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I’m sick and tired of people claiming that hollow point rounds are “armor piercing assault bullets.” Even my own mother believes this, drinking the standard gun grabber Kool Aid as she is wont to do. The truth is that they are, in fact, less likely to penetrate a bulletproof vest than their standard round nosed brothers. So, while we were testing out a bullet proof vest from the fine folks at SafeGuard Armor, I decided to grab a couple Federal Hydra-Shok 9mm hollow point rounds and demonstrate exactly how full of fragrant BS that line really is. This is Level II armor, meaning that 9mm is the largest round it’s rated to stop. And it does so very, very well.

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  1. Hollow-point bullets are meant to expand upon impact. They are the exact opposite of armor-piercing. The increased surface area results in more contact between the bullet and the material and, consequently, increases he likelihood that the ballistic vest material will catch the bullet.


    Now if only everyone would take actual factual, scientific evidence and statistical realities into consideration when determining laws. Sadly, it seems that more laws are passed based on sentiment than sensibility.

    • this is not about actual factual evidence. This was a blatant attempt in the late 80s by he Violence Policy Center to take advantage of low-information voters and spread misinformation in order to progressively get stuff banned.

    • The bogus armor piercing claim made about hollow points is simply the result of either uninformed or ignorant lack of knowledge by the person making the claim (such as a politician who doesn’t understand magazines). Alternatively it is intentionally false and misleading rhetoric put out by the gun grabbers (like the Brady group). The first group simply doesn’t know any better and doesn’t bother to educate themselves. Instead they rely on the blatant lies put out by the latter group as reality.

      BTW, back in the day before the advent of bullet proof vests, hollow points were nick named “cop killers” because of their expansive stopping capabilities especially in .357mag.

        • Dum Dum is actually a historical term. That was back I believe pre-WWI when British troops in India pulled the bullets from their .303’s and reseated them in the casings backwards. So the unjacketed base was going first. It would have played hell on its flight dynamics, but basically made a hollow point out of their issued ammunition.

        • yea hollow point: by use of kinetic energy, to destroy organs, bone and tissue by the means of kinetic energy transfers to which the tissues could not tolerate.

          AP goal is to “penetrate” with as little kinetic transfer as possible.

        • The Dum Dum was actually named after the Dum Dum Arsenal where it was manufactured from the .303 British as described. Interestingly, the problem with the round wasn’t that it had poor flight ballistics, it was that the jacket would actually peel off the round when fired and be left in the barrel. It later got replaced with the Ball Mk III, which was essentially a JHP round, until the 1899 Hague Conventions outlawed expanding bullets in warfare.

          In modern times, dum dum generally refers to any attempt to increase the expansion of a non-HP round by means of altering a standard round, such as by cutting a cross into the nose of a lead ball round

          Source: Hogg, Ian V. “Dum Dum.” The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ammunition. London: Apple, 1985. 77. Print.

    • Don’t try and confuse us with your facts, young man… WE’RE EMOTIONAL HERE. Anyway, our friends all agree. We got our own “facts” from MSNBC and CNN. We like theirs better.

      • “things that go bump in the night” and “El Cuco” are much more penetrating than mere “Armor piercing” hollow point bullets.
        They should also be banned.
        I’m sure CNN and MSNBC will be happy to begin a campaign to abolish them.

    • Can any brain dead moron still think that a hollow point is meant to be armor-piercing? With many of todays libtards (assault rifle equals assault weapon equals maching gun equals semiauto), I guess the answer is yes.

    • Leo nice post. The Hollow Point is used by many LEO organizations because it does not penetrate through the target, but fragments into as many as five pieces. LEO’s are concerned with collateral damage of hitting innocents if the round were to go through the criminal.

  2. I recently shot a 10 year old level II vest and it stopped everything from .22 up through .357 mag. Hollow points and FMJ

  3. I have always found this to be a silly argument. In a self defense situation you want “the right amount” of penetration – not less, not more. FMJ bullets tend to overpenetrate and sail through an attacker, leaving one to two minutes more of attack time while they bleed. And when they sail through, they could potentially hit someone unintentionally, like a family member.

    Hollow points are safer in that they are far less likely to overpenetrate and far more likely to put all their energy in the attacker, stopping them. Gun grabbers are all about safety, right?

