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By ShootingTheBull410

When thinking about using an AR-15 for home defense, I’ve conducted a few tests of ammo made specifically for self-defense purposes; rounds like the Winchester PDX1 proved to be a phenomenal performer, and it did something that military ammo isn’t allowed to do — it incorporates an expanding hollowpoint into its design. The Hague Convention prevents the use of expanding bullets, so a design like PDX1 can’t be used by the military. So what can military ammo do?

A lot. In this test, I put M193 through a block of ballistic gel to see what kind of damage it can do.  Military ammo can’t expand, but it can fragment, and fragmentation is one of the chief ways that military ammo wounds.  Self defense ammo (like Winchester’s PDX1) can fragment too, and make good use of it as well, but fragmentation is all that the M193 is allowed. Even so, it’s enough to create a truly horrifying amount of damage — when it works.

M193 doesn’t always work properly; it relies on high velocity to fragment so it’s not necessarily a great choice for use in a short-barreled rifle where the velocity might be below the threshold for initiating fragmentation. In this test, I used a 16″ barrel and shot from a distance of about 10 feet. Most home defense situations should be well within 50 feet or less, and the 16″ barrel proved more than adequate to deliver enough velocity to ensure huge cavitation and fragmentation.  Unfortunately the chronograph didn’t give a reading on this shot so I can’t tell you the exact impact velocity, but the results show that it was enough.

With all that said, and even after viewing the damage, I’d still lean towards choosing PDX1 or Controlled Chaos .223 loads over M193.  All three rounds create tremendous damage, but the PDX1 adds an additional component to the mix — it has a hollowpoint bullet that penetrates over 13″ deep for an additional wounding factor that the M193 doesn’t have. Controlled Chaos has a non-expanding bullet that ensures deep penetration too. Given the scale of damage done by the M193, you probably are not going to need that additional wounding factor of the deep-penetrating hollow point bullet. But if it’s my life on the line, I’d want every advantage I could get. I’d load my home-defense AR15 with PDX1 first, but I’d have plenty of M193 on hand as well; it’s much cheaper than brand-name self-defense ammo, and it can be devastating.

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  1. The US is not a signature of the Hague Conventions and does not have to follow it, and it doesn’t whenever it wants to. The US has already stated that the use of expanding bullets when it is a military necessity(whatever that means) is authorized. As for rounds, the military itself is moving to the M855A1 for the Army, while the Marines are adopting the Navy’s MK318 round which is designed for both expansion and penetration. The military has been using MK262 which is a just a poor man’s hollowpoint for a while now, and certain units have been using frangible 5.56 since Iraq kicked off. And the effects of those rounds on the human body is insane at under a hundred yards.

    • All true, seans. On top of which the Hague Convention only binds signatories fighting against each other. So, even if the US did ratify the Hague Convention, it would not prohibit the use of expanding ammo against a non-signer, such as Al Qaeda or ISIL.

    • Id say this shows why in MOUT operation why 55gr ammo should be sued over M-855 and M-855A1 ball no penetrator makes this not over penetrate and it both tumbles and fragments good for stopping a Al Queda terrorist in combat. M-855 and its A1 balls both just make a pencil sized hole on side threw another. Also why most PDS use a special ammo but its 55gr not 62gr. All but one major OR PD uses a 55gr HP shows its weight’s worth. My best cause for combat ammo in a home defense setting is PD issue 55gr HP Federal TRU ammo thought its the best.

  2. What about SP? Always was partial to that, that and M67. It’s nice considering I can get newly manufactured 7.62×39 ammo with the M67 bullet.

  3. The irony is that fragmenting rounds are much worse than expansive rounds for the purposes of medical treatment as finding a bunch of little pieces of lead is harder than plugging one hole.

    It’s almost as if the folks coming up with conventions weren’t scholars of modern military ballistics and pulled these ideas out of their own hole!

    • The philosophy of the Hague Convention was: If you injure a soldier, two more soldiers are needed to carry the litter that carries the wounded soldier off the battlefield. This takes three trigger fingers off the battlefield, lets the wounded soldier go home alive, and lets the shooter feel that he did his part for his country without making the other soldier die for his country.

      that’s some civilized philosophy right there.

      • The philosophy behind the Hague convention has at its core the notion that warfare can be a “gentemanly” way to settle dispute between nations, analogous to a duel between individuals, rather than a measure of last resort that should only be used in situations in which any extent of use of force is warranted just to make it over ASAP (like modern defensive gun use). It’s the opposite of civilized – it’s sham-civilized. It’s the philosophy of bullies that exhort the virtue of bullying, and seek to dress it in nice clothing to make it more acceptable.

        • Reminds me of the quote from the French author La Rochefoucault, “Hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue”.

    • At the time, fragmenting bullets did not exist; the intent was to require copper jacketed, nonexpanding rounds instead of lead, since lead mushroomed, causing massive wounding and amputations of bones when struck. (The massive number of amputations in the American Civil War were due in large measure to the advent of the Minie Ball that disintegrated bone on impact.) A copper jacketed round inflicts less tissue damage, and thus soldiers were more likely to survive being shot, absent a direct hit to a critical organ or the CNS. Incidentally, because of the advent of smokeless powders and the resultant higher velocities, jacketed ammunition was a practical mandate; solid lead projectiles strip while in the barrels, quickly turning a rifle into a musket. Only copper jackets could withstand the higher velocities.

    • Not even close to true. The trauma surgeon will only be concerned with stopping bleeding etc, and stabilization not cleaning up the little bits. That comes later.

    • As I have worked in surgery for over thirty years, I can say that no surgeon looks for all the small fragments. We repair life threatening damage. If small fragments are not causing a problem they are left behind.

  4. Thanks for the review, STB410! XM193 sure is a poison little pill alright. That shot might have hit a bad guy in the chest and ended up in his head. Definitely a bit of a crap-shoot with XM193, but it sure can reek some havoc. I think that’s why the military trains for double taps…

    Anyway, this of course begs the question — What velocity does XM193 need to retain in order to maintain a high probability that it will do it’s little back-flip thing – and at what distance with a 16″ barrel does XM193 fall below that desired velocity? I’ve heard the numbers of roughly 2700 FPS and 140 yards, but would love to hear what the Armed Intelligensia thinks (and of course would love some gel tests at distance!)

    • If memory serves, the higher the velocity, the more violent the fragmentation- however, under 2300 fps or so is the threshold from painful little round to “kill you dead”. the absolute worst is the 3100 or so from the muzzle- getting hit by that is about equivalent to taking four .45s to the same area. No thank you.

  5. How about testing for rounds that miss? How much drywall, studs etc does it penetrate?

  6. Just curious, why in this test and the last one, no denim? Wouldn’t this affect penetration as with other hollow points?

    • Have you seen the price of denim? That crap is more expensive than ammo!

      Hey, RF, we need an official denim supplier.

  7. Would love to see a review of 5.56 ammo through the new ar style pistols like the sig with their really short barrels.

    • I’m very interested in that as well. I’d have to get a pistol to do that testing with, but I would be concerned that the velocity drop from the short barrel might make military ammo ineffective. It’s possible that the hollowpoint ammo would still work fine though.

      BBTI says that a 12″ barrel is still delivering over 2700 fps, which should be enough for fragmentation to occur (depending on distance, of course; further from the target might see that velocity drop enough). But from an 8″ barrel the velocity was only 2400-2500 fps, which is possibly below the level necessary for reliable fragmentation. And if military ammo doesn’t fragment, it won’t likely do much more than “icepick” the target — a tiny puncture wound.

      Of course, this is all speculation until it’s actually tested…

  8. I’m a fan of XM193, but you have to understand its limitation and capabilities.

    Just like any load.

    Most of my mags are loaded up with 26 rounds of 193 on top and 2 rounds of 196 (tracer rounds) on the bottom.

    But, that is not for HD, it is for SHTF. Also, you have to be really carful with tracers, the rounds will start fires.

    • Yes, starts fires. Including backstops at indoor ranges, which is why my local range is closed for 3 months to rebuild after the fire. I’m guessing someone either forgot they had tracers in their mag, or doesn’t understand how combustion works.

    • Interesting. Have seen some .mil folks recommend that mag loading before too. (doesn’t overstress the spring, queues you to reload).

      So as far as limitations you’ve eluded to, what’s your take on the true ‘effective combat range’ of XM193? 140 yds?

      • Loading mags all the way is a good way to have your second and third shots jam, when you leave your mags loaded for long periods. Loading 27 or 28 in a mag is pretty standard in the Infantry. As for the tracer trick, I heard a lot about it, but never saw it. You can feel the difference in the recoil when the mag goes dry, so I never saw the burning need for it (get it?:P). Plus, we were never issued loose tracer rounds, we’d have had to strip them out of linked SAW ammo.

        • So far as I know, this piece of wisdom is only true for USGI mags. At least Magpul has repeatedly claimed that their mags can be loaded all the way up to 30, with no ill effects such as FTF, and with no weakening even in long term storage.

      • “So as far as limitations you’ve eluded to, what’s your take on the true ‘effective combat range’ of XM193? 140 yds?”

        I’m not a big ballistics guy, and have never claimed to be, that being said, I’m of belief that the 5.56/.233 is an under 200 yard round. However, I will concede, as long as you are making hits on target, technically you are being “effective”, no matter the range.

        • >> I’m of belief that the 5.56/.233 is an under 200 yard round.

          Long and heavy 5.56 rounds tumble and/or fragment reliably way beyond 200 yards. Mk 262 in particular has very impressive terminal ballistics at long distances.

        • The MK262 is also around $50 a box.

          Meaning you have more than twice the buying power with 193.

          Like I said, you have to know each loads capabilities and limitations.

        • >> The MK262 is also around $50 a box.

          It’s available cheaper now that IMI put it into production, going for about 75c/round when buying in bulk. Search for “Razor Core”.

          Still expensive, but less so than many other high-performance 5.56 rounds, and yet this is one of the top-notch loads in terms of both accuracy and terminal performance…

          I’m not saying everyone should switch their entire ammo stash to it, but it would seem that for self defense, SHTF and the like, pretty much everyone can afford to buy at least two mags worth of this ammo. The rest of the stash can then be M193 or similar cheap but still reasonably well performing load.

  9. A good reminder that when self defense situations are talked about, 99% of the time we are talking handgun on handgun. If the occasion arises where you are up against a rifle armed BG, be a werrry werry careful bunny rabbit. You actually have a good chance of surviving a handgun round or two. As we know from recent cop on innocent shootings, folks can actually survive a half dozen handgun rounds at times. Surviving a rifle round to any part of the body is almost a death sentence. You are talking anywhere from 5x to 10x the energy and speed . Plus all the dynamics of accuracy and distance due to the delivery system of a rifle. Not good. So when you see an active shooter ala Mumbai terror gang in the hotel your staying at, Mexican cartel BGs on the ranch you own in the Southern border states, or some crazed nut job in the mall when your out with the wifey and kids, think hard. That Ruger LCP in 380acp might not be the matchup you want.

  10. The fact that the gel block got ripped up so badly that it could only “fit” one round is telling. Especially since you tend to shoot 5 rounds of .380-.45 ACP in a single block. Exiting out the side isn’t the worst thing in a gel block that is only 6″ wide, although a straight line of penetration is obviously preferable.

  11. What I’ve always heard was that it took about 2500fps to make the XM193 tumble and disintegrate, so in 16″ barrels that gives you an effective range of about 150 yards. After that they tend to drill through with minimal damage. It’s a devastating round within range though.

    My scoped mini14 is not my primary home defense firearm, but I picked up a few boxes of Hornady’s 5.56 superformance 75gr. hollow points just in case (zombies). I’d like to see some testing done on that. It’s about as hot a load as you’ll find and since it’s a heavier bullet it retains more of it’s energy downrange. I figured the front would blow off like the PDX1 and still leave a big enough chunk of lead for penetration. Especially when compared to a handgun though, just about any .223/5.56 round will do the job.

    • Hornady posted their own results. Barrier blind, good for edible critters. 28 inches of bare penetration is excessive for HD.

      • I’m not finding the Superformance round ballistics gel tests, but this is the TAP round that I think is the same bullet with a little less velocity – There only showing 10.5″ in bare gel out of that round. If you were to get 28″ out of a 5.56 round I’d think it couldn’t tumble and it would be going straight through. That doesn’t seem likely from a long bullet coming out at 2900fps. Anyway, I’m not likely to pick up the mini for home defense, so I was thinking of it as a weapon for 100 yard + engagements on non armored targets. The XM193 and 855 rounds don’t have a stellar reputation past 200 yards. It’s also exceedingly unlikely that I’ll ever have a need for a 300 yard defensive weapon, but I’d still like to see the gel tests. The Superformance round claims to push that bullet out with about 25% more energy than the PDX .223 round.

  12. Moral of the story – even a “poodle shooter” will f*ck someone’s day up if you’re 10 feet away from them. He could probably back up to 100 or 500 feet and still get the same results. It’s interesting, what with the recent stories of the ineffectiveness of the M4 past 300 yards, just to see how great it is when you’re up close and personal.

    • It can be fantastic, if it performs as designed. From my understanding of the complaints about M855, there were many field shootings in Iraq where the bullets failed to stop the target because the targets were very thin, and the bullet would pass entirely through them without initiating the fragmentation process.

      If it fragments, it does tremendous damage. But if it doesn’t fragment, it just “icepicks” the target.

      That’s why you have to be careful with using military ammo in a shorter barrel, for example — if it drops below the fragmentation velocity threshold, it may just end up icepicking the target.

      That’s one major reason why, even though M193 did perform extremely well in this test, I’d still lean towards the dedicated self-defense ammo, as I just feel more confident that the hollowpoint design will add just that much more likelihood of successful deployment, vs. relying on fragmentation alone. But, that said, I would have no hesitation to rely on M193 in a 16″ or longer barrel.

      • Main reason for MOUT or Jungle warfare M-193 is far superior combat round than M-855 ever was. Face it we went to M_855 for two reasons: NATO compatibility and over fear of Soviet body armor in the late 70s and very early 80s. CIA and some Army intelligence was scared over possibly new Soviet body armor could stop 55gr M-16 rounds. This was once again CIA and DIA over reach and fear mongering. This armor was used in Afghanistan and both testimonies of both Afghan rebels and ex-Soviet solder said it could NOT sop both 5.56mm 55gr ammo the US and China gave rebels in the war or stop the new 5.45 7N6 round the AK-74 shot. The armor could stop a 7.62x39mm ricochet in some conditions Russian combat vets claimed but 5.45mm 7.62×54 Russian rounds and western .303 Brit 5.56mm and 8mm rounds the afghans used easily defeated Soviet armor. SO in most respects M-855 was NOT or ever needed. Like I said main reason most LEA use a 55gr self defense round over any 62gr version. 55gr give max damage to a opponent while 62gr ammo make little holes and shoot right threw.

  13. I’d rather use Barnes Vor-Tx 110 grain in 300 blackout. 20″ penetration at 300 yards and full petal expansion even at 1300 fps. You can run but you can’t hide…behind anything.

    • I just got a 7.5″ 300 Blackout and love the caliber. I use Barnes for hunting and love them but they can over penetrate in a HD situation. For that I’d pick the Hornady vmax 110 grain load with 12.5 – 14.5″ penetration. If you expect long range engagements grab the Barnes, even out of my short barrel I get 2,075 feet per second from the muzzle and bullet expansion out to 310 yards.

  14. Shows how good 55gr ammo is Id carry 55gr ammo into combat over the various 62gr ammo any day any wear. Hope he shows my preferred duty round for a rifle at work the 55gr Federal TRU HP round PPB (Portland Police) and various Security firms se this its also a wicked round.

    PS I want to see what 5.45mm in both commercial and 7N6 dose in these test too!

    • I would like to see a test of the Yugo M67 in ballistic gel. Have seen how good it is but not any tests in ballistic gel.

  15. I think part of this story lies in the ‘rifle vs carbine’ debate. 55g out of a 20 inch barrel is no joke. Ask any Marine. 55g out of a short barrel (carbine) and there are issues. I decided a week ago that I wanted to build an A2 version AR so a good supply of 55g will be fine with me.

  16. I bought HPR 75 grain HP for defense. It shoots fine but from time to time, when I fist chamber a round, the bullet is pressed into the case. Is this a feed ramp issue, a tight mag spring, or ammo problem?

  17. Forgive me if this question has been discussed elsewhere on this site, but I was wondering (in broad, general terms) how the wound created by a 19th century minie ball compares to the wound created by modern ammunition? I know that they created a much nastier wound than the FMJ rounds used in the Spanish American War, but ammo has advanced a long way since then. Thanks in advance!

    • Old ammo was made with plain old soft lead (hard lead is an alloy, so don’t let anyone fool you by saying modern bullets use different metals when soft core).
      I’m not an expert but I imagine that the old lead balls (usually larger than .50) would flatten after they hit the body. Probably stopped inside too, since they moved at slower velocities.
      Modern ammo moves faster and usually fragments or expands due to it’s higher velocity and smaller size.

      • Thanks for the reply, Scrubula! I had no idea the materials were basically the same. Thanks you for that info.

        The articles I’ve read (first hand accounts from surgeons and ballistic analysis) say that the old rounds (specifically minies as a direct result of their design) did exactly that. The flattening of the bullet on impact led to massive damage to soft tissue and bone. What I am wanting to know is if the damaged caused by the higher velocity and expansion and/or fragmentation of modern rounds produces (again, speaking VERY generally) more serious wounds than the slower and softer minies. I can’t find a comparison of modern battlefield small arms wounds vs. those sustained in the Civil War.

        Thanks again for the reply!

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