pistol ammunition chronograph
Kat Ainsworth Stevens for TTAG
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Even more inexplicable are the shooters who choose the Thor-Hammer 147-grain over the competing loads from FreedomFist and ‘MurricaHeckYeah because, according to the data on the box flap, it’s 30 fps faster at the muzzle.

I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad tidings, but those box-flap numbers come from a test barrel at the manufacturer’s facility and may or may not have much correlation with how fast a projectile is ticking along when it exits the muzzle of your own pistol.

On top of that, you have to add in the phenomenon of “extreme spread.” In a string of 10 rounds fired from the same box of ammunition, from the same magazine, in the same gun, at one sitting, even the really good, name-brand ammunition with outstanding quality control will exhibit a roughly 30 fps spread between the slowest and fastest rounds in the box. 

So, if you’re choosing Brand X over Brand Y based on a 15-fps difference in the ad copy—or, worse, getting into arguments about it on the internet—you’re probably wasting your time and your keystrokes from more worthwhile pursuits, like arguing over comic books or sourdough recipes.

Not everything is empirical, especially in shooting. Whether arguments of caliber, or specific loads within a caliber, it’s important to remember the old maxim that “Shot placement is king, adequate penetration is queen and everything else is angels dancing on pin heads.”

— Tamara Keel in Splitting Frog Hairs

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  1. Splitting Frog Hairs?

    Magnifying glass, a razor blade and a reeeeeeaaaaaaallllllllyyyyyyyyy steady hand. Bet possum knows what I’m sayin.

    • Or Some/anything actually on the shelf (though stock has improved substantially in the last couple months).

      • “(though stock has improved substantially in the last couple months).”

        The ‘Bruen’ decision took a fvck-ton of pressure off of the ammo (and gun) industry, and hopefully prices will settle down…

        • The way laws and lawsuits are looking here in NY there will likely be even more pressure relieved over the next decade.

    • Or in my case, with all my guns. Range ammo is one thing, but carry ammo has to work in all 5, er, 6, wait it might be 8, well with all the guns in my carry rotation.

  2. If you shoot 2″ groups with ball ammo, and 6″ groups the latest and greatest, which would YOU carry?? Accuracy over ballistics!

    • There is very little difference in effect on actual bad guy center mass chest between a 2″ group and 6″ group. But mostly group accuracy goes out the window when you and the bad guy are both moving around so the definition of “accurate” changes from ‘groups’ relational to more of ‘shooting at’ relational and you tend to be happy with any hit you can get that stops the bad guy even if it’s not a nice neat group.

      • “…group accuracy goes out the window…”

        I’ve never been in a firefight, or shot at things that would shoot back or run towards me if I missed, and I don’t presume to have any understanding of any of the things that entails other than from an academic perspective. For reference, precision refers to group size, and accuracy refers to point of impact relative to point of aim, at the target range.

        If my accuracy is going to be erratic because of adrenaline, movement, being wounded myself, etc., then I think I would want the most precision I could have. Taking the 6″ group size, this means the POI could be anywhere inside a 6″ inch circle and any one shot could hit as much as 3″ away from POA if the POA is, say, a button on the perp’s shirt and I’m pulling out my best Bullseye form. If my POA is bouncing around inside an 18″ diameter circle at target range, my firearm/ammo combination has essentially increased the potential POI to anywhere inside 24″. That is significant.

        POA bounce can be reduced with training and practice, but as Dennis noted, I believe we should address precision also. Especially with these subcompact pistols that all have such a short sight radius. Of course, a good red dot can help with that, but I would also argue for considering the relative precision of your ammo whenever selecting it for carry purposes.

  3. You can pick the fastest, heaviest, most powerful ammunition that will fit in your weapon. Makes no difference if the recoil makes you flinch, or you can’t hit anything with it.
    As with the weapon itself, try different loadings, and find a round you can work with. The biggest, baddest cannon or the biggest bullets or powder loads mean nothing if you won’t practice/train with it, or can’t control the weapon, or can’t put the bullets on target reliably.
    a 250 grain slug moving at 850fps actually hitting the target/ or hitting center mass, is much more effective than something zipping along at 2200 fps off into the wild blue yonder.

