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I know, I know, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a 9mm Ammo Quest video, so you may have thought I was done. Far from it!  I’ve still got quite a few rounds to get through.  I’m still optimistic that some of them will be promising performers that will rival the best I’ve found so far.  Well, actually, I don’t necessarily need to rely solely on optimism, because I just got through testing the 147-grain Ranger-T . . .

and it’s superb. Really. From the 3″ barrel, Winchester’s 147-grain Ranger T-Series delivers, I believe, the best combination of penetration and expansion of all the 147-grain bullets I’ve tested. All the 147-grainers I’ve tried so far have been disappointing when tested from the 3″ barrel (excepting only the Federal HST loads.)  With the short barrel of the 9mm pocket pistol, it seems that the heavy 147-grain bullets have trouble reaching suitable velocity to ensure proper expansion, so we’ve usually ended up with partially-expanded bullets that overpenetrate. The HSTs have been an exception to that, both the 147-grain standard pressure and the 147+P HST expanded properly and came to a rest well beyond the 12″ minimum penetration depth I am testing to.

The Winchesters, however, expand well and penetrate deeper. And they have nasty sharp talons originally seen on the infamous “Black Talon” bullet. From what I can Google, the Ranger-T is a design improving on, but derived from the Black Talons. They’re just not black.

Regardless of whether they’re inspired by the Black Talon or not, these bullets are highly consistent in penetration depth and expansion size, with each test I conducted resulting in three bullets stopping all at the same depth, and the other two close by.

While I am a big fan of the performance of the HST, I have to say that the Ranger-T’s may represent an even better performance combination than the 147-grain HST does, since the Ranger-T’s penetrate a little deeper. I like the depth the Ranger-T’s reached, even if it means that the bullet is slightly smaller in size.  The talons present a nice secondary wounding factor for deep penetration cutting.

Normally the talons wouldn’t have much effect on the bullet’s cutting capability during the majority of the bullet’s travel through the flesh or gel, since the cavitation of the flesh spreads it around the bullet and the talons wouldn’t be directly interacting with much tissue.  However, when the bullet is towards the end of its travel, and has slowed down enough that cavitation is no longer happening, it’s possible those nasty little sharp talons might indeed slice a vital artery that a more-rounded bullet (such as, say, a Federal Guard Dog) might just slip past.

Finally, I appreciate that the heavy Ranger-Ts reached this level of penetration and expansion in a standard pressure load.

Frankly, this kind of performance from a pocket 9mm is really promising. I don’t know how the rest of the 9mm Ammo Quest will shake out, but as of now I can say that we definitely have a new entrant in the category of “best performers” — the Winchester Ranger-T Series 147-grain.

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  1. Thanks. This kind of validated info is invaluable, and big part of the “what gun to carry” equation.
    Depending on how serious you take the decision, I’ argue at the beginning, what bullets in what caliber can do the job, then select platform after…

  2. Thanks for the review. I’ve thumbed up and subscribed. Looks like HST and Ranger are still top dogs.

    My carry guns are all loaded with Ranger ammo, albeit .40 and .357.

    Hey RF, the title says 146 grain and it should be 147.

    • A81, I use Ranger a lot, and some of it is loaded very hot. I’m far from recoil averse, but I can’t help but wonder what it will do to a compact .40 or 9mm over time.

      • If you’re firing enough premium self-defense ammo to wear out your gun I have two questions for you: What do you do for a living? Where did you hide the bodies?

        That said, any late model handgun, even sub-compacts, will not crack or wear out prematurely as long as you replace the springs on schedule.

        • I’m a cop who shoots a fair amount and can get that ammo for a reduced price from the LAPD academy. I’m on a first name basis with a lot of the sales guys there, and I’m good friends with our range guy who shoot the same stuff, as well as good friends with another range guy in WI.

        • The springs in my duty guns, over the years, have been replaced at taxpayer expense. My off duty Glocks get standard weight springs. I’ll probably make the next replacement with tungsten springs and guide rods. The off duty parts are my own expense from the Glock Store.

  3. I actually reached the opposite conclusion regarding Ranger T vs HST – if both bullets are penetrating 12″-18″, I think consistent expansion becomes more important than exactly where they penetrate within that window. The difference in the size of expansion were so minor as to be irrelevant, but the HST’s were 10/10 on expansion compared to 9/10 for the Ranger T.

    That said, I also judge these on a pass/fail basis rather than trying to rank them, and the Ranger T, HST, Critical Defense, Gold Dot Short Barrel all passed (I can’t remember if I’m missing any). I am quite curious about Lehigh Defense Maximum Expansion 9mm, though – how do we go about sending you ammo?

