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SIG SAUER has introduced their own line of ammunition, accompanied by some substantial promises in a marketing video.  Maybe I geek out a bit too much on stuff like this, but — when a big-name company like SIG introduces a brand new design, guaranteeing that it’ll live up to the SIG SAUER name, it really grabs my attention.  Especially since SIG says that their ammo has been designed specifically for personal defense. Thanks to the generous support of Texas’ own, I was able to get ahold of two different calibers for testing.  Since my recent testing has focused on finding suitable ammo for short-barreled concealed carry weapons, I very optimistically proceeded to put the ammo through two different tests . . .

I was especially intrigued by the inclusion of .380 ACP in Sig’s lineup. The little .380 has very few well-performing ammo choices; the few rounds that actually do perform well all use very old bullet technology (either the Hornady XTP, or the Federal Hydra Shok).  With Sig’s brand-new from-the-ground-up design, and promises of optimal penetration and expansion from all of their calibers, I proceeded to test it from a 2.8″ barrel pocket pistol (above).

I also fit the SIG ammo into my current 9mm Ammo Quest, using (coincidentally) a SIG SAUER pistol, the P938. Surely, SIG’s own ammo will perform great from their own pistol, right?  Right?

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  1. Soooo… pretty much for both the .380 pocket rockets and the Tiny 9mms you would be better off carrying the old school hydra-shoks than the brand new fancy ammo that Sig spent untold amounts of money creating. In a full size duty gun im sure the ammo will perform much differently when tested. But for whats in my waistband hydra-shoks work just fine!

    • I’ve said for years, and said so in a prior response here on TTAG, that unless someone does the work that STB is doing to prove a new round better than Hydra-Shok’s, when one is looking for defensive ammo, just load up on Hydra-Shoks and be on your way. You’re probably shooting something better than ball by doing so, and more available than many of the newer, fancier defensive rounds.

  2. I’m proud to have have known the two guys behind Hydra-Shok and have had a tiny bit of involvement in it way back when (pre-Federal buyout days).

  3. I want to see someone shoot .380 ACP with hardcast lead bullets into ballistic gel and show us what happens.

    I have a hunch the results will create a new stampede for .380 ACP handguns and hardcast lead bullets.

    • Although I don’t own a .380 and don’t have an opinion either way, I’ve heard for years that hard cast or even FMJ are better than most of the hollow point offerings in that caliber.

    • The only problem I have with hard cast bullets is the lead fouling. On a modern pistol it’s such a pain to keep it clean and functional with lead all over the place.

      • Hardcast lead — especially with a gas check — creates a negligible amount of lead fouling. As I understand it, in order to create any significant amount of lead fouling, you would have to fire way more hardcast lead bullets with a gas check than you would want to out of typical .380 ACP pistols. In other words you would have to fire something like over a thousand rounds. Most people that I know don’t want to shoot that much.

        Additionally, use full metal jacket for practice and hardcast lead for self-defense. Who cares about lead fouling if that was part of the “cost” of being able to defend yourself effectively?

      • Most people would use FMJ at the range, anyway. So the only actual use of hard cast would be 1) every now and then at the range to make sure it feeds fine, and 2) during an actual DGU. Which should be pretty rare.

  4. Stay with what works, Hornady, Federal, Winchester, Remington. Name brand ammo by a gun company is just another gimmick.

      • Winchester ammo was actually a different company than Winchester guns. It was the same name, sure, but it is located in a wholly different factory in Illinois than any of the Winchester gun production, and the Winchester ammo company is a subsidiary of Olin, Corp.

        The Winchester gun production is now owned by FN and is run out of South Carolina.

  5. I had a “talking out of ass” feeling about the Sig designed ammo. Still think for .380/ 9×18, flat to slightly concave point with a ~40% meplat size, 90-100 grains, thin jacketed soft lead or intermediate cast @ 1000 FPS.

  6. The 9mm bare gel looks like two different alloys were used in the lead cores. Two batches from two batches of alloy. Still not good,

    And somebody commented above me about using FMJ or LRN in a 380.. overpenetration is a big issue. I don’t personally feel that the denim test is a good standard to begin with, but it is the standard we have. My wife has an LC380, and we have decided to use STB410’s findings as a basis for her hollowpoint choices. Sure, FMJ’s guarantee penetration.. but it really does matter what the bullet does WITHIN the target, and stopping is one of those important parts.

    • I cannot see overpenetration being a problem with .380 ACP. For starters, muzzle velocities out of short barreled pocket pistols are around 850 fps at best. Of equal importance the bullets only weigh around 95 grains. The combination of modest mass and velocity means not very much inertia which means overpenetration should not be an issue.

      Even if a 100 grain hardcast lead bullet with a muzzle velocity of 850 feet per second exits an attacker, I cannot see it causing a serious wound in a bystander.

