The first time I heard about Seismic Ammo’s 185gr +M 9mm personal defense load, I had to pause and try to understand what exactly I was looking at. I get wacky tips and promotional items all the time, and most of them are gimmicks. I initially figured that this was no different, but after receiving some of it to test, I have to say that there’s no gimmick here.
Jeremy S. talked to Seismic at SHOT Show in January . . .
Seismic’s heavyweight 9mm QuakeMaker +M personal defense load (+M means more mass) offers some pretty impressive features.
Some of you may wonder what a 9mm round is doing with a 185 grain bullet. That weight is heavy, even for longer cases like the .357 Magnum. There is just so much bullet present that it’s actually hard to imagine all of it fitting in a 9mm case.
There really isn’t a reason why it wouldn’t work It’s just that up until now, the technology hasn’t existed to allow for such a heavy bullet to offer expansion at handgun velocities. The manufacturer told me that this ammo was designed with carbine-length barrels in mind, but it’s a good option for pistols, too.
I was initially concerned that these large bullets would be going along at a very slow pace and wouldn’t really do all that much as far as terminal effectiveness. I was honestly expecting 600 fps or something. Fortunately, that was not the case.
To my surprise, my two test guns — a SIG P365 and full-size SIG M17 — delivered pretty decent velocity considering the high mass of the round. My average for the M17 was 905 fps. The P365 came in slightly slower at 849 fps. Both velocities were faster than I imagined they’d be. I was prepared to have them come out of the pipe at approximately paintball velocity.
For comparison, here are the rated velocities for some comparable 147 JHP rounds:
Speer Gold Dot: 985 fps
SIG SAUER V-Crown: 900 fps
Remington HTP: 990
Buffalo Bore: 1175
Federal HST: 1000
The theory and effectiveness of heavy bullets isn’t something that should be foreign to most people. There’s always been a longstanding argument between proponents of one caliber or another, with those discussions typically hinging on capacity versus bullet mass.
The 185 grains of the Seismic 9mm round would on the low end of the weight scale for calibers like .45 ACP. The main difference between a 185 grain .45 and a nine of the same weight is the sectional density and meplat of the bullet.
In theory, the longer bullet will lose less energy on impact and drive in deeper into the target. A wide bullet will lose the majority of its energy on impact and, due to greater surface area, will slow down much faster in tissue.
There are points to both that are worth considering.
When it comes to the ever-popular nine millimeter round, the typical bullet weight is usually around 124 grains. Most practice ammo is 115 grain. If you’re really a cool guy, 147 grain bullets are about as heavy as it gets in 9mm, but you quickly begin to lose a number of advantages as you get up there.
The 9mm is typically best in a lower weight, high capacity role. That’s not to say there are no good personal defense offerings in the 147 grain class, there certainly are, it’s just that for most carry guns you are not really at an advantage. That’s actually what makes this 185 grain ammunition so interesting.
Despite having massive bullets, the individual cartridges are actually quite light. Part of the technology that allows for such a heavy bullet to be put into so small a case comes from the design of the case itself.
This ammunition uses two-piece stainless steel cases from ShellShock Technologies that Seismic says are lighter and stronger than brass.
Because of the internal geometry of the cases, these heavy bullets don’t actually restrict a tremendous amount of the available powder space. It was my initial concern that the bullets would be slow because, in my imagination, you could probably only fit about two grains of powder in there. This isn’t the case and the resulting performance was pretty surprising.
The most surprising thing about the Seismic QuakeMaker ammunition is that the velocity is not all that much slower than conventional 9mm bullet speeds. And despite the weight, the recoil impulse is extremely low and very smooth.
This would be an absolutely ideal type of recoil for competition shooting as there is very little muzzle jump and both pistols were very easy to get back on target.
Ejection of the cases was healthy and forceful, but the velocity of the slides wasn’t violent. You really have to shoot this ammo to see what I’m talking about. It’s difficult to believe that you’re throwing 185 grains of bullet for how low the recoil is. Physics being what it is, it just doesn’t seem like it should work out like that.
Accuracy testing showed that this ammo was perfectly capable of grouping with the best of them. The M17 showed excellent accuracy at 15 yards, easily producing five-shot groups about an inch wide from standing. The P365 did just about as well, but was slightly harder to shoot tight groups with from standing because of the gun’s smaller size and shorter sight radius.
I went out to 25 yards and rested the M17 on the bench. Accuracy was about 2.5 inches for five shots on average at that distance. That’s nothing to complain about.
Penetration and expansion
Physics dictate that a heavier bullet does, in fact, hit harder. The question is, would the heavier 9mm round perform as well when it hits its target.
Gel testing at 10 yards revealed that the bullets perform as advertised…depending. Average penetration from the M17 in bare gelatin from Clear Ballistics was 16 inches. The bullets expanded consistently well and drove deep to that last inch of the first 16-inch block.
Shooting the Seismic round from the shorter barrel of the P365 reduced the bullet’s expansion causing it to fully penetrate a 16-inch gel block and drop out the other side. The bullets still expanded, just not as much.
Some stopped at the same depth as those fired from the M17 in that last inch of gel, but a few just fell out the back. I would not call this over-penetration in the true sense. Over-penetration is where is won’t stop in three blocks of gel and just keeps going. This is common in hardcast lead bullets designed for bear country.
The bullet material allowed for decent expansion in the P365, but that seemingly small velocity gain in the M17 is where these bullets really need to be. The bullet expansion out of the P365 just wasn’t as consistent or as wide.
The reason a few fell out the back of the gel was probably due to the lack of immediate expansion and thus more retained energy, thus allowing them to drive a little deeper.
I don’t have a way to measure delivered energy, but I noticed that the wound channels in the gel showed that the bullets from the P365 were less dramatic and noted areas of expansion were deeper in and not as wide as those generated by the M17.
Based on my testing, I would say that this ammo is better suited to a full-size pistol as, while it’s certainly capable of good performance from a shorter barrel, it’s not optimized for those barrel lengths. You could certainly carry it in a small micro-compact pistol, but there are loads out there that are better suited for 3″ barrels.
The idea of high-mass projectiles isn’t new, but it is in terms of the execution here. I think that Seismic is really on the right path with this load in using a great blend of new and existing technology.
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Bullet Type: Jacketed hollow point
Bullet Weight: 185 grains
MSRP: $28.98 (21 rounds)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy * * * * *
Producing a 2.5-inch group at 25 yards, this load preformed well and was on par if not better than many 9mm personal defense rounds out there.
Reliability * * * * *
No malfunctions with either test gun.
Bullet Function * * * *
Despite relatively low velocity in shorter guns, penetration and expansion were very good. It clearly performs better in terms of expansion, wound channel and penetration from a full-size pistol
Overall * * * * 1/2
I was expecting a slow bullet with fierce recoil. What Seismic has produced is a round that’s comfortable to shoot with velocity in the range of bullets weighing 25% less. All while performing well in standard FBI gel test conditions. And it’s priced in line with similar personal defense rounds. I look forward to what else Seismic comes up with in the future.