Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hornady Critical Defense 38 Special 110 Grain - Clothing and Clear Gel Tests

As a follow up to our test of the +P version of this load last week, this week we look at Hornady Critical Defense 38 Special 110 grain FTX in standard pressure format.  Readers with an eye for detail will immediately notice the box, in the picture above, lists a 1175 fps muzzle velocity for this load.  I suspected this was a packaging error because the +P version lists 1090 fps muzzle velocity.  Checking the website, the published velocity is now listed as 1010 fps.  That number makes much more sense.

This load has all the same features as the +P version with low flash propellent, nickle plated brass cases, and famous FTX flex tip bullet.  As a standard pressure load, it should have less recoil (it does) and should be suitable for all 38 Special revolvers.  

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 shots through various clothing barriers and 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 to verify density is within specification.

Test Results:

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

My Thoughts on This Load:
The ballistics testing gremlins were working overtime during this test.  Both terminal tested shots were slower than the 5 shot average taken just minutes before conducting the terminal tests.  Unfortunately, that's just the way it goes.

Since I had shot the standard pressure and +P versions of this load during the same testing session, I did notice significantly less recoil from this load vs. the +P load.

When comparing the results of the light clothing and heavy clothing test shots, I was impressed with the light clothing performance.  The test shot expanded, and almost made the desired minimum 12 inches of penetration in our gel media.  I wasn't surprised by the heavy clothing test results.  828 feet per second just isn't enough velocity to cause the hollow point cavity to fill with gel and expand.      

Pick or Pan:
If you are looking for a mild and low recoil load, then this one might be for you.  I personally prefer the light clothing test results of the standard pressure load over the +P version.  Again, this is a standard pressure 38 load so it should be suitable for use in all 38 Special revolvers kept in good repair.

We continue to search for a 38 Special load that performs well in the heavy clothing 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.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hornady Critical Defense 38 Special +P 110 Grain - Clothing and Clear Gel Tests


A big thanks to Richard Johnson over at Guns, Holsters, and Gear for providing the ammunition for these tests.

The Critical Defense line from Hornady was created for concealed carry pistols that typically have barrels that are shorter than service length pistols.  The entire line has been optimized for short barrel pistols and features nickel plated brass for corrosion resistance and slick feeding.  Propellent powder is low flash to protect night vision and also generates lower felt recoil.  The FTX bullet has a red polymer plug inserted into the hollow point cavity during production that aids in expansion when the bullet is fired into heavy clothing barriers like denim or leather.

I find it a bit odd that Hornady uses a 4 inch test barrel for their velocity testing of this load.  That's not really a short barrel pistol, but rather what you would consider a service length barrel.  I was curious to see if the Critical Defense would perform from a revolver with a barrel length that is slightly less than 2 inches.


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 shots through various clothing barriers and 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 to verify density is within specification.

Test Results:

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

My Thoughts on This Load:
I wasn't surprised that we came up with velocity results that were less than those published on the box.  It was surprising that the velocity difference wasn't larger when you consider our test barrel was more than 2 inches shorter than the Hornady Test barrel.

The red polymer plug and sub 950 feet per second velocity weren't enough to cause this bullet to fully expand when fired through 4 layers of heavy denim.  The recovered round did show signs of partial expansion.  The tee shirt test results were both encouraging and disappointing.  I was glad to see the bullet did expand fully, but disappointed by the very limited penetration of this lightweight 110 grain bullet.  

Pick or Pan:
To date, we have yet to discover a 38 Special load that will pass the 4 layers of denim test with full expansion and 12 to 18 inches of penetration in ballistics testing media.  This load from Hornady isn't really any better or worse than other rounds tested so far.  For this load to be a pick, the light clothing test results would need penetration of 12 inches or more.  This may be the first time I've actually written this about a Hornady bullet, but the light clothing test shot expanded too much.  The expansion and light bullet weight caused the lack of penetration results seen in this test.  Personally, I'll pass on this one.      





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, March 13, 2014

Winchester Ranger 40 S&W 165 Grain T-Series Multi Shot Terminal Test


Many thanks to Justin D. for supplying this ammunition for testing.

The Winchester Ranger T-Series line of ammunition is always in high demand.  When it appears on various ammunition dealer websites, it's quickly sold out.  Over the years, the T-Series has developed a devoted fan base and is one of the most talked about lines of ammunition on the various firearm and shooting enthusiasts websites I frequent.  I was really looking forward to seeing how this mid-weight bullet would perform in testing. 

