Saturday, September 29, 2012

Terminal Ballistics Testing Remington UMC 9MM 115 Grain JHP


Walk into just about any mass retailer that sells ammo, and you will probably find several boxes of these on the shelf.  Sold in bulk packs of 100 rounds per box, I can usually find this available in one of several local locations if I'm looking for some ammo before heading out to the range.  One thing that I've not found is plentiful information about how this JHP round performs in terminal testing.  Perhaps it's the very reasonable price point that keeps people away from doing any serious testing on this load.  I'm more open-minded and since Remington is an Arkansas company, I decided to give the home team, and their product, a thorough terminal test.
  
Pistol Specs:
Kahr PM9 with 3" barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a SIM-TEST block that is loosely draped with 2 layers of medium weight denim.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the SIM-TEST block.  My SIM-TEST blocks are now closely calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the blocks at the range and then bring them home and recover the bullets.  Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shoot a five shot velocity test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronic ProChrono Digital chronograph.

I was actually pleased that the test shot velocity was lower than any of the velocity test shots.  Not that a few feet per second velocity is going to make a big difference, but it did demonstrate that this bullet consistently expands at right around the 1000 fps mark.  The terminal performance should be representative of what you can expect from this load.  The video below documents the entire test from range testing to bullet recovery.


My Thoughts
I've tested this load on 3 different occasions in barrels that were 3" in length.  The first two tests were done in February and May of 2012.  All of the four recovered rounds have expanded to a diameter greater than .550".  Only two of the test rounds went into a SIM-TEST block, but both of those recovered rounds penetrated at least 12".  What was surprising for me was the velocity being so low from the PM9 on this test versus previous tests with the Diamondback DB9.  This is one of those odd ball things that you really wouldn't see unless you test multiple times in different guns.  This can either be attributed to light charges in the box I used for this test, or perhaps the Kahr barrel/chamber doesn't allow this load to develop the pressure and speed that the Diamondback barrel does.

When I tested this load in May 2012 my comments were:
"For a bargain defense round, I can't find much fault with this loading.  The only real fault I can find is the wide variation of velocities from the three different boxes I sampled.  I shoot quite a bit of this ammo and previously captured velocity of two 5 shot strings with two different DB9 barrels.  Both strings averaged 1063 and you can find that test HERE.  The good news is that when penetration testing our slowest shot (1062 fps), it still expanded and penetrated over 12" after passing through two layers of denim.

Getting decent performance from a widely available ammo that's affordable enough to practice with, and also carry, really elevates this ammo to one I need to keep around.  The fact that it also works great in Diamondback DB9s is just icing on the cake!"

Since my Spring testing, Walmart has increased the price on this load by about $2 a box of 100.  I still think it's an outstanding bargain that will run in just about any pocket 9mm I've tried it in.  The one exception is the Sig P938, but that pistol has extraction problems with many different ammo varieties.  Since May, I've stacked away a few extra rainy day boxes of this load and I was happy to see that it again performed well in testing even with its anemic velocity and energy.

The first photo below shows the recovered rounds from the three times I've tested this load.  The second photo has the stats for the February and May tests.  Back in February, I wasn't capturing penetration data.       



I continue to carry this load exclusively in my Diamondback DB9 because it has proven to be more reliable than any other round I've tried in that pistol.  This round may not have the pedigree or gee-whiz factor of the high dollar state of the art defense rounds, but I value this round for its reliability and consistent terminal performance over multiple tests.  The box to box velocity variation is concerning, but that just means I need to run a magazine full over the chronograph whenever I open a new box.  Technically, each new box could be a new production lot and we should all be doing that with our carry rounds anyway.
  

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. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Terminal Ballistics Testing Remington UMC 380 Auto 88 Grain JHP

Walk into just about any mass retailer that sells ammo, and you will probably find several boxes of these on the shelf.  Sold in bulk packs of 100 rounds per box, I can usually find this available in one of several local locations if I'm looking for some ammo before heading out to the range.  One thing that I've not found is plentiful information about how this JHP round performs in terminal testing.  Perhaps it's the very reasonable price point that keeps people away from doing any serious testing on this load.  I'm more open-minded and since Remington is an Arkansas company, I decided to give the home team, and their product, a thorough terminal test.
  
Pistol Specs:
Kahr P380 with 2.5" barrel
Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a SIM-TEST block that is loosely draped with 2 layers of medium weight denim.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the SIM-TEST block.  My SIM-TEST blocks are now closely calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the blocks at the range and then bring them home and recover the bullets.  Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shoot a five shot velocity test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronic ProChrono Digital chronograph.

The test shot velocity was close to the 5 shot average velocity test.  The terminal performance should be representative of what you can expect from this load.  The video below documents the entire test from range testing to bullet recovery.

