Story and photographs by John Johnston of BaLLISTIC RADIO
Here’s why using 9mm ammo for personal defense is a good choice:
When I used to work at a gun store I was frequently asked what caliber was best for any given situation. It would have been nice if there had been some sort of magic death ray that I could have suggested, but there isn’t, and most people have a pretty flawed understanding of what actually happens when a bullet interacts with a human target.
For starters let’s examine a couple of concepts that don’t actually exist in the scientific world but everyone talks about anyway. I’m going to regurgitate the work from those better than myself, and the information is worth paying attention to.
This doesn’t actually exist. If a bullet had enough force to knock down an individual, it would also knock down the individual firing the gun. People do not go flying through the air when hit by a bullet, contrary to what the movies and television would have us believe. Newton’s Third Law and all.
On the back of a box of ammo, manufacturers list the foot-pounds of energy (ft-lbf, or foot-pounds of force/energy) that their rounds have. Well, that doesn’t actually matter. The terminal performance of a projectile is determined solely by how much tissue it cuts, crushes or tears. While it has been advocated by many-a-misinformed-gun-counter commando that some sort of energy transfer occurs between a projectile and its target, this has been rejected by everyone I respect who studies terminal ballistics for a living.
9MM IS FOR GIRLS AND SISSIES
How often have you heard, “If you’re not carrying a caliber that begins with the number four and ends with the number five, you’re doing it wrong”? This almost makes sense if we were limited to nonexpanding ammunition, but most of us aren’t. When we compare modern hollow-point rounds in popular service calibers, there is, on average, one-tenth of an inch of difference in expanded diameter between a 9mm and a .45ACP. Grab a ruler and look at a tenth of an inch. It doesn’t seem like much, does it? That’s because it’s not.
In autopsies of gunshot-wound victims, the wound track created by a 9mm is indistinguishable from that created by a .45ACP.
The only advantage that a larger caliber is going to offer you, in my mind, is slightly better performance through intermediate barriers. Probably one of the more commonly encountered intermediate barriers is the front or rear windshield of a car. That’s not to say that the smaller caliber doesn’t perform well through those same barriers; it’s just that the larger ones perform only slightly better. Tempered auto glass has a nasty tendency to deflect bullets from their original course, as well as separate metal jackets from their lead-core bullets. It’s for this reason that .40S&W gained so much popularity in law-enforcement circles during the early 1990s.
The nice thing is, with modern designs, most service ammunition is going to perform pretty well through barriers, and it is for this reason that a lot of larger law enforcement departments are switching back to or have been using 9mm all along. Some notable examples are the NYPD and my very own Cincinnati Police Department, which is using the 9mm 147-grain Ranger T series fired from their Smith and Wesson M&P9s. The PDX1 Bonded ammo line is the civilian version of this round with the only difference being price.
So, since I’m happy with the 9mm’s performance through barriers, and all handgun calibers suck anyway (editor’s disclaimer: the views of the author are not necessarily the views of the world at large but his determination, confidence and delivery is inspiring), here is why I like 9mm:
An H&K P7M13 with 9mm 147-grain Federal HST expanded ammunition.
“Damn, I wish I hadn’t had so much ammo” is not something I’ve ever known anyone in a gunfight to say after the fact. The phrase “If you can’t get it done in six, then it ain’t gettin’ done” is asinine, and something that I hear so often it makes me want to rip out what remaining hair I have. None of us are mind readers, and if we could predict beforehand how many rounds we would need to stop a threat, then why the hell wouldn’t we just avoid the threat entirely in the first place? More rounds are a good thing; if you think differently, I’m going to have to politely disagree with you, and think nasty thoughts quietly to myself.
Can I shoot a .40 or .45 as quickly as I can a 9mm? Sure I can. Can I shoot a .40 or .45 as quickly and accurately as I can a 9mm? I wish I could. There are some people who can, but I’m not one of them. Whether I’m shooting strong or weak hand, my accuracy only gets worse. In every force-on-force exercise that I have ever participated in, someone always seems to get shot in the hand. So with that in mind, being able to put rounds on a target quickly with one hand seems important to me.
