Monday, August 29, 2011

Terminal Ballistics Test - Diamondback DB9 - Know Your Load!

I've been experimenting pretty heavily with a hyper absorbent polymer substitute for traditional ballistics gel.  I'd love to use the standard ballistics gel, but I was hoping to find something that was temperature tolerant, reusable, and relatively cheap.  The polymer adds very little volume to the mix (2 tablespoons per gallon of water) and creates a slurry that's dense enough to suspend a captured bullet.  It's been quite a challenge to fine tune the mix ratio and find a testing container that's also reusable.  Over the last 3 weekends, I've tried a variety of set ups and tested my best set up yet last weekend.  It's still not perfect, but I did manage to catch a few bullets.

I've been pretty consumed with a serious pocket 9mm bug.  As the 9mm pocket pistols continue to shrink in size, it starts to make less and less sense to tote a .32 or .380 when you can step up to 9mm in a "slightly" larger pistol.  Slightly in quotes because size and weight tolerance are really personal choices.  I don't mind the extra ounces in the pocket for the trade off of a more potent defense cartridge.

If you follow my blog, you know I've been pretty taken with the Diamondback DB9 since getting it back in June.  It's been in my pocket or waistband just about every day since it passed the initial 200 round break-in testing,  One thing that's always bothered me is wondering if any of the short barreled 9mm pistols on the market would launch a round fast enough that it would actually expand a hollow point bullet.  So my first terminal ballistics tests with my testing media have focused on some different 9mm rounds out of my DB9.

I tested 5 different 9mm loads.  I ran two of the loads across my chronograph several weeks ago.

The other three were not previously chronographed, but all did feed well and provide good accuracy out of my DB9.  I was comfortable carrying my DB9 with any of these as I was sure they would feed and fire.  The loads tested are shown in the picture below and they were:
Winchester Personal Protection 147 grain JHP
Speer Gold Dot 124 grain GDHP
Federal HST 124 grain HP
Fiocchi 124 grain JHP 
Sellier and Bellot Police No Tox 115 grain JHP

The results were surprising in a couple of cases.  Testing protocol dictated that every round was fired through 2 dry layers of medium weight denim before entering the catch media.  I'm still working on the design of a bullet trap that will allow me to accurately measure penetration depth.  Until that time my penetration depth "measurements" are only rough estimates.  The goal of testing is really to answer the question, did the bullet expand.  If yes, then how big did it get.  All rounds were fired 8 feet from the bullet trap.

Can you guess from the pictures below which round is which?

 I'll help you out with one more picture.

The details for all loads follow, along with a solo picture of each bullet.  Click on any image to view the large version.

Earlier I mentioned that some of the results were surprising.  The biggest surprise was the less than half the sampled rounds delivered reasonable expansion when fired from the short barreled DB9.  While I can't be sure, it appears the Sellier and Bellot maintained a FMJ profile and plowed through all 36 inches of media and kept right on going through the back of the test box.  It wasn't even polite enough to close the door behind it when it left, so emergency patching was the order of the day.  As this was the first shot of the day, it could have been a disaster that ended testing, but since this was my third attempt at this I came prepared for such an event.  The Fiocchi and Winchester rounds both shed their jackets and tried to expand, but also failed.  Expected performance was noted in the Speer and Federal loads.

It's not my place or my intention to suggest that one round is better than another as there are 100's of variables that impact ammo performance.  My initial question that prompted my testing was simply "Will bullets expand when fired from my DB9?"  I answered my question so if I am going to make the commitment to carry a concealed firearm, I do want to make sure it's loaded with a round that will expand and reduce the risk of over penetration and the unintentional damage that may cause.  So for me, it will be one of these two until I have the chance to test out other options.


  1. Very nice... That Federal HST looks wicked. I would be really interested to see how the Hornady Critical Defense would do in the same test. (hint, hint) :) Thank you very much for an informative test!

  2. Most interesting ballistics testing I've seen since discovering the Box O' Truth. Should I be able to assume that it would work about the same out of my Kahr CM9?

  3. @HGWT I would use the info as a guide and ideally find a way to test this on your specific pistol. In the future I may try similar tests with a PM9, but I'm not set up for that yet. I also want to get multiple shot samples of different ammos, but again I'm not quite set up for that yet. Hopefully I will be soon.

  4. Fair enough. I assume you will post details of your testing setup once you've got it more worked out?

  5. Hey Bruce, Thank you so much for your review on the DB9. I just got one, and your reviews have helped alot!

  6. Nice expansion tests.

  7. I'm re reading these posts from the past ,just since I added a CM9 and moved some others out


  8. I believe the thick plastic container holding the slurry is what's "shucking" the jackets. Milk jugs or bar gelatin will have different effect. I learned this the hard way during some similar testing I did.

    1. Thanks for the comment Dan. I don't think I published pictures of this test rig, but the entry into the gel was blocked by baggie thickness plastic. The thicker plastic tote was the "trap" part of the test rig.

  9. When you get a chance, please try the Fed. 124 grain HST std velocities on gelatin with a couple of layers of denim. My test of the 115 grain Fed. Hi-Shok Classics from short 9mm Luger pistols was an abysmal failure with no expansion but lots of penetration. We're looking for a decent std velocity round for our Ruger LC9s.

  10. I agree with Dan Long. I would love to see how the 9mm 124 gr HST standard velocity compares to the 9mm 124 gr HST +P when fired into gelatin with a covering of 4 layers of denim. A gun with a 4" or shorter barrel would be a great test platform.