Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ted Nugent Ammo 9mm American Defender 115 Grain UHP Tests

Way back in January of 2012, I wrote up a blog post about Ted Nugent Signature Ammunition.  Developed in conjunction with Pierce Munitions, I have to believe that they are the current producer of the ammunition tested here.  I'm making an educated guess simply because the Pierce website has active links to the Ted Nugent Ammo website/webstore.  I picked up a box of the 9mm American Defender load last year and it's been waiting in my stash for testing ever since.

The 9mm American Defender is loaded with a 115 Grain Uni-Cor hollow point bullet made by Speer.  After a quick trip over to the Speer website I found that they list this bullet as Uni-Cor® Bonded Gold-Dot®.  Confused yet?

In my opinion, I think Speer wants to be the only seller of Gold-Dot.  They also sell Gold-Dot bullets to commercial ammunition makers as a component.  Anyone, other than Speer, that loads the Gold-Dot bullet has to call it a Uni-Cor hollow point bullet.  As far as I'm concerned, these appear to be the same 115 grain bullets that Speer loads in their Gold-Dot ammunition. 






The ammunition appears to be well crafted and has Nugent headstamps on the brass cases.  One thing that was pretty unique was an actual date printed on the box.  I'm assuming it was the production date (09/05/13).  I wish more ammo makers would provide that date as it would make ammunition rotation easier. 

The back of the box has a message from Ted along with the made in the USA certification.  American Tactical is listed as the ammunition Distributor.  After all that, let's get down to the test and see how it did.






 Test Pistol:

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.  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 penetration is similar to 10% Ordnance Gel.

Test Results:

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

My Thoughts on This Load:
This load appears to be a close copy of the Speer Gold Dot 115 grain loading at a slightly lower velocity than the original.  Our 1222 fps velocity average from this test was dead on the specification published on the box.  While we don't know the barrel length used to create the specification, we do know our test barrel was 4.5 inches in length.  The velocity specification for the Speer Gold Dot 115 grain load is 1210 fps from a 4 inch barrel.

It was unfortunate that we didn't see expansion with all test shots.  On the other hand, we were able to see the difference in terminal performance as the layers of denim increased.  This load was a decent performer with three layers, but adding the fourth layer was just too much.    

Pick or Pan:
I think we need to be realistic in the final evaluation for this load.  A single shot that fails to expand through 4 layers of denim doesn't represent a statistically significant sample.  If you notice the third shot was also the slowest shot of the five.  The Ted Nugent American Defender appears to be good ammunition, but falls short of being great 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.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A 9mm Ruger LCR - Yes Please!



Long story short, I missed my chance to purchase a 9mm revolver back when Smith was making them.  I opted for the 38 Special revolver instead.  If you know how 940 Centennial prices have progressed over the last 20 years, you know what a goof up that was on my part.

I never did get my 9mm revolver, but still would like to have one someday.  I came close to picking up a used SP101 9mm from a local store once, but it didn't have a box or moon clips with it.  I always thought the LCR platform would be a great fit with the 9mm.  Now Ruger has delivered, and I guess I better start saving my money to buy one.

The specs are up on the Ruger website.  Not sure why, but it's listed as the heaviest of all the LCRs.  Maybe that's just a typo.  It's also listed with an MSRP that's $70 more than the .38 Special +P LCR.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ruger Mark III Target - Must Have Upgrades for Fun and Competition

I fell in love with the Ruger Mark III Target Model 10159 the first time I saw those beautiful wood target grips.

I'm a long time fan of the Ruger Mark II 22LR pistol.  In my opinion, there is no better all around 22LR pistol for target shooting, general plinking, and even small game hunting.  Ruger updated the Mark II design and came out with the Mark III, which for me was a huge step backward in many regards, but did move the magazine release to a better location.  The Mark III also included several other upgrades to help it pass muster for sales in States with special firearm requirements.  I'm specifically referring to the LCI (loaded chamber indicator), Magazine Disconnect, and Internal Key Lock.

I had a really bad experience with my first Mark III.  It was a 22/45 Hunter model with a 4.5" fluted stainless barrel.  It looked great, but I soon found out all those added safety items made a big difference in the way I cared for and maintained the Mark III vs. the Mark II.  It was a learning exercise and eventually it all smoothed out and I've come to like the Mark III 22/45 well enough to keep it around.

I've been toying with the idea that I should probably build a Mark III pistol similar to the Mark II model that I use for competition.  My wife gave me a Cabela's gift card for Christmas and Cabela's started doing random $50 off any rimfire handgun promotions from time to time.  I happened to hit everything right one day and found the Mark III Target model with the super nice factory target grips in stock at my local Cabela's while they were running one of their $50 off promotions.  I actually found it ages ago, but the magazine shortage kept me from building this handgun earlier in the year.