IT’S CHEAP! (Relatively)
Nine millimeter ammunition is cheaper than any of the other service calibers. Cheaper equals more ammo. More ammo equals more practice, and obviously more practice equals awesome. Since I’m a fan of awesome, it all works out pretty well for me.
So there you go, the logic behind why I’ve chosen 9mm as my preferred handgun caliber. Obviously the choices you make are going to be determined by your circumstances and personal preferences, but hey, at least you know why 9mm gives me the warm and fuzzies that is does. For a more detailed and intelligent take on this subject, check out Service Caliber Handgun Duty and Self-Defense Ammo by Dr. Gary Roberts. ASJ
Editor’s note: John Johnston is the owner and host of Ballistic Radio, a weekly show and podcast dedicated to topics about self-defense, firearms and training with a touch of humor thrown in for good measure. See the cover story of American Shooting Journal’s June 2015 issue. John Johnston is on the cover.
Here are some top 9mm’s ammo for self-defense:
[su_heading size=”30″]The Fabulous .41 Remains A Preferred Caliber For The Discerning And Serious Shooter[/su_heading]
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAVE WORKMAN
Author Dave Workman is a devotee of the .41 Magnum, including this vintage S&W Model 57 with a 4-inch barrel.
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]D[/su_dropcap]espite hitting harder than the .357 Magnum (with a bigger bore), and shooting ﬂatter (to a slight degree) with less recoil than the .44 Magnum, the .41 Remington Magnum has been unfairly overshadowed since hitting the American landscape back in 1964. But the truth is, it just might be the best of a pretty good bunch.
Let’s be honest. The .44 Magnum is a fraud, being a .429 in true caliber, while the .41 Magnum is the real McCoy. With comparable loads, the .41 Magnum can do anything the .44 Magnum can do, and it is a real survivor.
The popularity of the .41-caliber Magnum seems to ebb and ﬂow, but those who have stuck with it make it as versatile a choice as its siblings. I’ve carried the .41 Magnum for personal protection, killed a couple of deer with it, shot long-range targets (it’s a favorite among silhouette shooters) and had it in the backcountry as a utility gun.
I like to think the really smart handgunners prefer this to the everybody’s-got-to-have-one .44 Magnum. And a lot of guys who have been around the block a few times have come to the same conclusion I did more than 30 years ago: It’s a damned ﬁne cartridge.
Last year, I visited my friend Jim Zumbo at his place in Wyoming, and the former hunting editor for Outdoor Life magazine had a Ruger Blackhawk in .41 Magnum parked near the front door. Veteran gunwriter Dick Metcalf and the late Bob Milek also wrote often about this caliber, and I always ﬁgured that this trio of wordsmiths were on to something.
Hodgdon’s H110 is a favorite propellant among handloaders for the .41 Magnum
IT’S A GEM FOR HANDLOADERS too. Thanks to modern powder research, there are more than a few propellants that make this round sizzle. My two favorites are Hodgdon’s H110 and Alliant 2400.
There are several good bullet choices in the 200- to 220-grain ﬁeld, and I’ve had great results with the 210-grain XTP from Hornady, the 210-grain Nosler JHP, and the 200- and 220-grain halfjacketed semi-wadcutter projectiles and a 210-grain Gold Dot JHP from Speer. In addition, Barnes offers a 180-grain solid-copper hollowpoint, and Sierra has two pills, a 170-grainer and 210-grain bullet, both hollowpoints.
Thanks to updated reloading data in the Speer, Nosler and Hodgdon manuals, I’ve been able to tinker with the cartridge over the past couple of years, and especially since last summer when I bought a little-used and nearly new-inbox 1980s vintage Smith & Wesson Model 57 in .41 Magnum.
There are plenty of factory loads available, including Winchester Silvertips, and JHPs from Remington, Federal and other manufacturers. When I acquired that 4-inch S&W last July, it came with four boxes of factory BVAC (Bitterroot Valley Ammunition) loaded with 210-grain semiwads.
