This is a guest post by Andrew Betts
Lehigh “Extreme Penetrator” and “Extreme Defender” look like Phillips head screwdriver bits and they have one thing in common with screwdrivers: they screw you good. Unlike most normal tools, though, they don’t work. That’s not to say that Lehigh ammo doesn’t fire or won’t poke holes in things. Of course it does. It just doesn’t do it any better than regular full metal jacket. It just doesn’t do any of the things Lehigh claims it does. It’s not like Lehigh doesn’t know this, either. They have to be aware that their claims about fluid dynamics and faerie magic are completely false. It strains credulity to accept that they actually believe their product does the things that they claim. They had to have tested it and they must know their claims are entirely false. That means they are intentionally screwing you.
The reason they have been able to screw customers so efficiently and to grab such a large market share in a short time lies mainly in their social media marketing strategy. In short, the strategy hinges on sending samples to YouTube testers and gun writers with the explicit understanding that they will say nothing negative. While there has long been an implied understanding between manufacturers and reviewers that the reviews not be too harsh or the free stuff stops coming, Lehigh has gone so far as to explicitly state that they will not send ammunition to reviewers without assurances that the review will be positive. As a result, the YouTube testers and gun writers obediently gush about how super awesome this new gimmick ammo is, despite its cost. Please bear in mind that Lehigh never made the claim that their Extreme Penetrator line offered enhanced wounding until the YouTube reviewers decided it looked super cool in ballistic gel. Now, it is possible that some of them are not intentionally misleading their viewers but are simply mistaken. Interpreting gelatin test results can be a little confusing. At first glance, one might expect that the disturbance seen in a gel block would represent the damage that would be done to tissue. The gel is used to simulate tissue, after all, right?
In reality, properly calibrated 10% ordnance gelatin produces penetration, expansion, fragmentation, and retained weight figures that correlate strongly with those same figures as observed in human soft tissue. That gives us excellent, empirical data to compare various projectiles to each other when tests are performed correctly. Gelatin does not produce “wounds” that are representative of a wound produced in real tissue, though. The biggest difference is that gelatin is not nearly as elastic as real tissue (except brain and liver tissue). When a projectile passes through gelatin or tissue, it pushes some of the material out to the side and the momentum imparted on that tissue causes it to continue outward for some distance. The empty space this creates is called the temporary stretch cavity, or TSC. It is temporary because the tissue stretches, then snaps back into place like a rubber band. At velocities exceeding 2,000 fps, this TSC can expand beyond the elastic limit of the tissue and cause tearing. The Lehigh ammunition doesn’t produce velocities anywhere near that, though. That means that the tears that are seen in the gelatin block do not represent wounding. They are simply an artifact caused by the relative inelasticity of gelatin. It is also worth noting that on closer examination, even the exaggerated “wounding” seen in gelatin isn’t that impressive alongside standard full metal jacket.
When you directly compare Lehigh Extreme Penetrator to FMJ of the same weight, the FMJ actually produces a better wound. While neither has the velocity to wound via TSC, the FMJ has a tendency to turn sideways, or “yaw,” which results in a slightly wider wound channel while the bullet is moving sideways.
Lehigh is not the only company that sells gimmick ammunition and they are not the only company that arranges for biased “reviews” from the gun rags and social media. It has long been known that claims in this industry should be taken with a whole handful of salt. If you are choosing ammunition for defensive use, you are strongly advised to avoid anything that claims any sort of “revolutionary” technology and instead depend on established, well documented performers. There are mountains of independent test results available for Gold Dot, HST, and Ranger T as well as many other dependable defense loads. As always, the equipment you select is nowhere near as important as the time that you spend training. Find a competent, certified instructor and take a course. If you have already done that, apply those skills on the range and then take another course. Training is perishable and the more you sweat in training the less you’ll bleed in a fight.
Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan. Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.