Pack a “Punch” with New Bullet Line

Federal’s diverse budget-friendly choices for concealed carry check the boxes – even come in .22 LR.

Story by Phil Massaro, Photos by Massaro Media Group

Not all handgun bullets are created equal. My dad – Ol’ Grumpy Pants – still relies on a mixture of lead flat nosed bullets and military ball ammo to feed his .38 Special and .45 ACP, and while I certainly don’t want to be shot by either of the classic bullet designs, I am well aware that modern designs have a multitude of advantages.
While I also enjoy the full metal jackets and cast lead bullets – though I usually use them for target practice unless we’re talking about hard-cast hunting bullets – I rely on premium handgun bullets in my everyday carry guns. The majority of my handgun ammunition consists of Federal’s Hydra-Shok and HST, as the pair have proven to be the most consistent in the FBI protocol testing, and they shoot accurately in my handguns. But as wonderful as that pair are, they are expensive to produce and equally expensive to purchase. Maybe there is room for a middle-of-the-road choice that blends the best features for the citizen to carry in a defensive weapon – a bullet that will save your bacon yet both penetrate and expand reliably.

The Federal 124-grain 9mm Luger load is a great choice for a low-recoiling, short-barreled carry gun.
Federal checked that box with the release of their Punch ammunition line. Relying on the wealth of experience gained during decades of building what law enforcement considers to be the best handgun bullets available, Federal set out to produce a simple, effective and affordable handgun bullet for the masses. The goal was one that will feed properly when it has to, and give the necessary accuracy in addition to the blend of expansion and penetration needed to stop a threat. Assessing the Hydra-Shok, Hydra-Shok Deep and HST, and removing the costly features that the FBI and other agencies require to pass their protocols, Federal wiped the slate clean and developed the Punch bullet.

The Punch line includes many popular handgun calibers, including the beefy 10mm Auto. (FEDERAL PREMIUM)
THE PUNCH LINE is rather diverse, including the classic autoloading cartridge like the 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, 10mm Auto and .45 ACP, as well as the .38 Special in the +P guise and, much to my surprise, .22 Long Rifle. The projectiles designed for the centerfires all have common traits: they are copper-jacketed hollowpoints with the jacket skived to initiate expansion. The entire product line is loaded in nickel-plated cases for smooth feeding and long-term corrosion-resistance. My own hands, replete with acidic sweat, can tarnish a brass case quickly when I handle them often, and I appreciate the benefits of a nickel-plated case, whether on a safari in the heat of Africa or in my everyday carry gun.

“Concealed-carry permit holders, especially new shooters, need an uncomplicated answer to the question, ‘What ammo do I need for self-defense?’” said Chris Laack, Federal handgun ammunition product manager. “Things to consider such as function, reliable ignition, barrier performance, terminal performance, ballistics and other considerations are a lot to digest for most people. What consumers really need to know is it will function in their gun every time and that it will be effective stopping a threat as quickly as possible. Punch is our easy answer for them.”

Added Laack, “Punch is the first Federal Premium-branded personal defense line we made that was not specifically designed for law enforcement. Punch ammo was created based on what we’ve learned over 30-plus years of being the leader in law enforcement handgun ammunition.”

A federal Punch bullet recovered from bare gel; note the wide expansion. (FEDERAL PREMIUM)
Unlike Federal’s law enforcement bullets, which are designed to perform well when fired through a variety of barriers like steel and plywood, Punch ammo is a Federal Premium product designed specifically with the personal defender in mind. During the development of Punch ammunition, Federal’s engineering team set out to create a brand-new Federal Premium bullet that excelled in evaluations that were most relevant to typical self-defense scenarios, primarily bare gel and heavy clothing. They used what they’ve learned about jacket skives, which metals to use and other aspects of handgun bullet design, and applied that to engineering the optimum self-defense bullet.
“Many personal defenders think, ‘If it works for law enforcement, then it’s good for me.’ That is a great guideline and still our ultimate recommendation,” said Laack. “But that may add features not necessarily required for everyone’s daily carry.” What are the major differences between the premium designs and Federal’s new Punch? Well, due to the requirements of the various law enforcement offices, the HST and Hydra-Shok need to perform in a number of different mediums, including solid barriers, heavy clothing, auto glass and more, resulting in a stiff bullet with fantastic penetration.
Make no mistake, there is absolutely nothing wrong with relying on these bullets, but if you look at the most common defensive situations – those in which the goal is to either neutralize the threat or to get yourself to safety – this level of bullet may not be needed, and in some circumstances can result in over penetration.
The right and need to save one’s own life, or the lives of family and others, is undeniable, but the risk of hitting an innocent bystander should be a concern. And just as when using a rifle in a defensive situation, the risk of wounding or killing someone behind the perpetrator when using too stiff a bullet is a reality. The Punch is designed for the citizen who needs to use their handgun to save themselves or others, and it concentrates on that situation.

The frontal view of a Punch bullet upset, expanded to a wide diameter for energy transfer. (FEDERAL PREMIUM)
I USED A few different handguns to test the Federal Punch, including my dad’s Colt Officer’s Model Special .22 LR revolver, a Sig P938 subcompact 9mm, my Smith & Wesson Model 36 snubnose .38 Special, and my beloved Sig Sauer 1911 STX in .45 ACP.

Field results: the Federal Punch just plain shoots. I put targets out at 10 and 15 yards – further than the 7-yard standard – to assess the accuracy results, and came away very happy. Of the lineup, I spend the most time with the S&W .38 and the Sig Sauer STX .45 ACP, and the targets confirm that, though the other guns were more than accurate enough. In the autoloaders, there were no feeding or extraction problems at all, and the revolvers all ejected smoothly with no pressure signs whatsoever.

The Punch .38 Special +P load complements the classic snubnosed revolver very well.
What Federal has done is create a bullet unique to each cartridge, changing the geometry of the hollow point and jacket thickness to best serve each design. The six Punch centerfire options include a .380 Auto 85-grain offering with a muzzle velocity of 1,000 feet per second, a .38 Special +P 120-grain load at 1,070 fps, a 9mm 147-grain load at 1,150 fps, a .40 S&W 165-grain load at 1,130 fps, a 10mm Auto 200-grain load at 1,100 fps, and a .45 Auto 230-grain load at 890 fps.
All the ammo I tested hit the target at point of aim, with the sole exception of the .38 Special +P load, which hit a couple inches high from my gun. The .22 LR Punch load features a 29-grain lead-core bullet with a heavy nickel jacket – not plating – and a flat meplat.
The lead core is specifically engineered to perform well out of the shorter barrels of defensive handguns. “We’ve talked about making a .22 LR defensive load for some time,” said Dan Compton, Federal’s manager of shotshell and rimfire ammunition. “We finally decided that people are already carrying .22 LRs, so we might as well build a .22 bullet optimized for protection. We’re not trying to replace the 9mm. We decided that for a .22 defense bullet, penetration was more important than expansion.”

This Colt revolver gave consistent results
with the Federal Punch .22 LR 29-grain load.
Five shots from author
Phil Massaro’s Sig
Sauer 1911 in .45 ACP
at 10 yards in a tight
group builds all sorts
of confidence.
The 29-grain bullet out penetrated the .25 Auto with a 50-grain bullet and the .32 Auto with a 60-grain hollow point; the .22 LR Punch load gave a penetration depth of 13.75 inches in bare gelatin.
Federal’s Punch line looks at results in bare gel and through heavy clothing only; those are the parameters most closely associated with defensive situations. At roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of the price of the premium stuff, it can stretch your shooting dollar considerably without compromising effectiveness.
Considering the day-to-day rigors of carry ammunition – daily exposure to weather, heat, air conditioning, sweaty hands, etc. – the sealed primers and nickel cases of the Punch ammo will certainly show the advantages. As ammo hits the shelves again, thank goodness, try a box of Punch in your everyday carry gun. I think you’ll be happily surprised with the results.

The Versatile 10mm

First developed to combine the attributes of the 9mm Luger and the .45 ACP, this round is now one of the best handgun hunting cartridges made for semiautomatics.

