Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hornady Critical Duty 40 S&W 175 Grain FlexLock Clear Gel Test

Critical Duty is Hornady's newest line of pistol ammunition.  Unlike Critical Defense, the Critical Duty line features a bullet that has been constructed with an "Interlock Band" to help the core and jacket stay together as they penetrate various barriers.  I like the Critical Defense line of ammo and it has tested well for me.  I tested this load last year in SIM-TEST so I wanted to test it again in the Clear Ballistics Gel for a better understanding of what the bullet does inside the block.

If you are interested in the previous test, you can find the recap HERE.

Test Pistol Specs:

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. 

Test Results:
The test results are summarized in the data sheet below along with several close up shots of the recovered bullet.  Recovered weight includes the 2.5 grain red plug because it was still deeply seated in the hollow point cavity when the bullet was recovered.

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:
This load is amazingly consistent in the PM40 test pistol.  This test shot as well as the prior test shot were both measured at 959 feet per second.  The 5 round velocity test averages, captured at the time of each test, were both  959 feet per second.  That's spooky consistent.  

This load feeds like a dream in this PM40.  This PM40 is probably the most ammo fussy pistol I own and regularly chokes on just about anything other than FMJ.  That's a big plus for this ammo.

Unfortunately, the lack of expansion causes this round to penetrate well beyond the 12" to 16" ideal penetration depth.  The 130% expansion ratio also falls short of the desired 150%+ expansion target.

Pick or Pan:
Hornady created this load to perform best in duty length barrels of 4" or more.  After two tests in the short barrel, I see their point and would not recommend using this load in a short barrel 40.  Critical Defense is probably the better choice for a short barrel 40 S&W.  Critical Defense is optimized for short barrels and it will also have the same bullet nose profile as the Critical Duty.  It should feed and function well in my PM40, but I'll have to test that first to be sure.

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. The plug is what initiates/ensures at least some expansion, correct?

    Would the added 50+ fps from another 1" of barrel really change this much?

    As a duty load, particularly employed against targets with heavy/winter clothing or behind auto glass the extra penetration might be appreciated more than greater expansion.

  2. I also have a Kahr PM40. I have nearly 500 rounds through it and to date not a single jam. It eats hollow points and FMJ without distinction. My carry load is Critical Defense. Will we be seeing a comparison between the Critical Duty and Critical Defense in the near future?
    Thanks for all of the great articles

    1. I have a box of Critical Defense 40 available for testing, but have no idea when I will get to it. Too much to test and not enough time.