Learn More About Your Defensive Ammunition

There are so many things we need to be thinking about when it comes to self defense. Have I trained enough, is my gear ready am I paying attention to my surroundings so testing defensive ammunition is easily lost in the commotion.

The Nuts & Bolts Of Performance

Over the years I have fired thousands of rounds testing defensive ammunition. These typically are of the hollow point design. The idea behind their design is pretty simple, the hollow point cavity expands through soft tissue. This expansion serves two purposes; creating a larger surface area for more damage as well as helping to slow down and limit penetration. When watching the various defeinsive ammunition review videos this will always be a metric that is collected and evaluated. The other metric commonly collected and of greater importance is the depth to which the projectile will penetrate. While the general understanding is a minimum of 12″ to a maximum of 18″ where did these figures come from.

The Ballistic Testing Origins

The FBI has long been the custodian of all things terminal performance. Dating back to shootout involving some harden suspects it was believed their ammunition failed them and thus began the caliber wars. Truthfully, ever since there has been mulitple calibers, there have been caliber wars. However, this was a watershed moment since it started to standarized how the industry develops and tests the terminal performance of projectiles. Decades ago, this information wasn’t as readily available as it is today so many were left to fend for themselves. There were a variety of test mediums that were believed could replicate or at least provide good feedback. Sadly, they were less than ideal. I used some of these tests myself, the half gallon milk carton test. My family would be forced feed milk and orange juice so I could collect enough cartons to conduct multiple tests. Believe me, you have no idea how good you got these days.

The Dreaded Curve Ball

Testing AmmunitionAs a consumer, I want a quality product for self defense. As a professional, I want to squeeze every ouce of performance I can from the available options. Everything was going well until the subcompact pistols with 3″ barrels or less entered the market. While I was quickly enamored with these little pocket rockets the problem wasn’t well known. These micro, short barrel pistols had a difficult time meeting typical ballistic performance standars we have all come to accept. Penetration and expansion were all suspect or at best inconsistent. As the popularity of these subcompact pistols grew so to did the available self defensive ammunition options. Now, the consumer and professional have some great choies to consider. Many well known ammunition brands have started producing “micro” or “short barrel” choices. After such a positive experience with a particular brand, I decided testing defensive ammunition to update my current subcompact ammunition choice.

Streamlinging To A Couple Choices

Like many others, I can be lazy or maybe I’m too busy to really put the time into research. Plus, with so many different carry pistols it was a pain to have a specific load for this pistol and a different load for that pistol. It would be nice if I could find one that does it all. At the very least for all my 4″ barrel or shoorter the Federal Personal Defense HST Micro 150gr JHP is a great choice. The real question is how does one go about “testing” this load for themselves. You start by reviewing all available resources online when it comes to terminal performance in gelatin. Ballistic gelatin has become the standards for penetration and expansion purposes. But, do you need the projectile to meet all the FBI standards? In my opinion, you do not. Bare and demin covered are more than adequate for the average consumer. Once you have watched several videos and reviewed the data you probably will come up with a couple of loads you might want to try. These loads have at least been through independent testing to meet the minimum requirements for penetration and expansion. Now what?

The Two Tests You Should Use

Testing defensive ammunition is pretty simple. I want to see how well they will perform at close range under rapid fire conditions. Then I want to see how well they will perform at extended ranges under slow fire conditions. The two tests I use are pretty simple and total 20 rounds, the typical single box quantity. Both of these tests are shot in our pistol classes so I have plenty of big picture data for comparison. The first test, the “TC Test”  is a modified version of the excellent “Test” from my good friend Larry Vickers. You will need a magazine of 9 rounds with a reload magazine of 1 round. Starting from the ready position at the 10 yard line at the signal the shooter will fire all 9 rounds, reload and fire the last round. The target to be used is the excellent TCT MK4 or NRA B8 target. The par time is 12 seconds; which is pretty generous and just enough to push the envelope. If you are scoring 80 points or above the take away is the recoil control with this load in a subcompact pistol is managable and appropiate for self defensive situation. The second test, is the “TC Bullseye Qual”. You will need two magazines of 5 rounds and repeat the drill twice. Starting from the holster at the 25 yard line at the signal the shooter will fire all 5 rounds. The target to be used is the TCT MK4 or NRA B8 target. The par time is 10 seconds; which again is generous. If you are scoring 40 points or above the take away is your ability to be accurate enough within a modest time constraint using a subcompact pistol with a short barrel for the extreme range of self defense use.

These two test are great not just for evaluating self defense ammunition, but your skill. While there are many others out there, these two are almost always shot during my own professional development and so should you.

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