Story and Photos by Jason Brooks

A comparison of 9mm, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, 10mm, .45 ACP and .44 Magnum cartridges.
Handgun shooters know that two of the most popular calibers are the 9mm Luger (Parabellum) and the .45 ACP. The latter is slow but makes a big hole, while the faster 9mm tends to lose energy quickly once it hits the target but shoots fast and flat. In a perfect world, a gunmaker would bridge these two rounds to make a fast and hard-hitting bullet.
It is this very idea that led Lieutenant Colonel John “Jeff” Cooper to come up with what we now know as the 10mm Auto. Back in 1983, the search began by looking at the speed of the 9mm Luger and the energy of the .45 ACP. The idea was that if a round could shoot fast, which means flatter trajectory, and could hit hard, then it would fit the military’s need, as well as that of law enforcement and civilian use for self-defense. The 10mm was created by taking a .30 Remington rifle case and cutting it down to .992 inch and opening the mouth large enough to seat the 10mm (.400-inch) bullet.
Overall length is 1.240 inches up to an acceptable 1.260 inches. The round shoots 180-grain bullets very well, but loads are available for lighter and faster projectiles down to 135 grains, which shoot nearly 400 feet per second faster than the 115-grain bullet out of a 9mm. It is also loaded with 200-grain powerhouses that shoot around 300 fps faster than the 230-grain .45 ACP. It seems that Lt. Col. Cooper was onto something when the 10mm was developed.

FIRST CALLED THE 10mm Super, the cartridge never really shined. This could be because there was already a 10mm Super on the market so a name change had to be made; this set back the rise to fame, as shooters didn’t know what the 10mm was all about. In 1989, the FBI decided to issue the 10mm to their agents. This occurred after the shootout in Miami, Florida, in which five FBI agents were injured and two were killed when they attempted to arrest two bank robbers. The agents were armed with .357 Magnums and .38 Specials, both revolvers. After the incident the FBI realized they needed more firepower in their issued sidearms, both in ammo capacity and in bullet performance. Through testing, and like Lt. Col. Cooper, they decided the 10mm fit their needs. But there was one reason why the military and even the civilian world never really accepted the 10mm and that was felt recoil A fast and heavy round means there will be a bit of push back when you pull the trigger.
Smaller-framed agents couldn’t handle the recoil of the 10mm. When it comes to law enforcement, it is more important to hit your target with a light-shooting bullet than miss with a heavy one. For personal defense, a lot of times just producing a handgun will stop the encounter and then the loud bang could thwart the criminal. But for law enforcement, where each round has to be accounted for, it is imperative that the intended target is hit. Because of this, the FBI decided to go with another new round on the market, very similar to the 10mm, the .40 Smith & Wesson (S&W). The .40 S&W was built on the 10mm case and bullet, using the same 10mm projectile but in a shorter case that held less powder, shot slower and therefore had less recoil. Most law enforcement departments today use the .40 S&W.

Once again the 10mm loses its popularity before it really begins, but it doesn’t disappear completely. The 10mm Auto is a straight-walled cartridge that lends itself well to semiauto handguns. With faster velocities and harder-hitting bullets than the two most popular handgun rounds for self-defense, it took hunting guides and backcountry users to help this round shine. Some outdoor enthusiasts, including hunters, guides and hikers who ventured into grizzly bear country, would carry the light and fast .357 Magnum. Others would choose “hand cannons” such as the .500 Smith & Wesson, but most chose the .44 Magnum. All of these come in revolvers, which means limited ammo and slower followup shots, especially in single-action configurations while using one hand. Then gun manufacturers such as Kimber Arms, which teamed up with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, started making the 10mm in the infamous 1911 model.

“With faster velocities and harder-hitting bullets than the two most popular handgun rounds for self-defense, it took hunting guides and backcountry users to help this round shine,” writes Brooks, whose Kimber Camp Guard 10mm – a collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, thus the organization’s logo on the grip.
A TRIED-AND-TRUE DESIGN, the 1911 has been relied upon by the U.S. military in every war since World War I, until our armed forces switched to the faster 9mm Luger from the slow .45 ACP. So when it came time for Kimber and RMEF to come up with a handgun that would protect you in grizzly country, as well as function under stress with a time- and battle-tested platform, it only made sense they used the 1911. When it came to cartridges, it is no surprise that they chose the 10mm Auto. It has less recoil than the .44 Magnum, though it has near energy performance and hits harder than the .357 Magnum. Kimber came up with the 1911 Camp Guard, which sports a brushed silver frame, eight-round magazine and wood grips that are engraved with the RMEF logo and does the ever-overshadowed 10mm justice for the backcountry.
The Glock model 20 holds 15 rounds, nearly double that of the Kimber, and is often the choice of hunting guides. It is easy to use, nearly failsafe in harsh conditions and holds a lot of ammo. For the hunter, this extra ammo capacity is a bit much and adds weight to the handgun that is not needed. Of course you could not put all 15 rounds in the magazine but that goes against all training and recommendations, since the Glock model 20’s key selling point is that it does hold all that ammo.

For those who venture into bear country, they know the dangers are real. In the last 20 years there have been 60 fatal bruin attacks with 30 of those coming from grizzlies and a surprising 28 from black bears. Two were from polar bears and if you are attacked by a polar bear, then you have other concerns besides which handgun you are carrying, such as frostbite in July.
The 10mm hits hard enough to sting a grizzly and make it run away. A fatal shot would likely be at extremely close range and not necessarily instant unless hit in the head at the right angle. But stopping the attack is the end goal, not necessarily killing the grizzly on sight. But for black bears and other big game, the 10mm would do the job just fine, again at close ranges.

THE 10MM IS truly a semiautomatic handgun for the hunter. Those who choose to pursue deer, hogs, antelope, javelina, black bears and mountain lions with a handgun can carry the 10mm with confidence. For years the .357 Magnum was a popular choice and it always will be, but the 10mm ammunition manufacturers are marketing bullets for the hunter as well.
Hornady came out with a line of ammo last year known as Handgun Hunter. The bullet used in this line of ammunition is designed to hit hard and then expand faster than a traditional hollowpoint bullet. This is achieved by using a copper alloy that has a 95-percent weight retention and then the open cavity is filled with an elastomer material. When the bullet makes impact, the elastomer compresses, which pushes outward and causes the bullet to expand faster.

Thanks to this technology in bullet designs like this, a handgun is a viable tool for hunting. Other manufacturers such as Federal make lines of hunting-specific ammunition in the 10mm, including a 180-grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw that leaves the muzzle at 1,275 fps. This round is perfect for deer-sized game, especially for hunters who use a tree stand where shots will be close and not rushed. For defending yourself in grizzly country, Federal also loads the 200-grain Swift A-Frame, which shoots 1,175 fps from the muzzle and at 100 yards is still traveling 1,020 fps. For a semiauto handgun, that is pretty fast and very hard-hitting with a 200-grain bullet.
The 10mm Auto is a good option for self-defense, either in the city or in the backcountry. It has been around for nearly 40 years, first developed to combine the attributes of the 9mm Luger and the .45 ACP, and is now one of the best handgun hunting cartridges made for semiautomatic firearms. When you need a lot of firepower and you need it now, the 10mm is one of the best options. Maybe it took so long to become popular because it is so versatile and each niche shooter couldn’t believe it would fit their needs, when in reality it fits them all.

9mm vs 45

Does it really matter?

The debate over the 9mm and .45 ACP is one of the most talked about in the firearms community.
Both handguns/calibers have a huge following thanks to their popularity and success in the field.
So which one is better you ask?

9mm vs .45 ACP Match Ups
One of the biggest mistake that most people make is taking a black-and-white stance (only looking at ballistics stats) on the .45 ACP and 9mm.

Many will say that the .45 is better because it shoots a bigger caliber bullet, or that the 9mm is better because of its higher magazine capacity.

Both points are spot on and provide good reasons to prefer one over the other.
Even if you think more bullets is better, you have to admit having bigger bullets with more bullets on tap are both worthy considerations when choosing one gun over the other.
If you look at the bigger picture is that neither gun has a total advantage over the other one, and your own preferences will play a lot in determining which handgun is for you.
Let’s take a look at the major points of each caliber to help you decide.

