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Bullet Test - April 27, 2003
Highly unscientific but fun shooting test...
At the conclusion of the live-fire session of the CCW class, interested shooters were invited to bring their premium self-defense ammunition to Prado Olympic Shooting Park and fire it into wet telephone books at close range.

These test were anything but scientific. We shot the various kinds and calibers out of different barrel lengths. Wet phone books are the "poor man's ballistic gelatin" and certainly have no similarity to human tissue, bone and muscle. But they safely absorb bullets are are easy to retrieve, so we were able to make some interesting comparisons.

 

Full Metal Jacket vs Hollowpoints
The first issue was to decide what bullet would be best for self defense. A lot of former military personnel use FMJ since they feed reliably in semi-automatics. The serious problem of over-penetration with this ammunition was dramatically validated once again.

 Using the FBI statistic of maximum penetration of fourteen inches, both the 9 mm AND the .45 ACP drove clean through the stack of phone books and into the ground below. We dug out the ones we could find, and you can see there was minimum deformation.

The FMJ would certainly punch clean through an adversary and continue through the neighborhood. This would create a significant liability issue. As Massad Ayoob states, "We have a legal moral and financial responsibility for the terminal resting place of every projectile we fire." You would be hard pressed to locate these rounds after a shoot-out in a public place unless you had a doctor dig them out of people BEHIND the bad guy.

 

Winchester Silvertips
The vaunted Silvertips did reasonably well. We fired them in 9 mm, 40 S&W, and .45 ACP. Out of longer barrels they sometimes had so much velocity that they separated from their jacket. Having loss their mass, these didn't penetrate beyond approximately eight to nine inches. The ones that held together retained a significant amount of mass and penetrated well but were contained by the phone books. None of them over-penetrated.

 

Federal HydraShoks
I was surprised that several of the Hydra-Shoks blew up in the top few inches of the phone books. Then we tried them with shorter barrels and they seem to hold together a lot better. You can see the little post remain in the expended rounds. Last year I removed the post with a Dremel tool and the round didn't open up at ALL! An important design feature! Lesson learned: Federal HydraShoks are most effective out of barrels less than three inches.

 

Speer GoldDot
The Speers were exceptional. They consistently opened up with any length barrel and none of them over penetrated. They all had a consistent flowering to the same point on each of their jackets, no matter what caliber.

 

Winchester SXT/Ranger/Black Talon
The Winchester "Law Enforcement line" work consistently well. The .40's on the right are the old "Black Talon" (now the politically-correct SXT). All calibers stayed together and stayed in the phone books. Obviously the cop ammo is made to significantly higher specs than the civilian fodder.

 

Corbon & Federal Expanding Full Metal Jacket
A big disappointment was the Corbon .45 185 gr. Touted as among the best defensive rounds by Gun Tests, this WAS my carry load of choice. As you can see (the one on the left) there's nothing left except a little nub. Having lost most of it's mass, the penetration was minimal. Perhaps it would perform better out of a Commander barrel. The Federal EFMJ (on the right) was a real surprise. It held together well and expanded reliably with the few rounds we had. An expensive cartridge, we only had one caliber to test.

 

Summary: the purpose of shooting someone in a self defense situation is to STOP them from harming you. The sooner they stop, the safer everyone will be (including them!). So we are seeking a bullet that will punch big holes in the "hydraulics" (circulatory system) to cause a loss of blood pressure to the brain, significantly enough to shut them down. That's where bullet performance becomes important. We need the ability to punch big holes in deep organs.

The mass of the bullet is what maintains its inertia. Once the bullet comes apart, it's done all the work it can do. As we discovered, high velocity can be the enemy of bullet performance, especially if the round disintegrates on impact.

If you're going to carry a little "snubby" then go for all the velocity you can afford. But for longer barrels, the heavier bullets with less velocity seem to perform consistently better. Obviously, the more expensive police loads do consistently better, if you can get them.

An essential point: make sure you're not using full metal jacket for your self defense load - for your safety as well as mine!

Check out this website for more penetration examples and experiments: Box O' Truth

 


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