Monday, February 23, 2015

25 Auto JHP vs. FMJ Comparison Testing - 2015 Testing Update

I have a love/hate relationship with Winter.  In our area, you can be out on the range in a tee-shirt on Saturday, and find yourself shoveling snow on Sunday.  Last weekend was a good example of that.  Rather than complain about the weather, I try to take advantage of the nice weather by hitting the range as much as possible.  When it's too cold, I'll retreat indoors and spend my time on more cerebral activities.  Unfortunately, this means I often find myself with many half-finished projects, and it becomes a real struggle to keep fresh content flowing to the blog in the Winter months.

The best part of my indoor work is that it gives me a chance to review all the comments you post on the blog and YouTube channel.  I read every one of them, and try to respond to as many as I can.  I also review the YouTube channel statistics to better understand which videos you liked, didn't like, and liked enough that you subscribed.  With this new information, I can focus my future work on developing more of the content that you are really interested in viewing as well as improving the overall quality of the presentation.

One big change I made this Winter was implementing a new ammunition testing protocol.  You all let me know that you wanted to see more test shots, and different (more realistic) clothing barriers.  For 2015, I'll be doing 4 (or more) shot tests with two layers of 5 oz. 100% cotton Jersey Knit fabric (tee-shirt), one layer of 100 weight Polar Fleece (hoodie), and four layers of 15 oz. Denim (IWBA Heavy Clothing Standard).  I will continue to use Clear Ballistics Gel as my test media.  You can read more about why I will be using this gel media exclusively in this past article.  The artificial "bone" block will also be back in 2015, but reserved for specific tests.    

Something else buried in the blog and YouTube channel statistics was the discovery that when I do ammunition tests, viewers want more than just the facts.  They also want to hear my opinion and/or see examples of why one ammunition choice may be better or worse than another.  After years of focusing on the facts, it's going to be a challenge to change and I will certainly give it a try.

To wrap up this preamble, another change I'll be making this year is to spend more of my time on firearm reviews, and less time on ammunition tests.  Based on the blog and channel statistics, readers and viewers really respond to the firearm reviews.  I enjoy doing the reviews, and manufacturers are willing to loan me the firearms for evaluation, so it makes sense for me to spend more time on reviews.  I'll never turn my back on ammunition testing, and that just makes it more important than ever to make sure each ammunition test is just a bit better, and more informative, than the last.

In closing, I thank you all for reading the blog, viewing the videos, and subscribing to the YouTube channel.  I genuinely appreciate everyone that has previously provided, and those that continue to offer, financial support for the blog and YouTube channel.  At this point, I believe any financial support of Pocket Guns and Gear should come from general advertising revenues and Industry support.  I'm not going to try to sell you a tee-shirt, or attempt a crowd funding exercise.  The best support you can provide is to continue to read/view, comment, like, and share the content you enjoy the most.  Now on to the test.

Looking at the ammunition tests page, I have a big gap in the 25 Auto section.  Much of that is due to the general scarcity of 25 Auto ammunition.  I managed to find, and purchase, a few boxes over the last two years, but it's been more difficult to find than .22 rimfire ammunition.  The catalyst for this test was a recent email from one of the larger retail ammunition mail order suppliers.  The email let me know that the supplier was cancelling my back order on Winchester 25 Auto 45 Grain Expanding Point ammunition because it was "discontinued".  I'm assuming that meant it was discontinued by Winchester.

My original plan for 25 Auto testing was to compare the terminal performance of jacketed hollow point, full metal jacket, and the hybrid Winchester Expanding Point ammunition.  After the news that Expanding Point was no longer available, it was time to move forward comparing the JHP and FMJ to complete the 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 has a similar density to 10% ordnance gelatin.  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:
Hornady 35 Grain XTP JHP

Fiocchi 50 Grain FMJ

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

View Test Video on YouTube Link

View Test Video on YouTube Link

My Thoughts on This Test:

Regardless of how you may feel about the terminal efficiency and effectiveness of the 25 Auto, there are folks that carry these firearms daily.  Manufacturers don't produce items they can't sell if they wish to remain in business.  Beretta, Taurus, Phoenix Arms, and Derringer all catalog current models in 25 Auto.  Winchester, Remington, Federal/Speer, and Hornady all produce 25 Auto ammunition in the US.  Imported ammunition from international suppliers is also available.  The 25 Auto certainly isn't a dead caliber, but does appear to be suffering greatly with ammunition availability at this time.