The 9mm
Manufactured will pitch it as being compact and easier to handle than its .45 ACP counterpart which may be the many reason why the 9mm has become one of the most popular rounds in the gun world.
Just like the .45ACP, the 9mm have served the U.S. military gloriously for more than 30 years.
Yes, even the FBI dropped their .40 S&W pistol in favor of the 9mm.
Here are some of the advantages that the 9mm has over the .45 ACP:

  • 9mm Luger outperforms most of the premium line .40 S&W and .45 Auto projectiles tested by the FBI
  • 9mm Luger offers higher magazine capacities, less recoil, lower cost (both in ammunition and wear on the weapons) and higher functional reliability rates (in FBI weapons)
  • The majority of FBI shooters are both FASTER in shot strings fired and more ACCURATE with shooting a 9mm Luger vs shooting a .40 S&W (similar sized weapons)

A question to consider for the pro .45ACP carrier, is carrying bigger necessarily better?
The 9mm also has a higher muzzle velocity than the .45 ACP because it uses lighter bullets. Which has caused further debates within the firearms groups over which is better, a fast/light cartridge or a heavy/slow one?

The .45 ACP
If you like the idea of shooting a gun with a lot of stopping power – you’re not alone.
With its heritage engraved in history the trusted Colt M1911 to the modern .45 Glocks, it has always been a most reliable caliber for the gun owners.
Many of us handgun lovers believe that bigger is better and love everything that the .45 ACP has to offer. Here are some of .45ACP’s best features:

  • .45s stopping power makes it a great home defense gun
  • Over-penetration isn’t as much of a problem
  • Battle tested for over 100 years which have produced some very powerful .45 ACP bullets

On a irrelevant side note, the .45 ACP is a very cool handgun.
Looking at the Two
The advancement of technology has improved the 9mm cartridge, it didn’t get better than the .45s. But, that the 9mm capability caught up to the .45 ACP.
What the experts are saying is that the modern 9mm is just as powerful.
Take a look at these pics highlighting rounds that opens up to create possible nasty wound channels that can stop an attacker:

147gr Federal HST Expansion

That is some serious expansion from the 9mm rounds.
But don’t forget developments for the .45 is also available with FMJ.

Winchester 230 gr Ranger T-Series 45 ACP

While the 147gr Federal HST expanded from 9mm (roughly .35cal) to an average 15mm or .61″, the .45 ACP expanded from (again, roughly) 11.5mm to 25mm (.45″ to 1″)
They both doubled in size…and since .45 ACP is bigger to start with, it became humongous in the end.

Not Breaking the Bank
Affordablity, is something that the 9mm is in favor for the average shooters.
Boxes of 9mm Luger are cheaper than the .45s ammo.
When you’re spending some long range time, the 9mm isn’t going to break the bank.

Velocity – Suppressed
We have to mention this because there are folks that love shooting their .45s suppressed. The .45 is a subsonic bullet, because it fires slow and its a heavy bullet, the muzzle velocity is lower than the 9mm which makes it damn near-whisper level.

Tactical Situation
This is mainly for military and LEO’s but you could be faced with similar situation, if needed.
Most of these folks have gone with the 9mm because they wanted the deeper bullet penetration.
For home defense only, go with the .45 ACP for less penetration, you won’t have to worry about hitting innocent bystanders.

Bulk Ammo In-Stock

Last Shot
What you choose to go with depends on your budget and life style.
Each caliber has it good points, sometimes it depends on the owner.
Are you a good shooter that can work that gun well? Or, are you just one that only wants to have a gun and never think of practicing with it.
Maybe you’re the tactile person thats into the feel of a handgun.
Some like the heavier weight with a decent kick.
While others prefer the lighter recoil for rapid shots.
Will you be carrying for open or concealed? For CCW, most will go with the 9mm because of the smaller profile. Again, its up to you.
The good news is that which ever you choose, manufacturers has them for you to choose from. You’ll find the 9mm and .45 ACP for home defense, EDC, SHTF or just plinking papers.
Which caliber do you prefer?, Let us know below.

Sources: FBI, Lucky Gun, Youtuber Edwin Sarkisian

Now that you’ve read the comparisons. Out in the wild internet, conversations always sparks up. Here’s some interesting comments that was on PewPew Tactical Youtube channel and how they responded to it concerning the 9mm vs 45 debate.

The Excellent ELD-X

Hornady’s low drag, expanding bullet ‘delivers accuracy both at the bench and in the hunting fields.’

Story by Phil Massaro Photos by Massaro Media Group

The rain had just subsided, though the streams were too swollen to cross. In spite of the fact that temperatures had risen significantly – the previous morning was in the low single digits – the runoff created a natural barrier between us and the mule deer buck we had just glassed on the hillside at over 1,000 yards.
So, with Plan A foiled, we regrouped and planted the seeds of what would become Plan B: glass the innumerable coulees, gullies and canyons in a frantic manner until we found a buck. Well-armed with both superior firepower and a positive mental attitude, we sallied forth, in spite of wet feet and rumbling bellies indicating the proximity to lunchtime.
My hunting partner Mike Mattly and I were discussing the finer points of magnum cartridges and domestic beer as we approached the first canyon we were to glass, when a pair of mule deer bucks – who obviously disagreed with my take on Coors Light – jumped out of their beds to find better conversation.
“On the left, he’s the one you want,” Mattly curtly stated. The rifle came quickly to shoulder, but a running mule deer will bounce more than run, so the shot wasn’t exactly a slam-dunk. Even through the recoil I could hear the bullet strike flesh, and Mattly’s congratulations assured the buck had gone down.
Mule deer bucks can be tough, but the 143-grain Hornady ELD-X bullet was tougher and, in spite of having almost 200 yards to slow down, worked perfectly. It was my first mule deer, and my first time in the field with the ELD-X, though it wouldn’t be the last for either one.

The 6.5mm 143-grain ELD-X is a
perfect choice for all the 6.5 cartridges,
from the Creedmoor to the 6.5-284
Norma up through the 6.5 PRC.
The .30-caliber Hornady
at 200 grains will give
great performance in the .30-
06 Springfield and the .300
magnums alike. (HORNADY)
ELD-X IS AN acronym for the “Extremely Low Drag – eXpanding” bullet. The ELD-X is, to the eye, just another polymer-tipped boattail bullet. But once you pop the hood, there is a bit more going on, including some points that make it a great choice for the hunter. The 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition – from Black Hills Ammunition – we had on that mule deer hunt shot very well, and on the South Dakota prairie it made a great choice to deal with the definite possibility of a longer shot or a shot in a very windy condition, or worse: both.
While we have the choice of a good many bullets, the ELD-X is among the finest for these situations. Let’s take a look at the design concepts, and at the eye-opening discoveries that led to its existence.

The .300 Remington Ultra Magnum in Hornady’s Precision Hunter line of loaded cartridges, with the 212-grain ELD-X bullet.
With a good rifle, like this Kimber Open Country in 6.5 Creedmoor, a 143-grain Hornady ELD-X will make a solid choice for nearly all game suitable for the cartridge.
Hornady, which is one of America’s most cherished bullet companies and has its roots in the post-World War II component bullet industry, is no stranger to bullet development. With founder Joyce Hornady pairing with Vernon Speer to use spent .22 Long Rifle cases to make bullet jackets – commodities, you see, were a rarity and handloaders didn’t have a lot to choose from – the company has a long history of interesting, effective and innovative designs. Their InterLock jacketed softpoint, which has long been a favorite of mine, remains a sound choice for any of the cervids, providing there is a sensible sectional density figure. The copper jacket is set into the lead core via a cannelure, and certainly moderates expansion, but even the spitzer boattail designs are limited in the ballistic coefficient department, based primarily on the shape of the exposed lead nose. Now Hornady isn’t the first company to put a pointed polymer tip on a bullet – that distinction belongs to Nosler, with their Ballistic Tip bullet – but they did follow suit, including their signature red tip on such bullets as the SST (Super Shock Tip), GMX (Gilding Metal eXpanding) and the InterBond bullet, with its copper jacket bonded to the lead core. It was during long-range bullet testing, using Doppler radar technology, that the ballisticians at Hornady made a startling discovery.

