Gimmick Ammo

This is a guest post by Andrew Bettsgimmick ammo

Gimmick Ammo – Are You Buying Snake Oil?

“It slices! It dices! It’ll bake you cookies and rub your feet! But wait, there’s more! Order in the next five minutes and…” Certain ammo companies promise the world. They claim that their Extreme nytrillium trocars forged in the fires of Valhalla will instantly vaporize gorillas on PCP and that Space Shuttle air marshals carry this special $5/rd ammunition so you should too. And why shouldn’t you believe the person that is selling the product? I mean, who would know more about it than the company trying to take your money? If you’re some sort of antisocial paranoid skeptic like me, though, you might question whether those claims are entirely accurate. Does the ammunition actually do what it claims? Is any of this gimmick ammo suitable for home defense? Even if it is suitable for defense, does it perform so much better than Gold Dot or HST that it justifies the sort of pricing that usually comes with an Apple logo?

Frangible bullets have been used for safely training on steel targets at close range for a long time. They are usually made of sintered copper. That is a process whereby the powdered metal is compressed under heat. This makes the bullet solid enough to survive the trip down the barrel and through the air to the target but when it strikes something hard enough (like a steel target), it shatters back into powder. This is obviously useful because traditional lead bullets shatter into much larger, potentially dangerous pieces when they strike steel. Several companies have recently offered this type of ammunition for sale as defense ammunition. We tested Crossfire’s 125 gr 10mm offering in calibrated ballistic gelatin.

Crossfire’s version is different from some of the other offerings because it is marketed for defense and it is a hollow point type of construction. This is important because frangible bullets don’t normally break up much in tissue. The hollow cavity did an excellent job causing the bullet to start to break up, though. At first glance, this load appears to be an absolute death ray. It comes apart like a bomb, almost immediately after impact, leaving a sort of cone of obliterated tissue. It even has a wicked cool black coating that is sure to send shivers down Feinstein’s spine. Unfortunately, that cone of destruction only goes about four inches deep. A few fragments do make it a little farther, but they are small and still barely make it past nine inches, well short of the FBI’s minimum recommendation of twelve inches.

DRT, which they claim stands for “Dynamic Research Technologies” but everyone knows really means “Dead Right There” (wink, wink), also offers frangible ammunition marketed for defense. In this case, we tested their 85 gr 9mm.

You may already be noticing a trend here. These whiz-bang super rounds are usually light for caliber and very high velocity. Unfortunately, mass (more accurately, sectional density) is what is required to get a projectile deep into a body. The DRT didn’t really transit much of the block, with the deepest piece falling just short of the twelve inch mark. That piece was just what remained of the jacket, though. The majority of the bullet stopped before three inches. Even if it had passed that minimum, I’m not very confident that small, 14 gr chunk of copper could incapacitate a threat in a timely manner. Like the 10mm Crossfire, the 9mm DRT produced a very ugly, but also very shallow wound.gimmick ammo

In days of yore, a mythical company called EXTREME SHOCK!!! (I’m pretty sure you have to shout when you say their name) took out full page advertisements in all the gun rags which featured ninjas, lightning, and explosions. With that much awesome in the advertisement, the product had to be great. They even had cool names like “fang face” and “air defense” and were made out of some mysterious totally not made up element called “nytrillium” (there may have been faeries involved).

In this case, the results are somewhat mixed. It still produced an incredible amount of damage for a pistol cartridge and a bit of it was able to reach 18”. Again, only the jacket got that far, but the damaged area and the fragments did go quite a bit deeper than the DRT or the Crossfire. On the other hand, we still don’t see any significant fragmentation or damage past six inches. So far, this looks like the best of this type of fragmenting ammo but I’m not convinced it’s any better than 230 gr HST.

Another design that has been around for a while is the pre-fragmented round. COR-BON’s Glaser line was probably the first to use the concept of a copper jacket filled with tiny lead shot, but Magsafe has been selling a similar product for several years now.

On the plus side, this bullet is insanely fast. I mean ludicrous speed. It clocked at 2,291 fps. That’s the sort of measurement you would expect to see from a rifle, not a 9mm pistol. That velocity didn’t help it penetrate, though. It performed just as it was designed and broke open almost instantly. The deepest pellet only made it to 9.3” and most of the mass of the projectile had stopped at about two inches.

The FBI recommendation of 12” is designed to account for oblique shots or for a bullet that has to pass through an attacker’s outstretched arms (as if they were, you know, holding a weapon) before even reaching the torso. This load might not even be able to get the job done if someone stood motionless with their hands at their sides and let you shoot them (that’s called “murder”, by the way). More accurately, it might not get the job done quickly. The flattened remains of the jacket that were found at 7.2” could certainly perforate the heart or major blood vessel badly enough to cause a person to bleed out, but it would be a pretty small hole and would likely take a long time.

Yet another take on gimmick ammo is the multiple projectile cartridge. This has taken a few forms but one of the most popular is the namesake of the company Double Tap. In 10mm flavor, the 230 gr Equalizer consists of a 135 gr jacketed hollow point loaded over a 95 gr lead ball. The company claims that they will separate in flight and create two separate wounds with the JHP expanding and the lead ball producing a sort of “bonus” wound track.

In reality, they wander on toward the target at a sedate 950 fps and impact together. They poke a small, unimpressive hole nearly two feet through gelatin before separating. In my test the 135 gr bullet penetrated 31” of calibrated 10% ballistic gelatin while the lead ball exited the side of the block, never to be found again. This might be useful for large animal defense, if the performance is consistent, but it is almost exactly the opposite of everything that you would want for defense against human beings.

Of course, there are seemingly endless choices for gimmick ammo, but the vast majority perform similarly to those covered in this article. Modern jacketed hollow points squeeze every bit of potential from handgun cartridges and they get that performance at a price that is usually a fraction of these wonder bullets.

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.


Photo credit – KillSwitchWes


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