OK, kiddies, it’s time for SCIENCE!
Ballistic science, specifically. I promise to keep the math to a minimum, because I don’t like it much, either. Jim Kasper is the one who thinks in terms of equations, not me.
If you look at any of the various pages for test results on BBTI you will see that each caliber/cartridge also has a link for a Muzzle Energy (the kinetic energy of a bullet as it leaves the muzzle of a gun) graph for that set of results. That’s because Muzzle Energy can also give an idea of the effectiveness of a given ammo, since it is a calculation of both the weight of a bullet as well as the velocity it is traveling. This calculation, specifically:
Here’s what that says in English, taken from the explanation that goes with that image on Wikipedia:
The kinetic energy is equal to 1/2 the product of the mass and the square of the speed.
In other words, you multiply the weight of the bullet times the square of the velocity, then take half of whatever number you get. And that gives you the Muzzle Energy, usually (as on our site) expressed in foot-pounds of energy.
So there are two ways you can change the result: change the amount of weight, or change the amount of velocity.
But since it is the square of the velocity (the velocity times itself), changes to the velocity have a larger impact on the final amount of Muzzle Energy. That’s the reason why how the velocity changes due to barrel length is such a big deal, and why we’ve done all the research that we’ve done over the last seven years.
But while Muzzle Energy gives you a good way to compare the power and potential effectiveness of a given cartridge as a self-defense round, there are a couple of other factors to consider. A couple of VERY important factors.
One is the shape and composition of the bullet itself. There’s a very good (surprisingly good, in fact — I heartily recommend you read the whole thing) discussion of the basic shapes and how they interact with the human body in this online teaching tool intended for medical students. The relevant excerpt:
Designing a bullet for efficient transfer of energy to a particular target is not straightforward, for targets differ. To penetrate the thick hide and tough bone of an elephant, the bullet must be pointed, of small diameter, and durable enough to resist disintegration. However, such a bullet would penetrate most human tissues like a spear, doing little more damage than a knife wound. A bullet designed to damage human tissues would need some sort of “brakes” so that all the KE was transmitted to the target.
It is easier to design features that aid deceleration of a larger, slower moving bullet in tissues than a small, high velocity bullet. Such measures include shape modifications like round (round nose), flattened (wadcutter), or cupped (hollowpoint) bullet nose. Round nose bullets provide the least braking, are usually jacketed, and are useful mostly in low velocity handguns. The wadcutter design provides the most braking from shape alone, is not jacketed, and is used in low velocity handguns (often for target practice). A semi-wadcutter design is intermediate between the round nose and wadcutter and is useful at medium velocity. Hollowpoint bullet design facilitates turning the bullet “inside out” and flattening the front, referred to as “expansion.” Expansion reliably occurs only at velocities exceeding 1200 fps, so is suited only to the highest velocity handguns.
Now, while that last bit about needing to exceed 1200 fps may have been true, or a ‘good enough’ approximation a few years ago, it isn’t entirely true today. There has been a significant improvement in bullet design in the last two decades (and these innovations continue at a rapid pace), so that there are now plenty of handgun loads available which will reliably expand as intended in the velocity range expected from the round.
The other REALLY important consideration in bullet effectiveness is penetration. This is so important, in fact, that it is the major criteria used by the FBI and others in assessing performance. From Wikipedia:
According to Dr. Martin Fackler and the International Wound Ballistics Association (IWBA), between 12.5 and 14 inches (318 and 356 mm) of penetration in calibrated tissue simulant is optimal performance for a bullet which is meant to be used defensively, against a human adversary. They also believe that penetration is one of the most important factors when choosing a bullet (and that the number one factor is shot placement). If the bullet penetrates less than their guidelines, it is inadequate, and if it penetrates more, it is still satisfactory though not optimal. The FBI’s penetration requirement is very similar at 12 to 18 inches (305 to 457 mm).
A penetration depth of 12.5 to 14 inches (318 and 356 mm) may seem excessive, but a bullet sheds velocity—and crushes a narrower hole—as it penetrates deeper, while losing velocity, so the bullet might be crushing a very small amount of tissue (simulating an “ice pick” injury) during its last two or three inches of travel, giving only between 9.5 and 12 inches of effective wide-area penetration.
As noted above, the design of the bullet can have a substantial effect on how well it penetrates. But another big factor is the weight, or mass, of the bullet relative to its cross-section — this is called ‘sectional density‘. Simply put, a bullet with a large cross-section and high mass will penetrate more than a bullet with the same cross-section but low mass moving at the same speed. It isn’t penetration, but think of how hard a baseball hits versus a whiffleball moving at the same speed. They’re basically the same size, but the mass is what makes a big difference. (See also ‘ballistic coefficient‘).
With me so far?
OK, let’s go all the way back up to the top where I discussed Muzzle Energy. See the equation? Right. Let’s use the baseball/whiffleball analogy again. Let’s say that the baseball weighs 5.0 ounces, which is 2,187.5 grains. And the whiffleball weighs 2/3 of an ounce, or 291.8 grains. A pitcher can throw either ball at say 60 mph, which is 88 fps. That means (using this calculator) that the Kinetic Energy of a baseball when it leaves the pitcher’s hand is 37 foot-pounds, and the whiffleball is just 5 foot-pounds. Got that?
