Thursday, January 31, 2013

Speer Gold Dot .357 Magnum 125 Grain Clear Gel Test

 
I initially planned to conduct this test and publish it right after January 1st, but for many reasons I'm running about a month behind the 2013 blog publication schedule I had planned out in my head.  If you follow the blog, then you know I've run quite a few ammunition tests in the last 12 months.  As I was putting together the Ammo Tests Index Page, I was really surprised by how many tests were published in 2012.  It was during this organization process that I suddenly realized that I had never established a terminal performance benchmark against which we could compare all other tested ammunition.  As my statistician friend Steve used to tell me, you can only say results are good if you let your listener know what you are comparing against. 

The 125 grain .357 Magnum cartridge fired from a 4" revolver has long been the high water mark for effective defensive pistol ammunition.  The 125 grain load must be a "full power" 357 Magnum loaded to levels achieving 1400+ feet per second velocity from a 4" barrel.  Regardless of whose terminal ballistics testing doctrine you subscribe to, there appears to be a loose consensus that for pistol ammunition, the 125 grain .357 Magnum is the most effective fight stopper.  I have no expertise in wound ballistics or human anatomy so I will go along with the opinions of the experts in this area.

I was lucky enough to find a box of Speer Gold Dot 125 Grain .357 Magnum during this latest rush on ammunition.  The specific load tested came in the consumer retail packaging of 20 rounds with a published muzzle velocity of 1450 ft. per second as tested in a 4" test barrel.  I wasn't able to locate a box of Remington Express R357M1 125 grain semi-jacketed hollow point that is generally revered by the experts, but I feel the bonded bullet of the Gold Dot is a worthy substitute and may prove to be a better comparison with the current class of commercial ammunition choices available to consumers. 

Test Pistol Specs:
Smith & Wesson 686 +  4" Barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  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 less than 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullet.  Immediately prior to shooting the block, I take a 5 shot velocity test over a ProChrono Digital chronograph.

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:
Since we are considering this test our benchmark for terminal performance, let's recap the facts from the test instead of me sharing my thoughts as I usually do.

Velocity:
Published velocity for this load is 1450 feet per second.  We observed 1456 fps average velocity in our 5 shot sample and the tested shot registered 1407 fps.  There appears to be quite a spread in velocity in the 6 tested shots with a low of 1403 and a high of 1496.  This may be the fault of the test revolver as the cylinder to forcing cone gap may vary by chamber.  This may also be due to variation in powder charges between cartridges.  Just to satisfy my own curiosity, I weighed the 13 remaining rounds in the box with the following results.
Cart # Wt. in Grains
5 221.9
13 222.7
2 222.8
6 223.1
3 223.3
12 223.3
8 223.5
11 223.5
9 223.8
4 223.9
7 223.9
10 224.2
1 224.7
Total 2904.6
Avg. 223.4

In the table above the cartridge number is simply the designation for the sequence the cartridge went on the scale.  For each cartridge the weight in grains was recorded from the scale.  I then sorted the list by weight from low to high and the randomness of the cartridge number indicates no scale bias.  I was shocked to see nearly 3 grains of variation between the loads.  I understand that a single cartridge is a system of many components that can all vary in weight by small amounts, but this seems excessive and may well explain the velocity variation between the tested rounds if the weight difference is in the propellant components of the cartridge (primer and powder).

We've seen variation like this in past tests where the terminal tested shot will be either significantly slower or faster than the 5 shot average.  This makes me wonder if I should weigh cartridges before testing and test with cartridges that are close in weight, or just continue to select them from the box at random.  In my opinion, random selection is closer to actual reality so I'm leaning toward accepting the variance and simply calling out loads that have excessive spreads.

Expansion:
The average expansion of the recovered bullet was .601".  We can turn this into an expansion ratio by dividing the expanded average diameter by the unexpanded bullet diameter of .357".  The result of the math is an expansion ratio of 1.68.  This means the recovered bullet is 68% larger than the unexpanded bullet.  I've read that an expansion ratio of 1.5 or more is a desirable trait in a hollow point bullet so this load exceeds the expansion goal.  I will be adding the expansion ratio to the data sheet on all future tests.

Weight Retention:
Weight retention is a measure that we have to take on faith when we test.  Since we can't weigh the bullet before testing, we have to assume that the bullet weight is close to the grain weight shown on the box.  In reality, we can buy a box of bullets for use as reloading components and measure them one at a time on a scale and see some weight variance from bullet to bullet.  When I was reloading and using also using saboted pistol bullets in my muzzle loading rifle it was common to see small weight variances.

