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A couple of weeks back Black Hills surprised me with their new HoneyBadger 9mm 100gr +P. I was curious when I opened the boxes, as I discovered a radical and aggressively different bullet design.

As you probably know by now, a Honey Badger is a highly aggressive little beast. It is, by all accounts, one of the most fearsome critters in the world as well as one of the most clever and destructive. A member of the weasel family, the Honey Badger is a go-getter, capable of digging in or climbing almost anything to get what it wants.

So how does that relate to this new ammo? Well, like its namesake, the Black Hills HoneyBadger line is short of reasons to care about barriers, expansion, and recoil.

Accuracy and Basic Performance
I fired the HoneyBadger 100gr +P in a SIG SAUER P320 Compact for my testing. This is a great pistol and is very, very accurate with all the ammo I’ve fired with it. It’s almost the same gun that the Army is beginning to issue as the XM18, which is the compact version of the M17 MHS.

The load features an intimidating bullet which is a non-expanding solid. The bullet has four flanges with serrations that are designed for tissue displacement. The case is standard brass and it’s crimped slightly into one of the grooves on the bullet. The primer features red sealant for weatherproofing.

I tested the load for accuracy and velocity and achieved great results. Accuracy was nothing short of stellar. At 15 yards I fired five-shot groups from a standing position that came in at less than an inch. This translated to groups that measured an impressive 1.75-2” off the bench at 25 yards. It was next to impossible to miss a 10” steel plate at any distance under 50 yards.

Listed velocity from Black Hills is 1,300fps. The tested load reached just under this at 1225fps over my Oehler 35P chronograph for an average of 10 shots.

I experienced no failures to feed or eject when using this ammo. It allowed fast follow-up shots and rapid recovery.

Ballistic Performance
For this test I used a 10% FBI block from Clear Ballistics. Due to the accuracy I was able to achieve with the P320, I tested the load at a distance of 10 feet and out to 25 yards.

Over-penetration at close range is a distinct possibility. At close range in bare gel it passed completely through the gel block while delivering fantastic terminal performance all the way through. At ranges past ten yards it penetrated to a depth of 15-16” depending on barriers, and I recovered several.

What was most interesting is that this performance didn’t change much if at all when firing through almost anything. T-shirt fabric had no effect on the bullets at any range. Heavy denim and leather induced tumbling about half the time, which reduced penetration depth to 12-14”.

Barriers were very interesting as I noticed that the bullets deflected and yawed much more, but they generally didn’t tumble as much as the ones that went through heavy fabric. Side by side, you can’t really even tell what the difference between a bullet that went through a 2×4 or a piece of fabric.

Wounding Capacity
This bullet is a hard one to stop, much like its namesake. It always seems to get its penetrating depth, even if that means first passing through wood, fabric, or thick wall materials. The interesting part is that the bullets had the same effect on the gel even after passing through these barriers. The science is in the shape of the projectile.

Wound channels were typically 15-16” long and featured permanent damage at a depth of 5-10”. Permanent cavities displayed significant tearing and were wider than most hollowpoints. The most dramatic thing was the damage done by temporary cavitation. The fluid action that the bullet imparts on the tissue causes sudden and surprising expansion, which can deliver even more damage than a traditional hollowpoint.

I didn’t believe this until I tried it and it’s a fantastic trait of this ammo. Bottom line is this: if you can hit your target, the bullet will do the job.

You won’t have to worry about clogging or bullet failure because the spin is where the magic is and the gel told that story with every hit.

Overall Impressions
The 9mm 100gr +P HoneyBadger is an incredible new design. Today’s advancements in bullet technology have given us surprising new levels of function and performance. This load demonstrates that you can have deep, lethal penetration with low recoil and high accuracy.

The fact that this bullet doesn’t rely on expansion is key to its effectiveness at any range a defensive handgun will be used. The radical appearance translates to function in that it can go through a 2×4 without clogging and then still deliver lethal tissue expansion. It’s the shape of the bullet that does the work, not the mechanical action of a traditional hollowpoint.