It became evidentthat something was happening to the polymer tip in flight, as the ballistic coefficient was dropping off rapidly as the bullet began to show the effects of atmospheric drag. The tips were melting due to friction, and that was causing the BC values to drop off significantly. So, Hornady’s engineers set to work to develop a tip that would hold up during flight, maintaining its conformation in order to help preserve the ballistic coefficient figures.

The result of their efforts was the proprietary Heat Shield Tip, which would resist the effects of atmospheric drag throughout the bullet’s trajectory, and it was a game-changer. The ELD-X bullet uses the Hornady AMP bullet jacket – prized for its concentricity – and a secant ogive and boattail for match-grade accuracy, in addition to an internal InterLock ring on the interior of the jacket, which will help keep the jacket and core together during the violent terminal phase of expansion. It is the companion bullet to Hornady’s ELD Match – a wonderful target bullet – and is almost, if not equally, as accurate.

IN SPITE OF Hornady offering a wide selection of hunting bullets of all sorts of designs, from the toughest to the most frangible, they chose the traditional cup-and-core design for the ELD-X bullet, presumably to mirror the construction of the ELD Match. But where the ELD Match has only to reach the target in a consistent manner, with no care as to what happens once the steel is rung or the paper is punched, the ELD-X has the responsibility of destroying enough vital tissue to result in a clean, ethical kill. Quite possibly as much a result of the desire to attain the most advantageous BC values as it was a result of the need for a higher sectional density for reliable penetration, the ELD-X bullets are all on the heavy-for-caliber side of things.

There are two 6mm choices at 90 and 103 grains, a 110-grain .257-inch-diameter, that 143-grain 6.5mm that worked so well for me in South Dakota, a 145-grain .277-inch-diameter, three 7mm choices at 150, 162 and 175 grains, a quartet of .30s – 178, 200, 212 and 220 grains – and a pair of .338s at 230 and 270 grains. There are some stellar ballistic coefficients among this lineup, including the 175-grain 7mm, with a G1 BC of .689, and the 270-grain .338, with a G1 BC of .757; both of these will perform wonderfully at longer ranges. The 212-grain .308 – with a G1 BC of .673 – couples well with the larger magnum cases like the .300 RUM, .300 PRC, .300 Norma and .30-378 Weatherby Magnum. If you recover an ELD-X from your game animal, you will find a high level of weight retention, often in the high 80-percent range, which is typical of a heavy-for-caliber cup-and-core bullet with a decent jacket.

The 150-grain 7mm Hornady ELD-X is a good choice for the venerable 7x57mm Mauser, as it will handle a wide variety of big game animals.
Bulk Ammo In-Stock
While all these bullets are available in component form to the reloader, Hornady also offers a wide selection of loaded cartridges in their Precision Hunter line of ammunition. Loaded in their proprietary brass cases, the Precision Hunter ammo is wonderfully accurate and is utterly reliable. The ELD-X is also loaded by some of the smaller ammo companies, like the Black Hills Gold line that I hunted with, and it is also offered by Choice Ammunition.
I like the ELD-X as a general hunting bullet for the common species such as hogs, black bears, whitetail and mule deer, caribou, elk and even moose, if the caliber is large enough for the larger cervids. For the dangerous species like grizzly bears, I’d prefer a bonded-core or monometal design, but for the majority of species, the ELD-X will work just fine. I’m not able to testify whether the Heat Shield Tip holds together during flight or not, as every fired bullet I’ve been able to recover has been so badly deformed that it was impossible to ascertain what happened in flight. Nor am I able to determine what happens to other polymer tips. But I do know the Hornady ELD-X does what I need it to do: it delivers accuracy both at the bench and in the hunting fields, and delivers the terminal performance needed to ensure a quick, humane kill.

An upset Hornady ELD-X bullet; note the expansion at a minimum of twice original caliber dimension. (HORNADY)

The Hornady ELD-X
shown in section;
note the InterLock
AMP jacket, which will
help keep the jacket
and core together
during the bullet’s
terminal phase.

Bullet Cam from Vortex Hornady

Imagine being able to see your bullet hitting the target as it hits its target or maybe go off by a minute.

Vortex and Hornady released a video of a new “bullet-cam” and it had many talking, whether they believed it or not.
Some new technology that would hypothetically change the hunting and filming game forever from Vortex and Hornady took the outdoor world by storm recently.
News like this would change the industry…if only it were true, lol.
Yes! April Fool!

An epic April Fool’s prank cooked up an incredibly cool product, outstanding visuals and dialogue, and some cool acting from employees.
Vortex and Hornady released the video that would seem to be a legit product launch with the production quality and subsequent buzz.

But, putting a camera on a bullet is virtually impossible, and some people on social media knew exactly what was going on. But some didn’t, and it was very funny.

If you saw it on the internet, its gotta be true. Right?


Watch how awesome this prank video turned out.
Conversation on FB

Video Transcription
Ian: Here at Vortex Optics, we strive to push the boundaries of the Sport Optics community. From high-powered binoculars to precision optic scopes, so that our customers can see clearly from all vantage points. When it comes to bullet impact, though, shooters have had to rely on traditional optics to determine accuracy from long distances. We were determined to provide an additional point of view, to improve precision and overall performance. With our expertise in research and development of optics, we reached out to Hornady to collaborate on a new product encompassing action-camera technology that before now was impossible to achieve. We are proud to anounce the revolutionary Vortex Hornady Bullet Cam.

When the guys at Vortex came to us with this idea, honestly, we thought they were crazy. But we decided to take a look at their data, and they were definitely onto something, so we immediately started on a prototype. When it comes to optical system design, accuracy and precision are absolutely essential. One of our initial concerns was flight path, and that the mass of our optical system had to be absolutely centered. After considerable testing and re-testing, we developed the brand-new G10-Drag model, which streamlines the trajectory for this new profile. In addition, we redesigned the propellant burn characteristics, as well as its densities. We’re confident, with or without the camera, this bullet technology is going to start a trend throughout the shooting community.

Operating a bullet-cam is incredibly intuitive. And it’s fun to use. After sinking a bullet with the VTXM, hit record, load the round as you usually would, and shoot. The live feed streams right to your device for instant viewing. Once the bullet cam hits a target, recording stops, and your clip is uploaded to the VTX cloud.

You can review your trajectory, even slowing it down frame by frame, so that you can see the impact, make a correction if necessary, or confirm your kill. With access to the VTX cloud from anywhere, you can share all your shots directly on your social media profiles. At only $99.99 for a box of ten, bullet-cam is completely affordable, and will make you a true pro.

Our goal at Vortex Optics is for shooters to have the most advanced tools in the industry to achieve the most accurate shots. And with this bullet, you’ll always know if you were way off, or dead-on. With the Vortex-Hornady bullet-cam, the force of Optics just got more forceful.

Sources: Vortex, Hornady

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Bullets for Small Game

Top loads for Popping Winter/Spring Predators and Varmints.

Story by Phil Massaro and Photos by Massaro Media Group

With a polymer tip and boattail base, the Nosler Ballistic Tip Varmint resists wind deflection well and maximizes downrange energy; the tip is color-
coded by caliber.
With our big game seasons winding down, it’s time to turn our attention to the predators in the later winter and the varmints in the spring. Where the strong, stiff premium bullets – with their bonded cores, monometal construction and partitioned cores – are the darlings of the big game world, the small-bore cartridges that best handle the furbearers and varmints are the opposite: maximum frangibility is a benefit. I enjoy hunting both coyotes and foxes in January and February here in New York, when the fur is prime, and both species are beginning their breeding seasons. We have no lack of coyotes, and as they feed on wildlife and domesticated animals equally, they are actively hunted.
Many hunters also take them as a target of opportunity during deer season, as they will often be seen cruising after deer or cleaning up gut piles, and taken with the deer rifle in hand. But for those who actively pursue coyotes and foxes, specialized rifles, cartridges and bullets are the norm. Popular centerfire cartridges for these species include the .223 Remington, .204 Ruger, .243 Winchester, .22-250 Remington and .17 Hornet, and among the rimfire cartridges, the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, .17 HMR and .17 WSM are favorites. All of these cartridges have the energy and trajectory to cleanly take the furbearers within their eective ranges, though that range will be a bit different for each of them.