    • You mean like the all too common police mag dump, where three or more officers shoot seventy or so rounds at the perp , five or so which actually connect?
      Where did the rest go ?
      Who effing cares, we’ve been granted immunity!!
      Screw the ” Thin Blue Line”.

      • Current in the carries is Critical Duty 124gr +p, because most immediate threat model is a moron who does not understand cover & concealment. Barrier penetration is high tier importance right now.

        Just waiting for the FAFO factor to kick in, already have enough footage of him flashing guns with obvious intent at my cameras when no one is around to wrap this up in court if need be. Patience is a virtue, especially when on the hunt.

        Normally, Underwood Xtreme Defender 115gr is what’s for dinner on the daily driver. And don’t worry yourself, nothing I post anywhere on the web is connectable to me myself.

    • This is the reason I like the .380 round. The European 9mm Kurtz or 9mm short was a hotter round than what is used here. Now, there are many “+” and defensive rounds for sale. These are more manageable than 9 x 19 “+” and defensive rounds. The handguns are shorter, the mags(and mag wells) not as deep. A smaller grandma or teen could fire one without worrying about recoil. I will never be a long range handgun shooter and am more accurate with a carry weapon in .380 than 9mm Luger at closer ranges.
      I am sure that a full size competition handgun would be more accurate, but they are a little bulky for everyday carry.
      And since I live where most people don’t wear sweaters or jackets 10+ months out of a year, I don’t have to worry about penetration.

  4. Carry the ammo that works best in your gun. Bottom line. Each gun is different. Some guns like Federal, some don’t. Some like Norma or some other brand, while other guns of the same make and model don’t/ Find what shoots the most accurately in your gun and you will not go wrong. Velocity is great but accuracy is better.

  5. Choose something big enough to stop the bad guy, sure … but remember, if shooting the bad guy does not stop them and you are out of ammo then what ever you carry needs to be big enough to add some weight and heft in your swings as you try to beat the bad guy to death with what you carry.


    • Hey young Elijah Dicken used a Glock 19 to stop a murderous perp at 40 yards. No info on his ammo. Super duper? 147grain? 8 out of 10 did them trick…& a 4″ barrel.

  6. The tyranny of metrics strikes yet again.

    You have to give it to ’em, we are generally quite well trained little seals.

    • You pick your ammo and the other fellow can pick his.
      Remember, you can pick your nose and you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose!

      • With a proper knowledge of chemistry you can pick your friend’s nose all you want and he’ll wake up later none the wiser.

        Or if you wanna be a dick you can make sure he remembers it in full detail, especially the part where he couldn’t move to stop you. But that gets a bit weird when the drugs wear off.

        • “Or if you wanna be a dick you can make sure he remembers it in full detail, especially the part where he couldn’t move to stop you.”

          As they were in the process of trying to knock me out in the O.R. to turn my crushed lower leg into one somewhat functional again, the anesthesiologist managed to administer the paralytic ‘agent’ while I was still awake and looking around.

          I was pleasantly floating on a F-ton of *powerful* opiates and felt no pain, but it was a weird and disquieting feeling being 100 percent awake and aware but couldn’t twitch a muscle, except my diaphragm that controlled my breathing. And I tried. *Nothing* happening.

          Thankfully, I passed out soon after and woke up later to my ‘New Adventure’…

        • Ah, yes. The oft experienced “unwanted adventures in biochem” that those finding themselves in a hospital get to try out.

    • It’s part of our (in)human nature to be tripped-up on the little details, while ignoring the big ones.

      The ‘ole tree-forest dynamic, in action. Carry with ammo you know will go *bang*, and you’re fine. But, above all else, without fail, carry…

  7. I notice people online get way too wrapped up in muzzle velocity. The past 10 years or so of gun blogging/YouTube, I’ve seen so many people that seem to think that muzzle velocity alone is what really makes a cartridge, without having any actual real world experience with the round. The common argument I see is X round has the equivalent or superior muzzle velocity of Y round, therefore X round is equal or superior to Y round. Meanwhile they completely ignore the weight of the actual bullet, sectional density, and barrel length. I’ve seen keyboard commandos go so far as to claim certain 9mm rounds are the equivalent of .357 mag.

