Celebrating Diversity with the 300 AAC Blackout

The most interesting thing about the 300 AAC Blackout cartridge is the diversity of projectiles and velocities. Left to right: .223 Remington Hornady A-Max, 300 Blackout 125 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip, 300 Blackout Cooper Cartridge 245 grain subsonic, 300 Blackout 220 grain Sierra MatchKing subsonic

The most interesting thing about the 300 AAC Blackout cartridge is the diversity of projectiles and velocities. Left to right: .223 Remington Hornady A-Max, 300 Blackout 125 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip, 300 Blackout Cooper Cartridge 245 grain subsonic, 300 Blackout 220 grain Sierra MatchKing subsonic

People get all worked up about whether the 300 AAC Blackout is better than the .223 Remington, 5.56mm or perhaps the AK-47’s 7.62x39mm.

I don’t care, mainly because I’m all about celebrating diversity.

To me, the 300 AAC Blackout is a fascinating caliber on it’s own merit. It doesn’t have to be better than any other round. Deciding whether it’s good or not by comparing it to the .223 Remington is like comparing the .357 Magnum to the .44 Special. What’s better?

Neither – they’re just different. And I would include a lot of “quotes” around the “better” part. What’s the purpose? How are you going to use it? What do you like? What gun are you going to shoot?

There’s no universal “better” or “worse” when it comes to caliber comparisons, there are only apples and oranges. As far as I’m concerned, it’s good enough that it’s radically different.

Ballistic Diversity
What puffs up my bloomers about the Blackout is the huge ballistic range from the same carbine, short barrel rifle, or AR platform pistol.

  • You can launch a 110 grain bullet at 2,400 feet per second.
  • You can also launch a 240 grain bullet at 1,000 feet per second.
  • You can do all sorts of things in between, like move a 125 grain projectile at 2,200 feet per second. Or a 150 grain bullet at 2,000 feet per second. Or a 168 grain at 1,700 feet per second. You get the idea.

Note how the ribs in the magazine index on the case mouth for the .223 rounds on in the bottom magazine. The projectiles on 300 Blackout cartridges will most likely touch the ribs, so you may need to experiment a bit.

It’s an interesting caliber that allows one to do a lot of customization for the job at hand.

Read the rest at: http://www.ammoland.com/2014/04/300-aac-blackout-caliber/#ixzz2yxxjSaLw

Winchester Ammunition’s Long Beard XR: Turkey Hunting or Home Defense?

Note how the shot column is standing on it's own as a result of the "shot lock" resin.

Winchester Ammunition Long Beard XR: Note how the shot column is standing on it’s own as a result of the “shot lock” resin.

While at the professional outdoor media conference range day I had the opportunity to check out some new shot shell loads from Winchester Ammunition. Winchester’s Long Beard XR is designed to create a tighter pattern at longer distances, resulting in twice the number of pellets in a 10 inch circle at distances up to 60 yards, according to the company.

Here’s what’s interesting about Winchester Long Beard XR: It uses a “shot lock” resin to bond all of the shot pellets together into a solid plug. As the load is fired, the resin disintegrates and turns to dust, leaving the shot pellets to fly on their own. The purpose isn’t that the pellets are bonded together in flight but rather that there’s no airspace between pellets at lift-off time.

This is a target set at 60 yards. While the point of aim is a bit off the neck and head, note the density of the shot pattern in the body.

This is a target set at 60 yards. While the point of aim is a bit off the neck and head, note the density of the shot pattern in the body.

In a normal shot shell the pellets are just piled on top of each other and only held in place by the wad and walls of the shot shell. When you fire it, the pellets get all smashed around as they are pushed to supersonic velocity from a standstill. This somewhat violent process creates mis-shaped pellets. Pellets flying out of round tend to spread out more rapidly, thereby creating a larger pattern. Because physics and aerodynamics.

The shot lock resin fills the air space, so the sudden acceleration doesn’t create a mashing effect. The pellets don’t get all squashed and therefore fly straighter in a tighter pattern.

So what happens when the pellets stay round?

The Winchester Ammunition folks set up targets at ranges of 25, 50 and even 60 yards. As you can see the patterns were perfectly usable for turkey hunting all the way up to 60 yards.

Winchester Ammunition Long Beard XR was designed for turkey hunters and is currently available in 12 gauge shot sizes of 4, 5 and 6.

