Many years ago, I originally got interested in the fast 357 Sig because I hypothesized that it would be superior at 50-100 yards. The rules changed at our range and I never got to shoot it past 50 yards.
Then? I read this article a little while back. It killed my hero, man.
I would assume that the physics apply to PCC's also.
How Effective Is Pistol Ammo at 100 Yards?
Jul, 15, 2019
This time, we’re looking at what pistol ammo does at 100 yards. Calibers tested were 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and .357 Sig. We compared bullet velocity at the muzzle and 100 yards and also fired some rounds into ballistic gelatin. The results were a bit unexpected (especially for .357 Sig…). Details in the video below or scroll down to read the full transcript!
JOHN: For whatever reason, we forgot the basic tenets of physics and were super surprised when the lighter, faster stuff did not retain velocity or momentum as well as the heavier stuff. Going into this — and I don’t know why this is, because I’m trying to think back to where I got this idea — going into this, I expected .357 Sig to be like the king of the heap and it’s like, “well, if I’ve got to shoot something at long distance, I want to do it with the .357 Sig.” And the .357 Sig, out of everything, did the worst.
CHRIS: Right, so there’s this long standing reputation, for whatever reason, that .357 Sig has as being a great bullet for longer range, both in terms of ballistics and the lack of bullet drop. It supposedly has a flatter trajectory than other pistol bullets. But we did not find that to be the case. The lighter and faster bullets not only lost more velocity but lost a larger percentage of their velocity. And we’ll put up a chart for you guys to see with the magic of editing.
CHRIS: Let’s take a look at the actual ballistic gel results.
These are all loads that perform well in a typical 10-foot ballistic gel test with a fabric barrier — they will penetrate 12 to 18 inches and expand to at least 1.5 times their initial diameter, so we’re looking to see if they still do that at these reduced velocities. Looking at the penetration first, the 9mm Gold Dot is doing well. The 9mm HST, also. The first of those HSTs actually entered from the side of the block at an angle and missed the fabric barrier. It penetrated about 15 inches, not the whole length of both blocks like it might seem on camera.
The .40 S&W HST is over penetrating by a few inches. We only caught one of the .45 HSTs but its penetration depth looks pretty good. And the .357 Sig — the first one that hit the blocks sailed all the way through and into the berm, so we put some extra fabric on the back to catch the next one. And then we got a third round into the block that stopped at about 25 inches.
Here are the expanded bullets and you can see neither of the .357 Sig rounds we recovered expanded at all, which is why they over-penetrated. They were just moving too slow for that bullet design at 100 yards. The .40 S&W HST and the 9mm Gold Dot had uneven expansion and were starting to fail. The heavy-for-caliber 9mm and .45 Federal HSTs expanded very nicely, even at the reduced velocities.
CHRIS: Setting aside the fact that this was not a huge sample size — we didn’t get a ton of rounds into these blocks — but the tentative takeaway would be that heavier-for-caliber bullets seem to work better ballistically at long distance than the faster, lighter bullets. But accuracy first: make sure you can hit the target before anything else.
JOHN: Yeah, and — man, I’m sad because between some of the stuff that you’ve posted and this — I’m like a die-hard .357 Sig guy and it’s like my kid is going to a meet or something and I’m in the stands jumping up and down and cheering and like, “oh, I don’t — my kid’s not so good.”
CHRIS: I’m killing your heroes, man.
First, a disclaimer: I have never been particularly impressed with the Lucky Gunner tests even though they do often look at things others don’t. I feel that many of their methodologies are weak in general, so perhaps I’m prejudiced.
Percent of velocity loss is not what should be focused on, but rather retained energy. So no, the 124 grain 9mm load did the worst at 305 foot pounds rather than the 357’s 327 ft-lb.
The other thing that must be considered is that, yes, modern handgun bullets should be designed to perform optimally at the velocities they’re going to be used at. They’re not intended to be used against 100 yard targets and it’s not the designers’ fault if they don’t perform as well there. I’m reminded of the story of the 0.30 caliber 168 grain Sierra MatchKing bullet. It developed a good reputation for long distance shooting, but it was designed for the 300 meter competition, and when shooters started using it for significantly longer ranges like 1000 yards, it didn’t perform as well as heavier 0.30 caliber bullets. Was that the fault of the designers or manufacturer of the bullet? No, because that’s not what the bullet was intended for.