The recovered bullet from this test weighed 124.4 grains.  We can convert this to a weight retention percentage by dividing the recovered weight by the bullet weight published on the box.  In this case the weight retention percentage was 99.5%.  I will be adding the weight retention percentage to the data sheet on all future tests.

Penetration:
The benchmark minimum desired penetration depth, in bare gel, has generally been set at 12 inches.  From various readings on the subject of desired penetration depth for defensive ammunition, any penetration depth between 12 and 16 inches appears to be acceptable.  In our test, the recovered bullet came to rest 14.25 inches into the gel.  From the artifacts left in the gel we saw that the bullet actually penetrated a bit deeper, but was pushed back up with wound channel as the gel block compressed back to its normal state.  We see this "rebound effect" in all tests so we will continue to record the final resting location as the measure of penetration depth.  As observed in this test, this load falls right in the middle of desired penetration depth range of 12 to 16 inches.

Energy:   
Kinetic energy is a calculated value that is derived by taking half the resultant value of the bullet weight (mass) multiplied by the bullet speed (velocity) squared.  Let's skip the physics lesson and review what we saw in the test.  The calculated energy value for this test was 549 ft./lbs. of energy.  While this test may not have broken any records for penetration or expansion, it certainly dumped more energy into the gel block than any previous test.  I consider the energy measure to be a "nice to know" value, but I think it's more important to understand what that energy did to the gel block.

As I reviewed the wound channel in the video, I hope you picked up on my mention of the overall height of the wound channel.  It was more than an inch tall with much of that damage being caused by the gel stretching as it expanded to absorb the energy of the expanding bullet.  The wound channel was also quite long and ran for a full 9 inches before starting to taper off.

Wrap Up:
If you are still reading this, then you must be a kindred spirit with a shared curiosity for all things dealing with terminal ballistics.  I know I got a little "wordy" with this recap, but I thought it was important that we take a small step back and explain a bit more about the variables captured during the tests and why they are significant.  I appreciate your patience as I got through all that.

In the future you may find yourself reading a terminal ballistics test done on some new whiz bang ammunition that delivers great expansion and penetration.  You may want to reference back to this test and see if expansion and penetration were really better than the gold standard 125 grain .357 Magnum.  Remember, if someone tells you that terminal performance was good or even great, be sure to ask them "compared to what?"  If you do, you will make my statistician friend Steve very happy.





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.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Boberg XR9-L Review Technical Details

Unfortunately for me, my time with the evaluation XR9-L has come to an end.  Later this afternoon I'll be cleaning it one more time and shipping it back to Boberg tomorrow.  While I still had it, I got it back out on the range yesterday for some very specific testing to answer some questions for the members of the Boberg Arms Community Forum.

As you know, cartridges are loaded nose first into the XR9 magazine and are extracted from the magazine by their rims as the slide moves through the ejection and loading cycle.  The slide is moving at such a great rate of speed that cartridges without sufficient crimp between the case mouth and bullet can experience "bullet pull" with some cases being so extreme that the brass and bullet separate during the loading cycle.  I've personally never had this happen to me, but I've seen pictures and video of it happening to others.

One advantage of the XR9-L is a slower slide speed than the XR9-S.  The question posed to me was how much difference will the slower slide speed make with bullet pull.  The video below covers my test and final findings.  The slower slide speed of the XR9-L does indeed reduce the bullet pull in this test.  For those concerned about bullet pull, you can compare the difference between the XR9-S and XR9-L.  Personally, I'd much rather have bullet pull than set-back.  Bullet pull reduces pressure and speed by a small amount.  Set-back can increase pressure and velocity to unacceptable levels in extreme cases.   


One more test that Arne asked me to consider was running some Underwood Ammo 115 grain +P+ through the L before returning it.  I've run this load through my XR9-S in very limited amounts because Arne confirmed that the pistol was safe at the pressures generated by this load.  He again confirmed that the L is safe for use with this specific load so I didn't see any reason not to run a few down range and see what the chronograph registered.  Recoil and noise were noticeably stronger with these rounds, but the L handled them like a champ.