I have to think this might also make an interesting home defense load for those concerned about over penetration inside. The 4, 5 and 6 shot sizes could help the penetration issue, while a tighter pattern might reduce risk of stray pellets. I’ll test this out against simulated walls soon and share the results.

You can find Winchester Ammunition Long Beard XR at Cabelas.

Ammo Review: Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP +P 200 Grain

Since it’s the giving season, I decided to bring a pile of different ammo types to the range for some quick and dirty testing. Ammo makes great gunny gifts by the way. In these times of scarcity, your giftee will know you worked for it!

First up is a .45 ACP load I had high hopes for – the Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP +P 200 Grain hollow point.

The Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP +P 200 Grain load still offers weight, but with more velocity.

The Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP +P 200 Grain load still offers weight, but with more velocity.

Speer Gold Dot ammunition features bonded construction, meaning the lead core is surrounded by a chemically “stapled-on” jacket. This means two things. First, the jacket and inner core stay together which helps penetration. Second, expansion is almost always even and predictable. You can shoot most any Speer Gold Dot ammo into water or ballistic gelatin and it will expand perfectly. Where things get a little weird is when bullets have to pass through barriers – especially heavy clothing. Any type of hollow point ammo can clog up and inhibit expansion.

I was keen to try this .45 ACP 200 grain +P load because I’ve had mixed success with standard pressure .45 ACP 230 grain hollow points when exposed to heavy clothing barriers. The lower velocity of the full 230 grain projectiles tends to make expansion an iffy proposition. This load is not only lighter, and therefore can be loaded to faster velocity, it’s a +P load which gives it a little more energy boost.

I measured the velocity of this ammunition at an average of 1,047.7 feet per second with a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph placed 15 feet from the muzzle. Not shabby at all for a .45 load, right?

To provide some challenge to test expansion, I shot through two layers of thick leather and four layers of fabric. Two out of three projectiles expanded properly. The third got all cloggified with leather and barely started to expand. The largest expansion measured .748 inches in across – nearly 1.7 times original diameter.

The loads shot to point of aim and recoil was not perceptibly different than the 185 grain loads I normally shoot.

If you’re looking for a little extra zip for more predictable expansion performance, check out the Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP +P 200 Grain load. It’s still heavy, but a couple hundred feet per second faster than a standard pressure 230 grain alternative.

Nice ammo

Choosing Ammunition for the Springfield Armory XD-S & Other Short Barrel Handguns

The performance of any gun is only as good as the ammunition you put into it. And I’m not just talking about using any quality self-defense ammunition.

One of the reasons that 9mm guns are more effective today than ever before is the performance of modern 9mm ammunition. Of course, improvements are not limited to 9mm – .45 ACP performance, at it’s lower velocity, is also in a golden age.

How do you choose ammunition for short-barrel pocket guns like these Springfield Armory XD-S pistols?

How do you choose ammunition for short-barrel pocket guns like these Springfield Armory XD-S pistols?

Before we talk about some great ammunition options for the Springfield Armory XD-S, we need to spend a minute discussing bullet design.

Modern self-defense expanding ammunition considers opposing factors to gain the best overall performance – penetration and expansion. Both of these attributes are impacted by velocity. More velocity tends to drive expansion at a faster rate. At any given velocity, a bullet can expand less rapidly and penetrate more, or expand more rapidly and penetrate less. It’s kind of like diving into a pool. If you enter the water vertically, with your hands pointed in front of you like an olympic diver, you’ll go deeper. If you jump off the board and do a spectacular belly flop, you won’t go very deep, although you may wish you would quietly sink to the bottom, thereby ending your misery.

When ammunition companies design a specific round, say a 9mm, they will create a bullet that will travel a certain depth into standardized ballistic gelatin at an expected average velocity for the caliber in an “average” gun. So, as an example, ACME Road Runner Blaster 9mm ammo might be expected to fire at 1,150 feet per second from something like a Glock 17. ACME might design the bullet to penetrate somewhere in the 10 to 14 inch range while expanding fully.

