Friday, May 4, 2012

Ballistics Testing Remington Golden Saber Bonded 9mm 124 Grain +P

One of the big advantages of purchasing the Boberg XR9-S is the ability of the pistol to handle +P ammunition and get good performance out of it with it's 3.35" barrel length.  I decided to test a few of the better known and used self defense ammunition loadings through the Boberg to see how the gun would handle them and also the terminal performance of the ammo  This test was done on the Remington Golden Saber Bonded 124 Grain +P BJHP.  I know very little about this ammo other than it's a bonded bullet version of the Remington Golden Saber line of ammunition.  Bonding refers to the manufacturing step that bonds the bullet jacket to the bullet core.  The stats below came from the two recovered test rounds.

A Small Detour To Discuss Bonded vs. Non-bonded Bullets
I keep all my recovered bullets so for this test I dug into the archives and pulled out the two recovered bullets from a previous test of Remington Golden Saber 124 grain.  This load is not bonded and you can really see how the lead separates from the expanding petals in the non-bonded rounds on the right.  The recovered bonded bullets on the left show how the lead core actually adheres to the petals and the core follows the petals during expansion.  If you've ever wondered what the difference was between bonded and non-bonded, this is a good visual example.   End of detour....back to the test.  

This test may seem a bit self serving due to my test pistol choice, but I think the results should be very similar to those you would get from the Glock 26 or other small 9mm with barrels in the 3.25" to 3.5" range.

Pistol Specs:
Boberg XR9-S 9mm with 3.35" barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at alternate ends of a SIM-TEST block that is loosely draped with 2 layers of medium weight denim.  I take the shots from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 5 inches away from the SIM-TEST block.  My SIM-TEST blocks are now closely calibrated to ballistics gel density.  I shoot the blocks at the range and then bring them home and recover the bullets.

Both recovered rounds showed consistency in expansion and penetration.  The velocity difference between the two shots seems excessive for a premium ammunition offering, but in this case it provides another data point on the range of velocities needed for expansion of this load.  From the data we see a range of 1069 through 1122.  The slower bullet expanded less, but still penetrated 1/2" deeper.  This is also consistent observed results with many of my other tests.  I was mildly surprised by the weight loss on both recovered rounds, but not overly concerned by this.  The video below documents the entire test from range testing to bullet recovery. 

My Thoughts
I purchased this ammo because of my prior good experiences with the non-bonded Golden Saber load in 124 grain standard pressure and +P varieties.  While the bullet looks a bit odd in shape, it's blunt'ish rounded nose can really help Golden Saber feed in ammo fussy semi-auto pistols.  The bonded load is marketed to folks that may have to shoot through barriers like auto glass.  I don't have that requirement, but I found it difficult to pass up these boxes of 50 for a price that was less than buying two 25 round boxes of non-bonded Golden Sabers.  I'm pleased that I didn't spend my money foolishly and that this purchase performs as expected. 

Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested. It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision about which specific ammunition to use for their needs. It's also critically important to test any ammo in YOUR SPECIFIC FIREARM before relying on it for any purpose.  Ammunition labeled as +P should not be used in any firearm unless the firearm manufacturer specifically states you are permitted to do so. 


  1. In your opinion, would a bonded bullet only be a benefit when shooting through material?

    Also, thank you for all that you do. My Saturday morning has consisted of this blog!

    1. First off, thanks for following the blog. I'm not an expert on all the advantages of bonded bullets, but I have read about them. Bonded bullets excel at holding together when shooting through hard barriers. To my knowledge, that's their main benefit.

    2. I'll answer the question about "only shooting through material". Are you going to shoot someone that's naked, or with their clothes on? Catch someone in bed with your wife, maybe?

  2. Hi, can you give me the bullet dimension before the impact ? Thx

    1. Sure. All Remington 9mm bullets start out at .355" before expansion.

  3. Your testing was more favorable with the Golden Saber than mine, and a lot of recent testing seems to show good performance as well. I am beginning to think a change must have been made to the casing/powder/bullet as years ago I found that the non-bonded consistently had a core/jacket separation and the bonded occasionally had the separation, and both lost significant weight and when going through barriers did not have anywhere near the consistency of the Gold Dot, Ranger T, or HST. Do you know if they revised the bullet design at some point?

    1. Sorry I don't know any details on changes to the GS bullets over the years. It does make sense for Remington to improve the bullet as more terminal performance data is collected from real world usage and manufacturing capabilities and processes improve. The Golden Saber is probably close to 20 years old now so I imagine it's been updated along the line, but don't have any details for you.

  4. Hey Bruce --

    Nice test. I tend to carry these and Critical Duty +P in my XD9sc. Maybe I'm neurotic (probably am), but I like that the above rounds have primer and case mouth sealant. Will my ammo ever become damp in the deserts of New Mexico? Probably not! But it's a nice feature I think.

    I saw a test online (I can't remember who performed it) where several premium JHP brands, including Ranger, GS, and HST, were tested for water-resistance. The author fired a 10-shot velocity string at 10 feet for each load, then recorded the velocities. 10 of each round were then submerged in tap water for 30 minutes, and the velocity strings were repeated. The Ranger and HST lost about 10%-15% velocity, ostensibly due to damp powder, where the GS only lost 3%. Call me crazy, but I want my carry ammo to be able to stand up to the elements.

    Just a random, crazy thought.