The muzzle velocities and bullet shapes will dictate sensible uses – for example, the bullet shapes and velocities of the .22 Magnum will limit its range, especially in comparison to the speedy .22250 Remington – and some of them can do double duty on deer and similarsized game. Where many deer are taken each year with the .243 Winchester, those 90 and 100 grain bullets that excel on whitetails and pronghorn antelope aren’t exactly what you want to use on varmints and predators. Yes, they’ll work, but not with the same dramatic eect as that of a thin jacketed 55 grain bullet at a higher velocity from the same cartridge.

The Speer TNT hollowpoint, shown here loaded in the .223 Remington, is an explosive bullet that handles varmints and furbearers alike.
THE IDEA BEHIND the varmint and predator loads is not complex: a high-velocity bullet of frangible construction, capable of pinpoint accuracy and that delivers a whole lot of hydrostatic shock to an animal of smaller stature than their big game counterparts. These species are thin-skinned, have lighter skeletal structures and (most) have a nervous system that can be rapidly switched o by that hydrostatic shock.
Some of my favorite varmint/predator bullets include the Nosler Ballistic Tip Varmint, the Speer TNT, Barnes’ Varminator, Sierra’s BlitzKing and MatchKing (more about that in a minute) and the Hornady V-Max. All of these have the properties any varmint/predator hunter wants, and all are capable of creating the fabled “red mist” when hunting woodchucks and prairie dogs. They all either have a polymer tip or hollowpoint design, and most oer a boattail variant for maximizing downrange energy and minimizing wind drift. Let’s take a look at them individually to get a better feel for what might work best for you. The Nosler Ballistic Tip was the first American bullet with a polymer tip, used to maintain a consistent ballistic coe‰cient as well as acting like a wedge to initiate expansion upon impacting the animal.

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The regular hunting version has been relied upon as a great choice for deer, antelope and similar-sized game animals, with the industry and Nosler themselves understanding there are better choices for game animals larger than deer, due to the rapid expansion. That expansion, and correlative lack of penetration, might not be desirable on an elk or moose, but is absolutely perfect for woodchucks. The Nosler Ballistic Tip is a wonderfully accurate bullet, and is frangible enough to minimize pelt damage (I recommend the lightest for caliber, to keep the bullet in the body and prevent an exit wound). I handload them for a number of cartridges, and my .22- 250 loves the Federal 55-grain Ballistic Tip factory load.

The 20-grain Hornady V-Max will certainly create the “red mist” when sitting on a hot prairie dog town or a woodchuck-infested alfalfa field.
The Speer TNT is a flat-base hollowpoint with an internally-fluted jacket, specifically designed for rapid expansion and devastating energy transfer. They are aordable and reliable, and I have had great results in both rimfire and centerfire cartridges. The 55-grain .224-inch-diameter TNT has ruined the careers of more than a few coyotes, in both my .22-250 Remington and my dad’s .223 Remington. The Federal 30-grain TNT in the .22 WMR load makes a potent choice for the rimfire fan, and at 2,200 feet per second will send woodchucks to the Great Vegetable Garden in the sky. Often overlooked, give the TNT a try and I’ll bet you’ll be happy with the results. Barnes, traditionally synonymous with lead-free monometal bullets, offers their Varminator line of frangible cup- and-core bullets. Using a thin, scored jacket made of gilding metal over a lead core known as the Deton-A-Tor core, the Varminator gives extremely rapid expansion, rarely exiting on the larger furbearing species, yet will quickly dispatch the varmints with a humane kill. They are oered in .204-inch diameter at 32 grains; .224-inch diameter at 40 and 50 grains; and 6mm diameter at 58 and 72 grains. Looking for near-explosive terminal performance? Barnes’ Varminator line is just what you’re after.

The 55-grain Sierra BlitzKing – shown here handloaded in the .22-250 Remington – is both accurate and devastating on game animals.
THE SIERRA BLITZKING is their spin on the dedicated varmint bullet, and it features a lineup of bullets from .204-inch caliber up to .257-inch. They use Sierra’s proprietary acetyl resin compound for the sharp tip at the meplat, and mix it up with a variety of flat-base offerings as well as boattails. Sierra indicates that these bullets can handle velocities up to 4,400 fps – probably more than anyone will generate – yet still give that desirable frangibility at lower velocities, making the BlitzKing a very versatile choice for the varmint/predator hunter.
I’ve hand loaded these in my .22-250 Remington for years, and they are both wonderful on paper as well as in the field. They are not only available in component form, but now in Sierra’s factory-loaded Prairie Enemy ammunition. The industry-standard Sierra Match King, that record-setting bullet adored by the target crowd, makes a great varmint/predator bullet, in spite of the fact that the company recommends other choices. Based on the accuracy these bullets deliver, folks just couldn’t resist the temptation to try them on game animals. While the results were mixed on deer-sized game, the hollowpoint Match Kings were and are devastating on varmints and predators. My personal choice for that .22-250 I’m always going on about is the 53-grain flat-base Match King, over a load of 38.4 grains of Hodgdon’s H380; that combination has sent all sorts of woodchucks, foxes, coyotes, rogue skunks, marauding raccoons and more to their grave.

That Ruger rifle will put three shots in a group measuring just over ¼ inch, and my dad’s Savage .223 will equal that figure with the 52-grain boattail MatchKing. Despite the recommendations, I am a huge proponent of the hollowpoint MatchKing as a coyote killer. I can apply the same comments to the more modern Sierra Tipped MatchKing, as I’ve found them to be on par with their older sibling in the accuracy department, and the polymer tip will definitely give rapid expansion. Finishing up with Hornady’s V-Max, you’ll find a bullet wearing the proprietary AMP bullet jacket, signature red polymer tip, with a swaged lead core. Much like the others, the V-Max is one of those great blends of accuracy and violent expansion that makes such a perfect varmint bullet. They are one of the best choices in the diminutive .17s – especially that little .17 Hornet – as they will take full advantage of the velocities, most definitely creating the red mist. The bullet is so good that not only is it loaded in Hornady’s own factory ammo, but Federal has adopted the bullet in their ammo lines as well; that alone should tell you how good the V-Max is. The V-Max assuredly deserves an audition in your varmint/predator rifle. It is also available in the .22 WMR from both Hornady and CCI.

The flat-base 53-grain Sierra MatchKing hollowpoint is the author’s favorite bullet for his .22-250 Remington, and works wonderfully on predators and varmints alike.

The .17 Hornet and the Hornady V-Max go together like peanut butter and jelly.
If you are a predator hunter, you’ll already understand, but if you’re not, and you want to extend your hunting season, grab a good rifle and a good predator call and get outside. Many landowners, especially farmers, will give access to those hunters in pursuit of post-deer season coyotes easier than those who wish to hunt deer.
Yes, here in the Northeast it can be cold, snowy and icy, but it’s a helluva lot of fun, and quite challenging. In Texas and across the West, there are many wide-open spaces where foxes, coyotes and bobcats can give great sport. Pick up a smallbore rifle and some frangible bullets, and have some fun chasing them.

Unleaded, Please…

With Lead-Free Projectiles here to stay, these are Eight Great All-Copper Bullets for Hunting, Shooting

Story by Phil Massaro Photos by Massaro Media Group

The Barnes TTSX (with blue polymer tip) and Barnes TSX are tough bullets, suitable for nearly all hunting situations.
I might be dating myself, but I am old enough to remember when unleaded gas was an option over regular (leaded) gasoline. Lead often gets a bad rap, due to its toxicity to people when exposed to high levels. However, the malleability of lead makes it an excellent choice for projectiles, especially during the centuries when firearms underwent radical developments.
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The simple muzzleloader, firing a patched round ball, could be well fed with a bullet mold and a healthy supply of lead. Our earliest projectiles for what we consider modern cartridges were either pure lead or some sort of lead alloy, hardened a bit to resist premature deformation. To this day, the majority of our rifle and handgun projectiles are comprised of a lead core surrounded by a jacket of copper, and lead shot remains a popular choice for most anything other than waterfowl. As I stated, lead can be toxic, and it was in the mid-1980s that lead shot was first banned for use on waterfowl.

