Trained on the US M1911A-1 .45 caliber pistol in US Army infantry AIT in 1968. Carried one in Vietnam 1969, 1970, 1971. Ammo choices were 230-grain ball or 230-grain tracer-ball. I preferred the tracers, allowing me to "walk" my shots into the target in low-light close encounters of the worst kind.
Also carried a .45 as a cop during the late-1970s to mid-1990s, mostly Colt Government Model and Colt Combat Commander. Played around with all the popular super-duper ammo from the Super Vel to the Gold Dots and Golden Sabers.
About the time I retired I caught a deal on WW Black Talon (the truly evil stuff that all the investigative reporters lost their breath talking about). Ordered a case at ~$15 per box LE price, still have some (now about $200 per box on GB).
Never found anything that was as consistently reliable as GI ball ammo.
Never had a customer complaint, once the shot was delivered the result was as expected. Unlike some of the esteemed experts, my experiences have been up close and personal.
My treasured horde is a few boxes of 1970s GI surplus FC Match ammo.
Retired holster maker. Retired police chief. Formerly Sergeant, US Army Airborne Infantry, Pathfinders
Posts: 988 | Location: Colorado | Registered: March 07, 2009
Originally posted by sigfreund: This is a somewhat long post that will be of no interest to those who know all they need to know about handgun projectile effectiveness. But I go to the trouble of discussing a commonly overlooked topic for the benefit of those who think that they might still have something to learn, or are at least willing to consider other views.
One issue that’s almost always ignored in discussions of the performance of various bullets in gelatin or other media tests is the kinetic energy of the projectile.
For many years after hollow point bullets in handgun cartridges were introduced, there was a lot of uncertainty and debate about their designs and effectiveness. Because so many autoloading handguns were originally designed to chamber only round nose FMJ bullets reliably, more emphasis was placed on designs like the Federal 9BPLE bullet that have small hollow points and ogives that closely match FMJ styles. There were early efforts to evaluate the theoretical effectiveness of hollow point bullets and loads, but they were often partially flawed and usually produced unpopular results, thereby limiting their value.
After the disastrous attempt by the FBI to arrest two murderous bank robbers in 1986, though, suddenly penetration became important as well—in fact the most important thing.
I’m not an ammunition designer or manufacturer insider, but it’s been pretty obvious to me that ever since then the emphasis has been on bullet penetration. Many YouTube “authorities” will reject a particular load as totally unsuitable if it doesn’t penetrate an arbitrary distance into a test medium, and even more bizarrely, if it penetrates “too far.” Again, though, almost everyone focuses on just penetration depth and to a lesser degree, expansion. (I say “lesser extent” because expansion figures are obviously limited to the final size of the bullets, not what size the bullet may reach while passing through tissue. Further, it’s hardly ever pointed out that the final size of a 0.355 caliber bullet cannot be expected to be as large as one that starts at 0.451" in diameter. So we just don’t worry much about expansion as long it’s enough to keep the bullet inside an 18 inch test medium block.)
What the emphasis on penetration and to a lesser degree expansion has evidently resulted in is the development of defensive handgun bullets that first and foremost penetrate to the degree that the FBI arbitrarily decided was satisfactory (without looking it up, I believe that was at least 12 inches and no more than 18). How a bullet managed to do that was really immaterial, and there’s the rub because many different bullets have been designed to meet that penetration “standard.” But is there a difference between a 0.355" 125 grain bullet that hits at 1320 feet per second and a 147 grain bullet of the same diameter that hits at 1000 feet per second? If their jackets and cores can be designed so both penetrate to 14 inches in gelatin, then they will have the same effect on someone whose inappropriate actions we are trying to stop, right?
What we must consider in answering that question is the difference in the energy the two bullets transfer to the target when they hit it. Our example 125 grain bullet has a kinetic energy of about 484 foot-pounds, whereas the 147 grain bullet has about 326. The 125’s energy is therefore almost 50 percent more, and more energy, more effects. Would there be a difference in the effects on an attacker if a feeble old guy like me punched him in the face or if a modern day Mike Tyson did? Most of us would say that there would of course be a difference. I have no idea how much difference in energy there would be or exactly what difference it would make in the other guy’s subsequent actions, but a difference? Of course, even if it were nothing more than, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”
An example of an old bullet and load is the Federal 125 grain “Classic” (“Personal Protection” now—?) in 357 Magnum. The bullet has a lot of exposed lead and a gaping hollow point. From a common 4 inch barrel that load has a muzzle velocity of about 1440 feet per second and generates nearly 600(!) foot-pounds of energy. Despite the fact that it doesn’t penetrate enough in test media to satisfy many people today, in the days when almost all LEOs were armed with revolvers, it established the reputation of being at the top of the list among aggression stoppers.
As a final point, the objection to the “power matters” argument is the never-dying claim that only damage to the body’s vital structures governs how effective a bullet will be in neutralizing a threat. That is, if two bullets penetrate to the same distance and expand to more or less similar diameters, then they will be equally effective in stopping threats. I disagree with the last, but this post is long enough already and I’ll just leave it at that by saying that if I’m ever shot, I hope it’s by someone who believes that low powered bullets are just as good as high powered bullets.
Thank you for posting this.
Every time I hear folks say "only penetration matters" I have to stop myself from snapping "that's not how physics works."
All that energy has to be doing SOMETHING to the target unless it's wasted by sending the projectile further downrange after overpenetration. Saying that we don't understand what it's doing or we haven't figured out how to quantify it is one thing...saying it's irrelevant is something completely different.
---------------------------------------- Death smiles at us all. Be sure you smile back.
Originally posted by Marcushoss: Several years ago I invited several departments to my range to do a duty ammo comparison with the Federal/ATK L.E. rep.
Our department was using Gold Dot at the time in Glock 21's and 36's. He was using the relatively new HST. One department was using Win. Ranger and one was still using Hydra Shocks.
The rep tested our rounds against the HST's using FBI test protocols with light clothing, heavy clothing, drywall, steel and auto glass.
Rounds were chronographed, recovered from gelatin, weighed and expansion measured. The chronograph stopped working almost immediately so we did not get all of the rounds chrono'd.
We did see that the Ranger(.40s&w) shed its jacket in everything but the clothing. The Gold Dot performed well against the glass and steel, at least weight retention wise. The HST kept its jacket in all media and expanded beautifully. I used my Colt Defender (3 inch barrel) and the rounds still expanded to .895 caliber. The Plus P did not show any better that I could see although we did switch to it for or duty ammo afterwords. Also saw that the 9mm 147 grain HST was a beast of a 9mm.
The rep labeled each round and made a display/sample board and gave it to me. I still have it if would like to see any specific data from it.
edited to correct .45 expanded measurement. it was not .96
I'd love to see your results, as well.
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Posts: 612 | Location: Beaverton, OR | Registered: April 19, 2004