9mm Ammo Quest: Speer Gold Dot G2 147 Grain JHP

Speer’s introduced a new version of their legendary Gold Dot ammunition.  Called Gold Dot G2, and subtitled “Next Generation”, it’s a revision to their long-time fan favorite and police ammo staple, the Gold Dot. This particular ammo is the 9mm, 147 grain flavor. What’s new?  Well, the most obvious change is that the ammo’s hollowpoint cavity is now plugged with an elastomer tip, similar to the polymer tip employed by Hornady in their Critical DutyTM and Critical DefenseTM lines of ammo.  In Speer’s own words . . .

The G2 Upgrade for Gold Dot® features a bullet design that excels in the FBI protocol for law enforcement ammunition.  Its shallow, dish shaped nose contour is filled with elastomer to provide rapid expansion where needed and minimize over-penetration where it’s not.  Gold Dot G2’s Uni-Cor construction molecularly bonds the copper jacket to the alloyed lead core, virtually eliminating separations.

Okay, sounds good.  It’s marketing-speak, but … hey, it’s their box, they can print what they want on it. I’m more interested in what the ammo does, rather than in what they say it does. And speaking of saying, I’ve heard a couple of rumors about the G2 ammo, namely:

  1. It is a merging of the HST and Gold Dot lines; taking the best features from each (and, apparently, throwing in the polymer tip from the Hornady line for good measure).
  2. This ammo was developed specifically for the FBI, to pass the FBI protocols and to become the new FBI duty ammunition when the FBI transitions from .40 S&W over to 9mm.

Are those rumors true? No clue — I guess we’ll find out. But it sure gives one fuel for optimism (the best features of the Federal HST, Gold Dot, and Critical Duty, all rolled into one?) Or, it gives one fuel for pessimism (as in…you ever hear the old line about how a camel is a horse designed by a committee? You know, let’s throw everything in there, it’ll be great! Er… and that’s how they ended up with a camel).

So, it could be great. I hope it’s great. It’s from Speer, for cryin’ out loud. They have one of the best reputations in the industry. They wouldn’t tarnish that, would they? They rule the roost. They’re at the top of their game. And they’re introducing a brand-new product. Wait, that sounds like…doesn’t that sound familiar? Have we seen this before?

Anyone remember New Coke?

Okay, so — I’m not saying that Gold Dot G2 is “New Coke”, I’m just saying — successful companies typically dance with the one that brung ’em, and introducing a brand new line like this is risky. It’d better be good.

So, is it good? To find out, I decided to test from three different pistols. I conducted my normal 3″-barrel Ammo Quest testing, but I also included a 4″-barrel Springfield XD Service, and the 6″-barrel GLOCK 21 from my FrankenGLOCK project. I figured that this ammo might really appeal to a lot of people, so I wanted to test from a wide spectrum to see how it performs overall.

Good thing I did, too, because the test results from the 3″ barrel were abysmal. Through denim, the Gold Dot G2’s totally failed to expand (so much for the vaunted elastomer tip). Through bare gel, the bullets only partially expanded, and actually sheared off several of the petals.  It was awful.

From the 4″ barrel, the denim bullet again failed to expand. Really? How do you make a bullet that won’t expand from the GLOCK 19, one of the most common 9mm handguns around? But fail it did. Through bare gel, the 4″ barrel bullet did great, expanding properly and penetrating deeply.

From the 6″ barrel, we had excellent performance. Deep penetration and proper expansion. Although, I must say, the bare gel bullet’s petals looked a little stressed, like as if they were being pushed to their limits and were considering perhaps shearing off. But they didn’t, and the end result was two great-looking, deep-penetrating bullets.

After the initial testing, I was fairly steamed. It bothers me (more than it probably should) when companies over-market their products and make claims that just don’t hold up empirically. The results from the 3″ pistol were awful, and the 4″ pistol results were unacceptable. Seriously, considering that we’ve had tremendous performance from the 3″ pistol with Speer’s own Short Barrel Gold Dot and Gold Dot 124+P, not to mention the entire HST series, and the Winchester Train & Defend and Ranger-T, was it really too much to ask to see the Gold Dot G2 be at least on par with those?