      • FYI, I tested FMJs from the 2.8″ barrel just to get a handle on how much of an issue it is or isn’t. I tried two types of round-nose, and Winchester flat-nose. The round-noses went at about 773 to 817 fps, and penetrated 23 to 24.75″. The flat-nose traveled at 746 to 778 fps, and penetrated 26.5″ and 27.75″.

        Based on that, and assuming an average torso would absorb maybe 12″ worth of penetration, and because they’re FMJs they don’t pay any expansion penalty, I’d say that yes, a .380 FMJ definitely poses the potential of overpenetrating completely through someone and still being lethal to a second person.

  7. I’m not a .380 fan, but I’m definitely not a Sig Suaer JHP fan. I appreciate the independent tests – better than marketing hype any day.

    • I would actually extend this a bit.

      STB, would you consider doing crowdfunded tests by requests? i.e. basically let people submit suggestions on what should be tested next, and vote for submissions. If something gets enough votes, do a Kickstarter (or similar) campaign to cover all associated expenses – rounds, ballistic gel, and anything else that is involved, as well as your time – and then publish the results.

      I’m sure there’s a lot of things that inquiring minds would like to know, and would be willing to pay money to satisfy their curiosity. I would also imagine that compiling the results from all such tests on a single website would draw a considerable audience to it.

      • I’d certainly be highly interested in anything that a) reduces my costs, and b) ensures that the audience is getting information that’s particularly useful and interesting to them, so … I don’t know exactly what you’ve got in mind, but I’d be glad to talk to you more about it…

        • Okay, let me explain in more detail. Let me know if anything here is unclear.

          The way I envision it, it should be a two-stage process. First, you want to know what tests are “generally interesting” (i.e. you don’t just have one or two guys willing to pitch in, but something on the order of several dozen – I don’t know what the exact number should be to cover the losses, it all depends on your expenses for the typical test). The scheme that has been discovered in the last few years for this kind of thing is a website that lets users 1) submit “ideas” or “requests”, 2) comment on others’ submissions, and 3) vote on them. So this is basically like a never-ending poll where the options are added and discussed by the users themselves.

          A good example of such website is UserVoice, which lets people and organizations host their own thematic sections on it – e.g. here is the one that Microsoft runs for Windows Phone, to demonstrate how it looks. The nice thing about UserVoice is that it is free, so long as you’re the only guy who needs administrative access to your section.

          This should give you a general feeling of what tests the people are interested in running, and how many people would be willing to back any particular test. So then every now and then, you’d go for the top-voted test (probably also apply some minimum vote count filter – say, you want at least 200 guys to vote for it, on the assumption that maybe one in ten would be willing to contribute money towards that), and start a funding campaign on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo for that particular test as a project – and post the link to that on the UserVoice suggestion page. This is the time for people who voted for the test on UserVoice to vote again, this time with their dollars, pledging however much they can spare towards the test. You specify the amount of money that you actually need to run the test as the campaign goal, so the test is only performed if that goal is reached (i.e. you had enough people to fully sponsor it).

          My only worry about this scheme would be that campaign funding services would have some bullshit “no guns” policy that they would try to enforce against such a project. I believe Kickstarter in particular was noted to be anti-gun. IndieGoGo, in contrast, seems to have a bunch of open gun-related projects.

    • Many folks have sent ammo for testing, and it’s been a big help because this is an expen$ive venture I’ve embarked on. Easiest way is just to send me a PM on YouTube, and if what you have fits with what I’m working on and fits a gun I’ve got available to test with, we can usually make it work. I can’t always make it work out because I don’t have every caliber and every gun in the world, obviously, so while folks have been clamoring for a .38 Special Snubbie round of testing, I can’t help ’em out with that yet because I don’t have a snubbie to test from.

      • I do have a few rounds I’d like to test from the .40, but … again, the only .40 pistol I’ve got has a 4″ barrel. If that’s what people want to see .40 tested from, I can certainly do it, but I was thinking folks were more looking at something like the Shield or PT740, with a 3.1″ barrel. That’s what I’d prefer to test out of, but … again, I don’t have the pistol to do that with at this time.

        • I agree that there is a decent amount of data available for standard barrel lengths. While I think your format and methodology is superior to most other people doing tests, I agree that the short barrel tests provides the most valuable that isn’t widely available.

    • I don’t have a .357 Sig firearm at the moment. I may pick up a conversion barrel for an existing firearm, that might be a way to test .357 Sig easily. But as of right now, I don’t have that capability.

  8. I appreciate the great tests. Still waiting on the Federal 9mm HST 147 +P test. Hint Hint! 🙂

      • Sounds good. So far, based on your testing, I’ve decided on the HST 147. The question is whether to use the standard pressure or the +P. My guess is we will see increased expansion at the expense of penetration in the +P version.

        Thanks again for the fine work!

  9. The specs say 980 fps from a 4″ barrel. Clearly 1.25″ less barrel makes a huge velocity difference and a huge performance difference. I wonder, if the barrel length were increased to 4 or 5″, would the ammo perform better in the denim test due to higher velocities? Is this generally the case – higher velocity means better HP performance in the denim test?

