Saturday, September 05, 2020

Icepicks and Safety Blossoms


Look at that mean-looking bullet on the left. That's a Winchester Ranger T projectile, a product-improved version of the old Black Talon bullet. Specifically, it's a 127 grain bullet from their "+P+" RA9TA loading.

That's the load I used in my M&P9 back in the day. As a matter of fact, that bullet was fired from one of the last three rounds left over in a box that had actually been used to load my carry magazines.

Looks mean, right? All expanded like that with the fang-looking points on the jacket petals, you can see why some people would get the vapors and make up stories about "spinning like a buzzsaw" and such. (That "spinning like a buzzsaw" thing is such malarky. Given the twist rate of most pistol barrels and the thickness of a human torso, it's unlikely that the bullet would make two complete revolutions inside the body unless it were, say, an abnormally thick dude and a fast twist barrel.)

Anyway, when I noticed I had that one box with only three rounds left in it, I dragged it along to the range last time I was there with a gel block. I figured a nicely expanded death blossom would make a cool desk tchotchke.

My normal procedure is to wrap a 16" "FBI" gel block from Real Clear Ballistics in a pair of old jeans so that there are four layers of denim on the front and then four more in the back. Ideally, you'll find a nicely expanded bullet tangled in one of the denim layers on the far side of the block.

When I fired that first 127gr +P+ Ranger T, it icepicked right through the block without expanding, augered cleanly through the four layers of denim on the far side, and continued downrange to bury itself in the berm fifteen yards away.

Huh. That was less than ideal.

But, hey, flukes happen, so I lined up a second block behind the first to catch the projectile and fired a second round. It proceeded to icepick right through the block without expanding, drilled straight through the four layers of denim on the far side, poked all the way through a second 16" gel block without expanding, and also continued downrange to bury itself in the berm fifteen yards away.

Remember that next time you hear about people "shielding" someone else with their body. With a hot loaded non-expanding pistol bullet in most duty calibers, a human body is concealment, not cover.

The final remaining round, I cheated by firing it into bare gel, and it's the one that expanded prettily and is posing up there like a catalog bullet picture. It was dug out of the block, having come to rest fourteen inches in.

The RA9TA was, at the time I was carrying it, on Doc Roberts' approved list, but it looks like Winchester QC slipped on this batch. Possibly the assembly process had done a less than perfect job of skiving the jackets such that, when faced with the additional problem of having to defeat the denim, they just didn't expand.

This will also illustrate the actual purpose of bullet expansion with a 9mm round, which is to prevent the bullet from going through extra people who maybe didn't need bullets going through them. If they'd called the Black Talon the "Safety Blossom" instead, it might not have achieved notoriety.

Once upon a time, we had all kinds of weird theories about energy dump and foot pounds and secondary cavities and "violent expansion", and so they tried to get lightweight 9mm hollow point bullets going as fast as they could and expanding rapidly on impact. That usually resulted in underpenetration issues, which is what led to the 115gr Silvertip shot of Miami Shootout infamy.

Anyway, the bullet to the right is one that performed ideally. It's a Remington 124gr +P Golden Saber Black Belt, which is the current iteration of Remington's Golden Saber projectile (incidentally designed by the dude who'd designed the Black Talon when he worked at Winchester).

It went through the four layers of denim, expanded properly, and was found entangled in the denim on the far side of the block. That's about all you can ask from a pistol bullet unless you can figure out a way to have it make a u-turn on the far side of the bad guy and come through for another pass.

Anyway, wrapping up this post, I was going to give you the lot number of this particular batch of RA9TA but, frankly, if you've got decade-old ammo in your carry gun, you need to shoot that stuff up next time you're at the range and put some fresh BBs in the tank. (Besides, the box is in the next room and I'm feeling lazy after being on the road yesterday. I'll put it up later.)