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 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 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:
I want to apologize for my chronograph issues during this test.  I find it crucially important to capture the actual test shot velocity because we have seen the wild swings that can happen in previous tests.  The low Winter sun can be very problematic for chronographs and unfortunately that bit us in the butt with this test.

I had really high expectations for this load based on the comments from others that seem to love it.  I found this box to be inconsistent in regard to terminal performance.  Bare gel test shots should always expand.  That's why a bare gel shot is usually included in each test.  It gives us a baseline of "best case" terminal performance that we can use to compare with results from tests shot through light and heavy clothing barriers.  When the first bare gel test shot only partially expanded, I started to wonder what the rest of the test results would look like.

The bare gel retest and light clothing test yielded the terminal performance results I expected from this load with huge expanded diameters and full deployment of the hollow point petals.  Even with velocity test results almost 100 feet per second slower than Winchester specification, both test shots easily surpassed 12" of penetration.  Heavy clothing proved to be problematic for this load with both test shots failing to expand and exiting the catch media.  We have to assume they were plugged by denim because both bullets were lost.  

Pick or Pan:
Based on the results of this test and very limited availability of this ammunition, I would personally call this a pan.  I would prefer the most consistent terminal performance, and greater availability, of the Winchester PDX1 in this caliber and bullet weight.




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, March 10, 2014

Winchester PDX1 40 S&W 165 Grain Bonded JHP - 4 Shot Clear Gel Test

The Winchester PDX1 Defender features a bonded JHP bullet and low flash powders.  It's the flagship loading in Winchester's civilian personal defense ammunition line up.  Last May, I tested the 180 grain version of this load with less than satisfactory results.  You can see that test HERE.  At the time, I was encouraged by YouTube viewers and blog readers to contact Winchester and tell them about my test results.  To their credit, Winchester arranged for the remaining rounds to be shipped back for testing.  In return, they sent me back two boxes of the 165 grain PDX1 that was used for this test.   

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 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 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:
It was great to see such good performance from this load across all three test scenarios.  The PDX1 performed exactly as you would expect a premium personal defense load to perform.  Expansion was full and came very close to 1.5 times initial diameter in all tests.  Penetration of all test shots fell within the 12 to 18 inch preferred penetration depth.  File this test away in your mind as an example of what a good test result looks like.

I will circle back on this load with a test from a shorter barrel length (Shield, PM40, or G27) at a later date.  For now, it's nice to know how it performs from a 4 inch barrel and that it may be a viable candidate for a short barrel pistol.  

Pick or Pan:
Are you really going to make me say it?  Ok, I will.  Based on this test, the 165 grain PDX1 is a personal pick when fired from a 4 inch barrel.  It tested really well.  






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 2, 2014

Hornady Critical Defense Lite 38 Special 90 Grain FTX Denim and Clear Gel Test

The Hornady Critical Defense Lite 38 Special loading was created for the recoil sensitive shooter.  The light 90 grain bullet and standard pressure powder charge make this load feel much lighter than the Critical Defense 110 grain 38 Special load.  Hornady gives this load very distinctive pink flex tip inserts, pink packaging, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Lite loading go to fund breast cancer research.  While this load may appear to be targeted to the female shooter, it's a viable ammunition choice for anyone that suffers from recoil sensitivity. 

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 2 layers of medium weight 100% cotton tee shirt material into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  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:
I really didn't expect much from this load other than very light recoil.  I ran this test in conjunction with a similar test of Critical Defense 110 grain 38 Special and the recoil difference between the two loads was notable.  That's hardly a scientific result, but by "feel of hand" the Lite is indeed lighter in recoil.

Terminal performance through the tee shirt barrier was very similar to what you would expect from the Critical Defense 380 Auto load when fired from a short barrel 380.  The bullet does expand and penetration of about 10" is the typical result.

Expansion through 4 layers of denim is a 50/50 proposition with the 380 Auto Critical Defense.  When the 380 doesn't expand, it will tumble as it goes down through the gel block.  Our 38 Lite results matched those results exactly with no expansion and a visible bullet tumble.

Pick or Pan:
If you are looking for a very mild and low recoil load for your light-weight snubbie, then this one may be for you.  The unfortunate trade off will be less than optimal terminal performance when fired from a barrel length of less than 4 inches.  Depending on your specific barrel length, this may be a pick or a pan.

For me personally, with my 1.875" barrel length and normal recoil tolerance, I would opt for another ammunition choice.   




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.