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What Are Some Known Handgun Loads That Have A Proven Street Record And Their Gel Test Results?

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by LookAtYou, Jun 16, 2022.

  1. LookAtYou

    LookAtYou Member

    Jan 25, 2020
    I have long heard about the FBI's 12-18" penetration standard for determining an adequate load for self-defense, yet I'm now starting to rethink if this is needed. It seems to be that there are loads that have a great street track record, yet either don't reach 12", or just barely. What are some of the best loads according to street performance, namely in 9mm, and their corresponding results in gel tests? Could 10-12" be sufficient instead?

    Here are 2 Tests where HST does under 12", and we all know 124 HST as being very effective in the real world.

    Last edited: Jun 16, 2022
  2. SunnySlopes

    SunnySlopes Member

    Nov 3, 2011
    Dunno about gel, but Harry Callihan's loaded down 44 mag loads propels bad guys at least six feet back.
  3. Madcap_Magician

    Madcap_Magician Member

    Apr 8, 2009
    On GlockTalk Massad Ayoob answers a lot of questions about this. Not because he has personal experience, but because he does so much training he hears about officer-involved shootings from hundreds of agencies and often knows or finds out what the firearm and ammunition selection was. At this point any of the mainstream defensive ammunition in the major service pistol calibers is likely very satisfactory - HST, Ranger, Gold Dot.
  4. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

    Nov 29, 2015
    Hard to argue with Ranger SXT. This is the rebranded and updated (and much maligned) Black Talon that got discontinued/banned. SXT = Same eXact Thing.

    Realistically though, most handgun rounds are marginal compared to long gun stuff. If you are serious, I would move up to large bore (44/45) or magnum (.357/10MM/etc.) rounds. Or concealed carry a shotgun down your pants (extra happy to see you).
    270OKIE and Golfanaticshooter like this.
  5. 230RN

    230RN I keep pushing that pendulum back.

    May 27, 2006
    Real example:

    From a .38 SPL snubby at close range:


    It reads like that bullet traveled six or seven miles in there. (!)

    I have no immediate information as to the exact ammunition used.


    From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colt_Cobra
    The King Cobra was chambered in .357, but I have not seen any mention of the firearm as a "King Cobra."

    I am not being "bloodthirsty," only "technicalthirsty."

    Terry, 230RN
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2022
    Autodidactic likes this.
  6. CDW4ME

    CDW4ME Member

    Mar 15, 2009
    FL USA
    ETA: I see 124 HST is just barely shy of 12'' in the OP - that small of a difference would not give me concern.

    Winchester & Federal don't give gel results for many revolver calibers; so, we will have to go with clear gel for this.
    Most would agree the classic full power 357 Mag 125 JHP / SJHP did well on the street.
    From a 4'' barrel Remington 125 SJHP 13.6'' / .54

    Ranger T 127 +P+ has a good reputation on the street, its performance from a 3.5'' barrel is likely not as good as a 4''+ like Glock 17/19
    From a short barrel the bullet didn't reliably expand and over penetrated.

    Lets look at manufacturer data.
    Ranger T 9mm 127 +P+ in bare gel 14.3'' / .68 and in heavy clothed gel 14.4'' / .70

    Did any LE agency quit using 357 Sig because it didn't perform well on the street? Don't think so. Same link...
    Ranger T 357 Sig 125 bare gel 12.3'' / .63 and in heavy clothed gel 14'' / .68

    The other two 357 Sig bullets that would have been in use with LE
    357 Sig Gold Dot bare gel 14.3'' / .61 and heavy clothing 18.3'' / .53
    357 Sig HST bare gel 11'' / .83 and in heavy clothing 12'' / .64

    Tie back to my first example with the 357 Sig HST in clear gel.
    357 Sig HST 18'' / .61

    I think its a fair generalization that bullets that performed well on the street penetrate 12'' or more. ;)

    Not directed toward OP:
    In before the replies of, not a cop so don't need 12'' penetration and expansion, muh 32 / 380 FMJ is fine for civilian because ...o_O:eek::barf:
    Yea, you roll with that.:evil::neener:
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2022
  7. defjon

    defjon Member

    Oct 22, 2005
    I've always heard 38 wadcutters did well.

    I think there was a border patrol revolver load for 357 that was a 110 grain jhp that tended to be under 10 inches in penetration but had a good rep in actual shootings.

    Would 45 ball count? No expansion.
    Autodidactic likes this.
  8. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

    Feb 10, 2016
    Fl panhandle
    I really think people obsess way too much about all of this. IMO, The best course of action is to practice with a reliable quality handgun of a respectable caliber (38 sp/9mm or bigger) to achieve maximum proficiency with whatever practice ammo is available (easier told than saddled and rode, lately) and then purchase the desired amount of factory HP ammunition from a legit American brand that will reliably function in that handgun; load that handgun and any spare mags or speed loaders you feel you need, and move on- while recognizing that handguns are the near-universal go-to for defensive use in almost every scenario, that all handguns are underpowered compared to long guns, that there is a reason that modern handguns hold more than 1 round, and that only good hits count.
    gobsauce, luzyfuerza, derek45 and 3 others like this.
  9. Rexster

    Rexster Member

    Mar 25, 2007
    SE Texas
    In today’s ammo market, one sometimes has to settle for what one can get, but, I would rather have ammo that is known for adequate penetration. Penetration could matter, in the real world. Many of today’s attackers are XL-sized, and, if I am on the floor/ground, I may have to shoot at an upward angle, through a substantial-sized belly, to reach vital organs. I have never been the most gracefully-moving person, and aging has not made my poor balance any better. Or, maybe I have intentionally chosen to use a low position, due to cover or concealment concerns. So, yes, I consider the possibility of having to shoot through bellies, at upward angles.
  10. Gunfu_Blaster.45

    Gunfu_Blaster.45 Member

    Feb 8, 2022
    Depends on the gun. Barrel length affects velocity, and higher velocity is not always a good thing. There are some bullet constructions that have a narrow effective velocity range. Like for example 950-1100 fps, Driven any slower or faster and it will either over or under penetrate. Lets say you want to use the exact same round in a carbine or hotter load, 1200fps at the muzzle, but at 100yds the bullet is going 1100 fps and a hit on target will perform ideally past 100yds.
    I saw a recent test that illustrates this very well, with a street credited round.
  11. DeepSouth

    DeepSouth Random Guy

    Jan 14, 2009
    Heart of Dixie (Ala)
    Well as far as a proven record, their is the 45acp then a bunch of inferior stuff.

    As far ballistic information my favorite source is https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/self-defense-ammo-ballistic-tests/ as far the effectiveness of the gel tests and how it translates to reality. Well every wound channel is different, I imagine (which means I’m guessing) the 12-18” is mainly something to use as a general rule and a repeatable test for comparison. It’s not written in stone, it’s a best guess.
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