But let’s say that because it is so light, the pitcher can throw the wiffleball twice as fast as he can throw a baseball. That now boosts the Kinetic Energy of the whiffleball to 20 foot-pounds.
And if you triple the velocity of the whiffleball? That gives it a Kinetic Energy of 45 foot-pounds. Yeah, more than the baseball traveling at 88 fps.
What is the top line on that graph? Yeah, Liberty Civil Defense +P 78 gr JHP. It has almost 861 foot-pounds of energy, which is more than any other round included in those tests. By the Muzzle Energy measure, this is clearly the superior round.
But would it penetrate enough?
Maybe. Brass Fetcher doesn’t list the Liberty Civil Defense +P 78 gr JHP. But they did test a 90 gr RBCD round, which penetrated to 12.0″ and only expanded by 0.269 square inch. Compare that to the other bullets listed on his page, and you’ll see that while the depth of penetration isn’t too bad when compared to other, heavier, bullets, that round is tied with one other for the least amount of expansion.
Driving a lightweight bullet much, much faster makes the Muzzle Energy look very impressive. Just the velocity of the Liberty Civil Defense +P 78 gr JHP is impressive — 1865 fps out of a 5″ barrel is at least 50% faster than any other round on our test results page, and almost 400 fps faster than even the hottest of the .45 Super loads tested.
But how well would it actually penetrate? Without formally testing it, we can’t say for sure. But I am skeptical. I’m not going to volunteer to getting shot with one of the things (or even hit with a whiffleball traveling 180 mph), but I’m also not going to rely on it to work as it has to in the real world, where deep penetration is critical. I want a bullet with enough punch to get through a light barrier, if necessary. Like this video from Hickok45, via The Firearm Blog:
Personally, I prefer a heavier bullet. Ideally, I want one which is also going to have a fair amount of velocity behind it (which is why I have adapted my .45s to handle the .45 Super). All things being equal (sectional density, bullet configuration and composition), velocity is great, but mass is what penetrates.
At long last, we’ve now put up the page with the results of our .45 Super/.450 SMC tests earlier this year! We’ve also published the additional .45 ACP rounds tested at the same time, which doubles the amount of data for that cartridge available on our site.
As noted on the new .45 Super page:
.45 Super and .450 SMC (Short Magnum Cartridge) are two relatively recent variations on the classic .45 ACP cartridge. They were designed to gain more power from the cartridge than it was originally designed to produce, using modern smokeless powder and more robust case specifications. And these rounds achieve this goal, producing about 100% greater muzzle energy for a given bullet weight over standard pressure .45 ACP rounds, and about a 50% increase over .45 ACP +P (over-pressure) rounds.
Take a look at the Muzzle Energy graph for .45 Super:
One thing I notice right away is that in general, the energy curve for this cartridge is much more pronounced and consistent than the energy curve for .45 ACP loads (whether standard pressure or +P). In other words, this is a round which continues to see impressive gains in energy over a longer barrel length, rather than flattening out starting at 8 – 10″. That’s more like the behavior you see from a magnum revolver round. Even the .460 Rowland tends to not see much gain after about 10″ — with the result that while the .460 Rowland is clearly a superior round for shorter barrels over the .45 Super, most loadings of the .45 Super meet or exceed the energy of the .460 Rowland by the time you get to carbine-length barrels. And you don’t need to rechamber your gun to shoot it.
Seeing this performance out of the Cx4 Storm actually prompted me to act on something I had just been thinking about: to go out and buy one of the remaining new Cx4 Storms out there (Beretta decided to discontinue the gun in that caliber earlier this year). In a future blog post I’ll talk about the alterations I am making to that gun, and that I have made to a Glock G30S, to handle the additional power of the .45 Super cartridge.
For now, enjoy playing with the data. And please be sure to share it with others! Because while I have long been an advocate for the .460 Rowland — a cartridge I still like very much — I now think that the .45 Super is a better choice for most people. Further discussion of that next time.
Following the success of our .45 Super/.450 SMC tests this summer, I sat down to work up some reloads which would mimic the factory ammo we had tested.
Since both of these cartridges are fairly unknown, there isn’t a whole lot of good information out there to draw upon. But there is some, at least for the .45 Super, and late last year/earlier this year I had worked up some preliminary loads, starting with .45 ACP +P (overpressure) published load data. But that was done using .460 Rowland cases and shot through my converted Glock G21, which I knew could handle the extra power. When reloading, it pays to be careful and conservative.
After I had seen the results from the extensive .45 Super/.450 SMC tests (some of which has already been published), I had a pretty good idea of where the power band for these loads was, and how different guns could handle it. Since I had previously worked up loads for .460 Rowland as well as done a lot of .45 ACP reloading over the years, I figured that I could come up with some pretty reasonable load levels to match what we had seen in the factory ammo.
So I sat down, looked through all my results and what was available elsewhere, and came up with loads* for three different bullet weights I had on hand: 185gr XTP, and 200gr & 230gr FP. I chose to use Longshot powder, which I have used successfully for both .45 ACP and .460 Rowland loads. (This is not an endorsement of any of these products, and I have not been compensated from these manufacturers in any way. This is just stuff I have on hand and know has worked previously.) I loaded 50 rounds each in .45 Super cases, using standard Large Pistol Primers.
