115 gr 9mm lacking penetration?


September 10, 2008, 01:46 PM
I keep hearing that the 115 grain 9mm lacks penetration. It seems to perform fine to me. I like it because it has the most kinetic energy of the three main 9mm bullet weights. Should I switch to 124 grain?

If you enjoyed reading about "115 gr 9mm lacking penetration?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
September 10, 2008, 01:57 PM
115 gr FMJ penetrates just fine - in fact, it tends to over-penetrate on humans.

September 10, 2008, 02:13 PM
Huh? Where'd you hear that it has problems penetrating? If anything, the FMJ rounds penetrate TOO far...

September 10, 2008, 02:20 PM
The OP didn't say they were FMJ.

BattleChimp Potemkin
September 10, 2008, 02:59 PM
From a JHP situation, there are some very aggressive 115 designs that can open very quickly. The gelatin I used to horse with showed that Corbon (using the Sierra powerjacket, but also handloads using the Powerjacket) and Winchester standard 115grainers open very quickly and tend to penetrate far less than heavier or less aggressive designs. Not sure about underpenetration, but the results WERE unimpressive compared to 115gr. Gold Dots and specifically: the Hornady 115gr. XTP. This one goes deep, however tended to be confounded easier by denim in our tests.

Heavier bullets (with the exception from what I saw of the Sierras, handloaded or Corbon) tended to penetrate better.

The days of the Hi-Speed rounds (like the old Triton designs using Sierras) are limited, as designs using 90gr. bullets are remissed to either history or specific "low penetration" loads. This also includes handloads using .380 weight bullets. However, one that I did like (albeit fragmentory, but like Corbon isnt :D ) was a 102 gr. Golden Sabre on top of a hefty dose of 3N37. It penetrated well and left a trail of brass behind it :D.

ETA: I am not biased against Sierra, in fact they are my favorite for my reduced penetration .40 HD loads! :)

M2 Carbine
September 10, 2008, 04:31 PM
115 gr 9mm lacking penetration?
Not hardly.

There's a video called "Deadly Effects" which shows actual results from handgun shootings (definitely not G rated).

There's a morgue picture of a bad guy that was shot forty three (yes 43) times with a popular 9mm JHP bullet of the day.
He appears to be a good size man and most of the bullets went clean through him. From the picture you can see over twenty 9mm exit holes.
The guy continued fighting until brought down with a couple 12ga slugs.

Personally, I tried some of the wet telephone book penetration tests.

JHP 45ACP only penetrated these phone books 2 1/4 inches.

9mm 115gr FMJ and S&B JHP went clean through the books and it appears the bullets were still traveling pretty fast leaving the books.


September 10, 2008, 04:32 PM
115gr Federal 9BP and the +P+9BPLE both show very good penetration for self defense. This round is the STANDARD by which all other 9mm rounds are judged. The US Border Patrol used it for ever and was most happy with its performance in real life (or should I say, at causing real death).

In these test 9BPLE went past 15" and exhibited some fragmentation.


This data taken from "Stopping Power" shows 9BPLE going to 13.9" and data for few other top performers in the 9mm world at the time (including the coveted Winchester Ranger T 127 +P).


Both the most modern Corbon 115DPX and even the old "Walmart Special" WWWB 115JHP went to just over/almost 14" of penetration.


In summary:
Your not giving up anything by using proven or the modern 115gr 9mm's. Any of these rounds Center Mass will get the job done.

September 10, 2008, 04:32 PM
If you are talking FMJ, there should be no lack of penetration. However, 115 gr JHP tend to hit with more energy and velocity, opening more rapidly, and penetrating less than their heavier counterparts.

I personally find the 124 gr JHP's to be the best compromise between expansion and penetration. For very deep penetration, use standard velocity 147 gr JHP. They open slowly, and dig deep.

September 10, 2008, 05:36 PM
Never choose your handgun SD cartridge based on its muzzle energy

Illinois State Police used the +p+ 115gr JHP for many years with good results before switching to 180gr Winchester Ranger T from a Glock 22

Steve C
September 10, 2008, 06:30 PM
If you look at the available penetration data on 115 gr jhp bullets, all the standard velocity rounds from full size service pistols will penetrate the magic 12" or greater but when put in shorter barrels of 4" or less the penetration slips to just under 12".

+P+ loads all penetrate over the 12" depth.

The current Law Enforcement surplus Federal 115gr +P+ ammo that's currently available for a relatively economic price has a long standing reputation as a top notch round for stopping power.

September 11, 2008, 02:13 AM
This place is great, you get so many good responses so quickly!

