New “High-Performance” 9mm: Ready for Prime Time?

Ruger ARX ammo

John Farnam writes [via Ammoland.com]: It’s no secret that 9mm is king right now, particularly among Operators who routinely carry guns, for serious purposes.

– .40S&W is still around, but over the past five years it has assumed a distant second place, more distant by the year

– .357SIG is all but dead. Scant demand from both private and pubic sectors.

– .45GAP is dead. No demand, from anywhere. Even Glock could not keep this caliber alive

– 10mm, long-since dead and buried, is currently experiencing a “popularity resurrection,” but probably a brief one

– .38Spl is steady and slow. People will always carry snubby revolvers!

– .45ACP, also steady and slow, but no growth in this sector.

For 9mm carry-pistols, I’ve long-recommended a +p HP round, between 115gr and 125gr, from a reputable manufacturer. Federal, Underwood, Super Vel, Cor Bon, Winchester, Black Hills, et al, all make suitable candidates. Muzzle velocities are between 1200 and 1350 f/s.

Until recently, most (even Federal’s pillared Hydra-Shok) have featured “cup-and-core” bullets, a soft-lead core, encased in a bore-riding, brass cup.

This combination enjoys a long and respectable history. LEO friends in South Africa have shot hundreds of people with 115gr +p HP rounds (mostly Cor Bon), and they’ve been very happy with it, much happier than they ever were with hardball.

Starting several years ago, some manufacturers have offered the same projectile-weight and velocity, but with all-copper, HP bullets. Superior to cup-and-core bullets in reliable penetration and expansion, plus they are less deflected/deformed by intervening barriers, such as car-glass.

All-copper bullets do not come apart after impact, so penetration of car-doors is far superior to that of cup-and-core, HP bullets.

However, these bullets are difficult to manufacture! The ultimate external shape, along with the hollow cavity, must be extruded, via multiple steps, from a cylinder of copper, cut from copper wire (of appropriate diameter). In addition, there are multiple annealing stages, necessary to keep the copper soft and malleable.

Cost per bullet is thus much higher than with cup-and-core.

In any event, that is what I’m currently carrying in my 9mm pistol (Cor Bon 115gr DPX). I’ve shot a lot of it, and I’m confident this represents a good choice.

Lehigh Defense 45 ACP Xtreme Defense (XD) Projectiles

The “latest” pistol-bullet technology, and one with which I’ve had only a little experience, is (for lack of a better term) “scalloped bullets,” called by manufacturers non-descriptive names, like “Extreme Defense,” “Extreme Defender,” et al.

These bullets are also homogeneous copper but look like hardball, save for deep, symmetrical scallops in the ogive.

Scallops are cut-in, rather than extruded-in, so these bullets costs less to produce than “conventional” all-copper HP bullets.

In gelatin tests, this new technology appears to be very adequate. There is no hollow-point to plug-up, and there is thus no danger of the bullet failing to expand in living tissue. The bullet is not designed to expand, nor break-up, nor change shape in any way.

Scallops are said to “redirect fluids” and thus inflict as much tissue destruction as conventional, controlled-expansion bullets. Penetration conforms to the respected FBI Protocol (12″-18″)

However, the jury is still out.

Until we dig a few of these new bullets out of decedents, I’ll not have a factual basis upon which to establish an authoritative opinion.

For now, I’m continuing to carry 115gr, all-copper, HP +p 9mm ammunition in my pistol. I’ll let others “experiment” with this new technology. Maybe a year or so from now, I’ll be sufficiently confident to carry it myself.

“Experience is a hard teacher, because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.” ~ Vernon Sanders Law

/John

About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent and unlawful lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance, if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.

It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit: www.defense-training.com

comments

  1. avatar BlazinTheAmazin says:

    Been thinking about trying some of that fancy Lehigh/Underwood stuff. The gel tests I have seen on youtube have been pretty impressive.