But as I was doing so, I also realized that I had a bunch of .450 SMC cases left from the tests. And I figured that it might be an interesting experiment to load those cases to the exact same specs, other than the difference in primer size. To give the cartridge the benefit of better ignition, I used Small Magnum Pistol primers. Again, I loaded 50 rounds of each bullet weight.
Again, other than the difference in primers, the reloads I worked up were identical.
OK, before I go any further, I want to toss in some caveats and explanations:
- This was an informal test, using only one chronograph and under less rigorous conditions than the formal BBTI tests. It was just me shooting a string of five shots, keeping mental track of what the numbers were for each, and then writing down a ballpark figure which seemed to best represent the overall performance. Also, I wasn’t using the BBTI light-frame which gives us more consistent chrono results.
- I was using my personal firearms, two of which (the Cx4 and Glock G30S) were brand new — this was their very first trip to the range. Yeah, I got them after seeing how similar guns performed in the .45 Super/.450 SMC tests earlier.
Now, about the guns used:
- Glock G30S with a Lone Wolf 23lb recoil spring and steel guide rod package. 3.77″ barrel
- Glock 21 converted to .460 Rowland (heavier recoil spring, compensator, and Lone Wolf .460 R barrel). 5.2″ barrel
- Beretta Cx4 carbine, standard right out of the case. But I am going to install a steel guide rod and heavy buffer in it. 16.6″ barrel
Ammo G30S G21 Cx4
.45 Super 185gr 1185 fps / 577 ft-lbs 1250 fps/ 642 ft-lbs 1550 fps / 987 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 185gr 1125 fps / 520 ft-lbs 1200 fps / 592 ft-lbs 1500 fps / 925 ft-lbs
.45 Super 200gr 1130 fps / 567 ft-lbs 1225 fps / 667 ft-lbs 1420 fps / 896 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 200gr 1090 fps / 528 ft-lbs 1180 fps / 619 ft-lbs 1420 fps / 896 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr 1080 fps / 596 ft-lbs 1160 fps / 687 ft-lbs 1310 fps / 877 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 230gr 1060 fps / 676 ft-lbs 1130 fps / 652 ft-lbs 1310 fps / 877 ft-lbs
Interesting, eh? What seems to be happening is that full ignition of the powder takes longer with the .450 SMC loads. That would explain why there’s more of a discrepancy with the lighter bullets and shorter barrels, so the bullet clears the barrel faster — some of the powder hasn’t yet ignited with the Small Magnum Primer. But with the heavier bullets and longer barrel of the Cx4, there more time for more of the powder to ignite, reducing or eliminating the difference in performance.
That’s my take on it. If you have another one, please comment.
Also, I want to note just how well I managed to emulate the performance of the factory ammo. Compare the numbers above with what I have already published for the Glock 21 and Cx4 used in the tests earlier. And it isn’t published yet, but the G30S numbers are also right on-the-money for how the G36 used in the tests earlier performed (the two guns have the same barrel length). In all instances, my reloads* performed within 10-15 fps of the factory loads.
*So, what exactly were those loads specs? OK, here’s the data, but provided with the understanding that you should WORK UP YOUR OWN LOADS starting below these amounts, and accepting that you do so on your own responsibility. Also note that any changes in bullet weight, bullet brand, or powder type may/will alter the results you can expect. AGAIN: you use this data on your own responsibility. Be safe.
All bullet weights had a 1.250″ O.A.L.
All were given a slight taper crimp.
185gr XTP rounds had 11.0gr of Longshot powder.
200gr FP rounds had 10.5gr of Longshot powder.
230gr FP rounds had 10.0gr of Longshot powder.
Remember this guy?
Well, earlier this summer my pistol suffered a mechanical problem with what Boberg calls the ‘lift mechanism’ — the part which grabs a cartridge out of the magazine and pulls it back and up to position it for loading into the chamber. Basically, a pin which helps hold the mechanism in place broke, and the gun locked up.
I contacted Boberg, told them what happened, sent along some pics. They immediately responded, said that it was likely that since the gun was such a low serial number (just 0120) it had one of an early batch of pins which had substandard quality control. No biggie. They sent out a pick-up tag so I could ship it directly to them. About two weeks later (including shipping time), I had the gun back, with a new pin, all ready to go — without it costing me a cent.
A couple days later I took it out to the range to see how it was working. And on the 19th round fired, it locked up again. Exact same way.
I contacted Boberg again. Again, they responded immediately. And they were astounded that it had happened a second time. The lead smith for the company queried me about the specifics of what happened, what ammo I was using, etc. Not because he thought that I was trying to pull a fast one, but because he was genuinely baffled how this could happen twice. Without hesitation they sent out another pick up tag, and I shipped the gun back in the same box it had arrived in a couple days previously. And I told them that they could take their time to investigate what happened — that I was in no hurry to have the gun back, and that above all I wanted a reliable gun rather than a quick turn-around. The lead smith understood and agreed completely.
So, a couple weeks later I got the gun back. Just yesterday, as a matter of fact (I asked them not to ship it until I was back from vacation). And I have yet to get out to test it myself. But this is what was in the box with the gun:
I want to point to the first item on the invoice, which says:
Repair of firearm. RA#611, Serial #S450120. (Replaced broken lift mechanism. Put 250 rounds through it. Passed test firing.)
