Monday, July 6, 2015

Ammunition Test - Hornady Critical Defense 10mm Versus 9mm

The Critical Defense line from Hornady was created for concealed carry pistols that typically have barrels that are shorter than service length pistols.  The entire line has been optimized for short barrel pistols and features nickel plated brass for corrosion resistance and slick feeding.  Propellent powder is low flash to protect night vision and also generates lower felt recoil.  The FTX bullet has a red polymer plug inserted into the hollow point cavity during production that aids in expansion when the bullet is fired into heavy clothing barriers like denim or leather.

This is one of those tests I've wanted to do for a long time.  As a newbie to 10mm, I wanted to set up a controlled test to see the terminal performance differences between 10mm and 9mm when both were fired from barrels less than 4 inches in length.  After securing handguns in 10mm and 9mm with similar barrel length, I had to decide which ammunition to test.  I opted for Critical Defense because it is very popular, I had it on hand, and Hornady only makes one load in each caliber.  With a box of each in hand, it was off to the range to run the test.

Test Pistols:

Glock 29 Gen 4 10mm with 3.77 inch barrel

Springfield XDm 9mm with 3.8 inch barrel

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 multiple test shots, with and without simulated clothing barriers, into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  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:

10mm Data Sheet

9mm Data Sheet

Video Documentation of the Entire Test:

Direct Link to Video on YouTube

My Thoughts on This Test:

The five shot velocity test results for the 9mm were right on the money.  The five shot average actually exceed the 1140 feet per second published by Hornady.  Switching over to the 10mm, the story changed.  Hornady publishes 1225 feet per second for the 10mm load when fired from a test barrel of unknown length.  We recorded 1081 feet per second from our 3.8 inch test barrel.  

Looking at the bare gel test shots first, this is a classic example of why many prefer a heavier and slower bullet over a faster and lighter one.  The 165 grain 10mm bullet expanded to a greater diameter than the faster and lighter 9mm, but the 10mm penetrated deeper into the gel block.  The heavier bullet had more inertia and took longer to stop than the lighter bullet.  Both bullets expanded completely.

When comparing the "hoodie and tee shirt" test shots, the 10mm again expanded to a greater diameter and penetrated deeper than the 9mm test shot.  Both recovered bullets expanded fully.

After the first two test shots with the 10mm and 9mm, the 10mm terminal performance was indeed better than the 9mm.  The 9mm performance was good, but the 10mm expanded to a larger diameter and penetrated deeper in both test scenarios.

Terminal performance changed dramatically for the 10mm with the introduction of 4 layers of 15 ounce denim in front of the gel block.  Both denim test shots failed to expand.  The downside of a heavier and slower bullet is that it takes longer to stop when it doesn't expand.  In this case the one recovered bullet that failed to expand penetrated more than 29 inches into the gel, greatly exceeding our ideal 12 to 18 inches of penetration.  Reviewing the high speed camera footage, I noted that both denim test shots tumbled as they passed down through the gel block.  If they didn't tumble, the Schwartz modeled penetration was greater than 36 inches.  This is double our 18 inch maximum ideal penetration depth. 

Conversely, the 9mm terminal performance was very good.  Both test shots expanded fully and penetrated to a depth greater than the 12 inch minimum.

In total, I found the 10mm performance to be disappointing.  I lay the blame for that disappointment on the lack of velocity generated by this load in our 3.8 inch test barrel.  It's definitely not a 10mm load I would consider carrying if heavy clothing barriers are anticipated.  With other 10mm ammunition choices available, I'm going to keep looking for one ammunition that performs well in all seasons.

I believe this was my first terminal performance test of 9mm Critical Defense in a barrel length longer than 3 inches.  The extra barrel length increased velocity and allowed the bullets to expand to a larger diameter than I have previously observed.  Even with full expansion, the bullets penetrated well.  Some may argue the "hoodie and tee shirt" test came up short on penetration, but I'd like to see at least one more test shot before eliminating this load from consideration when light clothing barriers are anticipated.        

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.

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