Price wasn’t listed for this load on the Black Hills site at the time of this writing, but I expect it to be in the same range as the rest of the HoneyBadger line.

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy: * * * * *
This load was very, very accurate. It just wanted to shoot tiny groups.

Handling: * * * * *
Recoil was low, not snappy at all. The noise and muzzleblast was a bit sharper than most 9mm loads, but that’s to be expected in a supersonic +P load?

Reliability: * * * * *
It fed reliably throughout the course of my testing.

Terminal Performance: * * * * 
This Honey Badger don’t care what it has to go through to get a tissue scramble. The results I got were fantastic and it delivered solid performance in my test circumstances. Over-penetration is a factor at close ranges.

Overall: * * * * 
Despite its aggressive appearance, this is a honey of a cartridge. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it in a carry gun. I think Black Hills has a winner here and it is a welcome departure from the carry ammo norm.

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        • I’m curious about this bullet design out of a 38sp and or .380.

          It might work for pocket guns.

        • Art: the Lehigh in .380 was an all time high performer for Shooting the Bull. He thought it was perfect in every way.

    • Seems more like a rip off of polycase interceptor aka ruger arx ammo with the flutes and light for caliber performance

      • The ARX is a polymer-copper matrix. The Lehigh bullet are solid copper. They will increase barrel wear. I have ordered some xtreme penetrators in 45 and 10mm for bear defense. These rounds will penetrate 24+” of balistic gel. Either caliber will penetrate a grizzly skull.

        • Considering how much these cost, barrel wear is likely not going to be a concern. The majority of purchasers will likely shoot half a box, load their carry pistol’s magazine, and then never shoot it again.

          A few people will shoot their carry ammo once a year, then buy a new box and start the cycle over again.

      • Which is a rip-off of the Lehigh main design feature, if not the manufacturing technique (for which I salute Polycase).

    • Is the bullet shape the exact same? My Walther PPQ doesn’t like the Lehigh round much which was a shame. I’d like to give these a try if the shape is a bit different. Otherwise I carry Hornady Critical Duty which is also an awesome round.

    • Too bad lehigh’s round is a gimmick that exploits inelastic properties of ballistics gel to give the eappearnce it causing wounds where the bullet didn’t touch.

      I don’t want to write a whole thesis on this, but here’s a simple way to understand why its effects only work in gelatin*:

      —–If you take a block of BALLISTICS GELATIN and try to fold in half, it will RIP IN HALF.

      —–If you take a bloody STEAK and bend it in half, NO PERMANENT DAMAGE will occur

      This round is creating focused STRETCH CAVITIES on the ballistics gelatin. In gelatin stretched that far, you will create tears in the madium.


      In ACTUAL LIVE TISSUE filled with blood, you the tissue WILL NOT TEAR like ballistics gelatin does.

      Also this an the Lehigh would have VIOLATE the LAWS of PHYSICS to do actual damage and penetrate to same depth as equally-weighted Ball ammo: The conservation of energy would imply that in order to damage the tissue, the bullet would spend energy to do. That spent energy translate into the bullet decelerating, These bullets penetrate in gel blocks the same as the BALL rounds with bullets that WEIGH almost the exact SAME (I have frangible Ball rounds in multiple weights from no less than 5 different manufacturers that use for steel targets and collect).

      I have frangible ammo of multiple types that I collect and test, ones with no hollow-points, that, though they fragment hitting metal, in gel they PENETRATE to the exact SAME depth as the LeHigh if nearly the exact same weight….

      …That means that the LeHigh are spending no more energy than the Ball rounds, therefor it is impossible for them to have imparted more energy (and this is at approixmaity 15 ft away on both, so there is no discernible difference in the impact velocity).

      I hope this clears it up.

      Note that rifle rounds in this shape might have enough energy to impart wounding wider than the bullet.