They ran 250 rounds through it. Not just one (which is typical for a test firing), or even a mag full (6 rounds). 250. That’s easily $100 of ammo. And probably a couple hours of someone’s time. Because like me, they wanted to make sure the gun was functioning reliably.
Now, *that*, my friends, is customer service.
Anything mechanical can break down. Even the best made items can have weird failures, regardless of the quality of materials or the care of a craftsman. It happens. I’m a conservator of rare books and documents, and it has happened in my work. What matters is whether the person/company behind that product will stand by their work and make it good.
Boberg has. Kudos to them.
PS: Just for grins, here’s a pic of the interior I took before cleaning the gun this morning:
Got a question I haven’t seen for a while. Here it is, with my answer (and a little bit of additional explanation) to follow:
Thanks for the site! You do not post the altitude and temperature of your results (unless I missed that). Can you let us know what your reference points are? Also, what effect would altitude and temperature variation have on your results?
Here’s the answer I gave:
Well, it’s been a while since anyone asked about that … thanks!
We did discuss this early on, and decided pretty quickly that while both of those would indeed have an effect (as would the changes in barometric pressure), that it would be so small as to not matter for the degree of accuracy of our testing equipment and the limited number of rounds tested. If you were trying to get really good data, everything would have to be much more rigorous and controlled … and we would never ever have gotten the data that we did. So as I remind people: consider the results to be *indicative*, not definitive. In other words, don’t try to read too much into variances of a few feet-per-second, or convince yourself that such minor differences really matter.
Hope that helps to give a little perspective.
Oh, and I can answer one of your questions: almost all the testing was done at an elevation of approximately 744′ above sea level, according to commercial GPS systems.
I think that’s pretty clear, but I want to emphasize one part of it: that if we had set out to provide really rigorous and statistically-significant data, the chances are that we would never have even gotten past the first test sequence. And that means there would be NO BBTI.
As it is, we have tested something in excess of 25,000 rounds over the last 7 years. At a personal cost of more than $50,000. And that doesn’t begin to include the amount of labor which has gone into the project. To get really solid data which was statistically significant, we probably would have needed to do at LEAST three or four times as many rounds fired. With three or four times the amount of time testing. And crunching the data. And cost out of pocket.
Which would have meant that we probably would never have gotten through a single test sequence.
So it’s a matter of perspective. Do you want some data which is reasonably solid, and gives a pretty good idea of what is going on with different cartridges over different barrel lengths? Or do you want very accurate, high rigorous data which would never have been produced?
Hmm … let me think about that …😉
PS: We haven’t forgotten about the .45 Super/.450 SMC tests — it’s just been a busy summer. Look for it soon.
Today we’re going to look at the results out of a stock Beretta Cx4 Storm in (obviously) .45 ACP. I have previously reviewed the Cx4 Storm in .45 ACP for Guns.com, and it is a great little pistol caliber carbine with a 16.6″ barrel. Here is Keith shooting the one we used for this recent testing:
I want to re-iterate that the Cx4 was completely stock, with no modifications or additions whatsoever for these tests.
As I said with the previous posts about these tests, it’ll be a while before we have all the data crunched and the website updated, but I thought I would share some preliminary thoughts and information through a series of informal posts.
Quick note about the data below: All the ammo used, with the exception of the four * items, were part of our overall test sequence and had three shots made over the Oehler chronograph (which is a double-unit, and automatically records and then averages the two readings), representing a total of 6 data points. I’m just giving the overall averages here; the full data will be available on the website later. The four * ammunition types only include two shots/four data points through the Cx4. That’s because we only had one box of each of this ammo, and were wanting to get data which would be of the greatest use to the largest number of people.
Ammo Cx4 Storm
.45 ACP Low Recoil Std P 185gr FMJ-FN 997 fps / 408 ft-lbs
.45 ACP Std P 230gr FMJ-RN 933 fps / 444 ft-lbs
.45 ACP +P 185gr JHP 1361 fps / 760 ft-lbs
.45 ACP +P 230gr JHP 1124 fps / 645 ft-lbs
.45 Super 185gr JHP 1555 fps / 993 ft-lbs
.45 Super 200gr JHP 1428 fps / 905 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr FMJ 1267 fps / 819 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr JHP 1289 fps / 848 ft-lbs
.45 Super 255gr Hard Cast 1248 fps / 881 ft-lbs
.45 ACP +P 160gr Barnes TAC-XP 1315 fps / 614 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 185gr JHP 1618 fps / 1075 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 185gr Bonded Defense JHP 1556 fps / 994 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 230gr Bonded Defense JHP 1298 fps / 860 ft-lbs
Critical Defense .45 ACP Std P 185gr FTX 1161 fps / 553 ft-lbs
Critical Duty .45 ACP +P 220gr Flexlock 1018 fps / 506 ft-lbs
.45 Super 170gr CF 1421 fps / 762 ft-lbs
.45 Super 185gr XTP JHP 1578 fps / 1022 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr GD JHP 1264 fps / 815 ft-lbs
*Federal HST .45 ACP Std P 230gr JHP 882 fps / 397 ft-lbs
*G2 Research RIP .45 ACP Std P 162gr JHP 979 fps / 344 ft-lbs
*LeHigh Defense .45 Super 170gr JHP 1289 fps / 627 ft-lbs
*Liberty Civil Defense .45 ACP +P 78gr JHP 2180 fps / 822 ft-lbs
Something in particular I want to note: that in comparison to .45 ACP loads (whether standard pressure or +P), a number of the .45 Super/.450 SMC loads gain significantly more from the longer barrel. Compare these numbers to the previous posts of handguns, and you can see what I mean. You typically only gain about 10 – 15% in terms of velocity from the .45 ACP loads in going to a carbine — and this is very much in keeping with our previous testing of that cartridge. But you see upwards of a 30% gain in velocity out of some of the .45 Super/.450 SMC loads … and that translates to a 50% increase in muzzle energy!
