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Ammo releases are never as popular as gun releases, but I always make sure to swing by the big ammo companies to find out what’s new. At the Speer/Federal/CCI booth, I was greeted by several new defensive loads, including the rather surprising Speer Gold Dot Carbine 9mm load. This wasn’t the first PCC defensive load, but it’s the first I’ve seen from a major manufacturer.

Inside the Speer Gold Dot Carbine Load

The popularity of pistol-caliber carbines doesn’t seem to be slowing down. These guns are everywhere, and major companies like Smith & Wesson are producing multiple pistol-caliber carbines. I have a handful I’ve built from AR built kits. When it comes to defensive ammo, the pistol caliber carbine runs into some issues. Most defensive loads are designed for barrels that are anywhere from 2 to 5 inches, and 16-inch rifle barrels can create some issues.

The Speer Gold Dot ammo will be sold in 50 round boxes. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

In fact, common defensive pistol ammo, like the famed Speer Gold Dot 124-grain loads, do not perform as well through a 16-inch barrel as they do a handgun. The extra speed has them moving too fast and controlled expansion becomes not so controlled. It expands too much and doesn’t penetrate as well. Penetration rules and heavier rounds tend to work better in PCCs.

That leads us to the Speer Gold Dot Carbine. Speer utilizes a 135-grain projectile moving at 1,170 feet per second from a 16-inch barrel. According to Speer, the projectile penetrates through bare gel and heavy clothing without a disruption in expansion. The round grows greatly in size and is supposed to penetrate to an acceptable depth.

The controlled expansion is a major factor of the new Carbine round.

While most of Speer’s defensive pistol ammo comes in 20-round boxes, Speer is packaging these in 50-round boxes. That makes a bit more sense for guns that commonly have a standard capacity of 30 rounds. With PCCs being such a big market, it only makes sense that a major company would bring us some defensive PCC food.

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  1. Ballistics by the inch gives the numbers per inch of barrel length for .357 magnum and .357 sig for several cartridge types and barrel lengths 2″ to 18″. The site is still up for archival purposes and is no longer updated. At 16″ average fps are close to the same for both cartridge types starts at 1500 to over 2000 fps for the .357 magnum. Is there a barrel/receiver for a .357 sig in a carbine configuration?, don’t know. Will the existing cartridges perform properly?, I would gather they would.

    • Yes but often proprietary or odd. Bullet selection is the harder part as several of the designs optimized for higher velocity 9mm (be it 357 SIG or 9mm+p+ sub gun) fell out of favor the last decade and change and are a bit less available than I would like. With all that said cautiously optimistic we may see some improvements in availability of most of the above except 357 SIG ammo.

  2. Umm, so I just did a quick search for 9mm 135gr muzzle velocities- and I’m seeing tested results of 1,000-1,150 fps out of HANDGUN barrels (4″).

    Soo… why would you slow down the velocity in a 16″ barrel just to make it match handgun ballistics- instead of designing a bullet designed specifically to take advantage of the increased velocity (and ENERGY) that the longer sixteen inches of RIFLE barrel provides?

    It would seem that Speer is choosing the easy/lazy/cheap route over the groundbreaking/warranted/creditable approach to a “new” product.

    I was very keen when reading the title of this post, but have to say I was fixedly disappointed while the reading the details. C’mon, Speer- give us something MORE… not less.

    • I was thinking along the same lines as you..
      I rather hope that Speer offers a carbine option with a larger/hotter charge of a slower burning powder to be efficient (read faster with the same or heavier weight bullets)in the longer barreled options…maybe defensive/utility projectiles in other than hollowpoint design (think jacketed soft points,or some of the ARX type bullets???)??…I still have a bunch of leftover IMI/Samson pistol ammo loaded for carbines and larger format pistols that do well downrange.

      • I thought the sams thing. I’m really disappointed with this. They should have a round that is much hotter and faster out of a carbine length barrel, with a tougher (probably heavier too) projectile designed to expand a little slower/less.

