Are JHPs worth it?

Are JHPs worth it?

This is a discussion on Are JHPs worth it? within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Other that reducing the chance of over-penetration, what is the real benefit of using JHP ammo in handguns? At rifle bullet velocities, expanding JHP or ...

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Thread: Are JHPs worth it?

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    Are JHPs worth it?

    Other that reducing the chance of over-penetration, what is the real benefit of using JHP ammo in handguns?

    At rifle bullet velocities, expanding JHP or JSP bullets certainly do result in greater terminal effects, due to the greater temporary stretch cavity versus FMJ bullets. The velocity of rifle bullets can cause temporary stretch cavities that are violent enough to cause permanent wounding. However, all the data I've seen indicates that this is not the case with the much lower velocities of typical handgun bullets.

    So, what is the benefit of using JHPs in handguns? The IWBA calculated that a .45 bullet has a 4-7% chance of barely nicking something vital that a 9mm bullet might just barely miss. The "spread" is due to the difference between unexpanded vs expanded bullets. Not much of a difference, is there? And a "nick" may not actually contribute anything to stopping the threat. Nicking the spinal column may not sever it, and nicking an artery may not cause sufficient bleeding to quickly end hostilities.

    So, are JHPs worth it? Or are we all just buying into a bunch of hype from the ammo makers?

    Everyone agrees that shot placement is key, and penetration to the vitals is also essential. Modern JHPs are fairly good at meeting the FBI penetration standards, BUT…there is always a risk of under-penetration, especially if the bullet fragments.

    Sometimes I wonder if there is a better, simpler solution. For example, .380 FMJ ammo penetrates 16-17 inches in gel, which slightly exceeds the FBI standard of 12-15 inches. The risk of over-penetration is minimal. With a mid-size/mid-weight handgun, recoil would be virtually non-existent, and follow-up shots would be very fast indeed. Maybe those European police agencies were on to something after all?

    A flat-point FMJ profile would allow for (slightly) better terminal effect (versus a round-nose), while not relying on fancy expanding designs. Barrier penetration would likely be better – fewer worries about the bullet coming apart. Lots of hunters use blunt-nose solids as well.

    So…what are we really getting by buying expensive whiz-bang JHP ammo? Certainly there is a benefit – but it seems slight. Worth it?

    Submitted for discussion...
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  2. #2
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    Modern JHP can expand and increase the surface area of the round by more than 50%. The greater frontal surface area of the expanded bullet causes more extensive tissue damage along the wound path.

    This increase the chance of hitting a vital organ, which also increase your ability to stop the threat.

    So yes they are worth it.
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  3. #3
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    I think it's worth it. Looking at the gazillion of animals that I have shot over the years with HP's and then having to gut them to eat them, the damage of a HP is quite apparent.

    An example would be squirrel hunting. When shot with a solid .22 they would often run off, find a hole in a tree, hole up and more than likely die. When shot with a HP, it usually dead right there,dropping out of the tree and on to the ground. As any one that has squirrel hunted knows, head shots are best to keep from tearing up the meat.

    While this may seem to be irrelevant to the discussion, it does serve to illustrate that the HP's are more efficient. Back in the day when solid lead bullets were all that were used, it wasn't unusual for bullets to pass completely through someone that had been shot. If the infection didn't kill them, they often lived on their lives with little effect. Same with the critters. If a shot was'nt put into the head or it didnt break a major bone or artery, they often ran off never to be seen again.

    Hollow Points are an improvement over ball ammo, whether it be lead or jacketed. It's the recent advancement of bullet technology in the last 20 or so years that have really narrowed the gap between the major calibers.

    Lets not forget that the crappy reputation of the 9mm was because of ball ammo and its poor performance on people that were trying to kill you and the very reason that those engaged in battle preferred the .45 for years. It was the invention of the HP that made handguns more suitable for protection and more deadly.

    Since most of us agree that the use of a handgun in a defensive situation is a compromise,it only makes sense to use every advantage that you have. While there is no doubt that any piece of lead that travels at a high rate of speed can kill, in a defensive shoot you want it to happen as quickly as possible.

    I'll stick with the HollowPoints...until something better comes along.
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    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgrass101 View Post
    Modern JHP can expand and increase the surface area of the round by more than 50%. The greater frontal surface area of the expanded bullet causes more extensive tissue damage along the wound path.

    This increase the chance of hitting a vital organ, which also increase your ability to stop the threat.

    So yes they are worth it.
    True, a larger bullet creates more wounding and bleeding - that is obvious. However, relying on bleeding to cause incapacitation does not seem to be a good tactic, since you can destroy the aorta (which drops blood pressure to zero) and yet still have enough oxygen in the brain and muscles to continue the fight for 10-30 seconds. This is plently of time for a determined attacker to kill you.

    Better tactic would seem to be to use multiple shots, to increase the probability of hitting the central nervous system.

    As I wrote in the OP, the larger diameter does increase the chance of hitting something vital, but the benefit is not that dramatic.

    Given the cost of some JHPs, and the fact that under some circumstances you can end up with under-penetration, I was just wondering if the benefit of JHPs is perhaps overstated.
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    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    Hotguns - Is your squirrel hunting example referencing handguns, or rifles?

    As far as 9mm FMJ vs .45 FMJ - during WWII our soldiers complained that the German 9mm rounds could penetrate helmets, while our .45 could not. So, there was not universal praise for the .45.
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    You say a .380 will barely surpass the FBI standard for penetration. My .40 has twice the energy, so over-penetration is a big deal. Reducing over-penetration reduces the risk of hitting an innocent bystander, but it also expends a greater amount of energy into the target. Wider permanent cavity, larger temporary cavity, deader bad guy.
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    I did not mention bleeding in my post but did mention a vital organ which includes the CNS,

    So if you would
    use multiple shots, to increase the probability of hitting the central nervous system.
    and increase the diameter of those bullets which would also increase the probability of hitting the CNS
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    Howllowpoints, by their design, are actually more humane too.

