Sunday, September 29, 2013

Clear Ballistics Gel - 1 Year Review


In September 2012, I was first introduced to a new ballistics testing gel from a local company called Clear Ballistics.  In this introduction article I went into the details about the product and why I was really looking forward to adopting the gel as my ballistics testing media.  At that time, I wondered how the gel would hold up over the long haul.  I decided then that I would circle back with a review after a year and see how well the gel stands up to heavy use.

I'm more comfortable looking forward than back so I didn't keep meticulous records of how many times I shot and recast each block.  The reality is that the blocks end up co-mingled over time with the most abused gel ending up in the garbage and I would replace what was thrown away with an equal quantity of new gel.  I did run a quick count and determined that I completed over 80 terminal tests with the clear gel over the last 12 months.  Several of those tests included intermediate barrier testing including denim, cotton fabric, leather, and wood.  We had a drought last Summer and walking around our range was like walking on the moon.  It was impossible to keep dust off the gel blocks.  As I said previously, my gel sees hard use.

I made a short 5 minute video showing one of my dirtiest blocks as compared to a fresh block that had not been previously used.  Aside from the yellow tint and suspended un-strainable particulate, the gel continues to perform and has held density specification.  Several folks have asked about bb calibration so I added that into the video too.   


Overall, the gel has held up really well.  I've used it to test everything from FMJ to frangible ammunition with good results.  It took some time to learn how to recast the blocks in order to get a completely bubble-free block.  I also spent a considerable amount of time finding the best way to strain out the wood, fabric, bullet fragments, unburned powder, hair, and dust from the gel.  If you take care of the gel, it should last a long time.

I recently took delivery of a new set of fresh blocks.  I plan to work them into the rotation as needed.  My original blocks are going to be set aside for the most abusive tests, like the artificial bone (wood block) tests.  I discovered that the red oak I'm using adds even more yellow tint to the gel if it's not completely removed from the gel before reheating.  It's like a tea bag giving off tannins that color the gel.  The gel block featured in the video has been "wood tinted".

As I mentioned in the video, I'm very pleased with the gel.  I'm not aware of any other ballistics testing product that provides the in-block visibility and density stability, at all temperatures, that the Clear Ballistics gel does.  I had high expectations for the gel in my initial review and the gel has met them all.  Temperature stability is very important for me since I have to do all my tests on weekend days when temperatures are at their peak.  I grabbed this video frame showing test table temperature of 115 degrees F earlier this Summer.  That was a bit warmer than typical, but the gel did fine.

The Clear Ballistics Company seems to be doing very well.  I occasionally have the chance to catch up with the Owners, but most of my updates come from their Facebook page.  They have been getting some recent press in several gun related publications and will have their new torso featured on the television show The Good Wife.  The company seems to be aggressively growing, which I see as a very good thing for their customers.


If you have any questions about my use of Clear Ballistics Gel, please feel free to leave a comment on this post and I'll answer as soon as I can.  I'm all for full disclosure of how I capture my test results and run my tests.  I'll be adding another post next week giving an update on my test protocol.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

DoubleTap 45 Carry Ammo Testing



As many of you know, I've been expecting the DoubleTap for almost two years.  In that time, I had plenty of time to decide what purpose it would serve if I eventually ended up getting one.  Some folks consider a modernized Derringer a "gimmick", but I prefer to think of it as "special purpose".  You can hunt turkey with just about any shotgun with the correct choke tube installed, but an entire sub category of shotguns has been developed with the "special purpose" of turkey hunting.  I saw the DoubleTap in the same way.  Sure I could run any of the rounds featured in this article through a Glock 21 or 1911, but what if I was on a woods walk and didn't want 40 oz of poly/steel hanging off my belt?  I saw the pocket-sized DoubleTap as an ideal solution for that situation.  It allowed me to carry some protection from critters without weighing me down.

So, you get three tests this week as I run through some "special purpose" ammunition choices I had picked out for the DoubleTap.  Two choices sit well off the beaten track and the third is a more conventional option if I ever wanted to use the DoubleTap as a true backup pistol.  This week is going to be different with the featured content being the actual test videos with some additional commentary and wrap up from me at the end.

