Last week we showed you ShootingTheBull410’s first review in his 9mm Ammo Quest series. Hornady’s Critical Duty performed weak enough to earn the label, “Critical Doodie”. This week he takes aim (yes, but let’s go with it) at Critical Defense. Will it do any better? (Spoiler alert: Hell yes, it does better.)

52 Responses to ShootingTheBull410’s Ammo Quest: Hornady Critical Defense 9mm

  1. I missed last week’s – is a review of the Cor-Bon +P load in the works? I have run some of that through a Kel-Tec Su2000, and it really smokes through that 16″ barrel.

    • “is a review of the Cor-Bon +P load in the works?”

      I don’t currently have any Cor-Bon here to test. I would be glad to do so. But when you say “the Cor-Bon +P”, which are you interested in? Just looking at their site, for 9mm +P, they list Glaser Blue 80gr, 115gr Thunder Ranch DPX, 125gr Self Defense JHP, 115gr Self-Defense JHP, 90gr Self-Defense JHP, 100gr Pow’r’ball, and 115gr DPX.

      • Oh man, now your are testing the memory of an old fart -unfair! I think it was the 125gr self-defense JHP that I ran through the Su2000.

    • If I’m not mistaken, he’s said that he won’t test +P ammo in the pocket pistols because they are not recommended for use in them.

      • Hi George,

        Close but not quite right. I won’t use +P in the .380 ACP pocket pistols because there is no SAAMI standard for .380 +P.

        However, in 9mm there definitely is, and the Sig I’m using is rated to handle it, so there will definitely be +P tests conducted in the 9mm Ammo Quest.

    • Not sure what you are saying, but he said that the Critical Duty did not perform well in short barrels (and per his testing parameters, it did not), but the Critical Defense in the above video did.

        • For clarification — I don’t think Critical Duty is a “bad” round, but it’s not a good choice for a short-barreled pistol. It would be better served by being used in a service/duty-sized pistol, like a Glock 17.

          In a short barrel, Critical Duty under-expands and over-penetrates. Neither are desirable traits. However, overpenetrating is much better than underpenetrating! A bad round would be one that underpenetrated to the point where you couldn’t count on it to get the job done. Critical Duty is not an underpenetrator, so if you were armed with it, it would at least deliver sufficient penetration. But it’s a poor choice because there are other rounds that neither overpenetrate nor under-expand, so — even though it’s not a bad round, it remains a poor choice when there are other, better-performing rounds out there.

          Hope that clears it up!

  2. I’ve watched a lot of tnoutdoors9’s videos and he does great stuff; but this guy is far more thorough. Looking forward to the rest of the ammo quest.

  3. Well, he’s already corrected me on Crit Def for .380. Before I thought it was the best, but due to inadequate penetration, the XTP is better.

    For 9s? Well, unless he drops about ten cases on my doorstep, I don’t see myself straying too far from Win Ranger 124gr.

    John

    • ” I don’t see myself straying too far from Win Ranger 124gr. ”

      I presume you mean the +P version? If so, I have already shot the gel blocks for that test, but still have a lot of work to do on the rest of the video so it’ll be a while. But my immediate impression is that it’s a very good round.

  4. Critical Defense 115 happened to be the only self defense 9 mm my local gun store had in stock last time I bought. Which was a while ago. Any way, it’s good to know that it doesn’t suck. At least in short barrels. I can’t think another inch or so would change things by more then 40-50 fps.

  5. I’ve carried Critical Defense 9mm in my P290 and have only one negative thing to say about the combination: The flat-nose conical projectile in the Critical Defense WILL misfeed most of the time if the slide-lock is used as a slide-release. Slingshot the slide and everything is golden. Round-nose FMJ will feed with either action.

    • Feeds fine in a Glock 19. But I guess that’s like saying that if you drop something it will fall toward the center of the Earth.