  4. Loaded some HST 124 grain for my shield after watching the STB video on that particular round, LOVE the Ammo Quest vids STB410, keep up the awesomeness.

  5. The ammo test post are great. Thank you for taking you time to do them. When you have done all of them will you being doing a post where you have all the results listed and pick the winners etc?

    • Yes, definitely. Although I’ve learned my lesson — I won’t call it the “final” results… 🙂 I did that with the .380, and then went on to test a good half-dozen or more rounds after I thought I’d done my final test. So I’ll post something like a “best I’ve found so far” type of post or video.

      • So when do we get this “best I have found so far video for 9mm”?? Its been 2 years since your last 9mm quest. Seems like you have given up.

  6. How do these 147 grain rounds perform out of a longer barrel? My sigma performs really well with 124 grain loads. I’ve never used the 147 grainers. Am I missing something performance wise by ignoring the 147’s?

    • Missing out on more recoil. The performance differences are marginal and probably insignificant in the real world.

      • I feel the recoil is more tame with 147s.

        But yes, marginal would be the description of how much.

    • I wouldn’t say you are missing out on anything…

      I used to shoot 124s exclusively, but have switched 147s exclusively. To be honest, it’s not worth the switch unless it’s just time to cycle out ammo and you’re looking for something new.

    • Given the same barrel, 147’s have lower recoil than 124 and 115 since they are subsonic speeds. Most shooters can feel the difference, but some cannot… just largely depends on a person’s sensitivity.

      Speaking of subsonic, 147’s have less muzzle flash and are also perfect for silencer use (no sonic crack).

  7. As usual, a great post from ShootingTheBull410!

    By the way I am in the same boat … I prefer penetration over expansion when two different cartridges show similar results.

  8. Winchester Ranger-T has been my self-defense ammo for a few years now.
    9 mm, 127 gr. +P+ in my Sig SP2022 (3.9″ barrel), and
    .45 cal, 230 gr +P in my Sig P220 (4.5″ barrel)

    I’ve never done (or seen video of) any ballistic testing with them, but their reputation is very good. And I also like the sharp talons that probably do additional cutting in the wound track.

    However, I don’t think Winchester is making the Ranger-Ts anymore, and they are near impossible to find to buy. When I run out of Ranger-Ts, I will be buying their PDX1 Defender, which I believe is the latest version (improvement) of the Ranger-T design bullets.

    • PDX1 may be a refinement on the Ranger design, but it doesn’t make the same nasty talons as the Ranger T-series does.

      I wasn’t overly impressed with the performance of the PDX1 124-grain (or the nearly identical Ranger 124-grain) from the 3″ barrel, I’d go with HST over the Winchester offerings from that gun size. Might be a different story from the 4″ barrel or longer (which is what PDX1 is supposedly designed for; it is advertised as being the duty ammo of the FBI, and the FBI uses 4″ or longer barrels).

  9. HST = perfect performance, symmetric and very pretty to look at afterwards
    RangerT = perfect performance, scary to look at, and will cut you just handling it afterwards

    Gimme a box of Ranger T….no wait, make it a case.

  10. i think STB is in a league with jonny carson. in the late 70’s, carson joked on camera about a pending toilet paper shortage. next day, sho ’nuff, LA experienced a drastic sell-out (started to say ‘run’) of toilet paper. since STB featured the federal hst 147gr 9mm round, they are never in stock, or are $1.50+ per round. be interesting to see how fast black talon goes unavailable.

    • 147gr HST was rarely available long before STB published his review. It’s one of those elusive things that, when you see, you buy as much as you can, because it will go away the next day. I’m a lucky guy who got a crate of 1,000 back in the day… still keep that around, and sure glad I have it!

  11. I’ll have to try these, see how they feed in my Walther. Been firing Hornady Critical Duty Flexlock 135gr and they feed excellently, always looking for other hollow points and prefer heavy as opposed to light.

  12. I too am having alot or trouble finding these. If anyone has any suggestions, that would be great. I’ve tried calling Winchester, but they are alittle snobby, and won’t return my calls, or emails. No time to be pestered by the surfs I suppose.

  13. Seeing this makes me think that there is no reason that the same thing couldn’t be done with a .38+p load.
    About the same speed and size as these.
    Thanks for the review….this is a terrific bullet!!!

  14. I am happy that ShootingTheBull410 has confirmed my thoughts on Winchester Ranger 147g. It has been in my 9mm carry or other pistol for self defense for as long as I can remember. It runs flawlessly in every 9 I own. Until recently, pre-Newtown, you could buy it for something like $150 for 500. I’d love to find a deal like that again. It ain’t sexy but it works.

    I shot a a suicidal coyote with it a few years back at about 10 yards broadside and it dropped him immediately.

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