      • I got a buncha NATO 9mm FMJ for my Beretta CX-4. About 140 rounds ready in magazines in the basic load, plus a significant war reserve. I figure if the SHTF thing happens and I resort to that weapon, I’ll want to be tearing things up, too, shooting through barriers, etc. Actually, maybe milsurp SMG ammo would be the best choice.

        • “Actually, maybe milsurp SMG ammo would be the best choice.”

          I used to see quite a bit of that ‘black tip’ 9mm UZI at the shows, not so much anymore…

    • I agree, this seems odd. it’s been a while but I seem to recall 13-1400FPS from my AR9 with 5.8 gr Blue Dot and a 16″ barrel using Lee 125gr LRNs that weighed in at 135GR in reality. I swear the ogive on that bullet is a bit wonky, not my favorite at all. Like they didn’t cut it sharp enough for the cherry of the mold.

      That out of the way what was amusing is it would be within 15 fps of a titegroup load out of my SD9VE, but 200+ FPS faster than the Titegroup loads out of the carbine.

      I guess where I’m going with this is 1100FPS is leaving a lot of horsepower on the table for this based on what I’ve seen. Not really impressed at all. Maybe I’ll be more so if it’s conservative on the chronograph.

  3. Before I retired I was lucky enough to be invited to the range by Federal/CCI/Speer a couple of times. I was impressed. That’s why Gold Dot ammunition is loaded in all my defensive handguns. I’m not a fan of a PCC, the odds of this load finding its way into a handgun are almost guaranteed. Any review of this ammunition should include testing in common handgun length barrels. I’m guessing the pressure curve is not too great for a modern handgun.

    • “I’m not a fan of a PCC, the odds of this load finding its way into a handgun are almost guaranteed.”

      Outside of a *massive* fireball nuking your night vision, what’s the downside?

      • Geoff, manufacturers have been using flash retardant powder for decades. It was the mid-90s that it became common. I remember working one night and conducted an informal test. We issued Federal Hydra Shock, so I had that. I also had a box of Remington Golden Saber, Winchester Black Talon and a box of ball for a control. This is all.45 ACP from a 5″ barrel. I allowed five minutes between shots. The ball was last. Except for what nature provided, there was no ambient light. The three defensive load’s muzzle blast looked like a few large sparks that extinguished within 12 inches. My night vision was not affected. The ball ammunition produced the fireball you mentioned. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to shoot Gold Dot at night. It was pretty much like the first three loads I described. I’m guessing this carbine load will have a flash retardant powder also. Something to look for in a review.

      • The carbine load won’t have a massive fireball due to the longer barrel of the carbine.

        I was simply commenting on your comment about a carbine load finding it’s way into a handgun :

        “…the odds of this load finding its way into a handgun are almost guaranteed.”

        Fireball, about it. An expensive waste, but it won’t damage anything, besides the shooter’s night vision for a spell…

        • Geoff, of course a longer barrel will cut down muzzle flash. That doesn’t mean a round be spoke for a PCC couldn’t benefit from a flash retardant powder. Especially if it’s possible that it could end up in a 4″ barrel pistol. These concerns are one reason I don’t like a PCC. Rifle, SMG (if available), shotgun (reluctantly), handgun backing up all. Handgun alone most of the time because it’s the real world.

  4. Uh…When it comes to self defense this hoopla over ammo for short barrels and long barrels is hoopla. If the ammo cycles the weapon reliably and is accurate then wait for the coroner to nitpick ballistics.

    • Debbie, if ballistics is hoopla, why aren’t you carrying 158 grain RNL in a .38 or ball ammunition in your pistol? Ballistics do matter. Carry the best defensive ammunition you can, or that coroner could be nitpicking at your autopsy.

  5. “While most of Speer’s defensive pistol ammo comes in 20-round boxes, Speer is packaging these in 50-round boxes. That makes a bit more sense for guns that commonly have a standard capacity of 30 rounds.”

    This is just silly. If standard capacity is 30 rounds and they are packaging based on that then what makes sense is a 30 round box. How about 15 rounders or maybe 60 count boxes? At this rate, you have to buy FIVE boxes to make sense.

  6. Am I the only person to think that the main reason for a pistol caliber carbine is so that you can use the same ammo in it as you use in your handgun? Creating separate ammo just for the carbine just seems silly.

    • Why not both comes to mind. Ideally the rifle should be able to cycle/handle any rounds the pistol can with varying degrees of improvement in velocity but there will be various loadings optimized to rifle (or short barreled rifle) that simply will not play nice in pistols for various reasons. Friend of mine uses various colored hytek coated bullets for identification of loading but haven’t messed with that as much yet.

      • I’ve always thought of the PCC as a nice to have kinda thing, since 9mm handgun ammo is so common. I can see 5.56 getting scarce a lot sooner than 9…

  7. I guarantee you these are safe to shoot in your 9mm handgun. No company is going to expose themselves to that much risk.

    • Well yes not putting MP5 +p+ loads into general circulation is probably a good idea for any company with liability concerns.

    • I still kick myself for not grabbing some of that black tip UZI 9mm when it was everywhere… 🙁

      • Stuff was basically gone by the time I got into firearms let alone for a pistol permit but did get to use a beat to shit mp5 from the armory a few times. Always got a long safety brief to not use it in the m9 and didn’t fully understand why till later.

  8. these seem to fill the void if they live up to their specs. I do believe that the majority of munitions companies are dropping the ball on the rest of the PCC offerings as many who shoot PCCs are looking for a good mainstream hunting/varmint round with a good boost in velocity for a longer range usage. 100 yards to 150 yards at higher velocity means less drop and better reaction for a purpose built projectiles and powder combo. Even the 45 acp PCC could benefit from this kind of help. Those slow bowling ball projectiles actually get a little boost in a 16″ barrel but I’ve been told that a10″ barrel is about the limit before friction takes over and starts slowing them back down. Slick nitrited barrels help mitigate some friction but even that only goes so far. People who really love the PCC world do because of a lot of reasons, one being less expensive than center fire rifle cartridges to shoot along with less recoil not to mention that even unsuppressed they’re still quieter than the short 5″ or less barrels on pistols. And yes there are some draw backs to PCCs as with any firearms platform it is what it is.

  9. Well, it’s about time. Finally, an ammunition company is making pistol ammunition specifically designed for long gun barrels.

    • But, it appears they really haven’t. They’ve made “long barrel” ammo that performs like pistol ammo when used in a rifle…

      • “They’ve made “long barrel” ammo that performs like pistol ammo when used in a rifle…”

        That’s a whole lot better than a bullet coming out of a 16-inch barrel a lot slower than it would have if fired in a handgun.

        I see this stuff as allowing a lot longer range shot than a handgun could. There is a market for this stuff. I can easily see an urban or suburban LE agency choosing to go with a PCC rather than a rifle caliber…

        • I am unaware of ANY factory handgun ammo that travels slower out of 16″ barrel than it does in a handgun barrel. In fact, Speer admits to having to slow this new ammo down from what it would be traveling coming out of a carbine down to “normal” handgun velocity in order to keep the bullet from “rapid overexpansion” and “alarming underpenetration”.

          The point of using a longer barrel is to INCREASE velocity and energy of bullets- therefore increasing performance. But Speer has chosen to DECREASE the potential velocity gains in order to not stress their bullet which is designed to perform at handgun velocities.

          What they SHOULD be doing is offering ammo with a new bullet designed specifically to take advantage of the INCREASED velocity provided by the 16″ barrel- to bring the performance of a handgun caliber up to a new level… not adding weak sauce to the load because of a poor choice of bullet for the application.

          But, I do give them credit for trying… and I’m sure someone will come along soon and get it right.

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