Ammo Review: Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine

If only the Marines has Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine ammunition in 1942…

We tested the Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine load in a 1945 vintage National Postal Meter M1 Carbine

We tested the Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine load in a 1945 vintage National Postal Meter M1 Carbine

In one of those enduring “after the fact” armchair debates, pundits both praise and condemn the performance M1 Carbine with standard .30 Carbine ball ammunition. While the rifle was handy to carry at about 6 pounds, and the operator could carry large amounts of smaller and lighter .30 carbine ammunition, reports persist of the rounds inability to stop charging enemy soldiers. The common element seems to related to multiple through and through hits of the small diameter, 2,000 foot per second projectile not providing enough “stopping power.”

Do these stories have merit? I don’t know as I wasn’t there. What I do know is that during our ammo review, the new Gold Dot rounds in .30 Carbine demonstrated astounding performance. That old M1 Carbine is now a very viable option for home defense or perhaps a car trunk gun.

Ammo Review: Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine ammo performance

This particular loading of Speer Gold Dot projectiles appears to be more of a soft point design than a traditional hollow point design. The projectile is a 100 grain bonded bullet loaded to achieve 1,990 feet per second out of an 18 inch barrel. If all goes to plan, this would yield just about 967 foot pounds of energy measured at the muzzle.

We elected to test this load out of a National Postal Meter M1 Carbine originally manufactured in 1945. This particular M1 Carbine has been fitted somewhere along the way with an IBM manufactured barrel. Clearly it’s the ultimate in tactical office equipment! Even though it does not print stamps, we find it immensely practical for home use. It’s light, handy, and features a 15 round box magazine. And it’s more fun to shoot than most .22’s. If you don’t have an M1 Carbine, run, don’t walk, to your nearest dealer or gun show and get one. You’ll love it. And, it makes a great gun for younger shooters. It’s easy to handle and has minimal recoil. The iron peep sights are plenty accurate out to a couple hundred yards.

The Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine ammo is a soft point design that expands beautifully

The Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine ammo is a soft point design that expands beautifully

Function was flawless – as expected. We’ve found this M1 Carbine to be very forgiving in terms of reliability. It’s short-piston, gas operated semi-auto that runs clean and cool – much like the M1 Garand. The Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine load is premium ammunition, and had no issues running consistently from this old battle rifle.

But what about accuracy? I had no intentions of even trying to gauge the inherent accuracy of a modern load like the Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine out of a 67 year old battle rifle. What we did try was the clay pigeon 100 yard challenge. No worries there. The combination of M1 Carbine and Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine load was up to the task of consistent hits all the way on those four inch targets up to the limits of our 100 yard outdoor range.

We did test velocity to see how it compared with the claimed 1,990 feet per second figure. With our Shooting Chrony Beta Master placed 15 feet from the muzzle, we measured an average of 2,088 feet per second with most recorded shots hitting the 2,100 feet per second mark. Impressive. And we always like to see products outperform their advertised claims.

At this velocity you can configure your rifle with the Gold Dot load to be very flat shooting from 0 to 100 yards. If you zero your sights at 25 yards, the bullet will be about 1 inch high between 50 and 75 yards, and will settle back to just under 1/2 inch high at 100 yards. So, for a target between 0 and maybe 150 yards, just aim dead on and your results will be close enough for government work.

Fun and games with old body armor

Speer Gold Dot 20 Carbine kevlar expansion.JPG

All of these Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine rounds expanded AFTER passing through an old Kevlar vest

A new acquaintance from my recent outing to the Shooting Industry Masters heard about my obsession with testing ammunition through all sorts of tough barriers. After offering to refer me to a psychiatrist friend, he gave me an old, expired Kevlar vest to play with. How do you spell “FUN” when it comes to ammunition testing? K-E-V-L-A-R. That’s how.

Even though this vest was technically expired, it was still plenty effective. To verify that, we shot it with a Speer Gold Dot .357 Sig round from a Glock 31. The vest stopped this round cold. Even more entertaining was watching the energy dump effect of a 1,404 foot per second, 125 grain projectile stopping against the vest in about 2 inches of travel. The vest literally flew off the wet pack target backing and landed about 10 feet away. Wow. While the wearer would certainly be protected from bullet penetration, it sure would leave a mark!

Back to the Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine round performance.

Just for fun, and not for any particularly practical reason, we placed the Kevlar vest over a trashcan full of wet pack. We figured it would be interesting to see how the projectile performed against a really tough barrier. Wet pack is a fancy description for pile of thoroughly soaked, and bordering on mildewy, newspaper. Wet pack DOES NOT smell attractive after a day or so of soaking. We then proceeded to shoot the Speer Gold Dot .30 Carbine ammo through the vest and into the wet pack.


