Friday, January 3, 2014

Three 223 Remington Clear Gel Terminal Tests with an AR Pistol

The good folks at Diamondback Firearms were kind enough to provide me with a loaner DB15P for review so it would just be "wrong" if I didn't sneak in a few terminal tests as I was writing up my review of the pistol.  Ideally, I would have liked to test a few more varieties of ammunition through the pistol, but my time with the DB15P has gone by far too quickly and I only managed to squeeze in three terminal tests while I had it. 

Keeping with the short barrel theme of most of my terminal testing, the DB15P fit right in with a 7.5 inch barrel.  There isn't anything special about the specific loads I tested other than they are all 55 grains and well suited for the 1:9 rate of twist barrel.  I was really interested in seeing what level of terminal performance we would get with such a short barrel.  The 223 Remington SAAMI test barrel is 24" long.  Our test pistol was less than a third that length.  

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 10 feet.
Step 3)  Run bare gel test shot into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 10 yards.
Step 4)  Repeat steps 2 and 3 for each tested load.
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 Tests from Range to Bullet Recovery:

Hornady ZombieMax 55 grain Z-MAX

Hornady TAP 55 grain GMX Barrier

Speer Gold Dot 55 grain GDSP

My Thoughts on This Test:
As I mentioned in the introduction for this test, I just chose loads at random for testing.  Sometimes I get lucky and end up discovering some new insights from the testing.  This was one of those cases when luck was on my side.

The bullet loaded in the Hornady ZMAX is actually a 55 Hornady VMAX (varmint bullet) with the red tip replaced with a zombie green tip.  Varmint bullets are typically designed for long range shooting and feature a thinner jacket to facilitate expansion.  In this test, the bullet performed perfectly with violent expansion and reasonable penetration.  Some fragmentation was evident, but I think it was minimized by the relatively slow impact velocity. 

Hornady's TAP Barrier GMX was a terminal performance disappointment at first glance because both test shots exited the gel block.  This solid copper hollow point is designed to expand.  I can only surmise that the velocity generated was not sufficient to cause bullet upset and expansion.  On the other hand, we ended up with two virtually identical terminal results showing what happens to a 55 grain bullet that does not expand.  When I reviewed the block I remembered seeing the 7.62x39 Wound Profile illustrations from Dr. Martin L. Fackler.  The similarity was uncanny.  While this was not an exhaustive test, it does provide some new insight into the yaw pattern of 223 Remington at low velocity. 
Speer Gold Dot was the only bonded bullet tested.  It isn't a hollow point, but a soft point with just a tiny spot of exposed lead at the tip of the bullet.  I expected to see the recovered bullet with a smashed nose and some crush damage.  I was really surprised to see the bullet had expanded and 5 symmetrical petals had folded back to the bullet shank.  The bullet stopped at a reasonable penetration depth so this test was also a success.

Pick or Pan:
Rather than pick or pan the tested ammunition, I would rather put forth a general comment that reasonable terminal performance can be achieved in a barrel as short as 7.5 inches.  To my knowledge, there isn't much terminal performance test data available for short barrel AR-style pistols and rifles.  The good news is that three random test choices all performed reasonably well.  I wouldn't call any of these tests a failure.

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. The velocities recorded in your test really validate the concept of the 5.7x28 and .22 TCM rounds. They produce similar velocities with even shorter barrels... and have less recoil.

    OT : I hope to see you test the new Remington 51 this year, it could be the perfect carry pistol!

    1. I'm struggling to wrap my head around why the Remington 51 is so special. I guess I would have to carry and shoot one to understand.

  2. It's slim, has no manual safety, has a grip safety, has ambidextrous mag releases, has a single action trigger, has a grip long enough to get your pinky on it, it weighs just 20 oz, it's just slightly bigger than a PPK and comes in the potent 9mm.

    I can't think of any other pistol that combines all of that.

    1. Just depends on what you want. I would not personally want a gun with a grip safety, have no desire for a deep concealment gun to have a place for my pinky, and it's about 6 ounces heavier than many of the top 9mm pocket pistols out there already. If it's reliable and the slightly different recoil system works well then I would gladly give it a shot though!

  3. Your Gold Dot video contains bad data on it's tabulation sheet near the end of the video. How do you get an AVEAGE velocity that is Less Than ANY of the 5 events that made the average? When I came here to look at the blog, it looks like you recorded the shot 1 to 5 velocities on the data sheet for the Gold Dot with the Z-Max shot info, but with the correct average velocity as recorded here in the blog for Gold Dot shots 1 to 5.

    1. You are correct. The data sheet in the video was not correct for the 5 tested shots, but the average was correct. The data sheet was fixed before it was posted on the blog.

  4. Hi Bruce,
    I wanted to point out that the Hornady TAP Barrier was designed as what the name implies, a barrier-blind round. It's intended as a LEO round to penetrate car doors and other objects someone could be using as cover. While it was interesting to see how it damages bare gel, I don't believe your testing covered what the round is capable of, nor designed for. I would love to see this shot through sheet metal, 1x4's and 2x4's into gel.
    I would also like to see you test Hornady TAP Urban .223 into bare gel. Typically, a duty rifle would be loaded with a round similar to this (along with the extra mags) and have 1 extra magazine of TAP Barrier for barricaded suspects.
    I realize your testing was done 6 months ago so it may not be possible.

    I also realize that price and availability issues may halt all further testing, which is understandable.
    Thank you for your time,

    1. Thanks for the comment. While I had the AR pistol for review, I thought I would do some ammo tests. I just grabbed the first three name brand boxes I came across. I'm sure I will get back to each of them through a rifle length barrel at some point.

  5. Wow, that was a quick response!
    I'm looking forward to more of your tests, as they look very well done. I would think it's safe to say that there are a lot of reviews on the effectiveness of .223 hunting rounds as the results are obvious with a clean kill. However, I think with the variety of self-defense and LEO .223 Rem. ammo, your reviews in gel would be beneficial. I believe the most common AR's out there are 14.5" and 16" barrel lengths, however AR pistols are on the rise. I think 14.5" would be a good all-around testing platform.
    Some things you can use in your testing for self-defense round effectiveness are the following:
    1) Bare Gel
    2) 4-layer Denim test in front of Gel
    3) 2 layers of drywall (with space between) in front of Gel
    4) 2x4 treated-wood in front of Gel
    5) Thin sheet metal to simulate modern car doors in front of Gel

    Once again, I realize this would be time and cost consuming which may prevent any of the listed above.
    That being stated, I truly think if you did all 5 of the testing above (with at least 2 shots per test), it would set your youtube channel apart from all the rest, gain more views and help out thousands of people trying to decide which ammo they want to use to defend their family's life.

    I've subscribed to your youtube channel. If you decide to do the testing, make an announcement video saying you will be doing .223 Rem. testing for self-defense rounds. That way we know you need ammo so we can send it to you. I don't have the means for gel tests, so it'd definitely be easier to mail you 10 rounds and have it compared against others.
    I also have a question on the S&W Shield so I'm jumping over to that blog post to ask you.
    Thank you for your time and input!

    1. Dave, I accidentally deleted your comment above as I was moderating comments this morning. I was able to copy it and post it for you under my name. Thanks for the suggestions.