Apparently it was.

Tennessee-based ammo tester tnoutdoors9 posted his review of Gold Dot G2 from a GLOCK 19 and got similar results. The internet lit up when he posted his review, with people saying that Speer had blown it, that the FBI had ruined it, that government intervention has gone and ruined a good thing. Yadda, yadda, yadda.  But…something about that bothers me. Did they really? Why would a company like Speer, with such a sterling reputation, go and produce a product that performs like this?

I decided to wait to publish my tests for a while so I could ruminate on this. And I think I now understand a way wherein it all makes sense: this ammo is not made for the self defense community. It’s not for us at all.

Seriously. It says so, right on the box. In the right top corner, it says “LAW ENFORCEMENT” and down the right side of the box it says “DUTY AMMUNITION”. It’s telling us, right there, who this was made for and what purpose it is to be put to.

It is my opinion (well, speculation) that it was never intended to be used in the kind of guns average gun owners use. Let’s go back to rumor #2, “Speer developed this specifically for the FBI to be its new duty ammunition.”  If that’s true, let me point out that the FBI isn’t going to issue its agents 3″ pocket pistols. And it’s unlikely that they will be issued 4″-barrel GLOCK 19’s, right?

They will be issued full-size duty guns, like a 4.6″-barrel GLOCK 17, a 4.7″-barrel Beretta 92, or maybe even something like a GLOCK 17L with its 5.34″ barrel. And, to be fair, the Gold Dot G2 ammo performed excellently in my testing from the longest-barrel pistol I tried it from. And the shorter the barrel I tested from, the worse it performed. So there is a possibility that Speer tailored this ammo specifically for a full-size, long-barreled pistol, and intends it to be used only from such a pistol.

Of course, it sure would have been nice for them to print that on the box. But since they don’t tell you, I guess that job falls to us. In any case, now you know.

So, yeah, I’m going with that — I think Speer knows exactly who their customer is for this product, and they tailored the round very specifically for that customer. They didn’t bother making it perform well from a compact or subcompact pistol because their customer would likely never use such a weapon. And those of us who don’t EDC a GLOCK 17L might want to look for other rounds to use in our personal defense weapons (such as HST, or standard Gold Dots).

In my opinion, my (and tnoutdoors9’s) testing show that this Gold Dot G2 ammo is simply unsuitable for use in a compact or subcompact pistol, especially when compared with the competition. Stick with a full-size pistol, and the Gold Dot G2 starts making a lot more sense.

So now I guess we just have to see if the FBI issues long-barreled guns to their agents. If they do, then I think this is a totally reasonable alternative. But if the FBI issues 4″ or shorter barrels, then none of this makes sense.

In any case, my recommendation is that the Gold Dot G2 isn’t the round you’re looking for if you carry a compact or subcompact pistol with a barrel of 4″ or less.

comments

  1. avatar PPGMD says:

    There was a bad lot that made it out per a report on P-F. Perhaps you both got the bad lot. Have you considered calling Speer to check?

    1. avatar borg says:

      Why not try them from a 5 inch pistol?

    2. avatar Tim Smith says:

      You are correct PPGMD! Speer did send a bad lot to the FBI that did not preform as advertised. This lot was quickly recalled an changes were made to the bullet as worked out by Speer and the FBI. The NEW lot preforms up to expectations.

      Yesterday I lined up five one gallon water jugs back to back and fired from a Glock 19 the “NEW” FBI Speer load (147gr) at them from ten feet.
      The result were that the bullet blew the lids off the first two jugs and was spent and recovered from the fourth one gallon jug. The lids stayed on the third and fourth jugs. This would indicate to a laymen like myself that the bullet dumped the vast majority of it’s energy in the first two jugs. The bullet had fully expanded when recovered.
      I’d be curious what the round would do in a Glock 43. I own a Glock 43 and will give it a try next week.

