Friday, December 13, 2013

Hornady Custom 45 Auto 200 Grain XTP Denim and Clear Gel Test

Before the innovation of Critical Defense and Critical Duty, the Hornady Custom line of ammunition was the premier defensive ammunition line from Hornady.  Loaded with their famous XTP bullet, the Hornady Custom line was know for accuracy, moderate velocity, modest expansion, and deep penetration.  I was really interested in finding out if this lighter 45 Auto bullet, loaded to standard pressures, would expand reliably from a shorter concealed carry length barrel. 

Test Pistols:

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 first bare gel test shot into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run second test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 5)  Run a second bare gel test shot with longer test barrel.
Step 6)  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:
It's difficult to get excited about writing up a test when the ammunition fails to expand during the denim test.  The unfortunate thing is that this is the first of many expansion failures that I'll be working through over the next few weeks.  As I've stated before, the 4 layers of heavy denim test a tough test to pass.  You can see the recovered bullet was on the verge of expansion, but just didn't have enough of the test media inside the hollow point cavity to initiate full expansion.      

I was really surprised to see the evidence of yawing or tumbling left by the denim shot in the gel block.  The more I think about yawing, the more sense it makes.  If the nose of the bullet wasn't facing forward, the gel media couldn't be forced down into the hollow point cavity to trigger expansion.  When I recovered the denim test shot, the hollow point cavity was empty so the denim must have been dragged out of the cavity during the unstable yawing path down the gel block.  That may also explain why the bullet stabilized and assumed a nose forward profile at the end of travel.

The two bare gel shots performed exactly as you would expect an XTP to perform.  We saw some light fragmentation, modest expansion, and deep penetration. 

Pick or Pan:
For a short barrel 45, this load wouldn't be my first choice.  The Hornady Custom line also includes a +P version of this load with a published velocity of 1055 feet per second.  The extra 155 feet per second velocity may end up being the better choice for a reliably expanding load in a short barrel 45.  The Critical Defense 185 grain load has been optimized for short barrel pistols, so that may also be a better 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. Of all the tests you've run, it looks as if the Lehigh Defense rounds are the best choice for personal defense. The expansion is clearly the to of the group. I've just ordered a box of .45, 380, and 9mm for my carry weapons.

  2. LOVE the bonus test (long barrel) Concept!
    I have 4 PCCs (pistol caliber carbines, 16" barrels) in 9mm (HP), .40 S&W (Keltec & HiPoint), and 45 ACP (HP)
    The cheaper, less expansive SD rounds would possibly do well with the long barrel. Any chance of a carbine test in future testing? Especially in the less-than expanded, cheaper SD rounds would be perfect!

    TIA Bruce,