Test Pistol:

Test Results:


Video Documentation of the Entire Tests from Range to Bullet Recovery:





Wrap Up:

CCI Shotshell - This load performed as I expected it would.  Previously, I've used CCI shotshells in revolvers ranging from 22LR to 44 Magnum.  They consistently get the pest taken care of.  Depending on your target and shooting distance, the 45 shotshell delivers a heavy dose of micro shot in a fist sized pattern with a good amount of fliers to compensate for your aim being off a bit.  Empty cases were easily removed from the barrel so this is a good fit with the DoubleTap.

Lehigh Defense Multiple Projectile - When I learned about this load, my first thought was that I would do an ammo test with it if I ever got my hands on a DoubleTap.  One of the biggest objections to the DoubleTap is that there are other small pistols available that hold more ammunition.  I can't disagree with that objection, but I knew this option was available and would turn my 2 shot DoubleTap into a 6 shooter.  The load performed exactly as it was designed to do.  Each shot delivered 3 sub-projectiles on target in a fairly tight group at 10 feet.  Penetration was shallow when compared with other solid projectiles of similar weight, but I think I understand why the velocity was so low.


Check out how massive the projectile stack is with the Lehigh Defense Multiple Projectile load.  Compare it to the unexpanded HST 230 grain JHP immediately to the right.  Now visualize both loaded into the empty 45 Auto brass case on the right.  The Lehigh Defense load doesn't have much room left over for a powder charge.  Less powder means lower velocity and much less felt recoil.  The load was amazingly soft shooting as you expect it would be.

Lehigh has currently deleted this item from their catalog.  While it performed as expected in our test, case extraction was very difficult as the brass swelled into the chamber requiring me to poke out the empties from the muzzle end with a brass rod.  It wasn't a good match for the DoubleTap.

Federal Premium 230 Grain HST - With velocity measurements in the low to mid 700's, I would have been shocked to see the 4 layer of heavy denim test shot expand.  I tested it anyway just to see how far it would run down the block before running out of steam.  We caught it lightly embedded in our backer phone book after traveling through 18 inches of gel and tumbling as it went.  The bare gel shots are simply awesome because velocity was high enough to cause expansion, but not high enough to fold the petals back against the bullet shank.  I would have to go back and check previous tests, but I think these may be the largest recovered HST rounds I've ever seen.  The good news is they work, and may actually expand if they don't encounter a heavy clothing barrier.  Empty cases were easily removed so this load is a good fit for the DoubleTap.

As I was wrapping up my review last weekend, I started working with 185 grain bullet weights.  I thought preliminary velocity testing results were very promising.  I think I've contributed as much as I will be contributing to the DoubleTap ammo selection body of knowledge so perhaps someone else will pick up with the 185 grain testing.




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.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

DoubleTap Tactical Pocket Pistol 45 ACP - Full Review


Last month I introduced you to the DoubleTap Tactical Pocket Pistol from DoubleTap Defense.  On the day I took delivery I posted some teaser pictures and wrote up a short blog post about how I discovered the pistol and how long I had been tracking the development of this innovative new pistol.  You might not think innovative is a fitting description for this two shot derringer-like pistol, but I immediately fell in love with the concept of a concealed hammer pocket pistol in .45 Auto that was just over half an inch thick (.665").  Unlike other Derringers, the DoubleTap makes use of all available space and features an ammunition storage compartment in the grip frame that securely holds 2 rounds on a speed strip.  Fully loaded with 4 rounds of 230 grain ammunition, the total package weighs about a pound.  For me that's an ideal weight for a front pocket carry pistol.

In the video below I do a deep dive unboxing of the pistol that covers overall build quality, how to break down the pistol for cleaning, discuss the trigger pull and give my overall impressions.  I was really excited and anxious to get the pistol out on the range and see how it felt when firing. 


On my first trip to the range I ran a total of 6 rounds through the pistol.  It was just enough to answer the questions I had about the pistol that were not answered in the manual.  I wanted to know if both barrels shot to the same point of aim and if it was possible to always have the pistol shoot the bottom barrel first.  Unfortunately, the barrels are not regulated with the top barrel sending shots approximately 5" higher than the bottom barrel.  Since I wasn't shooting from a rest the spread was estimated based on measuring several pairs.  Contrary to what I had previously read, I discovered that it was possible to keep the pistol set to fire the bottom barrel first.  This is important because firing the bottom barrel has less perceived recoil than firing the top barrel.  Since the bottom barrel sits lower in your hand there is less muzzle flip than firing the top barrel.

