New Bullets from PolyCase Ammunition

New 9mm Firefly tracer ammunition (left) and ARX self-defense ammunition (right)

New 9mm Firefly tracer ammunition (left) and ARX self-defense ammunition (right)

Remember PolyCase Ammunition? They’re the folks that developed disposable polymer cases for a variety of rifle and pistol cartridges. When the great ammunition crunch of 2013 hit, PolyCase, like other ammunition manufacturers, had trouble obtaining the components to load cartridges in the polymer cases. Turning frustration into opportunity, the PolyCase team set about inventing their own projectiles. Like their previous work with breakthrough innovation, they’ve figure out how to make projectiles using injection molding techniques. Using a blend of 10% polymer and 90% copper, they create practice, self-defense and tracer projectiles by molding them from liquid goo. According to the company, accuracy is improved as the molding process avoids traditional challenges of weight variation and concentricity anomalies.

The groundbreaking concept behind this it that PolyCase can make the projectiles into virtually any shape they want as the injection molding process is not limited by traditional stamping techniques. The Inceptor ARX self-defense projectile resembles a drill bit and is designed to provide directional and rotational energy transfer to the target. The light weight, lead-free projectiles still penetrate to FBI standards as they are not designed to expand in the traditional sense.

For more information, visit PolyCase Ammunition.

Photo Gallery: Sig Sauer P226 Elite Single Action Only

Like the feel and capacity of the Sig Sauer but can’t get used to that single / double action? Check out the single action only P226 Elite in 9mm…

Sig Sauer’s P226 Elite SAO: Love Child of the 1911 and P226?


Notice something different about this Sig P226? No decocking lever, and it's got a safety.

Notice something different about this Sig P226? No decocking lever, and it’s got a safety.

There’s no doubt about the Sig P226’s status as a reliable and quality handgun. After all, hard-core gun users like Navy Seals and Texas Rangers use the P226, or in the military’s case, the MK25. Like most of the other Sig Sauer “P” models, the standard P226 is a hammer-fired, double / single action design. The first shot requires a 10-pound trigger pull to cock the hammer and break the shot. Subsequent shots only require about 4 ½ pounds of trigger pressure as the hammer is cocked from the semi-automatic action. Also, “standard” P226’s are available in multiple calibers: 9mm, .40 S&W and .357 Sig.

The safety is ambidextrous and equal size and shape on both sides.

The safety is ambidextrous and equal size and shape on both sides.

Here’s what’s different about the Sig Sauer P226 Elite SAO. As you might surmise from the name, it’s a single action only design. It’s kind of like the love child of the 1911 and a Sig P226 Enhanced Elite model. If you’re not familiar with the Sig E2 (Enhanced Elite) concept, it’s an improved grip design that reduced reach to the trigger while offering a full, and very rounded, grip profile. Also, the SAO model is only available in 9mm at this time.

Let’s take a closer look.

The Sig Sauer P226 Elite SAO comes with two 15-round magazines. It’s packed in a foam-lined hard plastic case that has two holes for padlocks if you want to lock it up for travel. Sig also includes a cable gun lock so you can store your pistol safely when not in use.

The E2 grip profile makes this gun particularly shootable. The "wraparound" grips are actually two pieces that fit together.

The E2 grip profile makes this gun particularly shootable. The “wraparound” grips are actually two pieces that fit together.

The P226 is a full-size gun. It’s 8.2 inches long and 5.5 inches high. At its widest point, width measures 1.6 inches. The barrel itself is 4.4 inches. Overall weight with an empty magazine in place is 34.4 ounces.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Be sure to check out Tom’s latest books! They are ON SALE now for a limited time!

Ammo Review: Winchester Ammunition Train and Defend

Two varieties of the same ammo: one for practice, the other for self defense.

Two varieties of the same ammo: one for practice, the other for self defense.

When it comes to designing ammo, many of the objectives conflict with each other – you can’t have them all. For example, perfect ammunition would have all of the following:

  • Low recoil
  • Low blast and muzzle flash
  • Low noise
  • Reliable expansion, even after passing through tough barriers like 10 copies of the New York Times Sunday edition
  • Deep penetration
  • No over penetration
  • High velocity
  • Weight retention
  • Auto replenishment. Ok, no one has figured that out yet, but I did say “perfect” ammunition, right?

Given that you can’t have combinations like Mach 7 velocity, 4x expansion after passing through Iron Man and no measurable recoil, ammunition manufacturers decide in advance what performance they want and for what purpose the ammunition will be used.

Both 9mm and .40 S&W Defend loads were tested with bare gelatin and multi-layer fabric.

Both 9mm and .40 S&W Defend loads were tested with bare gelatin and multi-layer fabric.

Winchester Ammunition launched its new Train and Defend line with some pretty clear goals. According to the company, Train and Defend is aimed (see what I did there?) at “new shooters interested in training to become more proficient with their personal defense ammunition.”

What does that mean?

First, there are two varieties of the ammo: Train, and, you guessed it, Defend. Both are loaded to yield the same basic performance and feel. If you fire a round of Train ammo, followed by a round of Defend, you won’t be able to tell the difference. This is kind of a big deal.

