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I’m quite the Barnes fan and I’ve show it here and in various other venues. I’ve moved my hunting rifles exclusively to Barnes ammunition, and I’ve been very pleased with the accuracy and terminal ballistics. So when my day job boss offered to buy me some ammo, I jumped at the opportunity to pick up a box of 9 mm TAC-XPD to try out. I shot it through three pistols and my general feeling now is a solid “meh.” . . .

I’ve long struggled when it comes to bullet selection because I’ve never been able to decide whether accuracy is ultimately more important than terminal performance. This is especially true at bad breath and legal/practical handgun range. And I don’t know if I’ll ever solve that problem. I imagine that I’d take a one shot, man stopper, miracle bullet even if it shot a three inch group at 10 yards. But all things being the same, accuracy is very important to me. And, since I don’t own endless supplies of ballistics gelatin like our boy ShootingTheBull410, accuracy is the easiest for me to test.

So in the spirit of scientific testing, I arranged three targets at 7 yards on a crisp, windless day after I had warmed up with a hundred or so rounds of practice ammo. I then slow fired some five shot groups out of a M&P 9, XD(m), and FNS-9. All three guns are known, accurate guns in my hand. I loaded each magazine with 5 rounds of 124 gr. American Eagle FM and then 5 rounds of Barnes TAC-XPD. I then shot the five AE and five Barnes loads at 1″ x 1″ black squares on the same sheet of grid paper. The faint blue gridlines on the target are 4 squares per inch. The three targets are below.

XD(m) @ 7 yards – 5 shot groups
FNS-9 @ 7 yards – 5 shot groups
M&P 9 @ 7 yards – 5 shot groups

I didn’t go to the trouble of measuring the groups, but I can safely say that across the three guns I used for this test, the Barnes ammo is not as accurate as middle of the road FMJ practice ammo. This is a disappointing result given my love for all things Barnes. I had high hopes for this lightweight +P ammo for my peashooter.

While I fully acknowledge that the accuracy displayed here is not horrible, I wish it were better. To solve the question of terminal ballistics, I’ll lean on ShootingTheBull410 to do a full review.

Specifications: Barnes 9mm +P 115 gr. TAC-XPD

  • Bullet Construction: Copper
  • Bullet Weight: 115 gr
  • Pressure: +P
  • Qty: 20/box
  • Price: $27.99 @ Academy

Reliability * * * * *

I only fed 20 rounds, but they went smoother than shit through a goose.

Accuracy * * * 

I feel that premium ammo, in this case $1.40/round, should provide premium accuracy. I was disappointed.

Ballistics ???

tnoutdoors9 says it went 10.75″ in his ballistics gelatin block and felt that it did not provide adequate penetration. Assuming his gel block was calibrated to the FBI test, the Barnes bullet would fail their standards as well.

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  1. >I’ve never been able to decide whether accuracy is ultimately more important than terminal performance

    If terminal performance is so important, why are you even considering 9mm?

    • “If terminal performance is so important, why are you even considering 9mm?”

      If terminal performance is so important why are you even considering ammo without “magnum” after the diameter.

        • But, even if you can have rifle you should also have a sidearm…

          Pistol = secondary weapon.

          When I go hunting, I always have a sidearm on my belt.

          A 9mm at that, cause I like to live life on the edge, I guess

        • Agree 100%.

          But, if we are talking “you only get ONE,” pistol would not generally be my FIRST choice. Pointing that out helps ridicule those with strong emotional stakes in the caliber wars.

        • JR nailed it. No pistol (with the bare possible exception of a .454 Casull or .460 or .500 S&W) is in any way a match for a rifle.

          Handguns are, inherently, a compromise. When you go with a handgun you give up terminal performance in exchange for portability and concealability.

          It’s not that handguns can’t work; they can. But studies show that 6 out of 7 handgun shooting victims survive, so — in general, handguns aren’t all that terminal, whether they’re a .45 or a .380. On the other hand, you have a case like the Zimmerman case where a single 9mm bullet from a tiny 3″ barrel instantly ended the fight, so — it CAN happen. It’s just not all that reliable a solution.

          If you KNOW you’re going to be in a gunfight, bring a rifle. A handgun is for backup, or for getting caught unawares. And if you have to use a handgun, the biggest bullets that penetrate over 12″ are going to be your best bet, but only if you place ’em on target. A big powerful bullet that hits only thigh muscle pales in comparison to a little 9mm that punctures the heart. But a big powerful bullet that hits the heart is all the better.

        • “If you KNOW you’re going to be in a gunfight, bring a rifle…”

          And, 10 mags. And, a couple buddies, each with rifles and 10 mags.

          Fighting fair is for losers.

        • >> It’s not that handguns can’t work; they can. But studies show that 6 out of 7 handgun shooting victims survive, so — in general, handguns aren’t all that terminal

          Don’t those same studies show that 9 out of 10 (or something along those lines) shooting victims are shot with a .22?