I should have specified JHP, sorry. I tend to think that penetration, of the same caliber, is more dependent on bullet design rather than weight, but I've been seeking second opinions.

I've recently bought a Glock 26 and haven't made up my mind yet on my 9mm carry round. Right now I just have it loaded with rem umc 115 gr jhps. They are pretty decent, they expand beautifully and penetrate 8" in wet newspaper from the G26. But I know I need to carry premium ammo and stop being so cheap.

Would +P loads be best for a sub-compact because they will help with the loss of velocity? And for that matter do +p loads offer a boost in stopping power worth the added wear/recoil?

And why not choose a load based on kinetic energy? The transfer of kinetic energy plays a role in stopping power doesn't it?

And where can I find this deadly effects video?

September 11, 2008, 02:40 AM
If I'm carrying a 9mm it's loaded with 147 grain Winchester Rangers. If I'm plinking it's with 115 gr. FMJ. They are noticeably faster (read more penetration) on certain targets I use, but I wouldn't fear to load them into a personal protection gun.

I wouldn't like to get shot with either of them....

September 11, 2008, 10:58 AM
Either one would ruin your day! But as a hunter I have noticed a huge difference in stopping power between expanding and non-expanding bullets. Expanding bullets cut the time it takes to incap. with a chest wound in half, or more.

September 11, 2008, 11:53 AM
once the round leaves the body lawsuits happen..

115 HP serve me well..

September 11, 2008, 12:08 PM
And where can I find this deadly effects video?

I'd like to know too.

September 11, 2008, 12:25 PM
Here is the info on the video that was cited above.



September 11, 2008, 12:50 PM
For those that don't know, read and learn:

On April 11, 1986, 8 FBI Agents in 5 cars tried a felony stop on two suspect that they believed were bankrobbers, murderers, and armed with semi-auto rifles. However, the poor tactics they used used that day suggest that the Agents expected that, once confronted, the suspects would just give up. They did not.

The gun battle lasted about nine minutes with about 144 rounds fired, leaving 2 agents dead (G-d rest them), and 5 Agents wounded (3 grievously); the two suspects were also killed.

Both suspects were wounded in the initial exchange of gunfire. The first suspect took a bullet that fractured his skull, and took him out of the fight. The second suspect was also wounded in the first moments:

As [the second suspect] crawled through the passenger side window, one of [Agent] Dove’s 9mm bullets hit his right upper arm, just above the inside crook of the elbow. According to Dr. Anderson, the bullet passed under the bone, through the deltoid, triceps and teres major muscles, and severed the brachial arteries and veins. The bullet exited the inner side of his upper arm near the armpit, penetrated his chest between the fifth and sixth ribs, and passed almost completely through the right lung before stopping. The bullet came to a rest about an inch short of penetrating the wall of the heart.

This, it turns out, was a fatal wound (he would have bled to death)--but not immediately fatal. All of the damage done to the FBI agents by gunfire was done by this suspect AFTER he took that bullet to the arm and chest.

The FBI, rather than focus (initially) on the poor tactics, seized on the fact that if this 115 gr 9 mm Silvertip HP had just gone one inch farther, the fight would have been over. Therefore, the bullet that had perforated the arm and then passed perhaps 8 inches into the chest from the side, had underpenetrated. Of course.

This began the ammo-upgrade search that eventually gave us the 10 mm SW pistol and the .40 cartridge.

So, there's your underpenetrating 9 mm!

(Quotation found at: http://www.firearmstactical.com/briefs7.htm )

Old Grump
September 11, 2008, 01:10 PM
If muzzle energy were the criteria I would sell my 45 and stay with my 41 mag but its not the criteria. 115 is good put in the proper spot, bigger gives you a 'little' more leeway but shot placement is always critical, even for my beloved 45. Best insurance is to remember bigger is almost always better. 124 over 115 is my subjective opinion and its the only 9MM bullet I buy. If you cannot handle or do not like the bigger guns like the 40, 10MM or the 45 then at least get the biggest bullet you can fire reliably in your pistol. Shock value counts for a lot when you are trying to put down a determined adrenaline charged man. Thats why a lot of people don't look past a 12 gauge. On the +P question the little bit of gain in velocity is more than offset by more muzzle flash and noise. Neither is conducive to rapid acquisition of the sights for a second shot and only marginal in increased effectiveness in a short barreled gun.

September 11, 2008, 02:31 PM
Would +P loads be best for a sub-compact because they will help with the loss of velocity?

I would use +P in your G26... I always carry +P in my 26 to compensate for the short barrel. I would use the kind that incorporates flash surpressors in the powder, like Golden Saber or equivalent.

