All along, we’ve said that if someone wanted to take the time, trouble, and expense to do some additional research along the lines of our protocols, that we’d be happy to include their data on our site. This is particularly true if it helped expand the selection of “real world guns” associated with the data for a given caliber/cartridge. Well, for the first time someone has expressed an interest in doing just that, prompting us to come up with an outline of what standards we feel are required for making sure it relates to our previous tests.
The biggest problem is that ammo manufacturers may, and do, change the performance of their products from time to time. This is why we have on occasion revisited certain cartridges, doing full formal chop tests in order to check how specific lines of ammo have changed. That gives us a benchmark to compare other ammo after a period of several years have passed, and shows how new tests relate to the old data.
But without going to such an extent, how can we be reasonably sure that new data collected by others using their own firearms is useful in comparison to our published data?
After some discussion, we feel that so long as any new testing includes three or more of the specific types of ammo (same manufacturer, same bullet weight & design) we had tested previously, then that will give enough of a benchmark for fair comparison. (Obviously, in instances where we didn’t test that many different types of ammo in a given cartridge, adjustments would need to be made). With that in mind, here are the protocols we would require in order to include new data on our site (with full credit to the persons conducting the tests, of course):
- Full description and images of the test platform (firearm) used in the tests. This must specify the make, model number, barrel length, and condition of the firearm. Ideally, it will also include the age of the firearm.
- That a good commercial chronograph be used. Brand isn’t critical — there seems to be sufficient consistency between different models that this isn’t a concern. However, the brand and model should be noted.
- Chronographs must be positioned approximately 15 feet in front of the muzzle of the firearm used to test the ammo. This is what we started with in our tests, and have maintained as our standard through all the tests.
- That five or six data points be collected for each type of ammo tested. This can be done the way we did it, shooting three shots through two different chronographs, or by shooting six shots through one chronograph.
- All data must be documented with images of the raw data sheets. Feel free to use the same template we used in our tests, or come up with your own.
- Images of each actual box of ammo used in the test must be provided, which show the brand, caliber/cartridge, and bullet weight. Also including manufacturer’s lot number would be preferred, but isn’t always possible.
- A note about weather conditions at the time of the test and approximate elevation of the test site above sea level should be included.
We hope that this will allow others to help contribute to our published data, while still maintaining confidence in the *value* of that data. Please, if you are interested in conducting your own tests, contact us in advance just so we can go over any questions.
If you’ve got a couple thousand dollars available, it’s relatively easy to select one or more firearms for home defense, or for your bug-out bag, or what have you. You’ve got plenty of choices, and just need to sort through the options available and find the gun(s) which best fit your needs.
But what if you only have a couple hundred bucks?
A good used pump shotgun will serve most people pretty well for home defense. But what if you want something more compact for your bug-out bag or emergency kit? Then your options are much more limited, and you have to prioritize. You have to decide just what you want your firearm to be able to do, and then see what is available to best meet those goals.
This is one such solution. By no means do I think that it is the only solution. But how I went through the decision-making process and then how I put it into practice might provide some insights.
I wanted a fairly versatile firearm for an emergency kit, the sort of thing which could get taken along on a long drive, or to have when vacationing away from home. I wasn’t thinking of the firearm as a combat weapon, but something which would be suitable for emergency hunting or self-defense. I wanted it to be compact, reliable, and with a wide enough selection of loadings* (whether factory or my own reloads) to meet a range of uses from hunting small game to protecting against large predators.
After thinking it over, I decided to look for a good used .357 magnum revolver, with a 3 – 5″ barrel. I didn’t already have such a handgun, so it would also give me a chance to fill in a gap in my collection. After some shopping around, I found a 40 year-old Ruger Security Six with a 4″ barrel in my price range. The gun looked and felt mechanically sound, but was kinda beat-up. There was a fair amount of holster wear on the bluing. The walnut grips had been abused, with scratches and part of the bottom finger groove broken away. The bore looked fine, but there was a lot of built-up lead around the forcing cone, and the trigger and cylinder barely moved from what felt like built-up gunk.