      • In deciding between terminal ballistics and accuracy as ultimate cartridge measures, the question is always raised within one caliber. The variation in TB between different calibers is decided based on personal weight, bulk, and recoil-tolerance decisions. These are not non-factors in carry life. Do you prefer 10mm? Well, within the 10mm offerings are you going to favor accuracy or TB of the cartridge? Your answer criteria will certainly parallel Tyler’s, regardless of caliber. No?

        • Handguns are the last resort in a gunfight. My opinion is handguns are with you when the unexpected happens and you require an immediate response to a potentially life threatening situation. Rifles and shotguns are battle implements, not handguns. I carry a Glock 17 loaded with Cor-Bon 125gr. +P everyday. My plan is to lay down suppressive fire enroute to my long gun.

  2. I’m assuming their website has a typo on that load – it says 1125fps. I’m guessing it’s supposed to be 1225 but even then that’s at the low end of +P 9mm loads.

  3. “I’ve never been able to decide whether accuracy is ultimately more important than terminal performance. ”

    Offered just for thought / discussion:

    Both are important. The best terminal performance in the world (whatever that means) is worthless on a shot that misses, and the best place shot is worthless if the bullet does not destroy tissue.

    That said, I like to think in terms of “acceptable accuracy.” On-paper differences in group size are fraught with all kinds of data interpretation errors, so let’s just get real practical with it.

    My biggest problem with people using inaccurate ammo is that they don’t get the right kind of feedback in their training. If you shoot well (solid fundamentals), your targets should reflect that. If you are doing something wrong, you need to KNOW it is you and not the ammo just sucks.

    So, super ‘match grade accuracy’ can serve a very real purpose – in training. If you know the ammo + gun can print 1/2 group at 10 yards, and in your training you are throwing 5 inch groups…it ain’t the ammo + gun….just as an example.

    In training, terminal performance does not / may not matter.

    As for EDC ammo…’good enough’ accuracy is as personal as what weapon is carried. Same could be said for ‘good enough’ terminal performance. I want as accurate as possible without sacrificing the terminal performance of a “good” JHP. Beyond that, I don’t give a lot of stock to the various heaps of hype that exist about this load vs load.

    I think too many of us look at the “numbers” and read far, far too much into them. First rule is, and always will be, “Have a gun.”

    • Great response. Ought to pretty much end the argument (but it won’t).

      To sum up:
      If you’re going to rely on a handgun for self-defense, it should be the most powerful gun/cartridge combo that you can: 1, have at hand whenever you need it; and 2, shoot accurately and repeatedly. Whatever that is.

      In my case, it has to be something that my wife and I can both handle confidently. I had .40 S&W on my mind when I went out shopping for our household’s first handgun, but she didn’t deal well with the stiff slide springs and the snappy recoil (and to tell the truth, after shooting both 9 and .40 I agreed with her on the recoil part). Both of us are more accurate, especially with follow-up shots, in 9mm — so that’s what we have.

    • Sure but this will be debated up and down and you’ll have people saying go with HST (my bullet of choice), PDX-1 (or some other Ranger load), or Critical Defense/Duty, etc etc etc until every bullet on the market is covered. The truth is, different bullet designs in different calibers perform differently at different velocities. If you have watched ShootingTheBull410’s comprehensive testing videos, you can see an ammo like Critical Defense performing great in one caliber but poorly in another, or poorly out of a 2.5″ barrel in one caliber but great out of a 3.5″ barrel. Same goes for most other bullets.

      The truth is, I don’t carry the same bullet in 9mm as I do in .380 because the performance is not consistent in each loading. Yeah, you can simplify but you can also do better and optimize load to caliber and to specific firearm (barrel length, mostly).

      • Gold Dots work great in everything. The whole HP arms race is akin to Camaro vs Mustang imho. I wouldnt have any worries using any modern HP, but when you come full circle after trying all the latest greatest whiz bang newest this and that Gold Dots are still the “gold” standard. Its just easier for me to stick with one brand.

        • The interesting question is how to set up your Mustang or Camaro, not which one to buy. Should you put your allocated money into engine work or tires and suspension parts?

        • Of course, the same (“it just works reliably in any caliber”) can also be said of HST.

          Basically, we have several good brands of HP now that work reliably. Choice is good.

  4. Note on tnoutdoors9: He posted a YouTube update video on 2 MAR 14 that explains why he has been off the net for a while. He contracted influenza and complications related to it in December and spent almost two months in the hospital. He is at home and still recovering. I wish him and his family well as he continues to get better.

