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Pocket 9s are all the rage right now. They have been since pocket .380s relinquished the title in a steel cage death match back in April of 2012. But as always, the question is just how effective they really are. Having identified the best .380 load in the personal defense firmament, ShootingTheBull410’s jumping feet first into his stockpiles of parabellum to find out what rounds perform best from the new breed of pocket pistols. (Just please, don’t call them “Tiny Nineys”…) Check out the first video in his new Ammo Quest series. In this installment, he puts Hornady Critical Duty through the testing crucible.


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  1. The only time I see “tiny nineys” is in articles here saying not to call them that. Either you’re oversensitive or trying to start the tend with reverse psychology.

  2. All that gibberish tells us what? Not a darn thing (in my opinion) other that this is what this bullet did, this day, out of this gun, in this media. SO?? I’m tired of marketing slickery that attempts to lead us to believe that we can BUY security in a box. If the stuff is SOOOO good, why don’t they give an unconditional gaurantee that only one shot form thse new King Kong Killers will stop an attacker.

    There is so much more to stopping an attack other than bullets. Can you actually hit what you are aiming at for example.

    Technology is NOT a replacement for hard earned skills.

        • Yes, the tests certainly have limitations, but they seem well designed enough to provide some useful info.

      • Especially since we’re not going to find too many AARs and autopsy reports from DGU teeny-neeny cases. Not enough to build an incontrovertible picture.

        I don’t know any good operators who don’t want to optimize their weapon and ammunition characteristics. Even if they can perforate a moving perp’s pupil 10 out of ten at 50 yards.

        Which is why the FBI has these standardized tests.

    • Good God you’re impatient/unforgiving/curmudgeonly… Take a breath. You do realize this is the first of quite a few tests, right? You’re familiar with the .380 ammo tests he did, that are linked in the post above? That test ran to something like 25 different kinds of .380 ammo. This series will probably be similar. So, with regard to this comment…

      “…this is what this bullet did, this day, out of this gun, in this media. SO?? I’m tired of marketing slickery that attempts to lead us to believe that we can BUY security in a box.”

      I will say this. You’re right. This bullet, this gun, this day, this media. But when he tests 25 other cartridges, using the same gun, and the same media, you know what variable is left? The ammo. And then you have a basis for comparison. So how about you hit the pause button your righteous indignation and see how the other tests turn out, hmm?

  3. Two things:

    First, mousegunaddict has done a bunch of testing with shorter barrels with varying results. Second, Hornady advertises this round as not being good for shorter barrels. Other defensive offerings, i.e golddot or HST, don’t exhibit these issues in shorter barrels. How about Golddot 124 +p short barrel?

    • …and’s test of the Critical Duty 9mm ammo out of a Kahr with a 3″ barrel had results quite a bit different from this test. In those tests both the standard and +P loadings of Critical Duty penetrated to just over 15″ with the +P load expanding best. Neither load offered massive expansion but the conclusions on that website was entirely opposite from that of Shootingthebull410. Yeah, they used different media and Mousegunaddict used 2 layers of denim.

      Go figure. In tests, just like in real life, variables vary and conclusions are not conclusive.

      • Matt In FL is spot on target. I will be testing many rounds, probably at least a dozen. I may not have to do AS MANY in 9mm to find a very effective round, because 9mm is in general so much more powerful than .380 that I’m sure I’ll find several successful 9mm candidates. Hornady Critical Duty was the first, but as the video shows I’m going through the first three Hornady rounds. I’ve also got Gold Dots and Rangers and PDX1 and Golden Sabers and Guard Dogs and several other rounds that will all be tested. And, yes, Critical Duty +P is already on its way; I think the additional velocity might be exactly what’s needed to get a little more expansion and pull the penetration down into the usable range.

