Ammo Test: Remington Ultimate Defense 9mm 124 Grain Full Size Handgun

Expansion results were impressive, to say the least.

Expansion results were impressive, to say the least.

Remington has a (relatively) new line of self-defense ammo on the shelves called Ultimate Defense. You might recognize the projectile design as similar to the famous performer, Golden Saber. I’ve tested those before in a number of different calibers and results are almost always outstanding. I’ve been carrying the .45 ACP 185 grain +P Golden Saber load in my 1911 for a couple of years now. This projectile is a jacketed lead hollow point, complete with the distinctive gold-tone coloring.

The 9mm Ultimate Defense ammo comes in two varieties: Full-size handgun and Compact handgun. It’s important to get the right one for your specific firearm. The Compact handgun is optimized for the lower velocities generated by guns with barrels less than three inches. The Full-size handgun variety is for, you guessed it, guns with four and five-inch barrels. For guns with a 3.5-inch barrel, I would pick the Compact handgun version, opting for better expansion performance.

This time, we’re looking at the Ultimate Defense 9mm 124 grain load for Full-size handguns. It’s a standard pressure load, not a +P, so especially in a larger handgun, it’s tame to fire. With lower recoil and less muzzle flip, you can get back on target more quickly for follow up shots.

So how does it perform? Let’s take a look.

Accuracy and Velocity

For accuracy and velocity testing, I used my standby accuracy pistol – a Sig Sauer P226 Elite SAO. It shares a number of features with Sig’s match series Mastershop X-5 models. As such, it’s proven itself to be incredibly accurate with all ammo I’ve shot. For velocity reference, this gun has a 4.4-inch barrel.

First, I checked for velocity from the Sig P226 Elite SAO.

Remington Ultimate defense velocity

When you do the math, the average velocity works out to 1,130 feet per second. The extreme spread of a ten shot string is 60.7 feet per second. Standard deviation, or a measure of how close all the shot velocities are to the mean, worked out to 17.77, which is excellent.

I tested accuracy using the Bushnell Elite 3500 Handgun Scope with a UM Tactical mount.

I tested accuracy using the Bushnell Elite 3500 Handgun Scope with a UM Tactical mount.

To check accuracy, I mounted a Bushnell Elite 3500 Handgun Scope to the Sig Sauer P226 Elite SAO using a UM Tactical rail mount. Five-shot groups came in at less than two inches. Looking at a best three shots to factor out some of the shooter error, my best group measured 1.28-inches. That’s pretty darn accurate in my book.

Penetration and Expansion

For expansion testing, I switched guns. Because, why not? Also, switching to a Beretta 92FS with threaded barrel allowed me to use a SilencerCo Octane 45 suppressor, thereby causing less disruption to the neighbors during my gelatin block destruction.

Like all the defensive handgun ammo tests here, I shot through the standard FBI protocol four layer fabric. It consists of denim on the outside, an insulation layer, and two different cotton fabric layers. The idea is to provide a standard simulation of multiple clothing layers.

I used two gel blocks end to end, and am glad I did. Penetration was between 16 and 17 inches.

I used two gel blocks end to end, and am glad I did. Penetration was between 16 and 17 inches.

Behind the FBI fabric, I placed two 16-inch Clear Ballistics gelatin blocks, just in case the projectiles passed completely through the first one. Looking back, that was a good idea.

I fired five shots into the fabric-covered gelatin blocks to measure expansion diameter, retained bullet weight, and penetration depth. Here’s what I found.

Remington Ultimate Defense 9mm expansion

You can’t ask for much more than that from a standard pressure 9mm cartridge. As you can see from the photos, all projectiles expanded perfectly to somewhere in the vicinity of 1.88 times original bullet diameter. More importantly, penetration was right where it should be, averaging 16.5 inches. All projectiles held together and retained the vast majority of their original weight, which goes hand in hand with proper penetration depth.

The wound tracks look like a Boston Whaler drove through the gel block.

The wound tracks look like a Boston Whaler drove through the gel block.

While it’s partially visible in the photos, they don’t do the wound channel results justice. If I had to pick a single word to describe the nature of the permanent wound tracks left in the gel blocks, it would be “wicked.” The projectiles created large spiral tracks like you might see if a propeller passed through that medium.