If you follow the blog, then you know about the unfortunate chronograph accident from last week.  As you can see in the videos, that problem has been fixed.  When I posted the blog about the accidental demise of my chronograph it was done primarily in jest and also to poke a little fun at myself because I'm human too and sometimes things don't always go as planned.  What I didn't expect was two blog readers stepping forward with some generous donations for the replacement chronograph.  It was totally unexpected and made me feel really great that they feel that strongly about the content on the blog.  Thank you Derek and Brian for your unexpected and very much appreciated support.  You made my week.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Remington 38 Special +P 158 Grain LHP Clear Gel Test


If this ammunition looks familiar to you, then you may remember that I previously tested it in 2012 using two layers of denim and SIM-TEST media.  I will compare the results of the two tests later in the blog, but if you want to go read the first test, you can find it HERE

As far as ammunition goes, the 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter hollow point load has been around for decades and still maintains a dedicated following that will use nothing else but this load in their snub nose revolvers.  The combination of soft lead construction, heavy weight, and good velocity has earned this load a solid reputation for expansion and penetration when launched from the very short snub nose revolver barrels.

Test Pistol Specs:
Ruger LCR 1.875" Barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured less than 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullet.  Immediately prior to shooting the block, I take a 5 shot velocity test over a ProChrono Digital chronograph.

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:
As we saw in the first test, this load has no problem expanding in ballistics testing media.  The relatively slow velocity and soft lead construction of the bullet are a fantastic combination for full expansion.  Weight retention was excellent with the lead bullet losing less than 1 grain of total weight as it expanded and progressed down the wound channel.  If there is any pause for concern, it comes from the penetration observed in this test.  Even if we discount the bullet rebound back down the wound channel, we didn't make 12 inches of penetration in this test.

Let's review how this load performed in our previous test.  In the data sheet below we can see that the 5 shot velocity average was very close with the two tests.  Unfortunately the velocity variance increases when comparing the actual test shots.  I find it difficult to believe that a 24 fps velocity difference could result in such large differences in expansion and penetration, but that's what we see in the observed data and recovered bullets.  Just as a note, I used the same box of ammunition for both tests.  


Regardless of the differing results between the two tests, I am still impressed with the performance of this load from a short barrel revolver.  While it may not penetrate to 12 inches in every test, it does appear to be capable expander.
When running this clear gel test, I also tested the relatively new (when compared to this load) Speer Gold Dot 135 Grain Short Barrel 38 +P in the same gel block.  My rational for running the two tests, in the same gel block, was to stick or switch to the load that performed best.  You can view the Speer Gold Dot test HERE.  

The good news is we have choices.  All four .38 Special ammunition tests done so far have all ended with expanded bullets of various diameters with differing penetration depths.  Feel free to click on the Ammo Tests tab at the top of the page to read through the tests and decide which 38 Special +P load performs best for your needs.




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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Boberg XR9-L Review Summary


Two weeks ago, I picked up a testing copy of the new Boberg XR9-L.  I don't think anyone has received their pre-orders of this model yet, but they will start shipping soon to those that got into the pre-order queue when it was opened in early January.  Currently the Boberg XR9-L and XR9-S are only available by ordering directly from Boberg Arms through their web store.  Now that the SHOT Show is over and more industry folks have been exposed to the innovative features designed into these pistols, maybe we'll see some stocking dealers or distributors in the future.

If you are just now joining the XR9-L review, you may want to check out the Review Parts 1 and 2 as they go into more detail on the overall XR9-L pistol specifications as well as a deep dive into the differences between the XR9-L and XR9-S.  If you only care about how it shoots, then you skipped right to the that part of the review.
   
My favorite part about shooting any Boberg is the milder recoil.  When I shoot other small 9mm pistols they can start to get uncomfortable after a box or two down range.  I just don't notice the recoil when shooting the XR9-L or even the XR9-S because, even with a two finger front strap grip, they are as comfortable to shoot as any full size 9mm I own.  I'll give Arne some credit for that with the rotating barrel locking system, absence of sharp edges where I position my hands when holding the pistols, and also the introduction of the recoil mid-buffer in the XR9-L.  I think part of it is also how the grip fits my hand and just feels good.

On my first range visit I shot the video comparing the XR9-L and XR9-S.  You can find that in review part 2 mentioned above.  I really didn't get the chance to do much shooting for accuracy or speed.  Instead I let someone else try both the XR9-S and XR9-L to see what they thought about them.

I went back to the range the next day and shot for as long as I could stand the cold, wind, and rain that had moved into the area overnight.  I managed to get through about 75 rounds before my hands were too numb to shoot.  I saved the target from the rain and what you see below is a combination of strong hand, weak hand, and two hand shooting from 10 yards.  I also let another shooter run two mags through the XR9-L so he could pass his impressions on to Arne at SHOT last week.

It didn't take me long to figure out that the XR9-L had the 9lb. hammer spring installed instead of the 6lb. hammer spring I have been using in my XR9-S.  Even with the heavier trigger spring, I was satisfied with the results on the target, but I did swap out the 9lb. spring for a lighter 7.5lb that I had at the house as a spare.