Winchester Train ammo

Usually, practice ammo is lower powered and, therefore, much more mellow to shoot. When you load a round of full powered self-defense ammo, you’ll feel it. The blast and recoil will be substantial in most cases. Not so with Train and Defend – both rounds feel the same and perform similarly. The Train version is loaded with full metal jacket bullets which result in a much lower cost per round – appropriate for practice. On the street, expect to pay less than half the price of a Defend round for each Train round. It’s easy to identify as it has a big “T” logo on the box.

Winchester Defend ammo

When you’re finished practicing, load your magazines up with Defend. This is what you want for personal protection and home defense applications. The Defend ammo uses bonded projectiles that ensure the bullet stays intact and retain its original weight. The cases are nickel-plated for corrosion resistance and improved feeding. You’ll spot the Defend version by the big “D” logo on the box.

I tested the 9mm Defend load with a Beretta 92FS. Using the SilencerCo Octane suppressor was added fun as this load is subsonic.

I tested the 9mm Defend load with a Beretta 92FS. Using the SilencerCo Octane suppressor was added fun as this load is subsonic.

I got all geeky about how the Train and Defend ammunition is put together and posed some questions to the product manager. Are the Train and Defend Loads identical except for the projectile? Do they use the same powder?

Here are the answers from Winchester:

The Train and Defend loads do not use the same powder and there is a good reason for that. We utilize low-flash powders in our Defend options, because a defensive situation is likely to occur in low-light conditions; it is important that night vision not be impacted due to a bright muzzle flash. HOWEVER, these low flash powders have a tendency to be slightly dirtier burning, so they are not great options for our Train round. We developed Train to be a great high-volume training round so we utilize some of our cleaner burning propellants in these loads. Train would be great for competition, low recoil, 180 grain in 40 S&W will make for a great competition load.



As part of the design goal of Winchester Train and Defend ammunition is to offer lower and more controllable recoil, they’re manufactured to travel at lower velocity. I measured both 9mm and .40 S&W versions using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph placed 15 feet down range.

40 S&W Train, fired from a Glock 22: 885.3 fps
40 S&W Defend, fired from a Glock 22: 907.7 fps
9mm Defend:, fired from a Beretta 92FS: 936.3 fps


I shot both 9mm and .40 S&W loads into Clear Ballistics 6x6x16 inch gelatin blocks. According to the manufacturer, the blocks are calibrated to 10% ballistic gelatin standards as used by the FBI for ammunition testing.

Assuming that penetration of these lower velocity rounds would be less than 16 inches, I only brought one block to the range. You know what they say about assuming right? Exactly. All of the 9mm and .40 S&W rounds tested exited the block and were stopped by my expired Kevlar vest backstop, so the only penetration measurement I can offer is “more than 16 inches.” That’s plenty.

For both 9mm and .40 S&W Defend loads, I fired two scenarios. For the first, I used bare gelatin. For the second, I covered the front of the gel block with the new standard light denim, multi-layer fabric designed to simulate average street clothing layers.

The 9mm projectile surprised me somewhat. Projectiles fired into bare gel and those shot through the test fabric all expanded properly. The bare gelatin bullet expanded to a smaller diameter than the one fired through fabric layers. That might have been caused by gel anomalies or perhaps the lower overall resistance allowed the bullet to travel at higher velocity, thereby pushing back the petals further. I measured expansion of this projectile at 0.535 inches. The projectile fired through the fabric layers expanded to 0.605 inches diameter.

The Defend .40 S&W rounds expanded beautifully in bare gel and after passing through fabric barriers.

The Defend .40 S&W rounds expanded beautifully in bare gel and after passing through fabric barriers.

The .40 S&W Winchester Defend projectiles also expanded properly in both test scenarios. The bare gelatin projectile expanded to 0.690 inches while the projectile fired through fabric layers expanded to 0.685 inches diameter.

In summary, I found this ammo comfortable to shoot and performance matched its design goals. Expansion worked properly after passing through “normal” clothing layers. Winchester Train and Defend ammunition is a great option for newer shooters where the reduced recoil will help keep shots on target and allow for faster and more accurate follow-up shots.

Win A Year’s Worth of Free Ammo!

While the mystery of how the folks at LaserMax managed to find any ammo, much less a one year supply, continues to elude us, the story is true. They’re giving away 5,200 rounds of pistol ammunition. If you win, you get choice of caliber from the following:.22 LR, .380 ACP, 9mm, 38 SPL, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP.

LaserMax ammo giveaway


It’s easy to enter to win your one year supply of free ammo via one of three methods…

Method #1

Click here or scroll down to the bottom of this page, complete, and submit the online entry form. Online entries must be received between 12:00:01 AM Eastern Time (“ET”) on Monday, March 10, 2014 and 11:59:59 PM ET on Friday, June 20, 2014 (the “Sweepstakes Entry Period”). Limit: One (1) online entry per email address per day.

Method #2

LaserMax “Spring Savings” Promotion participants will be automatically entered to win. For complete details about this promotion, visit the rebate promotion page.

Method #3

Mail a handwritten postcard, including your name, complete address, phone number and email address to: LaserMax Spring Sweepstakes, c/o LaserMax, Inc., 3495 Winton Place, Rochester, NY 14623. Each postcard must be mailed separately, must be postmarked during the Sweepstakes Entry Period and received no later than Friday, June 27, 2014. Photocopied, illegible, or mechanically reproduced entries are not eligible. LaserMax is not responsible for lost, late, damaged, misdirected or postage-due mailed entries.

