Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Underwood Ammo 380 Auto FMJ Clear Gel Test

This is my second test with 380 Auto ammunition from Underwood Ammo.  Last week I published the test results of their 90 grain Gold Dot load.  You can read that test HERE.  While I was testing the Gold Dot load, I decided to also test the 380 Auto 100 grain FMJ load in order to compare the terminal performance differences between the two loads and create some new data points for the never ending debate of which ammunition type (jacketed hollow point, or full metal jacket) is "better" to use in 380 pocket pistols.

Underwood Ammo manufactures a full line of ammunition for both pistols and rifles.  Underwood has developed quite a devoted following of customers with their commitment to quality, reasonable prices, and willingness to load some of the highest velocity rounds available in many pistol calibers.  Having previously tested 100 grain FMJ loads from two other manufacturers, I found them lacking in velocity (<845 fps) from our 2.5" Kahr test barrel.  I was very interested in testing the offering from Underwood to see if they had kicked up the velocity a bit with their load. 

Test Pistol Specs:
Kahr P380 2.5" 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 bullet.  Immediately prior to shooting the block, I take a 5 shot velocity test over a ProChrono Digital chronograph.

Test Results:
The test results are summarized in the data sheet below along with a close up shot of the recovered bullet.

Video documentation of the entire test from range through bullet recovery is available below.  The high definition video is best viewed on YouTube, but you can also view it here.

My Thoughts on This Load:
Underwood develops their velocity specification in a 3.5 inch test barrel.  I expected velocity would be less than the 950 fps published on the box due to the shorter 2.5 inch barrel used in this test.  In our previous Underwood 380 JHP test, we saw a smaller decrease in velocity with the shorter barrel.  In this test we lost a full 100 fps from published velocity due the shorter barrel length.    

The clear gel used for this test is equivalent to 10% ordnance gel density.  It is an ideal test bed to display optimum terminal performance because there are no barriers in front of the gel or obstructions within the gel.  I was pleased to see that the bullet penetrated a full 19 inches in our test with no evidence of tipping or tumbling during travel through the block.  In a more real world case with external and internal barriers, penetration would be less.  It would have to be a full 7 inches less before the bullet missed the 12 inches of penetration performance goal.

It was interesting to see the wound channel left by the FMJ bullet.  As expected, we did not see the usual permanent cutting damage caused by the expanding petals of a JHP bullet.  Instead we saw a small consistent wound channel that decreased in diameter as the bullet continued to lose energy and virtually disappeared after traveling 16 inches through the block.

Call me crazy if you must, but I wonder if this load may act like a miniaturized .45 ACP GI Hardball load.  The initial velocity is similar, but due to the smaller diameter, lower weight, and lesser energy the 380 load only penetrates 19 inches versus 25 inches for 45 GI Ball in similar media.

My key take away from this test is that this 380 FMJ load penetrates well in bare gel, but not nearly as deeply as 9mm or 45 ACP FMJ.  If penetration is more important to you than expansion, this may be a good load for you to try.

Personally, I would really like to see Underwood produce a similar speed load with a 95 or 100 grain flat nose FMJ bullet.  I believe the larger meplat, or flattened bullet nose, would create a larger temporary wound cavity and also decrease total penetration.  It just might be the ideal 380 FMJ carry load for those that insist on at least 12 inches of penetration from their 380 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.

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