Previous Post
Next Post

Last week I showed you one of the most impressive and savage bullets, the Lehigh Defense Maximum Expansion round from a Taurus Judge. It performed amazingly well, but it raised a very valid question — how would that massive hollowpoint cavity handle four layers of heavy denim? All it took was a quick trip to the range, a leftover gel block and a pull of the trigger to give us the answer.

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. Not clear on the whole denim testing thing. I know some government alphabet organization uses it. I have seen tests from as small a caliber as .22’s and it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

    Modern firearm ammo does not appear to be phased by it from the videos and the small amount of reading I have done. Why bother?

    Ah ha, you were shot with so-and-so caliber, BUT you were wearing denim!

    • I was under the impression that some HP ammo has been shown to clog with fabric and not expand the same.

    • From what I’ve read as I’ve poked around the intertubes, early incarnations of hollowpoint pistol bullets often failed to expand if the cavity was plugged with fabric or something soft on impact.

      Why they test with denim in particular, I’m not sure…could just be that it’s common and easy to use, or maybe something about its specific physical characteristics.

      • “Why they test with denim in particular, I’m not sure…could just be that it’s common and easy to use, or maybe something about its specific physical characteristics.”
        The denim test came about because CHP officers were reporting a lot of failures of bullets in officer-involved shootings, and so they set about to determine why. They found that clothing was clogging the hollowpoints, so they set about to implement a test that represented a worst-case scenario for what would clog a hollowpoint. The FBI had already implemented “heavy clothing” testing requirements, but bullets were still failing, so the decision was that the FBI test just wasn’t enough of a worst-case scenario, and bullets needed to be more robust. The denim test is a very specific type of denim, and 4 layers of it. Shooting through someone’s old jeans doesn’t meet the standard, you need 4 layers of 16oz/sq yard denim. (most jeans are about 12 to maybe 14 oz per sq yard).

        If you want more info, check here:

    • Denim testing is designed to give you an overall perspective of hollowpoint performance. For self defense testing, the general testing protocols are the IWBA tests of bare gelatin and 4 layers of heavy denim; between those two tests you get a best-case and worst-case scenario results, and bullets that pass both tests can be reasonably expected to perform well in all likely self defense scenarios.

      The FBI testing is far more complex — they add many barriers that are likely to be encountered by law enforcement, that are not necessarily relevant to self defense. FBI testing tests bare gel, plus “heavily clothed” gel, plus through barriers of drywall, auto glass, car doors, etc.

      As far as what the goal of the denim test is, it’s not about changing penetration depth. Denim is not enough of a barrier to slow a bullet down to any appreciable degree. It’s about whether the bullet will still function properly after encountering the denim, and I can tell you that it is definitely a concern still today. Here’s an example of my testing where denim caused complete bullet failure in bullets that performed otherwise quite well in bare gel:

    • The purpose is to improve bullet design by simulating various barriers that a bullet commonly encounters in a combat shooting. The denim simulates heavy clothing, wallboard for a wall, metal for a car door, and laminated glass simulates a windshield. There is both actual and anecdotal evidence that bullets have failed to expand in combat shootings, which increases the chances of dangerous over penetration and decreases the effectiveness of the round to quickly neutralize a combatant.

      Although the simulations aren’t perfect, it is almost universally agreed that bullet design has improved. Ballistic gel and established barriers are also much more consistent than wet newspaper and wood penetration tests.

      I for one, enjoy knowing that the relative penetration capabilities of a 6.8 110 grain VMAX vs Barnes TSX, or a .308 Amax vs. a GMX vs SST, or how a .40 Smith JHP can perform after passing through clothing. Obviously there are many factors that affect penetration and expansion.

      As for me, I usually look at established data or blast water filled jugs. I plink with watermelons and bowling pins, but that is even less scientific. It’s fun, though.

  2. I’m just assuming this but the dark specks of matter in the wound channel appear to be some of the denim just shredded and scattered in the wound. If(And that’s a mighty big if) the target somehow survived being shot with that round he would have to sweat infection worries unless the docs got every shred of that. Honestly tho, I think this is a true Dead Right There load.

    By the way. seeing that gel dance never gets old. This round gives new meaning to hydrostatic shock.

    • Forget the ammo, the guns are illegal where I live. CA. I guess I could buy a box of these awsome rounds and then insert them manually into anybody that breaks into my house.

