Ammo Tests

What is the most credible ammo test found online? I found one that used a triple layer of denim over the end of the gel block to simulate shooting through clothing. I favor bullet expansion over penetration, with heavy-bullet self-defense loads - 90+ for .380 - 125+ for .38 Special - 180+ for .40 S&W. I’d appreciate comments from individual testers, also.

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Paul Harrell meat target.

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No ammo test can cover every situation, gel testing is an approximation that fails to include bone. I’ve watched a lot of testing, and usually don’t come to any conclusions until I have seen a few various tests specific to my ammunition, as fired out of a gun like mine, at the type of target that gun and ammunition are intended for. For defense, the ammunition manufacturers go to some lengths to get the balance right between all the variables, but still, if you put that ammunition in a non-standard firearm, the results will be off, turns out it’s often a very delicate balance for some calibers. I have seen very careful, detailed tests that, if performed with a different gun or at a different distance, are suddenly completely different in result.

Bottom line for me is that I want to see tests of my ammunition fired out of my gun shot at distances I expect might actually occur, fired into a number of target types if possible. Failing that, I think I might start with what a manufacturer like federal had come up with from their very detailed testing, as they often supply end users like LE.

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That’s one I use, maybe lucky gunner, and a few others who make the effort to quantify results with variables, I think Lucky gunner even has a video talking with a manufacturer about their extensive testing and rationale.

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I will second the other votes for Paul H.

tnoutdoors9 did the best ones, but he is not posting as often now.

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Personally, I think it’s too easy to get obsessed about the small things we can easily control, such as specific bullet types and gel tests, rather than working on the other weaknesses in our overall performance/responses under real, dicey conditions. I am guilty of this often.

That being said, I tend to think that the minimum FBI standards are good guidelines when possible. I do, however, try to find videos or articles that use a similar barrel length as whatever I am carrying to get an idea if the ammo would meet some of these standards. I know that many civilian gel media and conditions used are not exactly the same as the ones the FBI use.

Some sources I use to try and figure out what to expect from different CC ammo/pistol combos are:

Websites:
Ballistics by the Inch
Lucky Gunner’s Handgun Self-Defense Ammunition Ballistics Test - has subcompact tests
mousegunaddict.blogspot.com - Ammo Tests
Guns America Digest -The Ultimate 1911 Family Ballistics Guide
Ballistics 101 - Bullet Energy Calculator

YT Channels:
ShootingTheBull410 - 3" ammo tests
Brass Fetcher - slow motion gel tests
ScubaOz
tnoutdoors9
Paul Harrell

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Lucky Gunner’s Ballistics tests, just to know which ammo fits FBI standards
and
Paul Harrell’s tests to see the real results.

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Paul Harrell and Lucky Gunner both do tests and show you all sorts of results for you to make your own decision. Paul Harrell shows you the actual results based on the FBI denim and fabric tests. Lucky Gunner shows you all the ballistics gel results for I think literal hundreds of different ammo choices. I trust both of them to guide me on my ammo choices, however I also believe you should probably use what law enforcement uses for 9mm. Federal HST, Speer Gold dot, and Hornady critical duty. Hope this helps

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Any test using a 10mm sd round

yes there are, one of the most interesting I saw was about the Horniday critical duty in 10.mm
The factory load was not as hot as can be achieved with a 10.mm, so the bullet was tested at full potential speed. The petals of the expanded bullet were torn completely off and the bullet became a featureless slug again. Sometimes that “delicate balance” can be upset by too much power. Handgun rounds suitable for hunting can, in fact, be too powerful for typical self defense situations without correct bullet and load selections. Paul Harrell has a very interesting test with the 10.mm vs .45 auto, the most interesting part is at the very end.

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Of the links I provided, some have 10mm tests:

Lucky Gunner 10mm Ballistics Gel Tests

tnoudoors9 - 10mm

BrassFetcher - 10mm

Paul Harrell - 10mm

About 20 years ago, I used Win ST 175gr for my bedstand 1006, and 135gr Corbon (older Nosler JHP’s; before Corbon was bought out) for my 1911. With Luckygunner’s chart, before the pandemic, I was thinking of trying out the Hornady XTP 155gr round.

For the record, although it is one of the weaker 10mm loadings, I would feel perfectly fine with the old Fed HS (considering it was basically designed around the FBI standards), plus it’s subsonic.

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Paul Harrel
TNOutdoors9
Brass Fercher
In that order. I like Paul’s practical approach with meat target construction. TNOutdoors9 shows a good FBI “simulated” test. Brass Fetcher for the clear ballistics slow mo impacts. Put all the info together, and you can say you have made a fairly educated, researched decision on what ammo to carry.
And that is why, I carry Underwood Gold Dots in 45acp, 230 grain +p, and 185 grain +p variety.

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Paul has a great one for folks that can’t use hollow points.

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Yeah I think he’s spot on. Looks like more ammo for the 45. When I can find it.

I don’t think I saw ar15.com’s channel listed, they have a pretty good series of ballistics tests as well. My favorites are ShootingTheBull, LuckyGunner, and Paul Harrell.

There is no single answer here. It’s important to know the differences and purposes of each type of test. It is also important to know when the results matter and when they don’t.

You want to look for consistency in testing methodology. Especially if they are attempting to approximate FBI testing protocols. Gel tests are meant to be a consistent testing medium that allows for objectively comparing the performance of projectiles in a repeatable way. The gel tests do not directly equate to the same performance in real tissue.

We can also get a bit wrapped around the axle with gel tests where one projectile may give a tenth of an inch more or less expansion and another projectile has maybe a half inch more or less of penetration. Really those minutiae ultimately don’t matter as much because of all the variables in an actual shooting (angle of entrance/exit, did it hit a bone, the different density of organs, etc) will totally overwhelm any small differences done during controlled testing. As long as the projectile consistently performs well (broadly speaking) in the FBI tests, it should be good to go.

Tests like Paul Harrell’s “meat target” show us some things that we don’t get from the gel tests, like “what does happen when it hits a rib?”. Those tests aren’t very reproducible though, especially at scale.

IMO, gel test results to FBI standards (or a reasonable, consistent approximation like LuckyGunner) are the bare minimum. Then I’ll factor in tests like Paul Harrell’s meat targets, and also things like “is this in use my LE/MIL?”. Finally, you test in your firearms for reliability and accuracy.

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Paul Harrell’s meat target seems to stand apart from most others.

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