My Thoughts
I've terminal tested this load previously and had mixed results.  In previous tests, one bullet totally failed to expand and another bullet expanded slightly and shed its jacket.  This test is the third strike and you are out on this ammo.  It just doesn't develop the velocity required to cause the bullet to expand.  While available at a reasonable price, there are other cheaper full metal jacket loads that are heavier and run faster.  The 146 ft lbs of energy developed by this load is on the low end of the 380 energy curve.   On the plus side, this is a very comfortable and accurate load in my experience.  It also runs reliably in any 380 pistol I've tried it in.

Blog exclusive photo of my previously recovered bullets and the bullet from this test.


I'll continue to shoot up my stash of this as practice ammo at the range, but won't be buy additional stocks of this anytime soon. 
 


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. 

Heizer DoubleTap on CBS Person Of Interest 9/27

Last month I put up a blog about the CBS series Person of Interest and that the teaser promo for Season 2 had this lady and her DoubleTap.   Don't forget to watch tomorrow night, 9-27 on CBS, and see how this DoubleTap drama plays out.  I set my DVR just in case I forget to watch, you might want to do the same. I can't believe how fast the month has passed.  Can we hope that shipments will commence after the TV appearance tomorrow night?


Here's some additional Heizer drama for you.  For the last few months Bud's Gun Shop has listed all the potential Heizer models in their on-line catalog.  They even added the Hedy Jane models a few weeks ago.  One of my browser home pages is set to the Heizer Page of Bud's on-line catalog.  I happened to notice the Heizer page is blank today.  This may be because the page is being updated to reflect the inventory they finally received from Heizer, or they decided not to carry the Heizer DoubleTap and have dropped the item listings.   I really hope the page is down for maintenance and I check back later to see some Heizers in-stock for purchase.

Just for grins, I did ping the Bud's online chat-help to ask them what was up with the Heizer page of their catalog, but I did not receive a response from them.

 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Gel Testing Speer 9mm Gold Dot vs. Gold Dot Short Barrel


I've always been very curious about the actual terminal performance differences between the Speer Gold Dot Hollow Point and the Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel Hollow Point.  Based on the number of requests I've received to test these two side by side, I knew I wasn't the only one that was interested in this information.  Reading around the internet, everyone believed the Short Barrel loading would perform better in short barreled pistols, but aside from the information available on the Speer website there really wasn't much data available.

Doing a head to head test has been on my radar for over a year, but it never made it to the top of the list.  I got some extra motivation to do the test last week when I started investigating a new ballistics testing product from a company called Clear Ballistics.  I did a blog about the product that you can read by clicking this link if you want more background on the ballistics gel they offer.  The gel and this head to head test just seemed to be made for each other.  As it turns out my gut instinct was right.

I don't remember exactly when Speer launched the short barrel extension to their Gold Dot line of premium personal defense ammunition.  At the time of introduction internet speculation said that Speer had tweaked their powders and bullets to perform better in short barreled pistols.  The Speer website does indeed mention the use of "Low-flash propellant" and "True, bonded-core bullet velocity-tuned for optimum terminal performance".  We all assumed that performance would be better, but we all wondered how much better.

Let's test it and see.
  
Pistol Specs:

Testing Protocol:
My previous testing process changed significantly for this test.  I took two shots at the end of a bare Clear Ballistics Gel block.  I took each shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the gel block.  After running the test, I shot a 600+ fps calibration BB into the block and measured 8.1 cm of penetration.  10% ballistics gel density calibrates at 8.3 to 9.5 cm of penetration so this block was slightly on the hard side of 10% ballistics gel specifications. Alternately, the BB came in just short of 3.25" which is the bottom of the 3.25" to 3.75" calibration range.
 
I shot the block at the range and then brought it home and recovered the bullets.  Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shot a five shot velocity test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronic ProChrono Digital chronograph.

Typically, I'll display the recovered bullet along with all the data points I captured during the test, but I'm changing things up a bit with this test because I'd like to show you how powerful this new test media is going to be for me.  I know this will end up being long and picture heavy, but I hope you find this as interesting as I did.

I'll start at the front of the block.  These two pictures show the entry wounds of the short barrel and standard shots.  The black residue around the standard Gold Dot entry appears to be deposits of unburned powder.  The short barrel entry does not have powder deposits.  Could this be an indicator of the low flash propellents used in the GD Short Barrel load?  Also note the stretch lines radiating from the center bullet path.  While the two pictures are not perfectly scaled in size, the short barrel lines appear much longer.  Did this indicate the short barrel bullet expanded to a greater diameter?
 A side view of the expansion cavities revealed a bit more data.  In the back you see the short barrel bullet track.  The stretch lines mentioned above are now seen from the side view and they appear to be more pronounced (bigger) for the short barrel bullet than the standard bullet which is the bullet track in the front.  Also notice the lead fragments deposited in the bullet track of the standard bullet just above the word "copyright".  There is very little evidence of any lead fragments in the short barrel bullet track.  Is this discovery an indicator that the short barrel bullet retained more of it's original weight than the standard gold dot bullet?