      • It’s just a .45 Colt round, isn’t it? Aren’t there any .45 Colt revolvers on the CA roster? S&W Model 25? Ruger Redhawk?

        • Ah, so it’s specifically designed for the Judge (and not really a .45 Colt, then). I get it. I thought it was just a special bullet in a standard .45 Colt form factor, but it’s designed to take advantage of the longer cylinder on the Judge.

        • “Maybe you could shoot it out of a .410?”

          Out of a regular .410 shotgun? That would be a bad idea. .410 shotguns aren’t designed to handle .45 Colts as is, so putting a modified .45 Colt wouldn’t work too well.

          But out of a .45/.410 shotgun like the Circuit Judge, yes that would work. Should work out of any type of combo .45/.410 like a derringer, or the new DoubleTap 45/410, or the Leinads, etc.

    • Grizzlies, elephants, tyrannosaurs, you name it… That thing is devastating! It’s like shooting a broadhead arrow at 1000 fps.

    • id rethink that….in people we want quick expansion and under 20″ of gel penetration. while this round is shallow in depth it makes up for it with a gigantic cavity.

      on something like an elephant or a bear(even blacks) or a hog….if it is coming right at you, your shooting into the very thick hide and skull. that round is going to expand and stop before hitting vitals likely, you’d want something hard cast with a solid nose. for hunting on most pig it should work, though. with a vitals shot.

  3. Doesn’t the penetration seem a little low for self defense? I thought we were looking to get at least 12 in of penetration out of our SD stuff?

    • In general, yes — 12″ is the standard settled upon at the international wound ballistic conferences. Look at my prior test video (kindly linked by dlj95118) and you’ll see a more representative penetration test. I don’t make any claims about the penetration test in today’s video, as it was a leftover gel block that was sliced in half and stacked back-to-back to get some more length on it. So as a penetration test, it’s not what I would warrant as being fully accurate. As an expansion test, though, it should be 100% accurate.

      In the prior testing, we didn’t get a consistent 12″ either, but did come fairly close. The question you have to ask yourself here is — does this round produce so much damage that it’ll still be an effective round, even if it doesn’t reach 12″? I think the answer is most definitely.

      • I’ll check out your other test shortly. I love the ammo penetration tests, thank you for conducting them. I just hit your site too and look forward to some good reading!

      • Thanks for sharing your tests. If you are looking to expand your lineup, I’m curious about the Underwood .380 102 grain JHP, and the entire Underwood .40 Smith line through something like a Glock 23. Heck, pretty much all the major manufacturers in all the major rifle and pistol calibers.

        • Hi Accur81,

          “I’m curious about the Underwood .380 102 grain JHP”

          I’ve been conducting extensive (some may say exhaustive) tests on .380 rounds, and I’ve already tested that particular round. Did reasonably well in bare gel, failed in denim (totally clogged and failed to expand).

          If you’re interested in .380 in general (especially from today’s micro-pistols, the ~2.8″ barrels such as the TCP, LCP, Pico, Bodyguard, 238 etc) then check out my series on my youtube channel; just search YouTube for “Ammo Quest” and it’ll bring up a couple dozen videos I’ve been testing. I’m almost ready to declare a winner.

          “the entire Underwood .40 Smith line through something like a Glock 23″

          I’m beginning testing on .40’s using a Springfield XD40; not exactly a Glock23 but a direct competitor with the same barrel length so the testing should be completely comparable.

          My next major series is going to be an Ammo Quest for 9mm pocket pistols (3” barrels like the Kahr PM9, Sig P938, Diamondback DB9 etc).

          “Heck, pretty much all the major manufacturers in all the major rifle and pistol calibers”

          It’s all coming, depending on time and funds… stay tuned!

      • After reviewing your original test video, I am unconcerned about the reduced penetration. Those have to be the largest expanded bullets I’ve ever seen and your long barrel handgun look comically huge. I’m a little surprised that Lehigh doesn’t make them heavier to get a little more penetration out of the bullets. It seems like they have the space, but maybe my amateur understanding of ammo design is missing something. I really enjoyed the test, thank you.