Leaded gas, lead paint; right on down the line, lead gets more and more removed from our everyday lives. But it wasn’t always a bad thing. Lead’s beneficial use in handgun and rifle projectiles is undeniable, however it does have certain limitations. It can be too malleable – as John Nosler found out in the 1940s when his bullets came apart on the shoulder of a bull moose – and for decades, bullet manufacturers have been engineering different designs to come up with the best balance of expansion and penetration.
It was Randy Brooks, then-owner of Barnes Bullets, who had the idea of removing the lead core altogether and using just copper for his projectile to avoid jacket/core separation, all the way back in 1979. By 1986 his idea had come to fruition when he took the first head of big game with his lead-free X bullet. That Alaskan brown bear fell to a 270-grain Barnes X from his .375 H&H Magnum, and began a whole new facet of the ammunition industry. Fast forward to 2013, and you’ll see California pass a bill prohibiting the use of all lead ammunition for hunting on public and private land, supposedly in an effort to remove the risk of condors and other scavengers being poisoned by lead bullet fragments or shot in gut piles. I’m not here to debate the validity of those studies or the merits of the subsequent laws, but to show the effects on the bullet industry, and that is to say that the lead-free projectiles are here to stay.
And, while Barnes remains a leader in the copper bullet industry, they are not the only player in the game. In fact, just about every major player in the bullet manufacturing industry has one sort of lead-free monometal bullet or another. Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of the copper bullets, what makes them tick, and I’ll highlight a few of my favorite designs.

Copper, by nature, is less dense than lead, so when comparing a lead-core bullet to a copper bullet – of the same shape, weight and diameter – the copper bullet will always be longer. This does a couple of different things: It changes the center of gravity and it usually requires the bullet to take up more space within the case. In those cases where the volume is already a bit compromised – like the .308 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington and .350 Remington Magnum – the heavier copper bullet can pose an issue, as it will eat up a considerable amount of space.

In the instance that a lead-core bullet is at or near the edge of stable flight, many times a copper bullet of the same shape and weight will not be stable. For example, the 6.5mms will assuredly stabilize a 140-grain cup-and-core bullet with the standard 1-in-8-inch or 1-in-9-inch twist rates, but not a 140-grain copper bullet; the length is just too much to stabilize. This will pose an issue with the target crowd, who rely on that combination of bullet weight and conformation to retain every last bit of velocity for a flat trajectory.

The Woodleigh Hydrostatically
Stabilized Solid is just about the
perfect medicine for dangerous game, and works equally well on lighter game.
For the hunting crowd, who require the proper terminal performance to ensure a quick, humane kill, the copper bullets really shine. Generally speaking, they are very tough – sometimes too tough – and will definitely reach the vital organs. Copper is not only lighter than lead, but is less malleable. Hence the reason it has been so successful as a jacket material: It is just soft enough to be engraved by the rifling in the steel barrel, yet is hard enough not to “smear” down the barrel like soft lead will.
The secret to the best copper hunting bullets is to get them to expand properly and reliably. Brooks went through several designs with his hollowpoint Barnes X until he got what he was after; some of the earliest designs didn’t expand and acted much like a solid, whistling through at caliber dimension. With the TSX, TTSX and LRX, that is no longer the case. Most copper bullets will feature either a hollowpoint or a polymer tip inserted into a hollow cavity to get the bullet to expand. There are a few exceptions to that rule, namely the Peregrine Bushmaster and PlainsMaster, the North Fork Cup Solid and the Woodleigh Hydrostatically Stabilized Solid.

Additionally, most copper monometals will feature multiple grooves cut in the shank of the bullet to reduce the amount of bearing surface, in order to minimize the amount of copper fouling. The original Barnes X had no grooves and fouling was an issue. I spent a considerable amount of time using an ammonia-based bore cleaner and a nylon brush, scrubbing copper fouling out of the bore of my favorite rifles.
For the handloaders, you’ll often find that the copper monometals will perform best with powders on the faster end of the spectrum; I suspect the lesser amount of bearing surface creates a more even pressure with the faster powders. And, for reasons I cannot explain, I’ve had great success with copper bullets and ball powders.

Federal’s Trophy Copper load – shown here in the
excellent .300 Holland & Holland Magnum, 180
grains – is a formidable bullet that delivers both
great accuracy and terminal ballistics.
The following copper bullet designs are some of my favorites. The Barnes TSX, TTSX and LRX. The Barnes bullets are among the best you could ask for, and they’ve never let me down in the field. I’ve either used them personally or loaded them for friends and clients in cartridges from .243 Winchester up to the .505 Gibbs. They are accurate, hit hard and kill quickly. For hunting at longer ranges, the TTSX and LRX – with the polymer tip – offer a bit flatter trajectory and will retain a bit more energy. Retained weight is usually in the 90-plus-percent range, if you recover a bullet at all, as pass-throughs are very common.
The Hornady GMX. Hornady’s GMX (Gilding Metal eXpanding) features their signature red polymer tip and has been a great bullet. I’ve loaded this in the .300 Savage for a California pig hunter, as well as in the .30-338 wildcat and the 9.3×62 Mauser; all the hunters were more than pleased.
The Federal Trophy Copper. Federal’s monometal is a tough, accurate and dependable bullet. I’ve used it in the .243 Winchester to put a big Texas whitetail down in its tracks, quite literally, and I’ve seen it bring a vintage .300 Holland & Holland to life. This polymer-tipped boattail is loaded in Federal’s Trophy Copper line, in cartridges from .270 WSM, 7mm WSM and .300 WSM to the 6.5 Creedmoor, .30-06 Springfield and .300 Winchester Magnum, to the .280 Ackley Improved.

The Woodleigh Hydrostatically Stabilized Solid. Hailing from Australia, Woodleigh has long embraced classic bullet designs, modeled after century-old designs, for vintage rifles. On the opposite end of the spectrum, their Hydrostatically Stabilized Solid is a radical design, using a small dish at the nose of the bullet to create a cavitation bubble ahead of the bullet. This both destroys blood-rich tissue in a 6- to 8-inch radius around the bullet’s path, and clears a pathway for the bullet. That dish expands ever so slightly, and if I were forced to choose just one bullet for all game animals, including hippo, buffalo and elephant, it would be this design. I took a huge Zimbabwean bull elephant with a 400-grain Hydro from my .404 Jeffery; the penetration and trauma from two body shots was very impressive.

Massaro with a
Mozambican reedbuck
ram taken with the
Heym SR30 HPPR
(High Performance
Precision Rifle) in .300
Winchester Magnum
and Barnes LRX bullets.
The Cutting Edge Raptor. Here’s another very unique design, with the ogive of the bullet designed to break into small blades to cause massive trauma for the first 6 inches or so, while the base of the bullet stays at caliber dimension for deep penetration. They are accurate, and their terminal performance on thin-skinned game species is amazing.
The Peregrine BushMaster and PlainsMaster. Peregrine Bullets – from the Republic of South Africa – makes a unique monometal bullet that relies on the compression of air to guarantee expansion. Using a copper bullet with a hollow cavity that is capped with a bronze cap or plunger (depending on model), the bullet’s ogive is driven outward, radially, from the axis of travel.
You see, the air in that cavity under cap isn’t easily compressed, and the copper walls of the bullet will blow outward upon impact, giving excellent expansion, and the long copper base ensures deep penetration. I’ve killed four Cape buffalo with this bullet, and it’s become one of my favorites.

Brownells – Match Precision Optic® (MPO) 5-25X56MM Rifle Scope $999.99

9mm Ammo

Why I Use 9mm Bullets

Story and photographs by John Johnston of BaLLISTIC RADIO

Here’s why using 9mm ammo for personal defense is a good choice:

  • Capacity
  • Recoil
  • It’s Cheap (Before Covid)

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.

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.

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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! (Before Covid)
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.
Even the FBI have made the decision to go to the 9mm rounds for all of its agents. Reasonings are similar to what this article have mentioned. (accuracy, penetration, etc..)
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. AmSJ

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.

