Ammo Test: Barnes Barnes TAC-XPD 9mm +P

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A great combination: Sig Sauer's P226 Single Action Only pistol and Barnes TAC-XPD ammo.

A great combination: Sig Sauer’s P226 Single Action Only pistol and Barnes TAC-XPD ammo.

I’ve tested a variety of factory ammunition from Barnes and two things always stand out with their handgun rounds.

They group closer together than a Range Rover-load of frat boys visiting San Quentin.

They expand faster than Michael Moore’s midsection at a Krispy Kreme Grand Opening.

This Barnes TAC-XPD 9mm +P load is no exception. It’s capped by an 115-grain, all copper projectile with a hollow point cavity big enough to hold your morning Cheerios.

I’ve been testing this load in a variety of pistols over the past couple of months and find it to be worthy of consideration for concealed carry or home defense. Normally I wouldn’t switch carry ammo horses, at least until they stop running, but this ammo performs brilliantly.

Here’s what I found testing for velocity, accuracy, penetration and expansion.

Velocity

As a 115-grain +P load, you would expect this one to hum along in most any size gun. I checked it out using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph placed 15 feet down range and proceeded to fire strings from four different 9mm pistols. I averaged out the velocity readings for each gun to arrive at these numbers.

Sig Sauer P226 Single Action Only: 1,194.4 fps
Springfield Armory EMP: 1,074.5 fps
FNS 9mm Compact: 1,045.0 fps
Sig Sauer P229 Legion: 1,027.8 fps

The Sig Legion velocities were a bit lower than you might expect – probably owing to lower temperatures at the range they day I shot that configuration. I shot these strings on different days over a period of weeks and temperatures ranged from the mid-70s to 50s. In any case, my readings bookended the rated factory velocity of 1,125 feet per second. Given that my reading on the Sig P226 with its full-length barrel exceeded the factory number, while compact pistols came in a bit slower, I’m confident that the factory rating is a good representation of the “average” gun.

Accuracy

I did accuracy testing on a day when I had the two Sig Sauer pistols at the range. To get a perfect sight picture, I mounted a Bushnell Elite 3500 Handgun Scope on each gun using a UM Tactical Rail Mount. I’ve found that this setup gives me a much better representation of the accuracy of any given combination of gun and ammo will do as it removes any “old guy eyesight error” from the equation. You can get small groups carefully shooting at 25-yard targets with iron sights. You can always get even smaller groups using a magnified optic. When measuring the mechanical accuracy of a handgun, the human eye is definitely a weak link in the chain.

This ammo shot sub two-inch 5-shot groups with regularity.

This ammo shot sub two-inch 5-shot groups with regularity.

I set up targets 25 yards out yonder and fired multiple five-shot groups from each gun with the Barnes TAC-XPD. I averaged my strings to get these five-shot group diameters. The results were impressive, to say the least.

Sig Sauer P226 Single Action Only: 1.39 inches
Sig Sauer P229 Legion: 1.76 inches

Yea, I suppose it’ll shoot well enough.

Penetration and Expansion

The Barnes TAC projectiles are pretty darn impressive. With every caliber I’ve tested, in Barnes loaded ammo and that loaded by other companies with Barnes TAC bullet, expansion and penetration performance has always been stellar. These projectiles make picture perfect flowers of doom when shot into ballistic gelatin whether or not reasonable barriers are used.

Expansion results when fired through FBI heavy fabric were picture perfect.

Expansion results when fired through FBI heavy fabric were picture perfect.

I set up a test scenario using Clear Ballistics gelatin blocks. On the front side, I placed the four-layer cloth used for standardized FBI testing. It’s basically a denim layer, an insulation layer, and two cotton layers. The idea is to simulate an undershirt, shirt, and jacket. The addition of the four-layer fabric barrier often makes or breaks any given load’s performance. Even a can of spackle will expand in bare gelatin when fired fast enough, but many premium bullets start to get really inconsistent when they hit the heavy fabric layer. Hollow points clog and expensive self-defense bullets can perform more like full metal jacket practice rounds.

