SHOT Show: Exclusive TTAG Test of Advanced Ballistics Triple Threat Self-Defense Round

As the doorman helped me gather my belongings, he looked at the holes in the target flapping in the cold desert wind. “We were testing new ammo,” I told him. “The bullet breaks into three parts connected by a tether.” What if one of them misses you?” he asked. “The other two swing around on the rope and enter your body from the back.” He stuck his hand into the hole sliced into the paper. “That’s fucked up,” he pronounced. My sentiments exactly . . .

After watching a TTAG exclusive demo, I can state without reservation that Advanced Ballistics Concepts (ABC) has created a “Triple Threat” bullet that will wreak a new kind of havoc on anyone unlucky enough to be on the receiving end. Whether or not it becomes a popular maybe even standard self-defense round is an open question. But there’s every chance it could.

If it doesn’t it won’t be for lack of engineering. The T3 Triple Threat round isn’t just a bunch of fragments held together by a thread. Oh no. Three identical pieces are locked together in the cartridge like a 3D puzzle. When fired, air pressure immediately (and I do mean immediately) sends the pieces flying outwards at 100 miles per hour.

The fragments (clever name under development) assume their optimal flight position; a wing-like surface stabilizes the forward trajectory. When they strike, the fragments enter the body in a “keyhole position” (i.e. sideways).

As one end is heavier than the other, they rotate. The movement scallops whatever’s in the way, sending the bullet in what the company calls a “crescent-shaped” trajectory. Or worse, should they bounce off a bone or artery. Gruesome aside: the tethers assure no more looking around for bullet fragments and easy (if unimaginably painful and dangerous) extraction in the field.

In other words, no through-and-through for you Mr. Bad Guy. Or stray rounds—as long as one of the pieces hits, ALL of the frags will hit. ABC can vary the size of the spread and amount of penetration via the material used for the fragment, and the cord length and strength. They call it their SMART-STOP™ technology.

They’ve created three strengths: non-lethal (“the light fragments sting you like three wasps”), semi-lethal (“about an inch penetration; if you don’t get treatment, you will die”) and lethal. I call the last one CGE (Cheese Grater Effect).

Hanging out with ABC Co-Founder and President Todd Kuchman in the small and less-than-glamorous private range in the Las Vegas Gun Store is like sitting in a small plane next to an African missionary on his way back to the buntus. Kuchman literally can’t stop talking about all the types and relative benefits of his bolo bullets. Of which there are many. For many different groups: law enforcement, military and, of course, you, dear defense shooter.

I suppose the key factor here is damage. Why hit the bad guy once when you can hit him three times? Judging from the experiment, you’d have to adjust your aim slightly to ensure a direct hit with one of the frags, but who cares? With the tether, you’re more or less assured of a hit somewhere. Sorry, three hits somewhere.

With little chance of dreaded over-penetration. “Once they reach maximum expansion, the tethers slow the bullets,” Kuchman says. “Think of a climber on a rope falling into a cravasse. The rope eventually slows and stops him.” “Violently,” I add. Kuchman smiles like he’s saved my soul.

Would the T3 (Triple Threat) round be a better bet for stopping a threat than a hollow point? I’m thinking yes. Sure. Absolutely. Why not? The T3 rounds commercial success is less certain.

For one thing, the firearms industry is so conservative it makes Barry Goldwater seem like a leftist commie pinko anarchist. That applies to both the manufacturers and customers. Other than the Chiappa Firearms Rhino (which is still having trigger troubles of one sort or another), the SHOT Show is proof positive that this is an evolutionary business, not revolutionary.

Finding a bullet maker willing to sell rounds that don’t punch one hole where you aim it will not be easy—especially if the bulletmaker already makes self-defense rounds that fit that description. (The Hornady rep’s attendance at our test notwithstanding.)

Convincing the average gun owner to trust his life to the T3’s rad concept will be a semi-Sisyphusian task. Getting him or her to get their head round the round’s advantages, to let go of the dead simple concept of a linear flight path, will require sustained, innovative marketing.

Selling the T3 to the military/LEO market will take years. Their cover-your-ass culture is about as open to innovation as The Knights Templar.

Kuchman may have timing on his side. The movement against lead bullets is gathering force. Manufacturers will have to do something to increase the lethality of frangible rounds. This could be it.

In any case, Kuchman is a successful entrepreneur. Though fast-talking, quick thinking and big planning, he knows that persistence is the key to success. He won’t rest until his round finds a niche, and then expands outwards into all three main markets (ironically enough). And then there’s this . . .

On the way out of the range, I talked to a woman of a certain age lining-up with her husband who’d come to fire a machine gun. “Do you own a gun?” I asked. “No,” she said, not unexpectedly (heavy makeup couldn’t hide her anxiety). “Would you buy a gun if you could use it to stop a bad guy but not kill them?” “I would,” she answered.