With a belt full of cartridges, one can do a bit of shooting with a pair of double-action magnums.
I’VE OWNED RUGER BLACKHAWKS and two S&W Model 57s, the ﬁrst of those being a 6-inch version I’ve shot a few times in the annual Elmer Keith long-range handgun shoot just south of Spokane.
Keith is largely recognized as having been primarily responsible for the .41 Magnum, along with a man named Bill Jordan. It was originally intended as a law-enforcement caliber, but it proved to be a bit much for some lawmen, especially those of smaller stature, to handle. If that sounds like a similar story to that of the 10mm Auto, it is. But while the latter round led to the development of the .40 S&W, nobody bothered to create a .41 Short, so the original cartridge has remained the same since birth.
Of the two deer I killed with a 6.5-inch Blackhawk single action, the muley was the more memorable. Two shots downhill dropped the forkhorn. One bullet went clear through and the other was a perfect mushroom recovered just under the hide on the exit side.
While I prefer the longer barrel for precision shooting and hunting, in recent years I’ve opted for shorter-barrel versions. They’re lighter, they can ride on my hip in a truck, and they’re more concealable. A couple of years ago, I swapped out the alloy ejector rod housing on my 45/8-inch Ruger for one made from steel.
One thing I’ve noticed is that my loads lose 50 to 100 feet per second out of the shorter barrels, though that probably won’t make a lot of difference to anything I shoot within, say, 100 to 150 yards.
THE .41 MAGNUM IS CAPABLE of some impressive ballistics. With lighter bullets, it can warp along at more than 1,650 fps, and my favorite handloads zip out in the 1,250 to 1,600 fps range, depending upon the bullet weight, powder charge and barrel length.
When I shoot Alliant 2400, I stick with standard large pistol primers, but with H110, I always use magnum primers. Other powders are also good choices, including Winchester 296, H4227, Blue Dot, Lil’ Gun, Unique and Vihtavouri N110.
Soon after Workman acquired this revolver, he knocked together the holster.
The cartridge case should measure 1.290 inches, and the overall length for cartridges should not exceed 1.590 inches. I have two sets of carbide dies, one from Hornady and one from Redding, with the seating die from each set for a different bullet, because they each crimp at a slightly different depth.
I’ve built gunbelts with ample cartridge loops for the .41 Magnum. One needs to use a slightly tighter loop for the .41 than the .44 (.429), and they need to be well-oiled. Mine are all individually hand-stitched rather than looped in and out of the belt. AS A FIGHT-STOPPER,the .41 Magnum is no slouch. A cartridge that will knock down a black bear, big buck, caribou or bull elk is also fully capable against predators of the two-legged variety. This is a defensive round that should be approached with a little caution, of course, due to the potential for overpenetration.
When it was ﬁrst introduced, proponents suggested it would be a good load for law enforcement officers to shoot through the windshields of ﬂeeing getaway cars or to foul up an engine block on similar vehicles.
When I carried my 6-inch Model 57 in an old Safariland shoulder holster, I always had a couple of HKS speed loaders stoked with factory Remington ammo because the bullet shape contributed to quicker reloading than a wadcutter. Under a winter parka, that big gun disappeared, and nobody was any the wiser.
So why doesn’t the .41 Magnum get more respect? The reason is probably as simple as Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty” Harry Callahan ﬁring a .44 Magnum on ﬁlm. But even if it won’t ﬁre out of the “most powerful handgun in the world,” it has become something of a cult favorite with people who like to shoot metal chickens and rams, as well as discerning handgunners who don’t choose to follow the herd. ASJ
The N-frame Smith & Wesson is the perfect platform for the .41 Magnum. As the can attests, the gun can shoot, too!
When I was contacted about reviewing new pistol sizing and recapping dies I thought, “wow….dies. Big deal”. What are these S3 Reload dies anyways?
Shell Shock Technologies (SST) of Westport, Connecticut has created the S3 RELOAD set; dies not just for “regular” brass, but designed to accommodate the NAS3 casings (their nickel alloy casings for small caliber pistols).