And finally we have a picture of both complete bullet tracks.  The short barrel penetrated less than the standard and turned 90 degrees to the left and angled slightly up when finally coming to rest.  The standard Gold Dot turned down about 45 degrees at the end of travel and penetrated deeper into the block.

I was able to grab two still frames from the high speed camera during the "moment of truth" when the lead and copper met the gel.  Based on the similarities in the length of the expansion cavities, I have to believe these images represent similar moments in time for both rounds.  The GD short barrel bullet in the top picture shows a much larger and more dramatic/dynamic entry and volume displacement than the standard GD shown in the second picture.  I found the difference to be very substantial.  Is this another indicator that the short barrel bullet expanded more than the standard version?

I decided to test my theories and pulled the bullets out of the block.  All the captured data on the two recovered bullets and pre-test data are shown in the data sheet below.  In this specific test, the Gold Dot Short Barrel bullet did indeed expand more than the standard version and retained a greater weight.  

Since this was the first test with the new Clear Ballistics Gel media, I invited the Clear Ballistics Team up to the range to work the test with me.  The video below captures the entire test from the range.  Due to the clear nature of the gel, I no longer have make a second at home video portion for the bullet recovery.  I can now display the information that is typically covered in that portion of the test with still images in much better resolution.  I hope you enjoy the change and share my enthusiasm for the introduction of the new test media.

My Thoughts
In this specific bare gel test, it's clear to me that the Gold Dot Short Barrel performed better than the standard Gold Dot from the 3.1" long test barrel.  Both test shots were within +or- 10 feet per second of their 5 shot velocity averages so I felt good that the test shots fairly represented both tested loads.

I couldn't be more pleased with the Clear Ballistics Gel we used for this test.  It really lived up to the high expectations I had for it and it was incredible to see everything I had been missing in my previous tests.  For those that have seen both the SIM-TEST and Clear Ballistics media used in my tests, I welcome any comments on improving the testing with the new media. 
  

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. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Smith and Wesson M&P Shield 9mm Review


First off, a huge thank you to Jon at Nighthawk Custom Training Academy for the loan of the Shield 9mm.  I enjoy doing the occasional pistol review, but being entirely self funded at this point, I'm really limited to reviewing only what I can afford to purchase.  Loans from Jon really open up the spectrum of pistols I can test.

I decided to try a little different review style this time around and made 3 video entries that I am going to tie together with additional commentary in this blog article.

The first video covers my initial impressions of the pistol.  It's now 5 months after it's initial release and the pistol has been reviewed to death so I'm not focusing so much on the fantastic features of the pistol as much as wondering why the designers at Smith and Wesson decided to design the pistol the way they did.  In my mind they could have up-sized the Bodyguard 380 or down sized another platform.  They chose to downsize the M&P line instead of up-sizing the Bodyguard.  In doing so they ended up with a pistol I find to be incredibly top heavy and not really that much smaller or lighter than their 3rd Generation alloy frame single stack 9mm pistols from the 90's.  

This video is generating quite a bit of interest from those that have viewed it.  Some agree that using the 3rd Gen auto as the basis may have been a better option while other feel I'm bashing the pistol.  I'm not trying to bash the pistol at all, but rather to open up some debate based strictly on my personal opinion.  I don't feel that my opinion is really that crazy when you consider that Sig's new P938 is really nothing more than an up-sized Colt Mustang 380 Pocket Lite, which is another 90's design.

Never one to turn down the chance to shoot a new pistol, it was off to the range yesterday to spend some time shooting the Shield and start forming some new opinions after time behind the trigger.  The first thing I did was the Recoil Cam video to give folks an idea of the recoil and muzzle flip they can expect with the pistol.  I used Winchester Ranger 124 Grain Nato FMJ for the test because I thought it would be a good compromise between "softball" range fodder and full power defensive loads.

With Recoil Cam out of the way, I got down to the business of shooting the pistol and discovering for myself why this pistol is currently in such high demand and held in equally high regard by those that own them.  There is an awful lot to like about this pistol.  One thing I appreciated was the lack of any mechanical hiccups throughout the testing.  I had been told by the pistol's owner that less than 70 rounds had gone through the pistol before it was turned over to me.  I experienced none of the "break in" drama that I have come to expect with pistols out on the market for less than 6 months.  A+ grade for flawless functioning.