Like virtually any rifle round, the .30 Carbine passed through the vest. We were less interested in the penetration, which is a given with a rifle round, and more interested in expansion performance after passing through a tough barrier. We measured the expanded bullets and found that most of them doubled in diameter, with some measuring .61 inches across. Now that’s expansion performance!

Closing arguments

Our only regret with this evaluation is that we did not have a .30 Carbine handgun to test. We’ll work on getting our hands on a Ruger Blackhawk chambered in .30 Carbine and post an update. That would be fun.

In summary, this round is impressive. It brings a whole slew of usefulness to that .30 Carbine you might have sitting in the closet. Home, car, or whatever. These rounds performed exceptionally well.

Our Rating

4 Nuns Four Nuns! We were shocked, in a good way, with this load. Full expansion after passing through a Kevlar barrier? Wow. This ammo gets our highest review score!


Ammo Review: Federal’s Guard Dog .45 ACP Ammo Is No Chihuahua’re putting a Springfield Armory TRP Armory Kote 1911 through it’s paces for a future story and have run 13 different types of .45 ACP ammo through it so far.

On a whim, we picked up some Federal Guard Dog .45 ACP to try out. Not having shot this particular ammo  before, we weren’t sure what to expect. In short, this was the pleasant surprise of the day.

Here’s why:

Federal Guard Dog is Expanding Full Metal Jacket ammunition. Yes, you heard that oxymoron right. It features a traditional lead base bullet has a hollow, but fully covered tip. The inside of the jacket is scored and filled with a squishy polymer substance. Upon impact, the flat nose of the bullet pushes back, and between the scoring to facilitate expansion and the pressure of the polymer filler pushing outwards, the projectile expands to a diameter of approximately 3 feet. We tested this by shooting through about 8 layers of light canvas material into soaking wet paper. The 3 foot number was a visual “still at the range estimate” so we broke out the calipers back at home and found that most bullets expanded to over 3/4 of an inch. Every bullet we shot showed dramatic expansion like this.

Federal Guard Dog EFMJ Ammunition expansion performance

Ouch. Every round we shot expanded like this.

With it’s unique expansion model, Federal does not have to push the Guard Dog ammo to ridiculous velocities for it to perform. The combination of a 165 grain projectile in the .45 ACP load and normal pressures yielded an average of 1,053 feet per second as measured by our Shooting Chrony 15 feet from the muzzle. The felt recoil was shockingly light– especially compared to all the other self defense rounds we fired in the same session.

Oh, and it also looks very Lone Ranger-ish. Nickel plated case with a silver colored projectile. Very suave.

Federal Guard Dog gets our 4 Nun rating.

AVAILABLE HERE: Federal Guard Dog 45 ACP 165 Gr EFMJ Home Defense 20 Rounds

American Eagle .223 Ammo – Reloaders Bargain

We picked up a supply of American Eagle (by Federal) .223 ammo recently to test for reliability. And reloadability.

American Eagle Tactical 223 Ammunition

American Eagle Tactical 223 Ammunition

We were looking for some decent plinking .223 ammo for the DPMS A3 Lite that wouldn’t break the bank – and that had brass cases acceptable for reloading. We’ve had decent success with some of the less expensive steel-cased ammo, and there is certainly a convenience benefit of not feeling guilty about picking up all the brass to save for future reloading. But given the very small price difference between the reloadable American Eagle and some of the communist block steel cased stuff, we elected to give it a try.

Is it acceptable bargain plinking ammo? Yes. It works – we have yet to experience an ammo related problem with it. Weighing random samples, we found reasonable consistency round to round. Looking at overall cartridge length was another matter, with about a .08 inch variance from rounds in the same box. Did we care? No. This was purchased as plinking ammo for fun, and at about 40 cents per round it’s great for reloaders. Shoot it once and keep the brass for the next several outings.

Way more cost efficient than buying raw brass as you get to shoot it first before the reloading process.

We’ll buy more.

Available Here American Eagle (Federal) .223 Ammo 20/box

Hornady Critical Defense .38 Special +P 100 grain Ammunition

Hornady Critical Defense .38 Special AmmunitionWe’ve been testing a lot of Hornady Critical Defense ammunition and with rare exception, we’ve observed excellent results.

Critical Defense is designed with a polymer plug in the hollow point cavity which aids with bullet expansion – even after the round penetrates barriers that would clog a normal hollow point round.