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Extend the Range and Lethality of your Shotgun with Flechettes

There’s more than one way to neutralize a threat and these novel, thin, finned steel projectiles can put on a hurt at greater distance than buckshot

Story by Jim Dickson
Photos by Sabot Designs LLC

A comparison of flechettes and buckshot.
Flechettes were first used as small bomblets dropped from airplanes in World War I and World War II. Their use in small arms began in February 1951, when Irwin R. Barr of Aircraft Armaments Inc. came out with the concept of firearms flechettes. Initially, the emphasis was on firing one flechette instead of a standard rifle bullet. This led to the Army’s Special Purpose Individual Weapon (SPIW) program, as the concept was tested. The first flechette shotgun loads were made in 1953. These held 32 flechettes, which were smaller than those loaded today.

During the Vietnam War, the ability of the flechette to stretch the range of the cylinder-bore riot shotgun out to 82, and even 100, yards saw their widespread deployment alongside the traditional buckshot loads. The troops were pretty well evenly divided in their preference between the two loads. Flechettes gave longer range when shooting across rice paddies, but in heavy jungle, nothing is more resistant to deflection by the foliage than a round ball. It should be noted that the M16’s 5.56mm round is the most easily deflected of all the cartridges our government has ever standardized, and that caused a lot of trouble for those using it in jungle warfare. At one time I represented a company that armored regular cars for use in third world countries where civilians needed extra protection. One thing that impressed me about the 5.56 cartridge was how easily it was deflected. It was hard to stop if it did not deflect, but it was awfully easy to deflect. Too easy for me to want to use it in combat.

Flechettes shot into ballistic gelatin (above and below).
During the Vietnam War, many of the flechette-loaded 12-gauge shells were marked “Whirlpool” because that company was involved in their development. Both Western and Federal cartridge companies loaded 12-gauge flechette rounds for the military. The Western shells had 20 flechettes per round and the case mouth was closed with a standard star crimp. The Federal shells had 25 flechettes and the tips of the flechettes were exposed at the case mouth. Both loads had the flechettes loaded in a plastic cup with granulated white polyurethane to maintain alignment with the bore. A metal disk at the rear prevented the penetration of the overpowder wad when the shell was fired. All the shotgun flechette loads of this period were for cylinder-bore riot guns only. The incompressible steel flechettes would do severe damage to a choke and the choke would disrupt their pattern.
Some folks load surplus flechettes taken from artillery beehive rounds into shotgun shells. These are the cheaper canister-grade flechettes. Typically, some are loaded forwards and some backwards. Firing these in a shotgun can severely score the barrel and damage any choke in it, resulting in a new barrel being required for that gun.

TODAY, FLECHETTE SHOTGUN loads are made by Sabot Designs LLC, a registered defense contractor with the U.S. Department of Defense. They have been doing this since 1998 and the head of the company, John Flanagan, is today’s top expert on flechettes. He made experimental tantalum flechettes for the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s cargo round, and he designed and made tungsten flechettes for the NSWC’s EMRG, or electro-magnetic rail gun, submunition. Flanagan also collaborated with General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems for the development and testing of the high-density packing canister for the M1 Abrams main battle tank, resulting in his getting the patent for the HDP canister. He served as a consultant to Lockheed-Martin for the fin design of flechette projectiles for the Hydro-7 mine clearing system. The Marine Corps has also got him developing a flechette round specifically for shooting down drones.

Flanagan also holds the patent on the M1 flechette sabot, which enables them to be fired through any shotgun without damage to the gun. That said, the cylinder bore still gives the best performance and .725 inch is the minimum choke diameter recommended for choked guns, as tighter chokes disrupt the pattern. His flechettes have the latest subtle improvements, including fins shaped to give a stabilizing spin to the projectile. They are all new manufacture, with a hardness of 45 on the Rockwell C scale. The sabot is also designed to be suppressor-friendly, so these shells can be fired in shotguns with silencers.

Load specifications of Sabot Designs’ 12-gauge flechette:
Sabot: M1A8
Projectiles: MIL-F-8167 flechette, 8-grain
Packing: 19 flechettes
Muzzle velocity: 1,925 feet per second
Powder: Flake (3 dram equivalent) Primer: Waterproof 209 equivalent
Chamber length: 2¾ inches
Quality standard: MIL-C-48656 cartridges, shotshells

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Engagement ranges:
  • Average point target range: 50 yards (45 meters)
  • Maximum point target range: 82 yards (75 meters)
  • Maximum area target range: 164 yards (158 meters)
  • Maximum effective range: 328 yards (300 meters) – this being the longest range that a single projectile will produce a casualty.
A watermelon is hit by a 12-gauge flechette load.
A COMPARISON OF buckshot versus flechettes shows some significant advantages to the flechettes. Buckshot depends on its weight and frontal area for stopping power. Its round balls are the shape that is least prone to deflection in jungle foliage. Flechettes depend upon their velocity, penetration and energy. Each flechette has the same energy signature as a 9mm Parabellum round. It will penetrate over 20 inches of ballistic gelatin or go through a car door to take out an opponent on the other side. e flechettes transmit their energy to the target by creating an expanding supersonic cavitation wound channel as they yaw off course, going through the target. is wound channel is approximately 800 percent larger than the flechette’s own diameter and averages .58 caliber. ey may also bend or break, creating a secondary wound channel. ey shatter bone on contact.

A major factor for the soldier is the fact that the flechette rounds weigh about half as much as the buckshot rounds, enabling you to carry more ammo into combat. e size and weight of 12-gauge ammo has always been a limiting factor on deploying shotguns in combat.
Another big plus is the fact that the standard military 00 buck load is nine balls, while the flechette load has 19 flechettes. at’s 211 percent more projectiles for a denser pattern. is gets critical as ranges increase, where the aerodynamic shape of the flechette is nearly perfect, while the round ball is the worst aerodynamic shape. is is the reason flechettes consistently made kills at 82 to 100 yards in Vietnam, whereas hitting at that range with 00 buckshot took a lot of luck.

A human cadaver femur bone is shattered by a 12-gauge flechette load.
IT SHOULD BE noted that the flechette round is not reliable in automatic shotguns. John Flanagan has one that is reliable that will be marketed as soon as the patents are secured. On game, the flechette has proved effective on deer, bear, turkeys, wild hogs and coyotes. Due to their extreme penetration, you usually do not have to deal with them in the meat. ey will penetrate the thick skull of a 1,000-pound hog or a steer when 00 buckshot will not. at can be a matter of life or death to you if you suddenly are faced with an enraged bull or oversized hog. A lot of farmers carry a shotgun to shoot coyotes and wild dog packs attacking their livestock, yet when farmers are killed by animals, it is almost invariably their own livestock doing the killing. It’s just common sense to carry something that is able to deal with that, should it occur. One Sabot Designs customer used a 12-gauge flechette round to take out the heart and lungs of a wild hog that was chasing his friend at a range of 7 yards. ey do work dramatically.

For personal defense, Flanagan also sells a 2½-inch .410 load with seven flechettes for use in .410 shotguns. Today, the flechette has taken its place alongside birdshot, buckshot and slugs as a standard type of shotgun load. ey are available from Sabot Designs LLC by calling (541) 770-6047 or visiting

Mastering the Magnums

When it comes to this powerful cartridge, ‘bullet choice is imperative for the best results.’


I had just obtained my first .300 Winchester Magnum – a cartridge I’d come to absolutely love, and one that I’d end up taking all over the world – and simply could not wait for the first day of deer season. I had the rifle zeroed perfectly, so any shot in the open woods of our hunting property was a dead hold, and it was grouping very well. When opening day finally arrived, the morning had been rather quiet – just a couple does here and there – so I returned to my truck for lunch, planning to try a different spot for the afternoon. As I approached the second stand, reeling from the effects of a huge lunch, a respectable six-point buck stood up in front of me, just as surprised to see me as I was him.