A week later I picked them up (along with a huge bag of the NAS3) and started reloading.
Looking at the dies one would think that the reloading process would be significantly different. On the contrary, I actually found the process a little easier with these dies. The sizing die contains a polyurethane spring that assists in removing the case from the die. The spring-action is counter-intuitive to my typical method of reloading, but I got used it after about a dozen rounds. That small spring effect also gives the bullet a little push, improving the ease of the resizing.
Spent NAS3 casings next to freshly loaded rounds. Note the purple magnet; these are very easy to pick up at the range.
I also think it is important to talk about the NAS3 casings as well. Unlike normal brass, each casing is actually two pieces fused together. Engineered to be 50% lighter and 2x stronger than brass, it ejects cool to the touch and can be picked up with a magnet. This makes picking up your brass much easier at the range, which is especially good since you will want to recover these casings for repeated reloading with the S3 Reload.
Observations of the S3 Reload
While the expander die does look a little alien, I actually like the design more than traditional expanding dies. Since I was given a big bag of brass I figured the few I butchered getting the process down was the price SST was willing to pay. However, to my delight, I did not over-expand a single case!
Some foreign manufactured brass casings have unusual internal dimensions, and those should be avoided with these dies. SST dies WILL work on traditional brass cases, but SST cases CANNOT be used with regular dies. As a test, I loaded 20 brass cases I had on this set with ease (all of which also fired just fine).
During my review, I had some questions about the S3 Reloads and “best practices” for using them, and I reached out to SST and spoke with “Volo” (pretty sure he is one of their engineers but forgot to ask). During the call, he told me has loaded shells up to 30 times (all at normal pressures, no +p’s, or any other “hot loads”). Though the cases are rated for them, hotter loads will wear them out more quickly. He also mentioned that case wear is shown in the stamp in the case head soonest. So make sure you are checking that as part of your inspection process.
Biggest problem? Not using enough lube. I think we have all ran into that one time or another. :). After I dialed in the appropriate amount, everything operated smoothly.
I was also told they are soon releasing other calibers, some even in the high powered rifle arena (.308 Win) which is definitely of interest to this author. It will be interesting to see the life cycle of those cases and if they are able to withstand twenty (or more) reloads.
One of many containers of rounds this author loaded for testing.
I initially loaded 50 rounds and fed them through my Sig P226 without issue. Then I invited a buddy out to shoot with me. We ran through a large Tupperware container of 9mm and didn’t have any problems.
The combination of the S3 Reload dies and NAS3 brass seems like a really decent combination, and the ability to also load regular brass is great. I like the quality of Shell Shock’s products, and I was very impressed with their staff willing to stop their work day and spend 30 minutes to talk to me. I will continue using the dies and SST cases (until I wear them out) and recommend you give them a try if you reload.
There are millions of United States Carbine, .30, M1 Carbines out there. There’s a lot more to these light, handy, and once-affordable carbines than one might think if one hasn’t handled them before. Despite their oft-repeated combat ineffectiveness, they make a well balanced and light home defense carbine. I personally know someone who uses the M1 as their carbine of choice for such a purpose. My personal version is a papered, 1943-dated carbine of General Motors manufacture. While I enjoy taking it to the range, the .30 Carbine ammunition that I’ve been able to get for it has been somewhat low-powered. I’ve often wondered if I had to use this carbine for defensive purposes, what would be available as quality ammunition for such a purpose?
It may be old, but it’s still viable…
When looking for higher-powered ammo, usually Buffalo Bore is one of the first places I check. As a customer, I appreciate their posted velocities being tested out of standard length barrels. I also have verified many of their velocities from various calibers and they are always true to the claim, unlike some other manufacturers. Buffalo Bore did indeed have some “Full Power+ 30 M1 Carbine” loads, moving at 2100 fps. I decided to try a few boxes to see if it performed as claimed. BB (Buffalo Bore) has FMJ, Soft Point, and JHP loads in 110 grain, but only the FMJ and SP loads were available at the time I ordered them. Most of these rounds run $28.79 for a box of 20. While more expensive than the average of 30-40 cents per plinking round, they offer a different level of capability.
