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Heavy for caliber or light for caliber?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Preacher., Jan 11, 2013.

  1. Preacher.

    Preacher. Active Member

    Just curious, in your opinion, is it better to carry heavier grain bullet or lighter bullet for self defense carry weapon. I have a 40 cal beretta, which I don't have any self defense ammo for and want to purchase some. I know there is some that like the heavier bullets and some that like the lighter bullets. I was just wondering what your reasons are for carrying lighter or heavier bullets. I was personally considering the Speer Gold hollow points in 165 grain for my 40 cal. Thanks for your opinion and information.
  2. RBid

    RBid Well-Known Member

    1. Shot placement
    2. Penetration
    3. Expansion

    I prefer 147gr gold dots in 9mm. Less snap than 124 +P (easier follow-up, for shot placement), they penetrate well, and still expand to a good value.

    My .02
  3. ku4hx

    ku4hx Well-Known Member

    This. And in this order.

    Living in the Sunny South even heavy winter clothing is none too heavy but I'd surmise that to be a reasonable consideration.

    That being said, I favor that weight I believe to be the "sweet spot' for the caliber. For me that's 124 grain in 9mm, 180 grain in 10mm/40 and 230 grain in 45 ACP. I favor other weights in other calibers but these three seem to be the usual focus.

    All bullet weights, and constructions, have their place. There are no "death ray" bullets. You have to pick what you feel comfortable with.
  4. Deus Machina

    Deus Machina Well-Known Member

    Seconded again.

    It depends on the cartridge, gun, and round, too. In 9mm, 147's used to have a reputation for not opening. They didn't get fast enough in small CC guns. I believe Gold Dots do out of anything larger than a sub-compact, and the most recent rounds have mostly addressed the issue. In fact, 147gr HST's are my preferred carry round in my CZ, and I'm happy with 124 with or without +P in HST or anything Speer offers.

    IMO, the larger the round, the more leeway you get in the matter. Larger bullets pick up the hydraulic pressure needed to open the round. .40's give you more options, I'd feel comfortable with any JHP in .45, and good luck finding something that won't expand at real 10mm forces.
  5. ku4hx

    ku4hx Well-Known Member

    I make 'em! 175 grain truncated cone cast from my own specific alloy. Very tough and effective on pig. Recovered bullets are unexpanded and weight retention is often above 90%. At 1,150 to 1,250 fps they are potent rounds.

    Not the best round maybe for urban defense against two-legged attackers, but when power is needed in a holstered gun (round count and muzzle energy), my Glock 20 fills the bill extremely well.
  6. Skribs

    Skribs Well-Known Member

    Keep in mind that through heavy clothing, JHPs will fail to expand and penetrate deeper. Look at a lot of gel tests for "bare gel" and "4 layers of denim". Bare gel might have an expansion of 0.68" and penetrate 12.4", but 4 layers will expand to 0.56" and penetrate 17". (Or something like that, you get the idea).

    Personally, I like heavy-for-caliber. This means that in 9mm I grab 147-grain, .40 I grab 180-grain, if I had a .45 it would be 230-grain, and for .380 ACP I just buy whatever FMJ is the cheapest.
  7. 481

    481 Well-Known Member

    Putting aside for the time being, the issue of shot placement, I tend to go with bullets of high sectional density because sectional density (along with velocity, of course) is what drives expansion, that is- penetration is the merely the product of sectional density times velocity.

    The reason for this is that as a bullet expands, its sectional density decreases by a significant degree and heavier bullets, having greater initial mass, produce higher sectional density given similar expansion.

    For example, if two .45ACP JHPs, one weighing 185 grs @ 1050 fps and the other weighing 230 grs. @ 865 fps were to both expand to 0.68" at impact, the expanded 230 gr JHP would have an initial sectional density of 0.161 and an expanded sectional density of 0.071 whereas the 185 gr. JHP would have an initial sectional density of 0.129 and an expanded sectional density of 0.057.

    Doesn't sound like much of a difference 'til you look farther...

    Comparing these two examples using the Schwartz bullet penetration model, it is easy to see the benefit of heavy-for-caliber JHPs-

    -the .45ACP 185 gr @ 1050 fps that expands to 0.68" would penetrate to a depth of 12.31 inches and permanently crush 2.20 ounces of soft tissue along the way, whereas

    -the .45ACP 230 gr @ 865 fps that expands to 0.68" would penetrate to a depth of 13.34 inches and permanently crush 2.40 ounces of soft tissue along the way

    So, even though the heavier 230 gr JHP has ~18% less velocity than the 185 gr JHP, it still penetrates deeper and crushes more soft tissue than the lighter, faster 185 gr. JHP.

  8. mdauben

    mdauben Well-Known Member

    I'm with ku4hx on this (although I don't own any 10mm/.40S&W guns). I think they each provide the best compromise of velocity/penetration/expansion for their respective calibers.
  9. browningguy

    browningguy Well-Known Member

    155, 165 and 180 gr. are the common weight in the .40 S&W. I settled on 155 gr. because they are the most accurate in most of my .40's (I have 3 of them).

    Try a magazine of each in your gun and see which is the most accurate, then load it up. No need to overthink the problem.
  10. sinbad339

    sinbad339 Well-Known Member

    I do apppreciate the quatitative treatment, but does the model show that a 185 gr @ 1050 and a 230 gr @ 865 expand to the same diameter?
  11. 481

    481 Well-Known Member

    I wish it could do that, but alas, the average expansion of a JHP must be obtained by firing the JHP into water (per the model's requirements). I simply chose the value of 0.68" (typical of ~1.5x caliber expansion for JHPs) to illustrate for the OP, that at equal average expanded diameters, heavier bullets possess an advantage in producing greater penetration and tissue damage.

    To date, I've only fired a couple of .45ACP 230 gr JHPs into water-


    -with variable results.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2013
  12. Inebriated

    Inebriated Well-Known Member

    I like heavy-for-caliber for really any cartridge...
  13. Drail

    Drail Well-Known Member

    Forget about expansion. Heavy is the way to go. I use hard cast flatpoints for everything.
  14. MTMilitiaman

    MTMilitiaman Well-Known Member

    Another vote for the heavy for caliber bullets. I use 124 gr +P Win PDX1s in my G19 9mm. If 147 gr FMJ loads for practice were more available, I would use a good 147 gr JHP for personal defense. But all the bulk FMJ ammo in my area is 115 or 124 gr, so I choose the heaviest load I can find practice ammunition for.

    I load 180 and 200 gr Hornady XTPs in my G20 10mm Auto. And when I am able to get a G21 upper for it, I'll be using 230 gr in .45.

    I also use heavy for caliber rounds in my rifles.
  15. Preacher.

    Preacher. Active Member

    Thanks for all the info and responses.
  16. wally

    wally Well-Known Member

    Placement, placement, & penetration are the three most important things. So I carry the heaviest bullet for the caliber.

    The first rule of a gun fight is "Have a gun!" so I carry the biggest I can conceal, even if its sometimes only a little .380ACP, but usually I can manage a Kahr MP40 nicely.
  17. farm23

    farm23 Well-Known Member

    I am a fan of heavy weight bullets and use the heaviest the gun will handle well. As said in another thread I am also a fan of big holes.

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