The Remington Ultimate Defense 9mm 124 grain Full-size handgun was a surprisingly effective 9mm round, especially considering it’s a standard pressure loading. Normally, I expect the +P rounds with an extra 50 or 100 feet per second velocity to perform like this through the FBI fabric layer, but this one is mellow to shoot and easy to control, yet still performed magnificently. If you choose to carry it, be sure to buy the right version for your specific gun, either the Full-size handgun or Compact handgun as appropriate.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • D Murray March 2, 2017, 3:48 pm

    Are there any serious side effects from firing the full size version from a compact gun? I recently bought my first gun, the Taurus Millennium G2 with a 3.2 inch barrels, and bought the full size handgun ammo. I’m kind of annoyed, as I had told the lady at the gun store it was my first gun purchase, I feel like she should have told me to get the compact handgun version. I haven’t fired any of these rounds yet. I wanted to make sure it’s not going to blow up in my hand lol

  • Gary January 29, 2017, 8:20 pm

    On the sig ammo…how do you know what is compact & full size, what markings do you look for on box. Bought some 124 gr but doesn’t say anything about size barrel.

  • Richie December 29, 2015, 7:48 am

    That expansion is average at best. Plus you can see the beginnings of jacket separation. Check out Federal HST, Speer gold dot, or Winchester PDX1 (easier to find than Ranger-t) and you will never carry these, or golden saber again.

  • Calvin May 28, 2015, 2:25 pm

    I have used Golden Sabres for years based largely on the most important attribute in autoloader ammunition: FEED RELIABILITY. I have never been disappointed when using it in Glock, M & P, Hi-Point, Keltec. If this Remington product feeds as dependably as GS, they will have me as a customer, as my EDC has a short-barrel. Thanks for the review of a product I have wondered about.

  • Lt. Donn May 27, 2015, 9:30 am

    Once again, we see a manufacturer trying to gain a foot-hold in the already heavy self-defense ammo market. It will be very difficult to dislodge the hold Federal HST, Winchester Ranger and Speer Gold-Dot has on this market. And, this attempt by Remington comes at a time when many of the leaders in the self-def. market are beginning to recognize the emerging technology of the solid-copper defense round…not that lead/copper rounds are going away any time soon, but instead of “joining the crowd”, I would have more respect for Remington if they were to embrace this “new” technology and be a front-runner in the solid copper tech and not follow at the “end” of the lead/copper race.

  • Lee May 26, 2015, 1:34 pm

    I cannot argue how good these look or the reputation of Remington, however, I would be hard pressed to change from the ever-reliable Federal 124 Grain Hydroshock. Are these “better” or just the latest incantation of an already decent round?

    • Rochie December 29, 2015, 7:45 am

      While the Hydrashock is a venerable round, it is outdated. Just look at the comparison tests between the HS and more modern rounds like the gold dot, ranger t, and HST. The results are night and day. I used to be a huge proponent of the Hydrashock, till I tested the HST, and since, the hydrashocks have been retired.

  • Gary B May 26, 2015, 9:51 am

    I have some of these, but have yet to carry or try them. I have been carrying Golden Saber and sometimes Federal Hydro Shock and have never felt “Under Ammoed” to coin a new term.
    I do like the new designation for Compact or Full Size as I have been carrying XDS 45 and 9MM mostly (When not carrying my G-29, I use Underwood 155 Grain XTP HP for it)
    The main worry is to match my carry spare magazine with the current carry gun.
    Somewhere else on the World Wide Web a question was brought up about frequency of cleaning your EDC. I said I did it rarely, just wiping the exterior. It got me thinking it had been a Looong time since I actually fired my XDS 45, so I unloaded my self defense load. Loaded with 230 Grain hardball, aimed, pressed and a little weak spoing sound emitted, NO BANG! Naturally I racked another round and was rewarded with the same weak spoing sound. I had light primer strikes on seven rounds before it was done. All the rounds also had a little black mark on the face of the case. I had used a popular Lube that really works well in the short term, in the long term it gunked my gun. I cleaned the gun later and used a “CLP” style oil and tried the gun again for another full box of ammo, just super! so clean the EDC every now and then and use a longer term oil.

  • D Hicks May 26, 2015, 8:48 am

    I like 124 grain 9/mm ,if these mushroom as shown in the photo, I’ll buy them.

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