Saturday, April 4, 2015

Winchester Defend 9mm and 380 Auto Comparison Tests

Winchester started promoting their new Train and Defend ammunition at the end of 2013, as described in the press release..."With the growing number of ammunition choices at the retail counter confronting the influx of first-time gun owners, Winchester Ammunition has created the new W Train & Defend™ brand which provides a straightforward process when choosing training and personal defense rounds.

The W Train & Defend ammunition system is designed to provide threat-stopping power with less recoil to the shooter. The system pairs its range-ready Train rounds with technology-driven Defend rounds, both designed to limit the recoil felt by the shooter. This system provides a perfect solution for new shooters, especially women, who are interested in training to become proficient with their personal defense ammunition."

While general release of Train and Defend may be new, I purchased similar concept ammunition from Bass Pro Shops back in 2011.  Bass Pro Shops had an exclusive arrangement with Winchester for this SXZ line of ammunition.  At the time, I was just starting to build a stash of ammunition for testing so I picked up the 9mm and 45 Auto.  I still have yet to test either the 9mm or 45 SXZ ammunition, but may get to it one day.

Winchester SXZ was a predecessor to the current W Train and Defend line of ammunition.

I recently found Winchester Train and Defend ammunition in stock at a local national sporting goods retailer.  On shelf availability was very good so it seems that supply is keeping up with demand.  Rather than run two individual tests on the 9mm and 380 Auto, I decided to run a side by side comparison test to highlight the terminal performance differences between the two calibers while also demonstrating the terminal performance of each load.  I did a similar test on Hornady Critical Defense back in 2013.  That test was well received, but several viewers chastised me for handicapping the 380 when I used a shorter barrel for the 380 than I did for the 9mm.  Thanks to my wonderful wife and a well thought out Christmas gift, I now have similar length test barrels for 9mm and 380 Auto.

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 various terminal test shots, with and without simulated clothing barriers, into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that has a similar density to 10% ordnance gelatin.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.

Test Results:

9mm Data Sheet

380 Auto Data Sheet

Video Documentation of the Test:

Direct link to video on YouTube

Pick or Pan:

This is a case where it is important to evaluate each load individually.  The 9mm Defend loading performed very well.  It expanded fully in all test scenarios except for partial expansion in the simulated bone test.  This is very good performance from a standard pressure load with a tested velocity of less than 900 feet per second.  Penetration depth was a bit on the long side of the desired 12 to 18 inches, but I would much rather have penetration test results be a little over than fall short of the minimum.  This load is a pick for a light recoiling standard pressure loading for a short barrel semi-auto.

The 380 Auto Defend loading didn't perform as well as the 9mm.  In this case, the two bullets that did expand fell very short of the minimum desired penetration of 12".  Even the partially expanded test shot through the bone block fell short of 12" of penetration.  Using 12" of penetration as the primary selection criteria, the 380 Auto Defend is a pan.  It just expands too much and penetrates too little.         

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. Charles SchwartzApril 4, 2015 at 8:04 PM


    As usual, great tests and the new video presentation format that you are using is excellent. Keep up the fine work!

    Charles Schwartz

    1. Thanks Charles. I try to keep evolving by baby steps, and hopefully for the better.