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I recently re-organized the various ammo I’ve got waiting to be tested and realized…this is gonna take forever at my current pace. As such, I’m taking some steps to speed up the process. So in this one video I get through evaluating four different loads. They are . . .

1. Underwood 124+P Gold Dots: these are fantastic. They achieve velocities almost exactly the same as, and even a tiny bit higher than, the best-performing 124+P Gold Dots I’d previously tested (Speer’s 124+P Short Barrel). Since it’s the same bullet, at the same velocity, it gets the same recommendation — this is good stuff for use in a 3″-barrel 9mm pistol.

2. Black Hills Ammunition’s 115+P TAC-XP: I’d tested the Barnes TAC-XP bullet in two prior loads with two very different results. The Barnes loading from Barnes themselves didn’t deliver enough velocity and resulted in some partial expansion and even a failure to expand. But the same bullet loaded by CORBON (and labeled DPX) was over 100 fps faster than the Barnes loading and did spectaculalry well. It’s one of the best-performing loads I’ve tested for the 9mm short-barrel pistol. These Black Hills cartridges are loaded with that same bullet and achieve almost identical velocities as the CORBON loading. Accordingly, these are superb performers.

3. CORBON Original JHP 115+P: CORBON first introduced their ammo around 1982, a good five years before the landmark Wound Ballistics Conference of 1987 that established the modern standards for ammo performance. How does it hold up against the modern standards? Not great, but not too shabby either. They don’t reach the 12″ minimum penetration depth from a 3″-barrel gun, and the bare-gel bullets did kind of disintegrate into chunks and pieces, but the denim-gel bullets held together and expanded to decent size. They performed better than I expected them to, but they’re not up to the standards of modern rounds. If you want a 115+P from CORBON, I’d highly recommend the DPX instead.

4. CORBON Pow’R Ball: this is an ultra-light, 100-grain projectile that is rated at an extremely high velocity of 1,475 fps. It’s a wide-mouth bullet with a big hollowpoint cavity, with a large plastic ball stuffed in its mouth. The Pow’R Ball was intoduced a little over a decade ago, and the ball is there for two reasons:
a) it rounds out the profile of the bullet, making it more resemble a roundnose FMJ, which CorBon says increases feeding reliability, and
b) the ball itself should help with ensuring the bullet expands properly; when impacting, the ball should drive down into the hollowpoint cavity and push the petals outward. This should also provide reliable, consistent performance through denim, if it works.

In my testing, the Pow’R Ball penetrated about the same as the Original JHP — the bullets didn’t reach 12″ but they were consistently over 10″. The expansion was beautiful, pristine, and consistent whether through denim or bare gel, and the bullets retained their integrity.

The velocity from the 3″ barrel was nowhere near the rated 1,475 fps (nor did I expect it to be); it averaged 1313 fps. Still, that’s moving along at a pretty good clip, and the high speed caused a large temporary cavity which resulted in the gel block being picked up and pushed around some. I do believe that a bad guy shot by these would notice it.

The temporary cavity doesn’t generally wound though, so in terms of damage done, the permanent cavity is what matters — expansion size and penetration depth. And while these were okay, and could certainly be effective against a bad guy with proper shot placement, I’ve tested too many rounds that reliably expand and penetrate to 13″, 14″, or 15″ or more, to recommend a round that only goes about 11″.

So, that’s this week’s report — two outstanding winners, and two “thanks for playing” entrants. If I can speed up the pace of getting my testing done, the possibility exists that I might be able to conclude this 9mm Ammo Quest…maybe even this year… Thanks for your patience!

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  1. I’ve shot Pow’rball from a TCP and it worked perfectly-I would have no hesitation using it in any gun rated +P.Jeff Quinn on Gunblast claimed 1200 FPS. Regular HP’s were hit or miss with the TCP-but after slapping the slide they all went bang. How much does shedding the jacket really matter if a bullet expands 50% anyway?

    • The issue with shedding the jacket is just a question of momentum – as it loses weight, it loses momentum faster. Which can lead to under penetration. If it penetrates “enough” then no, it doesn’t matter as much. But the chances of it under penetrating at that point increase.

  2. You ended my 9mm ammo quest with the HSTs, still love watching the videos though. Ive always been curious about the PowR ball as I know a couple fellas that swear by it as if it was cast from magical unicorn droppings, I never realized the bullet was that light.

    • Ditto. Other than .380 auto, any handgun of mine that can feed HSTs will be loaded with HSTs. I switched from Speer Gold Dot 124gr +P when it was all used up.

      The LCP is the only exception, and gets Hornady Custom 90 gr XTP, which was the only XTP load I could actually find in stock anywhere (Midway). Also thanks to Ammo Quest.

      • the lehigh xtreme penetrator really ups the game for .380. maybe even reaches 9mm performance for disabling/stopping the threat.

  3. I’d be curious to see how heavy 9mm bullets (147- 158 grain or even heavier) perform in these test with pocket pistols. I don’t care about expansion as much as penetration. Consider using Buffalo Bore or similar boutique loads in comparison with more standard vanilla loads.

  4. What about the “best” 9mm self-defense ammunition for full-size pistols? It appears that ShootingTheBull410’s tests have all been with compact pistols with 3 inch barrels. What about full-size pistols with 4 inch or even 5 inch barrels?