Prior to hitting the range the first time, I had procured a set of lightly padded gloves.  I had been hearing stories of people using high pressure ammunition in their DoubleTap pistols and experiencing double ignitions and injuries to the web of their shooting hand.  I was sensitive to that, so I stopped the range action frequently to check on the witness marks left on the primer that wasn't fired.  I didn't like how deep they were on some of the shots so I called it quits until I could reach DoubleTap technical support and see if this was normal behavior.  My initial range video is below along with the photos I sent to DoubleTap Support on the witness marks.



Ray Kohout, the inventor of the DoubleTap, was monitoring his mailbox when I sent through the witness mark pictures and he assured me that this was normal and I wouldn't have a problem as long as I followed the ammunition recommendations and used only standard pressure loads.  With this newly inspired confidence, I was back out on the range the following day to do some terminal testing with the DoubleTap.  I shot another 7 rounds through the pistol as part of terminal testing and then I noticed some issues with the pistol.  The barrel release had come out of the track it rides in and the ball bearing detents on the lower barrel where no longer spring loaded.  At this point I had 13 total rounds through the DoubleTap.  After another email to Ray, we agreed that the pistol needed to be returned to DoubleTap.  He made the process easy by sending a pre-paid shipping label for the return. 


Two weeks later, I had a brand new DoubleTap 45 waiting for me at my dealer.  This one had a serial number 7000+ later than my first.  When I inquired about the root cause of the failure of my first DoubleTap, I was told that the frame was not machined properly and that caused the binding of the detent ball bearings and also the problem with the barrel release.  That sounded reasonable to me and I was confident that the new pistol would be good to go.

I went back out to the range with every intention of wrapping up the review with an extended shooting session.  My plans included velocity benchmarking vs. a 1911 with 3" barrel, doing some velocity testing with 185 grain ammunition, and checking the witness marks with the new pistol.  I also planned to ditch the gloves and do some draw and fire drills.  The velocity testing went well.  I've included a listing of all velocity test measurements I captured in the spreadsheet below.   


For the velocity benchmarking vs. a 3" 1911, I had 772 fps average with the 1911 and a 702 average with the DoubleTap when tested with the 230 Grain Remington UMC 230 grain JHP.  That 702 average seemed very slow to me, but wasn't too far off the velocity I saw with Federal 230 grain HST when it was chronographed in the original DoubleTap pistol I had. 

I liked the data I was seeing with the 185 grain loads. The self defense load was running about 100 feet per second faster than the FMJ practice load.  As long as both loads shot to the same point of aim, I thought this would be an acceptable combo for practice and carry.  It was finally time to drop the gloves and head over to the standing target for some serious practice.

Stepping up to the target, I backed off to 7 yards and started putting rounds on paper.  Just like the first DoubleTap, the lower barrel shot to point of aim and the upper barrel shot about 5" higher.  I was really starting to get a handle on recoil control and removed the glove from my strong hand in preparation for some draw and fire practice.  I also switched over to the grip I use when firing snub nose revolvers.  Shooting the DoubleTap was becoming more comfortable for me now after 25 total rounds through the original (13) and replacement (12).

I was convinced that 185 grain ammunition was going to be the best bullet weight for me so I loaded up a pair of Hornday Z-max 185 grain that I had chronographed a few minutes earlier.  I've become a fan of Hornady Critical Defense in short barrel pistols.  Unfortunately, the 45 Critical Defense has been very hard to find, but I did track down some Z-max.  Hornady rates both Z-max and Critical Defense at 900 feet per second when shot through a 3" barrel.  That's almost exactly the performance I saw when I chronographed the load.

And then the pistol doubled.  Earlier in the review I mentioned that I had heard about the DoubleTap experiencing double ignitions from other folks, but I'm always skeptical of second hand reports.  Even when folks send me pictures, I question what ammunition they were using when they had their problem.  I'd rather test things for myself and form my own opinions.  I didn't ignore the reports, which is why I used gloves for this review until I thought I was safe from double ignitions.

The photos below actually captured the flames coming out of both barrels as well as the violent recoil that sent the muzzle nearly vertical.  I don't think I've ever had a pistol strip my strong hand from my support hand, but this one did.  The high speed camera caught it all as it happened.


I saved all my brass, as I usually do, and I would be hard pressed to pick which one of the 4 rounds was the one that fired due to recoil.  My guess is the third from the left, but that's just a guess.

        
I did contact Ray Kohout again and sent him the two range pictures above.  Again, he requested that the DoubleTap be returned so they could evaluate why the pistol doubled with standard pressure ammunition.  For me the most perplexing thing is why it didn't double when I was chronograph testing, but did double the second time I shot a pair of the Z-max ammunition.

