November 2018

Deep-Penetrating Heavy-Bullet 9mm Loads: Pretty Good Picks

In this test of heavier pistol loads, we selected rounds from Hornady, Federal, Buffalo Bore, Remington, Winchester, Fiocchi, DoubleTap, and SIG Sauer. What should you be carrying?

Deep-Penetrating Heavy-Bullet 9mm Loads: Pretty Good Picks

The 9mm Luger cartridge is the most popular handgun centerfire round in the market today. It’s easy to understand why: The 9mm is a powerful number with high velocity and good accuracy potential, and it can offer deep penetration with the proper loads. Also, the 9mm is controllable in compact handguns by shooters with modest experience, and many very experienced shooters favor the 9mm as well. At the same time, the 9mm has a well-documented string of failures with non-expanding loads and loads lacking sufficient velocity and energy to ensure penetration. This just proves all jacketed-hollow-point bullets are not created equal, and too little penetration may not stop an assailant. The ideal load should have a balance of expansion and penetration. The 147-grain 9mm has been criticized by some for lacking expansion potential. The 147-grain load originally was designed to meet FBI requirements for deep penetration and barrier penetration. Expansion was modest. Many 147-grain loads still meet this criteria, while others demonstrate greater expansion. A new choice is the 135-grain bullet weight. This projectile is designed to provide greater velocity than the 147-grain JHP while offering greater penetration than the popular 124-grain expanding bullet.

We tested two 135-grain loads along with ten 147-grain JHP loads and a single 150-grain JHP as well as a heavyweight 165-grain combination. For those living in a true four-season climate that find themselves likely to face heavily bundled adversaries, these loads offer optimal performance. Anyone needing penetration against light cover might consider these loads. A follow-up question would be are they the best choice for personal defense? We believe that some of the 147-grain loads provide a good choice for personal-defense use compared to light-bullet loads with less expansion. The HST, as an example, offers excellent expansion and deep penetration in water.
We used a new Glock 19X as a test gun. The barrel length at about 4 inches is a compromise between service pistols and subcompact handguns. We fired three cartridges of each load to average expansion and penetration in water. We also fired three five-shot groups for accuracy at 25 yards. The remaining rounds were fired for function testing. During the test, there were no function problems of any type. Accuracy was likewise good in every case, with some loads being more accurate than others.

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