  2. avatar Matt says:

    The Glock you are thinking of is the G34(at 5.34″). A 17L has a barrel over 6″. They wouldnt ever issue a 17L for LEOs.

    1. DOH! You are correct, sorry for the mistake.

  3. avatar Frank says:

    I can’t believe Speer designed this bullet to only perform out of a full size or larger gun. It is much more believable that a bad lot was released as mentioned in a prior post. I will stick to my older Gold dots in 147 and 124 grain +P in the meantime.

  4. avatar ActuallyNo says:

    I’ve heard that HST had similar problems when it was first released.

    1. avatar S.CROCK says:

      I heard that the HST was designed by Chuck Noris himself and thus is the ultimate defensive load for a pistol.

      Can you imagine if they made a rifle round using HST technology… perfection!

  5. avatar Dave says:

    Whenever I see 147 gr in 9mm I think “subsonic”. Any chance you tried this through a suppressor?

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      All velocities shown in STB’s testing were comfortably subsonic.

  6. avatar Independent George says:

    Disappointing. So, so disappointing.

  7. avatar Accur81 says:

    Looks like bad ammo to me. Glad you tested this stuff, because it was hyped as an improvement. I’ll be sticking to Ranger and the occasional HST.

  8. avatar JT says:

    IIRC, the FBI currently gives agents a choice between the Glock 22 or Glock 23. So yes, there will likely be a 4in barreled version of whatever the switch to.

  9. avatar Timmy! says:

    I preferred New Coke… but I guess that isn’t the point here. Sorry, move along.

  10. avatar John Hope says:

    TNTOUTDOORS also did a review on this ammo and got the same if not worse results. horrible expansion, bad fragmenting, and way way too deep penetration. Speer pooped the bed on this it looks like. They should have just been satisfied with the GD. But everyone is trying to push the limits in ballistics and expansion. And when you push it too far the bullet flat doesnt perform, which is what i think happened here.

  11. avatar pod says:

    Glad I saw this before I went and splurged on a case of it for $350. My EDC is a full-size gun (H&K VP9) but even though this review says it’s decent for such pieces, the other factors give me pause. I’ll stick with the first-gen GDHP 124 gr +P and +P+ (yes, I have a stash of +P+) along with Hornady Critical Duty 135 gr +P.

  12. avatar David N says:

    I thought the 147 grain bullets were pushing it a bit far unless one was going for a subsonic round, say for a suppressed weapon. I tried some of the heavy slugs in my Beretta Vertec and while they grouped well, it was no better than 124 grain and the lighter bullets do expand well.

  13. avatar Nagurski says:

    What would really worry me about this round is how it would handle at longer ranges. You average guy with his concealed carry is probably never going to have to use further than a couple meters but I imagine an FBI agent will have to take shots from further away. Even if they have a Glock 17 and it performs admirably out of that, how far away can the bad guy be before the bullet slows down enough that it won’t expand? Add in the fact that 147 gr HST had bigger expansion through denim out of a 3 inch barrel than G2’s 6 inch bare gel test and I see no reason whatsoever that anyone should get this round.

  14. avatar Robert W. says:

    Why would a company manufacture a round to only work out of a 4.5+” barrel? Do they think that no LEO, from any branch, would carry a backup compact or sub-compact, and hope to use the same ammunition in both?

    1. avatar Dave says:

      If I’m going to carry an MP5 and a pistol with about half the barrel length, I’m not going to use the same ammo in each, no matter how convenient it might seem.

      1. avatar int19h says:

        Why not? What kinds of ammo would you carry to expect meaningful differences?

        1. avatar Dave says:

          Terminal ballistics of expanding ammo can vary greatly with modest changes in velocity. Too slow, and there is little expansion, too fast and there is often disintegration. The above ammo test is a case in point. Why not match the expected velocity out of a particular barrel to the optimum velocity for a particular bullet?

