Sunday, August 4, 2013

Hornady ZombieMax 380 Auto 90 Grain Zmax Denim and Clear Gel Test

ZombieMax ammunition, from Hornady, is a bit hard to describe and explain if you have never seen it before.  It appears to be first quality ammunition that looks quite similar to Critical Defense except for a zombie green polymer hollow point insert and standard brass cases.  Things get strange when you read the package and website description of ammunition line.  There are warnings that the ammunition is not a toy and that it should only be used when facing zombies.  It's an interesting marketing angle, but it does put me off this line of ammunition.  

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 8 feet.
Step 3)  Run first bare gel test shot into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 4)  Run second test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 5)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.

Test Results:

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

My Thoughts on This Load:
All of the Hornady 380 Auto loadings specify a muzzle velocity of 1000 feet per second.  A quick check of their website confirms that their velocity measurements are done with a 4" test barrel.  It's understandable that our velocity was lower since our barrel was almost and inch shorter than the 4" Hornady test barrel.  As a rule of thumb you can expect to lose about 100 feet per second for every 1" reduction in barrel length.

I was really surprised by the terminal performance of this load for both test shots.  I don't believe I've ever seen petals pulled off a Hornady 90 Grain 380 bullet from over expansion.  Driven at close to 950 feet per second we had fragmentation on both of our bare gel shots (shot 1 was lost when it flew out of the block).  The heavy denim test shot suffered from incomplete expansion.

Pick or Pan:
The "gimmick" nature of this load, combined with poor terminal performance during this test is enough to put me off of this round.  If I was faced with a choice between Critical Defense 380 Auto and ZombieMax 380, I would pick up the Critical Defense.

If I was facing down a zombie horde, I'd still take the Critical Defense.....but that's just me. 

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. It was my understanding that the Z-Max and the Critical Defense were the same thing except for marketing. Clearly the performance indicates the possibility of that not being true.

    Any chance you can run a test of the Critical Defense again, but with the Bersa instead of the Kahr? I'd like to see if the increased velocity from the Kahr would have any affect on the Critical Defense.

    FWIW, I went hog hunting earlier in the year with a friend. The only .308 hunting ammo he could find was the Z-Max stuff. It performed very well on the pig. Different stuff, I know, but based on the performance it seemed to reaffirm my beliefs that the Z-Max was just a green version of the existing ammo lines.

  2. Interesting... I had kind of assumed this was critical defense in a different color, and as such would perform similarly, but I guess not...

  3. I am glad you did this follow up to the Critical Defense test...ammo choices in .380 are much trickier than in the larger calibers and your tests diffidently help. Not sure if you have ever checked these tests out....they use ribs as a barrier. Not very scientific as there are lots of variables (some hit bone, some bounce off, diff bones etc.) but it seems the Critical Defense/Zombie max bullets have a tough time penetrating bone and do not seem to stay together well(in the limited tests I have watched). I wonder if there is any substance that would mimic bone and be repeatable....thanks again for the great tests/blog! Ken

    1. Hi Ken.

      I'm working on the bone simulation. I'm really close and will probably run a trial test with it this week if the rain stops long enough. Now to figure out what I want to test.

    2. That's awesome, I hope you get a chance to do the trial and it goes well...It would be cool to see a good .380 bonded hollow point like the Gold Dot VS a decent flat nose ball round (Speer Lawman etc.) but I am sure whatever you pick will be cool...cheers!