I decided to take a chance, and brought it home. Yesterday I had the time to take it apart and completely rework it. What I found was that while the gun had been reasonably well cared-for, seemingly no one had ever bothered to do more than just a basic quick cleaning. I pried out/off about a 1/16″ layer of accumulated dirt, burnt powder residue, and old oil from most of the internal surfaces, particularly around the trigger assembly. Little wonder it felt almost frozen in place. I went ahead and did a thorough cleaning of the rest of the gun, and was even able to remove the lead deposits with minimal work.
The grips were first slightly reconfigured with a wood file then sanded thoroughly. I refinished them to a satin finish for slightly better tactile control.
Here’s how the gun looks now:
It’s not gorgeous. It could certainly stand to be reblued, or at least have the bluing touched-up. But I’m not going to worry about it — for my needs, it’s just fine as it is now.
The moral of the story is to think through what you want your firearm to do, then do your research to see what the range of choices are. Shop around. If you have modest skills with hand tools, you should be able to make dramatic improvements in the performance & appearance of a gun (perhaps with some help from online videos and instruction).
*Ammo Selection I will keep on hand for this gun in the emergency kit (representative examples):
- 10 rounds of Shot-shell ammo (for birds, really small game)
- 20 rounds of .38 Short low-power ammo (for small game)
- 20 rounds of 125gr .357 Mag self-defense ammo (for two legged predators)
- 40 rounds of 158gr .357 Mag hunting ammo (for medium & larger game)
- 10 rounds of 200gr .357 Mag bear ammo (for large predators)
We had another of those wonderful & rare mid-50s January days here today, so I decided to get out for a little range time.
In addition to the other shooting I did (basically, practice with some of my preferred CCW guns), I also did a little head-to-head comparison between a Smith & Wesson M&P 360 J-frame in .38 Special and a Colt Anaconda in .44 Magnum.
Wait … what? Why on Earth would anyone even consider trying to do such an absurd comparison? The S&W is a very small gun, and weighs just 13.3 ounces. The Anaconda is a monster, weighing in at 53 ounces (with the 6″ barrel that mine has), and is literally twice as long and high as the J-frame. The .38 Special is generally considered a sufficient but low-power cartridge for self defense, while the .44 Magnum still holds a place in the popular mind as ‘the most powerful handgun in the world‘ (even though it isn’t).
Well, I was curious about the perceived recoil between the two, shooting my preferred loads for each. The topic had come up in chatting with a friend recently, and I thought I would do a little informal test, just to see what I thought.
So for the M&P 360 I shot the Buffalo Bore .38 special +P, 158 gr. LSWHC-GC which I have chrono’d out of this gun at 1050 fps, with a ME of 386 ft-lbs.
And for the Anaconda I shot Hornady .44 Remington Magnum 240gr XTP JHP, which I have chrono’d at 1376 fps, with a ME of 1009 ft-lbs. (Actually, I don’t have a ‘preferred carry ammo’ for this gun, but this is typical of what I shoot out of it. Were I going to use it as a bear-defense gun, I’d load it with this.)
My conclusion? That the M&P 360 was worse, in terms of perceived recoil. In fact, I’d say that it was *much* worse.
It’s completely subjective, but it does make sense, for a couple of reasons.
First, look at the weight of each gun, compared to the ME of the bullets shot. The J-frame is 13.3 ounces, or about 25% of the 53 ounce weight of the Anaconda. But the ME of 386 ft-lbs of the .38 Special bullet is 38.25% of the ME of the .44 Mag at 1009 ft-lbs. Put another way, the J-frame has to deal with 29 ft-lbs of energy per ounce of the gun, where the Anaconda has just 19 ft-lbs of energy per ounce of the gun. That’s a big difference.
Also, all that recoil of the J-frame is concentrated into a much smaller grip, when compared to the relatively large grip of the Anaconda. Simply, it the difference between being smacked with a hammer and a bag of sand, in terms of how it feels to your (or at least, my) hand.
Had a chance to get out in the cool and do some head-to-head comparisons of four different .380 ACP pistols. Here they are:
I’m going to discuss the RM380 and the R380 together, since the first is the latest version of the latter. See, Rohrbaugh was sold to Remington about a year ago, and shortly thereafter Remington began to tweak the design of the R380 a bit, which I think was mostly an improvement.
The original Rohrbaugh was designed to be the perfect pocket pistol, with smooth edges in a *very* compact yet ergonomically-friendly package. And as my original review indicates, I thought it was a great gun.