I wish Ray and DoubleTap Defense all the best with their pistol, but I'm done with the DoubleTap.  I still love the concept of a modernized Derringer, but I can see myself ever shooting one again after my doubling experience.  Regardless of the diagnosis of the returned pistol, I'm requesting a refund from DoubleTap and they can keep the returned pistol. 

I decided to push forward with the review and produce the third review video.  It's been a difficult edit.  The video is raw and full of real physical and emotional response to what happened on the range.  I'm sure this will bury me as a gun reviewer, but at least I've maintained my integrity.  I hope the folks that follow the blog will appreciate that.


I'll post an update once I get everything worked out with the folks at DoubleTap Defense.  As of the time of this posting, they have the 2nd returned DoubleTap in their hands and I'm waiting to hear back from them on their findings.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

RareAmmo C.O.P. Copper Only Projectiles 380 Auto SCHP Denim and Gel Test


If my memory serves, the Copper Only Projectiles (C.O.P.) line of ammunition from RareAmmo started showing up several places in 2011.  Solid copper hollow points were really starting to catch on and commanding very high prices as compared to traditional hollow point bullets.  The COP line was enticing with a retail price per round that was roughly half of the big name brands.  This was one of my first structured tests I did for the blog so if you want a good chuckle, you can read that post HERE.

These boutique brands seem to recover a bit faster than the big names, so if RareAmmo survived the component shortage I expect we'll be seeing more of this ammunition available soon.  I never did get the chance to test this in gel so consider this a retest with the updated protocol.

Test Pistol:

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 5 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 8 feet.
Step 3)  Run first bare gel test shot into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 4)  Run second test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 5)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.

Test Results:

Video Documentation of the Entire Test from Range to Bullet Recovery:

My Thoughts on This Load:
Having tested this previously, I would have been surprised to see good performance in the gel tests.  The bare gel shot did expand much better in this test than it did in the previous water jug test so at least we now know what an expanded bullet looks like.

Ultimately, this load is velocity starved.  Most 380 self defense cartridges develop about 165 to 170 ft./lbs of energy.  Using this as a rough rule of thumb, this load should be generating velocities of 1000 feet per second to generate that energy.  With velocity readings in the low to mid 800's, this simply couldn't perform when fired through the denim barrier.  The bare gel shot did expand, but fell short of what many feel is the minimum 12" penetration depth.


Pick or Pan:
Aside from an exceptionally low price for a solid copper hollow point round, I found nothing else to like about this load.  It simply didn't perform to expectations due to exceptionally low velocity.




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.

Monday, September 16, 2013

CTK Precision P3 Compact Shooting Rest Review


The CTK Precision P3 Compact Shooting Rest is one of many shooting accessories offered by the Marion, Wisconsin based manufacturing company.  Curt Knitt, the company founder, is an avid shooter and started developing products for his own personal use.  His original gun vise turned out so well that soon others wanted one of their own.  Over the years the product line has expanded beyond the original gun vise to include an assortment of rests, monopods, and other shooting accessories.  CTK Precision manufactures all their products in the USA.

I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks with the P3 Compact Shooting Rest courtesy of CTK Precision and ArmsVault.  I'd like to spend a few minutes calling out what I thought were the best features of the rest then transition over to a range video showing how I've used the rest on the range.

The first thing you notice about the P3 Compact Shooting Rest is that it's very well made and heavy.  Weighing in at about 6 pounds, the main frame is constructed from 1.25" 12 gauge square steel tubing.  The sliding platform is similarly built on a 1.5" 12 gauge square steel.  The forward rests are crafted from 1" 16 gauge square steel tubing.  You can use the rest "as is" or fill the frame with lead shot to increase the overall weight and stability.  For my needs, the as delivered weight was fine.

The optional Pistol Post and standard Y forward posts are well padded and include a graduated rule applied to one side of the post for quick visual reference.

All frame components have been precisely cut and the sections mate with little or no visible gap.  Frame and rest components are welded in place and then the entire rest is painted in a semi-gloss black finish.   All the hardware used on the rest is of good quality with the attention to detail you would expect with a premium rest.  For example, the two nuts that join the front and rear frame sections are of the Nylock variety so they are less prone to loosening with vibration.