Then there’s the whole “overpenetration” thing as if penetrating too far is a flaw, and that’s ridiculous. Expanding too late (or even too early) or not expanding enough may be legitimate concerns and the latter may be the reason for more penetration, but are we really going to be concerned about any of those things if we manage to hit a human target at 100 yards?
And also yes, the effectiveness of pistol caliber carbines are going to suffer from the same sorts of problems at long ranges resulting from bullet designs—and possibly at close ranges as well. Speer even offers (offered?) two different 125 grain 357 SIG loads that employ two slightly different bullets fired at different velocities. The bullets are also significantly different in design from the same diameter (0.355"), and virtually the same weight (124/125 grains) bullets used in the 9mm Luger loads. When a company like Speer goes to the trouble of designing different bullets for different velocities, that should be a clue that bullet design differences affect performance at different velocities. One of the things that disturbed me when I ordered a box of extra velocity 357 SIG ammunition from a small “boutique” manufacturer was that the rounds were loaded with the same bullet used in Speer’s 124 grain 9mm ammunition rather than the bullets in its 357 SIG ammunition.
Finally, if I understand correctly, the sample sizes were rather small: a couple or even single recovered test bullets. That is a recurring problem with so many of these Internet tests. As I’ve reported before, I personally witnessed a Hornady 9mm Critical Duty bullet fail to expand in genuine, calibrated 10% ballistic gelatin, and pass through a 16" block. Tiny sample sizes are always suspect because sometimes untypical things happen for unknown reasons. One lot of bullets may not perform well in tests they weren’t designed for while all the rest may do differently.
But thanks for posting this. It helps confirm my general prejudice against pistol caliber long guns, and especially if they might ever have to be used against distant targets. If we can employ a long gun, it should be chambered for long gun ammunition.This message has been edited. Last edited by: sigfreund,
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Statistical Analysis 5A told me that a minimum sample size is 100.
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I can't come up with a scenario where I would be shooting a pistol at 100 yds so this is is not going to change my opinion on my choice of calibers.
All of the “ready for immediate use” pistols in my house are .357sig except for the one I take with me when I go out and the one loaded with snake shot.
“Banning guns is like banning forks in an attempt to stop making people fat.” - Vince Vaughn
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I have a post in the reloading section asking about 9mm loads for a 9mm, 16" barreled, carbine.
I thought I could tie in here to ask a similar question.
I exclusively shoot 147gr bullets in my 9mm pistols. I would continue this practice in my Carbines but have been advised that It would be better to drop to a lighter bullet so I might gain some case capacity for powder, to take advantage of the 16" carbine barrel.
It would be hard for me to go against my preferred 147gr bullets bias.
Do you believe that the increase in case capacity by going to a 124 or 115gr bullet would
be worth loosing the advantages of the heavier 147gr bullet at 100yrds.
Shooting (some?) handgun bullets from a carbine would possibly improve their long range performance.
For example, according to Ballistics By the Inch, one 357 SIG load had a MV of 1720 fps from a 16 inch barrel. According to the Applied Ballistics calculator, with a G1 ballistics coefficient of 0.141 for the 125 grain Gold Dot bullets, that velocity would drop to about 1290 fps at 100 yards under “standard” sea level atmospheric conditions. That’s obviously a lot faster than from a pistol and may be close enough to the pistol’s muzzle velocity of about 1350 fps that it would perform as expected.
Regarding 9mm Luger bullet weights in carbines, I believe the wise thing would be to try different weights and loads and see what performance can be obtained. I would not base my decision on some vague concern about case capacity.
In fact, I did some checking with the Applied Ballistics solver and information about 124 and 147 grain 9mm loads using Ballistics by the Inch and Federal data. They were not all about the same ammunition, but I believe they were close enough for a beginning comparison.
