Barnes has offered pretty amazing projectiles to other ammunition manufacturers and reloaders for some time. More recently, they’ve launched their own line of loaded self-defense handgun ammunition. Available in .380 ACP, 9mm +P, .40 S&W, .45 ACP +P and .357 Magnum, we’re going to be trying out most of them over the next couple of months. To start, we’re going to take a close look at the .45 ACP offering.
The self-defense ammo line made and marketed by Barnes is distinctive as it uses the famous Barnes TAC-XP bullets. These all copper projectiles feature a giant hollow cavity up front. The hollow-point cavities are huge, like cereal bowls. I ate some Lucky Charms out of one of the .45 ACP bullets, but I wouldn’t recommend it as it makes the milk taste like old pennies.
There’s a good reason for the solid copper design, however. Weight retention during expansion becomes a non-issue as there is no jacket to shed from the inner core. In fact, there is no inner core – it’s just one solid hunk of metal shaped like a bullet. Unless the projectile hits something really, really hard and literally breaks, the post-fired projectile will weigh exactly the same as the pre-fired version. The other benefit is that the solid material design helps when bullets have to pass through tough barriers like auto glass. They’ll fly straighter and perform more consistently.
This particular load uses the 185-grain TAC-XP projectile. You’ll also notice the projectiles are black instead of the shiny copper color. That’s because they’re coated with black nickel. It looks cool, but also provides a slightly slicker surface for improved feeding.
I tested the .45 ACP TAC-XP rounds in three different 45 pistols – a Springfield Armory 1911 TRP government model, a Springfield Armory XD-S and an FNX 45 Tactical. In other words, a variety of platforms consisting of small, a little large and humungous. You might think that the cavernous hollow point that presents an optical illusion of being larger than .45 inches might cause feeding issues. On these three guns, it didn’t. Nor have I had feeding problems with other ammunition loads that make use of the TAC-XP projectiles.
Barnes is persnickety about the consistency of their projectiles, as I’ve noticed from previous accuracy tests, so I figured the rest of the loading components would be equally fussed over.
I set up a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph 15 feet downrange and proceeded to shoot to measure velocity. Doing ten-shot strings, I found velocity consistency to be amazing, about the best I’ve ever seen. Here’s a representative string:
The rated velocity printed on the box is 1,000 feet per second, so you might say the claim is dead on as I measured an overall average of 1,005.9 feet per second. I obtained these velocity numbers from a Springfield Armory 1911 TRP. It’s the full-size government model with a 5-inch barrel. As you can see from the raw numbers, velocities were very consistent, with an extreme spread of just 10 feet per second. Accordingly, the standard deviation, or measure of “closeness” to the mean of all shots, worked out to 3.63. Wow.
Knowing full well that accuracy is a function of ammo, gun, and shooter, I decided to shoot some groups to see what kind of results I could get using the Springfield Armory 1911 TRP. The TRP is a higher end production gun and has proven itself accurate over the couple of years.
With that said, I shot a number of 5-shot groups from a sandbag rest at 25 yards. For some, I used open sights and others I used the Crimson Trace Lasergrips installed on this gun to obtain a decently precise sight picture at that distance. 5-shot groups consistently came in at just over two inches. Looking at best three shots within those groups, to factor out some of the eyesight and trigger finger human error, I observed groups measuring just over one inch.
Shootin’ the Jello
I know something about how reliably these TAC-XP projectiles work as I’ve shot them in other makes of ammunition, so I went ahead and totally skipped the bare gelatin test. If you shoot 1,000 rounds into bare gelatin, every single one will expand into a perfect marketing photo opportunity.
I shot through the standard FBI heavy cloth that consists of four different types of fabric sewn together to simulate clothing layers. Results were impressive. Every single projectile expanded perfectly after passing through four layers of fabric into 16-inch long Clear Ballistics gelatin blocks. I put a second black behind the first and am glad I did, as all shots exited the back of the 16-inch block. Every single shot barely entered the second block, so penetration was between 16 and 17 inches for all projectiles. That’s about as close to perfect as you can get.
Part of the reason we’re doing this series looking at different type of ammo in depth is because, as the Barnes people say, “The bullet is what delivers your intentions to the target.” If you’re going to invest time and money in your gun, training and practice time, don’t forget to pay equal attention to what is arguably the most important part – the ammunition you carry.