Shooting a bad guy with a non-lethal round is a profoundly asinine concept for 99.9 percent of gun owners. But maybe the T3’s success will come from its non-lethal version, appealing to people who don’t own guns, yet. Perhaps the T3 is the bridge to the 50 percent of Americans who don’t own a gun for self-defense, opening a gold mine for a ghetto-ized industry.

Who knows? This much is true: even though I’m sure I’m going to receive frantic emails from Kuchman correcting my analysis, I reckon the T3 round is a better mousetrap. The world may not beat a path to its door, but early adopter that I am, I’d give some serious though to putting it in my gun.

What would convince me? You don’t want to know. Do you?

comments

  1. avatar Austin says:

    But what kind of penetration are you actually getting on the “cheese grater” round? This sounds a lot like the Taurus Judge strategy; hit them a bunch of times with inadequately penetrating projectiles instead of with one good shot.

  2. avatar Jeff says:

    I’m not seeing this thing as a lethal weapon. I think it makes a ton of sense as a non-lethal option, but until they release penetration and gel reports, I wouldn’t trust my life with it.

  3. avatar joe says:

    Why did the gun not cycle?

  4. avatar JOE MATAFOME says:

    I’ll take a box of the CHEESE GRATER please.

  5. avatar Nill says:

    I’m with Jeff and Austin. Making an impressive hole on paper is one thing, lethal penetration is something else entirely.

    No matter how bad you might think “over-penetration” is, sever under-penetration is 10x worse.

  6. avatar Ralph says:

    These rounds are a modern variation on an old theme. “Chain shot” was two or more smoothbore iron cannonballs tethered togethered with a length of chain. They didn’t work too well. Skip ahead a few centuries to “bolo rounds” for shotguns, two slugs joined by steel wire. I’ve never used them, but I’m told that they don’t work all that well, either. And now we have the “Triple Threat.” Did Kuchman get it right after all these centuries? Only time will tell but if past really is prologue, then I’m entitled to have my doubts.

  7. avatar ObjectiveTruth says:

    Ralph, there is a crucial difference: While the chain shot and bolo rounds are stacked inside the chamber, the T3 is engineered to spread the rounds out. With this engineering, they get spread out evenly and consistently for better accuracy and more predictable terminal performance.

    Jeff, I think the silence regarding gel (or other terminal performance) testing is almost deafening. If I designed a round such as this, working prototype #1 (& #2, 3, 4…) would be fired into gel. If the results were good, I’d be carrying around pictures/video of them everywhere I go. There’s no mention of this at their range time, or on their site.

    That said, I’m a huge fan of the design. I think it has great potential. Not to try to take credit (because credit is not really due to who thought of it first, but rather due to who takes a risk in implementing it), but I envisioned this design, almost exactly, a few years ago. Of course, it was just a thought experiment, just like all the other things I dream up.

    1. avatar Frank says:

      Objective Truth,
      How about a hollow point that the petals on one side expand when hitting tissue, but the petals on the other side do not expand. Theoretically, this would cause the round to tumble once it hits the ballistic gel and dump it’s kinetic energy. I am planning on testing this out by taking some hollow points and modifying them so that one side does not open.

      1. avatar ObjectiveTruth says:

        Interesting idea! I’d really like to try that or see someone else’s results. Although, my instinct says that it would be less effective than a properly expanding hollow point.

        It takes a lot of work to re-vector forward kinetic energy, and it gets progressively harder as the energy increases (Mythbusters has demonstrated this principle with many of their myths.). You would be wasting some energy on getting the bullet to tumble that you could be depositing into your target. Considering that a handgun bullet isn’t much bigger from the side, than an expanded hollow point, I don’t know if the drag on tissue would be enough to dump kinetic energy any better than a hollow point (possibly worse.). Although, it does take energy to open up the hollow point, energy which isn’t deposited into the target.
        It seems that there are two key questions: Would a tumbling bullet be more effective in dumping energy in the target? And Would causing half expansion then tumbling waste less energy than full expansion?

        But here’s a third: would a tumbling bullet change direction inside tissue causing inconsistent wounding, possibly exiting the target in an unexpected direction for unexpected collateral damage?

        Here’s a similar idea: How about weakening 1/2 of a section of a rifle bullet, so that it bends upon impact, to initiate tumbling and utilize the much bigger surface area of the side of a rifle bullet vs. the front? I think I heard that the Russians did this for their AK bullets to get around the Hague convention. One would need to construct the weaker section of the same density as the other section to avoid possible accuracy problems. This also poses the same questions I asked above.