The new RM380 is essentially the same design. They’ve changed the mag release from the European-style butt plate to a conventional side-button. They’ve given the grips more texture which make it easier to hold onto (many people who owned a Rohrbaugh added either a slip-on grip or some grip tape to accomplish the same thing). And they’ve added a slight beaver-tail to help keep the external DA hammer from pinching the web of the hand. They’ve made it so the slide locks back after the last round in the mag is fired. And they’ve made an additional magazine with a small extension which makes it even easier to shoot the gun. In my opinion, these are all improvements.
Changes which aren’t improvements? Well, the gun is lighter, at about 12.2 ounces (the Rohrbaugh was 13.5), and that contributed to increased felt recoil. The fit & finish are not nearly as nice as the R380. But then again, the Remington now costs about 1/3 what the original Rohrbaugh did.
Both guns have very basic sights. They are not guns to take to a competition at 25 yards. But both of them would pop 6″ spinners consistently at 7 yards. Both operated reliably, though I was just using hardball ammo — you’d want to select your preferred SD load and make sure that it shot out of your gun consistently and reliably.
The trigger on the Remington was still a VERY long pull. First time I shot it, I thought it was even worse than the Rohrbaugh in that regard. But after going back and forth between the two, I think it just felt longer, because in addition to being long it was fairly gritty and rough. That might clean up over time (this gun had less than 100 rounds through it), but it was noticeably worse than the Rohrbaugh.
I’ve done a brief review of the Glock 42 previously. What I said then still stands:
Comments: I did not expect to like this gun. I was REALLY surprised when I did. Seriously, it is the best-shooting Glock I’ve ever handled. For such a small gun, it fit my large hands comfortably and was easy to shoot well. With Glock quality and reliability, this may be the first .380acp I would seriously consider as a CCW gun.
I had done a previous review of the P238 with the classic 1911-style grips, which can be found here. This one was brand-new … literally, it had just been picked up at the store and then brought out to the range. And it has the Hogue-style grips and the finger extension on the mag, which I really liked.
The large front fiber optic sight made target acquisition fast and easy. The grips fit my large hands very well, and made it easy to shoot the gun accurately.
So, how did the four guns feel, shooting them head-to-head?
OK, a couple of notes first. We shot Remington UMC 95gr hardball ammo. We loaded up 6 rounds into each mag, then shot first one gun, then another, then another, then another. We mixed up the order of which followed which. And we shot at both 7 yards and 10 yards.
My personal preference for shooting? This order, with notes:
- Sig P238. Had the least perceived recoil and greatest accuracy. For fast, multiple hits it was great, getting back on target with minimal fuss. Very crisp and clean trigger.
- Glock 42. Slight sting from the recoil, accuracy almost as good as the Sig. Again, getting back on target was fast and easy. Trigger not as good as the Sig, but familiar to anyone who knows how any other Glock shoots.
- Remington RM380. The worst recoil of all four guns, but the improvements to the grips and the mag extension really make a difference for accuracy. The long, rough trigger almost moved this to #4.
- Rohrbaugh R380. The least accurate and the most difficult to get back on target for follow-up shots.
Now, I want to stress that all four guns were adequately accurate at 7 yards. Shooting fast, I could get at least 5 out of 6 within about a 12″ circle, and hit at least one or two hits on a 6″ spinner. Consistently. Since I don’t own any of these guns, I would expect that I could improve on that with practice. Of course, most Self Defense ammo is usually hotter, and would present more of a problem for recoil and target re-acquisition. But I still think all four guns would perform well.
That’s how I would rank the guns for shooting. But that isn’t the only factor in considering a gun for concealed-carry.
As I noted in my review, I don’t like having a “cocked & locked” pistol in my pocket. And if I’m going to have a CCW weapon in a holster, then I might as well step up to a full 9mm as opposed to a .380. So that’s a big strike against the P238 in my book, as nice a gun as I actually found it to be.
It also depends on exactly what you want out of your minimal CCW gun. Do you want the lightest? The thinnest? The smoothest? Or does shoot-ability matter more?
It’s a matter of personal preference. I think that I would rank my selection for concealed carry this way, with some brief explanation for each:
- Remington RM380. A really good choice for a light, thin, pocket pistol intended to be used as either a back-up or deep cover gun. But I’d spend some time working on smoothing out that trigger.