Also, if you are concerned about price for premium ammo, just load up your gun with the top end stuff, and use cheap JHP for your spare mags.

And why not choose a load based on kinetic energy? The transfer of kinetic energy plays a role in stopping power doesn't it?

Choosing ammo only on energy means ignoring other important issues like penetration. If it was only energy we looked at, then Glaser or Xtreme Shock ammo would be the top choice. But those ultra light, super fast bullets make a very nasty and very shallow wound channel that does not work so well in real life.
The perfect bullet has balance between velocity, weight, and expansion. If the bullet is skewed to any extreme in any of these categories, it loses effectiveness.

September 11, 2008, 03:35 PM
The FBI Miami shoot out happen 20yrs ago and is often sited as a result of the 9mm's lack of killing power. Unfortunatly it dosen't mean squat when taken in the contex of modern 9mm 115gr ammunition. This is a single incident that happend 20yrs ago. Hardly anything to hang your hat on as far as determining the effectivness of modern 115gr 9mm ammo.

William Russell Matix and Michael Platt were both highly trained former Soldiers (Matix had been a military policeman, while Platt had served as a Ranger). They were highly driven individuals who had superior fire power and training. They used it to great effect here. They were armed with a Ruger Mini 14, a 12 gauge, and an assortment of pistols, while the agents were armed with one 12 gauge, a few revolvers and a few S&W 9mm auto pistols.

Specifically it was one round of the Winchester 115gr Silvertip that "failed to penetrate" from an impact under Platt's arm pit (after it went through his arm). A second 9mm round did hit his lung and was infact a killing wound but it took a little while before he would have succombed to it.

Interesting to note that the .38 +P 158gr LHP was also used in the combat and also failed to end the situation as Matix was shot 2 times through the windshield of their car by an agent with a Smith model 36, knocking him out. He woke up and started fighting again...

These guys at least started a bunch of ammunition research in the firearms world, but by no means are they what's going to happen in every shoot out situation. The rounds I cited (Federal 9BPLE and Winchester Ranger T) are a direct result of the research that came from this shoot out.

All this shoot out tells you is if your in a shoot out with 2 former Army Rangers who out gun you, the Winchester 115gr Silvertip is a bad 9mm ammo choice.

September 11, 2008, 06:42 PM
Direct quote from the FBI evaluation of the 10mm (Yes 10mm).
Page 9 of the
FBI 10mm Notes
SSA Urey W. Patrick, Firearms Training Unit
FBI Academy, Quantico, VA

Are you saying the 9mm is no good?

* No. We are saying it is as good as a .38 Special, which has served
us for a long time. It has severe limitations, which we are not willing
to accept. It is woefully inadequate for shooting at people in cars,
for example, and over half of our shootings involve vehicles. It is a
marginally adequate wounding agent. We have a number of 9mm shootings
over the past couple of years, and if you define a good shooting as one
in which the subject stops whatever he was doing when he gets shot, we
have yet to have a good one, and we are hitting our adversaries multiple
times. We have shot half a dozen dogs in the past year and have not
killed one yet, although we have run up a significant veterinary bill.
The 9mm with proper ammunition is not a bad round. It is just
nowhere near as effective as the 10mm and .45 offerings, and the
disparity between it and the larger calibers has remained a constant
throughout all the testing we have done over the past two years.

From another source that recommends using "Momentum between 20 and 30":

9mm, 115 gr @ 1155 fps, Momentum = 19.0 lb-f/s - Muzzle Energy = 341ft lbs
9mm, 124 gr @ 1120 fps, Momentum = 19.8 lb-f/s - Muzzle Energy = 345 ft lbs
9mm, 147 gr @ 990 fps, Momentum = 20.8 lb-f/s - Muzzle Energy = 320 ft lbs

45 ACP, 185 gr @ 1000 fps, Momentum = 26.4 lb-f/s - Muzzle Energy = 411 ft lbs
45 ACP, 200 gr @ 940 fps, Momentum = 26.9 lb-f/s - Muzzle Energy = 393 ft lbs
45 ACP, 230 gr @ 850 fps, Momentum = 27.9 lb-f/s - Muzzle Energy = 369 ft lbs

September 11, 2008, 06:47 PM
if youre having to shoot through car doors and windshields and steel doors in the projects, then id want something heavier than a 115gr.

but for the general encounter of self defense it is fine.

just remeber, if you get a h.p. round that is supposed to open up quickly and it does so, dont complain like the F.B.I. did because it didnt penetrate as well as a round with a delayed expansion design.