        • Hi TT,

          Glad you’re liking the tests! I am still a *little* concerned about underpenetration, but — I mean, if you had an HST that went 12.5″, or these monsters going 11.5″, to me, I think you’re probably going to delver more physical damage and more sheer psychological shock with the outrageously large Maximum Expansion round, even if it penetrates an inch less. When it gets down below 10″ I start to get nervous, but in my comprehensive testing they did in general better than that.

  4. OK I’m confused. I thought after the bruhaha of the 1990’s the particular ammo called “black talon” had been outlawed by ATF. I thought there was some reg by them about multiple “petals” on expansion. Am I right or wrong? Anyone have more info on the black talon ammo and how it became illegal for civilians?

    • That Wikipedia article seems like how I remember it — I don’t recall “Black Talon” ever being made “illegal”, it’s just that it got painted with a label just like how an AR15 is painted with the label “assault rifle”. Funny how they say that the SXT line is the “Same eXact Thing”. I tested Winchester Ranger-T’s in .380 and the talons it puts out are just nasty, wicked and sharp.

      Ranger-T’s are available on the market today, and while Winchester doesn’t admit it, we (well, those I talk to) think that the “T” refers to “Talon”, as in it’s basically an evolved version of the same basic design. They’re just not “black” anymore, so the media won’t call them “evil Black Talons”.

  5. I want to see how it performs when shooting through a rib-cage. I wonder how the bone would affect the performance of the round.

    • ” I wonder how the bone would affect the performance of the round.”

      Not as easily answered as you might think. Dead bones don’t have the same flexibility, density, or “wetness” that living bone tissue has, so shooting pork ribs doesn’t tell you much of any value.

      The only way to really know, would be to shoot one into a living creature’s ribcage (or an extremely fresh cadaver, less than 15 minutes dead). And if you shoot it into a non-human (like a deer or feral pig) then you still won’t know, because the bone density between those other animals and humans may be quite a bit different.

      Ballistic gel penetration figures take into account the bones in the original equation anyway. The average torso is about 9″ thick, but you need a bullet that can penetrate 12 to 18″ of ballistic gel because — people aren’t made of ballistic gel. They do have bones (and other such variable-density tissues). So if a bullet can penetrate 12″ of ballistic gel, then it also has enough power to smash through bones and still reach and destroy the body’s vital structures. This has been highly correlated against “real world” and “street” shootings through doctors, medical examiners, emergency room techs, combat surgeons, etc.

      The question is interesting though because of the abnormal shape of this bullet. Would it be particularly susceptible to resistance by bones because it expands so large? I can’t find out definitively (as that would involve shooting a human or a fresh cadaver, and … I’m not gonna) but maybe I can work out something with Sim-Bone or something… let me think about it…

    • Thank for the link. Ain’t it fun to see the same anti-gun names from 20 freaking years ago are still causing gun owners headaches?….It is hard to keep the details of these various anti attacks clear over 20 or 30 years. The Black Talons got a ton of negative press especially when they were used by Colin Ferguson in the Long Island Railroad shooting.

      BTW I found a link that said San Francisco outlawed Talons by name. So there may be other locales like NJ where hollow point bullets are outlawed. I checked the ATF website and nada so there are no Federal regs other than a ridiculous list of Armor Piercing named brands and a reg outlawing a bullet whose jacket weighs more than 25% of the bullet. My head is spinning at the stupidity….

      Wondering if you have time can you maybe test out the VERY VERY DANGEROUS BULLET that they have in NY State? I believe its called the 8th bullet…LOL

  6. I recall a similar bullet from Grizzly was it? 175 grain copper hollowpoint made for the long cylinder. Wasn’t as impressive as this though. This will sell some .410/.45LC comboes and I ain’t a fan but I just put one on the to get list…

  7. Great follow up; when I saw the first video, I was guessing that clothing would most likely block up the cavity and degrade its expansion. Very impressive! But I’m sure police unions and Congressional Demolibtards will be screaming for them to be banned any day now.

  8. I’ve been wondering about bullet stability. Is it still going front-end first at 20 to 30 yards? Or will it keyhole? That could make a big difference in expansion

    • I was concerned about that as well, so I put them in the Ransom rest and tested accuracy from the Raging Judge at 7 yards and at 25 yards. They surprised me by being as accurate as regular .45 Colt rounds. I really thought they’d exhibit some degree of aerodynamic instability, but they held a decent group at 25 yards.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here