Thursday, April 11, 2013

DRT 380 Auto 85 Grain HP Clear Gel Test

The DRT TerminalShock™ .380 Auto 85 grain ammunition used in this test was graciously provided by Wastool.  I've never actually seen this brand in any of my local stores and there are only a few test videos out on YouTube so I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this testThis was also my first test of a true frangible round so please excuse my ignorance of the correct terminology as I performed my visual analysis of the artifacts left in the clear gel block.  What I thought to be small pieces of jacket were actually larger pieces of fragmented bullet core. 

I learned a bit more about the ammunition, and the DRT Company, from their website.  DRT describes their TerminalShock™ pistol ammuntion as follows:
"DRT lead-free projectile is a revolutionary round. The bullet breaks apart on contact with a solid surface. The handgun ammunition is made to be an all-purpose round, disintegrating into a cloud of dust on steel but yet is effective on an organic target. It is a target and a carry round.  Our round can be fired by law enforcement officers without any fear of ricochet or pass through, or fear of injury or death to innocent bystanders from ricochet or pass through.  Calibers currently in production:
.380, 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, 45acp" 

DRT Ammunition is manufactured in the USA and the DRT headquarters/production facility is located in Grant City, Missouri.  If you can't find DRT Ammunition in your local stores, the company runs a direct to consumer sales portal on their main website.  

Test Pistol Specifications

Test Protocol
I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block that measures approximately 6" x 6" x 16" and weighs approximately 16 lbs.  I take the test shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured with the chronograph less than 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density and periodically validated with the standard BB penetration test used with Ordnance Gel.  I shoot the test block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullet.  Immediately prior to shooting the test block, I conduct a 5 shot velocity test over a ProChrono Digital chronograph.  My testing facility has an elevation of 1,253 feet.

Test Results
The test results are summarized in the data sheet below along with a close up shot of the recovered bullet.

Video documentation of the entire test from range through bullet recovery is available below.  The high definition video is best viewed on YouTube, but you can also view it here.

My Thoughts on This Load
I must admit be being skeptical about this load going into the test.  I found it difficult to believe that a frangible bullet, designed to disintegrate upon impact with hard targets, could still have a core component that would penetrate to a realistic depth for self defense purposes when shot into a soft target.  This one test definitely eliminated quite a bit of that skepticism.  As I thought about what to include in this section of the recap, I went back through many of the previous 380 Auto test results that I previously published.

The one significant benefit of keeping up the blog is the Ammo Tests tab at the top of the page.  With one click on that tab, you can find links to all my previous tests.  Just for comparison, I checked my clear gel test results for my favorite .380 Federal 90 Grain Hydra-Shok.  The DRT load had more energy, and deeper penetration.  I'm discounting expansion of both loads simply because I have no idea how I should measure the recovered DRT round.  The jacket was clinging to the bullet core when I pulled the bullet from the gel, but immediately separated into two unique pieces of core and jacket.  I would have to see similar repeated results from the DRT to believe the recovered round was typical performance for this bullet.  The Hydra-Shok obviously had a higher retained weight because it's not built to fragment like the DRT.

Wrap Up
I still have some left over rounds that I plan to use to repeat the bare gel test and also conduct a leather and denim stress test.  The leather is a formidable barrier and I'd really like to see how much of the bullet gets past the leather and into the gel block.  Part of me wonders if the frangible bullet will actually start disintegrating earlier than it did in this bare gel test.  Another part of me wonders if the leather will plug up the hollow point cavity and cause the bullet to behave as a full metal jacket.  Regardless of the possible potential test outcomes, I'm much more interested in this load now and would really like to see how the larger caliber varieties perform.  Unfortunately, with the ammunition supply pressure it might be some time before I can test any of the larger caliber offerings.

Pick or Pan?
Too early to call this a pick or a pan.  This specific load is definitely worthy of additional testing and introduction of barrier materials in front of the gel block.  Check back for future tests.   


Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on 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 or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.