    • By contrast, Kahr WANTS you to use the slide release to load–it’s right in the manual. right now I am loaded with Critical Duty–because that is the only thing I could find in three different stores that was less than $30 a box. Personally, I look forward to seeing the test of the Winchester PDX-1, which feeds admirably in my (sometimes finicky) Kimber .45. I’ve read that some have had less than stellar results with the 9mm round.

      • Both Critical Duty 135gr & Critical Defense 115gr feed perfect in my Ruger P95 (my only 9mm) whether I use the slide release or sling shot it (nevermind in actual shooting, that gun eats anything and everything).

        That said, based on testing I’ve seen AND Hornady’s claims, I prefer Cr. Defense over Duty.
        The P95 is not a carry gun* and I don’t forsee needing to shoot through car windshields in my rec room (though one never knows).
        Especially not when that ‘feature’ (barrier penetration) could hinder proper expansion.

        *Or even a home defense gun. At Casa de Alpo, semi-autos are range guns and back ups to the wheel guns, which are back ups to the shotguns. There’d have to be a whole lot of shooting, relaoding and switching guns before the bottom feeders see any action.

  6. Ah, yes, my home defense round of choice, if only because it was the only brand my supplier had at the time. Glad to know it works at least as well as I heard.

  7. As always ShootingTheBull410, really great. I do have a question about the bullets performance. In both the bare jell and the covered jell tests, the bullets traveled into the jell, stopped and then retracted by some amount. Was this just an illusion and, if not, do you measure the final position of the bullet or the farthest position of the bullet to determine penetration? I’m just curious.

    As always, thank you for the tests.

    • Hi TT,

      Not an illusion. But not the easiest question to answer. You are correct, the bullets do occasionally bounce a little, but it’s not as easy as that. In the denim-covered gel, that’s genuine FBI-spec 10% calibrated ordnance gelatin, and the established standard used by professionals around the world is to ignore any bouncing and measure from the final resting spot, so that’s what I do. In organic gelatin the bounce is usually absolutely minimal.

      However, in the clear gel (which is a synthetic ballistic gel, very very close to the performance of organic gel) there are occasions where the bouncing is just ridiculous and is obviously not fair to measure from the resting spot; I’ve seen bullets bounce backwards four inches, sometimes more! In cases like that I correct for the bounceback using the mathematical formulas by Duncan MacPherson and Charles Schwartz that predict (with uncanny accuracy) how far a bullet would have traveled in calibrated ordnance gelatin, based on the weight, velocity, and expanded diameter. I mainly use the Schwartz formula; I’ve found it to be exceptionally helpful and it helps rescue any test that would have otherwise been spoiled by “bounceback”.

  8. Good to hear. This is the exact same round I chose to carry in my S&W Shield after doing a lot of research myself, on google.

    I’m anxiously waiting your video on how the Gold Dot 124gr +P’s perform in short barrels, as that is the load I chose for my Glock 19, so I’m curious how it would perform in my little Shield. Also testing the 147gr GD load would be interesting as I’ve heard that isn’t a bad load to pick for short barrels.

  9. These are great no BS reviews. I was kinda surpised about the denim test, I thought they’d go farther. I have Hornady critical defense for my .357. If these results extrapolate looks like they are just right.

  10. Last summer, for lack of nothing better to do, I shot several rounds of 9 mm JPH from a S&W M&P 9 compact (3-1/2” barrel) into a 30 inch tall wastebasket filled with water.

    All of them mushroomed as described by the manufacturer without puncturing a hole in the bottom of the wastebasket – for which I was very grateful.

    Several of the rounds that made it through the water were the 115 grain, Hornady Critical Defense that was used in the ShootingTheBull video.

    All of them had complete “petal flaking” from the copper jacket – not just one or two as demonstrated from the ballistics gel.

    I’m wondering if that is not a good thing for a defense projectile. The copper “flakes” are sharp and, having been separated from the lead, wouldn’t that cause even more internal damage?

    • I am wondering if the petals flaking explains the demin test- prevents denim from turning them into fmj like projectiles.

    • Go find a picture of a full expanded Golden Saber, and that will answer your question. The Golden Saber peels back to sharp points that stick out side ways, slicing and dicing as they bore through flesh. I’ll take that over flaking, all else being equal.