We’ve shot it through leather, clothing, rocks, grape jelly, flour, and all sorts of silly things with good result.

Available Here Hornady Critical Defense .38 Special 100 grain Ammo 25 / box

Ammo Review: Buffalo Bore .380 Auto +P Barnes TAC-XP

Buffalo Bore .380 ACP +P Barnes TAC-XP

Penetration into dense wetpack was 5 to 8 inches after heavy leather barriers.

Dang. We’re starting to become fans of this Buffalo Bore stuff. We were pleasantly surprised with the results of our test with an uber-velocity, light weight 9mm load. Now we’ve been pleasantly surprised with, of all things, a .380 ACP load.

We recently tried a similar load from Doubletap Ammunition and were a bit perplexed by the lower than expected velocity out of a Ruger LCP.

So we persevered on our quest for a fast and reliable expander out of a short barrel .380 ACP. Le Petit Canon’s are all the rage nowadays you know.

The Buffalo Bore load features an 80 grain Barnes TAC-XP Projectile that hums along at 1,275 feet per second from a test-length barrel. Buffalo Bore goes to great efforts to publish expected ‘real world’ velocities for each of their loads. For the this .380 load, Barnes claims the following performance:

1231 — fps – Browning Double Action-3.75 inch barrel

1235 — fps – Walther PPK-3.5 inch barrel – (faster than longer barrel above, no typo)

1130 — fps – Kel Tec P3AT-2.75 inch barrel

1136 — fps – Kahr P380-2.75 inch barrel

Fortunately, we own a Walther PPK/S and a Ruger LCP, which offers an equivalent barrel length to the Kel Tec P3AT with its 2.75 inch barrel, so we’ll be able to compare actual velocities in the swamp to factory claims.

How did it do with our guns? At 15 feet from the muzzle, we clocked the following:

Ruger LCP: 1,107 feet per second

Walther PPK/S: 1,177 feet per second

Given the Shooting Chrony was 15 feet downrange, these loads came in right about on target per the specs.

We did some basic expansion testing that involved shooting through two very heavy layers of leather and several layers of cotton fabric. After all this, our little .380 ACP loads still managed to fully expand 3 out of 4 times.

Buffalo Bore .380 ACP +P TAC-XP expansion performance

3 of 4 expanded fully after 2 layers of heavy leather and fabric

One interesting ‘heads up’ to note if you purchase this round. The cases have a very slight, but visible bulge. According to Buffalo Bore, this is normal given the high charge and longer length of the Barnes TAC-XP projectile.

“The all copper, long-for-weight, Barnes bullet is so long that when seated to an OAL of .940 to .950 inch, the base of the bullet will make a slight bulge in the case, but this DOES NOT affect feeding or chambering as the bulge is not pronounced enough to cause any problems, but in order to avoid endless emails, I’m mentioning it here.”

We experienced no feeding or chambering problems with either the Walther PPK or Ruger LCP.

Impressive ammo.

Buffalo not included.

You can buy Buffalo Bore Ammo here.

Speer Gold Dot 9mm +P Bonded Hollow Point Ammunition

Speer 9mm Gold Dot 124gr HP bonded hollow point ammunition

Reliable expansion, good penetration, and no jacket separation

With all the ammo testing we do here, we keep coming back to Speer Gold Dots.

Is it the newest? No. Does it contain exotic metals called something-illium? No. Does it play tricks with hyper-velocity? No.

It just works. We find it expands reliably after penetrating all sorts of barriers. Just as importantly, the 124 grain weight in the 9mm load helps it to also penetrate to adequate depth consistently. And there is never jacket / core separation due to the bonded construction.

Speer makes an excellent loading with the Gold Dot projectile, but other companies including Georgia Arms, DoubleTap Ammo, and Buffalo Bore load rounds with the Gold Dot bullet.

We highly recommend it.

BUY NOW: Speer Gold Dot 9mm +P 124 Grain – 20 Rounds

Ammo Review: Buffalo Bore 9mm +P+ 95 grain Barnes TAC-XP

Buffalo Bore 9mm +P+ Tac-XP ammunition

Buffalo Bore shoots the boot – successfully

They say you can blow up a tank with a marshmallow if you can get it moving fast enough. While we’re still waiting on a civilian legal marshmallow rail gun, we’re taking a baby step in that direction by testing this load.