Why all this diversion into ammunition design? Here’s why. While there are numerous ifs and caveats, the shorter a handgun barrel is, the lower the velocity of any given bullet. A rule of thumb is that a handgun will generate 50 feet per second less velocity for each inch lost in barrel length. The Springfield Armory XD-S has a 3.3 inch barrel, so when compared to a full size gun with a 5 inch barrel, you might see velocity for any given ammunition reduced by as much as 80 to 100 feet per second. So, when fired from a shorter barrel, a bullet designed to expand properly at 1,100 feet per second may not expand at all when traveling at 1,000 feet per second. Conversely, a bullet designed to expand properly at 1,000 feet per second may over-expand, and not penetrate enough, when fired at 1,100 feet per second. Is this bad? No, just different.

With the huge popularity of compact pistols similar to the XD-S, some ammunition companies, like Speer have designed ammunition optimized for proper performance in shorter barrels. For example, rather than designing a bullet to expand at a desired rate when traveling 1,100 feet per second, they design bullets to expand at the desired rate when traveling at 1,000 feet per second.

What does all this mean? It’s not enough to just buy any old self-defense ammunition off the shelf. You need to carefully choose your ammunition, considering the gun you’re buying it for. In my testing, I’ve found that Speer’s Short Barrel ammunition line is an outstanding option for guns like the Springfield Armory XD-S. Let’s take a look.

Speer Gold Dot 9mm 124 grain Short Barrel Hollow Point

I wanted to test multiple Speer Short Barrel loads, in multiple calibers, from the same gun. The Springfield Armory XD-S presented the perfect opportunity. Except for caliber, capacity and a very slight weight difference, the .45 ACP and 9mm XD-S are identical.

Almost any bullet will expand almost every time if you just shoot it into water, gelatin or even soaking wet newspaper. As I care about at least trying to replicate some degree of real-world performance, I always shoot through some type of barrier like layers of clothing.

For the Speer Gold Dot 9mm Short Barrel test, I got somewhat cranky and put two layers of leather and four layers of fabric in front of my super-duper sophisticated soaking newsprint bullet catcher. That’s a pretty tough barrier, but when you consider things like jackets and coats in cold weather environments, it’s more realistic than nothing.

The Speer Gold Dot 9mm Short Barrel load performed perfectly with this 9mm XD-S. Expansion was perfect after passing through two layers of leather and 4 layers of fabric.

The Speer Gold Dot 9mm Short Barrel load performed perfectly with this 9mm XD-S. Expansion was perfect after passing through two layers of leather and 4 layers of fabric.

As you can see from the photo, the projectiles expanded perfectly – even with the leather and fabric barrier. Being a bonded design, where the jacket of the projectile is chemically bonded to the interior lead core, none of the bullets came apart. Just what you want.

Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP 230 grain Short Barrel Hollow Point

I’ve found that full weight .45 ACP ammunition is tricky when it comes to expansion. Given the “standard” velocity of a 230 grain .45 ACP projectile at somewhere in the neighborhood of 850 to 900 feet per second, expansion is tough. Every few feet per second of velocity matters when you want the metals in a projectile to spread apart as it travels through tissue. Of course, lots of folks don’t really care as the .45 ACP is a large and heavy bullet even when it doesn’t expand.

But hey, we’ve got modern ammunition technology at our disposal, so I tend to favor ammunition that expands anyway – big .45 bullet or not.

These Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP 230 grain Short Barrel bullets were shot from an XD-S through four layers of denim and still expanded properly.

These Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP 230 grain Short Barrel bullets were shot from an XD-S through four layers of denim and still expanded properly.

The Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP 230 grain Short Barrel hollow point has advertised velocity of 820 feet per second out of a three-inch barrel gun. The difference is that the projectile itself is designed to expand with less velocity. I fired the bullets shown here through four layers of denim into a big bucket of thoroughly soaked newsprint. As you can see, expansion was right on target. Pun intended. Like all other Gold Dot projectiles, these bullets are bonded so they stay together except under the most extreme circumstances.

Other Ammunition Options

I test a lot of ammunition and continue to be a big fan of most Speer Gold Dot loads, because they work. I’m especially impressed with the Short Barrel offerings based on how they perform in the Springfield Armory XD-S.

With that said, there are plenty of other options out there. Generally speaking, in a gun with a short barrel like the XD-S, I would personally choose a lighter weight .45 ACP bullet in the 160 to 185 grain range. Why? Velocity. All else equal, a lighter weight bullet is easier to push faster. As we discussed earlier in this chapter, velocity aids expansion. So, in theory, a 160 to 185 grain bullet, moving faster, is more likely to expand when shot from a short barrel gun like the XD-S.