That’t it! Good luck!

What Happens When You Shoot A Bullet Proof Vest? We Test Engarde Body Armor

Did any of these penetrate the Engarde Body Armor? Read on to see...

Did any of these penetrate the Engarde Body Armor? Read on to find out…

Is he a plastic Saddam Hussein or a 1970s Porn Star? We don't know, but either way he's protected with Engarde Body Armor.

Is he a plastic Saddam Hussein or a 1970s Porn Star? We don’t know, but either way he’s protected with Engarde Body Armor.

Did I mention we’re giving away a set of FREE body armor? Thanks to the good folks at Engarde, we are. You can get full contest details here, but in short, it’s simple to win. Just like our Facebook page and you’re entered.

The Engarde folks sent us two sets of body armor. One to give away and the other to shoot to pieces. After all, we wouldn’t want to give our readers any untested gear, right?

Since we couldn’t find any willing, and breathing, human volunteers, we dressed up Plastic Saddam with some Engarde Exterior Body Armor and took him to the range. Most of the folks at our local shooting range thought he was a 1970s era porn star, but we knew he was a bona-fide, genuine, evil dictator that really needed to be shot. Either way, with that hairdo and cheesy mustache, dispensing of him was a service to humanity.

A quick look at Engarde Body Armor

This specific model is similar to the Engarde Patrol. It’s an external setup with soft panels that are inserted into the carrier front and rear. The sides overlap so there is full coverage around the body. The carrier also features external pockets which are sized to house optional ceramic plates for protection against rifle and machine gun rounds. The soft panels included with the system are intended to stop pistol calibers only.

The Dyneema soft panels fill the entire space of the carrier. Soft panels insert via a full-width Velcro closure across the bottom of the vest.

The Dyneema soft panels fill the entire space of the carrier. Soft panels insert via a full-width Velcro closure across the bottom of the vest.

The material inside the panels is genuine Dyneema SB-21. While I didn’t count exactly, there are about 40 layers of Dyneema material in each ballistic soft panel. Each layer of Dyneema feels somewhat like a cross between wax paper and plastic tarp material. It’s got a slick and waxy feel to it with a “crinkly” texture. And it’s very, very lightweight.

This specific product is rated National Institute of Justice (NIJ) IIIa. The simple description of the NIJ IIIa rating is that it’s intended to stop most pistol rounds in calibers ranging from .32 through .44 Magnum. Previous certification definitions like NIJ II would not necessarily stop .357 Sig full metal jacket or hard jacketed .44 magnum rounds.

I won’t go into NIJ specifications here, but levels are carefully documented for different type of projectiles, i.e. full metal jacket, moving at specific maximum velocities.

Strength is achieved via layering. While I didn't count, there must have been at least 50 layers of Dyneema material on each side.

Strength is achieved via layering. While I didn’t count, there must have been about 40 layers of Dyneema material on each side.

The vest we tested is rated for up to four straight-on, zero-degree angle hits per panel and two thirty-degree oblique hits. As I did not want to worry about deflected shots, I only tested zero-degree deflection scenarios, so perfect performance would be defined by four stops per panel.

Did it stop bullets?

For no specific reason other than some weird OCD tendency, I decided to shoot the front of the vest with smaller caliber pistol rounds including .32 ACP, 9mm and .357 Sig. The back vest panel I reserved for the slow and fat heavies like .40 S&W, .45 ACP and .44 Magnum.

After being shot several times, the Engarde vest puffed up like Michael Moore at free pizza night at CiCi's. The layers of Dyneema separate while absorbing energy of the incoming projectiles.

After being shot several times, the Engarde vest puffed up like Michael Moore at free pizza night at CiCi’s. The layers of Dyneema separate while absorbing energy of the incoming projectiles.

Being me, I was a bit curious about two things. First, I wanted to verify the vest met manufacturer claims. Would it stop handgun projectiles in the rated bullet type and velocity parameters? Second, could I exceed those parameters and possibly make it break? And by “break” I mean at what point would a round be able to penetrate the vest?

During the vest destruction, I was careful to move shot placement around so that no two impacts were closer than three or four inches to each other.

So let’s take a closer look at results by ammunition type.

.32 ACP

Just for variety, I shot the vest with three different .32 ACP rounds with a Walther PP: Fiocchi 73 grain full metal jacket, Hornady 60 grain XTP and Cor-Bon 60 grain JHP. I thought perhaps the small diameter round nose of a .32 ACP FMJ might stand a better chance of sneaking through the vest undetected so to speak.

A .32 FMJ (left) and .32 hollow point (right)

A Fiocchi .32 FMJ (left) and Cor-Bon .32 jacketed hollow point (right)

No such luck.

This .32 ACP hollow point flattened to about 20% of its original length. And yes, it stopped immediately on impact - I did not remove any layers of Dyneema in this photo.

This Hornady .32 ACP hollow point flattened to about 20% of its original length. And yes, it stopped immediately on impact – I did not remove any layers of Dyneema in this photo.

The full metal jacket projectile flattened like a spoon, one hollow point somewhat self-destructed and the other flattened to about .125 inches top to bottom. If you’re covered head to toe in this material, and attacked by a horde of Walther PPK wielding evil dudes, you don’t have much to worry about, except bruises.


