Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winchester 9mm Silvertip 115 Grain STHP Denim and Clear Gel Test

Winchester Silvertips have been around for a long time.  When I earned my concealed carry license in the early 1990's, Sivertips were a top choice for carry ammo along with the Hydra-shok and Hi-Shok lines from Federal.  Things were simpler back in the 90's.  I kept my J-Frame stoked with .38 +P 125 grain Silvertips.  My Colt Mustang Pocketlite carried 85 grain 380 Auto Silvertips.  My S&W 3913 was always charged with 115 grain 9mm Silvertips.  I kept the new-fangled Gen 2 Glock 17 loaded with the new-fangled Winchester 147 Grain 9mm Black Talon.

Twenty-something years later, the Winchester Silvertip is still an active part of the Winchester ammunition line-up.  It may not have the pizazz and marketing support of the PDX1, but Winchester still cranks out a few runs of Silvertips each year and they always seem to be out of stock.  Silvertips command a premium price when you do find them so be prepared to shell out some bucks for these boxes of 50.

The 9mm 115 grain Silvertip is a preferred load for the Rohrbaugh R9 so I've always carried them in my R9s.  I have avoided terminal testing the load simply because I really didn't want to know if it wasn't going to perform from the short 2.9" barrel of the Rohrbaugh.  Curiosity got the better of me and a generous blog supporter, so I decided I would finally test them out.    

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 10 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 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run second test shot through 2 layers of heavy cotton tee-shirt material.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 5)  Run third test shot through 2 layers of heavy cotton tee-shirt material.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 6)  Run fourth  test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 7)  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:
The Winchester Silvertip takes its name from the silver colored bullet jacket.  Overall, I find the jacket is very thin and very easy to bend.  Internet rumor claims the Silvertip jacket is an aluminum based alloy that's much softer than similar copper alloy jackets.  I think the rumor may be true in this case.  The nose of the Silvertip bullet is heavily skived which may also aid expansion.  Our test pistol, with a short 2.9 inch barrel, generated velocities 125 to 150 feet per second less than the 1225 fps published by Winchester.  I was really surprised to see expansion with any of the clothing barrier test shots.

The Rohrbaugh R9s is a warm weather pocket carry pistol for me, so seeing expansion after passing through 2 layers of heavy cotton tee-shirt is a fantastic result since people in our area don't wear heavy clothing in warm weather.  I would have liked to see expansion after clearing the four layers of heavy denim, but that's a pretty lofty expectation for a lower velocity round.  Overall, I was really pleased with the test results.

You may be wondering why I decided to re-test the 2 layers of heavy cotton tee-shirt.  I always try to keep my shots at least 1.5" away from any side of a gel block.  My first heavy cotton tee-shirt shot entered the block less than 1" from the top of the block and I decided it should be re-tested.    

Pick or Pan:
If you are limited to standard pressure ammunition by the pistol manufacturer, or even due to recoil aversion, the Winchester Silvertip 115 grain might be a good choice for you.  As a preferred ammunition choice for the Rohrbaugh R9, I see no compelling reason to change my carry ammo in this pistol.  It may not be an optimal terminal performer, but it is reliable when it comes to feeding and extraction.  I will always choose 100% reliability and reasonable terminal performance over exceptional terminal performance with less than 100% reliability.


Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on which specific ammunition to use for their needs.  It's also critically important to test any ammo in YOUR SPECIFIC FIREARM before relying on it for any purpose.

Ammunition labeled as +P or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.

1 comment:

  1. The original handgun caliber Silvertips used aluminum-alloy jackets. However, this was later changed to nickel-plated copper-jacketed projectiles. I believe the few exceptions were low-pressure/low-velocity rounds like the .380 ACP.