I also appreciated the generous rubber feet that are mechanically attached to the underside of the steel frame.  This protects the surface the rest is sitting on as well as proving some additional grip between the shooting bench and shooting rest.  The over-size star grip set screws are very helpful when making adjustments to the grip platform, rear frame height, or post height.  They provide plenty of leverage for one hand operation are are large enough for tactile only manipulation allowing you to keep your eyes and attention focused on your firearm.

While my primary use for the rest will be terminal ballistics testing, it didn't take me very long to find other ways to use the rest.  I cover a few of them in the range video below.

Prior to the arrival of the P3 Compact Shooting Rest, I thought I was doing OK using sandbags when I needed them.  Having access to a quality rest that can be adjusted a fraction of an inch at a time has really opened my eyes to the value and enjoyment they can bring to the precision shooter.  If you spend any of your shooting time at proper shooting bench, you should definitely check out the P3 Compact and Ultimate Shooting Rests from CTK Precision.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Federal HST 9mm +P 124 Grain - A Pet Load

For me, one of the best parts of writing the ammunition testing section of the blog is connecting with the folks that read or view the tests.  I do my best to keep up with the polite questions/comments and I really value the feedback they provide because it has helped to make my tests more comprehensive and therefore possibly even more valuable to the reader.  It may appear that I'm constantly changing my testing processes, but I hope folks see the changes as positive and evolutionary.  My goals for ammunition testing have never wavered.  The mission has always been to create data where little, or none, has existed before.  Sometimes that means revisiting the same ammunition multiple times or testing exotic ammunition that others won't touch with a 10 foot pole.  As a three decade ballistics geek, it's all fun for me and I really appreciate that other people can get some value from my testing.

I do get uncomfortable when folks directly ask me for ammunition recommendations.  Recently, these requests are coming through much more frequently.  Making a recommendation implies that I have some level of expertise in the subject matter.  In reality, I have developed expertise in running structured simulation tests and documenting the results.  I admittedly have no experience translating my simulation test results into real world results.  There are many other folks who proudly proclaim themselves as experts in this area so I will leave it up to you to discover who they are and which of the differing expert opinions you chose to believe in.  I choose to read everything with an open mind looking for the logical gems of wisdom without burdening myself by aligning with any one group or expert.   

Even though I have tested a multitude of different 9mm ammunition types, with many more to come, I've always wanted to find one load that will work well in all my 9mm firearms.  With barrels ranging from 2.75" up through 16", that's a pretty tall order.  The Federal Premium 9mm +P 124 Grain HST has been tested many times and has appeared on the blog twice previously.  You can find those previous tests on the Ammo Tests Tab at the top of the page.  From the opening picture above you can see that I stocked up ahead of the 2013 ammo shortage which allowed me the luxury of burning 30 rounds on this test.  Rather than make a recommendation, let me demonstrate why I think this load is a top performer in my firearms.

  
Test Guns:
Kel-Tec Sub-2000 Glock 17 Pattern 16.1" Barrel Length
Glock 17 4.5" Barrel Length
Boberg XR9-L 4.2" Barrel Length
Boberg XR9-S 3.35" Barrel Length

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 5 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 10 feet for pistols and 10 yards for the carbine.
Step 3)  Run a test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 10 feet for pistols and 10 yards for the carbine.
Step 4)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.

Test Results:


Video Documentation Series of the Entire Tests from Range to Bullet Recovery:


My Thoughts on This Load:
My first hurdle, when selecting ammunition, is to assure that it will feed, fire, and extract reliably in MY specific firearms.  This load has never caused any reliability issues in my firearms and that includes testing ammunition from many different manufacturing lots.

Being able to place multiple shots on target quickly is the next ammunition selection criteria.  This load from Federal doesn't appear to be measurably better or worse than others in terms of accuracy.  What was most important to me was the knowledge that shots went close to point of aim at 10 feet and also at 7 yards.  The left and right groups have 7 shots and the center groups have 5 shots each.  These results are good enough.
   
The last performance criteria I look for is adequate penetration after clearing a heavy clothing barrier. This round has never demonstrated issues with the hollow point cavity plugging with denim and causing the bullet to behave like a full metal jacket penetrating to 30" or more.  In my testing, it has demonstrated consistent expansion.  Heavy denim has a definite negative impact on expansion, but it has not caused expansion failure in my tests.


I keep all my recovered bullets, but it's rare that I get them all out and look at them as a group.  If I had, I might have learned long ago what I discovered doing this test.  This was the Ah-ha! moment that really made doing the test a worthwhile investment of my time and resources.