We’re entering opinion territory here and I’m just sharing my personal preference based on the testing I’ve done. Non-expanding, full metal jacket .45 ACP ammunition has performed well for over a century, so you may not care whether your particular choice of bullet is an easy expander or not. That’s OK. My goal here is to help you make a more informed decision, as all ammunition is not the same.

This article is an excerpt from our soon to be released Rookie’s Guide to the Springfield Armory XD-S. Be sure to check out The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition. It’s available in print and Kindle format at Amazon:

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

Shooting Gelatinous Pig Juice With Mike McNett Of DoubleTap Ammunition

The slimiest part of our agenda at the recent Gunsite Academy event hosted by LaserMax was a ballistic testing demonstration by Mike McNett, founder of DoubleTap Ammunition.

Mike brought along some standardized 14 inch long gelatin blocks for destruction testing with a variety of DoubleTap loads, most of which use the Barnes TAC-XP all copper projectiles. I’ve had really good experience with these in my own testing. They expand reliably, and being solid copper, they don’t come apart when passing through barriers.

Mike arranges two 14 inch blocks end to end. As you'll see, some of the loads penetrated well into the second block.

Mike arranges two 14 inch blocks end to end. As you’ll see, some of the loads penetrated well into the second block.

First up on the agenda was a 10mm load using the Barnes TAC-XP bullet. The 125 grain projectile hums along at 1,600 feet per second out of a five-inch pistol barrel.

The DoubleTap 10mm TAC-XP load uses a light for caliber 160 grain projectile.

The DoubleTap 10mm TAC-XP load uses a light for caliber 125 grain projectile.

As you can see, penetration is excellent, even with the 125 grain bullet. The TAC-XP passed completely through the first 14 inch block, bounced against the second and fell to the table between the two.

Penetration of the 125 grain 10mm load was exactly 14 inches.

Penetration of the 125 grain 10mm load was exactly 14 inches.

After starting off with a bang, we moved to the other end of the spectrum and shot a .380 ACP loaded with a Bonded Defense projectile. DoubleTap uses Speer Gold Dot projectiles in their Bonded Defense line, so you can expect great expansion performance and no bullet jacket separation issues.

The 90 grain Bonded Defense .380 ACP bullet performed as advertised.

The 90 grain Bonded Defense .380 ACP bullet performed as advertised.

One of the more unusual rounds tested was the DoubleTap 9m+P Equalizer. This round features a total projectile weight of 165 grains, but is comprised of two distinct bullets – a jacketed hollow point designed to expand at lower velocities and a solid wadcutter with sharp edges. The hollow point is stacked on the top in front of the wadcutter, so both fire at the same time. From a range of about 20 feet, both projectiles hit the gelatin block within an inch of each other. Once in the gel, they followed completely separate tracks with the jacketed bullet traveling about 22 inches (it didn’t expand) and the wadcutter penetrating about 10 inches.

The ultimate DoubleTap? Two projectiles with each shot of this 9mm +P load.

The ultimate DoubleTap? Two projectiles with each shot of this 9mm +P load.

DoubleTap likes to use Barnes TAC-XP projectiles in many of its products for good reason. The solid copper projectiles penetrate deeply without fragmenting and deliver great expansion results, even after passing through barriers. The 110 grain .38 Special +P load still achieves over 1,100 feet per second velocity from the shortest barrel snub-nose revolver.

This .38 Special +P load was comfortable to shoot from a snubby, yet delivered excellent penetration and expansion.

This .38 Special +P load was comfortable to shoot from a snubby, yet delivered excellent penetration and expansion.

Another less traditional load tested was the “Mann” load named after Richard Mann. A standard pressure .45 ACP load, it uses a 160 grain Barnes TAC-XP bullet that exceeds 1,000 feet per second from a Government model 1911.

The Mann .45 ACP load penetrated almost 16 inches into ballistic gelatin.

The Mann .45 ACP load penetrated almost 16 inches into ballistic gelatin.

Velocity rules with hollow point projectiles. A .40 S&W 155 grain Bonded Defense load achieved absolute maximum expansion with velocity over 1,200 feet per second.

Bullets don't expand much more than this DoubleTap .40 S&W 155 grain Bonded Defense offering.

Bullets don’t expand much more than this DoubleTap .40 S&W 155 grain Bonded Defense offering.