    • We all know that gun grabbers could care less about anyone’s safety, which is why they’re pushing for magazine limits. You can bet that they’ll be coming after hollow points eventually because they a.) don’t understand them; and b.) scare them.

      In Connecticut, they specifically banned armor piercing bullets per the request of the CT State Police. The General Assembly then specifically asked the CSP what they thought of hollow points and whether they should be banned as well. The CSP’s answer was something along the lines of “why would we want to do that.” It wasn’t brought up again after that.

      • i am more cynical than you. I do not think its that they do not understand them, or are afraid of them, I think its that they do not care and are intentionally sowing confusion while hiding behind “safety.” That is why they coined the term “assault weapons” – to take advantage of the confusion over automatic weapons vs “military style” weapons.

        • It depends on who the “they” is. The media-trusting populace, in general, don’t know shot from shinola. They believe what they’re told, and never seek out the other side of the story.

          Now the media themselves? Yeah, evil purveyors of mis/disinformation, and sowers of confusion.

        • Well, before the ban they were marketed as such, so the testosterone-poisoned would think them even more cool.

          Ain’t the Dems’ fault that the name stuck.

    • Wrong!
      The gun grabbers are not “all about safety”.
      They are all about what we use to say women were all about. They are “all about emotion”. They are not to be trusted with important decisions.

  4. Here in NJ, if you are somehow magically able to get a carry permit (I’ll wait while you all stop laughing at how unlikely that is), hollow points are illegal. You can use them at home or at a range, but not for self defense anywhere else.

    I make a point to bring this up whenever I talk to any non-gun owning friends in an attempt to educate others. I guess the state would rather FMJ’s go through and through to hit other bystanders than actually have an effective result on the intended target.

    Of course, police are exempt….

  5. A fun memory from my military days:

    A 2nd Louie was briefing us on the new ‘flak vest’ being given to our soldiers. He maintained it would protect us not only from flak, of course, but from small arms fire. I raised my hand and asked if he would put one on and go 100 meters downrange and allow me to shoot him with our standard M16. He was having none of that, and declined my offer quite harshly using adult language. I then asked, “Well, what good is this then if it won’t actually protect us, sir?” He said, “It’s a flak vest, not a bulletproof vest.” I said, “Okay, sir, then would you allow me to toss a frag grenade at you while wearing it?” Needless to say, there was another negative response with adult language.

    I still smile when I think of this moment.

  6. Hollow points are less lethal than FMJ so the grabbers better be carefull what they wish for. As mentioned, they will also own any overpenetration damage/injuries, Randy

    • No they won’t, they won’t admit ownership of anything like that. What Democrat ever takes responsibility for the consequences of what they propose.

      They’ll simply cite overpenetration as a reason to ban more ammo.

  7. Come on, everybody knows that to penetrate a bpv you need to use Teflon coated bullets! Or was that astroglide coated bullets? Ah screw it, I will just take my .30.06.

  8. Do you think that they will ever figure out that balistc vests don’t make you invulnerable? I don’t care that the slug does not penetrate, a .45 ACP slug is dumping 835 J of energy and 4.5 kg*m/s of momentum into your chest.

    • It’s like taking a very solid punch, from a large dude, that you aren’t ready for.

      It may knock you down, but in a real fire fight, often the adrenaline will preclude that. You may break a rib and depending on the vest you will almost certainly have a nasty bruise.

      • Oh it will put you on your ass, no question. Especially in larger calibers. (Like .50 AE) I’ve seen broken ribs and cracked sternums in guys wearing full interceptor body armor. A dinky little soft vest will keep you from being dead, it’s not designed to keep you in the fight.

        • I guess if you’re small enough, .50AE might knock you down if you’re off-balance, depending on the vest and whether it hits the t-plate. Sure, the newish lightweight police stuff is very much just to keep the bullet out and not much more. .50AE is likely to hurt.

          I’ve aged past such ‘experiments’ but I’m sure some kid somewhere will do it and put it on youtube. If they haven’t already.

      • Don’t think so. Even if the round doesn’t penetrate a solid hit to the sternum could cause the bone to spall causing potentially lethal damage.

  9. What we need is more video’s like this and a “myth busted” like video on various gun related myths. Then we need a few friendly news reporters willing to listen.

    We have to use all media just like the anti-gun crowd does.