With all the shooting of random things we’ve done over the years, we’ve been less than impressed with the high velocity, low projectile weight theory. Light bullets at enormous speed make for spectacular water jug explosions, but when shot through something harder like clothing, leather, bone simulating materials, rocks, black eyed peas, or grape jelly, performance – and especially penetration – leaves a lot to be desired.

We’re totally violating our own self-imposed ammo rules with this test and trying a relatively lightweight 95 grain 9mm bullet at insane velocity. The Buffalo Bore 9mm +P+ round claims to launch a Barnes TAC-XP bullet at a realistic maximum of 1,550 feet per second. Buffalo Bore estimates the following expected velocities out of some common 9mm handguns:

1524 fps — Walther P88-4 inch barrel

1374 fps — Glock 19-4 inch barrel

1508 fps — Browning Hi Power MK111-4.6 inch barrel

1496 fps — Beretta 92F-4.9 inch barrel

Fortunately we’ve got a Beretta 92 so we’ll see if we can get 1,500 feet per second out of this beast. We’ll also try it out of a Glock 17 Gen 4 and a Glock 26 Gen 4 just for fun.

Velocity Matters

With all the testing we’ve done with our Will It Expand series, we’ve come to appreciate the importance of that last extra bit of velocity when it comes to expansion performance. And Buffalo Bore delivers when it comes to velocity. We set up a Shooting Chrony Beta Master at 15 feet from the muzzle and clocked the following:

Beretta 92FS: 1,420 feet per second

Glock 17 Gen 4: 1,438 feet per second

Glock 26 Gen 4: 1,358 feet per second

Considering our Chrony was 15 feet downrange, the recorded velocity came in right as advertised.


Buffalo Bore 9mm +P+ Tac-Xp expansion performance

This load displayed picture perfect expansion – post leather

We subjected the Buffalo Bore Barnes load to a pretty tough expansion challenge: 2 layers of heavy boot leather and several layers of cotton fabric (translation: old ratty t-shirts) in front of a dense paper wetpack bullet catcher. Of the four rounds we tested for expansion, all four expanded dramatically. Penetration was surprisingly good for a 95 grain projectile with 2 projectiles plowing about 7 inches into the dense wetpack after the leather barrier and the remaining two making it about 9 inches in.

Closing Thoughts

We were pleasantly surprised at the performance of this load. Felt recoil was shockingly light in all guns tested – especially so with the more hefty Beretta 92FS. Our wetpack was particularly dense so the 7 and 9 inch penetration post-barrier was impressive.

To be candid, we really wanted to test the 115 grain 9mm +P+ Barnes TAC-XP loads, but they are not available just yet. We’re looking forward to trying those out next.

This is a 4 Nuns load.

You can buy Buffalo Bore ammo here.

CorBon 9mm +P 115 grain JHP

CorBon 9mm +P JHP 115 Grain Ammunition

The CorBon 9mm +P 115 grain load advertises extra punch and by our experience – delivers.

Factory rated at 1,350 feet per second, we clocked it at an average of 1,301 feet per second, 15 feet from the muzzle, out of a Glock 17 Gen 4.

We’ve also found expansion to be excellent through a variety of mediums.

We recommend it. 4 Nuns!

Available here.

Ammo Test: Will Your Short Barrel 9mm Penetrate Heavy Clothing?


Of course, penetration is only part of the battle. Will your 9mm ammo actually expand after penetrating heavy clothing?

On this episode of Will It Expand, we aim to find out!

As we couldn’t find any heavily dressed bad guy volunteers, we resurrected the boots, stuffed them full of old shirts, and placed them in front of our high-fallutin’ wetpack bullet catcher setup. That gives us a reasonable approximation of a heavy coat or jacket and some lighter clothing layers. And with a lot less bad attitude than your typical street thug.

For the ‘short barrel’ part of the equation, we used a Glock 26 Gen IV which is in for review. A great little gun that packs 10+1 rounds of 9mm and features a 3.4” barrel – perfect for our carry gun test. Shorter barrel, a little less velocity, and a good bit more stress on hollow point performance through barriers.

On the ammo side, we’re trying three different 9mm loads:

Hornady Critical Defense 9mm Luger 115 grain FTX

Cor-Bon 9mm Luger +P 115 grain JHP

Georgia Arms 9mm +P 124 grain Speer Bonded Unicore Hollow Point

Once again enduring the strange looks at the range – “Why on earth do those idiots keep shooting cowboy boots at the range dear?” – we persevered and shot the boots, dug bullets our of wet and nasty wetpack, and brought you the results. Just as a side note, it’s amazing how much wet junk mail resembles used diapers.

