With the ever-shifting threat environment, it seems that much of the concealed carry community is making another quantum shift towards the Wonder Nine.
Today’s self-defense ammunition isn’t your daddy’s ball ammo anymore, and if you take and honest and very objective look at actual performance metrics like one-shot-stop percentage, lethality, and the number of rounds to incapacitate, you’ll find that there just isn’t much performance difference between the most common handgun calibers. Not to burst the bubble, but .45 ACP is not 19 times better than 9mm, nor is .40 S&W 83 times more potent than .380 ACP. The math of after action analysis just doesn’t reflect a big difference. What that means is that, assuming you choose quality defensive ammunition, caliber or size of the hole is no longer the primary consideration.
With that said, we have more flexibility to evaluate other caliber-related criteria to help make the best possible choice for our carry or home defense needs. For example, cost, availability, recoil, accuracy, noise, and muzzle flash might all enter into our decision criteria.
One factor that I’ve been pondering recently from a home-defense perspective is subsonic performance. Think about it. If you invest the waiting time and are willing to dutifully send your $200 to Uncle Spendy, you can stick a silencer on your home defense pistol.
If you’ve ever torched off a handgun indoors of anything, you know it’s loud. Well, actually deafening. While long-term hearing damage may be the least of your worries in during a home invasion, the disorientation that comes with isn’t. In the subsonic case, not only is there no supersonic bullet crack, the suppressor wipes out a great deal of the gas expansion “bang.
There’s also the issue of muzzle blast and flash. The odds are that you’re working in the dark. While good defensive ammo often uses low-flash powder, why not nuke most of that flash entirely to protect your night vision? Besides, a suppressor-equipped pistol makes a great club when empty!
For these reasons and the fact that some people prefer a slower and heavier projectile approach, I decided to test out the new Sig Sauer Elite Performance V-Crown 9mm 147-grain ammunition.
I broke out some 9mm handguns and clocked average velocity numbers by placing my trusty, and now slightly shot to pieces, Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph 15 feet down range. Here’s what I found.
|Gun||Velocity, feet per second|
|Sig Sauer P226 Single Action Only||997.5|
|FNS 9 Compact||915.3|
|Springfield Armory XD(M) Threaded with SilencerCo Osprey 45 Suppressor||1,032.3|
|Sig Sauer P229 Legion||927.8|
As you can see, even the largest of the bunch, the Springfield Armory XD(M) with its 4.5-inch barrel and a full-sized pistol suppressor launched these puppies at well under supersonic velocity. Where I am, that barrier is about 1,130 feet per second depending on current conditions.
For accuracy testing, I felt it appropriate to use two different Sig Sauer 9mm handguns, both proven accuracy masters. For each, I fired multiple five-shot groups from 25 yards and averaged the group sizes. I also mounted a Bushnell 3500 Handgun scope on the pistols using a UM Tactical rail mount to eliminate optical sighting error. The 7x magnification gave me a perfect and easily repeatable aiming point while sandbags provided the stability.
The Sig Sauer P226 SAO is one of those high-end production guns that performs more like a tuned match model. It turned in an average of 1.97-inch five-shot groups from 25 yards.
The newer Sig Sauer P229 Legion did even better, turning in an overall average of 1.602-inch groups when all was totaled up.
Shootin’ the Jello
To see how what sort of expansion and penetration I could expect from the slower and heavier 9mm projectiles, I did what I consider the most “civilian-relevant” portion of the FBI testing protocol. I fired five shots into a Clear Ballistics 10% gelatin block that I covered with the standardized four-layer heavy fabric. This cloth barrier contains cotton, denim and insulation layers and is intended to simulate multiple layers of clothing. It gives self-defense ammunition fits as hollow points can easily clog, thereby preventing proper expansion.
I switched things up a little and used a Beretta 92FS as the gun platform. I stuck a SilencerCo / SWR Octane 45 suppressor on the end to serve as my silenced home-defense pistol.
It’s a good thing I used back to back Clear Ballistics blocks because penetration ranged between 20 and 23 inches for all five shots. That’s what a heavier bullet will do for you. All rounds expanded perfectly with final diameters measuring between .48 and .53 inches. No worries there. As you can see from the pictures, the 147-grain bullets are noticeable longer, so expansion remained mostly in the front half of each projectile.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Many times I find that “slower” ammo rapidly becomes more finicky with respect to consistent expansion performance regardless of caliber. I just seems that any extra velocity helps overcome borderline performance parameters.
In this case, the ammo did exactly what it was supposed to. So make your choice, do you feel more comfortable with a slower and heavier bullet that’s likely to penetrate deeply? If so, check this one out.