The 2014 NSSF Rimfire Challenge World Championship is coming up next month.  It's being held within a short drive and I've never competed above the State level so I decided to participate this year.  I've been saving up parts to make the Mark III more competition friendly and recently completed my Mark III build after I managed to secure some spare Mark III magazines.

At this point let me add a disclaimer to this post.  It is your responsibility to fully understand your local laws and regulations governing making changes to your firearms.  Making changes may be illegal in your home state or municipality.  If in doubt, please do your research before you order your parts.  

I used parts from TandemKross and Volquartsen Custom for the build because I've used stuff from both companies in the past with good results.  They have become my go-to parts sources for projects like this.

From TandemKross, I used the following.
1)  Mark III Magazine Disconnect Bushing.

2)  Mark III LCI Replacement Insert.

3)  "The Challenger" Ruger Mark III Charging Handle.

All three TandemKross products came with detailed instructions on how to install the parts.  The instructions even included color pictures.  If you need even more help installing the parts, you can find excellent installation videos on the TandemKross website or on YouTube. 









From Volquartsen Custom, I went with the following:
1)  Mark III Accurizing Kit.

2)  Mark III Picatinny Rail Mount.

The Picatinny Rail Mount is pretty self explanatory.  I specifically went with this model because you do not have to remove your rear sight to install it and the iron sights are still visible through the U channel running down the center of the mount.

The Accurizing Kit will need a bit more explanation.  It is a kit of precision made parts and springs that are all direct replacements for the Ruger factory parts.  The kit comes with detailed installation instructions that covers the install process.  If you are familiar with the names of the various parts, it is an easy road map to follow.  If it's your first attempt at working on a Ruger Mark II or Mark III pistol, you may want to keep these links handy to help you through the installation.  The source I've used the most is http://guntalk-online.com/fsprocedures.htm with color pictures and text description of the field and detail stripping of Mark III and Mark III 22/45 pistols.  It's a real national treasure when it comes to working on the Mark III.  Volquartsen Custom also has videos available on their website, but I didn't have QuickTime video viewer loaded so I couldn't use them.

As you can see, the Accurizing Kit contains several new parts to replace the factory items.  The Mark III kit does not include the hammer bushing as pictured.  I used the TandemKross bushing in addition to the Volquartsen Accurizing Kit with no problems with compatibility.






You may wonder why someone would spend the money and take the time to install all these new parts and accessories on a brand new gun.  Here's my one beef with Ruger Mark II, Mark III, and Mark III 22/45 pistols.  The triggers are not up to par for competition.  They may be fine for general plinking and target shooting for fun, but can stand some improvement.  When all my work was completed I did a before and after comparison test on trigger pull weight.

Trigger Pull Weight from the Factory - 5 lbs. 11 oz.

Trigger Pull Weight After Upgrades - 2 lbs. 6 oz.


In addition to a lighter trigger pull weight I also picked up some other improvements.  Moving from the rear to the front of the Mark III, all of the following were improved.
1)  No more pinched fingers on the sharp edges of the Bolt and Receiver.
2)  Easier manipulation of slide stop/release.
3)  Trigger weight reduced and trigger now adjustable for pre-travel and over-travel.
4)  Magazines now drop free and are forcibly ejected from the magazine well.
5)  Chamber and breech face are easier to clean without the LCI in the way.
6)  Solid platform for the optic of my choice with iron sights still usable.

I do have a few tips for you from my experience working on my Mark III.  The first is to allow enough time for the work at hand.  You can literally take hours with this work if you run into issues.  As you can see from the photo of my work area below, try to find a place with good lighting.  I also used a flashlight from time to time.  Don't be put off by the hammer in the picture.  If you don't have a plastic tipped hammer, you will probably want to get one.  It was a big help in re-installing the mainspring housing.  While you have the Mark III detail stripped, take the time to clean it.  I was working with a brand new gun so it was still covered in Ruger packing grease.  If you are working on an older gun, take the opportunity to eliminate all the accumulated crud.

The only real problem I had was removing the pin holding in the LCI.  I used two different magnets, but it wouldn't budge.  I ended up tapping the receiver on the blue bench block to get it started coming out and finished with the magnet.  I wasn't ready to catch the LCI when it flew out of the receiver under spring pressure so I lost one of the springs.  Learn from my mistake and be ready when that LCI retaining pin comes out.

Save your original parts.  If your Mark III ever needs to go back for service, you better have the factory parts in it or there is a good chance that Ruger will replace your aftermarket parts with Ruger factory parts.  Use the baggies from the replacement parts and put all the bags in the shipping box the pistol came in.


 I had the chance to get the Mark III out to the range yesterday afternoon and work with some different optics choices.  It was the first opportunity I've had to test my work and make sure I had installed everything correctly.  I had no issues with firing.  I did have one stove pipe ejection out of 150 rounds, but that was when I was shooting from the bench rest.  Off-hand shooting was 100%.

