In this latest installment of the 9mm Ammo Quest, I put three varieties of MagTech 9mm ammo through the 3″-barrel 9mm pistol. The tested varieties are the 92.6-grain First Defense, the 115+P Guardian Gold, and the 124-grain Guardian Gold. The recoil on the light 92.6-grain solid copper First Defense was noticeably mild. Velocities were all over the board, ranging from 1073 fps up to 1268. Three of the five bullets showed no expansion at all and two showed mild expansion. Overall penetration was excellent; expansion was minimal . . .

The 115+P performed mostly okay; four of the five shots traveled between 11.50″ and 12.50″, all expanded, and only one really showed any disintegration, the other three looked pretty good. But the second shot in bare gel was the problem; it traveled only 9.50″, far short of the bare minimum 12.00″ distance required by modern defensive ammunition standards. The bullet expanded to a quite large size for a 9mm (.621″ average diameter, with a maximum measurement of .697″) but it didn’t come close to meeting the minimum standard. Because of that, I’m not bullish on this round.

The 124-grain performed best overall, but was quite inconsistent, delivering penetration between 11.50″ and 18.25″. Through the bare gel, expansion was very good, and they penetrated almost deep enough to make the minimum (11.50″). The denim bullets look like they’re from a completely different line of ammo though. They didn’t expand nearly as much and penetrated deeply (13.50″), really deeply (16.25″), and extremely deeply (18.25″). That’s great, delivering on the single most important factor of defensive bullet performance (sufficient penetration). But while that’s all well and good, it’s completely underwhelming when compared to today’s premium defensive offerings.

Take a glance at an HST, or a Gold Dot, or Winchester’s Defend or Ranger-T, and you’ll see what a modern bullet design can do. Winchester Defend penetrated a consistent 16″ from this same gun, with consistent expansion, each and every time, with and without denim. While these MagTech bullets would indeed be effective, I just have a hard time understanding why I’d want to give up the superior consistent performance possible from other ammunition, and settle for bullet performance that looks more like what was typical in the 1990’s.

In summary — the copper First Defense penetrated great, but didn’t expand consistently (or even much at all even when they did expand) from the 3″ barrel. I’d probably suggest saving these for a longer barrel gun where they might deliver more consistent expansion and performance. So while penetration was good, there’s other ammo out there (like HST and Defend) that penetrate just as deeply but do so with bigger-expanding bullets.

The 115+P was a shallow performer. It expanded well, but the bullets hovered around the bare minimum depth, and one of the five bullets didn’t make the minimum. I’d have a hard time trusting a round that doesn’t meet the minimums consistently, so I’d say pass on that one.

The 124 was the best performer through denim, delivering great penetration and some (but not much) expansion. Through bare gel they delivered better expansion, but slightly insufficient penetration. As compared to the other two, I think the 124 might be the best overall performer, but it doesn’t compare well to premium modern defensive ammunition.

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9 Responses to 9mm Ammo Quest: MagTech Guardian Gold and First Defense

  1. Magtech makes some outstanding value range training 9mm that I buy in bulk. It performs flawlessly. Their personal defense ammo looks like it leaves a lot to be desired. I suspect this stuff is probably very inexpensive (I don’t know as I’ve never priced it) and it’s performance probably tracks close to the price point. For me, price is not a major factor when choosing my PD ammo. Another fantastic 9mm Ammo Quest. I love these!

  2. Thanks for the info. I’m still going with the HST 124 grain +P in 9mm, but from 4″ or longer barrels. Velocity from the LWD 4″ conversion barrel from a Glock 23 averages 1240 FPS, and 1260 FPS from my 4.4″ barrel Sig 226. I’m curious what my 5.3″ barrel Glock 35 LWD conversion barrel will do.

    Looks like I’m getting 100 plus more FPE than what the 9mm subcompact produces. I didn’t expect much from Magtech as a defensive ammo choice.

    I’ll always found STB videos to be interesting and informative.

  3. Still waiting for the test of Buffalo Bore .380+P JHP ammo, not the hardcast stuff that was designed to over penetrate.

  4. You need 2000fps to get consistent and reliable bullet expansion. No handgun can produce that that I know about.

    • Nope. Plenty of 9mm – .45 JHP ammo expands just fine at 800-1200 FPS. Even through denim. Just use a quality JHP like HST, Ranger, PDX, Critcal Duty, etc.

  5. Loved this article. I’ve been testing .45 auto ammo for nearly a year now. Everything from almost 30 doffered brands and every line of ammo they have. The magtech guardian gold performed very well and has been the most accurate defense load I’ve ran through my p227. However do you know if they still make it? Locally all I’m finding and cratered their regular jhp and the first defense. I went to their site, but it isn’t listed. Any info on these would be great! Thanks again

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