    My argument is, go out and actually shoot some stuff side by side with these rounds in question with your own eyes. Not YouTube ballistics gel tests. Actually visually see the damage these rounds do to various objects and you’ll see the difference. Even simply shooting dirt you can tell a difference.

    This doesn’t imply that the weaker round in question is in all ways inferior and everyone should throw it in the dumpster. It simply means one is more powerful and is better suited for different applications. The right tool for the job.

  8. My main EDC is a Glock 22 .40 S&W.

    I swap out ammo occasionally, but it is either ‘Speer LE Gold Dot 180 gr GDHP’ … or …’Federal Premium 155 gr hydra-shok JHP’ .. or … ‘Winchester 155 gr JHP’.

    I have literally tons (collectively) of this ammo in our ammo stash.

    all of them have proven to me to be 100% effective at stopping bad guys quickly and efficiently in several encounters over time where I had no other choice. And in the end what counts is if the bad guy is stopped or not.

  9. Choosing a carry gun should be akin to choosing a pair of footwear. Use what fits you well and what you can wear all day long without being uncomfortable, and what will function properly for the desired application.

    It really doesn’t get any simpler than that.

  10. Bettleback says a cartridge with 620fps is all an American should be allowed to have.
    And I agree, I agree with anything Bettleback says.
    A person would be stupid not to, well that’s unless you dont mind riding in the Cattlecar Express.
    Long live King Biden

  11. Glock 32 with Speer Gold Dot or Federal HST. Both are powerful and accurate. Recoil the same as a .40. Some say the .357 sig is a cartridge in search of an application. Ballistics are about the same as a .40 or 10 mm, but it is more expensive.

    But .357 sig is cool. There’s always the cool factor.

    • Low end 10mm but yeah they do overlap a bit in their range of loadings same with 357 magnum and 45 super (energy not velocity). If not for expense and extra work with reloading I probably would have gotten one years ago. Have you tried the longer 357 sig Glock barrels from lone wolf or similar for the velocity boost?

      • I also own a Glock 31, but I haven’t tried second party barrels. I will look into it. Sometimes I even carry the 31 (usually open carry while on the ATV), but it is a smidgen too large for concealed. However, the .357 sig is much more controllable in the 31, and I can perform follow up shots measurably faster.

        I was a die-hard .357 magnum revolver carrier until recently, but given the ongoing fraying of the social fabric in this country, I made the decision to carry more rounds. Unfortunate, but necessary.

        • Friend owns a 31 and had a 6 (I think) inch 357 sig barrel and a 40 (for cheap practice ammo circa 2019). Nice all around pistol and using the screwdriver tip rounds it did a number on old ballistic fiberglass and kevlar. Need to figure out logistics on testing the newer dynema (uhmwpe) panels to see how relevant it is to modern soft armor with NY making anything fun more difficult.

  12. On today’s world of crime, for protection…

    Get a case of hand grenades, some claymore mines and deploy them, an MSR and hand gun with 20 magazines each, body armor and tactical knife, first aid kit, and a few survival rations… then and only then can you go to the bathroom with a relative ease of mind that you are prepared just in case.


  13. I may be a little different from most people but when I REALLY learned to shoot handguns (with a police department shooting team as a junior shooter) I learned with Super Vel 38 Super in a 1911. Not the easiest cartridge to master. After that I carried a Sig 220 in 38 Super for nearly 40 years. Just retiring it a couple of years ago. I bought 45 ACP Hydra-Shok’s and have learned to shoot them well.
    The point is I don’t think it’s about finding a bullet that you can shoot well but finding a quality self defense cartridge and learning to shoot it well.

    • I got me one of those ‘ firin thru da door’ shotguns and one of those ‘firin up in da air’ shotguns. I named ’em ‘Jill one’ and ‘Jill two’

  14. When I raced stock cars the starting points was reliability. Same for guns and ammo. Durability next for guns. After that you can work on performance. Same for shooting skills!