According to BBTI from a 16 inch barrel the MV of Hydra-Shok 124 and 147 grain loads were 1243 and 1073 fps, respectively. From a 4" barrel they were 1061 and 951 fps. Using the ballistic coefficients for HST bullets and the 16" velocities, at 100 yards they dropped to 1061 and 960 fps. In other words, the velocity of the 124 grain bullet starting at 1243 fps had dropped to the same MV as from 4 inches: 1061 fps, which was a loss of 182 fps. On the other hand, the 147 grain load dropped from 1073 fps from the muzzle of 16 inches to 960 fps at 100 yards, or a loss of 113 fps, and was actually still going faster at 100 yards than from 4" at the muzzle.
In short, it seems to me that just as the Lucky Gunner test favored heavier bullets at longer ranges, that would be true of 9mm loads from a carbine. And if factory loads are capable of achieving that benefit, I cannot see why handloads would not as well.
In your situation, armored, I would continue with my preferred 147 grain loads, and probably be confident that they were actually better from a carbine, especially at longer ranges, than lighter bullet loads. Keep in mind that if light bullets are driven too fast for their design at close ranges, they can expand too rapidly or even disintegrate and fail to penetrate properly.
But if you can, try to determine how the heavier bullet performs at higher velocities from closer ranges.
And something else to keep in mind is that when weapons designers first started chambering guns with longer barrels for pistol cartridges (9mm Luger and 45 ACP), the ammunition all had full metal jacket bullets and therefore there were no concerns about variations in bullet performance due to the higher velocities. And for some strange reason no one worried about lack of expansion or “overpenetration” of those bullets either.
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Thanks for your advice.
I'm not really interested in bullet expansion at longer ranges. I will only be reloading FMJ, plated, or coated bullets.
Energy retention and bullet trajectory are my main interests.
Posters in the reloading section mention that there is little to no gain in performance after 10" of barrel length in a 9mm. Lack of case capacity, especially in 147gr. was the reason they stated.
thanks for posting
it's clear that all these 'high performance' bullets such as the gold dot, HST, etc are designed to perform optimally within a certain window.
take them outside that window and all bets are off. and when you factor in a million possible variables like clothing, angle / deflection, other intermediate 'soft' barriers, barrel length, bone / body mass variation, etc you get wildly different possibilities.
i was more interested recalling that in some conflicts - like WW2 - millions of soldiers used a pistol caliber FMJ carbine / SMG as a primary weapon with good effects -- even considering the common engagement distances of 100 meters or more. and they worked decently.
but as the guy said -- worrying about what my pistol bullet will do beyond 100 yards is 'below my line' of caring. (i still enjoy reading about it though if for no other reason than 'academic' knowledge)
conversely -- i think there should be WAY more distance testing of RIFLE rounds. much more useful IMO to know how a particular rifle bullet will perform at 100 yards or 200 yards -- rather than 15 feet as you see so much of (basically ANY rifle round at 15' is going to be devastating...)
Proverbs 27:17 - As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
That’s an interesting claim and prompted me to go back and look at the Ballistics by the Inch* data for 9mm. Unfortunately a lot of that effort was done with odd ammunition that I’ve never so much as seen, but there are a few that provide useful information. First, though, it’s well known that there is a limit to the velocity increase that will result from increasingly longer barrels. That’s believed to be due to the volume of gas produced when the cartridge discharges. If the bullet hasn’t left the barrel before the gas stops expanding, friction will start to slow the bullet and reduce its muzzle velocity. That’s why, for example, it’s commonly claimed that standard velocity 22 Long Rifle bullets are usually going at their maximum speed from barrels in the 16-18 inch range.
Nevertheless, if we look at the BBTI figures for 9mm, it seems that most of them peak at 17 inches, not 10 inches. The incremental increase per inch tends to decrease the longer the barrel is, but that’s hardly surprising. In addition, I have measured the velocities of many 9mm loads over the years and the extreme spreads among individual shots are almost always at least close to 40 feet per second, and commonly 50 to 70 fps (or more). That makes specific comparisons difficult using the BBTI data, especially with its small sample sizes (3 shots each?). Nevertheless, if we’re just interested in squeezing out the max velocity from the cartridge, then it evidently does increase with barrel length up to just beyond the SBR length.