Left: Old style packaging with FMJ Right: New Packaging with SPRN
Newer hard plastic packaging from Buffalo Bore
Full Power+ FMJ
Cold, Hard Data:
Cold-bore shot? No problem!
Once I received the ammunition, I went to the range with my Carbine, a Magnetospeed V3 Chronograph, the BB Full Power+ ammo and some Remington UMC for comparison. Temperatures were in the high teens and low 20’s for the duration of my testing. Note: This is not as in-depth an ammunition test as Andrew’s gelatin tests. I do not have a good setup for gelatin testing. Testing was done prone, off a front rest. First off was the Remington UMC 110gr FMJ that I use for plinking with this carbine. I obtained the following data:
Remington UMC .30 Carbine 110gr, velocity in fps:
ME: 850 ft/lbs
Energy@ 100Y: 587 ft/lbs
Definitely not the bayonet the carbine’s designer envisioned
I then switched over to the Buffalo Bore FMJ load. Right away, I noted that recoil was a bit more pronounced. Cartridge ejection also varied greatly from the Remington ammo. The Remington cases ejected to my 3-4 o’clock position, while the BB cases ejected to my 1 o’clock (and quite a bit farther). There were no malfunctions with this ammunition using the 15-round surplus magazine. The BB load yielded the following data:
Buffalo Bore Full Power+ 30 M1 Carbine 110gr FMJ, velocity in fps:
ME: 1082 ft/lbs
Energy @ 100y: 740 Ft/lbs
This average velocity is extremely close to, though a bit more, than Buffalo Bore’s stated velocity of 2100fps. Once again, I have always found them to be truthful about their velocities.
A note on accuracy:
While groups at 100 yards were a bit tighter with the BB ammo than with the Remington ammo, this is a pretty old carbine. Although its bore and rifling are in pretty good condition given its use and age, surplus M1 Carbines are known to on average produce 3-4 MOA groups, depending on barrel band and recoil plate fit. Both groups fired were within this average, and nothing to write home about.
There are other options for defensive .30 carbine ammunition out there. Hornady makes a FTX version in their critical defense line, and IWI .30 carbine SP ammo is also available. These two loads do not approach the BB ammo in terms of velocity and energy, however. Only the Underwood/Lehigh 85gr “extreme cavitation” round approaches the velocity of the BB round, but does not match the muzzle energy. To put the BB load’s muzzle energy in perspective, 1082 ft/lbs is roughly comparable to a Federal .357 Magnum 158gr JHP out of a similar length barrel.
The Buffalo Bore ammo proved it was more powerful than the standard M1 Carbine ammo. In fact, the Full Power+ ammo has as much energy at 65y as the Remington UMC ammo had at the muzzle. If one uses the M1 Carbine as a defensive arm, one would be much better served by the BB ammo for such purposes. I would recommend the use of the SP or FMJ rounds if one can find them. Though pricier than standard plinking ammo, it is always wise to use the best rounds available for one’s purpose. If one is looking for a good defensive round for the .30 carbine, take a look at Buffalo Bore. It’d be a great load for one’s Magal, Automag III, Cristóbal, Franchi LF-58, Kimball (take a look at this gem), or for the good old United States Carbine.
Buffalo Bore’s .30 Carbine Soft Point Round Nose Ammo
Magtech might not be the name that first springs to mind when you think of premium defense ammunition, but you could be looking for less expensive, but still decent defense oriented ammunition for rainy day storage or hunting. If that’s the case, this line of bonded ammunition may be pretty attractive. Bonded JHP usually performs pretty well. Let’s take a look.
So, a little disappointing that the heavy clothing prevented expansion. It shouldn’t be too surprising, given the lower velocity of heavy for caliber 9mm ammunition. I do wish Magtech had put a bit more R&D into this, though. It’s possible that something as simple as having slightly deeper pre-fail cuts or less antimony in the lead alloy would have resulted in perfect performance. There are a lot of factors to balance, though, and this bullet is already borderline on bare gel penetration. In case you were wondering, it doesn’t do any better from a short barrel.