- Glock 42. Not as small or as light as the RM380. But much better sights, and a most stable platform in my hands. Meaning that I would consider it as a primary CCW, not just as a back-up.
- Rohrbaugh R380. Weighs about what the Glock does, but is the smallest/thinnest of all four.
- Sig P238. A great shooter. And if you’re willing to carry it cocked & locked in your pocket, then I can easily see how this could be anyone’s first choice. But for me, I’d want it in a belt holster (or shoulder rig), and that’s a big disadvantage — I might as well carry a much more powerful gun.
But hey, that’s just my calculation. Feel free to weigh in with your own.
A very nice companion to our .223 chop tests:
In 223 Remington/5.56 NATO, velocity versus barrel length: A man, his chop box and his friend’s rifle, we cut the barrel of a factory Remington 700 chambered in 223 Remington back one inch at a time and recorded the average velocity for four different 223 Remington and 5.56mm NATO cartridges. The data set generated from that post provided imperial values for muzzle velocities from 26″ to 16.5″. A few readers suggested mounting the barrel in a pistol and continuing the test for shorter barrels- we liked the idea. In this experiment, we gathered data using the same barrel from the first 223 Remington/5.56mm NATO experiment (on a pistol action), with the same four kinds of ammunition from 14″ to 6″.
Good protocols, good documentation, good data. And between his different tests, he covers a wider range of barrel lengths than we did, and has some different loadings — so what’s not to like? Go check it out, and bookmark it to share with others!
Thanksgiving weekend 2008, we launched the BBTI website and blog. So while the 28th is the actual anniversary, I tend to think of the start of this journey on Thanksgiving each year.
Seven years. Wow.
And in that time so much has changed. As I’ve noted previously, BBTI has become a standard reference world-wide, and I think that we’ve actually helped create some changes in how ammo manufacturers market their products, providing customers with more reliable & useful information.
But there’s so much more which has come about because of BBTI. I’ve met and made friends with a lot of people. I’ve had interesting discussions & correspondence and learned an incredible amount from people who are much more knowledgeable than I am. People from almost every walk of life, and from all around the world. It’s been fascinating.
In my traditional year-end review I’ll get into all the numbers, but it has been a very good year in terms of visitors to the BBTI page and this blog. So for now I’ll just repeat what I said last year:
Thanks to all who have cited us, written about us, told their friends about us. Thanks to all who have taken the time to write with questions and suggestions. And thanks to all who have donated to help offset the ongoing costs of hosting and testing — it makes a difference, and is appreciated.
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.
Got an email which is another aspect of the problem I wrote about recently. The author was asking that we get more fine-grained in our data, by making measurements of barrel lengths by one-eighth and one-quarter inch increments. Here’s a couple of relevant excerpts:
what more is really needed, is barrel lengths between 1-7/8 and 4-1/2″.
because of the proliferation of CCW and pocket pistols, and unresolved
questions about short barrel lengths that go all over between 2 and 3.75″,
and snubby revolvers that may be even shorter.
* * *
with that amount of precision, not only would you have data covering all
lengths of short barrels, but you could fabricate mathematical curves that
would predict velocities for any possible barrel length, metric or
otherwise, given the particular ammo.
It’s not an unreasonable thought, on the surface. Our data clearly shows that the largest gains in bullet velocity always come in length increases of very short barrels for all cartridges/calibers. So why not document the changes between, say, a 4.48″ barrel and a 4.01″ one? That’s the actual difference between a Glock 17 and a Glock 19, both very popular guns which are in 9mm. Or between a S&W Model 60 with a 2.125″ barrel and a S&W Model 360PD with a 1.875″ barrel?
Ideally, it’d be great to know whether that half or quarter inch difference was really worth it, when taking into consideration all the other factors in choosing a personal defense handgun.
The problem is that there are just too many different variables which factor into trying to get really reliable information on that scale.
Oh, if we wanted to, we could do these kinds of tests, and come up with some precise numbers, and publish those numbers. But it would be the illusion of precision, not actually useful data. That’s because of the limits of what we can accurately measure and trust, as well as the normal variations which occur in the manufacturing process … of the guns tested; of the ammunition used; of the chronograph doing the measurements; even, yes, changes in ambient temperature and barometric pressure.