    1. avatar Erik says:

      I’ve used some of the Lehigh .45 out of a +p on some hogs and been very impressed. It’s become my backup to rifle, and very much trust it to stop a hog with good placement.
      Definitely looking at putting it in my 9mm for hd

      1. avatar Nito says:

        Full autopsy starts around the 4:34 minute mark.
        https://youtu.be/uIJ4S-sUzNA?t=4m34s

  2. avatar Roman of Texas says:

    What a load a bs. Anything that has improved for 9 can be improved for the others. I myself love 357 sig, 40, and 45 (and yes i have 9mms, chill out fan boys, its a good round sure), but I don’t see the rise of 10 going away, 45 isn’t going away, and 40 isn’t going away. If you don’t like 40, that’s ok, but some of us do. Don’t get me wrong, not trying to say anything wrong with 9, but I am kinda getting sick of all these anti everything but 9. Anyways, have a great weekend TTAG!

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      During the last ammo drought, the ONLY pistol caliber cartridge that was always on the shelf at my local Wally World was .40. I almost bought one when I couldn’t feed my 9, and the only .45s were HSTs at $1.50/round.

      1. avatar raptor jesus says:

        Buying ammo in physical stores?

        Sir, may I introduce you to the internet? You may not have heard of it before, but it will change your life.

        (with the added benefit that online ammo is about 50% the cost of in store, even after shipping – oh, and no tax).

    2. avatar TheUnspoken says:

      Agreed, the vaunted FBI switch to 9mm doesn’t mean all other calibers are now crap, just that 9mm is adequate for their one-size-fits-all agents and scenarios approach. Same reason they dropped from 10mm to .40s&w, it was too much for some shooters, but that doesn’t mean some shooters couldn’t be effective with it.

      Being I am not outfitting an entire Federal bureau of agents of different statures, genders, skill level, etc, I can pick the gun or calibers that I like.

    3. avatar Sam in Ohio says:

      Agreed. If the effectiveness of 9 mm is so much improved (and it has been vastly improved), .40, .45ACP and .357 must now be the legendary hammer of Thor.

      .40 is a great cartridge in a properly designed pistol (talking to you early model Glock .40s with your barrels that don’t fully support the cartridge case). Does it cost more to shoot than a 9mm? Yep, a little bit more. Does it hold a few less than the same sized 9 mm? Yep, 1-2 rounds. Do I have to use +P ammo to reach the same terminal energy levels as the best 9mm ammo? Nope, you’re running standard pressure in the .40 ammo and that’s easier on springs and other parts of the pistol.

      Bottom line is the 9mm isn’t the end all, be all. It’s now just an effective cartridge when it was considered marginal years ago.

      1. avatar Tile floor says:

        I use a .40 for work. As an instructor I get a lot of trigger time and I can dump 180 grain pills fast as shit. I can get upper 90s on our qual course running the coursewith the allotted time cut in half of the normal amount. 100 on normal time is no sweat. I am no shooting legend by any means , I just practice. There’s nothing wrong with a .40 from a duty pistol. However, I am even faster and more accurate with my 9.

        When you get to concealed carry pieces is when the .40 is less than ideal, IMO.

        I don’t like caliber pissing matches. Find what you are good with and stick with it.

    4. avatar ozzallos says:

      Come on. You know as well as I do physics and technological improvements only works on 9mm. Other calibers simply fall right out of the air a foot or two from the barrel now.

  3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    If 9 mm is king, then .357 magnum must be God.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Religion or cult?

      1. avatar Hannibal says:

        Depends on if you’re the one being shot by one.

      2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        All religions start out as cults. Although, ‘Cult of Magnum’ has a nice ring to it.

        1. avatar Red in CO says:

          Cult of Magnum! I like it, though I’m afraid to google it

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      (snicker!)

    3. avatar BLoving says:

      A short list of names for canonization:
      Elmer Keith
      Col. Jeff Cooper
      John Browning (not a revolver guy, but just TRY to exclude him…)
      Jerry Miculek can’t get in yet… still alive.
      🤠

      1. avatar Marc says:

        Samuel Colt?

      2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        I think I’d throw in Bill R uger in that list. For giving us the Security Six and thereby forcing S&W to come out with the 686. Otherwise we’d all still be being told to practice with .38 specials.

