Thursday, January 30, 2014

Speer Gold Dot 38 Special +P 135 Grain Short Barrel Denim and Clear Gel Test

Back in November, I got out to the range with a big block of gel and 4 different 38 Special loads to test.  I decided to carry my LCR that day since I would need it to do the terminal testing.  I tested this load in bare gel last year and thought it performed really well, so it's been my LCR carry ammo ever since.  You can see the previous test HERE.  When I got to the range I removed the 5 rounds in the cylinder and shot the 4 different loads I was planning to test.  Finding myself with room in the block for one more test shot, I grabbed one of the rounds I had been carrying and ran it into the block.  The results were surprising.  The chronograph showed the round hit the block about 50 to 60 feet per second slower than my previous chronograph tests.

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.  This box was previously chronographed so I reused that data.
Step 3)  Run a test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.

Test Results:
Schwartz Penetration and Wound Mass were omitted from the test due to visible evidence of bullet tumbling.  The predictive measures of the QAS model are only valid for bullets that do not yaw or tumble.

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

My Thoughts on This Load:
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I really liked the terminal performance in the previous test with this load and had been carrying rounds from this box for quite some time.  We just happened to catch a slow round in this test.  Now I was curious to see if there were any other stinkers left in the rest of the box.  I weighed all the remaining rounds and found some variation.

The lightest round weighed in at 206.9 grains.

The heaviest round weighed 210.3 grains.

The rest seemed to cluster around 209 grains plus or minus 2 tenths of a grain.

If the 2 grain weight difference with the lightest load was due to powder, I can see how velocity would be impacted.  Any rounds from this box that weigh less than 209 grains are going into my practice pile. 

Pick or Pan:
Having previously declared this load a personal top choice for the Ruger LCR, I'm not ready to kick it to the curb due to some significant variation between rounds.  I'll just make sure to carry the cartridges that weigh 209 grains or more.  Is this box representative of the entire Gold Dot product line?  Absolutely not!  This box may be representative of this particular lot of 38 Special +P GD Short Barrel and that's as much as I care to read into this test.

The good news is we have a new data point to consider with this load.  We now have a pretty good idea how this load may perform at a velocity less than 800 feet per second.  Assuming the new Taurus View revolver is +P rated, sub 800 feet per second velocity may be all you will get from the 1.4 inch long barrel.






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.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Underwood Ammo 380 +P 80 Grain TAC-XP Denim and Clear Gel Test


Underwood Ammo is a US based company that manufactures a broad line of ammunition using all new components.  I believe all Underwood Ammo products must be purchased directly from Underwood through their webstore.  As a growing business, Kevin continues to add new loads to his line.  Someone gave me a heads up that Underwood now had a 380 load using the Barnes TAC-XP all copper hollow point bullet.  Having previously tested loads from Buffalo Bore and CORBON, I was curious to see how the Underwood would compare.

The Buffalo Bore and CORBON tests can be found HERE.  
 
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 medium weight 100% cotton tee-shirt.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 5) Run third test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 6)  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:
If you took the time to go back and review the previous Buffalo Barnes and CORBON tests, you are probably wondering why the average expansion diameters are so different in this test.  When I added the Schwartz metrics to the data sheet, I had to change the way I measured the recovered bullets to comply with the Schwartz model.  In reality, I probably should have been measuring recovered rounds with the new method all along since it gives a much more accurate measurement of the average expanded diameter.

With that out of the way, I really liked the way this load performed.  It was refreshing to see a load perform exactly as expected regardless of the barrier placed in front of the gel block.  I'm not sure what magic Underwood employs to boost velocity, but they managed raise the bar with this load from the very short 2.5" test barrel.  With penetration depths averaging around 10 inches for the 3 test shots, I'm really curious to see what penetration depth we would see from a 3.25 to 3.5 inch test barrel.  I think Glock just came out with a 380 pistol, I may have to get one and try these in it.  =)

In general, I like the terminal performance of the Barnes TAC-XP bullets in many of the loads I've previously tested.  As someone that likes to practice with their carry ammo, I'm not overjoyed with the cost per round.  Underwood lessens the impact on my wallet a little by selling this load in boxes of 50 for about $1.20 per round.  That's the best deal around for a load with a real Barnes bullet.     

Pick or Pan:
Penetration Purists will dismiss this load immediately because it didn't make the magic 12" of penetration.  For those that have more reasonable terminal performance expectations for a 380 Auto hollow point bullet, this one has quite a bit going for it.  Primarily that it was unaffected by any of the barrier material placed in front of the gel block and performed consistently in all three test shots.  For me, that makes this load a Pick.

Underwood Ammo has designated this load as 380 +P.  380 +P is not a SAAMI industry standard ammunition pressure classification and is forbidden for use in many 380 Auto pistols (check your owner's manual).  It does generate higher pressures, and velocities, so please make certain it is safe for use in your pistol before trying some. 