Reviewing the results of our gel test, I would be inclined to carry the heavier and slower FMJ over the faster and lighter JHP in all test scenarios simply because of the additional penetration depth.  I don't put any value on the bullet tumbling with either load because they may, or may not, behave that way in other media types and real life.

The FMJ loads are also cheaper to purchase which allows for more affordable practice and training time.  It also reduces the cost of verifying the ammunition will function properly all the time with your specific firearm.

Ultimately, it's up to you to choose the best ammunition for your needs.  I hope this test gives you some basic terminal performance information on which to base your 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.


  1. Once again it is demonstrated that "big and slow is the way to go" if you cannot get past the sound barrier at impact. P.S. I do like the ammo tests better, they give a good index of what performance to expect, and illustrate many pitfalls. The 38 Special lead SWCHP tests were great! The clothing barrier results are very revealing! Keep up the good work. A suggestion - retained weight should only be reported for the largest piece/core, anything that falls off should not count, in my opinion.

  2. Valuable review, thanks! I've owned several nice .25's but it's been a few years ago. (And yes, I moved 'em along for all the predictable & usual reasons.) But despite my best efforts to get my wife & daughters to carry compact guns that hit with more authority, they're always and forever deterred by the weight, size, blast, recoil, trigger pull, yada yada. I can't help but believe (OK, "hope") that a .25 might address those concerns and get them to obey the "first rule of a gunfight." Of course, Browning figured that out over a century ago. The more I've used his firearms and ammo, the more the "platforms" or "weapons systems," as we now refer to them, make sense to me in every respect. And although I personally find ways to conceal bigger weapons, many is the time I think longingly about how convenient it would be to simply stick a tiny .25 in my pocket. After losing much of my hearing many years ago firing .22LR hi-vel ammo from pistols, a .25 makes more sense to me. I appreciate your review & analysis to give me some real numbers to consider in this matter.

  3. Thanks for the 25ACP test! I like your new protocol and glad to see your opinion. I have a question on Schwartz penetration and wound mass. I think I have a general understanding of what they represent and how it works (I read the formula and the logic behind it) but I see a big discrepancy between Schwartz and actual performance as the caliber gets smaller and velocity lower. How realistic do you think the Schwartz penetration and wound mass calculations are? I like the concept but also see it not working all of the time. Thanks for a great blog!

    1. Howdy Tom. That's the nice part of having a relationship with Charles. He reviews all my tests and we can exchange emails when test results like this come up. Looking at the wound channels, and my hillbilly high speed camera footage, we are both confident that these tiny bullets demonstrated significant yaw and tumbling in the clear ballistics gel that wouldn't be present with organic 10% ordnance gel. In the early days of using the Schwartz metrics, I was skipping including them if I observed significant yaw or bullet tumble. Now that we have a significant number of recovered bullets, I'm ok with using the Schwartz results as a valid predictor of penetration depth in organic gel for all tests. Even for those tests with bullet yaw and tumble.

      I mentioned to Charles a long time ago that Clear Ballistics Gel is a more expensive form of the water bag that Charles used to create his initial QAS model. The real value of the gel is being able to look at the artifacts left in the gel as the bullet passes through. You don't have that with water bags.