I didn't really think about, or spend any time with the XR9-L last week.  I was too involved following all the Tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts, new product announcements, and YouTube videos that folks were posting from the SHOT Show.  I was also getting the occasional text message from our local attendees asking if I had ever heard of this company or that product, and if I would be interested in doing a review on this or that product.  I returned the favor and asked them to go check on specific booths for me and tell me what they thought about a firearm or product I was interested in.

By the weekend, I was ready to get back on out the range with the XR9-L with its new lighter trigger.  I had some big plans for Saturday, but quickly lost my desire to shoot after drilling my chronograph with a .357 Magnum (one post back if you want that story).  I put a few mags down range and called it a day.

Sunday was a different story.  I had recovered from the loss of my friend the chronograph and was in the mood to shoot.  For the video below, I decided to set up a steel target and try shooting from 10, 20, and 25 yards.  Pocket pistols are usually pretty accurate at 10 yards or less, but for me accuracy goes out the window as distance increases.  It's rare that I'll even attempt to shoot a small pistol at 20 yards for fear of eroding my 7 to 10 yard accuracy confidence.  I made one trial run at this with three magazines loaded with 7 rounds each.  I ended up missing twice at 25 yards because I was tired.  I tried it a second time with 5 rounds in each magazine and hit the steel all 15 times.  That convinced me that I really do need a XR9-L of my own.  I also need to send this one back to Boberg so someone else can have the chance to review it.


You may be wondering why I keep calling the XR9-L a pocket pistol.  It is larger than the XR9-S, but it's still about the same size as the Glock 26 and 27.  The Glock 27 is the largest pocket pistol I can comfortably carry.  I see no reason why the XR9-L couldn't be pocket carried with equal ease.  In the video I had the XR9-L set up in a Remora appendix carry holster and it was comfortable there too.  It's nice to have options.

One last note on reliability and ammunition compatibility.  During the two weeks I had the XR9-L, I kept a strict record of round counts and ammunition varieties that went through the pistol.  We shot the following:

100 Remington UMC 115 Grain JHP
15   Federal Hydra-Shok 124 Grain JHP
50   Sellier and Bellot Police 115 Grain FMJ
30   Winchester Personal Protection 147 Grain JHP
15   Speer Gold Dot 124 Grain GDHP
64  American Eagle 124 Grain FMJ
8    Hornady Critical Duty 135 Grain +P FTX
8    Federal HST 124 Grain +P JHP
290 rounds total with no issues of any kind for any of the three shooters that tried it.

I didn't shoot many of the +P rounds through the pistol because the longer barrel of the XR9-L allowed these more powerful defense loads to achieve velocities high enough to knock the steel target off the stand.  After resetting the target 4 times in two magazines, I gave up trying.  I'm confident they will feed and fire just as well as they do in the XR9-S.

I guess I need to head on over to the Boberg web store and get my order in.  Onyx or Platinum?  I just can't decide.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saying Good-bye to a Valued Team Member

Good help is really hard to find. When you do find someone that always pulls their weight on your team, you treat them special and do your best to keep them happy and engaged in their work. I had someone like that on my team up until about 2pm this afternoon.

This team member made their YouTube video debut back in March of 2012. Things were a bit sketchy on that first day of taping, but we knew we could find a way to work together and create some really good videos.


Yes, it's unfortunately true that I shot my chronograph today while working on a new test.  Its delicate plastic constitution was simply no match for the 158 Grain Speer Gold Dot .357 Magnum that struck it squarely in the face just above the Delete Shot pressure pad. 


If it's any consolation, it was a clean kill that passed completely through and resulted in a fabled "One Shot Stop".


The exit wound showed signs of moderate expansion as the bullet progressed through the chronograph media.


Looking closely at the wound channel, we can see expansion started quickly as illustrated by the size difference between the entrance wounds in the chronograph face and first skyscreen sensor.


Deep penetration is one of the things we like to see when reviewing wound channels.  You really want the bullet to penetrate deep enough to reach something vital.  In this case, penetration was outstanding and reached deep enough to sever both the positive and negative battery leads.  



Exiting the second skyscreen sensor, we can really see how this load has expanded as it progressed down the wound channel.  I estimate the exit wound to be 3 times the size of the entrance wound in the first skyscreen sensor.


