HPR’s Black Ops ammo, a jacketed frangible bullet is a new entry into the market. In their product announcement you can see how HPR positions this ammo in the marketplace. HPR has kindly supplied some 9mm and .45 ACP ammo for testing. I’m not sure what to make of their describing it as being “one of the most operational personal defense rounds available on the market today.” To me, all defensive ammo better be 100% operational, or else it’s useless. I can say that it’s packaged very slickly, with an apparently plastic box, an attractive hexagonal ammo tray, some nicely polished nickel-plated cases, and an attractive black finish. This is expensive ammo (AmmoSeek lists a box of 9mm for about $1.25 per round, and the .45 ACP is going for about $1.53 each). Where other ammo comes in a cheap paper box, this packaging does lend an initial impression of quality . . .
But, frankly, I don’t care about the packaging or the marketing. All I care about is the terminal performance. Accordingly, I fired the 9mm and the .45 ACP versions into ClearBallistics synthetic ballistic gelatin to get an overview of its penetration and expansion characteristics. The test pistols were a Springfield XD-S in .45 ACP with 3.3″ barrel, and a Sig P938 in 9mm with a 3.0″ barrel.
However, it’s not necessarily enough to evaluate a frangible round against conventional ammo. So in order to provide perspective, I also tested the HPR rounds against another, relatively similar ammo cartridge — the DRT 85-grain 9mm jacketed frangible. DRT appears to use a similar construction (copper jacket over compressed powdered frangible core), at an identical weight (85 grains), and very similar velocity. I felt it would prove interesting to see if the Black Ops provided any improvement over the existing state of frangible ammo, especially since the Black Ops costs about double what the DRT does.
I know from past experience that people can get upset when a reviewer says that the “new technology” rounds don’t perform particularly well. And by “upset”, I mean trolling, slander, libel, threats of lawsuits, all of that. So, to keep everything in context, I decided to dispense with lengthy comparisons against conventional ammo and decided instead to explore the concept of “is this type of ammo really new? Does it really advance the state of terminal ballistic effectiveness?”
Accordingly, I compared the current generation of jacketed frangibles against an older-school round, the Extreme Shock Fang Face. Extreme Shock first started selling their ammo in 2000 and exhibited it publicly for the first time at the 2001 SHOT Show, so this is a cartridge that dates back to the turn of the century. However, the construction of the Fang Face sounds very similar — a hard copper jacket over a compressed powder core. Of course, those who have been involved in the firearms community for a while will likely recall that Extreme Shock was received rather poorly in the gun community, largely because of their excessively grandiose marketing claims (the “three ninjas”, the “NyTrilium” core, and wildly inflated ballistic claims for which they actually had to issue a public apology). Many in the gun community may have very negative impressions of Extreme Shock and their ammo may have been laughed off the market, but be that as it may, it’s still a compressed-core frangible with a copper jacket, so I felt that it would be appropriate to test it, to show how the newer versions of this basic design compare to one that’s been around for quite a while.
The nature of fragmenting rounds limits the number of rounds I can fire per gel block. To avoid the potential of cross-contamination, I limited the testing to one round of each per block. Generally I prefer to test multiple rounds of each cartridge to get a higher likelihood of statistically representative results, but in this test I thought it more important to put my limited number of gel blocks towards getting comparative results among multiple types of ammunition, rather than using them on multiple rounds of the same type of ammunition.
I didn’t bother with denim testing, because the point of these rounds is to see their frangibility in action. Had one clogged in denim, we wouldn’t have learned anything about how the round performs generally, since any bullet that clogs with denim performs pretty much the same as any other bullet that clogs with denim. It’s possible that in the future I may revisit the Black Ops and/or DRT with denim, just to verify whether they do indeed expand through denim.