I will say that Smith has sprung this gun tight.  The recoil spring assembly was very stiff.  So much so that I struggled a bit to engage the slide stop when I was practicing the field stripping exercise for the First Impressions video.  I ended up inserting the empty magazine so the follower could engage the slide stop and I could focus my energy on just getting the slide pulled back.  The magazines are also very stiff and required me to use an odd squeeze to fully seat the full mag.  You'll see it in the video.  Some folks may wonder why I just didn't slam it in, but this wasn't my pistol so I tried to keep slamming to a minimum. 


I mentioned the trigger system in my video because it was quite a bit different than what I am accustomed to.  It measured 7 to 7.5 pounds on my Lyman Digital trigger pull gauge and is definitely an acceptable weight for a defensive pistol.  After spending a little time with the trigger system, I had no problems at all keeping my shots going where I wanted them to go.  I found the pistol to be capable of great accuracy with many of my shots landing right on top of previous shots at 7 yards.  I was so taken with the accuracy potential that I tried the pistol at 25+ yards and still managed to keep a few shots in the black zone of the target.  A+ for accuracy.

Final Thoughts:
I think the Shield 9mm will sell exceptionally well for Smith and Wesson.  For those looking for a small-ish, flat, easily concealable pistol that can also be fun to shoot at the range this pistol should be very appealing.

I personally found the slim grip to be a challenge.  I simply couldn't make this pistol point naturally for me.  With an investment in time, training, and possibly a grip sleeve, I'm sure I could make it work for me.  I absolutely loved the reliability and accuracy of the pistol.  Even with full power defense loads, it as easy to score hits on the target.  I think I am beginning to understand why the Shield has been so well received in the market place.

I do hope that the folks at Smith and Wesson decide to keep the R&D juices flowing and check into the possibility of up sizing the 380 Bodyguard platform for a true pocket 9mm. Just leave the integrated laser off the pistol this time.

Please see this important safety update on the M&P Shield.  http://mousegunaddict.blogspot.com/2013/08/s-m-shield-safety-alert-issued-8-22-2013.html

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Ballistics Testing Future Is Now Clear


Clear Ballistics, that is.  If you have been following the blog since it launched in June 2011, then you know all about the false-starts I've had along the way with my ballistics testing.  I really thought I had it all figured out last Winter when I constructed a 50" horizontal bullet trap from PVC pipe and HDPE sheets.  You can see that monster here.  The plan was to shoot my bullets into hyper-absorbent polymer media.  That turned out to be a total failure as the energy dump from the captured bullets kept blowing the box apart.  Then I started using SIM-TEST in the Spring up until about June when it got too hot to bring the SIM-TEST out in the sun.  I essentially shut down testing in June and have been publishing my April to June tests throughout the Summer to keep the blog updated with fresh content.  This was tolerable, but I really didn't like being shut down during the best natural video lighting time of the year.

Last weekend I was swapping YouTube messages with tnoutdoors9, who has always been incredibly helpful to me with my testing, and he mentioned that someone had told him to look into a new test media called Clear Ballistics.  I was on my way out to the range to do some terminal testing so I checked the website quickly and ordered some samples and went on out to the range.  Later that night I looked more closely at the website and discovered Clear Ballistics is based in Ft. Smith, Arkansas which is only about an hour South of me.  Also on the website, I found a photo album of their product in use.  This is what got me very interested in their product.  I hope they don't mind me using this picture in my blog.
Photo From Clear Ballistics Website - Not My Testing

Clear Ballistics takes it's name from the most interesting quality of their product.  By that, I mean their ballistics gel is literally crystal clear when formed into a test block and ready to shoot.  The pictures on their website demonstrated a product that was as clear as any of the highest quality ordinance gel blocks that I had ever seen, but without the amber tint.  They had me with just this one product attribute.  You've seen me carve enough blocks to know to only way to see what's going on inside one of my test blocks is to cut it open and potentially destroy the wound channel we're all dying to see.  Trying to hunt down every last fragment in a block is also a huge pain.  The Clear Ballistics Gel product eliminates the need to carve to find your results.

The product also has several other tributes that made it even more appealing to me.
1)  As delivered to the customer, the gel calibrates exactly to ballistics gel density specifications.  That means when when shot with a BB at 600 fps the BB will penetrate between 3.25 and 3.75 inches.  This density is maintained throughout the life of the product without any additional maintenance from the Gel user. 
2)  The gel is not temperature sensitive.  Use it when it's 100 degrees and full sun outside, or use it when it's overcast and 50 degrees.  It won't impact the density of the gel.
3)  It's reusable and recastable.  I'm not sure how many cycles yet, but I can guarantee at least one based on my testing.  I'm sure I will discover the upper limit at some point in the future and will share that with you.
4)  It's non-water soluble.  Having a bullet pass through the block and puncture a water jug is a major disaster for me or anyone else that uses a water soluble gel product.  Water immidately starts breaking down the gel media.  This problem doesn't exist with Clear Ballistics Gel.
5)  The Clear Ballistics product gives off no odor and will not mold, mildew, or break down in storage like some other water and animal protein based ballistics gel products.