A heavy, large projectile hitting with 900 – 1,000 foot-pounds of energy is nothing to sneeze at. Particularly when it comes with very little felt recoil out of this little carbine. That means you can get quick and accurate follow-up shots, which is always an advantage when hunting or using a gun for self/home defense.
As noted previously, we noticed no unusual wear on the Cx4 Storm, though a steady diet of such ammo could increase wear on the gun over time. And the Beretta didn’t have any problems whatsoever feeding, shooting, or ejecting any of the rounds. Where we had experienced some problems with the same ammo out of some of the handguns, there wasn’t a hiccup with the Cx4 Storm.
Look for more results, images, and thoughts in the days to come.
… to get all this brass cleaned:
Have a great weekend, everyone!
This is the first in a series of informal blog posts about the .45 ACP/Super/.450 SMC testing sequence we conducted over the Memorial Day weekend.
Here’s a pic of getting set the first day of shooting:
It’ll be a while before we have all the data crunched and the website updated, but I thought I would share some preliminary thoughts and information through a series of informal posts. In this post, we’ll see how two different versions of a Gen 4 Glock 21 performed with the ammo. The first version was with the Glock in the standard .45 ACP configuration, the second was with my .460 Rowland conversion kit in place.
The standard configuration has a 4.61″ octagonal polygonal rifling, while the conversion barrel is 5.2″ overall with conventional rifling, threaded, and with a compensator. The .460 conversion also has a heavier recoil spring.
Quick note about the data below: All the ammo used, with the exception of the four * items, were part of our overall test sequence and had three shots made over the Oehler chronograph (which is a double-unit, and automatically records and then averages the two readings), representing a total of 6 data points. I’m just giving the overall averages here; the full data will be available on the website later. The four * ammunition types only include two shots/four data points through the standard Glock 21 configuration — we only had one box of each of this ammo, and were wanting to get data from a range of guns.
Ammo Glock 21 Standard Glock 21 .460 Rowland
.45 ACP Low Recoil Std P 185gr FMJ-FN 801 fps / 263 ft-lbs 792 fps / 257 ft-lbs
.45 ACP Std P 230gr FMJ-RN 829 fps / 350 ft-lbs 826 fps / 348 ft-lbs
.45 ACP +P 185gr JHP 1132 fps / 526 ft-lbs 1168 fps / 560 ft-lbs
.45 ACP +P 230gr JHP 951 fps / 461 ft-lbs 974 fps / 484 ft-lbs
.45 Super 185gr JHP 1279 fps / 671 ft-lbs 1299 fps / 693 ft-lbs
.45 Super 200gr JHP 1178 fps / 616 ft-lbs 1203 fps / 642 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr FMJ 1069 fps / 583 ft-lbs 1085 fps / 601 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr JHP 1094 fps / 611 ft-lbs 1116 fps / 635 ft-lbs
.45 Super 255gr Hard Cast 1063 fps / 639 ft-lbs 1061 fps / 637 ft-lbs
.45 ACP +P 160gr Barnes TAC-XP 1103 fps / 432 ft-lbs 1103 fps / 432 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 185gr JHP 1328 fps / 724 ft-lbs 1351 fps / 749 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 185gr Bonded Defense JHP 1301 fps / 695 ft-lbs 1314 fps / 709 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 230gr Bonded Defense JHP 1097 fps / 614 ft-lbs 1132 fps / 654 ft-lbs
Critical Defense .45 ACP Std P 185gr FTX 984 fps / 397 ft-lbs 979 fps / 393 ft-lbs
Critical Duty .45 ACP +P 220gr Flexlock 945 fps / 436 ft-lbs 943 fps / 434 ft-lbs
.45 Super 170gr CF 1239 fps / 579 ft-lbs 1253 fps / 592 ft-lbs
.45 Super 185gr XTP JHP 1329 fps / 725 ft-lbs 1348 fps / 746 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr GD JHP 1075 fps / 590 ft-lbs 1081 fps / 596 ft-lbs
*Federal HST .45 ACP Std P 230gr JHP 813 fps / 337 ft-lbs
*G2 Research RIP .45 ACP Std P 162gr JHP 942 fps / 319 ft-lbs
*LeHigh Defense .45 Super 170gr JHP 1146 fps / 495 ft-lbs
*Liberty Civil Defense .45 ACP +P 78gr JHP 1768 fps / 580 ft-lbs
The general trends are pretty clear with the power rising as you go from standard pressure to +P to Super/.450 SMC, and topping out at about 750 foot-pounds of energy in a couple of loads. And it is interesting to note that the 185gr loads seem to be the “sweet spot” in terms of power across the board.