Since I was feeling ornery, I decided to use 9mm ammunition that was designed to penetrate – Hornady’s Critical Duty. It’s a 135 grain 9mm load that is designed not to expand as easily as the standard Critical Defense load. It’s intended for law enforcement use where barriers like car doors and windshields might be encountered. And it travels at about 1,115 feet per second, so considering the heavier than average weight for 9mm, it’s moving right along. I’ve even tested this load against a giant pile of BS – The New York Times – and it performed superbly. To make sure velocity was up to par, I shot it from a Glock 17 Gen 4.

This Hornady Critical Duty round hit within ½ inch of the edges, yet still was stopped in the first five to eight layers (of 40)

This Hornady Critical Duty round hit within ½ inch of the edge, yet still was stopped in the first five to eight layers (of 40) of Dyneema

Again, no luck. And I noticed something really interesting that would appear a few shots later with the .357 Sig testing. All giddy with excitement and curiosity, I yanked one of my shots a bit off target, so it hit within ½ inch of the right hand side of the vest. I expected the projectile to take the path of least resistance and deflect away from the vest altogether. Contrary to my assumption, the round traveled inwards towards the center of the best and got tangled up in the Dyneema material. It’s almost as if the edge hit encountered more resistance than less.

.357 Sig

Keep in mind, by this point, the front panel had been shot 5 times, or one more than it’s rating. As the panels are shot, the Dyneema sheets start to separate as projectiles dump energy into the vest. As the layers separate, penetration is more likely.

Although I didn’t really plan to be unfair from the start, that’s kind of what happened. Shots six through eight, or double the vests rated capacity, were done with a smoking hot round – the .357 Sig. The projectiles are the same diameter as 9mm at .355 inches, but velocity is cranked way up. The two rounds I shot, Georgia Arms Gold Dot and Winchester PDX1 Defender both use 125 grain bonded projectiles at 1,400 and 1,350 feet per second, respectively. I used a Glock 31 with a 4 ½ inch barrel to get every possible bit of velocity advantage.

The .357 Sig Georgia Arms Gold Dot flattened completely - even though it was the 6th shot at the front vest panel - two over rated capacity.

The .357 Sig Georgia Arms Gold Dot flattened completely – even though it was the 6th shot at the front vest panel – two over rated capacity.

Shot six was the Georgia Arms Gold dot. It flattened completely into a nickel-sized blob of lead. Like the previous projectiles, it was stopped cold in the first ten layers of Dyneema material.

Next up were shots seven and eight, which exactly doubled rated capacity of the vest. These were both Winchester PDX1 Defender .357 Sig rounds. The seventh shot didn’t flatten, but tumbled and got caught up about half way through the vest panel – another complete stop.

The eight shot, or double the rated capacity of the vest, passed through the front panel, but didn't even penetrate the mesh of the back panel. It was clearly out of gas.

The eight shot, or double the rated capacity of the vest, passed through the front panel, but didn’t even penetrate the mesh of the back panel. It was clearly out of gas.

The eight shot found how much punishment the vest could take, as it passed through and was immediately stopped by the back panel. At this point, having absorbed eight hits, the vest was done. It had blimped up to approximately eight inches thick as the panels expanded more and more with each subsequent hit.

As the rated standards call for up to four “straight on” hits, I would certainly say it did it’s job absorbing eight – three of which were from very hot .357 Sig rounds. Now let’s look at the back panel, where I tested the “heavier” and larger caliber rounds.

.40 Smith & Wesson

I had no doubt the Engarde vest would stop a relatively slow 180 grain .40 S&W projectile, so I decided to try a lighter weight and higher velocity round – the Speer Gold Dot 155 grain bonded hollow point. I clocked this specific round at 1,168 feet per second from a Beretta PX4 Storm.

Both the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain FTX .357 Magnum (left) and Speer Gold Dot 155 grain .40 S&W (right) were stopped cold.

Both the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain FTX .357 Magnum (left) and Speer Gold Dot 155 grain .40 S&W (right) were stopped cold.

I’ll let you guess what happened. With the first hit on a fresh Engarde panel, I observed full “splat” with virtually no penetration into the vest.

.357 Magnum

Next up was .357 Magnum shot from a Ruger LCR. I used Hornady’s Critical Defense 125 grain FTX round. As expected, the second shot on the fresh back panel yielded the same result – a flattened bullet caught in the first several layers of material.

.45 ACP

Getting bored by all these stopped bullets, I decided to try a couple of different things. First, I had to try one of my favorite carry loads for my Springfield Armory TRP 1911Remington Golden Saber 185 grain +P. It’s a jacketed hollow point that I’ve choreographed at 1,167 feet per second from this particular pistol.

It penetrated exactly two of the 40 Dyneema layers before flattening completely. Yes, two.

So it was time to try a different option. I recently picked up a box of DoubleTap .45 ACP +P hard cast ammunition. It features a solid lead, semi-wadcutter projectile that’s designed for hunting thick-skinned critters like wild boar. Surely this would do something dramatic right? It was also the fourth shot at the back panel – the last shot within the performance rating of the vest.

Both the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain FTX .357 Magnum (left) and Speer Gold Dot 155 grain .40 S&W (right) were stopped cold.

