By John Stewart, chief gunsmith of Kiote Rifles.
I live in a 1050 square foot ranch-style house. And, as ranch style houses go, everything inside is very linear. Ingress/egress is by one of two doors at the front of the house. Aside from the living room where you arrive when you walk inside, everything else branches off the main hall – the “fatal funnel” when you cross the front door threshold.
I also have a wife and daughter, and so I have a vested interest in finding out if one could roll his/her own 9mm ammo, using a quality projectile and keep it from penetrating a standard residential household wall.
Obviously, inflicting maximum damage on an aggressor goes without saying. I just don’t want to have to worry as much about the round going through a wall and striking a family member who’s probably seeking cover in another room.
A quick note about the rules for safe firearm usage: always know your target and what’s beyond it. That’s easy enough on a static firing range. But in a real-world situation, nothing is static and nothing is perfect. Thus, the need to satisfy my curiosity and test what it would take for a projectile to penetrate not only an aggressor, but also the wall behind that aggressor.
The testing protocol for this project was as follows:
- Establish benchmarks for three loads – factory Hornady 115gr Critical Defense FTX, handloaded 115gr XTP, & handloaded 147gr XTP
- The handgun of choice should be an EDC type, short-barreled, small frame handgun
- Construct a faux wall with standard use ½” drywall
- Hang a simulated “aggressor” target no more than three feet in front of faux wall
- Assume a proper shooting position no more than three yards in front of the simulated “aggressor”
- Fire once round of each ammo type into “aggressor”
- Evaluate penetration of faux wall
Ideally, the projectiles would penetrate the “aggressor” but not the wall. The goal is to try to limit the average velocity of each round in order to achieve that end.
I contacted the fine folks at Hornady to find out what the necessary velocity is for both the 115gr & 147gr XTP. They were nice enough to inform me that it’s 850fps & 750fps, respectively. Consulting my LEE Precision Load Data Book (IMO, the best all-around data book because it lists every possible weight and every possible powder for any given caliber) and Hodgdon’s website, I opted for the lowest charge weight with the lowest possible velocity and the lowest possible pressure rating. I then compared that to what powder options I currently had available.
Fortunately, I had exactly what was needed: Titegroup. The 115gr XTP got 4.5gr & the 147gr XTP got 3.2gr. All test ammo was loaded with CCI small pistol primers and brand new Starline brass in order to minimize the variables. Using a Springfield XD-S and the Beta Chrony chronograph (set up exactly three feet from the muzzle), the average velocity for each of the test rounds were as follows:
- Factory Hornady (lot # 3171470): 1,065 fps
- Handloaded 115gr XTP: 982 fps
- Handloaded 147gr XTP: 859 fps
The “aggressor” in this test was formed by using two slabs of ribs stuffed with a pork loin between them, bound and hung from an overhead support. The pork loin was left in its plastic wrapper to simulate the resistance found in fascia and the resistance live tissue has as a result of isometric resistance and action potential from nerve endings. How accurate is that? Not really sure. But it represented a variable I couldn’t account for otherwise.
The test results, for what I’m calling Part 1 (because I’m going to perform the test again with the same set-up but from a distance of three feet to the aggressor in Part 2), are as follows:
Factory load: penetrated meat, penetrated wall.
Handloaded 115gr: penetrated meat, penetrated approximately half of the thickness of the drywall and fell to the floor.
Handloaded 147gr: penetrated meat, penetrated approximately half of the thickness of the drywall and lodged there.
In conclusion, I think it’s probable that one can load his/her own ammo slow enough so that it will penetrate an aggressor, but won’t penetrate a wall under these conditions. I recommend you trying it for yourself and deciding if it’s right for you.
Here’s video of the test: