Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sellier and Bellot 25 Auto 50 Grain FMJ Gel Test


I'm working in uncharted territory with this test so please excuse me if I get a bit wordy or if I deviate from the usual ammunition test format.  Some of you may know that Pocket Guns and Gear was originally named Mouse Guns and Gear when it launched in 2011.  At the time, I had been totally enamored with the small pistols, and the ammunition that went into them, for several years.  I never did dabble with anything smaller than 32 Auto when I was getting my feet wet with mouse guns, so as the blog grew I decided it was time to see how the 22 LR and 25 Auto did in basic ballistics tests.

Late last year, I was offered a mint pair of used pocket Berettas in 22 and 25 that I snapped up for use as test pistols.  I grabbed a fresh block of Clear Ballistics gel, some ammo, and my new brace of Berettas intent on doing some baseline terminal testing with them since there seemed to be a general void of structured terminal testing information with these small pocket pistols.

Test Pistol Specs:
Beretta 950BS 2.4" 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 this was my first time ever shooting a 25 Auto, I don't have a solid base of information for many comparisons within the caliber.  As I was pulling my thoughts together on what I wanted to convey in the test recap, I had some ideas that might help you visualize how tiny the 25 Auto really is and why it performed as it did in the gel block.


The first thing I noticed about the recovered bullet was the bullet length to diameter ratio seemed quite different than the 32 and 380 fmj previously tested.  I'm compelled to describe the bullet as long and thin when compared to the 32 and 380 with their short and fat bullet profiles.  I have to believe the profile of the bullet contributed to the tumbling we observed in the gel block.  The picture below is more humorous than helpful.  I perched the recovered bullet on a 45 ACP Winchester Ranger T and the bullet diameter isn't even as large as the hollow point cavity of the 45 bullet.


The velocity of this load is quite slow compared to anything previously tested.  It was unfortunate that the gel tested shot went out at 40 feet per second less than the 5 shot velocity test average.  I actually had to shoot twice before I captured  a bullet.  The first shot was faster, but quickly veered out of the gel block and was not recovered.  To give you some perspective on how slow this is, I use a compressed air bb rifle to periodically test the density of my gel blocks to assure they stay calibrated with 10% ordnance gel specifications.  7 pumps on the bb rifle gets the bb moving at just over 600 feet per second.  If you shoot the tested round at a target 10 yards away, you can actually see the bullet in flight.  That's the kind of speed we are talking about this with load.

Slow velocity has a direct and exponential effect on the miniscule 41 ft/lbs of bullet energy observed in this test.  This test was a great reminder of how muzzle energy is calculated.  By the formula, you half the weight of the bullet and square the bullet velocity.  If the bullet weighed 100 grains our ft/lbs of energy would double to 80 if velocity stayed constant.  If we could somehow double the velocity to 1200 fps, our energy would quadruple to 160 ft/lbs with the 50 grain bullet.

And therein lies the challenge with the 25 Auto.  It wasn't very long ago that the 25 Auto was considered the smallest modern center fire pistol caliber in the world.  Recent additions of the FN 5.7 and 22 TCM have displaced the 25 Auto as the smallest caliber center fire, but both the FN 5.7 and 22 TCM are bottle necked cartridges with more powder capacity than the straight walled 25 Auto so they should be excluded from comparison.  In my opinion, the 25 Auto compares most closely with the 22 Long Rifle rim fire cartridge.

A 22 Long Rifle, shot from a similar barrel length, will produce substantially more velocity with a bullet that is lighter than the 25 Auto.  Since velocity contributes more to overall energy, the resultant muzzle energy will be greater with the 22 Long Rifle.  Now if you go back to mid 2012 when ammunition prices were stable, 25 Auto ammunition would cost about 4 to 5 times more per round than 22 LR.  Prior to doing a terminal test, the only real advantage of the 25 Auto over the 22 Long Rifle was in the general belief that center fire priming systems are more reliable than rim fire priming systems.  

The real eye-opener for me came when reviewing the artifacts left in the clear gel block.  One test isn't enough to establish a repeatable and predictable pattern, but it was very interesting to see the permanent bullet track left by the tumbling 25 Auto bullet between 2 and 7 inches deep into the block.  I was also quite surprised to see a total penetration depth of 10.5" even after the bullet tumbled 180 degrees on the trip down the gel block.

