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Maybe the #1 Contender!

Maybe the #1 Contender!
The Quest for the Best Performing Heavyweight Bullet Might be Over

By Kevin Newberry

After much needed rain across much of Texas became very close to flooding here, it finally dried out enough for us to get to the range on Monday 11/5/18. And when I say “us” I’m referring to my shooting partner, hereafter simply typed SP, and myself. Deer season began Saturday the 3rd, so the only other folks to come out were a couple of hunters sighting in their rifles.

Going back to my last article, I mentioned testing the SPEER 147 gr. Gold Dot and my attempt to lower velocity just barely from 1131 FPS. Not that the Gold Dot didn’t perform well or hold together, it was more the result of the petals bending back more than necessary. Unfortunately, the newest batch wasn’t any slower and I’ll again lower the charge by .05 grs, which I can do now with the RCBS micrometer stem on my Uniflow powder measure. The goal is 1125 FPS, or slightly less, for all 147 gr. Gold Dot loads in the future.

Thanks to my buddy, Barry B, in Florida I’ve had some 147 gr. Federal HSTs to test. But before I get into that, I’d like to mention and show my personal gratitude to Barry, and many others like him for their dedication to the safety and well-being for the victims of Hurricane Michael. Barry volunteered to stay behind to help first responders. He lives just miles away in the panhandle of Florida that suffered Michael’s greatest impact. This is a very good example of what I consider America’s best!

Before the hurricane, Barry had been spending some time with a local sheriff’s department testing various loads under consideration for that department’s use. We talked about one load in particular, the now discontinued Federal 147 gr. +P HST load. The velocity he recorded for that factory load was very similar to what had been posted in the gel block pic, along with several others, that seemed to be on every firearms forum, and it performed very well at 1048 FPS, IIRC. The loads were all examples of those passing the FBI protocol testing. It just so happened that Barry had bought some pulled 147 gr. HSTs that are occasionally sold by RMR. He was curious as to how they would perform in my tests and sent me some samples. Thanks again, buddy!

There is a reason I hadn’t mentioned this before. This bullet is not available as “new” to handloaders. The performance of the 147 gr. HST in my tests, and finding a way to load them where their previous loading at the factory had no bearing on my personal loads, along with their occasional availability, changed my mind.

I’ll continue to use the 147 gr. Gold Dot, but let me make a quick point on that. SPEER says that the loads in their data are not recommended for barrels over 10”. A bit odd considering the highest velocity reached in their data is a pretty sedate 1027 FPS. And as I’ve mentioned, I’ve successfully tested them to 1131 FPS from a 4.47” handgun.

But for those wanting higher velocity from carbine length barrels I would definitely recommend the Hornady 147 gr. XTP. Maybe in the near future, someone will put some data together for carbine loads. Right now, the warmest data I’m aware of comes from Lapua/Vihta Vuori, and it is a standard pressure load, not +P, that shows the 147 gr. XTP at just over 1200 FPS using 3N38. A newer powder they developed specifically for the .38 Super Lapua, their proprietary cartridge that differs just slightly from the .38 SuperComp.

When 3N38 was first introduced, a forum friend who is a 9mm experimenter also, got ahold of some early on. The load shown then is no different than what’s shown today. My friend, however, ran into a slight problem. The powder charge was so compressed that he deformed the nose of bullets trying to get them to V-V’s recommended OACL of 1.142”/29mm. By the time I could reply to that informative email and recommend increasing his OACL, he decided to get Accurate #7 into the act. His test pistol was the Glock 34 and had no OACL restrictions staying within SAAMI Max spec.

I’m not a Glock guy as my SP has been in the past, but I can tell you that when Glock introduced the Gen 5 and hyped its “Marksman” barrel, my SP and I began researching just exactly what the difference was from their previous barrels. Most notable is chamber length. Simply put, the Gen 5’s will not take 9 x 19mm loads as long in OACL as preceding models. Something you definitely want to look into if you own a Gen 5 Glock and plan to make the types of loads I’ve been covering. As far as my forum friend/fellow researcher, he reported that he was getting similar velocity with Accurate #7, but with better accuracy without the compression issues. I had to drive 60 miles just to get some Accurate #7. It might have been twice that distance to locate 3N38 at that time. He also checked pressure in the same way that I do, by case-head expansion. Primers are often no clue. And according to Lyman’s data in the 49th edition and the Pistol & Revolver III, they loaded to a 7.2 gr. Max Charge with the SPEER 147 gr. TMJ with an OACL of 1.115” an a tested pressure of 29,000 CUP where 33,000 CUP is the SAAMI Max Average Pressure, or MAP, as well as the 35,000 PSI value for standard pressure.

I started handloading in 1986 using Lyman data for the .41 Magnum. 32 years later I have still never made 1 single handload that was even suspicious of over-pressure using their data. Often times having to make adjustments for different bullet types. That also led me to a recommendation I’ve made for many years to other handloaders loading 124/125 gr. JHPs in 9 x 19mm. If there is no data for the particular bullet you’re loading, the SIERRA or Lyman data for the SIERRA 125 gr. JHP can be used. 1st reason being that you will not likely find a bullet at this weight that has a longer shank/bearing surface. 2nd reason is that both SIERRA and Lyman load this bullet very short. Lyman used an OACL of 1.075” and SIERRA may use that same length. In other words, this load is a worst-case-scenario for loading 124/125 gr. JHPs in 9 x 19mm. It can also be used for comparison to same weight JHP data by others.

