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With this test I’m continuing the 9mm Ammo Quest, searching for the best-performing defensive ammo for use in a 3″-barrel pocket pistol. Next on the line: Buffalo Bore part #24E, their 124-grain +P ammo. And this test produced some weird results . . .

First, this is a decently potent load. From the short 3″ barrel, the bullets delivered a 10-shot average of 1177 fps. Compared to Federal’s 124-grain +P HST, for example, the Buffalo Bore rounds averaged nearly 70 fps faster. That’s not insubstantial, especially from such a short barrel. That means the Buffalo Bore rounds were delivering about 381 ft/lbs of kinetic energy, from a tiny pocket pistol. Not bad at all! Also, the velocities were very consistent — the rounds were all within about 12 fps of the average. That’s surprisingly consistent.

Second, the denim performance was simply outstanding. All five shots delivered excellent, uniform expansion, and penetration ranged from good to superb. This is one of the best-performing loads through denim that I’ve tested from a pocket pistol.

However, that’s when things turned a bit sideways. The bare gel performance was completely unexpected. While the bullets did still penetrate deeply, they also…fell apart. They all shed their jackets, yes, but the jackets didn’t just fall off as in my test of the Golden Sabers. No, in this test the jackets shredded and fragmented, and the bullets largely disintegrated. Each bullet shed about 1/3 of its total weight, retaining a central core that was only about 74.6 grains in average. The rest of the bullet material was left strewn throughout the damage path that the bullet made.

This left me rather conflicted about this load. On the one hand, every bullet I fired did exceed the minimum 12″ requirement, and every one of them stayed within the 18″ maximum. So by that metric, this is a great load. It generates a lot of energy, it hits hard, and it penetrates deeply.

However, the bizarre behavior through the bare gel leaves me scratching my head — how could the denim performance be so exceptional, yet the bare performance be so different? Weight shedding is not a bonus in ammo design; modern ammo design is focused on keeping the bullet’s integrity so that it creates the largest and heaviest possible mass to deliver the most damage possible at its deepest penetration. When a bullet sheds its mass like these did, it ends up with just a small core reaching deep. And shed these did — look in the video at the bullet exam, you’ll see a huge pile of fragments, shards, shrapnel and shedded petals. I’ve never seen ammo behave this way before.

So I’m conflicted. It didn’t fail, it delivered the penetration necessary. It never under-penetrated. It didn’t fail to expand and over-penetrate. By all those metrics I should call it a good load. And, frankly, I think it is — I think if you were involved in a defensive encounter, and you put some shots of this on target, the ammo has the capability to perform the necessary task.

However, there’s other ammo out there that performs just as well, but doesn’t disintegrate through bare gel. Winchester’s Defend, for example, penetrated even slightly deeper than the Buffalo Bore, while delivering perfect expansion and with zero weight shedding. The HST 124 is another example — ideal penetration, excellent expansion, and zero weight shedding. So what would be the incentive to go with a load that sheds a third of its weight along the way, when there are other, viable candidates that don’t exhibit that behavior?

In the end, the Ammo Quest isn’t about finding which loads are “okay”, it’s about finding the best-performing loads. By that metric, the Buffalo Bore 124+P doesn’t quite meet that standard. If Buffalo Bore can modify the bullet so that the bare-gel bullets perform as well as the denim-gel bullets, they would have an outstanding product on their hands. As it is, I think it is a good-performing load and it would serve someone well who used it — but there are other loads that perform better.

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  1. I’m a little confused why you would think fragmentation is a bad thing. It increases wound surface area, therefore increasing hemorrhaging and causing the attacker to drop faster. So long as the core can do deep tissue damage, isn’t fragmentation a feature, not a bug?

    • I second the question. Fragmentation is not bad per se (indeed, as we know, it’s the main contributor to damage in most .223 ammo, for example). It’s only bad insofar as it hinders penetration. If the load still achieves the desired penetration, while also fragmenting along the bullet track – and especially if that fragmentation happens all along, rather than being contained in the first 2-3 inches, as with e.g. Liberty ammo – it sounds like a win-win to me.

    • Fragmentation is a good thing in a 5.56 FMJ round, but generally considered a bad thing in a handgun round. My theory is that if a bullet leaves an AR rifle at 3000fps with an 8″ rate of twist it is spinning at about 270,000rpm while a 9mm bullet will be spinning at less than a third that rate, meaning the fragments tend to scatter a lot more from the 5.56 round than the 9mm. If the fragments all drop off and stay within the already existing wound channel they won’t do any more damage and will just diminish penetration.