    4. avatar jtsmall says:

      Quote of the Year!

  4. avatar Arc says:

    I’ll stick with my cheap as dirt FMJ lead bullets for training and hollow points for actual use. Fancy Shmancy new stuff, lets see a price point and whole summery of gel tests!

    I can quickly draw and fire my 9mm accurately with one hand. I like big bullets but a 9mm makes stuff dead just as well as a .45.

    Do we beat the dead horse with a 5Lb sledge hammer, or a 6lb sledge hammer? Both work.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      Hmmm what size hammer for a live horse I wonder? 🧐

    2. avatar anonymoose says:

      Yeah, but the 9×19 doesn’t steal their soul. You need a .45 for that.

    3. avatar billy-bob says:

      … I like big bullets and I cannot lie, you other brothers can’t deny…

    4. avatar Prudiikal says:

      everywhere ive seen them ARX are priced the same or lower then other hollows.

  5. avatar Rick says:

    I’d have liked to see this kind of thing evaluated with along with the MHS contract. Its not an expanding bullet, so since we have been following the Hague Convention of 1899, even though we’re not signatory. It defeats light armor, body armor not an M2 Bradley, and should at minimum be as effective as FMJ.

  6. avatar jwm says:

    .38 is still in the running cause of the j frame style revolvers.

    But put .38 in a larger framed gun with a longer barrel and good sights and you have one of the most accurate handguns out there. And the .38 round is about as simple as it gets for reloaders.

    If I lived in a shall issue state with no mag limits I would go with 9mm. Or if I was to go soldiering again.

  7. avatar Uh-huh says:

    pffffft 9mm fanboy

    It’s all good I’m a .45acp fanboy.

    Be a xx caliber fanboy just don’t trash other peoples carry choice.

    1. avatar TruthTellers says:

      IMO, 9mm will never get anyone killed, it’s poor shooting that will.

      However, the 10mm resurgence that’s happening now is going to lead to it making the .45 ACP obsolete and 10mm can also shoot .40 S&W as TTAG’s Jeremy S. has demonstrated on multiple occasions.

      I should send Jeremy a message and see if he’d be into doing a mag dump test with .40 S&W like IV8888 does with AK’s and AR’s and see after 1000 rds of .40 what damage, if any, has been done to the extractor, ejector, feed ramp, etc.

  8. avatar tdiinva says:

    There seems to be this myth that 45ACP cannot take full advantage of new technologies. That is simply not true. In fact, when you look at rounds like the Hornady Critical Duty 220g +p round its increase in energy is proportionately greater than the increase in bullet energy for quality 9mm +p rounds. Modern 9mm self defense ammo has achieved performance parity with 40 S&W and 45 ACP standard pressure rounds. That is a good thing but to pretend that it makes it better than what can be achieved with the more powerful calibers is inaccurate.

    Those that say caliber doesn’t matter are wrong. What they should say is that there are multiple factors that determine lethality. During any engagement those factors are likely to overwhelm the increased lethality of bigger bullets.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      “Those that say caliber doesn’t matter are wrong.”

      I agree completely. I was sold on .40 S&W and .45 ACP when I saw super slow motion video of various caliber bullets hitting automotive windshields at oblique angles. As I recall, .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum (all bullets 125 grain or less) deflected significantly — to the point that the shooter could actually miss the target in the car. Good old .40 S&W (180 grain bullets) and .45 ACP (230 grain bullets) did not appear to deflect at all.

      And that is why I carry .40 S&W — I get superior barrier penetration over 9mm and I only lose two rounds in the magazine in exchange for that increase in performance. (I am quite comfortable with 15+1 capacity in my semi-auto pistol.)

      1. avatar AZgunner says:

        You hit the nail on the head. I carry .40 as my duty weapon because of the likelihood of having to shoot through auto glass.

        For concealed carry, I go with a 9mm sub compact.

  9. avatar Charley says:

    45ACP is the best, there’s real science behind it. Anything else – not so much.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      Sorry, but .357 mag is better than .45acp any day of the week.