The DoubleTap 255 grain hard cast and Remington Golden Saber 185 grain +P .45 ACP projectiles.

Well, the 255 grain hard cast projectile did manage to penetrate a bit further. One layer. That one passed through two and stopped at the third, making a small tear in layer three. Only 37 more layers and it would have gone right through.

.44 Magnum

I know, there aren’t many .44 Magnums on the streets, so testing body armor against that isn’t really practical. But it did sound entertaining. So I dug out a box of Magtech 240 grain semi-jacketed soft point ammunition and launched one from a Ruger Super Blackhawk.

.44 Magnum versus Engarde Body Armor

.44 Magnum versus Engarde Body Armor

The result? Yet another deformed bullet, this one caught in the first four layers of the vest’s material. Add “magnum” to the mix and you get one more layer of penetration. Only 36 to go!

Closing Arguments

This was enlightening and a little bit shocking. After shooting each side of the vest, I cut it open to examine the results. As described earlier, the Dyneema material somewhat resembles wax paper. Heavier and stiffer, but not something you would think capable of stopping a bullet. Even though I understand the science behind it, it’s still mind-boggling when you feel how light the panels are.

This vest worked beyond what is advertised. I had to shoot the front panel to double the specification before it failed. The rear panel was shot five times – all with some insanely powerful handgun loads and never failed.

A slew of really messed up bullets.

A slew of really messed up bullets.

There was no deflection. All bullets were caught up in the material and stopped cold. Two shots hit on the very edge of the vest, yet were still trapped.

Watching the target stand and vest “jump” with each shot, I quickly decided I would prefer never to be shot, vest or not. While these have saved hundreds and maybe thousands of lives, getting hit with a supersonic projectile will still leave a mark. Ouch.

The model tested, identical to the one we’re giving away, is a great “emergency” option for civilian use. It slips over your head, outside of your clothing, and can be put on in seconds. Engarde makes lots of other models with some designed to be concealed, so check them out.

Don’t forget, we’re giving an identical set to this one away free! All you have to do is like our Facebook page. Or you can get full details here.

Did you like this?

Then be sure to check out our latest book, 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

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

10 Things I Like About the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield

Less than one inch wide, the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield packs up to 8+1 rounds of 9mm.

Less than one inch wide, the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield packs up to 8+1 rounds of 9mm.

Much has been said about the Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm Shield. A true pocket-sized 9mm, it’s smaller in almost all dimensions (except height) than a Glock 26 and can easily be concealed in a milliondy-seven different ways. Pocket, inside the waistband or outside the waistband holster, ankle, purse, fanny pack, crotch carry holster, you name it. The less-than-one-inch width goes a long way to making this handgun exceptionally portable.

Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm Galco 1963 Even with the Crimson Trace LG-489 Laser installed, it weighs almost exactly the same as my morning cup of coffee. Coincidence? I think not. Both are life-saving devices and daily necessities.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1935 I like that it’s a 9mm. Of course you can now get the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield in .40 Smith & Wesson. Although 9mm and .380 ACP have lot’s of similarities on paper, I see a noticeable performance difference when each load is shot through tough clothing barriers. The extra velocity of the 9mm helps it expand more reliably than most of the .380 loads I’ve tested. I’ve found the Shield to be a very controllable gun, even with its small size and light weight. It’s a gun that’s enjoyable to shoot just for fun, unlike many other pocket cannons.
Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm Galco 1960 The Shield has a positive safety. Without getting into the debate of whether or not you need one on a striker-fired pistol, I will say that it’s comforting on a gun that may be carried in a pocket holster. The safety lever is inset to the frame and unlikely to move without deliberate action, so you can choose to carry with the safety engaged or not. Moving from safe to fire position is very easy with the shooting hand thumb, assuming you’re right handed. The safety is not ambidextrous, so lefties have a little more work to do.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1933 I like that the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield will fire with its magazine removed. I don’t really appreciate that the lawyers at Smith & Wesson chose to print “CAUTION – CAPABLE OF FIRING WITH MAGAZINE REMOVED” right on the slide of an otherwise very attractive pistol. Can someone please put the lawyers back in their aquarium?
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1928 I like the capacity options. The more concealable standard magazine gives the Shield 8 (7+1) rounds of 9mm while the extended magazine adds one more for a total of 9 rounds. This is a great compromise of capacity versus size.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1940 Both front and rear sights are dovetail mounted and easily adjustable for windage. I found elevation on the test gun to be right on target. Notice how the rear sight surface is grooved to reduce glare around the sighting dots.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1937 The trigger on the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield simply rocks. For a striker-fired pistol, it’s exceptionally smooth and crisp. It’s got just about 1/4 inch of take-up prior to a 6.5 pound crisp break. If you like to keep your finger in place until reset, you can count on just about 1/4 inch forward travel before a positive reset click. The Shield has one of the best striker design triggers on the market.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1936 The flush magazine configuration with 7+1 capacity makes this a true pocket gun. Try it with a Galco Pocket Pro holster! I like this configuration with the extended magazine stowed elsewhere as a backup.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1931 I dig the grip texture. It’s sure, even with sweaty hands, but you don’t lose traction during shots. Even more importantly, when using an Inside the waistband holster like the Galco Stow-N-Go, it won’t abrade your insides nearly as much as Gilbert Godfried’s voice abrades your ears.
Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm Galco 1962 How about a grip-activated laser? The Crimson Trace LG-489 Laser for the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield mounts just in front of the trigger guard. Just grip the pistol and the laser is on. Couldn’t be simpler.