        As for the validity of testing — hey — everyone’s free to use whatever criteria they want, to determine what they want to carry. How do you make your decision? Without testing, I guess you would have to rely on reading the box cover, or listening to the recommendations of the guys at the gun store, or reading gun magazines, or maybe by shooting water jugs? Do whatever works for you, I have no problem with that. For me, because I have the ability to do so, I want to make my decisions based on quantified, carefully controlled testing.

        There’s a lot of misunderstanding and, frankly, (on the part of certain manufacturers) some outright deception in their advertising as to how ammunition in general, and their ammunition in particular, works. I’ve always enjoyed getting to the bottom of things, and I would much rather light a candle than curse the darkness, so I enjoy testing and seeing what actually happens.

        • (oops, big reply to the wrong post, and can’t edit it).

          Bruce got different results than I did. Don’t know why, other than he uses denim in his first shots, although denim typically results in more penetration rather than less.

          There’s variability that can occur in ammo testing, any one shot can vary from any one other shot significantly (I’ve had the exact same lot of ammo deliver under 12″, and over 19″, in the same test). That’s why I use five shots per block, to get a larger sample size and hopefully get a more comprehensive picture of the total performance.

          Mrgunsandgear uses the same test media and he also got, IIRC, around 20″ of penetration from Critical Duty, although his test pistol’s barrel length was longer than what I used.

          My interest is specifically in testing from the 3″ barrel length, as I’ve found most testers seem to conduct tests from longer barrels and that may or may not result in comparable performance to the shorter barrels.

  4. Why did he go straight to duty and not defense?

    I presently load Hornady Critical Defense. Would love to see THAT video.

    • Why? to get you to watch the next 2 videos, one of which will be Critical Defense. Come on… no way will he lead with whatever he thinks will be the best, that would be bad view count strategy.

      Good series, though. I have a 380, so the last series was useful. I am interested in a short barreled 9mm (Walther PPS), so I’ll be watching the rest of these.

    • Wow, people are impatient around here. Maybe because Duty is what he laid his hand on first? The explanation could be just that simple, you know.

      “Here’s a pile of 25 9mm rounds to test. Where should I start? How about the one on top.”

  5. ShootingTheBull410,

    I love these. I could watch them all day. There is a ton of penetration numbers out there and the test criteria isn’t always spelled out. I love it that we know the gun, barrel length, etc. I can’t wait to see more.

    • I also really enjoy these videos. This series should be helpful to me since I have that same Sig.

      I am guessing the Critical Defense will work just fine, being that is how it is designed.

  6. 124gr. +P Gold Dots for >4″ barrels, 115gr. Gold Dots for <4" barrels. Lighter bullets expand easier and will reach sufficient velocity from the shorter barrels. The +Ps (other than those specifically designed for short barrels) would probably give you more muzzle blast than horsepower from the short barrels.

    • What about all these guys I see who swear by 147 gr +P (or even +P) and consider themselves under armed with any “lesser” cartridge?

      Personally I don’t see it. You have to gave a awful lot of extra oomph to make up for the lost velocity, and the extra recoil doesn’t seem like a fair trade-off. 115s, especially the FMJ, zip right along but overpenetrate, and the 147s don’t seem a whole lot different in this latter regard.

      • I’m not a big fan of 147gr. 9mm just because the standard pressure rounds all seem to drop off quite a bit in energy from the lighter bullets. +P might be OK though. Slower heavier bullets are good for penetration but don’t usually expand as much. Slowing them down more by shooting them from short barrels makes them virtual full metal jackets (as was the case with the 135gr. Hornady). Might be an ideal round for 9mm carbines.

      • “What about all these guys I see who swear by 147 gr +P (or even +P) and consider themselves under armed with any “lesser” cartridge?”

        Well, that’s exactly the question I have — how did they come to that conclusion?

        In general, based on extensive testing, I know that GENERALLY, heavier bullets are better penetrators than lighter bullets are. But when it comes to specific ammo choices for specific guns, the generalizations have to go out the window and you have to actually test and verify. Furthermore, bullet design can have a huge impact on the performance of a particular round. For example, you can have a 147-grainer that penetrates less than a 115-grainer, if the 147-grainer is designed to open up more.