      It’s just that it is a revolver round. I would take a G21 over my Security Six in a gunfight, but at the same time, I would prefer my revolver to a 1911.

      Blasphemy!

      1. avatar Hank says:

        .44 mag makes both look like a bitch!

      2. avatar tdiinva says:

        Then you would be foolish. You are more likely to get your first and subsequent rounds on target with a 1911 because of the superior trigger and recoil characteristics.

  10. avatar Hannibal says:

    “Scallops are said to “redirect fluids” and thus inflict as much tissue destruction as conventional, controlled-expansion bullets…”

    Some marketing guy was well paid for that nugget.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Lehigh came up with it, and they show it on their slo-mo gel tests on their site.

      1. avatar TruthTellers says:

        I don’t believe it does much of anything, but we do know that the penetration is “extreme” with those Lehigh bullets and are thus a danger to whatever is behind the BG.

        The Polycase ammo that’s part polymer and has flutes cut in the nose… the velocity is so high and the bullet so light that it will tumble in the body and create a lot of damage. It also will not overpenetrate because it will lose so much energy that if it exits the BG it will bounce off people or shatter if it hits a hard surface.

        I’m of the opinion that the round nose “range” ammo will do the same the “defense” Polycase ammo will and at half the price.

      2. avatar Hannibal says:

        Are you made of gel? Is the guy you’re trying to shoot made of gel?

        Gel is based on the average density of the human body. Unfortunately for realism, taking the average is a pretty crappy indicator of any one place you’re hitting. While it might be reasonable for determining expansion, you’re going far beyond the indicated purpose of the substance to try and talk about “redirected fluids.”

    2. avatar Philthegardner says:

      There’s a very good reason that the Haig convention banned “dum-dum” bullets. They noticed that the practice of soldiers cutting chunks off their FMJ rifle rounds during The Great War produced more gruesome looking wounds as opposed to the clean, through-and-through holes they were used to with ball ammo. This practice of “scalloped” ammo that made bullets expand was thought to be too uncivilized and cruel when your business is death on the scale of millions.

      1. avatar Hannibal says:

        Yeah, we’ve already got expanding ammo- this ain’t it.

  11. avatar sound awake says:

    the fbi used 115 grain jhps in their 9mms in the miami shootout in 1986

    “the light and fast bullet theory”

    not enough penetration in the first few seconds of the battle led to the loss of four agents

    what stopped that fight was good old fashioned 158 grain lead semi wadcutter hollowpoints loaded to .38 special specs fired from a wheelgun

    “the heavy and slow bullet theory”

    i carry 147 grain jhps for that reason

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      It’s been a while, but I recall that only one guy had a 9 mm (S&W) and it jammed on him. Two of the agents had .38s, and another had a shotgun and a .357. The problem with the wheel guns was the reload time.

      1. avatar Em says:

        The problem was that the agents were woefully unprepared to take on two dedicated and remorseless killers… Despite knowing that they were dedicated and remorseless killers.

        1. avatar Dave Lewis says:

          I understand that the agents had body armor but they didn’t choose to wear it in the hot and humid Florida climate. The accounts say that at least one had a Colt 9mm AR pattern SMG in the trunk of his car where it did no good at all. A wounded Eddie Morales ended the fight with a 158gr semi wadcutter out of his snubby .38. I don’t like to disrespect the dead, but those agents made numerous strategic and tactical mistakes and assumed that the bad guys would roll over when they learned that the bad ass FBI was after them. In the end the shooters were just outnumbered and put down by sheer volume of fire, but not until a lot of people died or were seriously injured.

  12. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

    I was hoping Jon or Liberte, or readers would shoot a bunch of pigs or something with the fluted bullets and report on how well they performed in the more elastic living flesh as opposed to the less elastic gel. I have fired lots of Lehigh xtreme defense in .357 and .327 and like the barrier performance and penetration in gel but I still have no idea if they do more to living flesh than ball.
    So for now I still rcarry 230 HSTs in my .45 and 125 GoldDots in .357, but gamble on the 50gr xtreme cavitatiors in .327 at 2025fps since I am wishful that that is fast enough to start doing more damage than just the track crushed directly by the bullet. I am not at all confident that it does though.

