Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rattlesnake Ammunition Same Felt Recoil 9mm Review

The folks at Rattlesnake Ammunition recently launched a new line of reduced lead exposure training ammunition that promises to produce the same felt recoil as full power personal defense ammunition. The Rattlesnake SFR (same felt recoil) line is only available in 9mm at this time with 115, 124, and 147 grain weight standard pressure loads.  Additionally, 9mm +P loads are also available in 124 and 147 grain weights.  The manufacturer describes the ammunition as follows.

Rattlesnake SFR was developed as a practice round formulated to produce the Same Felt Recoil as leading brands of hollow point ammunition for the most realistic training experience possible. Most importantly, all Rattlesnake SFR uses components designed to shoot cleanly and reduce lead exposure to the shooter by up to 98% compared to traditional ammunition.

As I've mentioned many times before, I like the idea of TRAINING with my carry ammunition.  On the other hand, I will PRACTICE with whatever ammunition I happen to have on hand.  Practice ammunition is usually the cheapest stuff I can find.  Let me elaborate about the differences between training and practice.

Practice:  Repetition of fundamentals like sight alignment, trigger control, and safe gun handling. You can practice using dry fire drills away from the range.  I've done a bit of that myself over the years.

Training:  For me training involves all the practice disciplines plus drawing from concealment, movement while engaging target(s), magazine changes, clearing failures, and improving shooting speed with accuracy.  The last part about shooting with speed and accuracy is why I prefer to use carry ammunition for training.  It keeps me honest in my appraisal of my shooting skills.

For those who reload, it's relatively easy to crank out a bunch of training rounds that replicate the velocity, bullet weight, and recoil impulse of your carry ammo. For those of us who don't reload, which includes me at the moment, it's a challenge to find a factory produced training load that feels the same as my defensive carry ammunition. Rattlesnake SFR replicates the feel of full power defensive ammunition at a significantly lower price than using carry ammunition for training purposes.

Overall packaging and ammunition quality appear to be very good. It is definitely on par with factory ammunition from large manufacturers. All Rattlesnake SFR is loaded in new brass cases with headstamps designating caliber and +P if appropriate.  All boxes include production lot numbers.

The Testing Process

With ammunition in hand, it was off to the range to do some benchmark testing of Rattlesnake SFR against popular defense ammunition choices with similar bullet weights that are loaded to similar pressures.  The 124 grain standard pressure and +P loads were compared with Speer Gold Dot and Federal HST.  The 147 +P load was only compared with Federal HST because Gold Dot does not offer a 147 +P load.

Felt recoil is a subjective measure that differs from person to person so it's very difficult to quantify.  Add to this the complexity of different types and weights of firearms can also change the way recoil feels to the shooter and you can see that measuring felt recoil can be a real challenge without investing a significant amount of money in test fixtures and instruments to capture force measurements.  To keep things simple, I used the same firearm for all testing.  In lieu of measuring recoil force, I opted to calculate the Power Factor for each load based on a 10 shot sample string from each ammunition type.

So what is Power Factor?  Major practical sport shooting organizations (IPSC, USPSA, IDPA, Steel Challenge, Bianchi Cup) have adopted Power Factor as a globally accepted measure of recoil.  Power Factor uses bullet weight multiplied by velocity with the result divided by 1000 to establish the Power Factor of a cartridge. The higher the Power Factor of a cartridge, the more recoil it generates. With so many sport shooting organizations using Power Factor, I felt confident using this measure for my testing and evaluation.

The actually testing was pretty simple.  Using a FN Herstal FNS9 pistol with a 4 inch barrel, I ran a 10 shot string of each ammunition variety over a ProChrono Digital chronograph set up 10 feet from the muzzle.  Using the Competition Electronics DigitalLink Bluetooth Adapter (will be reviewed soon), all velocity measurements were captured and sent to my phone for downloading and further processing.  Below, I have included two sample data files from the seven captured during this test.

Sample Data

The Results

After downloading the captured data files from my phone, it was time to aggregate the data and compare the results. The chart on the right recaps the average velocity and Power Factor for each load.  It is sorted by bullet weight and pressure for easier comparison.

In general, the Rattlesnake SFR 124 +P and 147 +P loads had Power Factor measures very similar to those measured for the full power defensive ammunition they were tested against.  The standard pressure 124 grain load had the largest Power Factor gap when compared to similar Gold Dot and HST loads.

After reviewing the results, I'm confident that the Rattlesnake SFR loads are producing very similar Power Factor values and felt recoil when compared to my favorite 124 +P and 147 +P defensive ammunition choices.  Depending on where you purchase your ammunition, Rattlesnake SFR could cost $10 to $12 less per box than the Gold Dot or HST equivalent.  When you factor in the significant cost per box savings you get by substituting Rattlesnake SFR in place of their Gold Dot or HST equivalents, it means I can either train more at the same cost, or reduce my training cost without reducing my total fired round counts.  Additionally there are the other benefits of reduced lead exposure and greater availability of Rattlesnake SFR versus the often difficult to find HST and Gold Dot equivalents to consider.

I will definitely be ordering more of the Rattlesnake SFR ammunition for my training needs.  I'm also going to be watching for Rattlesnake Ammunition to add new loads in additional calibers.  I hope this line of ammunition continues to expand.  It would be great to see SFR loads in 45 ACP.

The Rattlesnake SFR ammunition used for this test was provided by Ammunition Depot.

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