Winchester Elite PDX1 9mm +P Self Defense Ammunition

Ammo Review: Winchester Elite PDX1 9mm+P Defender 124 grain personal defense ammunition

Winchester Elite PDX1 Defender 9mm +P 124 grain personal defense ammunition is a bonded bullet design intended to succeed against the tough FBI ammunition testing protocol. Without going into top secret details (not really), these tests are intended to examine how ammunition performs in a variety of law enforcement usage scenarios. Do they still expand after passing through barriers like clothing, automobile glass or steel, and common construction materials? Will the bullet achieve adequate penetration after passing through these barriers? Will Jessica still marry Claude after she finds out about his mob connections and previous engagement to the Crown Price of Belgravia?

Winchester Elite PDX1 9mm +P Personal Protection Ammunition

Winchester Elite PDX1 9mm +P Personal Protection Ammunition

With the exception of that last question, we know the answers. The FBI was impressed enough with test results of the Winchester PDX1 round to adopt it as their official duty ammunition. While we didn’t replicate the full FBI test protocol, we did tinker around a bit with a similar scenario or two.

Velocity of the Winchester PDX1 9mm +P load was impressive. Winchester rates it at 1,200 feet per second. We measured it with our Shooting Chrony Beta Master placed 15 feet downrange and found results to be better than advertised. Fired from a Glock 17 Generation 4 9mm pistol with a 4.49 inch barrel, we clocked the Winchester PDX1 9mm +P load at an average of 1,264.7 feet per second. Fired from a Springfield Armory EMP 9mm with just a 3 inch barrel, the average velocity measured 1,146.7 feet per second.

Expansion performance was excellent. We fired numerous loads into thoroughly soaked newspaper through 4 layers of light canvas. All rounds expanded perfectly with no sign of hollow point clogging. The largest expansion diameter we measured was .675 inches – nearly double the diameter of an unfired 9mm bullet. While relative to the testing media used, penetration depth was as good as any 9mm load we’ve tested.

Being a bonded bullet design, we noticed no fragmentation or separation of the projectiles and all weighed in with over 98% of their original 124 grain weight.

We found this to be a quality load for personal defense. FBI approved.

Available Here Winchester Elite PDX1 9mm +P 124 grain personal defense ammunition

Gun Review: Gaston’s G.I.L.F. – The Glock 26 Gen 4 Subcompact Pistol

Suggested Retail Price: $649.00

Gun Review: Glock 26 Generation 4 Subcompact Pistol

Glock 26 Generation 4 9mm pistol with magazines

The Glock 26 Generation 4. The 9mm pistol that could.

We had a terrible time coming up with a catchy and witty title for this Glock 26 review.

The Mouse Gun That Roars? Nope. Not mousy enough.

Son of a, son of a, son of a Glock 26? Nah. Too Jimmy Buffett.

Is That A Glock On Your Ankle Or Are You Just Happy To See Me? No deal. This web site is rated PG-13. Usually.

When This Baby Glock Burps, Get A Bigger Diaper Bag! Hmmm. While most gun people call the subcompact models “Baby Glocks” it’s probably not the approved brand name.

Plastic Pocket Pistol? Too chintzy sounding. We found this to be a quality firearm.

Gaston’s G.I.L.F. – Glock I’d Like to Fire (Tweet This)

That’s it! Even though Internet trolls will interpret this as something entirely inappropriate.

We’ll keep working on it. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at the new Glock 26 Generation 4 Subcompact pistol.

First Impressions of the Glock 26 Gen 4

Our first impression is that the ‘subcompact’ description is misleading. Kind of. The Glock 26 is no mouse gun as the term subcompact might imply. It just happens to possess a form factor that allows it to gain occasional admittance to mouse gun parties and debutante balls. Make no mistake, the Glock 26 is a fully functional, full capacity, 9mm handgun. But due to its dimensions and weight, it facilitates some typical mouse gun modes of carry including ankle, coat pocket, purse, and various alternative positions inside the waistband. The big difference with the Glock 26 platform is that it manages to achieve small form factor without loss of that elusive concept, shootability.

The Glock 26 Gen 4 in comparison to its larger sibling - the Glock 17 Gen 4

The Glock 26 Gen 4 in comparison to its larger sibling – the Glock 17 Gen 4

The grip width is identical to that of its longer and taller cousins – the Glock 17 and Glock 19. The only difference in dimension is length of slide and height of the grip. Depending on your particular hand configuration, you’ll probably get your middle and ring fingers comfortably on the grip with the pinky finger riding below the magazine base plate. Later, we’ll talk about accessories that allow addition of the pinky. With or without a pinky extension accessory, the shootability factor works because the grip fills your hand – just like the larger Glocks. We’ve found that some particularly narrow subcompact pistols require adjustment of your trigger finger as the finger can naturally ride too far through the trigger guard. Not so with the Glock 26.

If you can shoot a compact or full size Glock with grace and aplomb, you can handle the Glock 26 Subcompact just fine.