My Thoughts On This Load:
I'm a huge dumb-ass that shot his chronograph.  It was kinda neat to see the insides of the chronograph, but I'm still mad at myself for shooting it.  That's another hundred dollar bill out the window.  I can only hope that the replacement will be as great a team member as the original.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Underwood Ammo 380 Auto FMJ Clear Gel Test


This is my second test with 380 Auto ammunition from Underwood Ammo.  Last week I published the test results of their 90 grain Gold Dot load.  You can read that test HERE.  While I was testing the Gold Dot load, I decided to also test the 380 Auto 100 grain FMJ load in order to compare the terminal performance differences between the two loads and create some new data points for the never ending debate of which ammunition type (jacketed hollow point, or full metal jacket) is "better" to use in 380 pocket pistols.

Underwood Ammo manufactures a full line of ammunition for both pistols and rifles.  Underwood has developed quite a devoted following of customers with their commitment to quality, reasonable prices, and willingness to load some of the highest velocity rounds available in many pistol calibers.  Having previously tested 100 grain FMJ loads from two other manufacturers, I found them lacking in velocity (<845 fps) from our 2.5" Kahr test barrel.  I was very interested in testing the offering from Underwood to see if they had kicked up the velocity a bit with their load. 

Test Pistol Specs:
Kahr P380 2.5" Barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullet.  Immediately prior to shooting the block, I take a 5 shot velocity test over a ProChrono Digital chronograph.

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:
Underwood develops their velocity specification in a 3.5 inch test barrel.  I expected velocity would be less than the 950 fps published on the box due to the shorter 2.5 inch barrel used in this test.  In our previous Underwood 380 JHP test, we saw a smaller decrease in velocity with the shorter barrel.  In this test we lost a full 100 fps from published velocity due the shorter barrel length.    

The clear gel used for this test is equivalent to 10% ordnance gel density.  It is an ideal test bed to display optimum terminal performance because there are no barriers in front of the gel or obstructions within the gel.  I was pleased to see that the bullet penetrated a full 19 inches in our test with no evidence of tipping or tumbling during travel through the block.  In a more real world case with external and internal barriers, penetration would be less.  It would have to be a full 7 inches less before the bullet missed the 12 inches of penetration performance goal.

It was interesting to see the wound channel left by the FMJ bullet.  As expected, we did not see the usual permanent cutting damage caused by the expanding petals of a JHP bullet.  Instead we saw a small consistent wound channel that decreased in diameter as the bullet continued to lose energy and virtually disappeared after traveling 16 inches through the block.

Call me crazy if you must, but I wonder if this load may act like a miniaturized .45 ACP GI Hardball load.  The initial velocity is similar, but due to the smaller diameter, lower weight, and lesser energy the 380 load only penetrates 19 inches versus 25 inches for 45 GI Ball in similar media.

My key take away from this test is that this 380 FMJ load penetrates well in bare gel, but not nearly as deeply as 9mm or 45 ACP FMJ.  If penetration is more important to you than expansion, this may be a good load for you to try.

Personally, I would really like to see Underwood produce a similar speed load with a 95 or 100 grain flat nose FMJ bullet.  I believe the larger meplat, or flattened bullet nose, would create a larger temporary wound cavity and also decrease total penetration.  It just might be the ideal 380 FMJ carry load for those that insist on at least 12 inches of penetration from their 380 ammunition.




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.
  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Boberg XR9-L Review - 2013 Wishlist Update


Early this week I picked up a demo Boberg XR9-L from my dealer.  All the technical specifications of the XR9-L were covered in THIS previous blog post so I won't go through them all again.  Arne Boberg shipped it to me so I could get some rounds through it and possibly help him explain the differences between the new XR9-L and the shorter XR9-S model from the independent shooter's perspective.  I started with a bench review of the differences between the two models and got that up on the YouTube channel last week.  That video follows below.

I was watching the weather all week with the hopes of getting out to the range several times this weekend and running a few hundred rounds through the new model.  Unfortunately, only Friday afternoon could be classified as "good" weather and even the warm sunny afternoon was spoiled by gusting winds that got so strong they actually blew my camera and tripod off their stand and down into the dirt.  Unfortunately, this happens frequently at the outdoor range where I shoot most of my videos.  Undaunted, I cleaned up the camera the best I could and did manage to get through the range portion of the review and comparison.  That video is shown below.