  13. avatar TruthTellers says:

    Remember Bob, a hollow point that doesn’t expand is no better than an FMJ hardball. I’m a big fan of the Polycase/Ruger ARX with the light weight polymer/copper bullet that tumbles when it hits flesh.

    Barrel length is irrelevant, so from snub revolvers, which are still very popular, the will it/won’t it expand question is eliminated.

    That’s great because then over penetration isn’t a concern. You just point, shoot, and tell the cops that you reacted in self defense and you’re pressing charges on the person how attacked you and you shot and any further questions the investigators can direct to your attorney.

  14. avatar neiowa says:

    This John Farnam apparently has a lot of BS to spout.

    45ACP, also steady and slow, but no growth Someone alert S&W that they will never be able to sell any .45 Shields or M&Ps

    1. avatar WRH says:

      “Growth” refers to the segment of the market that .45ACP pistols occupy actually growing larger. It doesn’t mean that .45 caliber pistols aren’t selling, it just means that they are selling at, or below what they’ve sold in the past.

  15. avatar Texican says:

    Military Arms Channel and Iraqveteran8888 have done penetration tests using gel and various barriers with Underwood Ammo. And MAC shot a pig with the 9mm. It has performed beautifully and is why it’s what I carry now.

  16. avatar Jim Bob George Bill John Jones says:

    Pubic support for 357 Sig is important…

  17. avatar IAmNotTheHulk says:

    10mm , everyone has a gun out for this caliber these days, yeah, its dying of…LOL
    My Colt Delta Elite bruises my bones with CorBon Hunter, that combo will stop any tweaker, deer, small bear.
    I love 147 grain in my 9, better accuracy, 115 and 124 grain not so much (Glock 43). Underwood EP and ED are also solid choices, a lot of oomph and quite flat shooting, even the EP in 10mm are outstanding.

    1. avatar Leighton Cavendish says:

      And the cost of ammo? Variety? Sellers?
      People like what they like…that’s why we have dozens of calibers.

  18. avatar Gun control doesn’t work says:

    I like 9mm because it easy, It’s effective, recoil is manageable, it’s good enough, it’s getting better with new tech, easy to find in stores, etc.
    I want Rugers New PC Carbine in 9mm and hope they make a caliber change for 10mm for some hog hunting.

  19. avatar Cloudbuster says:

    “Operators.”

    lol

  20. avatar Defens says:

    “LEO friends in South Africa have shot hundreds of people with 115gr +p HP rounds (mostly Cor Bon), and they’ve been very happy with it, much happier than they ever were with hardball.”

    I’m confused – were the hundreds of shot people happy that they were shot with HP? Were some of the shot people hit with both HP and hardball, and preferred being shot with HP?
    Or were the LEO’s happy?

  21. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

    9mm is like Jenifer Aniston. She does everything well and is just sexy enough to keep your attention, but you know you catch yourself checking out that tiny hotty in the new rom com (380), You secretly lust after that one actress that’s been in everything (45 ACP), that starlet that just burst on the scene in that hot new movie everybody is gabbing about (357 SIG), and then there’s the always voluptuous Gal Gadot (10mm).

    There’s an old Hotrod axiom that holds true for guns as well.
    “There’s no replacement for displacement.”

  22. avatar Otalps says:

    Nice that they double as a Phillips screw driver just in case.

    1. avatar Mike says:

      Good one, but I actually think they look like the head to remove broken screws.
      9mm is cheap, fits most into a magazine, low recoil (faster follow up), good penetration. many people use it so supply is easy.
      Any caliber will work however the 9mm is a good all purpose round for two legged threats.

  23. well I carry a 38 special. and if it is a lightweight, like my colt agent ( 14 ounces) I use good old fashioned wadcutters . otherwise hornady , xtp or critical defense. most of the time it’s the wadcutters, good penetration ( even after 2 layers of denim material) , accurate and very little recoil. and a case is cheaper then all the magic bullets out there. I am sure someone out is gonna disagree with me but I hit my target every time.