To finish things up, we talked Gunsite Range Master Ed Head into launching a beast of a .500 S&W DoubleTap load at the pig juice. The 275 grain Barnes TAC-XP bullet hit at somewhere in the 1,600 feet per second range and literally knocked the first gelatin block into the air. When Ed regained feeling in his hands, we measured final penetration right at 20 inches. Yes, it was dramatic.

A 275 grain .500 S&W monster. I think it expanded to a diameter of about three and a half feet.

A 275 grain .500 S&W monster. I think it expanded to a diameter of about three and a half feet.

Not exactly a pocket gun solution...

Not exactly a pocket gun solution…

You can find more information at DoubleTap’s website.

Do You Suffer From A Short Barrel? Try Speer Gold Dot 9mm +P 124 Grain SB!

Look, it’s OK. If you have a short barrel, you need to compensate. The sooner you face that fact, the happier you’ll be. My barrel is about 3 1/2 inches and I’ve learned to deal with it.

But just because your barrel is short, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to achieve great performance. Time after time after time. You’ll be popular, good-looking and fun-loving. Just like in the commercials.

Actually, I have several short barrels. I have a Springfield Armory XD-S. I’ve got a Springfield Armory EMP. And I’ve got a Glock 26. The longest of the bunch is about 3 1/2 inches.

Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel ammunition is designed for guns with 3 1/2 inch or shorter barrels, like this Springfield Armory XD-S

Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel ammunition is designed for guns with 3 1/2 inch or shorter barrels, like this Springfield Armory XD-S

Why the big fuss about the length of your barrel? Shorter barrels mean lower velocity. Modern self-defense handgun bullets are carefully designed to operate within very specific velocity parameters. Designers need to ensure that hollow-point projectiles will expand, but not over-expand. They need to penetrate, but not over or under-penetrate. All of this delicate balance is designed for an expected velocity range.

if your barrel is shorter than average, your bullet is going to travel at lower velocity. There are 362,176 different factors at play, but you can assume that losing an inch of barrel length will reduce your expected velocity by 20 to 80 feet per second in a handgun. That’s a big rule of thumb, so don’t hold me to the specific numbers in every case. Just know that the velocity of a given projectile from a five-inch barrel is going to be more than the speed of the same bullet fired from a three-inch barrel.

The engineers at Speer have addressed this challenge by designing special loads for compact guns with shorter barrels. The projectiles are designed to expand properly and consistently at lower velocities. So, when you use Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel ammunition in guns with 3 1/2 inch barrels or shorter, you’re going to get proper expansion.

But beware of too much of a good thing. If you use these rounds in full-sized guns, they’ll work. But they will over-expand and therefore under-penetrate. That’s why Speer makes many Gold Dot loads for both standard and short barrel guns.

We tested the Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 9mm +P 124 grain bonded hollow point load in a variety of barrel-challenged pistols and found expansion performance to be excellent. Fired from a 3.3 inch barrel Springfield Armory XD-S through two layers of heavy leather and four layers of fabric, all projectiles expanded properly. None suffered from the “clog up and fail to expand syndrome.”

Bullet expansion performance, even through tough barriers, was excellent.

Bullet expansion performance, even through tough barriers, was excellent.

We tested velocity using our Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph placed 15 feet downrange with this load fired from a Springfield Armory EMP 9mm. The EMP has an even shorter barrel than the XD-S at 3 inches even. Average velocity worked out to 1,159 feet per second.

This load performed exactly as advertised, so do yourself a favor. If you suffer from a short barrel, just admit it, and use the right tools for the job. You’ll be more satisfied.

Ammo Test: Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 155 Grain Self-Defense Ammunition

One thing I’ve found testing thousands of rounds of ammunition through a wide variety of traditional, and sometimes non-traditional, targets is that you can’t generalize. Broad generalizations just don’t hold up. I mean, there’s the obvious exception of Justin Bieber – ALL of his songs are roughly comparable to pre-gelatinized narwhal poop, but in most other things, you need to evaluate each and every unique circumstance independently.

It’s the same with ammunition. You can just say Brand X is a good performer in each caliber and each specific loading within a caliber. So the 9mm ++P+++ 124 grain load of Fire-Breathing Death Harpoon Ammo expands every single time, but does the .380 90 grain load of that same brand perform as it should? Not necessarily. You need to test your desired carry load, in your specific gun to know how it performs.

