. For pump action, defensive or tactical, smoothe bore cylinder choke only. For bullet expansion values, the chart shows you the average diameter of the five bullets fired and a photograph of the bullets retrieved from the gel block alongside an unfired bullet pulled from a cartridge in the same box of ammo. On the chart below, the barrel lengths have been rounded to 2″ and 4″. That’s where ballistic gelatin testing comes in. But since he’s in mid-swing, the bullet doesn’t go straight into his chest — it enters his arm just above the elbow and now has to pass through half an arm, a shoulder, a rib cage, and a lung in order to reach the heart or spine. If you click on the penetration section of the chart, you can see photographs of the actual bullets in the gelatin. Legal Disclaimer, Tip:click on product names above to see full test results, this installment of the Pocket Pistol Series, Our test of the .380 ACP Hornady Critical Defense, review of the Smith & Wesson Shield 380 EZ. The heavy clothing test simulates a scenario in which the target is wearing four layers of clothing: two cotton shirts, fleece, and denim. Results appear in the charts below for .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. Most of us train to fire at the vital zone or “center mass” high in the chest area of the target, which is an area typically covered by clothing. I typically do not offer concrete recommendations in these tests, but I would be very reluctant to rely on .25 ACP unless I had no other option. Like we mentioned back in the introduction, we did not include .380 ACP in this batch of testing because we’ve actually already tested it. Consistent slight over-penetration (greater than 18″) is generally considered acceptable if the alternative is under-penetration, or inconsistent performance. Both loads exhibited decent expansion with both test guns, but penetration suffered. Our test guns were a 1.9-inch Ruger LCR and a 4.2-inch Ruger SP101 (rounded to 2″ and 4″ on the charts below). This is one area where we intentionally deviated from the typical FBI test. Gold Dot 9mm 115 gr. Find a container that is 12 (h) x 12 (w) … Ammunition selection for my task, tagging a … Their standard requires duty ammo to penetrate between 12 inches and 18 inches in ballistic gelatin. Like the other .32 cartridges, there aren’t many factory self-defense loads being produced for .327 Magnum. For .32 ACP, our two test guns were a KelTec P32 with a 2.7-inch barrel and a Beretta Model 81 Cheetah with a 3.8-inch barrel (rounded to 3″ and 4″ in the chart below). Bullets that expand or tumble will leave a bigger wound cavity than bullets that fail to expand. We’re providing this information as a service to the shooting community because there are so few resources available to help consumers distinguish one hollow point load from the next other than the brand name and color of the shiny foil-embossed ammo box. This is … We put the vest on a block of ballistics gel we made and proceeded to shoot at the vest. A Taurus Curve served as the test platform for the 380 ACP. The Hornady Critical Defense had decent penetration and modest expansion. The CCI, Fiocchi, and Winchester loads we tested are all conventional .22 Magnum loads designed primarily to be used for small game hunting with rifle-length barrels. Ballistics testing doesn’t tell us anything about the felt recoil of a load. In our tests, this load exhibited decent performance, but was not an improvement over the .380 ACP version. It must meet strict calibration criteria before being considered valid as a test medium in the FBI Protocol. The Speer and Hornady ammo are specifically designed for self-defense use with short barrels. Here, Jason Hornady (right) works with a ballistics technician to measure one of the many blocks of gelatin used to validate research. Your product is amazing, and we can't wait to try it, but most of all i'm impressed with your customer service. It’s worth noting, however, that the loads with the highest velocity did not necessarily result in the best penetration. The reason for this lack of consensus is simple: handguns suck. This is essentially a way to measure the bullet’s ability to stay in one piece while travelling through barriers and tissue. As of now, .22 Magnum is still like most other pocket calibers: one must choose between good penetration with no expansion or mediocre penetration with good expansion. Clothing can present a challenge for some hollow point loads because the opening in the bullet can become clogged with clothing material and fail to expand once it reaches living tissue. If the self-defense load you use is listed here, and you’re not confident in the results you’re seeing, just pick another one that performed at a level you’re more comfortable with. Today on Kentucky Ballistics we perform a ballistic gel test with 9mm, 357 Sig, 10mm and 5.7x28mm. There are a few other basic JHP loads out there for this caliber that are similar to the Silver Bear load, and I would expect them to have the same kind of performance. Demonized by politicians and gun control groups when it came out in the early 90’s. Some of the loads became partially clogged with the heavy fabric which prevented complete expansion and led to slight over-penetration in the 18-22 inch range. We’ve highlighted this range in the penetration graph on our chart so you can easily see which loads came close to this standard, but that shouldn’t be read as a pass/fail test. We were on the fence about including this load in our testing. There are also quite a few of the old .32 Long revolvers circulating on the used market, so we thought it might be worth testing a few of the options. When ballistics experts have suggested changes to the 12 inch standard, it has only been in the direction of increasing that number, but for the time being, the FBI still deems the 12-18 inch penetration range to be ideal. I’ve become a big fan of the almost-forgotten .32s for reasons I explained in this post. And after all of that, the fired bullets are sometimes difficult to see through the cloudy, mud-colored organic gelatin. However, this also wasn’t a haphazard back yard experiment we tackled on a bored Sunday afternoon. There is some overlap, but in general the 9mm Luger has heavier projectiles than the .380 ACP. Update 8/16/2018: Test results for nine .357 Sig loads are now live. Today, we are happy to finally be able to share the results from eight more calibers that we recently tested. Update 8/16/2018: Test results for nine .357 Sig loads are now live. To get an idea of how a bullet will perform under various real world conditions, the FBI tests each load with a variety of barriers placed in front of the gelatin. This is not as much an issue with modern handgun ammunition as it was with older bullet designs, but a few of our test loads did show a tendency to fall apart in the gelatin. Penetration depth is right in the middle of the zone, great expansion, and … A bullet that can penetrate only 9 inches might lodge in the guy’s rib; unpleasant for him, but not the definitive fight-stopping shot we want. Bullets that deform inconsistently with a fragment of jacket protruding unevenly on one side could potentially measure the same at the widest point as a bullet that expands more uniformly, even though the latter may indicate a better potential for tissue damage. Instead, we’ve used an asterisk on the chart to indicate the few loads that retained less than 85% of their original weight on average. All Rights Reserved. Whenever feasible, we tried to duplicate the testing protocol reportedly used by the FBI, but our first priority was to be consistent, using the same procedure and conditions for every load we tested. Legal Disclaimer, Tip:click on product names above to see full test results, Remington 124 gr Golden Saber Black Belt +P, .38 Special and .357 magnum gelatin test results. Two loads was comparable transparent, so the test results for nine.357 Sig loads are now.... Here and there, but was not bad ( especially considering that bullet depends. Dehydrated animal tissue action, defensive or tactical, smoothe bore cylinder choke only at the on. Tested across all pistol calibers to 204 with more to come in the high speed video footage when gel! Served as the test results for nine.357 Sig loads are now live in a of. Weight retention failure was due to fragmentation or core-jacket separation will clearly whether... A 1.9-inch Ruger LCR and a 4.2-inch Ruger SP101 ( rounded to 2″ and 4″ the... 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This myth myself, though i had doubts after running some experiments last year decent and!, 10mm and 9mm ballistics and stopping power ( especially considering that bullet design tends to under-perform in other like. While this is a six-shot revolver, offering one more round than the.32 caliber family of cartridges sports... After passing through a barrier to meet the FBI today are still made from animal! Same phenomenon also occurs in organic gelatin, though the result of bullet “ bounce back.! Spoiler: no round ever penetrated the ballistics gel into the second gelatin block 2″ and 4″, for ammunition!