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, January 16, 2014

Federal Gold Medal Match 38 Special Wadcutter Denim and Clear Gel Test


The Federal Gold Medal 38 Special Wadcutter Match is a target load that is known for mild recoil, exceptional accuracy, and leaving perfect round circles in paper targets.  Internet buzz suggested this load may be a good candidate for personal defense because the bullet has a flat nose and sharp shoulders.  Folks thought the bullet would leave a more pronounced permanent cavity than a bullet of similar diameter with a rounded nose.  I've received a few requests to test this bullet shape over the last two years and I was curious to see if this bullet shape would prove to be more or less damaging than a round nose bullet.

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 test shot 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 10 feet.
Step 4)  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:
While the test was interesting, I don't think it proved the wadcutter bullet shape to be any more or less damaging than a round nose bullet.  I was surprised that the bullet cut a clean plug of denim and dragged it down the entire length of the block.  From the thread pattern impressions left on the bullet, the lead used in these bullets must be fairly soft.  A hard cast wadcutter bullet may yield different terminal performance results.

After running the five test shots over the chronograph I really didn't expect this bullet to clear the 18 inch gel block.  I was really surprised to find the bullet had come to rest between the gel block and the phone book backer.  The bullet didn't have enough energy left to penetrate the phone book, but it did put a dent in the cover.  Heavy bullets tend to penetrate deeper than light bullets so I presume the 148 grain weight helped the bullet hold momentum and clear the block.

Pick or Pan:
If you are looking for a very mild and low recoil load, then this one might be for you.  It demonstrated adequate penetration, but does not offer the benefits of expansion.  This standard pressure load should be suitable for use in all 38 Special revolvers.

I didn't see any indications that this bullet profile was any more or less damaging than a round nose or jacketed hollow point bullet.  For the recoil adverse shooter, this may be a pick.  Personally, I see no compelling evidence to include this load in my carry rotation. 





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.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Winchester Ranger 9mm +P+ 127 Grain T-Series Denim and Clear Gel Test


I'd like to thank blog reader Wastool for donating the ammunition used in this test.  I really wish I had better results for you.

If you spend any time around the internet gun forums that have ammunition discussion areas, this is one of those loads that is discussed frequently.  It's actually so popular that people often refer to it by catalog number (RA9TA) instead of by name.  I think some of the allure of this load stems from the fact that it is part of the Winchester Ranger line of Law Enforcement ammunition.  You won't find this ammunition at your typical Sporting Goods Store.  Loaded to +P+ pressures, it is intended to be fired only in handguns certified by the manufacturer as safe for use with high pressure ammunition that exceeds SAAMI specifications. 

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 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 5)  Repeat step 4.
Step 6)  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:
Overall, I was very disappointed by the performance of this load in our short barrel test.  Bare gel performance was satisfactory, but the two failures to expand when fired through the 4 layers of denim was a let down.  With the stellar reputation of this load, I really expected to see expanded bullets in the gel block behind the denim.  Just to be sure the first expansion failure wasn't a fluke, I tried a second denim test shot and saw similar terminal performance results.

Pick or Pan:
The terminal performance of this load doesn't justify the additional wear and tear that +P+ ammunition inflicts on a pistol.  We've seen better terminal performance from other 9mm +P loads in previous tests.  The very limited availability of this ammunition is another reason why I would consider this load a pan.




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 5, 2014

2014 Wish List

Each year, at about this time, I publish my annual Wish List of things I'd like to get my paws on in the upcoming year.  I start thinking about the list around Christmas each year and try to get it written up before the annual SHOT Show.  I'm running a bit late this year, but there has been an incredible amount of new gun announcement activity in the last two weeks.  It makes me glad I didn't rush to get this list done.  Aside from the first item on the list, there isn't a particular order to the items on the list. 

First up on the 2014 list is the long awaited Boberg XR45-S.  I'm a Boberg fan for several reasons, the most important being that I can shoot the XR9 pistols pretty well.  The XR45-S upsizes the XR9 to 45 Auto with hushed whispers that it can even handle 45 Super.  It's going to be a bigger gun, but that's OK with me.  The picture below shows the 9mm XR9-S on the left and new 45 Auto XR45-S on the right.  Giddy-up!   

Next on the list is the over-due Beretta Pico.  This pocket sized .380 Auto/.32 Auto combination pistol was due out in Fall 2013.  Unfortunately, we've not seen them released yet.  Any gun that can run two or more calibers with just a barrel swap has my interest.  I'd love to get one of these for terminal testing and carry.

