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Still trudging through the 9mm Ammo Quest, ShootingTheBull410 just put the Gold Dot 147-grain to the test.  Gold Dots haven’t fared particularly well through the short 3″ barrel, so the question is — will these heaviest-of-all Gold Dot 9mm’s work satisfactorily? Or should they be relegated to use with longer-barreled guns?  Watch the video for the answers.

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  1. Lesson to be learned: for shorter barrels: the biggest heaviest bullets are not the answer because you lose too much velocity. Personally, I am running 124 +Ps out of a 3.5″ barrel, and I suspect that they will do well if the need should arise, though his test of the 115 gr. gold dot says that those would be excellent as well. Then again, there is the same issue he has–lack of availability, absence of choice.

    • That’s not really applicable to all loads. For instance, Federal HST in 147 grain is a solid performer from a very short barrel, as STB showed. It is preferred over the 124 grain and 124 grain +P for the 3″ barrel and, in my opinion, for ANY 9mm barrel length.

      Obviously it depends on powder choice and such, but as a percentage a heavier bullet often loses less velocity from a short barrel than a light bullet does.

      • +1 Jeremy

        My own tests, combined with much internet research has led me to use Federal HST 147gr as my go to round in anything less than a 4in barrel. Heavier bullets spend slightly more time in the barrel, leading to more powder being burned and not wasted.

      • I think there’s truth in what both of you are saying.

        First, it’s been tough to find a good-performing 147-grain bullet from a 3″ barrel. Only the HST has really done well, all the other 147’s I’ve tried (Gold Dot, Ranger, XTP, even the 135-gr Critical Duty) have all struggled by turning in mediocre (or inconsistent) expansion and flirting with or going headlong into overpenetration. It’s not a fault of the bullet weight per se (as the HST clearly proved, 147 can be fantastic in a 3″ 9mm) but it does seem to be the general trend.

        And while heavier bullets tend to hold on to their velocity better than lighter bullets do, I think the problem is actually getting them up to sufficient velocity in the first place. That’s where most of the rounds appear to be struggling. Don’t know what the secret sauce is that the HST uses, maybe it’s just a really fast-burning powder…

        That said, the final chapter on 147-grain 9mm’s hasn’t been written yet. I still have the 147+P HST, the PDX1 147gr, and the Golden Saber 147gr to test, so we may find more good 147-grainers. As a general rule I prefer heavier bullets over lighter bullets, so I’m really interested in seeing how these 147-grainers play out.

  2. For clarification, the expanded 115 grainer you showed for comparison…was that out of the short barrel as well?

    A nice comparison would also be to side-by-side the 147 gr out of longer (>4″) barrel next to the ones from this test. That would visibly show in dramatic fashion the entire point of this particular ‘quest.’

    Very nice demo – there is no “single” right answer for all cases.

    • “For clarification, the expanded 115 grainer you showed for comparison…was that out of the short barrel as well?”

      Most definitely. It is from a forthcoming (i.e., haven’t finished editing yet) test of the Gold Dot 115-grain, from this exact same pistol. I believe in minimizing variables whenever possible, so — yes, rest assured, that was a directly comparable round because it was fired from the same pistol into comparably-calibrated gel.

      “A nice comparison would also be to side-by-side the 147 gr out of longer (>4″) barrel next to the ones from this test. That would visibly show in dramatic fashion the entire point of this particular ‘quest.’”

      I’m working on exactly that type of thing. I have a test forthcoming where I show three different barrel lengths, same bullet, and how differently the bullet performs from those three different barrels. Haven’t done it for 9mm yet, but I do have a 3″, 4″, and 6″ barrel for 9mm, so I might give that a go if people like the other multi-barrel-length test.

  3. are there any companies that make short barrel pistol ammo. and is it possible from an engineering standpoint to design one?

    • Short answer: Yes and yes. Go to Shooting’s web site, as he has tested some ammo marketed specifically for short barreled guns (so says the packaging). The difference from standard ammo would, I presume, in the powder (basically a faster burning powder)..

      • The question really becomes “where’s the break” in barrel length best suited for each type.

        Reason 962 why I like handloading; no need to settle for what “they” offer. {grin}

        (PS: I understand that’s not for everybody…not meaning to start an off topic flame war).

    • Yes, there are some rounds that are claimed to be optimized from short barrels. Speer, for example, makes “Gold Dot Short Barrel” ammo. They don’t say specifically what they’ve done differently with it to make it more suitable for a short barrel, but I’ve tested it in three different calibers so far (.22 WMR, 9mm, and .45 ACP) and it’s performed very well in all three. In the .45 ACP version, the bullet is physically different, you can see a difference in the hollow point cavity. In 9mm, I couldn’t see any difference in the bullet, or the velocity, so maybe the bullet is made of softer lead or some other not-easily-discerned difference. For that matter, I couldn’t tell any difference in performance between the 9mm Short Barrel 124+P and the regular 124+P either… both did very well, and remain the best-performing Gold Dot rounds from a short-barrel pistol. In .45 ACP, there was a little bit of performance difference between the two (tested from a 3.3″ barrel XD-S), but both would easily meet the requirements to be highly recommended.

      Additionally, Remington has launched (or re-launched) their Golden Saber bullets but claim to have modified them for better performance from “Compact Handguns”. The new line is “Remington Ultimate Defense – Compact Handgun.” Someone posted pictures showing that the bullet has indeed been modified, the hollowpoint cavity looks different. I picked up a box of .40 S&W, but I don’t have a truly short-barrel .40 to test with (my .40 has a 4″ barrel) so I’ll give it a go, but it won’t necessarily be a “short barrel” test. I’m still on the lookout for .380 and 9mm versions, since I’ve tested (or will be testing) the Remington Golden Saber from a short barrel with both, so I’ll have a direct way to compare them and see how much difference the “Compact Handgun” revision makes.

  4. If you watched the videos for the Federal HST 147 gr, it performed significantly better. So it can be done. Dan has that video cross-linked above, check it out. I’ve been looking for some to purchase, looks like no one around here has any, so I’ll start looking online.

    • The Federal HST 147g looks like the winner of what he’s tested so far, it’s just a bit harder to find then some of the other offerings. I’m not affiliated with the below website, it’s just the only place I’ve found that has it.

      Hyperlink says 40 S&W but it’s the 9mm 147g that STB has tested. There’s no 50 round boxes locally in my area either, and the 20 round boxes run $24+. For $30 for a box of 50 this is not a bad price for defensive ammo tbh.

        • Last time I checked online (a few weeks ago), $1-$2 per round of 9mm performance defense ammo was the norm.

          What do you consider acceptable?

        • I agree, the website I linked has HST at $.60 a round ($30 for a 50 round box, not a 20 round box)

        • Yeah over a buck or even well over a buck is the norm these days for top quality 9mm defensive ammo. Federal repackaged the HST offering now that it’s officially available to the public (before they only sold to LE) and put it in 20 round boxes for only slightly less than you used to be able to find the 50 round boxes for. There is still a relatively small amount (I’m assuming) of the old packaging available where you get 50 rounds for about $30.

          But Andy T. has not linked to it!!!! Andy, you linked to Hydra-Shock. This is an old design and is NOT the same as HST. If you want 147 grain standard pressure HST it MUST be part number P9HST2.

          RareAmmo had it in stock a few weeks ago but no longer does.

    • I disagree. Hardball will overpenetrate, even out of a 3″ barrel. The problem with this 147 gr HP was that it acted like hard ball–and overpenetrated–because it did not carry enough velocity to cause the hollow point to expand. There are plenty of rounds that will penetrate and fully expand out of a 3″ barrel.

    • This comment makes no sense.

      In the video, the two rounds that did not expand overpenetrated, and not by just a little bit.

      What is needed is NOT a bullet that does not expand (under penetration was not the problem!), but one that expands more reliably at lower velocities than the 147 gr 9mm Gold Dot is designed to do.

      The data show that 147 gr Gold Dots (a JHP, to nuke your comment even further) out of a longer barrel pistol perform to “spec” in terms of expansion and penetration (destroyed tissue volume, etc). Out of a short barrel, the 100 fps or so in velocity loss prevents proper expansion, so the bullets acts more like an FMJ.

  5. I’m curious if anybody knows what exactly the differences between SD rounds are? They keep popping up with new designs, but what exactly are they changing?

    • Bullet construction, primarily. Changing how the bullet is made will change its behavior when it hits stuff. You can change everything from the hardness of the material (lead alloys can range from very soft to quite hard, as can copper, brass, tin, steel) to the way the materials are joined together if there’s more than one material to begin with, to a whole heck of a lot more. But also powder composition is tinkered with to adjust burn rates, pressures, muzzle flash, etc.

      • I suppose changing the scoring on the jacket and lead will affect how the petals expand, depth of the cavity… Okay, gotcha. Thanks.

    • Yep, it’s pretty much bullet construction as Jeremy said.

      To expand slightly:

      Modern defense pistol bullets are what was once called “super expanding” jacketed hollow points.

      Prior to about 1990-ish, JHP’s were still fairly hard with thick jackets that were uniform around the circumference of the nose of the bullet. This meant they expanded pretty good if they hit soft/wet tissue, but were not what we really called ‘reliable expanders.’

      Development of such designs as the Hornady XTP (~1990) showed expansion could happen a LOT faster/easier and with a less stringent requirement on what the bullet was hitting to cause the expansion.

      Winchester’s Black Talon was heavily marketed on the super expanding characteristic and in my recollection, was the first to really do so. In any event, that started the rapid expansion “craze” among shooters and a pretty fast development cycle that led quickly to other variants such as the Gold Dot (which have VERY soft noses…try to seat Gold Dot bullets with a standard Lee seating die and you deform the bullet nose).

      One of the things that I remember ‘selling’ the principle of super expansion as a big plus in pistol bullets was a series of articles in G&A and American Rifleman and similar publications of guys getting incredible (for the time) performance hunting with Black Talons (and XTP’s were known to as well for hand loads, but the BT’s provided it for over-the-counter, factory ammo).

      9mm, never really thought of as a handgun hunting round, was scoring clean kills on medium sized game at decent hunting ranges using Black Talons and that’s when I remember people really starting to notice that there was, indeed, something (a) different about the design and (b) that it really works ‘better.’

      That construction development has stabilized now. Bullet design goes in steps…periods of rapid improvements followed by a leveling off; this level period seems to also come with ‘fads’ and overhyped claims, as we are seeing now with the RIPs and other stuff. That’s one reason the Black Talon in particular and the super expanding designs in general took a while to catch hold.

      At the end of the day, design for proper function boils down to “expansion at what velocity.” The designers / engineers have that pretty well fleshed out now. I would say the XTP was the first, and interestingly enough, it’s still on the market.

      Good designs last.

    • I’d venture a guess that the majority of 147 Gold Dot’s are carried in guns with barrels longer than 3″ and as such, do not have the problem listed above.

      • I would certainly agree. Many (if not most?) of the ammo designs on the market pre-date the “pocket 9mm” craze, and as such I’d say it’s reasonable to suggest that the ammo was not designed to perform properly from such a small barrel. Accordingly, I’m testing to find which rounds just kind of accidentally do perform well anyway.

        Most of the ammo out there was designed to work with the prevailing pistols of their time, and that would usually mean a 4″ barrel or longer, for 9mm.

        I’ve tested Gold Dots in many different pistols, and usually they are fantastic performers. It really does depend on barrel length though; in .45 Colt, they were utterly magnificent from a 6.5″ and 18.5″ barrel, but failed to expand from a 2″ barrel. In .45 ACP, they were terrific in both regular and short-barrel versions, from a 3.3″ barrel or 4.5″ barrel. In 9mm, it’s been tougher to find a good-performing Gold Dot from the short barrel; the 124gr and 147gr standard-pressure both underwhelmed. The 124+P did much better; still not quite as impressive as the HST but much better than the 124 standard-pressure or 147. I have yet to release the results on the 115-grain Gold Dot, but they’re interesting indeed.

        If you’re using a 4″ or longer pistol, I think Gold Dots are a very safe bet and a very consistent great performer. If using a shorter-barrel pistol, I don’t think regular Gold Dots are likely to be the best choice, but if there’s a “short barrel” version available (such as in 9mm or .45 or other calibers) then the Gold Dots can be excellent choices. All three of the “short barrel” versions I’ve tested (22 WMR, 9mm, and .45 ACP) have been very good to superb performers.

  6. I know the standard is 4 layers of denim, but 2 layers of denim is a good meidu for summer carry. I think some of the 147’s that don’t do so well with 4 layers will open up with a 2 layer denim test.

  7. Did you ever test Federal Hydra Shok 124 grain 9mm to see how they faired against the HST’s through a short barrel?

  8. What I would like to know is, will there any difference in velocity, or if the Gold Dot standard 115 gr would fare well if shot from a 3.5″ long barrel?
    The 3″ barrels are your typical sub compact type pistols, but there are also the compact one that on average are of the 3.5″ length instead of 4″ barrels.


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