The high speed camera footage was really helpful in the recoil impulse/muzzle flip comparison between the two models.  Using the rear sight as the starting point of the horizontal line, I was able to run an angled line down the top of the slide from the same starting point.  When comparing the two lift angles it appears that the muzzle rise is indeed less with the XR9-L than with the XR9-S.  The XR9-L slide speed under recoil also appears to be less as we can still see the ejected brass in the still frame while the fired case from the XR9-S has run out of the picture by the time the pistol reaches maximum muzzle rise.  The last indication of reduced muzzle rise can be seen in the position of the trigger guard and the support hand thumb.  The XR9-S trigger guard completely clears the left thumb, while the XR9-L trigger guard is still partially obscured by the left thumb.  


I got back out to the range again on Saturday and managed to get a few more rounds through the pistol before the wind, rain, and cold sent me packing home for the day.  I was really disappointed that I didn't have the chance to shoot the pistol more, but my hands were getting numb from the cold.  The shooting I did do consisted of weak hand, strong hand, strong hand from retention, and some two hand shooting.  The XR9-L functioned flawlessly through all of this and by the end of the afternoon the final round count was:

Remington UMC 115 grain JHP                         100 Rounds
Federal Hydra-Shok 124 grain JHP                      15 Rounds
Sellier and Bellot 115 grain FMJ                          50 Rounds
Winchester Personal Protection 147 grain JHP     30 Rounds
Speer Gold Dot 124 grain GDHP                          15 Rounds
Total Rounds Fired                                            210 Rounds

Issues with feed, fire, or extraction                                None

With outdoor temperatures in the 20's, I tried to get back out to one of our local indoor ranges today, but there was literally a line of folks waiting to shoot.  I stayed for about 30 minutes to catch up with the range owner and the others working at the store, but decided to leave before my turn on the range came up.  As soon as we get another warmer day, I'll be back out at the outdoor range with several more varieties of ammunition to try in the XR9-L.

Returning from my aborted range trip and finding myself with more time behind the keyboard instead of the trigger, I started thinking more about where the XR9-L might fit in my personal carry rotation.  The XR9-L is longer than the XR9-S predecessor, but it's still a pocket gun.  In my opinion, it is about as large as you can go, but still pocket carry with the right holster and pants.  I decided to do a comparison between the largest pocket pistol in my carry rotation, which is the Glock 27.  The Glock 27 is dimensionally identical to the 9mm Glock 26.

Visually, the XR9-L is shorter, thinner, and slightly taller than the G26/27.  Using the specifications published by each manufacturer see the following stats for both pistols:

Pistol Glock 26 Boberg XR9-L
Length 6.49" 5.95"
Width 1.18" .96"
Height 4.17" 4.2"
Weight 21.4 oz.* 18.5 oz.*
 * weights include empty magazine
Overall Length and Height Comparison

Overall Width Comparison

Both Pistols In Their Pocket Holsters

Luckily, I had a Remora Size 4 holster on hand to use for the pictures and to try the XR9-L as a pocket carry pistol.  I found that it works just as well as the Glock for pocket carry and may actually be a bit more comfortable due to the reduced width of the Boberg.  I initially thought the Boberg would be too large to conceal in the pocket, but it appears to work well there and also as a waistband pistol.  That's pretty amazing when you consider there is now a pocket pistol with a 4.2" barrel that will literally deliver similar terminal performance as many of the full size 9mm pistols.

I really appreciate Arne and the rest of the folks at Boberg Arms for the opportunity to try their new XR9-L model.  As a fan of the XR9-S and also understanding the the difference an extra inch of barrel length makes in 9mm ballistic performance, I can see there may be a XR9-L in my future.  I've always thought the XR9-S was fun to shoot.  The XR9-L takes that fun to a higher level with reduced recoil and longer sight radius.

I'll leave you with this thought.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Underwood Ammo 380 Auto +P GDHP Clear Gel Test


If you aren't familiar with Underwood Ammo, I'll give you a quick run down on them.  Started by Kevin Underwood, the Charlston, WV based business grew from Kevin's hobby to a full blown family run ammunition company.  Underwood manufactures a full line of ammunition for both pistols and rifles.  If you send an email or call Underwood, there is a really good chance you'll get Kevin on the Underwood side of the communication.  Underwood has developed quite a devoted following of customers through their commitment to quality, reasonable prices, and willingness to load some of the highest velocity rounds available in many pistol calibers.

While there isn't a SAAMI pressure specification for 380 +P, the ammunition covered in this test is labeled as such.  Speer loads this same bullet in their Gold Dot line with a published velocity of 1040 feet per second.  Underwood bumps up the velocity significantly with this load.  I sent Underwood a note to ask what barrel length they use to develop their published velocity numbers.  Kevin responded back that the 380 velocity numbers are developed in a PPK with a 3.5" barrel.

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.