So, even though I’ve had great success with all of the Speer Gold Dot loads tested to date, I’m gradually working my way through the product line to try them all.

Speer Gold Dot 40 SW 155 grain self-defense ammo

Expansion performance of the Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 155 grain load was excellent and velocity was just as expected.

Recently I spent some quality time with the Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 155 grain load. At the lighter end of the .40 caliber spectrum, I expected to get some serious velocity out of this one. And with expanding hollow point ammo, velocity is king when it comes to consistent expansion performance.

Standout features of the Speer Gold Dots include a bonded-core construction and a two-stage hollow point cavity construction. Bonded-core construction “melds” the copper jacket and lead core so they are not two separate layers. This allows the projectiles to stay together regardless of barriers encountered. Penetration is boringly consistent as almost all projectile weight is retained. The two-stage hollow point core construction process allows the gurus at Speer to control both diameter and rate of expansion. Basically, they can match projectile performance to caliber and expected real-world velocity.

Speer Gold Dot 40 SW 155 grain

That black stuff in the hollow point core is leather. So the projectile got completely clogged, yet still expanded perfectly.

I shot a bunch of this out of a Beretta PX4 Storm. The PX4 Storm full-size model features a 4.0″ barrel, so I expected measured velocity to approach, but not quite meet the factory specs.

First I checked actual velocity out of the Beretta PX4 Storm. Using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph placed 15 feet downrange, I clocked the Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 155 grain load at an average of 1,169 feet per second, or just over 30 feet per second below the factory spec of 1,200 feet per second. This works out just about right assuming the factory tests velocity using a standard 5″ test barrel. That extra inch should easily account for 30 feet per second velocity improvement. So, doing a little serious math, the actual energy of this load, out of my Beretta PX4, works out to 470 foot-pounds actual measured energy. This compared to 496 on the Speer Gold Dot website.

I also wanted to get an indication of expansion performance when projectiles were shot through common and expected barriers for self-defense situations. I set up two layers of leather and 4 layers of light canvas in front of a pile-o-wetpack – a fancy word for soaking wet newspaper. I snapped photos of a few representative samples, but every single projectile demonstrated excellent expansion performance. This has been a consistent observation with the Speer Gold Dot line. The bonded projectiles don’t seem to suffer from heavy material barriers. The three projectiles in the photo measured .583, .685 and .652 inches in diameter after expansion. Not too shabby.

Like the other Speer Gold Dot loads we’ve tested so far, this is excellent self-defense ammunition.

You can get it at Brownells

Cci/Speer Cci/Speer Gold Dot Handgun Ammunition
Loading…

Ammo Test: Winchester PDX1 Defender .38 Special +P 130 Grain

When I lug my ammunition testing setup to the range, I get more strange looks than Michael Bloomberg lactating at a Mayors Against Legal Governing (MALG) press conference.

That’s because I bring a couple of now-perforated trash cans full of soaking wet newspaper, some old boots and a bunch of discarded clothing. Shooting into water or plain ballistic gelatin doesn’t tell too much about bullet performance after it has passed through real-world barriers. So I assemble a suitable range wardrobe.

Recently, I brought 1/2 of a fully stocked thrift store to the range to test the Winchester PDX1 Defender .38 Special +P 130 grain self-defense load.

Winchester's PDX1 Defender .38 Special +P self-defense load.

Winchester’s PDX1 Defender .38 Special +P self-defense load.

This load is solid for .38 Special handguns, but also makes a good option for .357 revolvers. Some folks like to shoot .38 Special loads out of sturdier .357 revolvers for less recoil and wear and tear on the gun. Of course, the option is always there to load 357 Magnum cartridges whenever you like.

Velocity

Considering that this load uses 130 grain projectiles, velocity was appropriate. I tested it from a Ruger LCR .357 Magnum revolver, which features a 1.875 inch barrel. That’s shorter than NY Governor Cuomo’s debate on the SAFE Act! Using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph, I measured a bunch of shots with the chrony placed 15 feet down range. The average of the Winchester PDX1 Defender 130 grain load worked out to 903 feet per second. Not too shabby, and enough for pretty reliable expansion.