Now, some folks might argue that it’s “good enough”. That’s a fair point, depending on your interpretation of “good enough” and what use you intend to put it to. Is it “good enough” in the sense that it’s still live ammo that pokes holes in stuff? Sure, I guess. Is it “good enough” for your carry pistol? My opinion is worth every penny you paid for it, but I don’t think so. There are too many solid choices that do meet the standards to settle for anything less than outstanding performance for carry ammo. Is it “good enough” to buy cheap and stack deep for the zombacolypse? Sure. Why not? That is, if you’re stacking pallets of FMJ for Armageddon and you decide to stack up some of this too, well, it beats ball ammo. Is it “good enough” for discrete pest control or hunting? Well, that’s the one place where this is probably a good choice. It penetrates deeply enough to be useful for most critters that you would decide to use a 9mm on. Pigs and ‘yotes don’t tend to wear jean jackets or jorts so it ought to still expand well. It was also reliably subsonic. It may even stay subsonic in a longer barrel.
Bottom line: it’s better than FMJ and cheaper than premium defense ammo. If you have a need for something in that category, it might fit, but there are other options along those lines, too.
Solid copper hollow points typically offer excellent reliability and are a solid alternative to traditional, lead core jacketed hollow points, especially in locales where lead is banned. This test features a Springfield Armory standard, 5″ 1911A1 firing Prograde’s loading of Barnes 185 gr TAC-XP through four layers of denim to simulate heavy clothing as well as bare ballistic gel.
Penetration varied substantially in the bare gel test, with a minimum of 13.4″ and a max leaving the gel block and stopping in the first water jug. To be honest, I did not expect the bullet to leave the 16″ block. In the future, we’ll use other gel blocks to get a more accurate measurement of penetration. That said, water tends to give about 1.8 times the penetration result seen in ballistic gel at this speed and the bullet did not dent the back side of the jug, so the total penetration is likely to be less than 19.3″ as a rough estimate. That would exceed the FBI max, but it’s important to note two things. The first is that, based on the performance of the other rounds, this is probably a statistical outlier. The second is that, while the FBI standard strongly penalizes ammunition that fails to meet the minimum (-9 points), it does not penalize bullets that exceed the max by nearly the same degree (-5 points). That’s because the FBI is not nearly as concerned about the “over penetration” myth as that guy with the greasy John Deere cap who hangs out at the end of the gun counter said you should be.
It is true that some law enforcement officers have struck an innocent bystander with a bullet fired through a bad guy. But it is far more common for uninvolved parties to be hit with projectiles that missed their target altogether. More to the point, I know of not one single instance where a private citizen, using legally justified deadly physical force, hurt an innocent bystander with a bullet that passed through the intended target. Not one.Conversely, there are many documented cases where innocent people were hurt by bullets fired by a perpetrator who was already shot, but didn’t stop quickly enough. Every shallowly penetrating, ineffective bullet that is fired gives the bad guy that much more time to do his own shooting. Except, he may not be as diligent in his aim and he is probably loaded with FMJ. It also means that you have to shoot more, and consequently have more chances to miss the target and hurt someone.
As far as the other measures of performance, there was some significant variation in the penetration depth for the bare gel portion, though all made minimum. I suspect this is due to the relatively low velocity causing variation in when expansion occurs, though I can’t say for sure. The degree of expansion was extremely uniform and weight retention was absolutely perfect. Overall, this is a solid performer and a good choice for defense, assuming it cycles in your pistol. As you can see, it did fail to feed in my Springfield GI Model 1911A1, but 1911s with throated chambers and polished feed ramps may do better. Non-1911 pistols like the XD or Glock 21 should have no trouble, but this does underscore the need to test your carry ammo in your gun.
[su_heading size=”30″]By developing a lighter, two-piece case with steel and aluminum, Shell Shock Technologies has begun to capture a share of the factory ammunition and reloading market.[/su_heading]
STORY AND PHOTOS BY BOB SHELL
Shell Shock also provides specialized dies for sizing and decapping and belling.