One of the most talked about pistols in the last few weeks has to be the new Glock 42.  Folks had a ball trying to figure out what it was going to be when all they had was a model number and a very vague advertising image.  When facts starting appearing and we all learned the G42 was going to be a single stack 380 Auto, folks generally seemed disappointed in the news.  I want one of these 3.25" barreled pistols for my ballistics testing kit.  Heck, I may even carry it.  Also, I'm really looking forward to adding the 9mm version of the G42 to my 2015 Wish List. 

The Remington R-51 9mm was announced earlier this week and was generally praised by the folks commenting about it on various forums I frequent.  Based on the comments, questions, and requests for a review I've been getting, I would have to be stupid not to add this one to my list.  Personally, I'm not overly enthusiastic about the pistol as this moment, but I am open-minded and would love to give the readers what they want with a review.  I can see the value of the low bore axis, grip safety, ambi mag release, and single action-ish trigger.  I'm not wild about the 20 oz. weight.
 
The Reliant Derringer from Edge Arms made some waves at NASGW last Fall.  The quad-barrel 22 magnum pistol sequentially fires one round of the four with each pull of the trigger.  It looks beefy and substantial with a nice wrap-around grip.  The prototype displayed at NASGW had a gutter sight milled into the top of the pistol.  The illustration below shows the pistol fitted with a proper set of sights.  Maybe we'll see multiple versions of pistol when it's released.  I want one just because I think it's pretty cool.

Last on the list is a Umarex Octane gas piston air rifle in .22 caliber.  Two years ago I spent some time shooting with my Dad in his basement.  We were were competing to see who could get the best groups with his nitro piston .17 caliber pellet rifle.  Nitro piston technology was new to me, but I got hooked pretty quickly.  Now I have a son of my own that's about the right age to move up from BB rifle to pellet rifle.  I think I need to get one of these and break it in for him.

So that's my list.  I reserve the right to change it at any moment.  =)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Three 223 Remington Clear Gel Terminal Tests with an AR Pistol


The good folks at Diamondback Firearms were kind enough to provide me with a loaner DB15P for review so it would just be "wrong" if I didn't sneak in a few terminal tests as I was writing up my review of the pistol.  Ideally, I would have liked to test a few more varieties of ammunition through the pistol, but my time with the DB15P has gone by far too quickly and I only managed to squeeze in three terminal tests while I had it. 

Keeping with the short barrel theme of most of my terminal testing, the DB15P fit right in with a 7.5 inch barrel.  There isn't anything special about the specific loads I tested other than they are all 55 grains and well suited for the 1:9 rate of twist barrel.  I was really interested in seeing what level of terminal performance we would get with such a short barrel.  The 223 Remington SAAMI test barrel is 24" long.  Our test pistol was less than a third that length.  

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 bare gel test shot into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 10 yards.
Step 4)  Repeat steps 2 and 3 for each tested load.
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 Tests from Range to Bullet Recovery:

Hornady ZombieMax 55 grain Z-MAX

Hornady TAP 55 grain GMX Barrier

Speer Gold Dot 55 grain GDSP

My Thoughts on This Test:
As I mentioned in the introduction for this test, I just chose loads at random for testing.  Sometimes I get lucky and end up discovering some new insights from the testing.  This was one of those cases when luck was on my side.

The bullet loaded in the Hornady ZMAX is actually a 55 Hornady VMAX (varmint bullet) with the red tip replaced with a zombie green tip.  Varmint bullets are typically designed for long range shooting and feature a thinner jacket to facilitate expansion.  In this test, the bullet performed perfectly with violent expansion and reasonable penetration.  Some fragmentation was evident, but I think it was minimized by the relatively slow impact velocity. 

Hornady's TAP Barrier GMX was a terminal performance disappointment at first glance because both test shots exited the gel block.  This solid copper hollow point is designed to expand.  I can only surmise that the velocity generated was not sufficient to cause bullet upset and expansion.  On the other hand, we ended up with two virtually identical terminal results showing what happens to a 55 grain bullet that does not expand.  When I reviewed the block I remembered seeing the 7.62x39 Wound Profile illustrations from Dr. Martin L. Fackler.  The similarity was uncanny.  While this was not an exhaustive test, it does provide some new insight into the yaw pattern of 223 Remington at low velocity. 
 
Speer Gold Dot was the only bonded bullet tested.  It isn't a hollow point, but a soft point with just a tiny spot of exposed lead at the tip of the bullet.  I expected to see the recovered bullet with a smashed nose and some crush damage.  I was really surprised to see the bullet had expanded and 5 symmetrical petals had folded back to the bullet shank.  The bullet stopped at a reasonable penetration depth so this test was also a success.

Pick or Pan:
Rather than pick or pan the tested ammunition, I would rather put forth a general comment that reasonable terminal performance can be achieved in a barrel as short as 7.5 inches.  To my knowledge, there isn't much terminal performance test data available for short barrel AR-style pistols and rifles.  The good news is that three random test choices all performed reasonably well.  I wouldn't call any of these tests a failure.





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.