        1. avatar wingman says:

          ObjectiveTruth, any energy that is “lost” in changing a bullet or any part of a bullet while inside a body (changing flight path or deforming the bullet) *is* necessarily energy that is absorbed by the body. A bullet’s path will not alter without some outside force acting upon it, and a bullet will not deform without some outside force acting upon it. That outside force is a force exerted by the body, which means that the bullet likewise is exerting a force on the body, and hence the body absorbs energy.

  8. avatar Mogg says:

    I also think this has some potential, especially in areas where low
    penetration is very important, like security at refineries or hospitals.

    But wouldn’t it be cool to roll some of these rounds up in 28gua for
    use in the raging judge 28 ?

  9. avatar Joe says:

    I agree with Mogg. I see its most likely use for security guards in hospitals or apartment buildings where penetration through walls is very risky. Much like the Glaser round is used today.

    The thing that scares me about this product and this discussion is the topic of “non-lethal” and “less-lethal.” A firearm is a lethal weapon and ANYTHING fired from it is lethal force. I do not want to see a bunch of people carrying this stuff and thinking that their firearm is now not a lethal weapon and they do not need training in its safe use and handling or on the consequences of and the appropriate use of force for self defense.

  10. avatar Joe Huffman says:

    In addition to the obvious concerns about penetration it appears this round would have issues if the bad guy was behind partial cover or a hostage.

    I’m far more interested in my rounds going exactly where I want them to go than increasing their effectiveness. I can always double the effectiveness of any round by putting another one through the target.

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      There are lots of variables that can be changed to alter the ammo’s lethality. For example, the spread can be a small circle or a bigger one.

      And let’s face it: the chances of putting your rounds exactly where you want them to go in a self-defense situation are relatively small. Cops miss the target more often than they hit it. Never mind hitting it in the right place. With this ammo, you have a better chance of hitting your target than you do with a standard bullet, given that you get three goes at once. And thanks to the Kevlar tether, if one fragment hits the target, ALL of them hit.

  11. avatar Axess Denyd says:

    Everything I have seen about wound ballistics leads me to believe that these à not that great an idea. I can’t see these possibly getting enough penetration to do a whole lot of good.
    The idea that the stage 2 with 1 inch penetration would ever be more than a temporary setback is laughable.
    I will wait for real ballistics testing before making a final judgement, but I will be extremely surprised if these turn out to be worthwhile.

  12. avatar Mason says:

    Funny how you guys seem to be painting the conservatism of people concerned about self-defense as a bad thing. They better be – there are lives on the line here. The stuff that we have now works pretty well, and anything new should have real-world proof that it works at least as well or better than the old stuff before we put it in our holsters and magazines and expect it to keep those who would do us harm away.

    Meanwhile, all of the evidence I’ve seen says that you gotta have penetration to stop the bad guys reliably. Moving flesh around is all well and good, but to really be effective, the flesh you gotta move around is at least 6-8in deep. Splitting the bullet up into bits and connecting them together with string is kinda cool, but I don’t think it’s likely to be better at getting to the vital organs and causing damage there.

  13. avatar Ken Rihanek says:

    How about it’s accuracy? What was the distance of the video, 3 yards? It must dump a lot of energy as it comes apart in the air and spins. Color me skeptical.

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      There’s an exhaustive follow-up post on the SCAR’s accuracy coming up within the hour.

  14. avatar greg says:

    It seems like you completly flip flopped yhour position on this bullet. I read your initial comments and to say they were condisending would be an understatment. Now I read what seems to be a glowing review. Is this product really that good to cause you to do a complete 180?

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      I’m not an expert, but it is true that Advanced Ballistics answered all my concerns. We’re having a ballistics guy check them out.

  15. avatar greg says:

    That is the best answer I have heard. From reading all the comments people are basing there comments on other peoples opionion who have no practical knowelge on this product. It is easy to stick with the old, embrassing new if new is better is for future minde people. How many people said the Wright brothers were crazy? Don’t get me wrong I am not comparing this to the invention of man flying but the concept is the same. When this product becomes available I intend on testing it myself and make my own conclusion to its claims as oppossed to just listening other peoples none tested opinions.

  16. avatar Ethan says:

    Why not just get a Semi auto or hand load some number 4 shot in your .45 ?

  17. avatar carl says:

    PThis design deserves some success if its at least partially as effective as the creator claims. I question anyone who recognizes. 410 shot shells as a practical defense load but is close minded to the concept of a bolo round

  18. avatar TheThingsThatShouldNotBe says:

    I wonder how long it will be before LEO’s are using these to shred the American people that do not cow-tao to their ‘authorita’? I’d bet’cha a dollar bill that these WILL be used by LEO’s and not available to the average civvy. Sad state of affairs if ya ask me.

  19. avatar Custodian says:

    I doubt you’ll be able to make these rounds with a reloader!!!

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