No Magic Bullet

Editor’s Note: The following is a syndicated article by author Tamara Keel that first appeared in USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine Volume 11, Issue 3, April 2014 under the title, “No Magic Bullet” 

As I write this, another wave of ballistic hyperbole is sweeping across the Internet. There’s a new bullet out! It sets the paradigm on its ear! Gun owners are drooling for this, the last bullet you’ll ever need! Blah, blah, blah, yakkity-shmakkity.

Stick around long enough and you’ll notice this phenomenon happen every few years. You’re sitting there, minding your own business, and the next thing you know, friends from work or church or the book club who know you as “The Gun Expert” are coming up to you and asking about this bullet that’s being hyped in the mainstream media as either the surest felon-stopper since Wyatt Earp or the biggest menace to society since John Dillinger.

It’s rare for something as esoteric as a projectile design to come to the attention of the non-gun press. Generally, for that to happen, it takes one of two things: either a mainstream manufacturer made an unusually poor PR choice in the bullet naming *cough*BlackTalon*cough*, or someone has launched a buzzword-laden press release with all the discrimination of a desert island dweller putting notes in bottles.

It makes me sad when the latter happens because the press release is bound to be latched onto by the anti-gun media, who know as much about terminal ballistics as the monkeys at the beginning of “2001: A Space Odyssey” did about interplanetary space flight. You or I may titter behind our hands about “ultimate” this and “devastating” that, but there is a certain journalist demographic who is going to read those wild claims and go running to their word processors to complain about the latest death-dealing, cop-killer, baby-slaying, homicide bullet.

Let’s go back again to Winchester’s “Black Talon.” Does anybody think that if they had named it the “Blossoming Petal Home Defense” that there would have been anywhere near the same level of controversy surrounding it? (Bear in mind that essentially the same projectile is being sold today as the “Ranger-T”; there are some in the pistol on my hip as I type this. It’s been 20 years and the media doesn’t seem to have caught on.)

When a new Magic Bullet is launched and makes media waves, I always apply two filters as to whether it’s worth chasing down. The first filter is “Are the police using this?” This is not necessarily because I think that the police are all-that-and-a bag-of-chips in the gear-selection department, but they’ve generally been okay with bullets for the last 15 or 20 years and, should I ever have to justify my choice of rounds in a courtroom, it would be nice to be able to say “You, alright! I learned it by watching you!” like the kid in the commercial.

The second filter? The second filter is “Is this cartridge sold in six-round blister packs with pictures of explosions and rappelling ninjas on them?” Because if it is, well, I’m just not Operator enough.

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • WFG December 3, 2018, 10:00 pm

    I prefer, the hard to locate Winchester Silver Tip .380 for my AMT Backup, and 9 MM. for my HI-power, I know old school pistols, and old school ammo. Still SURGICAL after all these years..

  • Rane December 1, 2018, 1:16 pm

    I do a lot of ballistic testing with different calibers and projectiles testing to see how they perform terminally. I can’t afford ballistic gel for my test so I use the poor mans method of using gallon jugs of water, wood, dry wall, denim, sheet metal, and on occasions raw meat. I do my best to simulate multiple scenarios in which that particular round may be used and then test its limitations. Over the past 10 years or so of doing these tests nearly every weekend I’ve come up with a standard in which I grade each bullet on several categories using the same materials to keep things equal. The only projectiles that have impressed me lately are those from Lehigh Defense. I’ve only use their maximum expansion(.30) Xtreme defense(9,40,458) and Xtreme penetrator(10mm)
    All of these bullets not only performed as advertised, but are extremely accurate. I’ve hunted with the maximum expansion 200 gr 300 BLK and have killed several whitetails. None of them ran more than 40 yards after impact, and these are subsonic. I’ve killed several pigs and whitetails with my 458 socom using Lehigh’s 225 gr Xtreme defense. It shoots over 2,200 fps from my AR. No expansion necessary, this solid copper bullet punches a massive wound channel and always exits. It took 8 one gallon jugs to stop this projectile during testing. The Xtreme penetrator I used as a bear round in my 40 and 10mm. At only 140 gr I was skeptical. I loaded them to 1250 fps in 40 and 1475 fps in 10mm. The 40 impressed me the most because I wasn’t expecting such performance from the smaller case. It punched through 5/8 oak plywood then continued through 7 one gallon jugs of water, exited the last jug and was found several inches into the sand berm behind it. That is indeed extreme penetration. Not a home defense round, but a great hiking/hunting/fishing round. The 10mm performed even better. Prior to learning about Lehigh’s magic bullets the only company who really impressed me was Barnes. Maybe I just like copper. All I know is that there are lots of great bullets out there that will get the job done, but if you’re looking for something above average and maybe a little exotic then you need to check out Lehigh Defense. And no, sadly I don’t work for them. I just pay their power bill. Those bullets aren’t cheap

  • Heresolong December 1, 2018, 12:58 pm

    I had a box of Black Talon’s for my Ruger Security Six back in 1991. My brother shot them all at the range while I was deployed. Thanks bro. Now I use Hydra Shok, which I guess is another “look at me” name, but which doesn’t seem to have attracted the attention of the MSM.

  • Mike in a Truck November 30, 2018, 11:06 am

    Well here we are round and round it goes.Trick bullets are all the rage for “real” gunfighters.Hunting and man shooting are two different things.My handgun fighting experience is just one incident. One shot from an Uncle Sugar issued 1911A1 settled things.With hardball ammo.This is why I run hardball in my carry 1911’s.Im I wrong?Then thousands upon thousands of G.I.’s are also wrong.A .45 caliber pistol bullet for defense dosnt need expansion.I know,I know the experts will talk about pass through- but how many incidents have gone down that with the 45 ACP? Go ahead cite your gel tests and other crap.Men are not made of gel.And a block of gel isnt trying to run a bayonet threw your sorry ass.Sin Loi!

  • johnnyraygun November 30, 2018, 8:18 am

    A bullet or projectile,, that would explode on impact might qualify as a Magic bullet, Military’s like them

  • David Douglass November 30, 2018, 7:11 am

    I just know my magic bullets will beat your magic bullets…lol. Use the Ranger T’s but I’ve found three new magic bullets and they’ve got the “magic names” to boot….Xtreme Defense, Maximum Expansion, and Xtreme Penetrator. And they also have the ‘magic look’ — all shinny copper bullets as compared to the Ranger T’s mundane, so-yesterday-so-old-fashion JHP relics.

    • triggerpull November 30, 2018, 8:33 am

      I’ve shot a whole bunch of these bullets–not because they claim to knock out an entire fleet of Klingon warbirds circling the earth–but because they actually fly well, consistently and accurately. The flip side of “don’t get caught up in the latest greatest fad” is “keep your head stuck in the sand.” Additionally–the “Eniro ethos” is catching up with the hunting public–in many places it’s the law–creating an effective market demand for monolithic bullets. Poopy doo all you want on them–but bullets like maker’s Trex work well and make the AR platform a good viable choice for hunting–which also gives the AR platform some visibility as a true sporting weapon and not just a implement of mass murder waiting for someone to pull the trigger.

  • Chuck November 30, 2018, 6:34 am

    I still have a few Black Talons. I guess that makes me a bad person.

    • Jack December 3, 2018, 8:53 am

      No…….just deplorable

  • DJ November 28, 2018, 10:19 pm

    More good reading from Tamara.
    As true now as it was then, and some of the references are pleasantly retro.

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