But using the BBTI data as a rough guide, I looked at trajectories of 9mm FMJ bullets rather than just atmospheric effects on retained velocities. According to my (old) Hornady loading manual, the ballistic coefficient of the 124 grain round nose FMJ is 0.145; the BC of a 147 grain FMJ RN is 0.212. Both of those are very similar to the ballistic coefficients of the HST bullets I used for earlier calculations, which is to be expected. The following were calculated using the Applied Ballistics solver and velocity data from BBTI for the Federal 124 and 147 grain Hydra-Shok loads.
124 grain FMJ:
10" MV of 1211, drop at 100 yards - 15.3"
16" MV of 1243, drop at 100 yards - 14.7"
147 grain FMJ (because the 10 and 16 inch velocities were so similar, 1067 and 1073, I used 1070 for the drop calculation at 100 yards) - 17.9"
Assuming all my assumptions are correct and using the above data, the 124 grain bullet would have a slightly flatter trajectory than the 147 grain bullet. But not much, and all that ignores the fact that one’s handloads won’t necessarily have the same velocities as what were used for the calculations. I made a brief effort to find other velocity figures from longer barrels, but quickly gave up. As I mentioned before, the only way we can know how a particular load from a particular gun will perform is to actually test it rather than relying on approximations.
* My citing BBTI doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize its flaws. It was a monumental project that deserves our thanks and is useful for the approximations it revealed.
I found it interesting that the heavier 9MM Federal HST loads had a broader window of terminal velocities for effective expansion.
They seemed to perform
And I wonder if the better ballistic coefficient of the 147 HP 9MM bullets yields better accuracy at 100 yards than the 357 Sig 125gr HP's.
As the article mentioned, terminal balllistics don't mean much unless the target is hit.
I understand the minimum sample size criticism of the LuckyGunner and other Internet gel tests for penetration and expansion, but then,
what is the FBI for gel testing?
Most descriptions I can find talk about five rounds through each of six different combinations of standardized gel bare or with standardized barrier materials.
N=5, not N=100.
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I had a 8# jug of Hodgdon HS-6 show up today, it appears to be the slowest powder that I can use in the 9mm.
I will load some 147gr. 9MM and try them at 100yrds.
Thanks for all the great advice.
armored, how did that trial go?
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Just came across this thread, and found it very interesting. I admit my shooting with pistols at 100 yards is just recreational/ballistic curiosity. I've never thought much about pistol bullet expansion at that range. I can report that hitting man sized, and smaller, targets at 100 with higher velocity cartridges like 9mm, .38 Super/Super Comp, etc. from accurate pistols is not real difficult. And with a 9mm carbine, it starts to get real easy. While most of my 9mm shooting has been with 115 and 124/125 grain bullets, I have occasionally used some factory 147 grain. The standard pressure 147 Speer Gold Dot actually slowed down in the carbine, as compared with pistol velocity. In trying the 115+P+ Federal and Winchester I found it to average 1350-1400 FPS in 5" pistols, and ~1585 FPS in a 16" carbine. Some old CorBon 115, marked "only" +P, was even faster. These don't seem to require much hold over at 100 from either pistol or carbine. I do realize physics applies to PCCs, and these fast 115s will loose a greater percentage of velocity than slower heavier bullets. I have used various 147 JHPs loaded in the .38 Super at 1250 FPS or so, but don't recall if I've tried them at 100 Yds.
FWIW, The Speer #14 manual doesn't even recommend their 147 grain 9mm bullets be used in barrels longer than 10", due to the risk of lodging a bullet in the bore. It indicates that best carbine performance will be with 115 and 124 grain bullets.
Anyway, all interesting stuff and I hope you'll all keep it coming.
That’s a potentially useful bit of information. Thanks.
Interesting, yes, but IMO an opinion by the writer -- possibly not based on any facts. I believe that manual is 15 years old now. It should be compared to more recent loading manuals. There's a lot more experience with PCCs in recent years.
The Ballistics by the Inch website lists MV for one 147 grain load -- Federal Hydrashok JHP. MV is pretty much stable with a barrel length of 7 or 8 inches, but the MV does increase slightly to a maximum at 14-15 inches. With an 18 inch barrel, the MV is still higher than anything under 10 inches. If the 147 won't lodge in a 6 inch barrel with an MV of 1030 fps, I don't see its lodging in an 18" barrel with a MV of 1083 fps.
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My reloading area is all tore up right now so I have not loaded anything yet.
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