So let's review what this product could do to improve my testing and overall quality of life.
1)  All gel can now live in the garage instead of in my basement.  No more lugging 60 to 80 lb coolers and buckets through the house and up and down stairs.  WIN!
2)  No more garage stink when remelting media and letting it cool.  Wife will love that.  WIN! WIN!
3)  I can test 12 months a year even when it's full sun and 100 + degrees.  WIN!
4)  100% visibility of stretch cavity and wound channel at the range immediately after taking the shot without picking up a knife and carving up the block.  HUGE WIN for me since I have no patience and HUGE WIN for you the video viewer.  How cool will that high speed camera footage be if it's positioned to capture the bullet travelling through the block.  Can't wait to see that.
5)  No more boring bullet recovery videos shot in my garage.  WIN for me and HUGE WIN for video viewers.
6)  Most importantly for me, I'll now get consistent density gel from test to test, week to week, and month to month.  You folks know how I feel about data.  My goal has always been to provide the best quality data I can.  If temperature and density can now be controlled variables in my test results, my data quality just went through the roof.  EPIC WIN!
7)  Spent test blocks must be washed and completely dry before reprocessing.  Any dirt on the gel will end up as dirt IN the gel when recast.  Not sure how difficult this will be in my dusty environment, but this is the only potential issue I see with continued re-use of the Clear Ballistics Gel product. 

I called Clear Ballistics on Monday morning at the phone number attached to my sample order confirmation and left a message for them.  I also emailed them through their website "contact us" link.  Joel Edwards is the inventor of the gel and owner of the Clear Ballistics company.  We set a time to talk on Tuesday and I spoke with him at length about the Company and Clear Ballistics gel product.  What ran though my mind at first was how was it possible that I didn't know about this product and why I didn't start using it sooner.  I learned that Clear Ballistics was just launched in 2012 so the word is still getting out on the company and their product.  As we were talking, the FedEx driver delivered my test samples that I had ordered on Sunday morning.

With product in hand, we continued to talk a bit more and review the product preparation instructions on the Clear Ballistics website.  The instructions were easy and clear enough, but Joel made sure to share his best practices on melting and recasting the product with me.  I floated the offer to come up to my test facility this weekend and bring along my start-up order of gel and maybe share some additional information about the product and company in my first Clear Ballistics Gel terminal test videos.  With that, we ended our conversation and went off to check our family schedules to see if we could get together at some point this weekend.

As I stated previously, I now had product samples in hand so I wasted no time melting the gel down and forming it into a block that I could run some calibration BBs into to see if this stuff was half as good as it sounded on the website.

The lead picture above is the result of my first casting attempt.  The 10 dollar bill is actually under the block.  The gel is exactly as clear as described after recasting/remelting.  The sides and bottom of the cast block picked up a texture from the pan it was cast in.  I ran a heat gun over the sides and bottom after taking the picture below and the sides turned as clear as the top of the block.


I fully documented the melting/casting process that turned my 10 test ingots into the one larger test block.  I took the block out in the yard and ran 5 BBs into it at 600+ fps.  The next 3 pictures show the results of those 5 test shots.



Every single shot fell within 10% ballistics gel density specification.  It's amazingly consistent across the entire block.  I think I'm really going to like using this product for my future testing.

The video below has the melting/casting action as well as the BB calibration testing.  Joel and his Product Manager will be coming up on Sunday with my initial Gel order and they will be sticking around to do some testing with me.  I'm like a little kid waiting for Christmas this week.  I can't wait to start dumping some rounds into those blocks and literally see everything that I've been missing in my past testing.  I'm also really looking forward to sharing that information with all of you that have read the blog and watched my previous test videos.  It's going to be awesome.  Any requests?

Terminal Ballistics Testing Remington UMC 45 ACP 230 Grain JHP


Walk into just about any mass retailer that sells ammo, and you will probably find several boxes of these on the shelf.  Sold in bulk packs of 100 rounds per box, I can usually find this available in one of several local locations if I'm looking for some ammo before heading out to the range.  One thing that I've not found is plentiful information about how this JHP round performs in terminal testing.  Perhaps it's the very reasonable price point that keeps people away from doing any serious testing on this load.  I'm more open-minded and since Remington is an Arkansas company, I decided to give the home team and their product a thorough terminal test.
  
Pistol Specs:
Kahr PM45 45 ACP with 3" barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a SIM-TEST block that is loosely draped with 2 layers of medium weight denim.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the SIM-TEST block.  My SIM-TEST blocks are now closely calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the blocks at the range and then bring them home and recover the bullets.  Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shoot a five shot velocity test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronic ProChrono Digital chronograph.