    To make it simple, you generally have to shoot somebody more with a non-hollowpoint to get the same effect.

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  9. #9
    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paaiyan View Post
    You say a .380 will barely surpass the FBI standard for penetration. My .40 has twice the energy, so over-penetration is a big deal. Reducing over-penetration reduces the risk of hitting an innocent bystander, but it also expends a greater amount of energy into the target. Wider permanent cavity, larger temporary cavity, deader bad guy.
    Agree with what you wrote, except for the parts in bold. All the data I've seen indicates this is simply not a factor in handgun wounding. Some ammo makers like to talk about "energy" and "energy dump" but these are simply not methods of terminal effect with handgun rounds.

    Exactly what I was getting at by wondering if the effects of JHPs are over-stated.

    So...a thought experiment...if you do not need to use JHPs with a .380 to limit over-penetration risk, yet can meet the penetration standard using a plain old FMJ-FP...and have soft recoil for very fast follow-up shots...is that such a bad thing?

    EDIT - In a similar vein, I've read some interesting articles that advocate the use of wadcutters in revolvers as a defensive load. Flat-point profile, and mild recoil for fast follow-up shots. Penetration is up to snuff. Well suited, especially for the ultra-light weight revolvers.

    I've yet to see any data that quantifies just how "much better" JHPs are supposed to be, versus a FMJ or wadcutter bullet profile. If anyone knows of any, I'd love to see it.
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    VIP Member Array paaiyan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10thmtn View Post
    Agree with what you wrote, except for the parts in bold. All the data I've seen indicates this is simply not a factor in handgun wounding. Some ammo makers like to talk about "energy" and "energy dump" but these are simply not methods of terminal effect with handgun rounds.

    Exactly what I was getting at by wondering if the effects of JHPs are over-stated.

    So...a thought experiment...if you do not need to use JHPs with a .380 to limit over-penetration risk, yet can meet the penetration standard using a plain old FMJ-FP...and have soft recoil for very fast follow-up shots...is that such a bad thing?


    It's called physics. If a bullet leaves the target and keeps traveling, it did not expend all its energy into said target. If it hits another target behind it with 100 ft-lb of energy of the original 400, it only expended 300 into the first target. If it stops in the first target, all 400 ft-lb of energy are expended into it, resulting in greater damage.

    And I don't care about a .380, I wouldn't trust my life to one.
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    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paaiyan View Post


    It's called physics. If a bullet leaves the target and keeps traveling, it did not expend all its energy into said target. If it hits another target behind it with 100 lb/ft of energy of the original 400, it only expended 300 into the first target. If it stops in the first target, all 400 lb/ft of energy are expended into it, resulting in greater damage.
    Sorry. Lots of folks buy into this, but it's just wrong. Do some searching around on-line, and you'll see.

    Bottom line is that a handgun bullet needs to touch something in order to damage it. Rifle bullets are different.
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    VIP Member Array paaiyan's Avatar
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    Listen, if I punch you in one shoulder, it will probably hurt a little. If someone twice my strength punches you, it will hurt twice as much. More energy = more damage, period. But I give up, you don't care about physics.

    Anyway, the whole point is moot. The chances of me shooting someone just one time are pretty slim. Anything worth shooting once is worth shooting until I know good and well it's not getting up.
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    Here's how I look at it.
    A 230 grain bullet traveling at "X" feet per second creates "Y" pounds of energy. It doesn't matter whether it's a FMJ or HP. Weight times speed equals energy. The FMJ is more likely to penetrate completely through the body, thus wasting energy. The HP most likely will not, expending all of the energy in the body.

    I'm not concerned about penetrating a GI's helmet or body armor, but maybe a door or some other common barrier. The FMJ would seem like the better choice, and it's proven itself to be an effective man-stopper, but if I have to shoot, I want to hit somesome as hard as I can. I think the HP will do a better job of that. The minute differences in expansion between calibers means nothing to me.
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    I agree to a point, 10thmtn - there a number of VERY expensive "specialty" rounds that - IMO - are not even close to being worth their price. However, a standard high-quality JHP doesn't cost THAT much more, and there are demonstrable benefits to them. We all know that handgun rounds are inherently poor fight stoppers, so any advantage we can get is, well, an advantage. I also believe that more shots in better, but if I can make each one of those more shots a little better as well, I'm willing to shell out a few extra bucks.

    Another advantage to many modern HPs is their "petals," the sharp, jagged edges that are formed as the bullet expands. These will cut tissue/vessels more reliably than a round nose (or even flat nose - and I don't know how flat I'd be willing to let a bullet profile get in an autoloader) and, while this is certainly not a HUGE deal, it is an improvement in terminal performance for SD purposes.

    If I were stuck with FMJ (as I have been in uniform), I don't think that I have suddenly been issued an impotent bullet. I just think that good FMJs (not the gimmicky stuff, mind you) have enough advantages to justify their cost. I don't shoot them much in training, as I have identical weight/similar feel FMJs for that, but I do use them for duty/SD.
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    I don't get the argument that JHP rounds will have less recoil unless you are talking +P JHP vs normal pressure FMJ. Projectile weight x velocity are going to determine the force, both into the bad guy and in the form of recoil.

    To put it simply, I want as big of a hole as possible, and +P 9mm is not that hard to keep on target for followups.

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