.45 auto gel test: Prograde 185 gr Barnes TAC-XP

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.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfWhCgCR8Zo?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent&w=660&h=402]

First, let’s take a look at the numbers.

Impact velocities:

994.7 fps
1,008 fps
1,000 fps
1,004 fps
989.6 fps
988.4 fps
1,016 fps
1,004 fps

Average: 1,001 fps

Minimum expansion: 0.445″

Max expansion: 0.802″

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.