September 11, 2008, 09:12 PM
just remeber, if you get a h.p. round that is supposed to open up quickly and it does so, dont complain like the F.B.I. did because it didnt penetrate as well as a round with a delayed expansion design.
That is correct.
At the time of Miami the FBI was talking that the best rd for defense was rapid expansion/limited penetration. They had all the technical figures with their computer man and the RII formula. They were just as adamant for the rapid expansion/limited penetration as they later were for deep penetration/expansion is secondary. It was a pendulum for them. They went from one extreme to the other. And which ever way their pendulum swung they had formulas and "proof" to prove either of their points. They weren't listening to those agencies who were actually using the rds on the street. The FBI is actually engaged in very few shootings. In fact it is very rare. Also, they don't investigate police shootings. They might pull a few reports and then live vicariously what other agencies investigate but they're not out there when the smell of gunpowder is still in the air or at the autopsies recovering bullets. They might ask for a report months/years later. But at the time they had their tests and they were preaching rapid expansion/limited penetration.
My agency issued the 115 gr Silvertip (same as was used in Miami) in 1980 for just a couple of months. Then we had our first shooting with it. The BG was a biker wearing a leather vest over a leather jacket. He was hit 13 times COM with the Silvertip and none of the rds penetrated deep enough to hit vitals. We immediately switched to Federal 115 BP. A few years later the FBI decided they were going to the 9mm. They told everyone that their computer man and RII showed the 115 Silvertip was the perfect 9mm rd. A couple of our range guys loaded up our shooting data and the case file from our 1980 shooting and visited the range boys at Quantico. Our guys were basically told to go back home, that our shooting was an anomaly because the FBI's computer man and the RII showed the 115 Silvertip was the best choice.
Then came Miami and the FBI found out what we had learned nearly 6 years earlier and what our range guys had tried to tell them. Unfortunately it was a costly lesson for them.
My agency worked with Federal to develop the 115 BPLE and then later with W-W to develop the 115 +P+. There was nothing wrong with the Federal BPLE it's just that W-W (Olin) is an IL company and W-W was really pushing all they could to get our business. Both the BPLE and the W-W +P+ worked very well for us for many years. I investigated and supervised quite a few shootings with those rds. They worked going thru windshields, car body/doors, and all kinds of clothing.

September 12, 2008, 12:11 AM
Full 9mm related text here. (http://www.w0ipl.net/FBI-10mm.htm)

September 12, 2008, 12:21 AM
isp spelled it out nicely with some fine examples of 115grainers doing a good job.

off the shelf "wal-mart stuff" like wwb is fine for "normal" uses, but for police work you should use something heavier unless you get the designs made for barrier issues.

there are plenty of good 115gr loads out there but not all are made to l.e. standards. choose wisely.

for private citizen ccw the 115gr. STHP would be fine with me. in my duty gun it would not be.

September 12, 2008, 03:22 AM
The FBI has an excuse for everything. Even egotism and the selection of poor ammo design.

So would seem that penetration/expansion would be about 75% bullet design and 25% weight?

Bullets with larger weight do have greater sectional density, which should mean more weight rention through barriers. Right?

September 12, 2008, 03:32 AM
Since the Miami shootout few handgun rounds have gone through as much development as the 9mm. In general the bullet design has been improved to prevent early expansion. To get the same penetration or close to it with the 115 gr. as the heavier rounds +P pressures must be used. These presssures are not all that much higher than standard pressures though.

Remington's 115 gr. JHP+P gets 1250 vel. with muzzle energy of 399. Black Hills 115gr. jhp +P does 1300 fps with muzzle energy of 431. Cor Bon produces a load of 1350 fps with energy at 460.

9mm bullets these days tend to penetrate and expand as they should against a number of barriers. Not all are equal of course but most will do the job that a fella looking for a good self defense round could expect of them.


September 12, 2008, 03:40 AM
Bullets with larger weight do have greater sectional density, which should mean more weight rention through barriers. Right?

Not necessarily. After the Miami shootout and while the FBI was working on reviewing it's ammo selection it switched for a time from the 115 gr. Winchester Silvertip to a 147 gr. load thinking that the greater weight would provide more penetration. But the bullet design was not right and they proved less effective at penetration than the 9mm they had been using. From that time till now many law enforcement organizations distrusted the 147 gr. loads. The ammo manufacturers went to work and improved the design of the bullets in the heavier loads and they improvced greatly. They did the same for the lighter loads as well. Winchester Ranger line is one result, Federal's Hydra Shok another. So, yep weight does aid penetration but only if the bullet is right for the job.


If you enjoyed reading about "115 gr 9mm lacking penetration?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!