The results:

The CorBon loads all expanded beautifully.With one we did have jacket / core separation, but overall they made cute little mushroom shapes.If anything, the CorBon loads expanded a tad too much and penetration was about 50% less than that of the other two loads.Chalk this up to a lighter bullet than the Georgia Arms Gold Dot and bigger expansion than the Critical Defense projectile of the same weight.
The Georgia Arms Speer Bonded Unicore loads were solid performers through our tough, winter attired, evil d00d simulation.Out of seven rounds fired, five expanded perfectly and demonstrated excellent penetration. Two projectiles partially expanded.
All four Hornady Critical Defense projectiles had excellent penetration.Two expanded perfectly, the third had perfectly adequate, but less photogenic expansion, and the fourth had some deformity and partial expansion.

We were somewhat surprised at the good performance turned in by all three loads out of a shorter barrel concealed carry gun. We’re waiting on a backorder of the new Hornady Critical Duty 9mm load, which is a bit heavier, and will test that against a heavier CorBon 9mm JHP load. Should be interesting.

Stay tuned…

You can buy Hornady Critical Defense and Critical Duty Ammunition here.

Ammo Review: Hornady Critical Defense vs. SPAM


Welcome back to our continuing series where we subject Hornady Critical Defense and Critical Duty ammo to all sorts of abusive and at times, ridiculous, tests. You see, it’s supposed to expand every time. And we’re going to find out if it does.

Our reader suggestion for this episode is… Spam. Yes, the simulated meat kind.

We thought this was a great idea.

People at our outdoor shooting range? Not so much. Mainly because they got covered with Spam. But hey, that’s why you’re supposed to wear eye protection, right? So our conscience is clean, if not our clothing.

Down here in South Cackalackee we got ourselves a problem – wild spam. It’s everywhere and we find them in all sizes – from 7 ounce cans to 12 packs. And when it’s allowed to roam free in the wild, it can reach 25 pounds – so caliber selection is a bit tricky.

Anyway, wild Spam are slimy, slippery, and basically a booger to catch, so we elected to shoot canned Spam. Both original and generic. Just in case there’s a difference. We hear that artificial spam has even less meat in it so we figured it would be interesting to see if there’s a difference in bullet expansion performance and Spam lethality. Well, obviously Spam is lethal to humans, but is Hornady Critical Defense ammo lethal to Spam?

First we tested the Hornady Critical Defense .22 Magnum round. We thought it would be a pretty good solution for Spam – not too much meat damage, no recoil, and lots of rifle and pistol options to launch it. With a 45 grain FTX bullet that included one of those cute little red flex tips to aid expansion we were hopeful for consistent expansion results.  We elected to use a Ruger Single Six with a 7.5″ barrel – a portable Spam solution that would keep velocity reasonable at closer Spam hunting distances.

We originally expected the .22 WMR to leave a little something edible when all was said and done, but unless we intended to scrape Spam splatter off other nearby shooters at the range, it was not to be. The .22 WMR round was somewhat, ah, explosive against both brand name and generic spam. And we got great expansion from all rounds through both real and plastic Spam. Not bad performance considering that the round had to pass through two sides of metal skin and a big hunk of gelatinous fake meat love.

Because you never know when you might encounter an especially irritable Spam while attending to more urban chores, we tested a couple of common personal defense loads. Will a quick shot from your every day carry gun put down a Spam? Will there be any left? Will the Grocery Product Defense League of Americacome after you with abuse charges?

We aimed to find out and tried both 90 grain .380 ACP and 115 grain 9mm Critical Defense rounds.

While the .380 rounds mortally wounded all of our test Spams with a single shot, we were a tad disappointed with the expansion results. We shot them from a very short barreled Ruger LCP so velocity was at the low end of the round’s potential. We noted some mild deformation, but no actual expansion.

The 9mm rounds out of a Glock 17 Gen IVwere another story altogether.

More weight + More Velocity = Spam Juice

While juicing Spam this way is cheap and easy, not to mention fun, you’re probably better off using the Jack Lalane Power Juicer if you’re one of those that appreciates the extra nutrients available from Spam juicing.

What we learned

  • Shooting canned food is fun, but can be expensive
  • Domestic, or canned, Spam is much easier to shoot
  • Don’t shoot Spam when other people are at the range. Unless you have lot’s of Handi-Wipes available
  • Spam is NOT more edible after shooting. In fact, it’s even less palatable.


If you’re into video, check out SPAM – The Movie

Spam, spam, spam, and spam.

You can buy Hornady Critical Defense and Critical Duty Ammunition here.

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