    An extra inch of barrel will increase muzzle velocity on the order of 100 to 150 feet per second. That means bullets will impact their target 100 to 150 feet per second faster. Does that translate into more penetration? Or more bullet expansion? Or less penetration because the bullet expands too much? Or more expansion and penetration? Would any given load over-penetrate?

    • Shooting the Bull has focused on short-barrel tests because of the growing popularity of short-barrel guns for CC self-defense and the lack of ammo testing through short-barrel guns. He has done a very professional job.

    • uncommon_sense:

      Your observations are all correct, and that is exactly why I’m focusing on testing from the 3″ barrel. Because ammo is generally reported on as having been tested from a 4″ or longer barrel, I’m concerned with the velocity loss that happens when you go to a 3″ barrel. For many rounds, it’s 100 fps or more, and that can be a make-or-break difference in velocity. As I’m sure you well know, bullets are typically designed in such a way that there is a range of velocity at which they’ll work properly; if they are driven too slow they will fail to expand, and if they’re driven too fast they may rip apart or “overexpand” to the point where the petals peel back flat against the bullet base, which means that they end up being smaller than intended, and overpenetrate as a result.

      There has been plenty of testing from 4″ barrel guns; I recommend tnoutdoors9’s channel for a good resource, and the Ammo FAQ at has a compilation of Dr. Gary Roberts’ testing of ammo typically from a 4″ barrel. So when I started this, I was of the opinion that the 4″ barrel was pretty well covered, but nobody was testing from the 3″ barrel.

      The 3″ barrel (and slightly longer) seems to be a major growth category, from the tiny pocket pistols up to double-stacks like the new XD Mod.2, or single-stacks like the Shield and Glock 43, or standbys like the Glock 26. If ammo does well in a 3″ barrel, it will almost certainly do well in a 3.5″, so I consider my testing valid for these shorter-barrel pistols. However, the reverse is not ncecessarily true: if ammo does well from a 4″ barrel, there is no guarantee that it will also do well from a 3″ or 3.5″.

      Since tnoutdoors9 has basically “retired” from ammo testing, I’m taking a look at adding a bit of 4″- and 6″-barrel testing to some of my tests, just to get an overview of what the barrel length difference might mean. In some cases, it doesn’t matter much, but in some cases it can mean a difference of over 200 fps, so for some loads I’ll be including that data.

      • Thank you for the feedback ShootingTheBull410. I really enjoy watching all of your tests and I hold them to be invaluable for deciding which self-defense ammunition to shoot from compact 9mm pistols.

        Alas, I am looking for an excellent performer on a full size 9mm.

        Nevertheless, don’t let me discourage you — keep up the great work and attitude!

      • Well before you pick up where tnoutdoors9 left off in the larger 9mm pistols, could you test Buffalo Bore’s 95 grain +P rated .JHP .380 load? Earlier this year you tested Buffalo Bore’s 100 grain +P hardcast load, but that load is not meant to expand and you have also tested BB’s standard pressure 90 grain .380 JHP ammo, which performed like many other .380 hollow points in failing to penetrate.

        The reason I am requesting you to test the 95 grain +P load is that I’m thinking the extra pressure power will ensure expansion, unlike the standard pressure load you tested a while back, and that the 95 grain bullet will ensure good penetration numbers. Of course, my speculation doesn’t mean anything and I think your excellent testing criteria would be a great format to test a rather uncommon .380 load.

        I know that you do not like to test overpressurized .380 ACP from your .380 pistols, but there are guns chambered in .380 whose manufacturers say +P rounds are okay to shoot. Without testing, owners of these guns that carry them for self defense will not know if they are missing out on the best .380 ammo or if other .380 ammo you have previously tested is truly better.

        Love your channel, it’s one of the best and most informative on youtube.

        Oh, also could you test the Hornady Critical Duty .45 Colt round in the Public Defender?

    • I would look at tnoutdoors9 on youtube for ballistic gel tests. He uses a G19 for the majority of his 9mm tests.

    • the original point of the testing was not ammunition testing, but testing ammunition in a specific type firearm: pocket pistol. STB started with the idea that pocket pistols were likely to be carried more often, by more people than larger handguns. not sure why the assumption, nor the validity. at any rate, the testing is limited (except that ammo manufacturers apparently release .380 and 9mm rounds faster than STB can test). if you are interested in ballistic performance from small guns, STB is the best source for believable testing. he does the testing as a ‘hobby’,, and depends on donations (not from ammo manufacturers) of cash and equipment. he has little, if any, support staff to assist with obtaining ammunition, staging tests, doing the videos and publishing the results in narrative form (.380 only, so far). it would seem that to do general ammunition testing STB would need to go full-time until all ammunition could be tested (which would likely be never-ending). for more general testing, there are a pot load of other u-tube test videos available, but without the diligence of STB.

  5. Thanks for keeping this going. I appreciate all the effort. I agree with the sentiments above about HST*, though I also pick up Ranger when I run across it. Still nice to see more results.

    *except in .380, where I prefer to look for XTP loadings, based on your testing, and the fact that it feeds fine for me

  6. ive also stopped my ammo quest at both the HSTs and the Corbon DPX 115+p i use the dpx in my 43 and the hst 124 in my shield and the +p in my glock 19…

  7. Why not test the XTP +p loads from Underwood and Grizzly? I know you like the Hornady XTP bullet. I personally feel the 115/124 grain XTPs at 1300 -/+ fps would probably ace this test. I’d be curious how the Grizzly 90 grain XTP at 1500fps would do as well.

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