        2. avatar int19h says:

          HST and (old) Gold Dot expand nicely even out of 3″ barrels, and I’m not aware of anyone causing them to disintegrate with any barrel length (given than you get something like 20% velocity increase going from 4″ to 16″ in 9x19mm, that’s not surprising). So it would seem that you do in fact already have rounds that are “optimized” for both.

  15. avatar Mark N. says:

    I think that many of these hollow points are, quite simply, velocity dependent, and you just aren’t going to get adequate expansion out a slow heavy bullet fired from a short barreled pistol. I would wager that if they make the G2 in 124 gr, it will perform adequately out of a 4″ barrel, but subsonic just won’t cut it. And there is no real good reason to go +P when using a compact or subcompact to try to retrieve the lost velocity–just go for a lighter round.

    1. avatar int19h says:

      Did you see STB’s tests of HST and old Gold Dots? They expand very impressively and very reliably out of 3″ barrels, and you don’t even need +P for that.

  16. avatar int19h says:

    I’ll just keep stockpiling 147gr HST, thank you very much (1500 rounds and counting… if you can’t find it, it’s because I did!). It works, and I find it hard to imagine a bullet that would perform better given the physical limitations inherent in that equation.

    1. avatar DV says:

      Needs a meme. Oh you use steel-cased WPA for target shooting? I’ll stick with PREMIUM HSTs.

  17. avatar Gimlet says:

    Thanks ShootingTheBull410 for the review and analysis. I lean toward thinking this was a bad lot that somehow snuck past QC (s*** happens, even to major and highly reputable manufacturers), and fervently hope that Speer doesn’t discontinue or scale down production of the good stuff (it’s already hard enough to find in quantity).

    In any event, like many of the previous commenters, I’ll stick to carrying “original” 124-grain +P Gold Dots.

    1. It would be nice to think it was a bad lot, but I’m pretty much convinced it wasn’t. Results from three different testers, in three different areas of the country, are all coming in the same. TnOutdoors9 tested it and got very comparable results, and Dr. Gary Roberts (DocGKR) tested it from a 4″ and all the bullets failed the denim test.

      Seems to me like a little re-engineering is needed here, and then some re-testing will be in order.

  18. avatar tdiinva says:

    Perhaps a 124 grain bullet is about as big as a 9mm can get before its performance begins to get spotty.

    It is unrealistic to believe that plain cloths LEOs will be using a pistol with a barrel longer than 4″. FBI agents where suits because they are investigators not street cops.

    1. avatar int19h says:

      >> Perhaps 124 grain bullet is about as big as a 9mm can get before its performance begins to get spotty.

      This has been the common wisdom for a long time, and was probably true back when it was first formulated. But it has since been conclusively disproved by the testing of other 147gr bullets, including the older version of Gold Dot itself, and also HST. There’s nothing spotty about the performance of those, they expand very reliably and very well.

  19. avatar fedguy says:

    I work in federal law enforcement (not the named agency in this post.) Many agencies piggyback off of larger agency contracts for firearms and ammo to simplify the acquisition process. I heard from a good source that the FBI is in the process of creating a request for proposal (RFP) for new 9mm handguns. Expect to see a requirement that submissions have smooth front straps with no finger groves (Glock would have to make a change to submit…) Not all of the guns tested were striker-fired, but most were. The preference will likely be a striker, or some kind of DAO that has a comfortable trigger-pull weight for average shooters.

    Most of the public comments about the reason for the change to 9mm are accurate, e.g. easier training, faster follow-up shots, etc. Ammo has not specifically been chosen, but the G2 is likely the round. My source did not want to discuss the poor performance of the G2, but said that when it is introduced to agents, it will be a version that works well.

