With this test I’m continuing the 9mm Ammo Quest, searching for the best-performing defensive ammo for use in a 3″-barrel pocket pistol. Next on the line: Buffalo Bore part #24E, their 124-grain +P ammo. And this test produced some weird results . . .
First, this is a decently potent load. From the short 3″ barrel, the bullets delivered a 10-shot average of 1177 fps. Compared to Federal’s 124-grain +P HST, for example, the Buffalo Bore rounds averaged nearly 70 fps faster. That’s not insubstantial, especially from such a short barrel. That means the Buffalo Bore rounds were delivering about 381 ft/lbs of kinetic energy, from a tiny pocket pistol. Not bad at all! Also, the velocities were very consistent — the rounds were all within about 12 fps of the average. That’s surprisingly consistent.
Second, the denim performance was simply outstanding. All five shots delivered excellent, uniform expansion, and penetration ranged from good to superb. This is one of the best-performing loads through denim that I’ve tested from a pocket pistol.
However, that’s when things turned a bit sideways. The bare gel performance was completely unexpected. While the bullets did still penetrate deeply, they also…fell apart. They all shed their jackets, yes, but the jackets didn’t just fall off as in my test of the Golden Sabers. No, in this test the jackets shredded and fragmented, and the bullets largely disintegrated. Each bullet shed about 1/3 of its total weight, retaining a central core that was only about 74.6 grains in average. The rest of the bullet material was left strewn throughout the damage path that the bullet made.
This left me rather conflicted about this load. On the one hand, every bullet I fired did exceed the minimum 12″ requirement, and every one of them stayed within the 18″ maximum. So by that metric, this is a great load. It generates a lot of energy, it hits hard, and it penetrates deeply.
However, the bizarre behavior through the bare gel leaves me scratching my head — how could the denim performance be so exceptional, yet the bare performance be so different? Weight shedding is not a bonus in ammo design; modern ammo design is focused on keeping the bullet’s integrity so that it creates the largest and heaviest possible mass to deliver the most damage possible at its deepest penetration. When a bullet sheds its mass like these did, it ends up with just a small core reaching deep. And shed these did — look in the video at the bullet exam, you’ll see a huge pile of fragments, shards, shrapnel and shedded petals. I’ve never seen ammo behave this way before.
So I’m conflicted. It didn’t fail, it delivered the penetration necessary. It never under-penetrated. It didn’t fail to expand and over-penetrate. By all those metrics I should call it a good load. And, frankly, I think it is — I think if you were involved in a defensive encounter, and you put some shots of this on target, the ammo has the capability to perform the necessary task.
However, there’s other ammo out there that performs just as well, but doesn’t disintegrate through bare gel. Winchester’s Defend, for example, penetrated even slightly deeper than the Buffalo Bore, while delivering perfect expansion and with zero weight shedding. The HST 124 is another example — ideal penetration, excellent expansion, and zero weight shedding. So what would be the incentive to go with a load that sheds a third of its weight along the way, when there are other, viable candidates that don’t exhibit that behavior?
In the end, the Ammo Quest isn’t about finding which loads are “okay”, it’s about finding the best-performing loads. By that metric, the Buffalo Bore 124+P doesn’t quite meet that standard. If Buffalo Bore can modify the bullet so that the bare-gel bullets perform as well as the denim-gel bullets, they would have an outstanding product on their hands. As it is, I think it is a good-performing load and it would serve someone well who used it — but there are other loads that perform better.