  5. Hickock45 hits the 80 yard gong with any and every pistol he shoots with whatever he pulls out of his old cigar boxes, watch specifically his “accuracy” video.
    Now shrink that down to 7 yards or less and any inaccuracy is shooter caused.
    I can hit the 5X with a snowball at seven yards but my Shield likes low left, but I’m workn’ on it..
    Bottom line, terminal ballistics should be the driver of SD ammo choice.

    • Not true in the most general sense. I’ve seen my pistol throw ammo all over the place…cheap fodder stuff not even on paper. That same pistol has shot 2″ groups at 25 yards.

      Ammo matters a LOT for accuracy for a variety of reasons. Stating otherwise, in the absence of specific testing of specific ammo in specific guns is disingenuous.

      Shoot, the post above shows this…there’s a difference in the tested ammo and the “control” ammo. A very clear difference, tested in three different pistols. Sometimes, the differences are even more striking.

        • No, not just that. It’s a LOT of things. I’ve handloaded thousands and thousands of rounds of ammunition in a variety of calibers. I’ve been involved in interior ballistics research and aerodynamics modeling of bullets in flight.

          All ammo is not the same in all guns. But, how much that matters to you is up to you.

          Bottom line, for me, is if nothing else, it comes down to ‘confidence in proficiency.’ If I have a load that is throwing rounds in 2-3 ft groups at 25 yards, I don’t much care what it MIGHT do at closer range…that’s always going to be a niggling bit of doubt in that ammo.

          At the end of the day, though, it’s all personal choice. I choose to practice handgun shooting at long range (up to 250 yards for revolver) as well as defensive tactics at shorter, sd ranges.

          Your mileage may vary, as they say.

          And that’s the cool part. If you want to put all your ammo eggs into the terminal performance basket and with no view to accuracy, I’ve got no beef with that. I’ll assume that you are more than capable of choosing “good enough” for your own purposes.

          As I said in an above comment, first rule is “Have a gun.”

      • A bullet, driven through the confines of a rifled barrel at pistol velocities cannot fail to strike the vital area of a man sized target at 21 feet unless the barrel is not true. If the same gun shoots any other ammo to 2″, the problem lies with the shooter every single time. It would take real engineering work to produce a bullet that would not strike a 2’x1′ target at 21 feet from an otherwise accurate handgun when aimed properly at the moment of ignition.

        I personally don’t believe there is any factory available ammunition this inaccurate or, for that matter, any handgun so inaccurate as to throw rounds completely off such a target at 21 feet.

        Having cast lead pistol balls that were flat on one side and firing them through a smooth bore relic with inaccurate and variable powder charges while failing to ever miss a 2′ square box at 21 feet, I simply cannot believe that you’ve sourced a factory modern pistol load so inaccurate at that distance.

        • I was talking about ammo performing poorly at 25 yards, not 21 ft. The standard mechanical accuracy testing range for pistols is 25 yards.

          Lot’s of pistol competitions extend beyond 21 ft.

          Handgun hunting certainly extends beyond 21 ft.

          I was responding to an a generalization that ammo does not influence accuracy (in the example given was one internet youtube video producer shooting at 80 yards) and the point was “this is not generally true.”

          Ammo matters in regard to accuracy in the most general case. How that applies to any individual’s particular circumstance is precisely why I used the phrase above “acceptable accuracy” and more specifically stated this should be defined as practically as possible.

          Hope that clarifies…

  6. Lots of good responses here, and thanks to Tyler for getting to this. I will do a terminal test on it sooner or later; I’ve got a box of it in the ammo can right now. My test would be through a 3″ barrel as part of the ongoing 9mm Ammo Quest.

    As for accuracy, I keep meaning to do a pistol accuracy test through the Ransom rest. Maybe some HSTs, some Gold Dots, some DRT (they claim accuracy superior to all other bullets, so hey, let’s find out)… and I can add the Barnes to the list too.

  7. i agree with the idea of “good enough accuracy” when you’re talking self defense ammo. the idea that a half inch smaller than the biggest picture above equates to more deadly is more than a little optimistic in my opinion.

  8. People who own and carry pistols for personal protection are always making a tradeoff of some benefit at the cost of some other metric whenever they select a handgun model, caliber, and cartridge. Confirmation bias sets in and the person tends to become so deeply convinced that they do not reassess their original tradeoffs.

    Exactly what kind of attack (you’re always on defense….) do you reasonably expect to successfully defend against? Number of aggressors? Their weapons? The time you have to respond? Do your answers fit the likelihood of particular attacks? With two seconds from the time you realize a pedestrian is moving in on you with a knife, how many shots do you think you can get off with any aiming precision whatever? If the sudden threat is verbally delivered with a handgun pointed at you at a range of eight or ten feet (they won’t want to be close enough to allow a punch or knife response….) and you intend to draw and fire, how accurate will your first two shots be? Their gun is already up.

    So you can seek very accurate ammunition, but I agree that this is only useful in practice. Terminal ballistics matters more when, at ten feet, ‘very accurate’ ammo only yields a half-inch tighter group.

