The Seven Deadly Sins of Concealed Carry: Using the Wrong Ammo

I had a lot of fun with the “Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting” series a couple of months ago, and hope you did too. I got to thinking about other sins—yeah, I know, thinking can hurt your brain—and it occurred to me that there are plenty of deadly sins when it comes to concealed carry. There are way more than seven, but as “Seven Deadly Sins” is kind of a thing, I’ll pick out seven interesting, and relevant, ones.

Ready? Let’s get started.

If you’ve ever seen a Wallace and Gromit movie, then you know that The Wrong Trousers can get you in a lot of trouble. So can the wrong ammunition. Using inappropriate ammo can ruin not only your life, but someone else’s too.

Good self-defense ammunition comes in all shapes and sizes. The fourth round standing from the left is a 9mm full metal jacket practice round. The one on the far right is a Federal Guard Dog expanding full metal jacket round.

Good self-defense ammunition comes in all shapes and sizes. The fourth round standing from the left is a 9mm full metal jacket practice round. The one on the far right is a Federal Guard Dog expanding full metal jacket round.

Don’t use practice ammo

Good self-defense ammunition is designed to expand, deform, or otherwise slow down when it hits things.

Good self-defense ammunition is designed to expand, deform, or otherwise slow down when it hits things.

I would classify “practice ammo” as anything designed to be frangible (for indoor or steel target shooting) or with a full metal jacket. Don’t get me wrong, practice ammo is not sub-par—it’s just designed for a different purpose than self-defense ammo. You can buy excellent and accurate practice ammo from all the reputable ammo companies. Some of it is designed especially for matches and is exceedingly accurate—with a corresponding price tag.

Good self-defense ammunition is designed to expand, deform, or otherwise slow down when it hits things.

As good as it might be, practice ammo is designed to follow a straightforward sequence of events: go bang. Fly straight. Punch a hole in a piece of paper. Plow into a big dirt, rubber, or steel backstop. Practice ammo is not designed to deform, fragment, or expand when it hits an organic target. While it may still have fatal results, it’s less effective at stopping a determined attacker rapidly.

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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

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.


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.

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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.


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


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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

Buyers Guide: Federal Guard Dog .45 ACP EFMJ Ammunition

My Gun Culture Shooting Buyers Guide

Here’s an interesting ammo design.

Federal Guard Dog .45 ACP EFMJ Ammunition

Federal Guard Dog .45 ACP EFMJ Ammunition

Expanding Full Metal Jacket.

That’s called an oxymoron. Or something like that.

Recently we reviewed the Federal Guard Dog EFMJ Ammunition in .45 ACP caliber and were pleasantly shocked with its expansion performance. Even though it’s loaded to standard pressures, it expands easily due to the jacket design.

The other benefit to standard pressure loading is that it is amazingly comfortable to shoot. Recoil is gentle compared to other .45 ACP full power self defense rounds.

Impressive stuff.

Available Here Federal Guard Dog 45 ACP 165 Gr EFMJ Home Defense

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: Hornady 125gr FTX Critical Defense .357 Magnum

A Ridiculously Unfair Evaluation

Street Price: ~ $20 / 25 rounds
The Good
It does in fact expand – apparently under the worst conditions.
The Bad
We were impressed. The only bad thing about this ammo is the pending impact on the checkbook to try out other calibers like 9mm, .40 S&W, and .357 Sig.
The Ugly
Being on the receiving end of this load would, in fact, be ugly.
Our Rating
4 Nuns Four Nuns!

This ammo just wants to expand. Like how the Kardashian’s just want to be on TV. Like how Rosie O’Donnell just wants donuts. Like how zombies just want brainz! Like how Chuck Norris just wants to roundhouse kick things. Like how Mayors Against Illegal Guns just want to embezzle. OK, enough of that. let’s just say its desire to expand is like an irresistible force of nature.

We recently ordered some Hornady 125gr FTX Critical Defense Ammunition in .357 Magnum as part of an ammo assortment to test in a Ruger LCR .357 Magnum. It’s new, getting a lot of buzz, and offers some pretty aggressive marketing claims. Like Performance you can count on every single time. That’s a pretty bold statement, so we decided to give it a shot – so to speak.

But first, a little background on what makes Hornady Critical Defense special.

The primary feature of Hornady’s new ammo line is the construction of the projectile itself. The FTX flex tip projectiles contain a polymer plug within the hollow point area to aid bullet expansion with no risk of the ‘plugging’ problem with traditional hollow points. This construction also allows projectiles to reliability expand over a broad range of velocities, making the Critical Defense line suitable for pocket pistols, short barrel revolvers, and classic lower velocity cartridges like the .45 Colt and .44 Special.

In addition to improved projectile design, Hornady Critical Defense utilizes a powder blend designed to reduce muzzle blast and flash. Although in our test platform of a 1 7/8” barrel .357 Magnum revolver, we figured that ‘low flash’ powder blends would be about as useful as donning pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers before an atomic bomb test at Christmas Island. As of press time, we were not able to do any night shooting to check out the flash factor or lack thereof.