I had a bad feeling about this load when I was running it across the chronograph.  I was hoping for velocity in the low 800's.  770's were not what I was hoping for.  I know 230 grains is a big bullet to get moving, but I thought we would see more velocity from a JHP loading.  The video below documents the entire test from range testing to bullet recovery.




My Thoughts
This test was an eye-opener for me.  Prior to running the test, I felt pretty good about having a few boxes of this ammo stashed away for a rainy day.  Now I realize that instead of a very reasonably priced defensive load, I'm stuck with an expensive replacement for FMJ range ammo.  I had heard the rumors that this load wouldn't expand, but I like to test things and see the results with my own eyes before buying into the "wisdom" floating around on the internet.  
The hollow point cavity was really trying to expand and shows just a tiny bit of petal separation at the nose, but there just wasn't enough speed behind the bullet to cause expansion.  I wanted to mention that this bullet was shot into the exact same SIM-TEST block as the REM UMC .40 S&W load profiled last week.  That bullet performed well. 
  

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. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An Early Mid-Week Update

There is just so much great stuff happening right now that I didn't feel like holding this update for mid-week.  First thing to talk about is something I had to really think long and hard about, but ultimately I decided to follow my gut and just take the pain.

For those of you that subscribe to my YouTube channel, you probably got an email notice that I posted a new video last night.  The video description reads as follows.  "Thanks very much for your support and subscribing to my channel.  Since most of my videos are in support of my blog, I've decided to create a new YouTube Channel that better ties the blog and supporting videos together.  In the future, no new relevant content will be uploaded to this channel.  I hope you will subscribe to the new channel www.youtube.com/user/pocketgunsandgear to continue to follow my terminal ballistics testing, gun reviews, practical shooting, and whatever new things get dreamed up in the future."

I'm very pleased that more than 50 subscribers watched the video and subscribed to the new channel today.  Hopefully more will follow.  It was a tough call to "abandon" over 300 subscribers and 100k+ video views, but I hope the logical linking of the Channel and Blog will entice folks to follow both.  Plus, I had no idea that the blog and youtube channel would "catch-on" when I started it back in June 2011.  If I had, I wouldn't have put the blog videos under some old personal YouTube ID I set up back in August 2007.


In totally unrelated news....the gun fairy passed this to me on Sunday afternoon.  I'm totally late to the party, but I will be doing a full review on the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield 9 this week/weekend.  I had the chance to run one mag of Winchester White Box "bunny fart" loads through another Shield 9 this weekend and it was a very sweet shooter.  I can't wait to see what the ol' Recoil Cam shows us.  

Lastly, some empirical evidence that my decision to purchase the XDs 45, that I reviewed, was a good idea.  For you nay-Sayers that questioned if the 3.3" XDs barrel would deliver adequate terminal performance, I hope this gives you a moment of pause.  Full ammo terminal test results will follow soon.

Speaking of terminal ballistics testing, it's finally cooled off enough for me to start using SIM-TEST again.  Look for a major update on my terminal ballistics testing process very soon.  If this plays out as anticipated, this may be the best thing since sliced bread.  Much better for me personally, and a whole lot more interesting for the folks that follow my tests.  It's pretty epic, and you will be able to see why very soon.

And one last thing....THANK YOU for following the blog and pushing it up over 200K lifetime views last week.  Amazing considering it took a year to get to 100k and less than 4 months to double that 100k.  I appreciate it!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Terminal Ballistics Testing Remington UMC 40 S&W 180 Grain JHP

Walk into just about any mass retailer that sells ammo, and you will probably find several boxes of these on the shelf.  Sold in bulk packs of 100 rounds per box, I can usually find this available in one of several local locations if I'm looking for some ammo before heading out to the range.  One thing that I've not found is plentiful information about how this JHP round performs in terminal testing.  Perhaps it's the very reasonable price point that keeps people away from doing any serious testing on this load.  I'm more open-minded and since Remington is an Arkansas company, I decided to give the home team and their product a thorough terminal test.
  
Pistol Specs:
Kahr PM40 with 3" barrel


Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a SIM-TEST block that is loosely draped with 2 layers of medium weight denim.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the SIM-TEST block.  My SIM-TEST blocks are now closely calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the blocks at the range and then bring them home and recover the bullets.  Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shoot a five shot velocity test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronic ProChrono Digital chronograph.

I was very pleased that the test shot velocity was close to the five shot velocity average.  The terminal performance should be representative of what you can expect from this load.  The video below documents the entire test from range testing to bullet recovery.