Getting the InterArms rifle to shoulder and tracking the buck as he ran, I was absolutely ready when that deer made the fatal mistake of stopping near the ridge top and looking back. When the trigger broke, the buck fell out of the scope, as dead as yesterday. I remember thinking, “This is a deer rifle!” No tracking, no wondering, just dead-right-there. Oh, that deer was dead alright, as was evidenced by the softball-sized hole on his side shoulder and the huge radius of bloodshot meat around it. Essentially both front shoulders were inedible, and the scowl from my father upon skinning the deer made me rethink my choice of rifle/cartridge/ bullet.
To the best of my recollection, it was a 150- or 165-grain Hornady factory load, but that was over two decades ago. Can I say the Hornady InterLock bullet failed? Absolutely not; the deer was killed immediately, and the bullet went exactly where I aimed it. The issue was the speed of impact, and the construction of the chosen bullet for the task. The InterLock is a (wonderful) cup-and-core design, and like so many cup-and-core bullets, will expand quite violently when the impact velocities are high, which was invariably the case with that particular deer. Simply put, I should have chosen a dierent bullet for the velocities generated by the big case.

Massaro handloaded 220-grain Hornady InterLock round-
nosed bullets in his .300 Winchester, at a reduced velocity of 2,425 feet per second to hunt whitetail deer and black bear at woods distances. (J.D. FIELDING PHOTOGRAPHY)
LET’S FIRST LOOK at what makes a magnum cartridge. “Magnum” is the Latin word for “great,” and in the cartridge world it denotes a cartridge that delivers a higher level of performance than standard, but that can be subjective. The .375 Holland & Holland Magnum is most certainly a magnum when compared to its predecessor – the Velopex – but has become the industry standard, taking away the .375 Winchester and .38-55. The .416 Rigby doesn’t have the magnum name, probably because it was the first of its bore diameter, but shares identical ballistics with the .416 Remington Magnum. The .300 H&H Magnum betters the velocities of the classic .30-06, which predated it by 19 years, but pales in comparison to the .300 Weatherby Magnum, let alone the .30- 378 Weatherby Magnum.
And the .30 Nosler has no magnum in its name, but is absolutely a magnum cartridge, as it has a velocity on par with the .300 Weatherby Magnum. So, whether or not the cartridge has “magnum” in its name, you’ll need to look at the velocities to see if they may pose an issue. When you are shooting a magnum, those high velocities can put an awful lot of strain on the bullet, especially when the shots are close, say, inside of 100 yards, and that’s exactly what caused that horrific exit wound on my deer.
Had I chosen a heavier bullet with a better sectional density value, things would have been diff­erent, just as they would if I had chosen a premium bullet, or if the distance to that deer had been longer, giving the bullet a chance to slow down. At .308 Winchester velocities, the 150-grain .308-inch-diameter cup-and-core bullets are no issue, but increase that velocity from 2,820 feet per second to 3,250, and you’ve reached the point of undesirable terminal ballistics.

The longer, heavier 180-grain bullets make a better choice for the .300 Winchester Magnum, as the muzzle velocity slows down to 2,960 fps and the increased sectional density value (.226 for the 150-grain bullet vs. .271 for the 180-grain bullet) helps slow down rapid expansion, thereby reducing the amount of wasted meat. This type of thinking coincides with the ELD-X line from Hornady; most of their choices have a sectional density value of .250 or greater (though I believe that is a secondary thought, running hand-in-hand with the high ballistic coe†cient) and usually deliver perfectly acceptable terminal ballistics, especially on deer and similar-sized game. Mind you, a 143-grain ELD-X delivered from a 6.5 Creedmoor is not the same as a 143-grain ELD-X delivered from a 6.5 PRC (the latter having a much higher velocity), so expect results to vary with speed. Even the high-SD cup-and-core bullets can shed a considerable amount of original weight.
A buddy recovered a 200-grain ELD-X from his recent whitetail kill – delivered from a .300 Weatherby Magnum at 230 yards – and the upset bullet weighed a mere 77 grains. The deer was absolutely flattened, but it gives an idea of how speed can radically upset a cup-and-core bullet. I’ve had more jacket/core separations with magnum cartridges than with standard cartridges, and especially with the boattail spitzers; it’s just part and parcel of the design.

The Nosler AccuBond features a thick jacket chemically bonded
to the lead core. The white polymer tip helps maintain ballistic coefficient and initiate expansion.
Norma’s Oryx has the rear portion of the jacket bonded to the core, to prevent premature expansion. This is a recovered 300-grain bullet from the .375 H&H Magnum.
IF YOU DO prefer using cup-and-core bullets for magnum cartridges at closer distances, and you can hand load your own ammunition, you can use the lower end of the load data to reduce the velocities. For example, one of my favorite rifles is a Winchester Model 70 Classic Stainless, chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum. It has a polymer stock (that I don’t worry about scratching) and the stainless metal won’t rust in the rain and snow; however, in the New York deer woods, our shots rarely exceed 100 yards, so full-house loads are a bit excessive. Because we also have a healthy black bear population, I went the route of the classic African cartridges:
at a moderate velocity. I handloaded 220-grain Hornady InterLocks at 2,425 fps; that load accounted for both deer and black bear, and remains a sub- MOA favorite. There are thick-jacketed choices from Sierra and others that can also help mitigate the expansion issues. If you don’t handload and are dependent on factory ammunition, I will happily recommend using premium bullets, of any conformation or construction. Classic choices like the Nosler Partition or Barnes TSX will never let you down, even at the closest distances.

Bulk Ammo In-Stock

Modern bonded iterations, like Federal’s Fusion and Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, the Swift A-Frame and Norma’s Oryx, will also make your life easier when the shooting is in close, giving high weight retention and penetration, working very well with the additional horsepower of the magnums. Should you want to maximize the trajectory and wind deflection values of your magnum cartridge – and there is no reason you shouldn’t; that’s why you shoot a magnum, after all – the polymer-tipped, boattail bonded and monometal bullets are most certainly the way to go. Look to Nosler’s AccuBond and AccuBond Long Range Federal’s Trophy Bonded Tip and Terminal Ascent, the Swift Scirocco II, Hornady’s InterBond, Norma’s EcoStrike and BondStrike, and Barnes’ TTSX and LRX; there are others, but you get the drift.

The Woodleigh Hydrostatically Stabilized Solid – shown here as loaded by Federal in .375 H&H Magnum and .416 Remington Magnum – gives the slightest bit of expansion at the nose and unprecedented penetration.
These bullets can be wonderfully accurate, they usually give expansion of at least twice original caliber, and weight retention somewhere in the 85- to 90-percent range. I find these premium bullets to be the most useful designs for a magnum cartridge – speaking about the all-around calibers between .25 and .35 – as they can really do it all. The heavy magnums – those designed for the pachyderms and the true heavyweights – like the .458 Winchester Magnum, .458 Lott, .450 Rigby, all of the .416s, and I’ll include the .500 Je¡ery and .505 Gibbs, will all benefit from premium bullets, in both expanding softpoint and non-expanding solids.
There are many round-nosed, semi-spitzer and flat-nosed choices for these bullets, as well as spitzer bullets, which will flatten trajectories a bit. And going back to that .375 Holland & Holland Magnum, it will be equally at home with the flat-nosed solids like the Barnes Banded Solids and Woodleigh Hydro Solids, the semi-spitzer softpoints like the Swift A-Frame, and the polymer-tipped spitzer boattails like the Nosler AccuBond.

The cartridge shoots nearly as flat as a .30-06 Springfield, while generating 4,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, and can handle bullets weighing between 235 grains, in the case of the Barnes TSX and Cutting Edge Raptor, up to the 350-grain Woodleigh Weldcore and FMJ solids. There are cup-and-core choices that will perform well in the three-seven-five, as the muzzle velocities are rather sedate in comparison to the .378 Weatherby Magnum and .375 Remington Ultra Magnum, but when it comes to dangerous game, I much prefer the premium choices. I love the magnum cartridges – having spent considerable time with the .300 H&H, .300 Winchester Magnum, 7mm Remington Magnum, .375 H&H, .416 Remington Magnum and more – but learned the hard way that bullet choice is imperative for the best results. Try some di¡erent designs (when the ammunition becomes available again) and see which of the premium bullets shoots best in your magnum, and you’ll remain a happy hunter for years to come.

6.5 Creedmoor – $32.99 Hornady ELD Match U2122 – 20Rnds

.223 – $194.95 HPBT 75gr 200Ct

5.56 NATO – $198.50 HPBT 75GR 200Ct