Loaded weight of the Glock 26 Generation 4, which will vary just a tad depending on your specific ammo preference, is 26.1 ounces. That’s just over a pound and a half if you don’t feel up to doing the math. That’s also the equivalent of five iPhone 4S smartphones. As a side note, we did find the Glock 26 much more adept at shooting back than the iPhone.  Although, if you choose to carry five iPhones instead of the Glock 26, you have four to throw before using the fifth to dial 911. Just a thought in case you live in a gun-unfriendly state like Kalifornia or Massachusetts. In comparison, the Glock 17 Gen 4 weighs in at 31.92 ounces loaded. Or six and a half iPhones if you want to look at it that way.

Compact “Enough” Size

The Glock 26 Gen 4 is a compact handgun, not a pocket pistol

Compact, not mini, is the key word with the Glock 26 Gen 4

The standout feature of the Glock 26 is that it is “compact enough.” It is a comfortable gun to shoot – no grip twiddling necessary. The grip width and circumference is identical to that of the full size Glock 17 Gen 4.

Most of the Glock 26 Generation 4 Subcompact testing was done by our female team – primarily using purse carry. For those of you who have not tried a concealed carry purse, they generally have small-ish dedicated pockets for a gun and a relatively small access opening. Add some pressure from a purse full of stuff and you need to think about ease of draw. A large gun, combined with small access pockets and a day’s worth of absolute necessities can result in a hopelessly wedged-in pistol. The Glock 26 proved to be just the right size for two different concealed carry purses.

Our guy editors carried the Glock 26 less, but shot it plenty. With that said, the Glock 26 obviously works just fine in any traditional waist carry scenario. Where it shines is with deeper concealment options. It’s small enough to effectively carry in an ankle holster or belly band. We’ve never been fans of the SmartCarry / Thunderwear options, but it will work there quite nicely – if you care to carry a Glock in your man girdle.

Glock 26 Ammo Capacity

The Glock 26 Gen 4 features 10 round magazines, allowing for a carry capacity of 11 rounds, including one in the chamber. Not bad for a compact gun.

The Glock 26 Gen 4 can use magazines from the Glock 17 and Glock 19 pistols

The ability to use Glock 19 and Glock 17 magazines makes the Glock 26 a great back up gun.

One of the other things we really like about Glock 26 is the inclusion of 3 magazines with each new pistol. This is a new thing with the Gen 4 series – the Gen 3 models we see on sale at places like still offer 2 magazines in the box. While we believe ‘the more magazines the better,’ Glock starts you out on the right foot with everything you need for a respectable carry configuration – one magazine in the gun and two spares. And Glock keeps their magazine costs reasonable in the event you want to buy more. They’re often available for about $25 on the street– sometimes less.

Shared Glock Generation 4 Features

Like other Glock Generation 4 models, the Glock 26 offers the same family enhancements to the design. Call it sibling envy.

The default grip size is the smallest option, while one of the 2 included backstraps can be added to achieve the standard or large grip circumference common to the Generation 4 family.

As we found with the Glock 17 Gen 4 we looked at a couple of months ago, the new grip texture is fantastic. The “micro-pyramid” texturing on the side panels really holds your hand in place – without undue abrasion. We really, really, like the new grip texture. Of course this is especially important, and noticeable, on the Glock 26 Gen 4, as you will most likely have only two fingers on the grip.

Also like the Glock 17 Gen 4, the magazine release button has been significantly enlarged. This makes a huge difference in ease of operation. The larger surface area makes it easy to release a magazine, but we had no issues whatsoever with unintentional magazine drops. We’ve seen issues with other pistols where pressure from inside-the-waistband holsters can inadvertently engage a magazine release button that is too large. Not so with the Glock Gen 4 design.

The last major feature is the new Gen 4 captive dual recoil spring assembly. Glock claims that this design significantly improves the longevity of the system. We have not noticed any difference in reliability between the single spring and dual spring designs. That’s a good thing. While we’re shooting this Glock 26 plenty, it’s not been in service long enough to make observation on longevity differences.

One more item of note.

The Generation 4 Glocks can use Generation 3 magazines. It’s almost like hand-me-down clothes from your older brother or sister, except hand-me-down magazines generally don’t have sweat stains

With older magazines, you just lose the ambidextrous magazine release feature as the older magazines do not have release slots cut on both sides. This is a nice and thoughtful feature if you are upgrading from an older model Glock or have other Glock siblings in the household.

Yeah, But Does It Shoot Fast?

We’re talking velocity here – not gansta-style semi-auto rapid fire. Shorter barrels mean lower velocity with all other factors being equal. The barrel length of the Glock 26 Gen 4 is 1.06” shorter than that of the Glock 17 Gen 4, so we expected a noticeable decrease in velocity for any given round. To see how dramatic the velocity difference was, we broke out the Shooting Chrony Beta Master and brought an assortment of ammo to the range.

Glock 26

Glock 17


Buffalo Bore TAC-XP +P+ 95 grain




Federal FMJ RN 115 grain




CorBon JHP +P 115 grain




Georgia Arms Gold Dot 124 grain




Hornady Critical Defense 115 grain




Remington UMC 115 grain




Winchester Target 115 grain




Handload: 124 grain plated Round Nose, 4.5 grains Unique, 1.115 OAL




We saw an average velocity difference of about 63 feet per second between the full size Glock 17 Gen 4 with its 4.49 inch barrel and the Glock 26 Gen 4 with it’s 3.43 inch barrel.