[su_dropcap style=”flat”]W[/su_dropcap]e live in an age where all types of novel ammo and reloading components are coming to the market. That is good news for shooters, as many of these products are legitimate improvements over previous offerings. One company, Shell Shock Technologies, has recently released 9mm cases using manufacturing methods not previously used, at least to my knowledge.
What sets Shell Shock apart is that the company produces a two-piece case made from nickel steel. The exact process is proprietary, therefore the methods used are not revealed. However, I recently received some cases for evaluation, along with a sizing and decapping die and a belling die so I could load and shoot them. The bullet seating is done with a normal die, which isn’t included. The sizing and belling dies can also be used for standard brass cases, which is a plus because these new cases are superior to brass but will never replace them.
According to company literature, the cases are 50 percent lighter and two times stronger than brass, with a uniform wall thickness and proprietary assembly technique that leads to reliable and consistent velocity. The bottom of the case is an aluminum alloy, while a steel part is the top, which makes the case magnetic and makes it easier to pick up at a range. I placed a number of them on the scale one at a time, and they all weighed 35 grains, with no variation. Some brass cases I weighed came in at 63 to 64 grains, so the advantage of lightweight cases would be evident if you had to carry a large amount of ammo. I also measured several of the Shell Shock cases for length and they all came in at .7505 inch with no variation. Obviously, no variation in weight and length among these cases would contribute to accuracy and consistency.
Measurements confirmed that Shell Shock cases are consistently uniform in both size and weight.
I also received 200 rounds of 9mm loads with copper 124-grain HP bullets. These are produced by L-Tech Enterprises using the Shell Shock cases, and they sent some info showing penetration and weight retention results. They are consistent in size and weight as well, so if you are not a reloader, this ammo might be for you.
A top view looking into the cases.
FOR THE FIRST LOAD, I used ﬁve grains of Winchester 231 and a 115-grain FMJ bullet. This load is very mild and the cases were covered with soot, which is normal with light loads. Low-pressure loads don’t completely seal the chamber, which allows some powder to come back into the action. While messy, it is seldom an issue in regards to performance. The soot cleans off easily for those who like good-looking cases. Most nickel cases have that advantage, though brass needs extra cleaning if that is important to you.
So why would you purchase these cases as opposed to more conventional pieces, when most 9mm cases last several ﬁrings and are easy to obtain? Performance-wise, there isn’t any big difference. But if you wanted to carry a large amount of ammo, the lightweight case really adds value, and if you combine this case with a lightweight bullet, then it would be a really desirable product. Liberty Ammunition makes a 50-grain nonlead HP bullet, and that paired up with the Shell Shock case should make some top-rate ammo. Carrying a small amount of this ammo wouldn’t make a difference, but carrying or transporting a large amount would show a sizable advantage. I have a 60-grain bullet to work with, and at high velocity it should make a nice self-defense load.
I sized some ﬁred cases with normal dies and don’t see any problems, and the effort is the same as with the special dies; belling is normal and priming feels a little odd. I tried some once-ﬁred cases using both sets of dies and the effort appears identical, though lubing makes them easier to size. I noticed that a couple had increased the size of the groove, but I’m not sure if that is a function of the dies or a case. If you closely look at the groove, it shows that the case is a two-piece case. The inside is slightly shallower than a conventional case, but not by much (an average of .05 inch). A look at the inside of the custom die shows that it appears to be the same as a conventional one with a tungsten core.
It appears that the construction of the case is very different than a conventional piece of brass, and it will be interesting to see how they go through a Dillon or other progressive press. I am going to load cases with the same load but using both sets of dies. I have some 60-grain HP and had to size the new cases to make them ﬁt tight enough. The 115-grain cast did not need to have the new cases sized.
For testing, I used a Beretta with a 5-inch barrel, a SIG with a 4-inch barrel and a Norinco, giving us different guns to provide more info on what to expect with the cases and loads. Some of the cases have now been ﬁred seven times; there is no indication of any problems, and I am using RCBS dies only, as I don’t see a need for the special ones. That would make these cases even more desirable if it isn’t necessary to use special dies. Obviously, you should test their dies to see which method works best for you.