    • Hi maltwit,

      “I’m wondering if that is not a good thing for a defense projectile. The copper “flakes” are sharp and, having been separated from the lead, wouldn’t that cause even more internal damage?”

      In general, no, not really. See, when the petals rip off, they pretty much just get left behind. It’s not like a fragmenting round where they create new wound tracks; instead these petals are found in the existing permanent damage track, so they’re just leftovers. So the net effect is, the bullet is “shedding weight” as it travels, and that makes it ultimately lighter and that limits its final penetration depth. However, the petals are pretty light, so the final effect on the bullet’s weight is only a few %, so it doesn’t make a big difference.

      It would make a difference to the surgeon who had to try to fish out all those little pieces, yes. And it will make a difference to the gunshot recipient who, if surviving, will perhaps set off metal detectors for the rest of their life if the surgeon doesn’t find all the little petals. But, in general, no, the shed petals on a Critical Defense bullet don’t contribute much to the overall wounding.

  11. Great videos so far!
    I’ve recently switched from .40 to 9mm and these videos are right up my alley. I carried (and did my own gel testing) with Duty, Defense, HyrdaShoks, and Rangers all in 40. I can’t wait to see what differences you find in ammo that do not have the polymer plug, and have a flatter nose.

    • Just my speculation, I think the polymer plugs will have two main effects: more consistent loading with guns that are sensitive to flat nosed and hollow point bullets, and more consistent expansion through cloth–because the nose is already “plugged”, it cannot be plugged by the fabric it is penetrating.

      • Your speculation is pretty spot-on as to the reasons why Hornady includes the polymer tip. As for feeding, it makes a big difference in tubular magazines (think of a pump shotgun, where the shells are loaded into a tube) because if you had a sharp-pointed centerfire bullet, then each bullet would be stacked on top of each other with pointy bits jammed into the primer, and that’s not a good situation. So for lever-action guns, Hornady introduced the polymer tip.

        It may or may not help in feeding in other types of guns, someone else here said the polymer acted like a little bit of a “brake”; I can see how that might happen.

        But in general, the idea is to keep the tip of the bullet clear of denim or other fabric so that the cavity is still clear and able to work with the hydraulic pressure when the bullet enters something “wet” — so the theory is that it would expand better and more consistently through denim. As to whether it really works or not, I don’t know; I did have one of the .380 Critical Defense rounds fail to expand through denim (not because it was plugged, it just didn’t work), so there’s no guarantees. But I’ve shot many many CD’s through gel with and without denim, and that was the only case of one not expanding.

  12. Big fan of STB. After these two videos, I yanked the Critical Duty out of my M&P Shield and replaced it with Critical Defense. What a massive difference! Can’t wait to see what the Hornady Customs do, and I hope to see PDX1 on the agenda as well.

    • “Can’t wait to see what the Hornady Customs do, and I hope to see PDX1 on the agenda as well.”

      Customs are next (well, 147-grain; I also have the lighter 124gr Customs but haven’t shot their footage yet). And PDX1 is already in the ammo can ready to be tested.

  13. Critical defense are the only round I’ve found that my Springfield ultra compact 1911 won’t eat. The rubber touches my feed ramp, acts like a break. So I’m running federals@165 grains. Get less drop out of my 3in barrel than the same bullets @230g. When will we get the 45 tests?

    • “When will we get the 45 tests?”

      Meaning, when will I be doing short-barrel .45 ACP tests? Those are on the agenda; but two things would need to happen:
      1. I have to get my XDs back from Springfield’s recall.
      2. I have to actually send my XDs back to Springfield in the first place.

      Once those are done, and once the 9mm ammo quest is done, .45 ACP will be up next. If you search my videos you’ll find one where I compared regular vs. short-barrel Gold Dots in .45 ACP, and I have some .45 Colt tests up now.