Of course, pure power is just one component for what makes a good ammunition choice. Bullet design & penetration is extremely important when considering a self-defense load. Shootability in your gun is also critical — because if you can’t recover quickly from shot to shot, then you may limit your ability in a stressful situation. Likewise, if the ammo doesn’t function reliably, or damages your gun, that is also a huge factor.
Most of the ammo we tested functioned very well in the Glock in either configuration. This isn’t surprising to anyone who has much familiarity with Glocks which typically will handle just about any ammo under all conditions. We did experience FTFs (failure-to-fire) with a number of the different Double-Tap rounds. Those seemed to have been due to light strikes on the primer, which could have been due to improper primer seating, ‘hard’ primers, or some other factor.
The larger platform of the Glock 21 handled the recoil very well, even from the hottest loads. I was impressed that even with the .460 Rowland conversion in place, with the additional weight of the compensator and the heavy recoil spring, the Glock didn’t have any problems cycling even the lightest loads reliably.
One other note: as discussed in my blog post about the .460 Rowland conversion, full-power .460 Rowland loads tend to cause damage to the magazines. As far as we could tell, the same isn’t true of the full-power .45 Super/.450 SMC loads. Just one magazine (a new one) was used for all these tests, and there was no detectable damage. Nor was there any other damage detected to the gun otherwise, though it is possible a steady diet of loads of that power could cause some over the long term.
Look for more results, images, and thoughts in the days to come.
With a little luck in about two months we’ll be doing the formal chop tests of .45 Super, .450 SMC, and some additional .45 ACP loads. We’ve now got all the ammo on hand, and it’ll be a fun (but tiring) weekend. I thought I would share what actual ammo we will be testing, with the manufacturer’s velocity data:
45acp Low Recoil Std P 185gr FMJ-FN 850fps
45acp Std P 230gr FMJ-RN 850fps
45acp +P 185gr JHP 1150fps
45acp +P 230gr JHP 950fps
45 Super 185gr JHP 1300fps
45 Super 200gr JHP 1200fps
45 Super 230gr FMJ 1100fps
45 Super 230gr JHP 1100fps
45 Super 255gr Hard Cast 1075fps
45acp +P 160gr Barnes TAC-XP 1200fps from 5” 1075fps from 3.5”
450 SMC 185gr JHP 1310fps from 5” 1911
450 SMC 185gr Bonded Defense JHP 1310fps from 5” 1911
450 SMC 230gr Bonded Defense JHP 1135fps from 5” 1911
Critical Defense 45acp Std P 185gr FTX Muzzle 1000fps
Critical Duty 45acp +P 220gr Flexlock Muzzle 941fps
45 Super 170gr CF 1250fps
45 Super 185gr XTP JHP 1300fps
45 Super 230gr GD JHP 1100fps
In addition to the first data for both the .45 Super and .450 SMC cartridges, this will also almost double the number of .45 ACP loads we’ve tested. We’re looking forward to it!
As Frank said on Facebook this afternoon:
I knew when you got the 45 you wanted the 9mm too. It was only a matter of time.
Guilty as charged. Look what followed me home today:
Yup, a Boberg XR9-S: a new little brother for my XR45-S. As I did in that post, I thought I’d put up some comparison pix to give a sense of just how small this gun is, even though it really doesn’t feel like it when you hold it or shoot it.
Here it is again with the XR45:
And here’s the view that shows the thickness of both:
Yeah, there’s a difference. Here’s the XR9 with a Springfield EMP (also 9mm, 3″ barrel – the XR9 has a 3.35″ barrel):
And with my J-frame in .38 Special:
For grins, here it is on top of the J-frame:
OK, but how about in comparison to the classic premium pocket 9mm, the Rohrbaugh R9? Here ya go:
The R9 *is* a fantastic little gun, and I love it. I don’t love shooting it, though. The XR9 wins in that category. It will also handle +P ammo and holds one more round (7+1) than the Rohrbaugh. But it is a bit bigger:
Lastly, here it is with a Bond Arms derringer — a great little gun, with a variety of different barrels available. But there’s still just two shots in the derringer, and it actually weighs about 3 ounces more.
While I have shot this gun (it belonged to a good friend), and know it to be dependable, I do still want to make sure that it will be able to reliably digest my preferred SD loads. So more on that to come!
First, I want to share a couple of things I discovered in getting the Boberg out of the box, taken apart, and cleaned. This wasn’t strictly necessary, of course, because it came from the factory properly cleaned and lubed. But I’m very much a hands-on learner, and wanted to see what I was dealing with.
The gun is very user-friendly. To take it down for field stripping, you just rack the slide back, turn a lever, then move the slide forward. You don’t need any special tools, or an extra hand, or the strength of the pure. In that sense, it is very much in the modern design, as easy as a Glock. BUT without the need to dry-fire the gun first (which always makes me twitch, and may be the only thing I really dislike about the Glock design.)
Once the slide comes away from the frame, there are only 4 parts which come apart (other than the slide itself). There are no little fiddly bits to get lost or to spring out of sight when you’re not looking. You don’t have to disassemble the gun in a paper bag so that you don’t lose anything. It’s easy, obvious, and once you’ve done it following the owner’s manual, I doubt you’ll ever need to refer to the manual again. You can’t ask for more than that.
So, dis-assembly, cleaning, and re-assembly is all a breeze. Nice!