Just a couple of years back we tried the NOSLER 124 gr. JHP, and it too has a very long shank. It has a rounded ogive that’s kind of bulbous and mostly at the nose of the bullet. We saw match grade accuracy, as others have, but no expansion up to the highest velocity I was comfortable with. You’ll notice that in some reviews you’ll read that the bullet is better used with the higher velocity capable with the .357 SIG. RMR’s 124 gr. “in-house” manufactured JHP is similar and may require a very short OACL as well.

1st test, Federal 147 gr. HST

My first test with the 147 gr. HST (the pic above) was chronographing for an Average Velocity of 1090 FPS, an Extreme Spread of 32 with a Standard Deviation of 10 FPS, and that was with 9 rounds rather than my usual 10. The 10th round I decided to water test. Performance was very good as you can see and it penetrated well into the 3rd jug coming close to reaching the 4th. For that reason I increased the powder charge slightly hoping that a bit more velocity would put an HST into the 4th jug.

On Monday, 11/5/18 I repeated the test exactly as before including a 9 shot string over the chrono. Average Velocity was 1111 FPS, Extreme Spread was 31 with a Standard Deviation of 9 FPS. Things seemed to be as they should with uniformity improving slightly with the slight increase in powder charge. It did not penetrate into the 4th jug, but it did puncture the first wall of the jug. In fact, I started my search for the bullet in the 4th jug because of the amount of water flowing from the puncture. Here’s the result.


147 gr. HST 11/5/18

I don’t know if it gets any better than this. Max expansion is .710” while retained weight is 147.7 grs. and later we’ll look at the average diameter along with the other ratings from the Q-Model numbers from Charles Schwartz’s Quantitative Ammunition Selection.

Before we do that, I want to point out some things about these bullets being “pulled.”

First you’ll notice that the HST has a cannelure. It serves as a mechanical lock on the core inside. The ring you see forward of the cannelure is from seating depth and taper crimp, and where the case-mouth was located when the rounds left the factory. The micro-cannelure as I refer to it. Those who doubt the benefits of taper crimping auto-pistol rounds; that might be due to the quality of the factory loads they buy or have bought.

Getting a little ahead of myself, the distance from the top of the cannelure to the bullet nose is .400”. In a pinch, this bullet might even work in a .38 Special length case at the trim-to-length dimension of 1.149” per Lyman. The neck will likely need to be resized smaller than what you’ll get from a .38 Special resizing die.

The more pertinent fact concerning 9 x 19mm is that seating depth can be longer than the factory load without exposing the cannelure on the bullet. My test rounds were 1.142”/29mm. On some of the loads you can get a glimpse of the bullet cannelure due to slight OACL variations. Set seating depth to 1.140”, or shorter if the barrel’s throat requires that and the cannelure won’t be visible.

Now, let’s run it through the Q-Model. This will be the first time I’ve run this load, Charles and I both ran the previous test bullet that chrono’d 1090 and the results were impressive.

Average Diameter: .6382”

Recovered weight: 147.7 grs.

Predicted depth of penetration in gel: 11.8352”

Wound mass/volume: 1.8644 oz./ 3.1013 cubic inches

ΔE15 = projectile energy expenditure in Ft/lbs from 1 – 15 centimeters penetration depth: 289.6951 Ft/lbs

P [I/H] Incapacitation Probability

  1. .7392


  1. .9320


  1. .9823


  1. .9954

Muzzle energy: 405 Ft/lbs

Momentum: .7286 Lb-seconds

Everything improving except for the penetration prediction. That due to the increase in expansion from the previous test. I’m gonna tell you that 11.8352” with this kind of expansion, energy and momentum, it works for me. Now if we could only buy it as a component bullet.

But before I go, I did another test where my expectations exceeded the results. My SP had been gifted a box of Hornady 135 gr. +P Critical Duty loads. They were a good bit slower than spec’d and we fired them from a 4” S&W M&P Mod 2 Compact. Recovered diameter was .510” Max where in the Hornady 2017 catalog it expanded to .600” and no doubt closer to the spec velocity. It did however penetrate into the 4th jug.

Mechanical locks on the bullet work. SIG/ SIERRA do something similar with the V-Crown and Remington has followed suit with the Black-Belt. I can’t speak for Hornady, but had I been the engineer in charge of designing a new handgun defense bullet, I think I would have proved that the XTP wasn’t capable first, by using a mechanical lock which they’ve been doing longer than anyone with their Interlock rifle bullets. I’m not saying the same exact process would have worked, but I’m pretty sure I could have come up with one that did. And in some cases the cores in the XTP are a bit harder than necessary. I had high hopes for the Critical Duty bullets in 9 x 19mm, but I couldn’t recommend them unless you’re just out to defeat barriers in the FBI protocol tests.

God Bless, Be Safe and Good Shooting to you all,

Kevin Newberry