Test Pistol Specs:
Kahr P380 2.5" Barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullet.  Immediately prior to shooting the block, I take a 5 shot velocity test over a ProChrono Digital chronograph.

Test Results:
The test results are summarized in the data sheet below along with some close up shots 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:
My first thought was wow...I definitely got a hot box of ammo.  I fully expected to lose 100 fps off the published velocity specification from my test barrel since it was 1" shorter than the factory test barrel.  The Walther made barrel in the Kahr P380 does a great job wringing out good velocity numbers from any round shot through it, but the speed exceeded my expectations.  I wasn't expecting up to 300 fps faster over the factory Speer loaded GDHP.  Then there was the actual test shot that exceeded even the 1175 published velocity by several feet per second.  Bottom line is the load delivers on speed.

Expansion was extreme.  Much more than we've seen from the same bullet loaded by Speer.  While there were lead fragments scattered down the wound channel, the recovered round lost less than 2 grains of total bullet weight.  I think that is perfectly acceptable and is a great example of the structural integrity of the bonded Gold Dot bullet.

Penetration was marginal at just over 9.25" on this test shot.  I'm sure some would kick this load to the curb on this measure alone, but I'm actually intrigued by this measurement.  As we've seen in past tests with this bullet, it is possible to make 10" of penetration with expansion in the .480's and velocity of about 900 fps. (Speer factory load)  I want to circle back on this load at a later date with a stress test that includes a significant clothing barrier ahead of the gel block.  With the great speed and quality bonded bullet, this load may well make the magic 12" of penetration if it has to clear a clothing barrier before it starts expanding in the gel.  I think the barrier will slow down the rate of expansion and allow the bullet to penetrate deeper into the gel block.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I have a concern about the velocity variation with this load.  The fact that the test shot went out at over 60 feet per second faster than any of our velocity test shots is concerning.  More speed = more pressure and stress on the firearm.




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.
  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2013 Wish List Update - Boberg XR9-L


Last August, I posted an article about the next Boberg XR9 variant in the development pipeline and how Arne Boberg orchestrated a multi-day interactive design session on his Boberg Arms web forum.  It was a really great experience to participate as part of that ad-hoc design team.  You can read all about that experience HERE.  Spin the calendar ahead about 5 months and now we're up to the present day.


The Boberg XR9-L. or long slide version of the original XR9-S, is now available for pre-order on the Boberg Arms website.  The marketing sheet for the XR9-L reads as follows.  I've borrowed everything below from the Boberg website.

"The XR9-L is truly the finest pocket pistol money can buy, representing the pinnacle of performance, accuracy and low recoil via an exclusive "mid-buffer" that absorbs the very harsh jarring normally caused by the barrel stopping against the frame. The pistol comes with an integrated Picatinny rail to support several commercial lasers and flashlights. Using select 9mm +P ammunition, this pistol generates  over 500 Ft-Lbs of muzzle energy with felt recoil similar to a .380 ACP. Using standard-pressure 9mm ammunition, the XR9-L produces felt recoil similar to .22 LR.

Includes: 1 Pistol, 2 Magazines, Carry Case, Safety Lock
Caliber: 9mm / 9mm+P
Length: 5.95”
Height: 4.2”
Width: 0.96”
Weight: 18.5 oz with magazine
Barrel Length: 4.2”
Capacity: 7+1
Action: Rotating-Barrel Locked-Breech
Sights: Low-Profile, Dovetail Windage
Sight Radius: 5.25"
Trigger Pull: 7.5 lb DAO (standard)
Safeties: 2"

On top of what is posted on the Boberg website, I will add that the XR9-L is available for pre-order in all three finish options currently available for the XR9-S.  There is the all black Onyx edition, nickel/chrome Platinum edition, and the standard Two-tone edition with black frame and natural stainless slide.


For me, the two most attractive new features of the XR9-L are integrated recoil reduction buffer and longer sight radius.  I find the XR9-S to be soft shooting with 9mm +P ammo so I can only imagine what a treat it will be to shoot the XR9-L.  The rail is a nice feature, but I would have preferred forward slide serrations instead of the rail, but I lost out during the design session.  Others may like the overall look of the XR9-L better than the XR9-S.  I have to admit that the XR9-L is starting to look sexy with the bevel on the front of the slide and the increased slide length.  The extra length gives it a more balanced look.  