I will definitely continue testing 25 Auto as more ammunition becomes available again and I can get my hands on some different grain weights and bullet types.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what other surprises the little 25 Auto shows us in 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.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Beretta Nano BU9 Review - 2013 Wishlist Update


Back in December 2012, I published my 2013 Wishlist.  One of the items on the list was a Beretta Nano in 40 S&W.  As I read all the stories coming out of SHOT 2013, the realization set in that there would be no 40 S&W Nano this year.  Rather than wait a year, I decided to pick up a 9mm Nano and work with it this year in hopes of "upgrading" to the 40 S&W next year.

After several weeks of searching, I finally tracked down a Nano BU9 in flat dark earth.  I usually don't choose a colored grip over a black grip, but I thought the Nano looked really good in this configuration.  Tracking down a few spare 6 round magazines wasn't very difficult and I found the night sights in stock at the Beretta on-line store front.  The 8 round magazines and +2 extension kits for upgrading the 6 round magazine to 8 rounds are very difficult to find right now.  I'm really glad that the Nano shipped with one of the extended magazines.

I've had the Nano for a few weeks now, but have only had it out on the range once.  Not sure what the weather is like in your area, but we've had way too many days like today in February and March.  This is what I was seeing as I looked out the window this morning and drank my coffee.  I don't mind shooting in the cold, rain, wind, and snow, but it's impossible to make good videos with such poor lighting conditions.  We need some sun.  Dear Spring, please hurry up and get here.


I did complete the unboxing video and put it up on the YouTube channel last week.  My original plan was to do the entire review in one big blog post, but I think I'll stick the usual format and do the review in multiple parts.


So far, I'm really impressed with the Nano.  I love how solid it feels in my hand.  Last weekend I had to meet some folks at the range and I arrived before they did.  While I waited in the cold and rain, I ran a target out to 7 yards and loaded up the 6 and 8 round magazines.  On the target below, the lower group was my first 7 rounds through the Nano.  The Speer Gold Dot 124 grain loads grouped pretty well at just under my point of aim.  Switching magazines, the upper group was 8 rounds of Winchester White Box 115 Grain FMJ bulk pack.  I was really surprised to see how much tighter the group got with the 8 round extended magazine.  Having that pinky on the grip really made a big difference. 


I need to get more rounds through the pistol and see if can improve my performance with it and see how I shoot it at speed.  I was really pleased to see the tight groupings the pistol is capable of as I plan to use the Nano for 9mm ballistics testing.   Per the manual, "extended use of +P or +P+ ammunition may decrease component part service life expectancy".  I don't think running 7 rounds of +P+ through the pistol every now and then for a ballistics test qualifies as extended use so the Nano should be up to the task.  

Holsters for the Nano are inbound.  I opted for a coyote brown kydex pocket rig from RKBA Holsters and a Remora Hyde Size 4A with sweat shield for IWB carry.  Fully loaded the Nano weighs about 23 ounces with the 6 round magazine in place.  That's a bit heavy for me as a pocket pistol, but I am going to give it a try and see if I can make it work.   Alternately, the Nano is the perfect size for discreet IWB appendix carry.

If you have any specific questions about the Nano that you would like me to address in the range review, please let me know in a comment below.  I'll do my best to answer your question when I get back out to the range.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Winchester Ranger 40 S&W 165 Grain Bonded JHP Gel Test


I would like to start out with a word of thanks to Fred for donating the ammunition for this test.  Fred is a long time follower of the blog and a fan of the Winchester Ranger Bonded line of ammunition. Fred previously provided samples of 9mm +P 124 Grain Ranger Bonded which we tested HERE.

The Winchester Ranger Bonded line competes with the Federal Tactical Bonded, Speer Gold Dot, and Remington Golden Saber Bonded lines of ammunition.  Bonded bullets are manufactured with a process that bonds the copper or brass jacket to the lead core of the bullet.  This manufacturing process creates a "tougher" bullet that is less likely to fragment when passing through barriers like wallboard, automobile glass, and mild steel.  Bonded bullets are frequently used by many law enforcement agencies that may encounter these barriers in their work. 

Test Pistol Specs:
Kahr PM40  3" 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:

Velocity:
Winchester
publishes a velocity of 1140 fps for this load when fired from a 4" barrel.  As we expected, our velocity was lower due to the 3" barrel used in the test.  We still hit just over 1000 fps across the sample of shots recorded during this test.