The pistol appears to tolerate Federal 550 bulk pack ammunition so that is what it will be fed at the shoot next month.  I had some other options queued up, but they won't be necessary.

All in all it was a fun afternoon of bench work followed up by a great afternoon of shooting.  The work wasn't particularly difficult, but working on firearms is a skill that improves with experience.  Don't get frustrated and if you find yourself totally stuck you should tap into the gun talk online web resource or one of the many videos available from TandemKross, Volquartsen Custom, or other YouTube contributors.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Federal 9mm 115 Grain Hi-Shok JHP Tests - Standard Pressure and +P+ Performance Comparison


OR


Federal has been producing both of these 9mm loads for a very long time.  From my own personal experience, the first 9mm I ever purchased was a Ruger P89 that was current production and new in the box when I purchased it in early 1991.  At the time, I was a handgun novice and the counter clerk suggested a box of Remington UMC 115 grain FMJ and Federal 115 grain Hi-Shok JHP (9BP) as starter ammunition.  That was the first of countless boxes of 9BP that I've purchased over the years.

The other load featured in this test is the venerable 9mm +P+ load that carries Federal catalog number 9BPLE.  This load is marketed to various law enforcement agencies, but stray boxes will show up on-line from time to time.  Over the years, this load has been elevated to iconic status as a proven fight stopper by agencies that issue this ammunition.  Loaded to +P+ pressures, this load falls outside of SAAMI specifications and can be dangerous if used in firearms not built to withstand the additional chamber pressure generated by this load.

The two loads appear to be nearly identical with the primary differences being the cartridge cases and packaging.  The 9BP is loaded in standard brass cases while the 9BPLE is loaded in nickle plated brass.  The 9BPLE headstamp specifically calls out the +P+ pressure of the load.

I've always wondered if there was a significant difference in the terminal performance of these two loads.  Other folks have requested that I test one or the other of these loads from time to time.  I recently had the chance to test both on the same day, from the same gun, and in the same gel block.  Hardly a definitive outcome from such a limited sample of test shots, but the results give me a better idea of the differences between the two loadings.

Test Pistol:

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 2 shot velocity test 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 to verify density.

Test Results:


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



My Thoughts on The Tests:
I have to give kudos to Federal for some of the smallest velocity spreads I've seen with 9mm ammunition across a 5 shot sample.  Velocity was slightly higher than the published velocity for both loads and that was expected with a test barrel that is half an inch longer than the published test barrel length. 

The 115 grain Hi-Shok JHP bullet is referred to as an old technology bullet.  Over the years, Federal has progressed bullet technology with the Tactical Hydra-Shok, Tactical Bonded, and most recently, the Tactical HST ammunition lines.  From the results of this test, it was clear to me that the 115 grain Hi-Shok bullet is sensitive to variations in velocity.  Focusing on just the heavy clothing test, we experienced expansion failure at 1171 feet per second, but observed outstanding terminal performance at 1332 feet per second.

The bare gel and light clothing test results revealed other interesting performance characteristics of the Hi-Shok bullet.  At 1165 feet per second the expansion was impressive with penetration falling right around the minimum desired 12 inches.  Increasing the velocity to 1325 feet per second induced bullet fragmentation as it passed through the gel block with significant pieces of the bullet jacket and core deposited all through the wound channel.  The remaining bullet core and jacket easily exceeded the desired 12 inch penetration target.  

Pick or Pan:
The standard pressure 9BP failed to expand when fired through denim even when it was moving at the Federal published velocity specification for the load.  Expansion in the no and light clothing tests was impressive, but hampered penetration to the desired 12 inches minimum in ballistics testing gel media.  There are other ammunition choices available that deliver better heavy clothing terminal performance so I'll pass on this one.

The 9BPLE performed REALLY well in all tests and I can see why it has developed the street reputation it enjoys.  Fragmentation was significant with the no and light clothing tests, but less of a concern with the denim test shot.  Personally, I'm not a fan of +P+ ammunition because it falls outside of SAAMI specification and is expressly forbidden by many handgun manufactures for use in their firearms.  There is nothing wrong with the performance of this load, but my personal preference is to pass in favor of SAAMI specification +P options.    

What I find most perplexing is why Federal doesn't produce a 115 grain Hi-Shok 9mm +P load for the consumer market.  It could possibly deliver better terminal performance than the 9BP, without the pressure concerns of the 9BPLE.

If you find either of these loads available, you may be put off by the comparatively reasonable prices versus similar ammunition products.  The Federal Classic 9BP and 9BPLE have always been offered at modest retail prices, but as we saw in this test they are loaded with the same care and precision as other premium defensive 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.