Ballistics by the inch

Effective shotgun ranges.

One of the questions we get regularly is asking whether we’re going to do some velocity/chop tests on shotguns. For a variety of reasons (both logistical & legal) we’ve decided that such tests are beyond the scope of what we want to tackle.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s not something of interest to us, collectively and individually. I’ve previously posted about tests which John Ervin at Brassfetcher has conducted showing the effectiveness of buckshot at 50 yards. And from personal experience, I knew that slugs from a 12 gauge are effective for hunting (or self defense) out to 100 yards, depending on the skill of the shooter.

But how about slugs at 200 yards? And how about DIY ‘cut shells’, which mimic slugs? And, say, if you did happen to hit a target at 100 yards with buckshot, would it be lethal?

Via The Firearm Blog, this video explores all these questions, and provides some VERY interesting answers:

It’s well worth the time to watch the whole thing. But the bottom line is that 00 Buckshot pellets would still be lethal at 100 yards, if you could connect with your target. And slugs? Easily to 200 yards, with a fair amount of control on hitting your target. At 300 yards, they’re still effective, but the trajectory is such that it’s much more difficult to reliably hit the target. And at 400 yards … well, watch to video to see for yourself.

Kudos to Iraqveteran8888 for conducting some really solid and informative tests, and sharing that information with the public.


Jim Downey

July 16, 2016 Posted by | Anecdotes, Data, Discussion., Links, Shotgun ballistics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Confirmation of the .460 Rowland performance.

John Ervin at Brass Fetcher Ballistic Testing has just put up a new page about his testing of the .460 Rowland cartridge. As I have explained in the past,  our work at BBTI is intended to be an overview of how ballistic performance varies over barrel length — it is just a quick survey to get an idea of the general trends, not meant to be an in-depth examination of a specific cartridge.

But in-depth testing is exactly what Ervin does, using a larger sample size, ballistic gelatin, and high-speed videography. And as a result, his much more detailed analysis is more useful for getting into the details of a given cartridge out of a specific barrel length. And it is really good to see that his results confirm what I have been saying all along: that if you carry a .45, you should instead be carrying a .460 Rowland.

What specifics? Take a look at the performance of Speer 230gr Gold Dot HP .45ACP in terms of foot-pounds of kinetic energy transfer into 20% ballistic gel:


Pretty good, eh? It’s what we expect from the .45ACP: a solid energy dump and reasonable penetration.

Now let’s take a look at the same chart, but with the Speer 230gr Gold Dot HP in .460Rowland:

The curves don’t look that different on first glance, but pay close attention to the scale there on the left axis of each one: where the .45ACP tops out at about 72 ft/lbs about 2″ into the gel, the .460Rowland tops out at about 335 ft/lbs just before 2″. That’s more than 4x the energy transfer.

In fact, at 5″ of penetration, the .460Rowland is still dumping about as much energy as the .45ACP does at the maximum.

But there’s more than simple energy transfer involved in terminal ballistic performance. There’s also how well the bullet is designed, and whether it expands properly. This can be a big concern in “over-driving” a bullet, so that it breaks apart. Well, Ervin’s data also covers these comparisons quite well. For the two specific rounds cited above, the .45ACP expanded to 0.344 square inches of frontal surface, and was still 229.5gr of weight. And the .460Rowland expanded to 0.526 square inches of frontal surface, and was still 221.3gr of weight.

There’s a *LOT* more information at Brass Fetcher Ballistic Testing. Ervin has an extensive 17 page Ammunition Performance Data report in .pdf format which contains a ton of images, video, and data — more than enough to keep even a data-junkie like me busy for a long time. I urge you to take a good look at it, and to consider the thoughts which Ervin shares about this cartridge. But I will leave you with his opening sentence which sums it up very nicely:

The 460 Rowland represents the pinnacle of handgun calibers for self-defense.



Jim Downey

May 1, 2014 Posted by | .45 ACP, .460 Rowland, Data, Discussion., Links | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Help out those honoring veterans.

One of the traditions in the United States is that Military Funeral Honors for veterans can include a military rifle salute. This is usually provided by a local VFW or AL Post who are using specially adapted M1 Garand rifles loaned to them from the US Army.

The M1 was a fine rifle. But even the best machine suffers with age and use, and there have been instances where malfunctions have disrupted a rifle salute during funeral services.

The other day I got a note from John Ervin at Brass Fetcher Ballistic Testing about his efforts to help deal with these malfunctions. With his permission, here is an excerpt from his note:

When I worked for the US Army, I had the opportunity to be the Technical Lead of the ‘M1 Garand Malfunction-In-Field’ program.  This program addressed reliability and safety issues encountered by the Veterans as they shot the M1 Garand rifles in the three-volley salute during funeral ceremonies for fallen military servicemembers and past veterans.

An excellent rifle when firing ball ammunition, the M1 Garand rifles that are loaned to the VFW and AL Posts from the US Army can be well past their service life and are fitted with a Blank Firing Adaptor to exclusively fire blank ammunition.  During the two years that I was the Technical Lead on the program, I visited 10 Posts across the US and handled phone calls from Posts around the country reporting reliability problems, and occasionally – mechanical failures of the guns themselves.

* * *

Since the M1 Garand is no longer an issued weapon, funding to support its maintenance is limited.  But in the two years that I was on the program, I was able to plan and execute a (chamber and BFA) pressure test and slow-motion video shoot where we determined the root cause of the malfunctions and the cause of the M1 Garand receiver breakages.


There is a technical report available which resulted from John’s testing, but access is limited. This has presented something of a problem for some VFW and AL Posts in getting proper maintenance for their Garands used in the funeral honors.

And here is where you can help. Again, from John:

If you know of any VFW or AL Post who are experiencing malfunctions or breakages of the M1 Garand when firing M1909 Blank ammunition, please have them contact me.  I am happy to provide them technical support on their issue, free of charge.


That’s it. No donations asked. No need to write letters or make phone calls to government officials. Nothing like that. If you know of any VFW or AL Post which has had problems, just have them contact John, and he’ll help them get the problems resolved. That’s it. Just spread the word.



Jim Downey

March 20, 2014 Posted by | .30 carbine, Discussion., Links | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment