By Bruce Flemings
Littlestone Ammunition is a Monroe, Georgia, based company specializing in custom handgun ammunition for personal defense, hunting and competition. The Littlestone website currently lists loads for .380 Auto up to .460 Rowland. Sneaking a peek at their “Coming Soon” section reveals available caliber expansion will extend the product range from .32 Auto to .500 S&W at some point in the future. The Littlestone Excel Elite ammunition line is crafted by hand from the highest quality components. Every round of Littlestone ammunition is hand inspected before it gets packaged and shipped to the customer.
As a custom ammunition maker, Littlestone provides a variety of products and services. Littlestone One-Gun Excel Elite ammunition is loaded for a customer’s own handgun to the customer’s specific accuracy and performance requirements. Customers ship their handguns to Littlestone and loads are developed and tested in the customer’s handgun. The Custom-Quality Excel Elite ammunition products are proprietary house loads that Littlestone has developed and maintains in-stock for immediate shipment. Reduced price reloading services are also available for One-Gun and Custom-Quality ammunition. The Excel Elite Sample Pack products are unique in the market and the focus of this review.
Littlestone Sample Packs allow the purchaser to test two to five different Excel Elite loads with a single box purchase. Twenty-round Sample Packs contain two loads with ten rounds of each load. Fifty-round sample packs have five different loads with ten rounds of each load. The Sample Pack allows the shooter to try several different loads without incurring the expense of buying a full box of each load. All Sample Packs include a 17” x 20” target sheet that is gridded in ¼” blocks, target orange aiming sticker, target pasters and ammunition evaluation sheet.
To keep you organized during the evaluation process, each round of ammunition is color-coded by load type. The color coding on each round matches up with the color-coded ammunition evaluation sheet. Littlestone does a great job providing detailed instructions, tips and best practices on the evaluation sheet to get the best results from your testing.
Littlestone provided the 9mm +P Sample Pack 4 for this review. The Sample Pack contained three different hollow point bullet types (solid copper, bonded and non-bonded). Bullet weights ranged from 95 to 115 grains. Overall impressions of the ammunition were good. The ammunition was clean and appeared to be assembled with care. I couldn’t wait to get out to the range and see how the ammunition performed. Since Littlestone develops its loads and performance measures in a 4” test barrel, I used a 9mm pistol with identical barrel length for the evaluation.
Ammunition Range Evaluation
Heading out to the range, I set up the portable bench, pistol rest and chronograph. For video purposes, I opted to use a fresh shoot-and-see type target for each load tested. The target stand was placed at 20 yards as that is the maximum line of sight distance in my home, plus a few extra yards to keep things challenging. I slowly and methodically worked my way through one five-round string of fire with each of the five loads in the Sample Pack.
Overall impressions from the range test showed very small velocity spreads with some loads and large spreads with others. Also, my velocity data fell short of the Littlestone published velocity specifications for all loads. These variations could be attributed to the barrel in my specific pistol or could be due to other factors. Accuracy was acceptable with all loads tested. Even with the new handgun, I was grouping the best three of five shots into 1.25 inches or less at 20 yards.
I did experience limited issues with feeding and last round slide lock activation with the solid copper hollow point loads. This could have been caused by shooting from a rest instead of shooting from a solidly braced standing position. This is great information to learn about my pistol and worthy of retesting when shooting from a standing position.
I really like the Littlestone Sample Pack concept. I think it’s a great way to try several very different loads in my pistol without having to invest in multiple boxes of ammunition. With current ammunition market pressures and prices, it could save you a significant amount of money on ammunition that doesn’t work well with your pistol.
Geek Alert—The Littlestone SureSHOT App
Littlestone has developed its own ammunition evaluation application for all internet-connected devices. Instead of, or in addition to, logging your testing results on the Sample Pack Evaluation Sheet, you can input your data into the SureSHOT app. The app has some really nice time-saving features that include pre-loading the contents of the Sample Pack you are evaluating, automatic calculation of group size and distance from point of aim, and recommendations for the best-performing load based on your selected performance criteria.
Terminal Performance Testing
While I had the ammunition available, I thought it would be interesting to do a terminal performance test on the three different bullet types included in the Sample Pack. Using a block of Clear Ballistics Gel covered by four layers of 14 ounce denim, I shot one round of each bullet type into the denim-covered gel block. While two of the three bullets failed to expand fully, they all displayed enough expansion to see the terminal performance differences between the bullet types. The solid copper hollow point loads continue to impress me with their ability to shrug off clothing barriers and perform as designed.