  4. Thank you for raising an excellent question, Tom.

    Of the data that I have used to validate the model, I often finance tests in calibrated ordnance gelatin through an independent source (local to me) to supplement my data base which now stands at n = 780. Whenever I can lay hands upon test blocks, I routinely dissect and examine the permanent cavity and measure the width(s) of the permanent cavity along several points of its entire length as part of my data evaluation process. The bullet configuration factor that I've assigned to each bullet shape in Quantitative Ammunition Selection continues to be supported by those examinations and I can see no reason why those values will cannot be used to convert Clear Ballistics Gel test results to equivalent in calibrated ordnance gelatin. As I continue to add supplemental data to my data base, I will continue to examine and evaluate the diameter of the permanent cavities in order to assure that the fidelity of that model parameter is maintained.

    -Charles Schwartz

  5. Your revised test protocol shows great promise. I look forward to further results in other calibers as new rounds are introduced.

    Something of educational interest for the unfamiliar would be baseline tests of still available and commonly sold FMJ roundnosed ammo in the popular calibers, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, .380 ACP, 9mm, and .45 ACP. I say this because some guns don't function reliably with anything else and in some countries and a few US states, like New Jersey, people are prohibited from using hollowpoint ammunition and it is sometimes a matter of usiung what ammo you can get, or not carrying at all.

    FMJ hardball which "flips" as in the hot Euro .32 ACP and .380 loads, is fairly effective, whereas those which penetrate without any noticeable yaw, such as the 9mm zip through with little damage.

    There is also the risk of an FMJ bullet penetrating clear through and continuing with sufficient velocity to injure innocent bystanders. A simulated construction of an interior apartment wall, consisting of 2x4 studs, R20 batting and two layers of 3/8" drywall placed 2 metres behind the block, having a corrugated IPSC Item witness Target placed 1 metre behind that would serve to illustrate potential to injure the "lade in the rocking chair next door." The simulkated apartment wall witness panel placed behind the expansion test block would provide a clear indication of "excessive penetration."

    The results produced firing ordinarfy .38 Special 158-grain LRN, 9mm or .45 ACP hardball may be enlightening.

    1. I have some tests in mind that should be interesting. Not quite as comprehensive as you describe, but in the same vein.

    2. It may be advancing senility but I seem to recall that back in the early-mid 1980s, Speer produced, for just a year or two, a 9mm bullet designed to yaw. It was a 124gr FMJ round that had a rounded ogive, which came to a tiny flat point and resembled a distorted spitzer-type rifle bullet in profile. I seem to recall that there was a writeup in Soldier of Fortune magazine with ballistic gel tests showing that it did yaw and tumble rapidly and violently in ballistic gelatin and did seem to produce--for those portions of the yaw cycle where the bullet was traveling sideways, of course--a noticeably and measurably larger wound channel than one would expect from 9mm FMJ. I do not know whether there was anything unusual about its construction, though I seem to recall that it looked rather long for a 124gr 9mm bullet, so I suppose it's entirely possible that there was a plastic nose filler to move the center of gravity rearward and make it unstable in tissue.

      I also seem to recall that the US military briefly considered both that Speer bullet and the old Hornady 124gr FMJ truncated cone bullet for general issue loaded in what eventually became type-standardized as 9mm M882 ball ammunition, but JAG raised legal concerns that bullets of nonstandard shape that had been chosen with a publicly stated intent to create increased soft tissue damage might be perceived as violating the spirit of the Hague Convention. And as a more practical matter, if the purpose of adopting the 9mm cartridge for general issue was interchangeability and interoperability with NATO, did we really want to spend several more years and non-trivial sums of money testing whether every duty sidearm and pistol-caliber SMG in frontline issue or reserve stocks in all NATO nations as of 1984 or thereabouts could feed and cycle properly with ammo that had been loaded with oddly shaped bullets?

      So the M882 round got a plain-vanilla FMJ roundnose bullet that would neither give the Russians grist for the propaganda mill nor hang up on the feedramp of a worn-out open-bolt SMG. Shortly thereafter Speer stopped making most of the conventional cup-and-core bullets in favor of plated construction and the projectile was dropped from their line.