That’s because while modern manufacturing is generally very, very good, nothing is perfect. Changes in tolerance in making barrels can lead to variation from one gun to the next. Changes in tolerance in measuring the amount of gunpowder which goes into each cartridge (as well as how tight the crimp is, or even tweaks in making the gunpowder itself) mean that no two batches of ammunition are exactly alike. And variations in making chronographs — from the sensors used, to slight differences in positioning, to glitches in the software which operate them — mean that your chronograph and mine might not agree on even the velocity of a bullet they both measure.
All of those little variations add up. Sometimes they will compound a problem in measuring. Sometimes they will cancel one another out. But there’s no way to know which it is.
This is why we’ve always said to consider our data as being indicative, not definitive. Use it to get a general idea of where your given choice of firearm will perform in terms of bullet velocity. Take a look at general performance you can expect from a brand or line of ammunition. Compare how this or that particular cartridge/caliber does versus another one you are considering.
But keep in mind that there’s no one perfect combination. You’re always going to be trading off a bunch of different factors in choosing a self-defense tool.
And never, ever forget that what matters most — FAR AND ABOVE your choice of gun or ammunition — is whether or not you can use your firearm accurately and reliably when you need to. Practice and training matters much more than whether or not you get an extra 25, or 100, or even 500 fps velocity out of whatever bullet is traveling downrange. Because if you can’t reliably hit your target under stress, no amount of muzzle energy is going to do you a damn bit of good.
If you want more information about how accuracy and precision can be problematic, this Wikipedia entry is a good place to start.
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.
Today we’re going to see what the results are for a couple of different high-end 1911 platform guns. The first is an Ed Brown Kobra Carry (reviewed here), a Commander-sized (4.25″ barrel) single stack designed as a concealed-carry gun. We made no modifications of it for the more powerful loads. Here it is during our testing:
As I said with the other two 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 Ed Brown Kobra Carry, since it is a typical length for a self-defense gun. 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 Ed Brown Kobra Carry Wilson Combat Hunter
.45 ACP Low Recoil Std P 185gr FMJ-FN 798 fps / 261 ft-lbs 791 fps / 256 ft-lbs
.45 ACP Std P 230gr FMJ-RN 811 fps / 335 ft-lbs 819 fps / 342 ft-lbs
.45 ACP +P 185gr JHP 1130 fps / 524 ft-lbs 1139 fps / 532 ft-lbs
.45 ACP +P 230gr JHP 952 fps / 462 ft-lbs 970 fps / 480 ft-lbs
.45 Super 185gr JHP 1257 fps / 648 ft-lbs 1312 fps / 706 ft-lbs
.45 Super 200gr JHP 1175 fps / 613 ft-lbs 1216 fps / 656 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr FMJ 1067 fps / 581 ft-lbs 1105 fps / 623 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr JHP 1084 fps / 600 ft-lbs 1109 fps / 627 ft-lbs
.45 Super 255gr Hard Cast 1061 fps / 637 ft-lbs 1074 fps / 653 ft-lbs
.45 ACP +P 160gr Barnes TAC-XP 1121 fps / 446 ft-lbs 1162 fps / 479 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 185gr JHP 1310 fps / 704 ft-lbs 1350 fps / 748 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 185gr Bonded Defense JHP 1254 fps / 645 ft-lbs 1294 fps / 687 ft-lbs
.450 SMC 230gr Bonded Defense JHP 1103 fps / 621 ft-lbs 1108 fps / 626 ft-lbs
Critical Defense .45 ACP Std P 185gr FTX 969 fps / 385 ft-lbs 976 fps / 391 ft-lbs
Critical Duty .45 ACP +P 220gr Flexlock 932 fps / 424 ft-lbs 936 fps / 427 ft-lbs
.45 Super 170gr CF 1249 fps / 588 ft-lbs 1259 fps / 598 ft-lbs
.45 Super 185gr XTP JHP 1285 fps / 678 ft-lbs 1339 fps / 736 ft-lbs
.45 Super 230gr GD JHP 1071 fps / 585 ft-lbs 1099 fps / 616 ft-lbs
*Federal HST .45 ACP Std P 230gr JHP 815 fps / 339 ft-lbs
*G2 Research RIP .45 ACP Std P 162gr JHP 961 fps / 332 ft-lbs
*LeHigh Defense .45 Super 170gr JHP 1165 fps / 512 ft-lbs
*Liberty Civil Defense .45 ACP +P 78gr JHP 1843 fps / 588 ft-lbs
As with the other guns I’ve posted about, 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 both 1911 platforms. Interestingly, while we had experienced FTFs (failure-to-fire) with a number of the different Double-Tap rounds in both the Bobergs and the Glocks, we didn’t experience any such problems with either 1911.