Expansion:
All Ranger Bonded loads I've seen so far can be described as having a very shallow hollow point cavity.  I was actually surprised by the complete and symmetrical expansion of the recovered bullet from this test.  At the reduced velocity, I wasn't expecting the petals to peel all the way back to the bullet shank.  The test shot average expansion was 38% larger than its original .40" starting diameter before expansion.


Weight Retention:
Bonded bullets are less prone to fragmentation during the stress of terminal contact and expansion.  The clear gel used for this test provides an optimal test bed to view best case terminal performance and weight retention.  Our recovered round weighed 165.6 grains, which indicates 100+% weight retention.  I didn't see any media stuck under the folded back jacket petals so I have to believe this specific bullet weighed more than 165 grains before it entered the gel block.  

Penetration:
With a velocity of over 1000 fps, fairly heavy weight of 165 grains, and modest expansion it wasn't surprising to see bullet penetration of greater than 16 inches in this test.  On my first attempt to test this load, I didn't have anything backing up the gel block and that bullet was lost.  For the second attempt, I had a phone book behind the block and we caught the bullet just as it pierced the end of the block.   
  
Energy:   
The calculated energy of the test shot was 371 ft/lbs.  This is about 100 ft/lbs less than the published muzzle energy, but this is easily explained by the lower velocity of our test shot.

Wrap Up:
Overall, I was impressed by the performance of this load.  As with all short barrel tests, we never really know what performance we'll see from ammunition designed to perform in service length barrels.  The modest expansion, deep penetration, and exemplary weight retention may make this load a good choice in cold weather months when clothing barriers are at their thickest.  I've got enough sample ammunition left to test this one again with a Heavy Clothing Stress Test.  If it performs similarly in the stress test, I would consider this load for cold weather carry.


Pick or Pan:
For now this is a conditional pick until stress tested.




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, March 17, 2013

Maintaining Your Carry Pistol

When it comes to small concealed carry pistols, people seem to fall into one of two general groups.  I call group one the Active Shooters and group two I label as the Passive Shooters.  Depending on circumstances, a person may end up exclusively in one group or the other.  I think most folks will find that they move between the two groups as their life conditions change over the course of years and decades.

Passive shooters will buy a concealed carry handgun, practice with it enough to pass their concealed carry shooting proficiency test, and not shoot again until their permit or license is due for renewal.  I was a Passive Shooter for a few years.  I wanted to shoot more, but I was living abroad and made infrequent trips back home.  When I was home for a visit, shooting wasn't a priority so I did what I had to do to keep my CHL up to date, but shot very little.

For the last several years, I've been part of the Active Shooters group.  People in this group have the time and resources available for frequent practice sessions and may run several hundred to several thousand rounds through their carry pistol annually.  People in this group tend to complain more about reliability issues with their pistols simply because they have a greater opportunity to experience problems than the folks in the Passive Group.  They also put much more stress on their pistols and need to take a proactive approach to maintaining their pistol.

In this article, I'm assuming that both the Active and Passive Shooter Groups have the same standards for keeping their pistol clean.  I may cover cleaning in another article, but for this article I'm focusing on Preventative Maintenance to keep your pistol in top shape.

When you are cleaning your pistol, make sure you look for wear.  Pay particularly close attention to the recoil system.  I shoot small 9mm pistols frequently and these light weight guns rely heavily on the recoil springs to operate correctly.  Recently, I was tearing down my Kahr PM9 for cleaning.  I happened to notice the inner recoil spring cap was getting a bit gouged up by the outer recoil spring.  Since I shoot this pistol frequently, I had previously ordered a spare recoil spring assembly and thought that I might as well change it out since the original assembly had been in the pistol since 2008, when it was purchased.   


In the picture below I have the old spring on the left and the new spring on the right.  It is quite normal for springs to shorten a bit as they take a "set", but I didn't expect to see such a big difference in outer spring length.  You can also see how neatly the inner spring coils line up on the old recoil system versus the inner spring of the new recoil system.  It appears the new inner spring is longer and under more compression while at rest. 


Did I need to change out the recoil spring assembly?  I'm not sure since I couldn't find a Manufacturer recommended spring change interval in the manual.  I shoot +P in this PM9 frequently for ammo tests or just for general practice.  It makes me feel better to have a full strength recoil spring assembly in place.  It certainly won't hurt the reliability of the pistol.