  14. Another great video Shooting the Bull. I also carry a SigP938 so this one was especially helpful. I’m loaded with Critical Defense, but look forward to other tests since you never know what brand of ammo will be available. Having a first, second, and third choice when shopping will be handy.

    BTW, loved the review of the Lehigh Defense 45Colt Judge ammo. Man, that stuff was terrifying.

  15. I picked up some Gold Dot 115gr. for my wife’s Taurus PT709, I’d be interested in seeing that tested. I use the GD 124gr. +P in my Beretta 92 but I thought the 115s would work better in the Taurus’ 3.3″ barrel. Of course if he picks up some Gold Dots he’ll have to try the 124gr. +P short barrel.

  16. If I’m understanding these tests, it sounds like Critical Defense would probably under-penetrate when shot from longer barrels. (Unlike Critical Duty, which was designed for duty-sized handguns.)

    • “If I’m understanding these tests, it sounds like Critical Defense would probably under-penetrate when shot from longer barrels.”

      … interesting possibility.

      It depends on how big a Critical Defense can expand at its maximum, and on how quickly its powder burns. If it’s engineered to expand to the size I got, from the shorter barrel, then additional velocity “should” go towards further penetration. No way to know but to test; I’ll have to see if I can get ahold of a Kel-Tec Sub2000 or something like that.

      On the other hand, if the powder is designed to burn completely and the gases finish expanding all within a 3″ barrel, then a longer barrel wouldn’t provide any additional velocity and penetration should stay the same.

      So, yes — interesting question. I’ll have to schedule time to test Critical Defense from a longer barrel (G17 maybe) and a really long barrel (9mm carbine) — or maybe someone who has a chronograph and these guns and ammo can write in and tell us what they’re experiencing with it.

      • From what I’ve seen of tests of Hornady Critical Defense in full-size handguns, that does look probable. The .45 and 9mm overexpand and only penetrate 10″-11″ and only the .40 seems like a decent performer, giving good expansion and penetrating around 16″. This is actually the first test of the 9mm Critical Defense I’ve seen where anything else happened. I think it must be the lower velocity that is responsible for the difference in performance.

        I think the Critical Defense concept has great merit, BUT I come away with the impression that it’s mostly being applied to bullets that are much too light for caliber. I’d like to see a 124gr +P or 147gr standard pressure 9mm, a 125gr .38 Special +P, and a 230gr .45 version.

      • Maybe I’m misunderstanding something. I thought that velocity higher than the design specs causes bullets to open sooner, because there is more resistance. And in the case of your Critical Duty test, bullets didn’t reach the necessary velocity/resistance to open fully at all.

      • STB – Did you ever get to try the 9mm 115 grain Hornady Critical Defense through a Sub2000, or similar 16″ carbine barrel?

        I devoured you Ammo quest 9mm videos before stocking up on the Critical Defense for home defense Sub 2000 gen2.

  17. Since we’re talking Critical Ds, I ran a small, informal “barrier” test w/ the 90gr Hornady Critical Defense Lite .38 Special.
    It was either Awesome* or Horrible†.

    Gun: S&W Model 10, 4″ bbl
    Distance: 5 yards
    Barrier: 1 sheet of drywall followed by 12″ of air followed by a plastic picnic table top

    Results: Bullet penetrated the drywall and destroyed the plastic. The only one that didn’t end up in the berm was lying on the ground about a foot past the plastic!
    There was total jacket/bullet separation AND zero expansion. In fact, the lead broke up in a dozen+ pieces and the copper jacket flattened out. Sideways.
    Wierd…

    My only guess is that the bullet started tumbling after going through the drywall & before slamming into the plastic, at which point it got “squashed”.

    *Awesome… if you’re looking for a less-than-frangible, frangible round?

    †Horrible… if you’re looking for, you know, actual ammo.

    • I don’t think critical defense (or any JHP defense ammo, really) is designed to expand reliably when the only media is drywall, air, and a sheet of plastic. Try the same stuff again into some stacked jugs of water at the very least, or ballistics gel as depicted in the above video and I’ll wager your results will be a whole lot better.

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