Went to the range with my new FBI 10% gelatin blocks the other day. I always wanted to do this testing and keep the blocks to show clients the effects of different bullet types in simulated flesh gelatin. I started with 380 ACP and to moved on to 9mm. There are 2 ways to test ammunition when using these gelatin blocks. The FBI uses a few layers of fabric in front of the block to simulate clothing. Another method is to shoot the block in a “naked” state (which is what I chose to do). Penetration and expansion can vary depending on many factors. Factors can include temperature, humidity etc. I know that no matter how you do this testing someone will always beat you up and tell you how it should have been done. So I took the simplistic route and I’m happy with what I achieved. The test firing weapon used for the 380ACP shots was the Sig Sauer P238. This weapon is a favorite of my clients and one of my favorites as well. The 9mm test shots were fired from the ever-popular Smith and Wesson Shield. Both of these guns, IMHO, represent the average type of weapons the armed citizenry are carrying. All shots were fired from a distance of 10′. Your mileage may vary.
The FBI has long set the standard when it comes to this type of testing. Law Enforcement depends on the results to help them choose the best ammunition for the troops to carry. Civilians also refer to the data (if they’re smart) to get informed on the best every day carry ammo. The FBI looks for penetration of 14 – 16″ and give bad marks to the ammunition that under and over penetrates. The FBI tests firing ammunition through heavy clothing, wall board, plywood and many other types of barriers that a bullet may pierce on the way to the intended (or unintended) target.
This FBI data and any other credible data regarding the ballistic performance of various ammunition is so critical to understand if you are a CCW person. Carrying the wrong type of ammunition can have a devastating effect in many ways if used in a self defense situation. Over penetration can lead to civil liability issues and under penetration could lead to an ineffective non-stopping impact. I cringe when I think that some people who don’t get informed on this subject may carry range FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) ammo in their EDC (Every Day Carry) weapons. This would be disastrous in the wrong setting.
So what did I learn? I tried not to have any pre-conceived notions of which ammunition would perform the best. This was hard after almost 45 years of packing heat. I have got some favorites for sure. But still I tried my best to be open minded and fair.
I’ve never really been a fan of the 380ACP round. I grew up during a period where this was a frowned upon caliber. But things have apparently changed. The 380 caliber has found it’s way into the mainstream of CCW carry. New designs have led to better performance stats and thus an acceptance across the board. Once upon a time the 380 was considered only acceptable for a back-up caliber. Now, I’m astounded by the number of people that choose this for their main EDC CCW. Heck, I’ve been known to put one in my pocket every now and then.
I shot Hornady Critical Defense, Federal HST, Speer Gold Dot and a wild card the Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense 50 grain hollow point. The weather was about 70 degrees and low humidity if any. No idea of dew point and don’t really care? All rounds had some expansion with the Federal HST (both 380 ACP and 9mm) being the ones out front. As I expected the Hornady 9mm Critical Defense +P penetrated the 16″ block and was stopped by a backdrop of rolled fabric. I will detail all the results when I finish the other calibers. The Liberty ammunition was the interesting one of the batch so far. The break apart (fragmentation) was at the 3″ mark with the main part of the bullet traveling to the 11″ mark. I’ll have to put a few layers of fabric in front of this round to test it again. My concern is the initial fragmentation may be too shallow to be effective. More to follow on all of this.