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Press release via

The team at Lucky Gunner just published a collection of handgun ballistic data that’s shedding a ton of light on pistol ammo performance for shooters. The handgun ammo tests, which cover 117 different handgun loads in 380 ACP, 9mm, 40 S&W and 45 ACP feature penetration depth, retained weight, diameter, and velocity data. There are a number of high-resolution still photographs and high-speed video snippets detailing the performance of each load while entering a fresh block of synthetic ballistic gel after passing through four layers of fabric. You can access the ammo ballistic data by . . .

clicking HERE.

“This project ended up being a huge undertaking, but we knew there was no easy way to create this kind of much-needed resource for shooters looking for reliable information on the various self-defense loads on the market,” Chris Baker, the project leader and force behind the visual and technical aspects of the testing at Lucky Gunner said.

The team believes this is the most comprehensive study made publicly available to the shooting community in recent years.

All the data for the rounds as well as that round’s performance relative to other hollow point loads in that caliber are displayed on Lucky Gunner’s individual ammo pages. That means shoppers will have more than just a marketing message to base their defense decisions off of.

Lucky Gunner Ballistics Gel Test #2
Lucky Gunner Ballistics Gel Test #2

Further, the team dissects the FBI’s 12 to 18-inch penetration standard and various other aspects of traditional hollow point performance with sortable tables that also allow for easy comparisons of the various loads.

“Our goal throughout the design and execution phases of the project was to give shooters a reliable data point that they could use in their decision-making. We know not every shooter values the same characteristics in the same ways – because of that, we saw our job as to present all the data we could in a way that was easy to understand and not pass judgment on one round as being ‘better’ than another,” Anthony Welsch of Lucky Gunner said.

From here, there are several other calibers the team has already started to initialize testing for and they plan to add additional handgun loads to the 9mm, 40 S&W, 45 ACP and 380 ACP mix as they become available on the market.

About Lucky Gunner:

The online ammo shop Lucky Gunner started because a group of shooters came together and thought they could make the ammo buying experience better on the web. Aside from only offering in-stock rounds and fast shipping, a big part of creating the best ammo shopping experience out there was helping fellow shooters learn more about what we put through our guns and learning as much about the sport we’re so passionate about. At Lucky Gunner Labs, we try to tackle the most difficult topics facing shooters today. From the age-old question of what difference brass vs. steel cased ammunition makes on your rifle and your shooting performance to the differences between brands and models of eye protection.

For more information, visit:

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  1. You all are a bit late to the party. TFB posted this long enough ago that my order of ammo purchased as a result of reading their results will arrive tomorrow.

  2. Sort of confirms my belief that the minimum barrel length for a 45 is 4″ Except for the HST standard and +p the rounds aren’t expanding properly.

    Also another reason to prefer the XD/m compact over the similarly sized G-26. The longer barrel will probably give better ballistic performance.

    • I wouldn’t call the XD(m) Compact and the Glock 26 “similarly sized.”
      The XD(m) Compact is in-between the size of the Glock 19 and the Glock 26.

      Choose any of the above. They’re all great guns.

      • The is taller which is why it has standard 13 round capacity but it is only 1/3″ longer. It is much closer to a 26 and a 19 in size.

  3. I saw this when LuckyGunner first posted it. It’s all very helpful, but don’t expect a ShootingtheBull410 level of analysis and detail.

    • Also, shooting the bull 410 follows the FBI protocol, whereas lucky gunner did not. They didn’t use the standard denim, nor did they provide BB calibrations. Therefore their comparison should be locally valid, but not comparable to other ballistic tests using the proper FBI standards. The whole reason the standards exist is for repeatability AND reproduceability.

  4. Superb data. The over penetration due to bullet clogging should be applicable to any barrel length. Still, Iwould love to see similar data for compact and/or full size guns.

  5. The photo suggests that they used a brand new block of clear ballistics gel for each ammunition. Is that the case? They purchased 117 blocks of clear ballistics gel for this test series? Wow.

  6. As I mentioned on the TFB article, though I believe the data is very well presented, bur that the data is flawed.

    1. There is no mention of calibration in the article. In the pictures of the blocks you don’t see the pellet, nor the damage.

    2. They are using Clearballistics Gel, which is well known for having issues with calibration for those that bother to do it.

    So for all we know one block had higher density that normal that thus the round penetrated less, while another black might have lower density than normal. Without calibration there is no way to be sure.

    • Calibration is important if you want to compare one bullet design versus another … or one brand of ammunition out of short barrels versus long barrels.

      Calibration is unimportant if you want to see whether a hollowpoint bullet will expand after going through four layers of denim.

      Discovering whether or not a hollowpoint bullet will expand after going through four layers of denim is, in my opinion, THE most valuable information to learn from ballistics gel experiments.

      • I disagree completely, many are going to use this data for buying decisions. And if the criteria (which IMO is a well tested one) is that the hollow point expands, and stays within the IWBA suggested 12-18″ of penetration you need to use a calibrated gel block because that is part of the IWBA standards.