        Then there’s the barrel length equation. What if the 147-grainer is a perfect performer from a 5″ barrel, but the 3″ barrel doesn’t deliver enough velocity for the bullet to open up? That same “wonderful” 147-grain bullet might be a dog in a 3″ barrel gun.

        So the question becomes — without proper validated testing, how do you make that decision? When it’s a decision of such importance, I don’t think it’s wise to just go based on assumptions, I think it’s prudent to test (if at all possible). Hence why I tested the daylights out of .380 rounds, and why I will be conducting a number of tests of 9mm rounds until I feel confident that I’ve found great performers that earn a rightful spot as a 3″-barrel pistol’s carry round.

        • This is just my semi-informed opinion, as I have not personally don’t any ballistics gel testing. The “problem” with 147gr. 9mm is that it takes up more case capacity than the lighter bullets. In order to make a bullet open up easier you need a larger hollow point cavity which replaces lead with air, necessitating the bullet be even longer and taking up even more case capacity. Reducing the powder charge to accommodate the longer bullet lowers velocity and limits the energy available for expanding the bullet.

          The advantage to the heavier bullet is that it retains more of it’s energy at distance and penetrates more. It’s just a matter of picking up the right hammer and nail for the job.

  7. I recently purchased a CW9 (3.65″ barrel). it passed the FMJ tests with fling colors, so now is the time to test HPs for reliability. When I went looking, the Critical Duty were the only cartridges on the shelf at one store; and other was selling HSTs for $30 a box. Run whatch brung, as they say. Looked to me that the CDs expanded just fine–but that by design they don’t expand a whole lot.

  8. This is good info, because if you over-penetrate a bad guy and kill an innocent bystander, you’ll be charged with manslaughter or 2nd degree; if a cop does the same, he’ll automatically be found completely innocent (actually, even if he purposely shoots an innocent bystander, he’ll be found innocent in any case).

    Therefore, it sounds like the “C Duty” and “C Defense” names are apt, and their respective performances which I’ve seen in various tests show a significant difference in ballistic performance, which should be considered when choosing.

    • Oh lord, are you one of those 45 guys? The more I learn about real terminal ballistics, the more efficient the 9mm seems. The permanent cavity of a 357 mag is the same as a 9mm plus P.

      • Its the temporary (stretch) cavity that makes a 357magnum so special. But, yes, .380 and 9mm are each great in their perspective places. People who say they are worthless don’t make any sense or have an agenda. The only people whose time is wasted are the bad guys after they were shot by a .380 or 9mm.

    • Look, dude. People carry what they choose to carry. This is about finding the best ammunition to use in that gun, if that’s what you choose to carry. Take your 10mm elitist BS elsewhere, because that’s not what we’re doing here.

      By the way, I answered your epic “9mm is crap” rant in the other thread.

  9. This is exactly why I have said that velocity is important when doing gun reviews, especially handguns. JHP’s have an “operating range” where too little velocity yields unsatisfactory expansion. I’m curious if the 9mm +P would generate sufficient velocity to increase expansion and decrease penetration. I’m sure we’ll eventually find out.

    • We will indeed find out. I’ve got the “+P” version of Critical Duty ammo on order; when it comes in we’ll have a direct comparison between how the standard-pressure and “+P” versions compare, from the 3″ barrel.

      I am slightly optimistic, I expect the additional velocity will result in additional expansion for the “+P” version, which will likely rein in the penetration down into the good zone.

      However, who knows? It’s dangerous to assume anything. I mean, what if Critical Duty uses a slower-burning powder, and doesn’t reach full velocity until 4″ or 4.5″ of travel? It may turn out that there’s no significant or appreciable velocity difference out of the short barrel. So it may or may not make a difference.

      Only way to know for sure, is to test it!


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