Having done so, I went through my box of misc. holsters to see what the Boberg might fit into. Because the XR45 is so new there are damned few holster-makers out there who have a holster listed to fit it. And I discovered something VERY interesting: the slide has almost the exact same dimensions as the Glock 21 (and similar Glock models). I first found this out in trying it in this little plastic holster: Glock Sport Combat Holster. I got out my calipers and did some measuring, and found that there was less than a millimeter difference in the width of the slide on the Glock 21 and the Boberg. They also have very similar profiles. And if you measure from the deepest pocket on the backstrap of either gun (where the web of your hand settles in) to the front of the trigger guard, there is less than 2 millimeters difference. Meaning that the Boberg fits almost perfectly into an open-muzzle holster for a Glock 21. Good to know!
OK, so what about going out shooting with the Boberg today?
Overall, I was very happy with how it performed on a first outing. I had a couple of minor glitches with improper feeding and ejection, but I am going to hold off on making any decisions about that until I give it at least another range session to break in. It does seem to fling spent cases somewhere into the next county, and I’m going to have to get used to that since I like to recover those cases and reload them. My very mild reloads wouldn’t cycle properly (the ones I took out are *really* mild), so I learned to take somewhat hotter loads. And the trigger is really l o n g … longer than either J-frame I own, and about like the little DAO Rohrbaugh I have. The gun seems to shoot a little to the left for me, but I won’t adjust the sights until I’m more familiar with it. Even so, I was able to consistently ding a 6″ spinner at 10 yards, which is all I expect from a pocket pistol.
How did it handle the different ammos I tried? Quite well, all in all.
I took my Glock 21 (5″ barrel) along for comparison, and shot over a single chronograph. Here are the average numbers:
Glock 21 Boberg
CorBon DPX 185gr +P 1060FPS 1030FPS
Winchester SXZ Training 230gr 850FPS 795FPS
Speer GDHP 230gr 840FPS 760FPS
CorBon JHP 230gr +P 980FPS 900FPS
The CorBon ammo is in line with what we tested formally. So that was good to see.
All together, I put about 100 rounds through the Boberg this afternoon, and wasn’t experiencing any real soreness or tiredness from all that shooting, which is unusual for such a small gun and full power loads. And just for comparison, I shot my .38Sp J-frame with 158gr LSWCHP +P from Buffalo Bore, which is my preferred SD loading for that gun, and the recoil was worse than with the Boberg. That’s for a ME comparison of 386 ft/lbs for the J-frame to 436 ft/labs for the Boberg with the 185gr CorBon loading.
So, that’s that. Already, the Boberg is equal to the J-frame, in my eyes. I shoot it as well. It has the same, or greater, amount of power. Reloading is faster. And it holds 6+1 to start. I still want to put it through its paces before I trust it as a carry gun, and there will be times when I still prefer to have the revolver, but already I can see that the Boberg is going to be a very nice addition to my collection.
More to come.
I’ve written about the innovative Boberg Arms XR9 previously. Here’s the take-away from my review:
This gun is a winner. It is well designed, and well made. The innovative design makes your brain hurt when you first see it. But the recoil is nothing like what you get from any other “pocket gun”, even when shooting full +P defensive ammunition. Usually with a pocket gun, you trade off the pain of shooting it a lot for the convenience of being able to carry it easily. With the Boberg, you don’t have to make that trade-off. I honestly wouldn’t be bothered at all by running a couple hundred rounds through this gun at the range.
Well, guess what followed me home today.
No, not an XR9. Something a little … bigger:
Yup, one of the new XR45s.
Here’s a pic of one from my outing with the other BBTI guys a few weeks ago:
It’s a little hard to tell how big the gun is in that pic. Here it is with some others:
Here’s the Boberg back to back with the Steyr:
With the EMP:
And with the J-frame:
And just for grins, here’s the Boberg with the J-frame sitting right on top of it:
Yeah, the 6+1 Boberg is actually smaller than the three other compact pistols. And it has a longer barrel than all three — 3.75″ on the Boberg, compared to 3.5″ in the Steyr, 3.0″ in the EMP, and 1.875″ on the J-frame.
How does it do this? Because of the innovative … some would say just plain weird … way the feed mechanism works. For the best explanation, take a look at the animation on the Boberg homepage, but basically as the slide comes back, it grabs a new cartridge out of the magazine by the rim and then positions it into the chamber. Yeah, you put the bullets in the magazine nose first. Like this:
And here’s a detail of the top of the loaded mag:
It takes some getting used to, I admit.
Now, while the Boberg is actually smaller in overall size than the other guns, it still has some heft to it: 22 ounces, as opposed to both the Steyr and the EMP at 26. The J-frame shown is a Model M&P 360 with the Scandium frame, so it comes in under 14 ounces. All of those are unloaded weight.
How does it shoot? Like this:
“Not bad at all.”
That was with .45 ACP+P high-end self-defense rounds.
Since I just got mine, it will take a while to find out all the little quirks that it has. But based on shooting one a few weeks ago, and in a much longer session with the 9mm version, I have little doubt that I will be very pleased with it. I’ve already poked around my selection of holsters, and found that the XR45 fits perfectly into a little belt slide holster I have for my Glock 21 Gen 4, as well as into a Mika Pocket Holster I use for the J-frame.