My Thoughts
This was my second test with 40 S&W so I'm still in the data gathering mode on this caliber.  So far, I really like what I see with the performance of the heavy weight bullets from the short barrel pistols.  Weight retention, penetration, and modest expansion hit all the marks I was looking for from this load.  It may not represent the best possible performance in the caliber class, but I think it performed very well for a modestly priced ammo option.  This is one of those ammo choices that allows you to train with your carry load and not be overly concerned about the ammo cost.

Unfortunately, the aggressively large hollow point will not feed reliably in my PM40 so this load is not a good carry option for me.  Please make sure to test this loading in your specific pistol before relying on it.
  

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. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Range Cleaning Kit


Feeling very proud of myself for putting together this new organized cleaning kit for my bench, I decided to turn my attention to putting together a basic maintenance kit for my range bag.  My goal was a scaled down version of my bench box that had all the essentials I would need to fully clean and lubricate any pistol I might have out on the range on any trip.  I decided to include the following items in the kit.
Cabela's Pistol Cleaning Kit with 5 brushes, sectioned cleaning rod, jag and hollow storage handle.
2 Sizes of Cleaning Patches
Oodles of Q-Tips
Small head nylon kids toothbrush
1oz FrogLube CLP
Sample Size bottle of Militec1


I took a quick trip over to Walmart and found this nifty Plano Stow-away dry box.  It was just the right size to hold all my stuff, and if something should leak it would stay contained within the box.  I flexed the number of Q-tips and patches to fill the box and keep the stuff from rattling around in the box. 


The kit might look pretty big in the picture above, but the picture below gives you a better idea of how small the kit really is.  It fits right into the front pocket of my range bag or in the side cargo pocket on my pants.  Sweet. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Practical Look at the Kahr PM Series Pistols


I'll kick this piece off with an admission.  Many years ago I saw Kahr pistols for the first time at a S&W and Kahr Demo Day at a local range.  I decided to buy some ammo and try out the little MK9.  I absolutely hated the kick and hand sting I got from the MK9.  I immediately wrote off the brand and didn't even think about Kahr again until late 2008 when I decided to take the plunge and buy the new Kahr mid-size CW45 polymer pistol chambered in 45 ACP.  The CW45 was still fairly new on the market and who couldn't use another 45 ACP so I took a chance and picked it up.  I loved the pistol right from the start. 

You know how things tend to go.  First you have one Kahr and then you get another.  Before you know it, someone offers you a used/as-new PM at a super price you can't pass up.  I really didn't intend to end up with a whole set of Kahrs, but once you spend some time with them, they tend to grow on you.  Being partial to small guns, it didn't take me very long to acquire a P380, PM9, and PM40.  Rather than go after a PM45 to complete the set, I opted to get the P45 instead.  You can read about that pistol here.

I also use the Kahrs extensively in my ballistics testing as they are great representatives of the short barrel "pocket" pistols from .380 to 40 S&W.  I find they hit where I aim at close range so their accuracy has been a huge help in keeping my shots in the ballistics test blocks.

About three weeks ago, I was offered a loaner PM45 so I could complete the set and try to put together some sweeping generalizations on the similarities and differences between the 4 pistols as well as provide some buying advice for folks considering buying one of the 4 models.  The picture below shows the 4 pistols covered in this article.  As you can see, they get progressively larger in size as you move from the P380 (380 ACP) up through the 9mm and 40 S&W PM9/PM40.  The PM45 is the largest of the group.   I'm not going to dive into the nitty-gritty product specifications of each pistol since that information is available on the Kahr website.

As the cartridge size grows, so do the magazines.  The magazines are positioned in the same sequence as the pistols show in the photo above.

I don't want to waste your time with a bunch of my own comparison photos showing the Kahr PM pistols versus other competing brands/models of pistols.  Comparisons versus other similar pistols can be best seen here.  Bob O. has done a great job pulling together this resource for the concealed carry community.  I've used the list several times in the past before making a final decision on one pistol versus another.  At the very least, it will help you slim down the number of options before you head out to your local gun retailer to make your purchase.

This review or Buyers Guide is going to be a bit different than my previous work.  First off, it's covering several models in a family of pistols.  Second, the coverage on these pistols has been very comprehensive over the last several years so I'm not trying to rehash the work of others.  Instead, I've made 4 videos that dive deeper into the Kahr ownership experience.  Hopefully, deeper than your typical gun writer that gets a loaner testing and evaluation pistol from the manufacturer.  I've owned my PM9 and P380 for almost 3 years now so I can provide a bit broader view of the Kahr ownership experience over time.  I'm also focusing on features of the pistols that I've been told are very important in the buying decision.