Let's contrast this proactive recoil spring change with another experience I had last year.

I received my Diamondback DB9 in 2011.  It is another small 9mm that I shoot frequently.  I estimate about 3000 rounds went through the pistol during the first 18 months I owned it.  One day at the range the slide wouldn't come back far enough to pick up the next round in the magazine.  When I got it home, I discovered the frame had chipped and it was preventing the slide from cycling far enough to complete the loading cycle.  The area circled in the photo below acts as a slide stop if the recoil spring doesn't slow the slide down during the recoil and loading cycle.


Consulting the DB9 Owner's Manual revealed nothing about recoil spring change interval.  A call to Diamondback had a new recoil assembly on its ways to me immediately.  I believe that if I had been more proactive and switched out the recoil assembly after 2000 or 2500 rounds, I wouldn't have experienced the chipped frame.

I have more examples, but I think you get the point.  If you have small semi auto pistols that you shoot frequently, take a few minutes to re-read the Owner's Manual and see if the Manufacturer has anything in the manual about periodic parts replacement.  If so, then please follow their guidance.  If they don't and you think you fall into the Active Shooter group, then consider investing some funds in replacement recoil springs, magazine springs, and magazine followers.  I consider these items to be subjected to the most stress during firing.  If you like to run hot ammunition in your pistol, consider a more frequent preventative maintenance schedule with these items.

Your pistol really isn't that much different than your car or truck.  If you use it frequently, then you need to service it frequently to keep it running and reliable.  If you get lax with maintenance, you may find yourself stranded with a broken down vehicle.  The last thing you want is a broken down pistol if you ever find yourself in a position where you most need it to work.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Corbon 45 Auto +P 185 Grain DPX Gel Test

First off, I need to thank the kind blog reader that donated the ammunition for this test.  As you may know, the Corbon DPX line is in the super-premium defense ammunition price category and I am doubly grateful that anyone is willing to donate ammunition for testing with the current state of ammunition availability in the stores.

The Corbon DPX line came on the market several years ago.  I can remember the buzz it created around the various web forums when it was launched.  Rather than do a horrible job describing the ammunition line, I grabbed the description from the Corbon website.

DPX is a solid copper hollowpoint bullet that combines the best of the lightweight high speed JHPs and the heavy weight, deep penetrating JHPs. Recoil and recovery between shots are similar to the light weight rounds while soft tissue penetration is similar to the heavy weight rounds.

Hard barrier penetration on auto glass and steel are no problem for this all copper hollowpoint round. You get superb performance on these hard barriers while still maintaining safe soft tissue penetration depths.

Test Pistol Specs:
Springfield XDs 3.3" 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:

Velocity:
As anticipated, we fell very short of the advertised 1075 fps velocity published on the box.  I place the blame for that entirely on the short barrel used for this test.   If you choose to use this load in a short barrel 45, you will probably achieve similar velocity results.


Expansion:
The DPX bullet excels at expansion.  Even with our test velocity of approximately 900 fps, we still observed complete expansion.  The recovered round had an average expanded  diameter of .7805 inches.  The expanded round was 73% larger than its original .451" starting diameter before expansion.  I included two views of the recovered bullet so you can see how uniform the expansion was around the entire circumference of the bullet. 

Weight Retention:
Along with superior expansion, the solid copper construction of the DPX bullet all but guarantees the bullet will retain 100% of its starting weight when tested in a soft gel media like we used in this test.  The recovered round measured 184.9 grains or 99.9+% weight retention. 

Penetration:
Some readers may find the 10.375" of penetration to be sub-optimal performance.  That's fine, but  we need to remember that we tested in a sub-optimal barrel length that did not allow the bullet to achieve the 1075 fps published velocity.
  
Energy:   
The calculated energy of the test shot was 333 ft/lbs, which was much lower than the 475 ft/lbs published on the box.  Again, this discrepancy is directly related to the slower velocity we observed with our short test barrel.

Wrap Up:
For the short barrel shooter, this load does a great job with weight retention and expansion.  The 3/4" wound channel left in the gel block was very pronounced due the the large amount of cutting surface on the individual hollow point petals.  Penetration came up short of the magic 12" in this test and I think that result was consistent with the slower than specified velocity observed in this short barrel test.



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.