You may be wondering why it appears that I'm just rehashing old blog posts since I reported quite a bit of this information back in mid-November on this Blog Post.  The difference this time is that earlier today I took delivery of an XR9-L from my local dealer.  It's a T&E copy (notice the BAX serial number prefix) that was sent to me to "evaluate and enjoy".  I can't pass up the chance to review it too, so I shot a short video comparing the XR9-S and the XR9-L.  It will probably be the weekend before I can get out and do a range review on the pistol so this will have to suffice for now.  I made sure to point out the significant differences and similarities between the two versions in the video.


I really can't wait to get out to the range and give it a try.  I've had great results with the XR9-S and it has really helped me progress in both shooting speed and accuracy.  As I'm starting to turn away from pocket carry in favor of IWB carry, it seems logical that I should migrate to the XR9-L as part of that transition.

By the way, if you are heading out to the SHOT Show, feel free to visit Arne Boberg in booth 2827.  I'm sure he, and the rest of the Boberg Team, would love to meet you and show you their innovative firearms.    

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Rimfire Cartridge from Winchester - 17 Win Super Mag

Dubbed the 17 Win Super Mag, this one looks very good in the new marketing video that just went up on YouTube.  I have not been this excited about a new rimfire offering since the 17 HMR.

Very interested to see who comes to market first with rifles.  I'm hoping for a Ruger 77/17 with a target crowned heavy barrel to match my 17 HMR.  That rifle and this new rimfire round will elevate my Summer pass-time of long range plinking of flies off a cardboard box to grand new heights.   


I need another caliber about as much as I need another hole in my head, but this one has definitely piqued my interest.  The promise of a true 200 yard rimfire cartridge is just too compelling to pass up.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Don't Mess With Ray - DoubleTap Update

Well here's a not totally unexpected update on one of my 2013 Wish List items.  If you have been following the trials and tribulations of the development and manufacturing of what was once the Heizer DoubleTap, but later became the DoubleTap Defense DoubleTap then you now the split between the Heizer Company and Ray Kohout was dramatic and most probably painful for all.  I've been watching and reading for any updates and did see that Heizer was planning to move ahead with the project without Ray, and Ray went out and found a new manufacturer in Azimuth Technologies.

Today we saw this shot from Doubletap Defense (Ray) across the bow of Heizer Defense (Heizer) and Others (whomever Others may be) that you better not steal his intellectual property and come to market with some DoubleTap-like pistol. Not sure what the monetary damages are for other than the "inability to fulfill its manufacturing obligations" when Heizer was designated as the manufacturer.

This is all my interpretation of the press release below so don't DoubleTap me if my interpretation isn't correct.  It is good to see Ray stand up for his baby and put imitators on notice that there will be only one DoubleTap.  Now let's see if they can get some out the door in Quarter 1 as promised.  I'm pulling for their success in meeting their target.



Thursday, January 3, 2013

PMC Starfire 9mm 124 Grain SFHP Clear Gel Test


I'd like to thank the folks at Lucky Gunner for donating the ammunition for this test.  They contacted me recently to see if I would be interested in testing some PMC Gold Starfire ammunition.  I took them up on the offer and they told me that I was free to publish any result regardless of how the tests turned out.  Last week, I published the Starfire 380 Auto test results and this is my second test with the 9mm Starfire load.

The PMC Starfire ammunition line has been around for quite some time.  I purchased the brand back in the 1990's.  Currently, the ammunition is manufactured in Korea by the Poongsan Corporation.  Poongsan manufactures ammunition for both the Military and Civilian markets.

Test Pistol Specs:
Kahr PM9 3.1" Barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullet.  Immediately prior to shooting the block, I take a 5 shot velocity test over my chronograph.




The video below documents my entire test from range testing to bullet recovery.



My Thoughts:
As we saw with the 380 Auto version of this line, velocity wasn't even close to the published specification of 1090 fps in our short test barrel.  From experience we know that the best performing 124 grain 9mm loads are running velocities in the low 1100 fps range when fired from the 3" barrels of the 9mm subcompacts.  When I started seeing mid-900 fps velocities on the chronograph during initial POI and velocity testing I realized there was a very good chance this load wouldn't fully expand.  This load is not optimized to perform well in short barrel pistols that do not allow the bullet to come up to the speed required for expansion.  As with the 380 Auto Starfire, I may try this test again at another time with a longer test barrel and see if I can get it to expand.

The good news is we did get a chance to review what a flat nose FMJ wound channel looks like in the clear gel block.  That's something we have not had a chance to view previously.  I was actually surprised to see how deeply the bullet penetrated into the phone book after clearing the 16" gel block.

Again, thanks to the folks at Lucky Gunner for supplying the sample ammunition for the test.  I really wish the test results would have been better.      




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.