    Video makes a difference for low information voters

  10. I even got into an argument with a cop friend of mine over this. He seriously believed that hollow point handgun rounds would penetrate any level of soft armor. For the record I am combat wounded, retired military and wore the full up body armor setup. Plus, we also shot our own soft and hard armor with with everything to see what would happen (off the books armor). So yes, the body armor does work, in the context of pistols are pistols, and rifles are rifles and everything has its limits and purpose.

  11. I’m sure the idea is that you need to ban bullets that expand on impact because they cause much more tissue damage, and you need to ban the bullets that don’t expand on impact because they penetrate armor more efficiently. You don’t need to have a reason behind it, you just need to have a spin.

    • Yes, brady studies have shown that foam rubber bullets shot from a nerf gun are a much more viable means of defense… for the criminal, & really, thats all that counts, Randy

  12. Even 9mm ball will bounce off level 2 armor. I know, because we tested it on an interceptor vest with no plates at 7 meters. M855 5.56 went in one side and out the other.

    • To be fair an M855 is a light armor piercing round. It’s SUPPOSED to go right through a vest without plates. Also one of the reason it’s not as effective against soft targets out of a 14.5 inch barrel. It’s designed to punch through light barriers, but lacks the velocity to fragment properly.

      • Technically, SS109/M855 is not “AP” by definition of BATF. Green tip is only partly steel, the rest of the bullet is lead.

        But yeah, it’ll go through and through on a soft vest. An AR500 plate will stop it cold though.

        • *uck the ATF, the only reason it’s not considered armor piercing is that it’s a rifle round. The Corps designates it as a light armor piercing round, that’s enough for me. In the real world, AP means able to punch through light steel plate, Light AP is designed to defeat personal body armor. The ATF is talking out its ass. That’s what happens when you let ignorant civilians define things they have no proficiency with.

        • Wouldn’t defeat any armor that I would count on, so I give two good flyins’ what “The Corps” defines it as.

          It’ll penetrate most weave-only vests without plates. 5.56/.223 is what it was since day one- a small varmint round just this side of a flechette, so yeah, it’ll make it through ballistic fabric at short range – so what?

          The reason it’s not considered AP is because it’s really not. If it were, the projectile would be 100% solid steel, or DU, or any of the materials more effective than lead. Even then, the only “armor” it would penetrate is mild steel plate. Like a car door.

          Not even bringing the current cutting-edge into the mix, just a standard 1/4″ AR500 plate will let me stand 20 feet away and laugh while my attacker empties that 5.56 popgun mag in vain. I’ll barely even feel the plate being dimpled.

        • @16V

          You do that… You do realize that an AR500 plate does not make you Iron Man… Right? I was trained that my cutting edge cramic plate was good for a handful of hits and would then fail.

        • Pwrserge, I have no Walter Mitty fantasies. Ceramic t-plates aren’t in my repetoir for just that reason. They are the lightweight one-trick pony.

          But, good luck with 100 rounds of 5.56 popgun into an AR500 plate. It’ll tickle the recipient and make noise dinging the plate, nothing more.

          Which is why one should never take anything but head shots…

  13. Has anyone ever proposed the idea that JHPs are armor piercing – I mean anyone who knows anything about guns? The whole point of the JHP is to maximize trauma and minimize over-penetration.

    I suppose this isn’t for us, though, is it?

    • It’s all “marketing”…

      People that don’t know how hollow points actually work consider them to be “cop-killer” bullets. I can’t tell you how many times people think I’m breaking the law because I have JHP’s in my home defense weapons (or just own them in general).

      I kindly try to re-educate them and point out that the LGS will gladly sell hollow points to any customer without breaking any laws.

  14. I live in Tejas and still encounter transplants that think loading your own ammunition is “Psycho”, all ARs and AK are fully auto “machine guns”, and hollow points are “Cop Killer Bullets”.

    Their motto unfortunatey is, “Guns and anything gun related is just too scary to be legal!”. They have been effectively Holderized, aka brainwashed to think about Guns in a radically different way.

  15. The only real way to conclude this test would be to take an ice pick and stab the vest. A nice, thin, sharp implement like that should go cleanly through the vest better than the proverbial ‘hot knife through butter’. But then you would have to carry the wood piece stuck to the vest home with you. Plus, the gun grabbers would then try to ban ice picks. On second thought, never mind.