  15. Isn’t penetration a result of power at contact? Isn’t that why ammo “testers” put fabric barriers in front of gel blocks?

    What if I am concerned that any armed attackers I might encounter are wearing soft, or hard body armor? Doesn’t penetration power become a consideration at least equal to shot placement?

    • Sam I Am,

      … I might encounter … wearing soft, or hard body armor? Doesn’t penetration power become a consideration at least equal to shot placement?

      True. Having said that, handgun rounds do not penetrate soft nor hard armor* so penetration in that context is meaningless.

      * The FN Five-seveN handgun round is an exception and will penetrate some soft armor.

      • handgun rounds do not penetrate soft nor hard armor* so penetration in that context is meaningless.

        5.7mm? oh yeah? oh yeah?

        .500S&W makes 5.7 look like a BB gun. The .500S&W will penetrate anything, and keep going. The .500S&W is a true Thor’s Hammer. It can go through an up-armored Humvee, and the depleted uranium panels on a tank. Nothing can stop .500S&W, except gravity.

        The .500S&W could even stop Superman.

      • 5.7 is increasingly being stopped by newer 3a unless it is a copper solid for similar reasons as to what is going through kevlar in 9, 10, and 357 sig. Hardness speed and enough weight to be able to do something after bypassing the ballistic protection……..or just use a 500 S&W.

        • What can I say the loads compete with shotguns for muzzle energy and are a smaller diameter compared to the slugs (extreme upper end of 3a armor stopping the shot with minor or negligible injuries being common) at a higher velocity. 460 looks like it could do even worse. Will have to see what those two can do after some lawsuits resolve and finding the right people.

  16. “Thor-Hammer 147-grain”

    Excuse while I beg to differ. “Thor’s Hammer” is only applicable to ammunition with bullets having a diameter of. 45 and above.

    A special “Loki” category exists for smaller diameter ammunition if they have the enhancement of “Magnum”.

  17. “A special “Loki” category exists for smaller diameter ammunition if they have the enhancement of “Magnum”.”

    Like .9mm magnum?

    • The only time I laughed harder at a news article written by some journalist who knew nothing about guns was one that referred to a guy arrested for carrying “a 40 mm handgun”. Definitely got more kick than a .9 mm, I reckon.

      • ” (40mm handgun) Definitely got more kick than a .9 mm, I reckon.”

        Yeah, but not more than a .9mm magnum.

  18. What exactly is the point of .5 ammo in anything but a military situation? except to a knicker wetting toss-pot. Even a .357 MAGNUM will penetrate at least FIVE men in a row and kill them all. Is that what you bloody idiots really want. Back in the day an important reason for adopting the NATO 5.56 was to prevent collateral damage expecially in the Urban Environment by overkill. A decent 9mm or a .38 calibre is perffectly sufficient for and hand gun -that’s why the 9mm is pretty much standard issues for the worlds Military and Police Forces hand guns. But it’s that variance in MV that cause the GROUP SPREAD all other things being equal THe OLd LEE-ENFIELD issue .303 ammunition was one of the most developed for it’s time and the MV variance at 600 yarcds was around 12 inches The Specialist ‘GREEN SPOT’ as issued to snipers was probaly half of this.
    I managed several POSSIBLES [that is x10 bulls at 600 yards on a 18inch bull at BISLEY RANGES over IRON PARKER-HALE IRON SIGHTS with standard issue ammunition. MY average over a couple of years was as I remember 44 [out of 50]

    • “Even a .357 MAGNUM will penetrate at least FIVE men in a row and kill them all.”

      Five men, eh? That’s one shot each with a snubbie, right? Did you do that during the bank job? Or was it some special ammo that Q whipped up for you, that you experimented with out in one of the colonies? Now we know why your masters took all your guns…

      • hawkeye,

        Excellent response! I tip my hat to you fine sir or ma’am. And thank you for the chuckle.

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  20. When I went to the P365, I picked up about 4 different defense loads from different manufacturers. The one that fed consistently, without hiccup, is the one I use. In the case of my P365 it’s Hornady Critical Duty 135 gr +P. It did better than SIG’S proprietary ammo.


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