    I do not care what Hornady or Sig puts on the marketing material no ammo is rated for “all velocities.”

    Worse than the denim test, the inconsistency in bare gel suggests some needed manufacturing QA.

    • I agree that it would be unreasonable to expect any ammo to perform at “all velocities” — which makes it all the more irritating when a company like Sig makes such a promise. But they promised it, so I took them at their word. And was disappointed. Sigh.

      Okay, would it perform better from a longer barrel? Maybe, maybe not. In general, ammo expands more consistently from a longer barrel (meaning, you are less likely to encounter a fail-to-expand event). But the question is — why did the bullets fail to expand — is it because the velocity was too low to force expansion, or did they get plugged up with denim and thus were prevented from being able to expand because no fluid could enter the hollowpoint cavity and exert pressure from the inside to force expansion? If the design is just prone to plugging up, then more velocity won’t help. That’s something that has to be evaluated as a case-by-case situation, and I don’t know the specific answer to that question in regards to the Sig 9mm because I only tested it from the one barrel.

      Once I get caught up with the huge backlog of 9mm tests I already have going, I can revisit the Sig stuff and throw it through a 6″ barrel into denim, just to see if it makes any difference.

      But frankly, this whole experience left me with a feeling of “Version 1.0” here. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if a few months from now we see Version 1.1 with the bugs worked out. At least, I hope so. I would love to see a design that performs like their marketing promises it will… that’d be fantastic. Maybe they can get it together. Until then, I’m saying this current Version 1.0 is a pass, at least in the calibers I tested. Can’t say about the .40, .45, or .357 Sig yet, because I haven’t tested them, and they could be entirely different. It’s not very likely that they’d be entirely different, but it is possible, so I reserve any judgement on those versions until I’ve had a chance to put ’em to the test.

    • Actually, hardcast lead bullets are rated for any velocity because they do not rely on expansion to incapacitate an attacker. (Hollowpoint bullets will not expand below a certain velocity and will shred apart if velocity is too high.) Hardcast lead bullets have a relatively large, flat front surface (meplate) which, surprisingly, creates a permanent wound channel that is considerably larger than the diameter of the bullet. As it turns out, the higher the velocity for a given bullet diameter, the larger the permanent wound channel. Regardless, at the typical range of handgun velocities, all velocities create nasty permanent wound channels.

      Looking at a hardcast lead bullet in .380 ACP with a muzzle velocity of 850 fps, that bullet would create a permanent wound channel with a diameter of about 0.48 inches. That same bullet striking an attacker at 1050 fps would create a permanent wound channel with a diameter of about 0.60 inches. Either wound channel would make for a really bad day. Oh, and don’t forget that the hardcast lead bullet will most likely create an exit wound even though its velocity will be pretty slow. That increases the ability of the lowly .380 ACP to incapacitate an attacker.

      Important note: in my analysis above, I am assuming that hardcast lead bullets coming from small .380 ACP pistols will have the same characteristics as the much heavier hardcast lead bullets in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .45 Long Colt. But we all know that assumptions can be wrong. (After all, .357 Magnum hardcast lead bullets are twice as heavy as .380 ACP and .44 Magnum hardcast lead bullets are three times heavier than .380 ACP.) That is why I want to see someone shoot .380 ACP hardcast lead bullets into ballistic gelatin to see how they perform.

  10. I hope there ammo is better made than there cheap ass .22. It’s for sale if you like a slide made from some kind of zinc alloy or what ever it is. Sig, never again. Give me my Rugers, Colts, and S&W’s. Oops my 12ga. Mossberg, too. Notice all USA made including my Sccy!

  11. That’s a shame. I had hoped that Sig’s ammo would turn out better than that. Well, better that it was weighed, measured, and found wanting here rather than in the field.

  12. Great test. Makes you wonder how marketing folks think they can get away with stuff anymore. Sad comment on Sig. I went with Fed. HS based on your other video

    • I believe the conclusion for .380 was Fiocchi Extrema Ammunition 380 ACP 90 Grain Hornady XTP Jacketed Hollow Point

    • …it was – Precision One on top, with four others in the “acceptable” group.

    • Right now, the best I’ve tested is pretty much any XTP round or the Hydra Shoks. The Precision One XTP round delivered the best, most consistent performance, but all the XTPs were in the “winner’s circle”, along with the Hydra Shoks.

      I had thought that maybe the Sig would be the “HST” that I’ve always wished Federal would make for the .380, but it definitely wasn’t.

      However, yesterday I just tried a round that I’d never tried before, which is marked “new & improved” on the box, and based on my impressions at the range it seems like it did really well. I have to do proper measurements and break down the gel block and everything, but … there may possibly just be a new sheriff in town, when it comes to .380 from a pocket pistol…

  13. Mr. The Bull

    Would you be interested in some Winchester Ranger T +P 124 grain for testing? I would be happy to send some your way.

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