  1. I also appreciate the way your blog is organized- you've done an excellent job!

    In any case,I am also a bit leery when it comes to frangible loads,I've always been of the opinion that its good to have as much weight penetrate as deeply as possible.

    I'd stick with the Federal over this,unless I had a specific need for frangible,which I can't identify.

    1. These go deeper than the federals. That alone puts them ahead in my book

    2. Well,you may be right in this regard,but there is still the issue of consistency with bullets intentionally designed to fragment.I want penetration and mass retention.

      Personally,I do not trust frangible ammunition to be able to penetrate and maintain mass in any caliber,but when your working with a lower-power caliber like .380 you need as much of both as you can get,and the federal seems to be the better of the two in that regard.

      That being said its not like I'm a huge fan of the federal load either, and in fact when it comes to .380 and similar lower powered calibers I'm one of those that doesn't really like JHP .
      Besides watching and waiting for manufacturers to come up with a load I liked and looking for the hottest FMJ I could get, I looked into what could make such ammo a little more effective and I ran across Elmer Keith and his advocacy of the wadcutter.
      I learned that a solid bullet with a wide,flat meplat will have greater wounding potential then a rounded nose projectile,and so I settled on the Buffalo Bore solid cast lead wadcutter in +P trim for my .380 needs.

      Luckily,they also make a similar load for a particular pet cartridge of mine which happens to be relatively low powered as well,the 9x18 makarov.

      Anyway,as i said above I simply do not like frangible projectiles for anything but specific needs,which after giving some thought,might be if I were in a closed environment that is both densely and heavily populated,such as an aircraft.

      I could see frangible being quite useful to air marshals.

      But I'm not an air marshal and also I don't think that they would use .380's for much.

    3. Excuse me for posting before you can reply,but I'd also like to bring to the attention of the blogger that according to this test:

      The federal 90 grain premium hydrashok actually out penetrated this load as well,one shot did 12.5" and the other did 13",compared to the 11.5" of the DRT load.

      The federal hydrashock actually looks very good in the test here,and while I've seen differing results in other tests,IIRC penetration is typically no less then 11".

      I still stick by my preference for the flat nosed solids,heck I even like that type of projectile in more powerful calibers.

      But,personally,and YMMV,I'd take the federal hydrashok .380 load over this one any day all day.

      Unless,of course,I had a specific need to use a cartridge designed to prevent over-penetration as much as possible.

      Maybe this load would be really good for folks who live in apartments or have concerns for limiting penetration in their household,should they ever need to defend themselves in their homes,God forbid.

      But,thats what I have a shotgun for ;).

  2. Bruce,

    What's the deal with not using 4 layers of denim/heavy clothing anymore?

    1. I always used 2 layers of denim with the SimTest. Now I prospect with bare gel and stress test with 5/6oz tooling leather and 2 layers of denim. Example stress test.

      I'll do more stress testing as my blocks start to age and get dirty. Still tons of stuff left to try just in bare gel.

  3. I found this DRT ammo in 45 ACP, picked up 2 boxes. Looks like it could be a fine round, but especially in 45.
    The price on this was right at $1/round, which was very good for SD ammo. Got it at a local "Farm Store" called Rural King.

    1. I was out trying to track down a Glock 42 today and stopped in at our local Academy. They were loaded with DRT in several calibers. It's the first time I've seen it on their shelves. I still have a box of .223 that DRT sent to me to test. I need to get that one done soon. Have not tested the 45 yet. Thanks for all the comments. I'm approving them as fast as I can. =)


    2. DRT

      DRT ammunition is the only ammunition that I carry in my concealed carry handguns and is my go-to hunting round in my AR's. I have killed 3 hogs, 4 deer and a yearling coyote and have NEVER had a bullet pass through. The shock imparted by this round is absolutely devastating. A shot on a 185 lb. buck, right behind the shoulder at 45 yards, burst his diaphragm! I have seen lots of demonstrations with watermelons, ballistic gel and newspaper. The real proof is against a living organism. This will immediately neutralize any threat that might present itself AND not threaten the people on the other side of your target. Do yourself a favor and test this round yourself.