Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Underwood Ammo 380 +P 80 Grain TAC-XP Denim and Clear Gel Test

Underwood Ammo is a US based company that manufactures a broad line of ammunition using all new components.  I believe all Underwood Ammo products must be purchased directly from Underwood through their webstore.  As a growing business, Kevin continues to add new loads to his line.  Someone gave me a heads up that Underwood now had a 380 load using the Barnes TAC-XP all copper hollow point bullet.  Having previously tested loads from Buffalo Bore and CORBON, I was curious to see how the Underwood would compare.

The Buffalo Bore and CORBON tests can be found HERE.  
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 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 2 layers of medium weight 100% cotton tee-shirt.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 5) Run third test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
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:
If you took the time to go back and review the previous Buffalo Barnes and CORBON tests, you are probably wondering why the average expansion diameters are so different in this test.  When I added the Schwartz metrics to the data sheet, I had to change the way I measured the recovered bullets to comply with the Schwartz model.  In reality, I probably should have been measuring recovered rounds with the new method all along since it gives a much more accurate measurement of the average expanded diameter.

With that out of the way, I really liked the way this load performed.  It was refreshing to see a load perform exactly as expected regardless of the barrier placed in front of the gel block.  I'm not sure what magic Underwood employs to boost velocity, but they managed raise the bar with this load from the very short 2.5" test barrel.  With penetration depths averaging around 10 inches for the 3 test shots, I'm really curious to see what penetration depth we would see from a 3.25 to 3.5 inch test barrel.  I think Glock just came out with a 380 pistol, I may have to get one and try these in it.  =)

In general, I like the terminal performance of the Barnes TAC-XP bullets in many of the loads I've previously tested.  As someone that likes to practice with their carry ammo, I'm not overjoyed with the cost per round.  Underwood lessens the impact on my wallet a little by selling this load in boxes of 50 for about $1.20 per round.  That's the best deal around for a load with a real Barnes bullet.     

Pick or Pan:
Penetration Purists will dismiss this load immediately because it didn't make the magic 12" of penetration.  For those that have more reasonable terminal performance expectations for a 380 Auto hollow point bullet, this one has quite a bit going for it.  Primarily that it was unaffected by any of the barrier material placed in front of the gel block and performed consistently in all three test shots.  For me, that makes this load a Pick.

Underwood Ammo has designated this load as 380 +P.  380 +P is not a SAAMI industry standard ammunition pressure classification and is forbidden for use in many 380 Auto pistols (check your owner's manual).  It does generate higher pressures, and velocities, so please make certain it is safe for use in your pistol before trying some. 

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. I have seen you say you like to "practice with your carry ammo" (paraphrased) but I was wondering if there was a reasonable approximation method to select a "target ammo" (FMJ) for an SD round, once it was selected.
    My idea was that it could be workable to get an FMJ with similar ballistics within SD ranges. Is this reasonable?
    I hear the "practice with your carry ammo" mantra from 2 camps primarily,
    #1 People with a financial incentive (ammo mfg's and sellers)
    #2 Uneducated Shooters parroting what they have been told (lol)

    I know you have the intelligence to know if this is a reasonable work around or not, and would like your input, Bruce!
    I have a pretty good idea that it is possible and safe, but I may have missed something...

    1. Actually, this is a viable alternative. I often substitute Winchester NATO 9mm FMJ when the self defense 9mm 124 grain supply gets stressed by shortage or my unwillingness to pay inflated prices. I say that I "like to" practice with carry ammo, but I don't always get to do everything I'd like to. Another thing to consider is if you don't reload and you shoot +P carry ammo, you're probably not going to find FMJ range ammo that matches bullet weight AND velocity/recoil impulse.

      The way I look at it, if I have a failure in practice with budget range ammo I'm going to start questioning the reliability of my carry pistol. If I practice with my carry ammo, I'm validating the reliability of the pistol and ammo combination. If I do have a reliability failure during practice with my carry ammo, then I've learned something and it needs to be fixed.