    • In appearance, a noticeable difference. Go look at a pic on the Lehigh site. In performance, probably not so much. Neither deforms, both have bullets light for caliber (although Lehigh does make full weight bullets), and both have ample penetration. Lehigh makes an Xtreme Penetrator that will,according to one tester, massively overpenetrate in 9 mm, as well as an Xtreme Defender which has less power and performs within the FBI spec.

  1. They are Lehigh bullets. Black Hills only has this one load whereas Underwood has multiple loads. I like the Underwood options espicially the 65 grain going around 1800 (!) fps.

  2. And I’m struggling to see how “Over-penetration is a factor at close ranges” and “wouldn’t hesitate to use it in a carry gun” agree with each other. ???

      • No bones in the block, but the article notes that barriers such as 2×4’s had no impact on penetration. I would think over penetration would be a significant risk, but perhaps the author is in a rural area where this is less of an issue?

  3. Lehigh Defense? Nah, Charles Kelsey of Devel Custom.

    Google 9mm Devel and you’ll see that this is nothing new, just a clever spin on an old design.

    People seem to have forgotten this guy and what he was working on at the time of his death.

    I would say patent infringement on Lehigh and Black Hills but Charles has been gone since 2003.

    Remember, it isn’t new, just reinvented.

  4. Uhhh…OK. It’s good ammo AND it doubles as a screwdriver!😄Sorry but I’m invested in Sig. $5 off a box at my lgs…but a good review nevertheless.

      • HST is what I carry in all my 9s, but in the rare occasion I need to carry my LCP, this design in .380 is intriguing.

      • Agreed on the Sig ammo performance. I primarily carry Sig pistols and prefer them to all of my others. It’s ironic that the Sig defensive ammo performs so poorly in them compared to several other brands. I carry professionally, and I test at least 1,000 rounds of any defensive brand prior to a thumbs up or down for each pistol I rely on. At least in my pistols, the Sig performs the worst.

      • Maybe because Taurus, but Xtreme Penetrator doesn’t feed well in my TCP .380 or I would carry it. I haven’t tried Polycase, but it does have the rounder nose.

  5. Temproary cavity damage isnt increased over a normal hollowpoint. It’s the same, which is to say, irrelevant at the velocities it impacts with.

    • Also, the permanent cavity is smaller because there is no expansion. The total volume of the cavities may be comparable because of deeper penetration, but overpenetration doesn’t provide additional useful wounding unless it’s for critters instead of creeps.

  6. I might load my edc with this arguably effective ammo when the police start using it. My fascination with radical bullet design named for vicious animals ends when I imagine the prosecutor shouting it again and again to the ignorant jury as I am in court for defensive use of that edc.

  7. I know a lot of folks shy away from candy caning their mags , but this to me seem a perfect companion to Hornady’s Critical defense FTX load . I think I’ll give it a whirl .

  8. I’ve run 40 rounds of Underwood’s .380 ACP Extreme Defenders through my Beretta Pico. Not one problem. It’s my carry ammo for the Pico which I carry mostly every day during the warm months; either in my DeSantis OWB holster or pocket. I ordered my Pico with the Green laser designation & Tricon night sights. When possible, given weather & clothing conditions I carry, again OWB holster, either a 9mm Springfield Armory XDe or SA’s EMP 40S&W both loaded with Underwood Extreme Defender ammo, lots of rounds through each. I have had a Concealed Carry License for thirteen years, lots of training & lots of reading – I’m comfortable with the Extreme Defender round in any caliber. Best regards to all who read this post.

  9. Interesting. Will shoot through auto windshields, doors, and the perp too?
    Wouldn’t the ATF consider these “armor piercing”?
    Wear out bbls? These aren’t any harder than FMJ’s copper case.
    Glock bbls won’t wear out. But if they did, probably the better!
    +P pressure may beat up some guns.
    G17,19,26 shooter.


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