Remington’s Golden Saber is one of their premiere defensive handgun loads, and has been for many years. In this test, I’m trying out the 9mm version in both 124 and 147 grain. Now, there are many versions of the Golden Saber out there, including standard pressure, bonded, and +P. For this evaluation, I’m using the standard pressure, non-bonded versions; part #’s GS9MMB and GS9MMC. As a side note . . .

there is a list maintained at AR15.com for self-defense ammo FAQ’s. There’s a list there of ammo that’s recommended for self-defense purposes, and the GS9MMC Golden Saber 147 is included. However, the testing done on those rounds was all conducted from pistols with barrels of 4″ or longer; none of the testing was done with the 3″ barrels of today’s common pocket pistols. And that does make a difference — a few of the loads on the AR15.com list that perform well from the bigger handguns, just don’t work well from the short-barrel pistol (examples being the Gold Dot 147-grain, the Gold Dot 124-grain in standard pressure, and the Barnes 115-grain XPB).

At the same time, some of the loads I’ve tested that are included on that list have been excellent performers from the 3″ barrel also (including the CorBon DPX 115-grain, the 147-grain Winchester Ranger-T RA9TA, the Speer Gold Dot 124+P, and the HST 124+P and 147). Which list will the Golden Sabers end up on? On the “use in 4-inch or longer barrels only” or on the “it works great in everything” list?

Well, let’s put it this way — I first started shooting the denim rounds and I stopped after three bullets. It was obvious these were just not going to work. They showed complete core/jacket separation, and overpenetration issues. I finished off the block with two shots to bare gel, just so we had a complete picture of how the Golden Sabers perform, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to recommend it.

Interestingly, when I tested the 147-grain bullets, the performance was nearly identical. The bare gel bullets were superb, and the denim rounds separated and overpenetrated.

It wasn’t a disastrous performance; the bare performance was excellent, and every bullet at least made it past the 12″ minimum. That said, I still can’t recommend them — there is just no valid reason to accept compromised performance, jacket separation, and overpenetration, when there are so many other fine rounds on the market that just don’t have those problems.

I do plan on revisiting the Golden Sabers when I can find some of the bonded version. If they can perform as well through denim as these non-bonded bullets did in bare gel, then yes, that would really be something to talk about. But as for the non-bonded, non-+P versions as tested here, my recommendation is to avoid them in your 9mm pocket pistol.

30 Responses to 9mm Ammo Quest: Remington Golden Saber

  1. The same performance as 18 years ago… and then they were actually one of the best choices available in 9mm. Far better than Hydrashok, for example.

    Note that I’m talking about the redesigned GS– the original design never expanded, even in water.

  2. I got a crapload of these in 124g standard pressure flavor for fairly cheap recently and even though I haven’t done any extensive ballistics testing, I did put just over 100 of them through my 4″ semiauto without any problems and they seemed to be accurate enough. The cartridge itself looks suspiciously close to the old “Black Talon” Winchesters, only with a less sinister name and a color pattern that doesn’t scream DEATH BULLETS FROM HELL. I figure they’ll do alright until I need to re-supply.

    • Black talons and golden sabers were designed by the same person, for Winchester and Remington respectively.

  3. They have nothing in common with the Black Talon.

    And they don’t look anything alike, nor are they made from the same materials (brass vs. copper).

    I think you must be confusing the BT with something else.

      • Yes they are both hollowpoints. Otherwise, the GS is brass, and the jacket it cut all the way through and folded over the next petal. There are no “talons”.

        The BTs are copper, the jackets are cut all the way through and folded over, and it has talons.

        But yeah– almost the same.

        • I mean with the BTs the jacket is not cut all the way through and not folded over…

  4. As I mentioned a week ago, I bought 50 rounds of GS 124 +p for my wife to carry in her Nano. I don’t think it is “bonded”. That word is not on the package. It does say “HPJ High Performance Jacket”. Is that Remington’s standard literature for this round? It is brass jacketed rather than copper. Is that what makes it “golden”?
    I am interested to find out if the +p will perform better.

    • Remington offers the same basic bullet in a wide variety of packages. There’s the Golden Saber, the Golden Saber Bonded, the High Terminal Performance, the Ultimate Home Defense, the Ultimate Home Defense – Compact Handgun, and I’m sure I’m forgetting several others.

