Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lehigh Defense .45 ACP Maximum Expansion Test

Late last Spring I posted a blog about Lehigh Defense ammunition as well as a preliminary test done with 4 layers of denim and some water jugs.  You can read that post HERE.  The post explains how I got my hands on this ammo for testing along with the background on Lehigh Defense.  This post documents my first denim and gel test with the 45 ACP 174 Grain Maximum Expansion load.
If you follow my blog and my tests, then you know my testing process.  If you are not familiar, please view the video as it includes footage from the range and also footage from the bench where I extract the captured bullets from the SIM-TEST ballistics media.  My testing process is pretty simple.  I take a shot at a SIM-TEST block that has been calibrated to 10% ballistics gelatine density.  The block is loosely draped with 2 layers of medium weight denim.  I take the shots from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the SIM-TEST block.  This short barreled test pistols are described below.

Test Pistols
Glock 36 3.78" Barrel
STI Shadow 3.24" Barrel

All range testing and bullet recovery has been documented in the video below.

The recovered bullets, and their corresponding measurements, are shown below.  The results were pretty close to what I expected they would be.  The recovered bullets had fully expanded to nearly triple their initial diameter, maintained all their petals, and retained nearly 100% of their starting weight.  Expansion was perfectly symmetrical and matched very closely to previously recovered rounds from denim and water jug testing.

My Comments:  Lehigh Defense lists the velocity of this load at 1025 fps from a 5" barrel.  I was pleased to see we got nearly that velocity from our short barrel test pistols.  Expansion is published at 1.28".  We exceeded the expansion in our tests.  The load also lists 10" of penetration when tested in 10% ballistics gelatine.  I failed to reach that penetration with my denim and SIM-TEST testing.  This was concerning to me and Mike Cyrus at Lehigh Defense.  It just didn't make sense that our penetration numbers would be so different.  Mike even ran another test and sent me the resulting picture of his test shot resting slightly more than 10" into his block of ballistics gel.  

I've held my video and blog post until I could get back out the range and retest one final time with a known calibrated block of SIM-TEST media.  My restest from the Glock 36 matched my previous results very closely.  I have to believe this difference in penetration is due to the elasticity differences between the two test media types.

I don't envy ammunition designers and bullet engineers.  It's always a game of compromises and trade-offs.  Lehigh Defense Maximum Expansion lives up to it's name with the largest expansion of any 45 ACP ammunition I've ever seen or tested.  Pushing the bullet to higher velocities and subsequent deeper penetration could possibly cause the petals to shear off the bullet shank and compromise expansion.  If you are looking for expansion and retained weight, it's going to be a challenge to find anything better than this loading.

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.

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