Thursday, September 11, 2014

The venerable...

So, the other day we looked at some modern loads for .44 S&W Special, a cartridge that dates to 1908. Instead of looking at a newfangled cartridge like that again, today I'm going to take a gander at modern self-defense cartridges for a really old handgun chambering...


Seriously, DWM introduced the now-ubiquitous 9mm Luger 'way back in 1902 by blowing the existing bottlenecked .30 Luger cartridge out to a (more or less) straight case. Ponder that every time you hear the .45ACP, two years the Nine's junior, referred to as "venerable".

Here we'll look at three different JHP bullets from three different eras and see how they stack up, velocity-wise, to their advertising claims in two different Smith & Wesson autopistols with differing barrel lengths...

Back in the day, Federal's 115gr +P+ jacketed hollow point, cataloged under the designation "9BPLE", was the ticket in 9mm rounds as far as many people (including your humble correspondent) were concerned. The loading claimed a 1300fps muzzle velocity out of a 4" test barrel, and tended to live up to its claims.

The 10-round string fired through the 3" barrel of my Smith & Wesson CS9 averaged 1247fps, and moments later another 10-shot string averaged a blistering 1369fps out of the 4¼" barrel of a full-sized M&P 9. It was very consistently loaded, too, with the extreme velocity spreads of each string being under 50fps.

The 9BPLE, however, uses a jacketed hollowpoint bullet that was state of the art back before anybody knew what Gene Simmons looked like without makeup. In addition to a susceptibility to clogging if fired through heavy clothing, the lightweight bullet would expand violently, sometimes shedding the jacket or bits of the core, and under-penetrating.

S&W CS9: Last of a forty-year evolution of single-stack 9mm pistols from Springfield, MA.
The second load tested was the Remington Golden Saber, in 124gr +P flavor. The Golden Saber bullet, which debuted in the '90s, uses a thick brass jacket to not only control the projectile's expansion, but also as part of the wounding mechanism. The spiral petals of the jacket protrude out past the lead core as they fold back, in much the same fashion as Winchester's "Black Talon" bullet; perhaps unsurprising considering that the same guy was behind the design of both bullets.

The 124gr +P Golden Saber (also known as the "HPJ" for "High Performance Jacket") was a newer generation of hollowpoint, whose design benefited from computer modeling not possible a decade or two earlier. More resistant to clogging, with more reliable and consistent expansion, the bullet was claimed to leave a 4" test barrel at 1180fps according to Remington. At the range yesterday, the Golden Sabers averaged 1091fps from the 3" CS9 and 1208fps from the 4¼" M&P 9.

Federal's HST is among the current state-of-the-art self-defense pistol bullets, and in its 147gr configuration it is claimed to launch its projectile at 1000fps from a 4" barrel and deliver reliable penetration and expansion whether through heavy clothing or not.

From the little 3" Chief's Special, the 147gr HST turned in an average velocity of 954fps, while the 4¼" barrel of the M&P upped that number to 1032fps.*

Incidentally, there was one malfunction during this range session: A round of 9BPLE (the oldest hollowpoint design tested) suffered a failure-to-feed in the CS9 (the older of the two pistols tested.) Make of that what you will.

*Incidentally, from the longer barrel of the M&P, the HST was extremely consistent, with an Extreme Spread of 33.15fps and a Standard Deviation of 9.27fps. That's match ammo consistency.