Another quick post about getting together for a bit of shooting weekend before last. This time, let’s look at some semi-auto carbines.
The first two are a pair of Beretta CX4 Storms, one in 9mm and the other in .45ACP. You can see them here with the pump guns:
I’ve previously reviewed the Cx4, and would only add that each time I shoot one of these guns I just enjoy the hell out of them. At just under 30″ overall length and weighing 5.75 pounds, they’re light, easily maneuverable, and very ergonomic. Great little pistol caliber carbines.
Now, see that gun partially visible off to the right in the pic above? And here’s another shot of it with the other pumps and carbines:
See that short little thing third from the left? Yeah, it’s an AGM-1 carbine in 9mm. Here’s a much better pic of it:
It’s an old-school bullpup, made in the 1980s in Italy. None of us had seen one before, and since it was a used gun it came with no paperwork or information. In picking it up, it felt almost too small to be civilian-legal (I mean non-NFA regulated), but the overall length is a tad over 26″ and the barrel is barely 16 and 1/8th inch. It has a little more heft than the Cx4, and most of the parts are heavy stamped steel. It uses Browning Hi-Power magazines. Interestingly, it was intended to be a modular design you could easily convert over to either .22lr or .45ACP, though I doubt the parts to do so are very common now.
But it was a surprisingly nice little gun to shoot. And when I say little, I mean it — damned thing is shorter than my arm. It was accurate, had a nice trigger, and almost no recoil. All of us were able to put a magazine full of bullets into a one-inch hole at 11 yards the first time we picked it up and tried it. Cool gun. If you ever happen to stumble across one in a shop, don’t be afraid to give it a try.
A friend dropped me a note, after looking over my previous experiments with putting .460 Rowland load power into .45 ACP cases, and asked a fairly simple question: Do you think that the case walls are actually thicker in the .460 Rowland?
Now, I have read several articles over the years which mentioned that the .460 Rowland cases were “stronger” with others saying that the cases were “thicker”. In fact, in the blog post cited above, I myself said:
Even shooting them in a gun designed to handle .460 Rowland power was risky, since the .45 ACP cases do not have the same strength as the .460 Rowland cases.
But is that actually true?
Good question. My Lyman 49th Edition Reloading Handbook doesn’t give case wall thickness for the .45ACP, and doesn’t list .460 Rowland at all. A quick check online also didn’t turn up any case wall thickness specs for either cartridge. As noted above, there are some gun writers out there who claim that the .460 Rowland case has thicker walls “for strength” but this claim isn’t made on the 460Rowland.com site that I could find.
So, being the data-curious guy that I am, I decided to just take some measurements and see what I found.
The only .460 cases I have are all Starline brass (I ordered 500 from them, and supplemented with other brass from factory Buffalo Bore ammunition – again, all of it marked as Starline), and I went through and checked a bunch with my simple calipers. Now, those calipers aren’t the pincer type, just the standard parallel-jaws type, so I only trust the measurements to about halfway down the case. And they all fell into a range of wall thickness from 0.0012″ to 0.0014″.
Doing the same measurement with ten different ‘marked’ sets of .45 ACP brass I also have readily to hand, the results were almost identical, with the vast majority of cases being 0.0012″ or a thousandth of an inch on either side of that. It didn’t matter whether the cases were nickle-plated or marked “+P”. The ‘marked’ brass was as follows:
- Cor Bon +P
- Federal Brass
- Federal Nickle
- Speer Brass
- Speer Nickle
And when you stop to think about it, there would be no reason or way for the case walls to be significantly thicker in the .460 Rowland cartridge, and still allow you to use standard .45 ACP reloading components and dies. If the case walls were substantially thicker, then you’d have to have slightly smaller bullets, if nothing else, and would probably need a different resizing die and/or neck expanding die.
Also, when I was conducting those experiments last summer, I didn’t note any differences in how the .45 ACP cases looked or functioned (when being reloaded) after being shot with .460 Rowland power loads.
My conclusion? That the .460 Rowland cases are no thicker walled than .45 ACP cases. They may still be “stronger”, if there is some metallurgical difference, but I doubt it. The real difference is in whether or not the chamber of the gun in which the ammo is being used is strong enough to handle the much-greater pressure of the .460 Rowland loads. Because remember, the maximum pressure for standard .45 ACP is just 21,000 PSI, and 23,000 PSI for .45 ACP +P — while the .460 Rowland cartridge reaches pressures of 40,000 PSI.
Of course, there are additional factors to consider (like recoil and timing) with the .460 Rowland cartridge, so you can’t just make the chamber of the gun stronger and then start putting those kinds of loads into .45 ACP cases. And you really wouldn’t want to accidentally put such power into a ‘normal’ .45 ACP gun — that could lead to catastrophic failure of the gun, and result in serious injury or death. So it still makes ALL KINDS OF SENSE to only load the longer .460 Rowland cases with that much power.
- .25 ACP
- .30 carbine
- .32 ACP
- .32 H&R
- .327 Federal Magnum
- .357 Magnum
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- .380 ACP
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- .41 Magnum
- .44 Magnum
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- .45 Colt
- .45 Super
- .450 SMC
- .460 Rowland
- 6.5 Swedish
- 9mm Luger (9×19)
- 9mm Mak
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- Boberg Arms
- General Procedures
- Shotgun ballistics