I'll start off with a video I made that compares the relative recoil of  each pistol as compared to the others.  The grid behind the pistol is 2" x 2" squares with a horizontal 45 degree line running from corner to corner.  The video is shot with a high speed camera so you can really focus in on the rearward recoil push as well as the muzzle rise (muzzle flip) of each shot.  As you step up in caliber, you may also notice the right to left roll of the pistol in addition to the muzzle rise.  This is significant because you will need to recover your front sight picture from both the vertical and horizontal planes.  Simply put, the larger the caliber the longer it takes to recover between shots with the PM series pistols.


As I thought through this project, I had to decide on which ammo I would use throughout the test.  I decided to use the Remington/UMC JHP bulk pack ammunition that is reasonably priced and generally pretty easy to find.  I believe this is a fair representative ammunition type that many Kahr buyers will try at least once.  While I had the range and all the PM pistols available, I also ran a terminal ballistics test on each load through it's corresponding PM series pistol.  Those results will be published at a later date.


Moving forward with the demonstration of the 4 pistols, I decided to make a video showing each pistol being shot in two ways.  With a 6" paper plate placed 7 yards down range, I shot two groups with each pistol.  The first group was shot for accuracy and the second group was shot at a faster speed.  I hope it gives the viewer an idea of potential accuracy as well as possible accuracy when fired very quickly. 

The key take away points from this video is that all 4 tested pistols shoot well.  I have found that as you get into the larger .40 and .45 caliber Kahr pistols, they can be a bit fussy on which ammunition they are fed.  You can see that the PM40 and PM45 did not like the large cavity hollow point bullets loaded in the Remington/UMC test ammo.  The fact that the failures repeated exactly the same way for both the slow and fast shooting led me to believe the failures were caused by the ammo and not other factors.

The following week, I went back out to the range for some practical shooting drills with my favorites from the PM line.  For these drills I used the P380 and PM40 in various combinations.  I did change the ammo used in the PM40 to one that I knew would work 100% of the time and you can see the 5th round failures to extract did not happen on this trip.  The P380 was fed the same ammunition as the first outing.  Your specific PM pistol may give you some problems with ammo during the first 200 rounds of break it, but I believe if you stick with it you will find several brands and varieties that will work with your pistol.


I decided to make one last video off the range to cover some common questions that folks told me they had about the PM series pistols before buying them.  I also included some best practices I picked up on the kahrtalk forum for field stripping and reassembling the pistols.  Honestly, I really struggled with dis-assembly and re-assembly with the Kahr pistols when I was a new owner.  The two tips in the video should save you some frustration if you decide to purchase a Kahr of your own.

I hope you enjoyed the EDC parody at the beginning of the video.  While it is physically possible to tote around that loadout, it's far from practical.  The key point is that you can easily conceal a PM just about any place you might want to carry one.

Final Thoughts:
Overall, I find the Kahr P380 and PM9, 40, and 45 to be very well constructed pistols that should stand up to a lifetime of shooting.  In the three years I've owned the P380 and PM9, I've long lost track of how many boxes of ammo have gone down the barrel of each.  In the fourth video, I mentioned that I'm not a big fan of the stock Kahr bar-dot sight system that is on the PM9.  If I wasn't such a procrastinator, I would have mailed the slide away by now for night sights or 3 dot fiber optic sight installation.  About the time I was seriously thinking about getting the sights changed, I picked up the used PM40 with factory installed night sights.  I just changed over from the PM9 to the PM40 and forgot about the sight change.

I had a long talk with the owner of the PM45 about that specific pistol and the Kahr pistols in general.  He shared an insight with me that resonated with my own thinking about the Kahr PM series.  I'll try to keep this short.


This picture summarizes my impression of the Kahr P380.  I've shot my share of 380 pistols over the past few years and I have not found a micro 380 that is any softer or easier to shoot.  Dare I say that it's actually fun to shoot?  Sure, it is fun and it's a 380 you will want to shoot all day long at the range.




As you step up to the PM9 and PM40, you may find that they can become unpleasant to shoot more than a box of 50 at a time.  Each shooter has their own personal limit on how much recoil and muzzle flip they can put up with in a shooting session.  The good news is that with sufficient practice, you will probably find that you are able to tame the beast and grow to love the tiger in your pocket or waistband.







Then we step up to the PM45.  The owner and I agreed that the PM45 would work best for a seasoned shooter that is willing to spend some extra time learning how to tame the beast.  It's not an unpleasant or painful shooting experience, but it will take more time and training to shoot as quickly and accurately as the P380 or the PM9.    

The Kahr P380 and PM series of pistols are premium priced pistols.  These are the top of the line polymer mini Kahrs.  As additional small pistols started hitting the market Kahr responded with their own more modestly priced CM series of pistols.  Identical to the PM series in many ways, the CM9 and CM40 have been very well received by the shooting community.  If the function and features of the PM series appeal to you, but the price doesn't, you may want to check the CM line as an alternative.