Do you suffer from a short barrel? Unfortunately, this problem afflicts millions of gun totin’ Americans.
With the explosive growth of pocket .380 ACP pistols like the Kel-Tec, Ruger LCP, Smith & Wesson Bodyguard and Glock 42, just to name a few, gun makers just had to up the power level as their next move. .380’s are still everywhere, but now we have a new crop of compact 9mm guns. Whether you carry a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, Beretta Nano, Sig P938 or one of the many other pocket nine’s, you’re probably dealing with a short barrel. And by short barrel, I mean right in the vicinity of three inches.
Everyone knows that you just don’t get the same level of satisfaction from a three-inch barrel as you do from a longer barrel when it comes to penetration and expansion. Wow, I’m really treading on thin ice here…
What I mean is that in a shorter barrel, bullets can’t achieve the same velocity as when fired from a longer barreled gun. Mileage will vary depending on the specifics, but you can assume that you’ll lose 100 feet per second or so from any given 9mm load when you fire it from a pocket pistol. This is a big deal because modern expanding bullets are carefully designed to penetrate to a certain depth and expand at a certain rate for a very specific velocity range. Not enough velocity, and expansion doesn’t happen, so the bullet passes through its target. Too much velocity, and expansion is overly dramatic and penetration suffers.
One solution is to use +P+Infinity loads to crank up the speed, but that makes pocket guns impossible to shoot well. Nor it is any fun. So that’s not a very good option. So goes the challenge of pocket 9mm guns. Using ammunition designed for longer barrels, and higher velocity, can be an iffy proposition.
Enter the Godfather of Boom, Mike McNett of DoubleTap Ammunition. He’s designed a lightweight, all-copper, projectile that is optimized specifically for pocket 9mm guns.
This round is 77 grains of pocket wonder. I got several boxes to test for velocity, accuracy and, of course, shooting the gelatin to see if it would perform.
One of the big advantages of using a lighter projectile is that perceived recoil is much, much less than you would expect. This round is loud but amazingly soft to shoot. That’s interesting as the rated velocity is 1,600 feet per second from a Glock 17 and 1,435 feet per second from a Glock 26.
I tested velocity from a short barrel and full-size gun. The short barrel test gun was a Springfield Armory EMP. I chose that one mainly because it’s a super-sweet handgun, but also because it has a 3.0” barrel – right in the sweet spot of pocket 9 barrel options. For the full-size I chose a Sig Sauer P226 SAO, also because it’s a super-sweet gun.
To take some of the “compact gun” sighting challenges out of the equation, I shot groups with a Sig Sauer P226 SAO. I added a Bushnell Elite 3500 Handgun Scope, which provides 2-6x magnification, long eye relief, and a near perfect sight picture, especially at a close range like 25 yards. You can mount this optic to nearly any pistol equipped with a rail using the UM Tactical mount system. It’s a brilliant combination that’s been working really well for this kind of thing. While I use this optic and mount combination for accuracy testing, it would make a great hunting configuration for an appropriate semi-automatic pistol.
The group shown in the photo here is representative of all the other groups I shot. From the Sig Sauer P226 SAO, it was easy to get 5-shot groups less than 2-inches every time. Best three shots in each group were consistently less than one-inch.
Penetration and expansion
At the recent NRA Annual Meeting, where I pestered the Godfather of Boom about the challenge of effective 9mm compact gun ammunition, he told me this would penetrate about a foot – after passing through the four-layer FBI fabric protocol – and still expand properly. He’s never steered me wrong, so I believed it. Sort of.
It turns out that the light, lead-free, bullet design does exactly that. I fired five rounds through the four layers of fabric and into a 16” Clear Ballistics gel block. All five rounds stopped between the ten and eleven-inch mark. More importantly, all five expanded beautifully as you can see in the photos here.
I’ve always been skeptical about those lightweight wonder rounds that travel at Warp 17, fragment explosively and cause nuclear blast damage. That’s according to the marketing material. The DoubleTap 9mm 77 grain lead-free round is not in any way, shape, or form in that category. It’s a regular, expanding, all-copper (I think) bullet. It’s just lighter than most other 9mm projectiles. That’s what allows it to travel fast enough from a short barrel gun to expand reliably while still penetrating to effective depths.
So if you have a short barrel, you no longer have to feel insecure. You can have both expansion and penetration.