The larger platform of the Wilson Combat Hunter handled the recoil very well, even from the hottest loads. Recoil was a little more noticeable with the Ed Brown, but only by a slight amount. As I noted with the Glock 21 converted for the .460 Rowland, I was impressed that The Wilson Combat Hunter didn’t have any problems cycling even the lightest loads reliably.
Another note: we were unable to detect any damage or unusual wear to either gun, though it is possible a steady diet of loads of that power could cause some over the long term.
Lastly, I ran some .460 Rowland Buffalo Bore 230gr JHP cartridges through the Wilson Combat Hunter, since we had only had one type of ammo for that gun when we did the .460 Rowland tests. That had been Cor-Bon Hunter 230gr JHP. The Cor-Bon tested at 1213 fps / 751 ft-lbs, and the Buffalo Bore tested at 1349 fps / 929 ft-lbs of energy.
Look for more results, images, and thoughts in the days to come.
We get a fair number of questions to the BBTI email account ( firstname.lastname@example.org ), which I try to answer as quickly as my time will allow. Most are about specific points in our data, or why we did this or that in our procedures (answers to most such can be found in our FAQ). But every once in a while a question comes along which pushes me to re-think things from another vantage point. The following is one such from “drglenn”, and I thought I would share it and my answer:
Found your website interesting, but I am uncertain how I can use this data reliably for me. Perhaps you can offer some guidance. Clearly, barrel length data can be used relatively to compare any single caliber/brand/bullet mass to itself. This is useful to see muzzle velocities/energy as a function of barrel length which might help the consumer in determining just how much more value they will get by purchasing a longer barreled firearm. What I found frustratingly non-useful is an inability to compare bullet mass to velocity/energy across brands – or even within a single brand – of stock ammo. This, no doubt, is a function of powder composition, cartridge air-space volume, and quantity of said powder. One might reasonably assume that, every other parameter being equal, a bullet with more mass, will have a lower muzzle velocity. One might also reasonably assume that since E=1/2mv^2, that velocity is much more significant than bullet mass in determining energy (i.e., all else being equal, if you could double the velocity, you would get 4x the energy, while doubling the mass will only yield twice the energy). Apparently, this useful bit of physics becomes completely useless as each manufacturer uses different powder formulations and quantities for their ammo. So, while I may be able to determine that, across the board, a certain mass bullet or higher, in a certain caliber, regardless of manufacturer, may be subsonic, it would be a crap-shoot in guessing which mass and which manufacturer should have the highest muzzle energy in a given barrel length.
Suggestions for best use of your data would be appreciated!
Sorry, I’m not quite sure what you’re asking. You’re correct that because of proprietary powder formulations, there’s no easy comparison between different manufacturers or even between different ‘lines’ of product from a given manufacturer. In fact, the situation is even much worse than you state, because the manufacturers are *constantly* tweaking their formulations in an effort to claim more of the market. And then there’s the whole matter of terminal ballistic performance depending on the actual bullet design and composition. Toss in the fact that firearms manufacturers are also constantly making minor alterations to their models and production methods, and yeah, it’s impossible to say with any certainty that this or that combination of gun and ammo will give a reliable result. In short, there is no “perfect” solution to the very complex problems of ballistics — one of the reasons why it has a long history of attracting some of the finest minds in physics.
But you can gain insight in what to expect within certain parameters using our data. You can see that while most semi-auto handgun ammunition performs best in a certain range of barrel lengths — usually from 3″ to 8″ –, that ‘magnum’ rounds intended primarily for revolvers will continue to gain velocity/energy over a much longer range of barrel lengths, and so is more suitable for a carbine. You can tell that most ammo formulated to be “low recoil” means that it has less overall velocity/energy, since you can’t break the laws of physics. You can see that some manufacturers may claim performance standards which aren’t supported by our tests, and some are right on the money. You can argue with your friends over a beer whether it is better to use a slow heavier bullet or a lighter one which goes much faster.