In the photo below, the bullets are arranged from left to right as follows:
4.2" Barrel Bare Gel Only Control bullet
16" Carbine Barrel Denim and Gel bullet
4.5" Service Barrel Denim and Gel bullet
4.2" Compact Barrel Denim and Gel bullet
3.35" Sub-Compact Barrel Denim and Gel bullet


We've all seen the beautiful bare gel expanded HST bullets like the sample shot on the left, but how many of us have seen heavy clothing barrier samples like those on the right?  What I found most interesting was the interaction of jacket and core working together to maintain a large expanded diameter across a broad spectrum of velocities.  At higher velocities the petals peel back to the bullet shank and the lead core spreads.  At lower velocities the petals expand, but don't banana peel down to the bullet shank so the lead core doesn't spread as much as the higher velocity shots.  I believe this bullet design has allowed Federal to avoid having a unique product line for short barrel pistols.  It was really neat to see the performance differences displayed side by side.     

Pick or Pan:
Early on I told you this was a personal pick for me.  Aside from the consistent terminal performance, this ammunition was generally available and reasonably priced prior to October 2012.  I like to practice with carry ammo if possible so price and availability are factors in my ammunition selection criteria.  As supplies started to tighten, I substituted Winchester 124 grain NATO FMJ for practice which has worked out really well.

One last note.  This load is a +P, or added pressure, loading and is not suitable for use in all 9mm pistols.  This is something you need to consider before loading this ammunition in your pistol.  If you have any doubts about the compatibility of this loading and your firearm, please consult your Owner's Manual or call the Manufacturer.




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.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

380 vs. 9mm Hornady Critical Defense Denim, "Bone", and Gel Test


Back in Spring 2012 I did a series to terminal tests comparing 380 and 9mm terminal performance.  The series proved to be quite popular on the blog and also on YouTube.  With all the updates to my testing protocols over the last year and a half, I wanted to revisit these tests.  I'm starting with the most popular test of the series and may revisit all three of the previous tests if reader/viewer response is positive.  I may even expand the series if folks find value in the results.

A key point to remember as you read through the results and view the video is that this isn't a perfect comparison test.  Ideally, I'd have identical barrel lengths for both 380 and 9mm.  I can't justify purchasing a pair of Ruger LC9/LC380 pistols to run these comparison tests, but that would be ideal.  Also, this isn't a test to determine if 380 or 9mm is "better".  It's a test to discover the terminal performance differences between the two calibers in small pocket pistols.

If anyone reading this is a personal friend of Eric Galloway over at Galloway Precision, please let him know that I would gladly review his full house LC9 and LC380 conversions.  I may even sneak in a few of these 380 Auto vs 9mm tests while reviewing the pistols. [wink]

Test Pistols:

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 5 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 8 feet.
Step 3)  Run first test shots through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 4)  Run second test shots through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim and 1/2" red oak hardwood block suspended 1/4" deep in a Clear Ballistics gel block placed in front of main test block.  Shot distance is 8feet.
Step 5)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.

Test Results:


Video Documentation of the Entire Test from Range to Bullet Recovery:


My Thoughts on This Test:
From my perspective, the most frustrating part of terminal testing is when new test results don't jive with previous test results.  Last month I tested Critical Defense 380, from this same lot number, through 4 layers of denim and observed expansion in the same Clear Ballistics gel.  As a viewer of my test results, I'm sure it's frustrating for you too.  Unfortunately, I think that's just the nature of the beast so to put this in a positive light we now know how the 380 will perform when it does and doesn't expand.  The denim and simulated bone test results were really interesting for the 380 with all tested rounds being crushed rather than expanding.  This turned them into a bullet profile similar to a flat nose full metal jacket.  Penetration and weight retention from all 380 test shots was very good.

The 9mm test results were right in line with what I expected to see from this load.  Critical Defense has always displayed limited expansion and deep penetration.  Both test shots expanded and exceeded 16" of penetration.  The denim and simulated bone test shot was really outstanding with expansion, limited bullet crushing, and an average expansion diameter exceeding half an inch.

Since this was the first test of this series, I can't comment on how this test compares with others.  I will say that I place importance on shot placement and penetration over expansion.  With those criteria in mind, these mild recoiling and deep penetrating rounds seem to be a reasonably good match for the pistols used and my defensive 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.