    Also, the main weapon will be a compact version, such as a Glock 19-sized weapon, as agents carry in plain clothes. In the current 40 cal, agents have the choice of an issued Glock 23 or 22, with the option of a G27 (personally owned). Currently, no more 23s are being issued. There are some other options too, as I worked with an agent who carried a personally owned G21 or a G27, depending on what we were doing.

    I would expect to see an RFP for a compact, full-size and subcompact 9mm that specifies a minimum ammo capacity, night sights, and a frame with no finger grooves.

  20. avatar Keith says:

    Hello, was wondering how you might think this bullet would perform in a marlin camp 9. Thanks

  21. avatar Richard Nortis says:

    I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but that is exactly how the OLD gold dot 147’s acted BEFORE the new G2 technology. There are many videos showing overpenetration and failure to expand.

    Now of course, that’s only related to the smaller barrels also. In the longer barrels, it did great. So I’m not sure why anyone is shocked and keep saying they will fall back on the old gold dot 147. Because almost every test that I have seen with denim and gel, you’ll see over penetration and failed to expand, and the shorter the barrel, the worse it is.

    I’m a prepper and I currently have around 20,000 rounds. 8000 of those belong to the 9mm. And all 8000 are Speer. Nothing else. Needless to say, I’m a fan…

    I am torn between the 124+ P and the 147. I love a slow moving heavy bullet. And sub sonic has lots of advantages. And personally, I adore the fact of overpenetration… Which brings me to the paragraph 🙂

    Now not to open that ole illustrious can of worms, but I’m a little tired of hearing about overpenetration, and I think it’s way overrated big-time. An exit wound creates air and LOTS of blood. Bleeding out is always a wonderful thing.

    And PALEEEEEZZEEEE don’t start talking about the bullet passing through and injuring some innocent bystander, as a good majority of those shots are going to be MISSED. That’s correct, missed and so compared to a concern of overpenetration, versus a missed target bullet, well I think you get my point.

    Plus what if its cold outside? And the guys wearing a couple of sweaters and a big thick insulated leather jacket? I think I’ll take my overpenetration 147’sall day, as the most important part of that equation, is minimum penetration.

    What were trying to do is reach the vital organs, that in and of itself is the first goal. Once they have been reached, I’m not too concerned about where the bullet goes from there.

  22. avatar George Dean says:

    FBI specs are out. Class 1 9 mm compact bbl 3.75-4.25″; Class 2 Full sized pistol 9mm bbl 4.26-5.20″.

    Ammo per this article.

  23. avatar James wade says:

    Picked up 1000 rounds for $0.30 a shot that included shipping really still be good for target

    1. avatar S Green says:

      James, Thirty cents a round isn’t half bad, you pretty much got it at half price. I picked up 1050 rounds of liquidated 1st gen Speers G2 for .18 cents each from Keislers. Hell of a deal, I can’t buy 9mm FMJ range ammo that cheap

      G2 1st gen that was liquidated expands more reliably the longer the barrel. Luckily my 9mm’s are all full sized sidearms. But even so, if I have to holster my 9mm, my round of choice is still Ranger T’s. in Fact my go to sidearm is my HK .45, use Ranger T +p’s for my go to rounds.

      Next time I go hog hunting for feral pigs, I’ll dispatch them with my Six8, but I’ll going to do some cadaver testing with the liquidated G2 to see real world expansion with these liquidated ammo. I like to see things with my own eyes.

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  26. avatar Glen M says:

    Saw some Speer gold dot g2 147g 9mm 2 weeks ago for $10.00 a box now I no why I only have HST in all of my guns 9/40 & 45

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  31. avatar Jim McC says:

    Frankly I think your suppositions are totally incorrect and sound more like excuse making or rationalization for poor bullet performance. A service round should function will in all barrel lengths like all of those other rounds you mentioned Speer Gold Dot 124 +P functions well in all barrel lengths as do the Federal 124 and 147 regular and +p HSTs. Most FBI agents will be using the Glock 19.

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