      • >> Fragmentation is a good thing in a 5.56 FMJ round, but generally considered a bad thing in a handgun round.

        Only because it (generally) inhibits penetration to a significant extent in the latter. But that doesn’t seem to be a concern here.

        >> the fragments tend to scatter a lot more from the 5.56 round than the 9mm. If the fragments all drop off and stay within the already existing wound channel they won’t do any more damage.

        I doubt that the spin rate has much to do with how the fragments scatter. It’s not like the bullet explodes or destructurizes all by itself (in which case the side momentum for the fragments would be solely impacted through angular momentum from the spin). Rather, the fragments are rather torn off by the resistance of the body. The momentum thus imparted is very random, and so is the trajectory of the fragments. You can actually see how this looks in STB’s video, when it shows the gel.

        • I’d agree that the fragmentation is not as big of a concern in this round because the cores still penetrated sufficiently. My concern would be using this load in a longer barrel which would make the fragmentation problem much worse.

          In the 5.56 round the bullet tends to tumble and break at the cannelure. My theory is just a theory but I do think a tumbling bullet that’s spinning at 270,000rpm is a whole lot of mayhem.

        • >> My concern would be using this load in a longer barrel which would make the fragmentation problem much worse.

          Well, as I understand, it’s mainly the jacket that fragments here, while the lead core remains mostly intact. So more violent fragmentation would result in wider dispersion of the fragments of the jacket, while doing nothing to the core (which would penetrate even deeper due to increased velocity).

          But yes, ideally, we’d need another test to verify it.

          >> In the 5.56 round the bullet tends to tumble and break at the cannelure.

          Yes, that’s indeed how it works, but I doubt that the spin of the bullet contributes significantly to the velocity and dispersal area of the fragments. I think the forces between the bullet and the flesh (the ones that produce the fragments in the first place!) are far more significant.

        • The bullets lost a third of their weight, that’s a lot more than just copper breaking loose.

          You’re free to agree or disagree with my theory, but unless someone shoots a 5.56 round with and without rifling into ballistics gel we’ll never know. Most people never stop to think about just how fast bullets spin. That’s a hundred times faster than the engine in your car spins when your cruising down the freeway at 75mph (and your engine would turn into a 500lb bomb if you tried to spin it that fast).

    • I don’t believe the jacket material being left behind in the wound track does much for additional wounding… I don’t think the pieces in this case are doing what the R.I.P. round, (for example) is designed to do, which is create additional wound tracks in other directions and therefore increasing the damage area and potentially hitting other vitals. In this case the pieces of jacket are just being left behind to do minimal, if any additional wounding. That being the case it makes more sense to have the mass contained in the bullet and causing tissue damage all the way through the wound track and delivering all the energy it possibly can.

      Not only this, I think the bullet which keeps all of it’s expanded jacketing is going to create a bigger wound, both temporary and permanent cavity, simply because it’s a larger projectile.

    • Some people try to argue that this is bullet failure when the jacket separates. However, when you get 12+ inches of penetration, I think it is semantics. The 180 grain golden 10mm sometimes separates after 18″ and some people get out of joint over that without paying attention to the fact it is 18+” and full expanded.

  2. That’s definitely weird. If I get a Glock 43 I’m inclined to load it with HST – if I can actually find some.

  3. I very much appreciate the stb410 channel and am an avid watcher, but sure wouldn’t mind if you tested more larger guns. Do more people carry mouse guns than compact and full size guns?

    • Some more of these new rifle rounds would be cool too. Lehigh’s own videos aren’t as good as yours. It also seems that there are conflicting videos about Liberty Civil Defense’s armor and gel penetration abilities (I do remember your sheet rock video). I suppose that I may just be a lazy guy that wants you to do work for me though….

  4. The “core” from the bare-gel bullets weighed about the same as FMJ .32 acp bullets ( the ones I used to carry were supposed to be 71 grains). I guess, if the .32 FMJ had the same penetration, the physiological effect on the bad guy would be about the same?

    • Only if you discount all the damage caused by the increased wounding channel due to the fragments, which can be quite severe (and even in the best case, larger channel means faster bleeding means faster incapacitation).

      • Had that same thought about fragmentation. However, as a commenter noted above, if the fragments merely “drop off” in the wound channel being created by the core, I don’t see that they are doing much immediate good in a self-defense situation. Anyway, thanks for the response, I can see the point, depending on how the fragments behave.