  16. Hollow Points are meant to be used on non-armor targets for stopping power, Full Metal Jacket and Armor-Piercing FMJs are meant to penetrate targets and armor targets. What’s not to understand?
    Yes I’d rather be shot with a FMJ and hope it doesn’t hit a vital organ or my spine as Hollow Points do cause more tissue damage and tend to break up or expand more greatly than FMJs but it’s just sickening when the gungrabbers get their facts wrong. Calling a hollow point “armor-piercing” is just stupid. I’d have just an oz of respect for these crazy people if they could at least get their facts straight.

    • Thanks Lars, I now hope, people whom have no idea which end of the gun that bullet comes out of can now figure out the difference between the two. If not I know we have books for these over achievers to help them understand. They really need to research what they are trying to understand. My 10 year old niece knows the difference in a hollow point round as to others, see how simple it can be!!

  17. I’ve had people try to tell me that hollow points have steel cores that make them armor piercing…Like, yeah, sure. Whatever. No amount of facts will dissuade them from their beliefs. San Francisco just enacted a hollow point ban, and no, they we not interested in hearing any evidence. The only evidence allowed was at a committee meeting, and it was scant (by design).

  18. But, but, that scary tan high powered military assault rifle with the deadly silencer punched right through that poor vest! The traditional remchesterby hunting rifles that Obama says he won’t touch aren’t powerful or scary enough to defeat that vest, so those should be the only ones we are allowed to own! /sarc (obviously)

    • Got that right. I keep a 5.56 round as well as a .308, .30-30, and .30-06 to show my none gun friends the big “overpowered assault rifle round” compared to common deer hunting cartridges. They can’t believe the difference and think that the 5.56 is still somehow more deadly. They come around after shooting both with me at the range (if they are willing to go)

  19. Has anyone tested the body armor against the Marines standard 10mm caseless, exploding tip, light armor piercing rounds fired out of the M41 pulse rifle?

  20. The sentence: “This is Level II armor, meaning that 9mm is the largest round itโ€™s rated to stop.” is not entirely correct.

    For Level II testing according to NIJ, the .357 Magnum is the largest round it is rated to stop. Not the 9mm.

    More information can be found at this page.

  21. I am not really familiar with guns but I always thought FMJs were considered armor piercing and hollow points were meant to break up once they entered someones body to cause more internal injuries. Just stuff I remember from reading and movies.

  22. I am considering purchasing a hand gun for self protection after I take all the appropriate classes/courses, practice a lot etc. I stumbled on this site and your column which I enjoyed reading. It is fine to prove a point but Dude, it is not cool to rag on your mom to do it.

  23. I think the handgun bonded ammo is what is considered “armor Piercing” not hollow points. At least thats what I hear from people. Of course bonded ammo just gives you a likes deprepenitration due to the round being bonded with its outside covering. Preventing separation during impact. Its not a guarantee prepenetration just more likely to penetrate deeper. On the other hand what maybe debatable is since bonded ammo retain there weight during penetration you cause say the around is ammo precising when it come in contact with walls, glass, wood and a car because the ammo is not likely to lose its weight due to being bonded and the around and still continue to hit and do damage to whatever you hit passed that barrier. Non bonded ammo will do the same thing however if the nonbonded ammo jacket and lead part separate hitting that barrier the around will do a lot less damage to the target you want to hit.

    Just my 2 cents love your website brother


    “Disabled military veteran served 2 tours”

  24. Because of the nature the way ballistic grade Kevlar stops bullets by flattening the bullet. Kevlar can stop hollow points bullets much easier than standard soft point rounds. as for hard body armor, it will stop them with just as much ease, hollow point bullets have less mass. less for those cermanic plates to absorb. as for the fear hollow point bullets increase deadlines of mass shooting’s they dont. hollow point bullets were originally designed to prevent collateral damage buy fragmenting on impact. FMJ rounds would be your better bet they can rip through many people at once.

  25. went and bought sum xanax a couple months ago from some near retarded college student with a H&K USP and said the mag was filled with hollows when he passed me it and said to “point it towards the sky as they would pierce multiple stories below his apartment” and like any gun savy ammo collector i wanted to shoot him right there. Part of me is convinced people don’t understand hydra shoks and dum dums because of morons like this.


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