Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Glock 42 Ammunition Testing

Back in May, I published a very positive review of the Glock 42 380 Auto pistol.  I really like the little guy and he's now part of my carry rotation.  One of the unique things about the G42 is the longer 3.25 inch barrel.  Most of the other small 380 pistols have barrel lengths in the 2.5 to 2.8 inch range.  I wanted to do a small series of tests to see if the longer barrel in the Glock would deliver increased velocity and improve the consistency of terminal performance through various clothing barriers.  

If you follow the blog, you know I've tested a bunch of 380 ammunition over the years.  Back in the Spring of 2012 I did a similar test series with the Kahr P380.  I picked four premium defense loads and ran them in a head to head test.  I picked my favorite of the four tested loads and have been confident in my choice ever since.

The four varieties of ammunition used for this test series was dictated by the ammunition I had on hand in quantities sufficient for terminal testing and follow-up function validation in my specific Glock 42.  My goal was to come out of the test with my choice of carry ammunition.  If I didn't test one of your favorite loads, it's simply because I just didn't have enough on hand for testing and validation.    

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run various terminal test shots, with and without simulated clothing barriers, into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 3)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth to verify density.

Test Results:

Federal Hydra-Shok

Speer Gold Dot

Winchester Super X Silvertip

Winchester Ranger T-Series

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

My Thoughts on This Test:
I thought it was really interesting to see that even though we had bullets ranging in weight from 85 grains to 95 grains, they were all in the 950 to 970 feet per second average velocity range.  As expected the lightest bullet averaged the highest velocity.  What wasn't expected was the heaviest bullet would register an average velocity nearly the same as the lighter bullets.  The Winchester Ranger T-Series was the winner in the velocity department.

Expansion is an important consideration with 380 Auto ammunition.  If you pay the premium for hollow point ammunition you should expect the bullets will expand.  The good news is that all loads expanded in the bare gel and light clothing tests.  This showed me that there was nothing "wrong" with the bullet design that would keep them from expanding.  For those that typically encounter light clothing situations, there was no clear winner among the four tested loads.  Hydra-Shok, Gold Dot, and T-Series all turned in similar penetration depths between 11 and 12 inches.  Clearly the Silvertip expanded to the largest diameter, but did so at the cost of penetration.  It lagged the group by 2 full inches of penetration.

Results got more interesting when we introduced the 4 layers of 14 oz. denim in front of the block.  Four layers of 14 ounce heavy denim is used as substitute for heavy clothing.  The IWBA established 4 layers of 16 ounce denim as a standardized testing protocol.  Over time, it has proven to be a satisfactory analog for heavy clothing.

Winchester Silvertip and Winchester Ranger T-Series both failed to expand during the denim test.  Federal Hydra-Shok partially expanded, while the Speer Gold Dot expanded fully.  Second test shots were taken with the Hydra-Shok and Gold Dot to validate that both would expand when fired through the 4 layers of denim.

Rather than fail the Winchester Silvertip and Winchester Ranger T-Series outright, the denim layers were reduced to see if these bullets would expand through a lighter denim barrier.  The Silvertip expanded through 2 and 3 layers of denim.  The T-Series failed to expand through 2 layers of denim so no additional testing was done with that load.    

Picking the Winner:
Stepping back and taking in all the data captured during these four tests, I have to rank them as follows:

1)  Speer Gold Dot 90 Grain GDHP
Why:  Symmetrical expansion with all test shots.  Penetration depths between 12 and 18 inches in the light and heavy clothing tests.

2)  Federal Hydra-Shok 90 Grain JHP
Why:  Partial expansion during the heavy clothing tests.  Penetration depths between 12 and 18 inches in the light and heavy clothing tests.

Both the Winchester 85 Grain Silvertip and Winchester 95 Grain T-Series failed to expand during the 4 layer of denim test and penetrated to a depth greater than 18 inches.  Additionally, the Silvertip demonstrated large expansion and limited penetration in the light clothing test.  These performance flaws exclude them from being ranked and considered for carry 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.


  1. Solid article! I carry the Speer Gold Dot every single day in a S&W BG 380, and these test results just serve as further evidence of the great performance and reliability of Speer Gold Dot ammunition.

  2. I am certain that it goes without saying many people want to know how the 'new' Glock 42 performs with commonly available self-defense ammunition. This highly informative article goes a long way towards doing just that and the tests through various barriers leave nothing to the imagination. Well done, Bruce!

    1. Thanks Charles. A ton of work as always, but hopefully the tests will help others make more informed ammunition selection decisions.

    2. I would have really liked to see the Hornady Critical Defense added here.

    3. Unfortunately, I can't test them all. Each individual test costs me about $175 to produce assuming recycled gel and $10/hour for my time. I'm out $650 with just these four tests. I'd like to do more, but I can't ignore the financial realities.

    4. Thanks for doing these tests Bruce.

  3. Those expanded Gold Dots are a thing of beauty! Looks like they penetrate a little deeper when shot from the G42, as opposed to the LCP. Thanks for testing!

  4. Thank you for all the awesome information, I originally carried the Winchester PDX-1 based off another performance test. The difference was they did not perform nearly as well and the test gun was not a Glock 42, it was a shorter barreled firearm. This article is great visual proof for those trying to find the best round for their Glock 42.

  5. Too bad photobucket has decided to stop allowing people to host images using a URL for their pics in blogs and forums unless they're willing to pay PB $400/year. Personally, I'd rather pay extra to my ISP or cloud service for extra storage space and bandwidth.