    What matters most (given the high quality of most carry loads) is that you practice your serious defensive shooting with one pistol model carried in one particular holster. Speed and accuracy haven’t got much to do with the cartridge in the pistol, really. Both have a lot to do with your time on the particular gun in the particular rig. Or so it seems to me.

    • I agree with the pretty much down the line, rope (see what I did there?).

      While shooting handguns for bull-eyes or other fine accuracy can be challenging and entertaining it’s not defensive training and in fact once the fundamentals are well established are more likely to result in ‘training scars’ in a defensive pistol use. The reality of armed defense and of physiological reactions to lethal force events dictate that the shooting will be most likely be quick and dirty directed somewhere at center of mass and with accuracy depending on how well you have internalized either rapid instinct or point shooting or perhaps front sight acquisition on target if you really train it a lot.

      I hear so much about shot placement and how it’s so much more important than terminal ballistics/wounding potential that I’ve nearly given up arguing against it but here is the low down; in studies of real shootings by real people who are at least moderately trained they tend to be focused on putting rounds out more so than choosing the best aim point, they don’t tend to even use the sights, and fortunately at the average DGU distances a sufficient number of their rounds strike their attacker to dissuade or incapacitate them.

      If I could leave someone with only one skill set/training regimen for defensive pistol work it wouldn’t revolve around accuracy or ‘getting of the x’ or anything else but this: practice drawing the same pistol (don’t really care what pistol) from the same holster on the same part of the body and firing it to slide lock as fast as they can while keeping 85% of the shots on a 2’x2′ target at 21 feet.
      The better the accuracy the faster you should go until the pistol sounds like a machine gun or Jerry Miculek working out. If your groups at 21′ are smaller than 5 inches you’re going much to slow.

      For a very new shooter they would go too fast and waste a lot of ammo but if this is the only drill they ever did eventually they would be very effective indeed. For a more experienced shooter, most find that they are shooting far to slowly and are obsessed with fine accuracy that isn’t necessary, desirable or even achievable in a DGU. 10 shots in one ragged hole will not give the same chance for incapacitation as 5 shots spread out all over the torso, the time it takes to deliver them is simply too slow, and it’s a rare shooter who has the calm and focus to pull of fine accuracy under that much stress.

      Even after 30+ years of shooting and 20 years of serious shooting and study it’s basically this Tueller drill that I a practice the most and suggest to others who need a fast track to DGU proficiency.

  9. WIthout going too far into terminal performance, I will say that Gold Dots are pretty much always surprising me with their accuracy. Even less-than-great guns drill little ragged holes with them.
    A few years back, a clubmate of mine who is also a veteran police officer, SWAT guy, and now commander for a certain upper-Midwest city known for lots of violent crime that isn’t Chicago, was talking about what he puts in his own guns.
    Money quote: “Well, we shoot about nine, ten, twelve guys a year and we have a pretty good idea what works.” And so he goes out the door with .45 caliber Gold Dots.
    He points out that winter up north-ish is an issue and lighter bullets don’t work as well. He will recall a winter day when he put a good number of 125gr Gold Dots into a gentleman at very close quarters and wound up having to fight the guy off with the assistance of some just-arrived fellow officers.
    He thought the little 9s had trouble getting the work done with several layers of cold-weather clothing in the way. He thought that had happened to a significant number of his brother officers, too.
    That’s about as close to science as I can get.

    • Without starting a caliber war, this is what I like about .45ACP in the northern winters especially: Even with the hollow point clogged full of clothing it’s still a large heavy slug that has a good chance of reaching the vitals. When reduced to what is essentially ‘ball’ ammo many of the arguments mitigating gains over the 9mm by the .45 fall away.

      Years ago SOP during the cold months used to be to load heavy for caliber ball in tandem with lighter, higher velocity hollow points in everything from .38 revolvers to 9mm autos so that at least every other shot would more surely penetrate adequately. I can remember stoking a Berretta FS with 147 grain ball and 127 grain hollow points in tandem loadings for the winter. These days advances in ammunition design have made up for this quite a bit but still the best loading in any caliber/barrel length can’t be the same in the Florida summer where heavy clothing is a tee shirt as it is for an Ohio winter where heavy clothing might be a tee-shirt, thermal undershirt, leather jacket and a fleece lined overcoat! (It’s enough to make a guy want to pack a nice .357 revolver.)

      Then again, what’s comfortably concealable in a Florida summer is not the same as what’s comfortable while dressed for an Ohio winter. A 1911 isn’t such a big gun to hide when you’re wearing your whole wardrobe at once.

  10. The test methodology proves nothing because the shooter is a variable that is not controlled. Either a Ransom rest should be used or another shooter at a minimum. Also velocity variability usually correlates extremely well with “accuracy”. It would be helpful if these were shot through a chrono.


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