Cor-Bon JHP ammo expanded well from the Glock 26 9mm

The shorter barrel of the Glock 26 did not hinder hollow point expansion.

Consistent with our earlier comments, this is not a traditional pocket gun. It behaves like a full size pistol that is simply… smaller. With every load tested easily breaking the 1,000 feet per second barrier, and most over 1,100 feet per second, we would not hesitate to rely on expanding ammunition in the Glock 26.

In fact, we did a separate ammo feature looking at a number of 9mm rounds fired from this particular Glock 26 Gen 4. We found expansion performance through heavy leather and clothing barriers to be excellent with several brands of premium self-defense ammunition.

We’ve got an assortment of Speer Gold Dot standard and Short Barrel ammunition on the way for another project and unfortunately it did not arrive on time for this review. The Glock 26’s 3.43 inch barrel length is right on the fence of Speer’s recommended length to switch to short barrel optimized ammo. We’ll test both and post an update as soon as that ammo arrives.

Glock Bling

The Glock 26 Gen 4 is ready to go out of the box. It includes the aforementioned 3 magazines for a total of 31 rounds available, a cleaning rod and brush and the obligatory gun lock.

But part of the fun of the Glock platform is taking advantage of the vast array of aftermarket goodies that are available. On the evaluation gun, we kept things on the conservative side and only added two accessories – neither of which impact the firing mechanisms of the gun.

TruGlo TFO (Tritium Fiber Optic) Sights

Glock 26 Gen 4 with TruGlo TFO Tritium Fiber Optic Sights

We had some TruGlo TFO fiber optic / tritium sights in for evaluation. They make a great addition to the Glock 26.

We’ve really enjoyed using TruGlo TFO Sights on our Glock 32. TruGlo TFO sights combine both fiber optic and tritium technology in the same sight. Using highly technical terms, this means that the TFO’s glow like the dickens – day or night. Our Glock 32 set is the all green model that was available years ago when we purchased them. Two green rear sights and a green front sight. More recently, TruGlo has introduced a dual color scheme option with two yellow dots in the rear sight and green in the front. This makes a surprising difference day or night. In the daytime, you are looking for the single green dot – not trying to sort out which of the three bright green dots is the front sight. At night, you have the same benefit with the addition of knowing for sure that your front sight is centered between the two rear dots. With all three dots green, it can be a little tricky to make sure alignment is correct.

Pearce Magazine Extension

Here’s an inexpensive way to increase the controllability of your Glock 26 by 71.32 percent. And 3 out of 4 dentists agree. OK, we made those statistics up, but the fact remains that the simple addition of a Pearce Grip Extension improves your shooting by 43 percent. Just swap the standard magazine baseplate on one (or more) of the factory magazines and you’re ready to go. This particular Pearce Grip Extension does not add magazine capacity – it simply adds more real estate for the pinky finger. And it makes a big difference without increasing size or concealability.

Is The Glock 26 Gen 4 For Him? Or Her? Or Both?

He said She said
I’m quite happy with the form factor of the Glock 32/ Glock 19 / Glock 23 as my standard carry gun. The mid size frame is perfect for discreet carry in an IWB holster, belly band, or shirt holster.With that said, I really like the idea of a matching G26 Gen 4 as a back up gun, probably carried in a Galco Ankle Glove. I also like the idea of owning a Glock 26 as an alternate to my primary carry gun for occasions when smaller size is desirable for concealed carry.I found that the grip size on the Glock 26 Gen 4 allowed me to comfortably fit the middle and ring fingers in the built-in finger grooves. This was perfectly adequate for rapid yet controlled shooting.I also found the Glock 26 Gen 4 far easier to shoot accurately than most other “pocket-sized” pistols. The sight radius was fine and both factory and TruGlo sights were easy to acquire. The other “she” in this column owns and shoots a Glock 17 Gen 4 because her primary usage is competitive Steel Challenge. I’ve been looking for a carry gun that’s portable, yet packs enough punch to be a respectable self-defense gun.Prior to trying the Glock 26, I carried a double action pistol with a slide mounted de-cocker and safety. I’m now officially spoiled with the Glock 26 Safe Action constant trigger pull. It’s just simple.Two of us shot it – a lot – and we both have medium, lady sized hands. the grip size of the Glock 26 was just fine for us and we had no problems reaching for the trigger. Both of us really liked the addition of the Pearce Grip Extension. All in all, the Glock 26 Gen 4 is good for dainty hands.We both really liked this pistol, but I developed a special attachment for it. I love it with all my heart. I want to marry it. Although I do feel like I am cheating on my Walther PP when I carry it.

Our Rating

4 Nuns Four Nuns! While it wants for nothing right out of the box, the Glock 26 Generation 4 is a platform that can be customized to your preference. Adding the TruGlo TFO amber / green sights and Pierce grip extension made this subcompact really shine.

While you’re here, why not grab a copy of my free eBook, A Fistful of Shooting Tips? It’ll help make you a better handgun shooter and the envy of your range in no time!

Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!


Accessories available at Brownells

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Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

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