Winchester PDX1 Defender .38 Special +P Expansion Performance

I shot another pile of these bullets into a pretty tough target to get an indication of expansion performance. While anything will expand if you shoot it into ballistic gelatin, things start to get crazy when you shoot through real-life barriers like leather and fabric clothing. To put it to the test, I shot through two layers of leather and 4 layers of light canvas. Not counting anything hard that might get in the way, this starts to approach a worst case heavy clothing scenario.

Winchester PDX1 38 Special +P

Expansion was good overall. Throughout testing over 75% of projectiles expanded properly.

I shot everything through the leather and canvas barrier into a deep container of wet pack. That’s a fancy word for soaking-wet newspaper. As you can see by the photo, most projectiles displayed good expansion. About 1/4 of the time, one would slip through with minimal or no expansion. That’s not a big surprise given .38 Special velocities out of a short-barrel revolver.

Closing Arguments

This was a good load. After testing thousands of self-defense rounds, in virtually all pistol calibers, I’ve become a big fan of bonded bullet designs. I’ve yet to encounter a quality bonded bullet that came apart while passing through a tough target. Like jacketed designs, expansion is always measured in probability, not certainty, but overall, bonded bullets have proven to be solid performers.

Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

You can find Winchester PDX1 Defender Self Defense Ammunition at Brownells

Ammo Review: Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 180 Grain Hollow Point

Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 180 Grain Hollow Point Ammunition

It’s a good thing these Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 180 grain self-defense rounds don’t have dystychiphobia. That’s fear of accidents.

Speer Gold Dot 40 S&W 180 grain ammunition

Speer Gold Dot 40 S&W 180 grain ammunition

I say this because in our testing we had a high-speed wreck. One of our projectiles crashed right into the back of another during the expansion testing phase. We’re going to attribute this to our truly amazing shooting skills, and not just random chance.

No worries though. No animals were harmed in this crash testing and the crash test dummy can probably be salvaged.

Just the facts

All Speer Gold Dot ammunition features a bonded core projectile design – more on that later.

What’s interesting about Speer Gold Dot design is that projectiles are optimized for caliber and anticipated velocity. The idea is to make the projectile “soft” enough to expand properly, but no so “soft” that it over expands and comes apart or suffers in terms of penetration performance. This is evident in the Speer Short Barrel product line, where projectiles are designed to expand at lower velocity, but it also becomes apparent with more subtle projectile differences – as in the 180 grain versus 155 grain .40 S&W loads. We’ll be publishing some results on the 155 grain loading in the near future.

Cases are nickel-plated for high visibility and corrosion resistance. You’ll notice the shiny silver case is easier to see when checking chamber status – especially in lower indoor lighting conditions.

Speer Gold Dots use CCI primers that are non-corrosive and non-mercuric. No worries about barrel corrosion or cleaning with Windex.

No dieting zone

One of the biggest benefits of the Speer Gold Dot design is the Uni-Cor bonding technology used to literally fuse the lead core with the outer jacket. This is done to prevent the jacket from separating upon impact. If the jacket separates, weight is shed from the projectile and penetration can suffer.

The rounds we tested for expansion had a fairly rough time of things – passing through 4 layers of light canvas and two layers of fabric. After that, they entered a big pile of wet BS. To be more specific, we took a bunch of old New York Times newspapers and thoroughly soaked them for an expansion testing medium. As indicated by the photos, all of the tested rounds expanded as expected. We’ve come to expect this from Speer Gold Dots. But even we were surprised at the expansion performance demonstrated by the heavier weight, and lower velocity, 180 grain loads. All of the loads tested exceeded 150% expansion with final diameters measuring over .65″ in each example.

Just to check the real performance of the bonded projectile design, we weighed several of the expanded projectiles to see how much they lost from the original 18 grains:

178.3 grains

177.3 grains

179.7 grains

179.9 grains

And the one that slammed into the back of another bullet at 1,000 feet per second? Its post-collision weight was 179.4 grains.

Velocity

Speer Gold Dot 40 SW 180gr crashed

This one crashed right into the back of another bullet – and still didn’t come apart.

The Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 180 grain load is factory rated to achieve 1,025 feet per second, measured at the muzzle. We tested this load with a Beretta PX4 Storm .40 S&W. This particular gun features a 4″ barrel, so one would expect actual velocity to be a tad less than stated on the box. Assuming the manufacturer obtains rated velocity from a full length test barrel.