Testing was conducted using a Beretta (bottom) and a 9mm long-slide Glock, as well as (not pictured) a Norinco.
I RECENTLY RECEIVED SOMEnew powders from Chris Hodgdon that resemble some older powders such as Red Dot. Since I received the powders from Hodgdon while trying out the new cases, I decided to try a couple loads with the Shell Shock cases, starting with the Red. In these tests, the cases held up after ﬁve or six ﬁrings using standard RCBS dies. I tried many loads using the three handguns I mentioned to get a good overview of the case, along with the new powder and a variety of bullets. I made some of the lighter bullets myself (such as the 60-grainer), as they are not generally available. The Acme bullet is a cast item with a red coating that tends to make them slick and aids in feeding.
These numbers were rounded off, and you can see that if you needed to carry a large quantity of ammo, the Shell Shock cases would cut down on the weight enough to make a difference. The 60-grain CMA fared best, but still jammed on occasion in the Norinco. Of course, that would render it unsuitable for defense work, but I will try and work with the ogive, though due to the short length that may be difficult.
A shiny new Shell Shock case and bullet. (SHELL SHOCK)
The 147-grain Berry did well with the heavier load of Hodgdon’s HS-6 with no stovepipes. Like any situation and gun, it is recommended that you thoroughly check out the ammo that is intended to be carried. I took the 135-grain CMA and changed the ogive to a more rounded shape to ensure that it will feed in everything. In addition, they were .354 in diameter and the reshaping increased it to .358. Since there is a possibility that they may cause some problems, I reduced it to .356. Some .357-diameter bullets (a FMJ and a cast coated, both roundnose) were swaged down to .356. The purpose is for subsonic loads. A company called Liberty Ammunition makes some high-performance ammo using lighter than standard bullets. The 9mm bullet weighs 50 grains, so I measured a loaded round. The Shell Shock case weighs 35 grains, so a loaded round with a Liberty bullet would weigh 85 grains. Several companies are currently using Shell Shock cases, and I would like to see Liberty pick them up with their 50-grain bullets.
I was also curious as to the case capacity of Shell Shock casings compared to other commercial cases. I used Winchester 572 ﬁlled to the top on each case and the results surprised me. I thought that the Shell Shock case would have more capacity based on their weight. My “nonscientiﬁc” results showed Shell Shock and PMC held 13.1 grains, Federal and Winchester 13.2 grains and GFI 13.3 grains. As you can see, they are very similar. The next step is to use the same load in both types of cases. ONE THING I HAVEN’T NOTICED is any mention of the cases being reloaded on a progressive machine. That would be a plus, if that is the case. Therefore, I had a friend run some through his Dillion 550. Other than the requirement that they be lubed, the process went off without a hitch. With a normal bullet everything went ﬁne. We ﬁred some of the rounds made on the Dillon and they fed ﬂawlessly, so there should be no issues but they have to be lubed regardless of which dies or machine is used to load them. That would be the only downside. That new powder W-572 seems to work well in the 9mm rounds; you just need to adjust the loads.
Here is some L-Tech factory ammo with Shell Shock brass, in this case, a 124-grain bullet.
Based on my observations and tests, these cases are here to stay. They are durable and can compete with conventional brass cases in regards to price and reloading life. I can see other companies coming out with versions of them, and hopefully other calibers will be offered. In a few years they will have a good share of the market, though they won’t entirely replace the brass cases for several reasons. They have a few upsides such as durability and price, and since they are partly steel a magnet will pick them up. I have ﬁred hundreds of rounds and had one case that split. I can live with that. The only downside is the requirement that they have to be lubed. A quick spray-on may speed up the process with a progressive machine. I would recommend that you give this product a try, and if you do, I think you will become a customer. ASJ
These two-piece steel and aluminum ammo cases from Shell Shock Technologies were a hot topic at the most recent SHOT Show.