Sunday, November 18, 2012

Short and Long Barrel Clear Gel Test 9mm +P Federal HST 147 Grain

A few months ago I received an email from Seth at Ammunition Depot that was very complimentary of my ammo testing videos and blog articles.  Seth offered to help me out if his store had anything in stock that I found difficult to locate on my own.  I singled this load out as one that I have found very difficult to get my hands on when ordering ammo from my usual sources.  Seth had a box on my doorstep in less than a week.  Since the ammo was provided to me free of charge, I thought I would change up the format of this review and do both a short and long barrel test with the donated ammunition.  So please keep an open mind as you read down through this new testing format.

I've read about this specific load for quite some time.  It is generally held in high regard across many of the forums I follow and I think that's part of the reason why I've had such a difficult time locating a box for testing.  I've had multiple requests to review this load so it appears that word of mouth has many people interested in how this load performs in both long and short barreled pistols.
Pistol Specs:
Long Barrel:  Glock 17 - 4.5" Barrel
Short Barrel:  Kahr PM9 - 3" Barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullets.  Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shoot a five shot velocity test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital chronograph.

Long Barrel Test Recovered Round:

The video below documents my entire long barrel test from range testing to bullet recovery.

Short Barrel Test Recovered Round:

The video below documents my entire short barrel test from range testing to bullet recovery.

My Thoughts:
The more HST I test, the more I appreciate the incredible flexibility of this line of ammunition.  While it does not carry any special markings that it will perform in short barreled pistols, it has never failed to impress me with full expansion and satisfactory penetration.  Weight retention is also as good or better than other competing loads when shot into bare gel or through 2 layers of denim and gel.  Adding another 1.5" of barrel length with the longer barreled Glock allowed for higher velocity and greater expansion.  Penetration was reduced due to the larger frontal bullet face that was pushing through the gel.  Both tested rounds penetrated well beyond the 12" penetration hurdle that seems to be the expected minimum penetration depth.

I was a bit disappointed that both test shots came in well below their 5 shot velocity averages.  Even with this, the long and short barrel velocity spread with the two test shots was 79 fps.  Looking at the two recovered bullets, there was a noticeable difference in expansion between the two rounds.  The petals of the bullet fired through the short barrel extended back to the mid point of the bullet shank.  The petals on the bullet fired from the long barrel expanded and extended all the way back to the bullet base.

I will admit that I was a bit skeptical of the terminal performance we would see with this 9mm 147 grain load.  My skepticism stems from very poor expansion performance from this bullet weight in some very early 9mm ballistics tests done in 2011 with loads from other ammo makers.  I am really impressed with the performance of this load in both the long and short barrel and I can see that it deserves all the positive praise it receives on the forums.

Long barrel test bullet on the left and short barrel test bullet on the right.
I hope you enjoyed this test.  I'm interested in your feedback if you have any thoughts on making the review article easier read when combining two tests into one blog article as I've done here.    

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. Just goes to show how little muzzle energy actually contributes to expansion and penetration. The round from the G17 expanded more, penetrated less, and had ~15% more energy, while the slower round with less energy penetrated more but expanded less.

    I think the 147gr round is good to go with modern ammo designs by Gold Dot, HST, and Ranger T, from longer barrels. From shorter barrels, it seems to me like you'd want a +P load to make up for the shorter barrel.

    My worthless $0.02

  2. Hey Bruce,

    Yet another question. Were the expanded bullets at all sharp?

    1. The copper jackets are all sharp, but not like a knife edge. As I study the high speed footage, I can see the shadow of the bullet pass through the block fractions of a second before any real violent expansion takes place in the block. What we see as tracks left in the block are actual cuts from the expanded petals. Put enough speed behind a dull blade and it will cut. Hope that helps.

  3. I think there's something not quite right about the Clear Ballistics Gel format. Numbers published by both yourself and TNOutdoors9 exceed manufacturer specs when tested in the CBG vs their testing in 10% ordinance gel. This load is advertised by Federal to penetrate to 12" and expand to .80"; the fact that it penetrated more and expanded less tells me that the gel is probably in fact not calibrated by the folks at CBG to 10%. It would be very interesting to test the same loads out of the PM9 and G17 in both CBG and Sim-Test/Ordinance Gel and observe results.

    1. Actually, I'd love to see what ATK publishes for bare gel results on this load. I just checked again and it's not on their website. I did do a direct compare with this Gold Dot test. I think the numbers are close enough. My shot was slower so it expanded a bit less and penetrated a bit more. The value of Clear Ballistics gel is that it is so consistent from block to block. SIM-TEST varies by temperature and water content. You don't have to fuss with those variables with CB Gel. Also, I'm sure you know there is quite a bit of batch to batch variation allowed with 10% Ordnance Gel. A full 1/2" on bb calibration. I'm not implying that CB Gel is perfect, but it's the best stuff I know about right now for a uniform and consistent ballistics testing media across many tests that's still affordable for someone on a hobby budget.

  4. Bruce,

    I'm sorry if that came out the wrong way. I am not trying to be offensive. I think your tests are among the best on the 'Net.

    I did not know that with ordinance gelatin.
    Keep up the good work my friend!

    1. Hey Brad. It's fine. I took no offense. I am very interested in anything ATK has published on their HST test results for the 9mm +P 147 grain. I did find the results for the standard pressure load. If you could point me in that direction, that would be great. Thanks.

      If you think the tests have been good so far, be ready to be blown away. Major changes are coming. I won't be able to do them all in the new test format, but I will be stepping things up with my "pet" loads. =)

  5. Bruce, I love your site and have recommended it to my gun forum...hope you see an increase in traffic.

  6. Great info! Would love to see more of these sorts of tests with other modern SD ammo, Critical Duty, Gold Dot, etc.

  7. So.... do these results mean they are the best bullets you've ever tested for short and long barrel? I can't quite make out the results, I would appreciate more conclusion and thoughts from you on how they compare to other loads. Particularly, the 147 non +p, and the 124/124+p HSTs.

    1. I appreciate your point of view John. Fortunately, I'm still running tests more than a year after this test was published and still learning new things with every new test. At the top of the blog there is an ammo tests tab that lists all tests by caliber in descending date order. You may want to check there for other tests with the HST and other 9mm loads.