We went to the range and measured velocity 15 feet from the muzzle using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master chronograph. Taking the average of a bunch of shots, all from the Beretta PX4, we observed an average actual  velocity downrange of 1,018 feet per second. Not bad at all considering the slightly shorter barrel and the fact that our chronograph was 15 feet from the muzzle.

Our Rating

4 Nuns Four Nuns! Even for Speer Gold Dots, we were a little surprised at the consistent expansion performance with this load. When velocities start to get near 1,000 feet per second or lower, we’ve seen a lot of hollow point rounds get a little inconsistent with expansion performance. But not this one.
Available Here Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 180 Grain Ammunition

 

Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

Ammo Review: Speer Gold Dot .357 Sig 125 Grain Bonded Hollow Point Ammunition

Speer Gold Dot .357 Sig 125 Grain Bonded Hollow Point Ammunition

Speer Gold Dot 357 Sig ammo Glock 32

A great carry combination: Speer Gold Dot .357 Sig and a Glock 32

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of the .357 Sig cartridge around here. We’ve had a lot of fun and learned a few things while checking out the Glock 31 Gen 4 and Glock 32 Gen 3. So we jumped on the opportunity to do some testing with Speer’s Gold Dot .357 Sig 125 grain bonded hollow point ammunition.

We like the .357 Sig cartridge for a lot of reasons, one of which is the dramatic bullet expansion performance. In our tinkering and testing, we’ve observed that even a 100 foot per second velocity increase is a big deal when it comes to reliable bullet expansion – assuming all other factors are equal. And with the .357 Sig cartridge, it’s fairly easy to get an extra 100 feet per second, or more, over a roughly equivalent 9mm load.

Truth be told, it’s also fun to plink at 100 yard targets with barely, if any, holdover. While one may need to knock off the caffeine for a day or so to eliminate the shakes, plinking at 100 yards with the .357 Sig is surprisingly easy as you don’t have to account for “lob effect.”

If you’re a law enforcement or security professional, you might appreciate the penetration performance of the .357 Sig through things like auto glass, car bodies, etc. With a proper bullet design, expansion will still be reliable post-barrier.

Let’s take a look at what we found with this load:

The Speer Gold Dot features Uni-Cor jacket bonding technology. This means that the lead core is electro-magically melded together with the outer jacket material. Without going into serious engineering topics, it’s the same bonding process that keeps the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the nearest television microphone nearly inseparable. Got it?

From a Glock 31, with its 4.48″ long barrel, we measured average velocity of 1,405.7 feet per second. That was here in the deep south, on an 80 degree day. We measured velocity 15 feet from the muzzle using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master setup, which has only been shot a few times – and none of those were our fault! But it still works just fine thank you. As a side note, it was a really good design move on Shooting Chrony’s part to put the expensive “brains parts” of the chronograph at the end of a long extension cord – far away from where the bullets fly. Just saying.

Back to the Gold Dot testing.

Speer Gold Dot 357 Sig expansion

Expansion performance was excellent – and almost boringly consistent.

To check out expansion performance, we went all bumpkin and used four layers of light canvas, two layers of cotton material and a bodaciously big bucket of wet pack since we’re too cheap to invest in proper ballistic gel. For those who don’t know, wet pack simply refers to newsprint that has been thoroughly soaked into eternal sogginess. Sort of like Al Gore’s handshake. And yes, just in case you’re wondering, it feel really gross to dig bullets out of wet pack. In fairness, wet pack has proven to be a half decent standby, although admittedly less consistent, for ballistic gel since it was invented by Gutenberg just after he finished his work with that printing press thing.

As you can see by the included photographs, expansion was boringly consistent with this load. Every single projectile we launched through the six total layers of fabric and into last week’s water-logged New York Times expanded perfectly. We’ve seen this result from the same load shot from a 4 inch barreled Glock 32 also. It just works.

In addition to consistent bullet expansion performance, the bonded design of the Gold Dot means that the projectile stays together, regardless of barrier encountered. While you might see an expanded petal break off once in a while, these bullets almost always stay intact, which leads to more consistent penetration performance.

The Speer Gold Dot .357 Sig has proven to be a great load and it’s our standard carry choice in both the Glock 31 and Glock 32.

Highly recommended!

Available Here Speer Gold Dot .357 Sig 125 grain Personal Protection Ammunition

Legal Disclosures about articles on My Gun Culture