  5. Now I don’t profess to be a know it all when it comes to ammo and its effects… However this ammo seems to accomplish what gimmicks like R.I.P were trying to do even if they did it unintentionally. The problem with RIP, as i understood it, was with the penetration of the petals and the core, not with the overall concept. The idea that you are going to cause a massive wound channel with shards cutting further is good in theory, it just wasn’t executed with the RIP round. If this combines the best of both world (wound cavity with shards as well as penetration) should that be considered a success?

  6. Every bullet must strike it’s target within a specific range of speeds in order to function properly. Too slow and they fail to expand, too fast and they fragment. These bullets are close to their limits out of a 3″ barrel, they’d really blow up out of a 4″ or 5″ barrel. The denim tests almost always result in less expansion and more penetration, so in this case less expansion meant they didn’t expand to the point of disintegration.

    Personally I put more stock in the denim tests because the denim simulates the bullet penetrating through the skin. Still, it would be a little reassuring to know that the bullet’s not going to disintegrate on impact.

    • That’s a good explanation for the anomaly. Buffalo Bore ammo is very hot. The muzzle velocity in the tests were equivalent to a full sized pistol for standard ammo.

      • Yes, BB is hot, but those velocities would be reached out of a standard pressure load in a 4 1/2″ barrel. So the bullet manufacturer needs to go back to the drawing board and beef up the bullet and BB should be looking for a tougher bullet for their hot loads.

  7. Regarding fragmentation — there’s a world of difference between rifle-style fragmentation (which is a primary wounding factor in rifle ammo design) and handgun bullet “fragmenting” as we saw here (which is, really, just shedding weight, i.e., chunks of the bullet falling off).

    The fragmentation in a rifle is the main contributing factor to why rifle wounds are so much more severe than handgun wounds. In a rifle, the extreme velocities (usually 2700fps+) cause an utterly massive temporary cavity, which stretches tissue to or beyond its very limits. Simultaneously, rifle bullets such as .223 are designed to yaw sideways, break at the cannelure, and fragment, which sends shards of shrapnel slicing into the stretched tissue, causing it to rip (think of a rubber band stretched really tight, and then you just nick it with a knife — just that little tiny nick will cause the rubber band to rip in half). That’s one way rifles cause so much more damage — they stretch the tissue to (or beyond) its limit, and then the fragmentation rips that stretched tissue causing a huge amount of trauma. The fragment starts the rip, but the stretched tissue continues to rip, doing damage in excess of what the actual round itself did.

    Handguns don’t do anything like that. A handgun cartridge’s temporary cavity is usually well within the tissue’s elastic limits — and as such, the temporary cavity is not usually a wounding factor. Furthermore, the “fragmentation” that’s happening here is miniscule in ferocity compared to a rifle round. The rifle round actively flings shrapnel for several inches in all directions, cutting flesh (or gel) at its strech limits. But in the handgun round, all the pieces are usually found within the permanent wound cavity or in a very short distance of it. The fragments aren’t so much “forcefully flung” as they are “left behind.”

    Bullets losing integrity and shedding weight are an issue that was largely addressed with the move towards bonded bullets. What happened in this handgun round isn’t “fragmentation”, it’s just classic weight shedding, which doesn’t notably increase the damage track, it just results in a smaller/lighter projectile at the end of travel (where you’d ideally want to have the largest/biggest projectile to be, to do the most damage to the vital organs).

  8. Two questions. Do you subscribe to the philosophy of Doc Roberts on terminal ballistics? I’m curious if you know what brand of bullet is used here. You bullet selection from BB in this and other videos seems like they were not wisely chosen. When selecting hot loads from BB or Underwood its critical to select a well made bullet such as XTP’s or even better, gold dots. I would love to see you test the Gold Dots from either manufacturer in the +P or +P+ 124 or 147 grain loads.(not any 115gr as they are generally too light at these higher speeds.) Thanks for putting in the effort to conduct these very informative tests.

  9. I still haven’t seen a 9mm round that beats good old fashioned Winchester Ranger 147g. I like the work that Shooting The Bull does, but that test confirmed what I thought for years. I guess he can’t declare a winner or he’d have to stop making videos!

    • >> I still haven’t seen a 9mm round that beats good old fashioned Winchester Ranger 147g.

      You mean, like the good old Federal HST 147gr? 😉

      • Nope, Ranger T 147g. I forgot the T earlier. I just re-watched the video, #26 in the series. ShootingTheBull410 kind of declared the winner. Compared to the HST, Heavier bullet, more penetration, nasty petals.

        The HST is a impressive in 124g, but good luck finding them. Never mind the 147g. Ranger T is available and at a sufficient cost to allow keeping enough on hand to run through the carry weapons periodically. My Glocks and S&W eat them all day long without complaint.


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