        Honestly if you are going through the expense and time of doing this much testing, you really should go through the extra step of calibration. As without doing a calibration shot on each block, it results in the people that actually know the proper procedures to consider the data suspect.

  7. Why do testers and ammo manufacturers always test .380acp out of longer barrels? Most concealed carry pistols have barrels around 2.5″ +/-. Sig, Kahr, NAA, Beretta, Ruger etc…, all shorter barrels.

    • “Why do testers and ammo manufacturers always test .380 ACP out of longer barrels?” Answer: marketing.

      Longer barrels produce higher velocities which are more impressive than velocities out of short barrels. And many people have no idea how barrel length affects velocity. What everyone does know is “more is better” … thus everyone will be more inclined to purchase ammunition which specifies a higher velocity than a competitor. As a result, manufacturers will report the most favorable numbers possible under the most favorable conditions possible. And that means numbers (velocities) generated from longer barrels.

      • I get that, I was also curious as to why this test also used a longer barrel? Is it that Glock is so popular that everybody has moved to that instead of micro .380s? Around here the shorter barrel .380’s are in every shop and must be moving. In .380, as you alluded to, an extra inch or two makes a world of difference. This test is not applicable to anything in the pocket or deep carry area (which I think comprises the majority of .380’s). We can’t even extrapolate anything from it

  8. I’m surprised that the 9mm is not a G19. Far and away the #1 seller at my LGS is the G19. The shield is pretty high up there too, so perhaps a 9C is a compromise.

    • Read their rationale. Like Lucky Gunner, I’d rather ammunition be tested with a more challenging shorter barrel. Then you know what happens if you use a subcompact, or even a duty-size barrel at distance. If it performs well at the lower velocity, a little more velocity from a longer barrel probably won’t hinder performance. Some loads might work fine in a longer barrel, but if they tested only with a longer barrel people might arm themselves with a load that was a poor choice for their short barrelled handgun. Since there are loads that can handle shorter and longer barrel lengths, it’s better to test with the more demanding shorter barrel.

  9. To comment on the inconsistencies inherent in many aspects of the luckygunner testing, just take a look at the results of the Speer GoldDot.40 S&W loadings – the 165gr bullet had less velocity than both of the 180gr loads (all fired from the same barrel and with the luckygunner velocities conflicting inversely with Speer’s data) – secondly, compare the 165gr GoldDot’s complete lack of expansion and subsequent over penetration (for all 5 shots tested) and the same performance parameters for every single other GoldDot loading in every other caliber tested – every single GoldDot bullet/load, regardless of speed, caliber, or barrel used, (and in perfect agreement with just about every performance test performed since the GoldDot has been available) velocities, expansion, and penetration are all very consistent and the resulting performance characteristics are exactly what you’d want or expect from a hollow point defensive handgun round

    but the 165gr .40 S&W load performed (in luckygunner’s test) completely differently

    I emailed luckygunner about their results and asked them why they felt that the results for the 165gr load were in conflict with every other GoldDot load they tested – I also inquired as to what they felt was the cause of the velocity inconsistencies that they experienced

    Their answer? – that Speer’s own data (which you will find, if you care to look at other sources, is consistent with every other test performed on their ammo) is calculated with math and not actually tested by firing the round – they followed up this absolutely absurd and ridiculous piece of false information by simply stating that they had no idea why one loading out of the 12 or so they tested failed in every respect

    If a proper, repeatable, consistent testing process and gelatin/fabric mediums had indeed been used, the answers to my questions would have been clear and the test results and conclusions would have been quite easily ascertained – saying that Speer, who’s products are very routinely relied upon to save and protect the lives of agents and officers (and innocents) at all levels of law enforcement and government agencies around the world, calculates whether their products do what they claim they will do (as opposed to actually firing the rounds) is insulting to the intelligence of even the most daft person, let alone a well informed firearm owner

    and having no idea why they got the results they got speaks very loudly to the flaws in their testing processes – in no way do I represent Speer in any way nor am I a Speer fanboy – I am not a firearm or ammo dealer, nor am I a member of any law enforcement agencies in any capacity…essentially, I do not have a dog in the fight

    I do carry the Speer GoldDot 165gr Personal Defense load based on all of the controlled and real world performance of the round that I found while doing my own research when I was deciding what I felt would be of the greatest value in defending the lives of my family and loved ones

    While I most certainly appreciate luckygunner’s efforts in creating the site and their efforts in attempting to provide meaningful data to gun owners (in the name of supporting their business efforts, of course), I am not comfortable choosing a self defense load based on their site

    I’m not a conspiracy nut and I fully understand that it would be illogical in every sense to have a trusted, top-selling product that they sell themselves to be intentionally made to underperform

    But based on results that go against the laws of physics and their inability to quantify or qualify those results, I would not make such a critical decision based on the luckygunner site

    just my $.02 ?


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