  24. avatar Big Al says:

    I stuff my 9, 40 & 45 with Federal’ HST. Even in a “price be damned” competition, these PREMIUM performance.

  25. avatar former water walker says:

    Meh…what counts is how well it stops the bad guy. I’m cheap and shoot 9mm very well. I’ll leave all the super fantastic rounds to you professional gunfighters. Honestly if I shoot ANYONE I’m in deep shite😩😖😟 I don’t overthink it…

  26. avatar FlamencoD says:

    I agree with the 115 gr or 124 gr +p bullets (I carry 115 gr +p 9mm), particularly in a shorter barrel that are common in the conceal carry world. The 147 gr (even +p) is too slow to reliably expand out of a 3.5″ or less barrel.

    Second -y’all that are getting hurt over this article…I don’t see anywhere in the article where he is saying .40 S&W or .45 ACP are inferior to 9mm, what I read is that they are just not that popular and aren’t selling as well anymore. 9mm is cheaper, holds more rounds, and has improved terminally to keep up with those bigger boys, so what’s the point of the big boys? I think the masses have caught onto that and that is why the drop in popularity of those calibers. All my semi-autos are 9mm and unless I start camping in the woods very regularly (not anytime soon), will probably stay that way.

    1. avatar SemperSapper says:

      With good bullet design, 147 gr will reliably expand from short barrels. See the tests that ShootingTheBull410 has done.

      Federal HST 147gr standard pressure:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3VfWkWMzOI

      Federal HST 147gr+P:

  27. avatar Gene Forsythe says:

    Well, poo! He didn’t even mention 9×21 and 9×25 Dillion. The very shame of it!

  28. avatar Hank says:

    9mm is for fags! Real men shoot .44 mag! Ok I’m just joking. But look, shoot the round you’re best at and is adequate for you’re terrain.
    If you’re in gang banger territory carry a .45, 10mm, or 9mm, and be ready to kill someone. Two to the chest one to the face. If you’re in wild animal territory, carry .45, .44mag, .454, 460xvr and up. And Empty that whore into you’re opponents face. Period.

  29. avatar Badwolf says:

    i think the term youre looking for is “reverse ogive”

  30. avatar auldzalt says:

    Aren’t these ARX rounds cut from copper? The only thing holding me back from carrying ARX rounds is cost . Will these make a an acceptable price point?

  31. avatar Jross says:

    So apparently I’m not the only one that wondered about shooting screwdriver bits from a gun.

    1. avatar MLee says:

      I made a comment about that a while ago and nobody found any humor in it whatsoever. Bullets are starting to look like Phillips heads. Next they will look like Torx bits.

  32. avatar Tt78 says:

    My dc is 357sig, never had any problems sourcing self defense or practice rounds in the last 4 years. I had a very hard time finding HST’s, though.

  33. avatar James69 says:

    I’ll keep carring the ARX rounds, until I have the chance to shoot some Hogs/Deer and see if it does more OR less damage.
    C’mon one of you – you tube guys with hunting areas will hundreds of hogs running around on them! Show us!!!
    I just ordered one of the Ruger PC carbines(X-mas!) I guess I’ll have to go hunting and see. Not a good test as the barrel is 12 inches longer but hey.

  34. avatar ozzallos says:

    Anytime I want my old and stagnating 45acp to perform like a 10mm or 40, I just drop the bullet weight to those calibers. Problem solved.

  35. avatar Matt(TX) says:

    Not stepping in a caliber war on a bet. However my first thought was what about people in New Jersey and San Francisco, California. Where hollow points are illegal. These are not hollow points!

  36. avatar MLee says:

    We need to ship a bunch of this stuff to Brazil so we can start seeing videos of how well it actually works on humans.

  37. avatar Prudiikal says:

    10mm is super popular in alaska, its a great anti animal round. its popular enough that its hard to find sometimes.

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