In its literature about the new Critical Defense rounds, Hornady claims to offer reduced recoil through magic machinations like burn efficiency. We noticed it. Compared to other .357 Magnum loads with identical ballistics, the Hornady Critical Defense perceived recoil was noticeably less. Physics ‘R Physics so while the recoil energy is still there, perhaps Hornady has done some magic to spread out the recoil impulse over more pica-seconds. Or something cool like that. Bottom line? The Hornady Critical Defense load is perfectly usable in lightweight guns like the Ruger LCR .357 Magnum. While aggressive, its controllable. And fierce.

Our Ridiculously Unfair Testing Protocol

Actually we didn’t set out to subject the nice folks at Hornady to unrealistic product evaluation, it just kind of worked out that way. We’re not MSNBC after all. You see, we had great intentions of fabricating a nifty water based shooting box from an old restaurant food tub. These are gi-normous plastic bins made from really heavy plastic. Since the tubs interior dimensions perfectly contain two rows of three or four plastic jugs depending on size, the idea was to use the tub as a stabilizing container that is ‘refillable’ by simply adding more water-filled jugs. If you just line up a bunch of water jugs and shoot them, ,things tend to fly all over the place. it’s great fun and makes for cool slow motion video, but its difficult to test more than one round per trip down range. By having them snugged together in a container, we hoped for more controlled blowing up of stuff. Also, this setup would allow for easy insertion of a variety of barrier materials in front of the first water jug – clothing, wallboard, Justin Bieber CD’s, and other fun and interesting destructibles.

For our simulated clothing barrier, we used a hunk of really crusty and nasty garage towel – one that’s been through a few dozen oil changes, engine cleanings, floor moppings and who knows what else. Mainly because we’re too cheap to shoot holes in perfectly good denim.

Behind the, umm, simulated clothing were three laundry detergent jugs full of water. Heavy plastic ones.

One last detail on the setup. The plan was to cut holes in the shooty end of the plastic tub so bullets would not have to pass through the tough plastic barrier before hitting our simulated clothing barrier and water jugs.

Haste makes waste. Dashing out to the range with gun, ammo, nifty shooty box, and lots of water jugs, we completely forgot to cut holes in the tub. And even the ever-present Kershaw Onion pocket knife was not up to the task without high probability of bloodletting.

Faced with a choice of heading back to the casa without actually shooting anything, or just blindly plowing ahead, test results be damned, you can probably guess what happened next. Yup, we shot it anyway.

As you can see from the attached photos, we went ahead and shot right through the plastic tub, through the really funky crusty fabric, and into the jugs formerly known as budget laundry detergent.


As we mentioned, this round just wants to expand. After passing through the heavy plastic barrier and through the crusty cloth, the .357 load penetrated two full laundry detergent jugs. This represents about 12 inches of water and four additional layers of not-particularly-thin plastic. And it expanded fully – to a diameter of .590 inches. Let’s see, from a starting diameter of .357 inches, that would be, carry the one… just about a 65% increase. And that is after penetrating both hard and soft barriers. Wow.

After seeing that result, we tried a couple of other rounds through the exact same setup – hard plastic barrier, nasty fabric, lots of water, and more plastic barriers. Both the Winchester 130 grain .38 Special +P PDX1 and Cor-Bon 110 grain .38 Special +P loads passed through with zero expansion, as one would expect of a hollowpoint passing through a solid barrier.

While the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain .357 Magnum load is rated at 1,500 feet per second out of a test barrel, we wanted to see what a real-world velocity would be out of a common carry gun – in this case the Ruger LCR. Velocity readings at a distance of 15 feet from the muzzle averaged 1,158 feet per second. Not too shabby out of a snubby revolver.

What Does This Prove?

  • If an evil d00d attacks you, and is wearing clothing made from greasy garage rags, no problem. Your Hornady Critical Defense ammo will expand.
  • If the evil d00d has fabricated body armor from restaurant grade heavy plastic, and is wearing undergarments made from greasy garage rags, no problem. Your Hornady Critical Defense ammo will expand.
  • If the evil d00d is carrying laundry detergent jugs full of water as a shield, in front of restaurant grade plastic body armor, and is wearing greasy garage rag undergarments, no problem. Your Hornady Critical Defense ammo will expand.

While this was not exactly a scientific ballistic test, in addition to being quite a bit of  fun, it did inspire quite a bit of confidence in Hornady Critical Defense ammunitions ability to expand after passing through hard and soft barriers. Granted, velocity always helps, and even out of the 1 7/8” Ruger LCR barrel, this bullet was moving along at just about 1,150 feet per second. We’re really anxious to try the Critical Defense rounds in other slower loads like .380 ACP, 9mm, and .45 ACP.

We’ll keep you posted.

BUY NOW: Hornady 357 Mag 125 grain Critical Defense Ammo

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