      Perhaps some of the Armed Intelligentsia can comment on what differences they’ve observed among the various iterations of the Golden Saber. In my experience, Golden Sabers seem pretty much to be Golden Sabers, and the one that has the potential of being a notably better performer would be the one that says “Bonded” on the box. If it doesn’t say “bonded”, it’s not bonded. A bonded bullet should avoid the jacket separation issues that we saw displayed with this version.

      The bare gel performance really was very, very good from these bullets, especially considering that I was using the short-barrel handgun. If the “bonded” version eliminates the jacket/core separation issue and results in the denim-gel bullets performing like the bare-gel bullets did, then this would be an excellent load.

  5. Good test. As a general rule I don’t recommend any recently – produced Remington product for self defense. If you can’t get your hands on HST or Ranger, Critical Defense, Critical duty, and XTP are also good stuff.

  6. I have never understood the logic behind a 147 grain 9mm round. I get the better barrier penetrate but from an energy and velocity stand point you are giving up too much. If penetration is your primary MOE than you should be using 40 or 45 caliber.

    • 9mm, if used with proper FMJ ammo gives you great penetration and high capacity, and since then single most fatal aspect of a handgun round is penetration followed only by multiple holes a full sized high capacity 9mm is one of the most lethal handguns you can get.

    • I find that the recoil of 147s to be a more manageable slow “push” more than 115s or even 124s, which seem harder to keep the muzzle on target even if the actual force of the recoil isn’t as strong. Some of my friends say the opposite, though. I’ll take 9s as heavy as possible. I have some Prvi 158g FMJ I love to shoot, they aren’t around much, though.

    • 147gr expands bigger, and still penetrates deep enough with a large margin. Those are the only two things that are relevant in a handgun round. Who cares about velocity or energy by themselves? They’re only means of getting a hole as deep and wide as possible.

  7. I think over pentration was a myth invented by gun bloggers so that they could get away with fewer blocks of gelatine in there “tests”

    Golden saber is crap but not because of over penatration.

  8. STB410 and Tnoutdoors9 are the only ammo testers I trust. I love to compare tests they have both done on the same load and if it does good for both then it is a keeper.

    In .38+p 125gr the golden saber did good for Tnoudoors9. I would love to see a STB410 test of that load. It appeared to be one of the best .38 loads Tnoutdoors9 tested.

  9. Is it an error in the article where it says, “147-grain Winchester Ranger-T RA9TA”?

    The Winchester site lists the 147 grain as “RA9T” without the final “A.”

    Winchester lists the “RA9TA” as 127 grain +P+.

    So there can be no ammo, “147-grain Winchester Ranger-T RA9TA.”

    I presume a sneaky extra “A” worked itself into the article and Dan Zimmerman means to recommend the “RA9T” 147 grain regular pressure ammo. Yes?

  10. Am I right thinking it’s an omission that the recommended, “CorBon DPX 115-grain” is not listed as “+P”? At the CorBon site the only DPX ammo in 9mm listed at 115 grains is “+P.” It’s the DPX09115/20.

    The only other 9mm listed on the DPX chart is 95 grains.

    This is an important distinction to make, since not all 9mm pistols can fire +P, and some that can are not recommended to do so regularly.

  11. OK, I’m not buying the logic in this test! Core to jacket separation is only a bad deal if it effects penetration in a bad way, as in poor penetration.
    Otherwise any bullet movement in soft tissue that helps to create further blood loss is a good thing! Whether its mechanical (bullet expansion or fragmentation or separation) or through yaw. As long as you have sufficient penetration any of these cause more blood loss and help to incapacitate the intended target.
    Now if you are claiming that the separation is causing excessive penetration then I’m still not on board with your logic! The best way to incapacitate is through energy dump and blood loss. The separation almost guarantees a massive amount of energy dump and the fact that the extra penetration gives both an entrance and an exit wound guarantees more blood loss than just an entrance wound! So again, where is this round failing? It penetrates, dumps it’s energy, and creates secondary wound channels…. I’d say the Remington Golden Saber is doing a fine job at crating havoc on its targets!

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