There’s a lot to be said for finishing the job.
When it comes to .45 ACP expansion performance, and I’m talking about the heavy and comparatively slow 230-grain varieties, reliable expansion can be an iffy thing. What starts as a projectile capable of leveling a city block often ends with some percentage of unexpanded slow but heavy bullets. Whether or not that matters is a whole different issue, as the projectile is almost a half-inch in diameter to start with.
Over the past several years, I’ve tested a pretty wide variety of 230-grain .45 ACP ammo and have found inconsistent results when it comes to expansion. Penetration is never an issue and I certainly have no desire to be shot by a .45. Then again, if a box of premium self-defense ammo is marketed as expanding hollow point, then it ought to do that in normal conditions.
Shooting most any of these loads into bare ballistic gelatin or water jugs will almost always result in picture-perfect expansion success. That’s the best possible environment for bullet expansion. Adding in a layer of cloth, or the FBI testing standard four-layer heavy fabric, makes things interesting real quick. It’s not at all unusual to fire five .45 heavies into this test scenario and see one or two expand properly, another start to expand, and the last two move straight on through like their full metal jacket cousins.
Before anyone gets all cranky, I’m not knocking .45 ACP in any way, shape, or form. I like it. I carry it. I’m a believer. All I’m observing is the very real challenge that its combination of velocity and mass presents to ammunition manufacturers. Hollow point expansion relies on fluid pressure to open up the bullet’s cavity. More velocity means more fluid pressure. If you could fire a Snuggie fast enough into ballistic gel, it might expand too.
The .45 is at the lowest end of the pistol velocity spectrum, moving along at somewhere between 800 and 950 feet per second for most 230-grain loads. I believe that’s why finding that perfect combination of penetration and expansion reliability is so difficult. If the bullet is designed to expand too easily, at too low a velocity, it won’t penetrate to the desired depth. Once again, whether expansion reliability matters with the big and heavy slug is a separate discussion.
I mention this to provide some background for my recent test of Sig Sauer’s Elite Performance .45 ACP V-Crown self-defense ammunition. To be honest, I’ve been putting this off for a while and the boxes have been collecting a bit of dust in my man cave. It’s just not as fun testing stuff that you think may not have a very good chance of working as you want it to, and given my history with heavier .45 rounds, I had my suspicions.
Well, I finally got around to checking it out, testing for velocity with four different guns, accuracy with two, and penetration and expansion with one. Here’s what I found.
I set up my now perforated Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph 15 feet down range and proceeded to fire strings with four different guns. Averaging out the results for each gun, here’s what I found.
* As to why the shorter barrel gun clocked more accuracy, all I can suggest is interference by aliens or perhaps Thetan’s upset with my shooting that day. I shot the guns on the same day, within minutes of each other.
** For this one, I added an AAC TiRant 45 Modular suppressor. Because fun.
Just to be accurate (see what I did there?) in my testing, I tested the Sig Sauer 230-grain V-Crown ammo from two different guns. This won’t determine the inherent accuracy of the ammo. Rather, it tells me how accurately it shoots from these two particular guns. Minor nuance, I know.
I set up targets 25 yards down range and fired five-shot groups. To get a perfect hold, I used a Blackhawk! Titan III rest anchored with a bag of lead shot. To get a perfect sight picture, I installed a Bushnell 3500 Handgun Scope using an LM Tactical Rail Mount. To get perfect trigger control, I took nine Valiums before shooting. Just kidding, but I did make an extra special effort to be really, really careful since most of the other variables were addressed via my shooting setup.
From each gun, I fired three different five-shot groups from 25 yards and averaged the results to get the following figures.
What doesn’t show so well in the averages is the consistency. For example, the three 5-shot groups from the XDM measured 2.73, 2.78, and 2.80 inches – almost identical to each other. Considering these groups came from off the shelf polymer guns, I would love to see what this ammo will do from a souped-up match pistol.
Penetration and Expansion
Last, but not least, I tested penetration and expansion. I used Clear Ballistics 16” long gelatin blocks. In front of the block, I taped up the four layer FBI heavy fabric simulation material which consists of denim, insulation, and two cloth layers to simulate an undershirt and regular shirt. For the gun, I used an FN FNX 45 Tactical.
The pictures speak for themselves as far as expansion performance goes. All five shots expanded perfectly. Here’s the geeky math.
Excellent results all around I’d say. The minor weight gains were likely the result of a little bit of fabric and/or gelatin that wasn’t visible under the expanded areas. This ammo did exactly what it was supposed to, and I was pleased to see perfect expansion results in the exact same test scenario that makes so many others fail.