For expansion and penetration testing, I used a Beretta 92FS. Just for kicks, and because I need to keep the noise down at my top-secret gelatin testing range, I used a SilencerCo Octane 45 suppressor. Here’s what I found for a five-shot sampling of gel with heavy fabric barrier performance.

Penetration (inches)Expansion (inches)Weight (grains)
14.5.703115.1
14.0.698115.2
13.5.713115.4
13.0.708115.5
13.0.701115.2

If you average the expansion results, you come up with .705 inches. That’s 1.98 times the original bullet diameter of .355 inches. Not too shabby. Penetration was also right about where you want it, always exceeding 13 inches. The weights came in slightly heavier than the 115-grain starting weight due to picking up a little bit of fabric and gel material. In other words, the all-copper bullet performed its primary duty of staying together in one piece.

Penetration into the Clear Ballistics gel was also consistent. OK, this gel is not so clear anymore, but only because it's well abused.

Penetration into the Clear Ballistics gel was also consistent. OK, this gel is not so clear anymore, but only because it’s well abused.

Closing Thoughts

This is some pretty impressive ammo. Performance by the numbers is great, but perhaps even, more importantly, is the controllability. For what it does, the felt recoil of all the guns I tested was very moderate. The combination of a lighter 115-grain bullet and not ridiculous velocity levels makes for a very shootable combination. You’ll be able to place shots accurately and stay on target during rapid fire. It ain’t cheap, but it performs.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • RCW December 29, 2016, 7:19 am

    Russell, I’d be very Leary of the CorBon ammo. Many quality problems. I recently fired through my two EDC magazines for my G19 and had 3 misfires and two stuck casings! No more CorBon in my guns!!!

  • Greg April 4, 2016, 9:20 am

    Impressive performance from the +P 9mm, but the Barnes TAC-XPD in 380acp was just the opposite. Maybe Barnes didn’t take into the account the use in small pistols, but for the rounds I fired thru wet media, the bullet could literally have been reloaded and used again. No expansion at all, very slight deformation.

  • Retiredarmy13f April 4, 2016, 4:23 am

    I really love the Barnes line of bullets. That said I really haven’t noticed any noticable benefits to the moly coating on the projectile. I use the Wilson Combat loaded Barnes 9mm 115gr Plus P, same bullet minus the moly coating and nickel casing. Neck to neck I’ve noticed no overall difference between the two (they are both awesome). I use the Wilson Combat version in my on/off duty Beretta 92FS/FS Compact/WC92G with great results. Great consistency in all aspects. I’m fairly certain any reputable brand using the Barnes projectiles will have fairy even results. Barnes makes outstanding bullets. They are expensive, but you really do get what you pay for. The only round/load I’ve seen using a Barnes pistol bullet that didn’t perform up to snuff is the .380 standard load from a subcompact… just not enough velocity to get the most from the solid copper design. How the Buffalo Barnes .380 Plus P solved that.

  • Michael Chero April 3, 2016, 10:27 am

    My carry load!

    • Russell Van Driel April 3, 2016, 11:16 am

      I will stick with my 115gr +P Corbon load at 1350 fps.

      • W.P. Zeller April 4, 2016, 9:28 am

        Russell, did you get that by chrono? CorBon’s numbers have been pretty optimistic in my experience: the 125gr .38 Super round they claim gives 1350fps only pokes along at just over 1200fps out of my 4 1/4″ Commander, and not too much better out of it’s big brother Government Model. It’s fast, but not that fast.
        Perhaps the Buffalo Bore loading might be more advantageous, as BB normally hits the ballistic numbers they print on the box.

      • Nick May 25, 2016, 2:14 am

        If you want an honest-to-goodness 1300 fps load in 115 grn then get the Federal 9BPLE +P+ It will probably do better than that out of a 4.5″ barrel. Cor-Bon does tend to inflate their numbers, I’ve noticed. Maybe they use a 92FS to test them?

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