In short, our data is a tool for helping analysis and decision-making, nothing more. It’s certainly not perfect. It’s not even comprehensive within a given caliber/cartridge. And it is in some sense rendered obsolete each and every time the manufacturers tweak their production materials or methods. Which is why we always tell people to consider it indicative, not definitive. Use it if it makes sense for your needs, don’t if it doesn’t. And always – ALWAYS – know that testing your own ammo out of your specific gun is the only way to know for sure how it will perform.
Hope this helps.
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!
Well, we’re having another delightful warm spell here in mid-Missouri, so yesterday afternoon I took advantage of it and went out to the range to give the little guy a try.
As I noted before, I have actually shot this particular gun a couple of times previously, and just loved it. But it had been a while, and I couldn’t remember specifically what ammo types we had used. So I packed up what variety of 9mm loads I had on hand, along with my chrono, and went to see whether anything had changed.
Because of the way they operate, the Boberg pistols have a tendency to be very particular about what ammo they like. Ammo which doesn’t have a sufficient crimp is prone to separate (the case being jerked away from the bullet). It’s an issue which is well known, and there’s a list of compatible ammo for both the XR9 and the XR45. But while those crowd-sourced lists are useful, the final word is always what specific ammo your particular gun will handle. For me, that’s particularly something I want to determine for any self-defense pistol before I will carry it.
Full details to follow, but for those who just want the short version: oh baby! The XR9 ate everything I fed it without a problem. Including my standard 9mm reloads. No mis-feeds. No bullet separation. No problems. And it was a real joy to shoot, which isn’t something I normally say about a pocket pistol handling full-power SD loads.
OK, for those want the details …
Below are informal* chrono numbers for seven different ammo types I had. These are all for the Boberg. But I also ran a few through my Steyr S9 for comparison, which usually just had an advantage of about 10 fps over the Boberg (the barrel on the Steyr is about a quarter of an inch longer). If that much.
- Buffalo Bore 124gr JHP +P+ 1,230 fps
- Federal 124gr Hydra Shok JHP 1,025 fps
- Reloads. (4.4gr HP-38, 124gr Rainier FMJ bullet) 1,020 fps
- Remington 124gr FMJ 1,040 fps
- Speer GDHP 115gr JHP 1,210 fps
- Speer GDHP 124gr JHP 1,100 fps
- Speer GDHP 124gr JHP +P ‘Short barrel’ 1,150 fps
As you can see, all pretty respectable numbers. And in keeping with both the claims of the manufacturer as well as what we had tested previously (where there’s overlap). I wouldn’t have any qualms carrying any of the Speer ammo, but my preferred SD ammo is currently the Buffalo Bore. Happily, the Boberg shot all of them without a glitch. And after getting my chrono numbers, I ran several magazines worth through the gun doing some quick shooting at cans, was getting excellent accuracy from it at about 15 yards.
I brought it home, stripped and cleaned it, and now consider it reliable enough to carry. Of course, I will continue to practice with it regularly, and keep a close on on how it performs with my reloads, and occasionally run a mag of carry ammo through it, but I don’t expect any problems. It’s a nice little gun.
*By ‘informal’, I mean just using one chrono and without the lighting rig we now use for formal testing. And I would just run a magazine of ammo through, mentally noting the numbers in a running tally, then writing them down for that particular ammo, so they are necessarily just ‘ballpark’ figures. But since they jibe well with our previous numbers and what the mfg claims (which I only discovered when I sat down to write this), I think they’re pretty good.
- .25 ACP
- .30 carbine
- .32 ACP
- .32 H&R
- .327 Federal Magnum
- .357 Magnum
- .357 SIG
- .38 Special
- .380 ACP
- .40 S&W
- .41 Magnum
- .44 Magnum
- .44 Special
- .45 ACP
- .45 Colt
- .45 Super
- .450 SMC
- .460 Rowland
- 6.5 Swedish
- 9mm Luger (9×19)
- 9mm Mak
- 9mm Ultra
- Boberg Arms
- General Procedures
- Shotgun ballistics