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Ammo Article Dated Year 2000

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This article appeared in the April 2000 issue of Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement. .

New Federal Expanding Full Metal Jacket
By Shep Kelly
In 1973 when I entered law enforcement, the newest, most controversial, bullet was Lee Jurras' SuperVel hollow and soft points for the .38SPL/357MAG, 9mm, .380 and .45 ACP. Lighter in weight than standard bullet weights, and at a much higher velocity, the theory behind the SuperVel said that increased expansion from the higher velocity translated into tissue destruction, which produced better incapacitation with less danger of excessive penetration. And for the next 27 years, virtually every bullet from every manufacturer was a variation on the same theme--hollowpoints were THE law enforcement bullet designs. The ammunition industry, at the urging of the law enforcement community, made bigger, smaller, soft/hollow, higher velocity, subsonic, plated, unplated, serrated jacket hollowpoints. Now familiar names such as Gold Dot, Hydra Shok, Silvertip, Black Talon, XTP, Tactical, Golden Sabre and so on, emerged from the marketing departments of the ammunition manufacturers, big and small. And each of these designs was heralded as an improvement over what had come before, and in many cases, were.

These efforts continued at an even more frantic pace after the infamous Miami shootout involving the FBI against two very determined and well-armed suspects. That tragedy gave rise to what has become an accepted standard for ammunition that was established by the FBI in their 8-protocol performance criteria test. The law enforcement readership is familiar with these events that include bare 10% ordnance gelatin, gelatin with heavy clothing, wallboard, plywood, car window glass, car door metal. These media demonstrated for the first time what many experienced forensic ballistics investigators had known for some time but had never quantified. That bullets shot into bare gelatin, do not display the same expansion and penetration when fired through the practical media used in the FBI protocol.

It was determined that while the hollowpoint was a clear improvement over what had existed before, and certainly improved officer survivability through increased wounding features, there still was a problem in consistent bullet performance of the traditional hollowpoint. And the causal factor for this inconsistency of performance was, as the FBI clearly demonstrated, the barrier that the bullet had to go through before it hit flesh. Some designs worked better than others. But the test barriers of clothing, wallboard and plywood contributed the most to the inconsistency of performance by the hollowpoint. And for a simple and quite apparent reason. The mechanism for expansion for any hollowpoint projectile is the hollow cavity. When it fills with tissue, expansion begins through a hydraulic effect against the wall of the hollow cavity. Expansion is usually facilitated through internal and external notching or jacket serrations. The result should be a uniformly expanded bullet with the core and jacket intact and arrayed in a symmetrical pattern of fins resembling a mushroom.

That's the way it's supposed to be! But the FBI tests showed, and pathologists empirically proved, that when a hollowpoint projectile has to penetrate a barrier such as clothing, which a majority of criminals do wear, the mechanical function of the hollowpoint is impeded. The hollow cavity fills with clothing and precludes fluid filled tissue from exerting its influence on the interior walls of the cavity, and so what's produced is essentially a plugged hollowpoint that performs very similarly to a full metal jacketed bullet. It goes through the target with very little wounding effect, i.e. tissue destruction, and penetrates excessively. And the infamous term "stopping power" is diminished and danger to bystanders is increased. But the hollowpoint was a compromise and since it was a mechanical device and nothing mechanical works 100% of the time, it was accepted and adopted in the LE community as the best game in town, which it was until the emergence of the new Federal Cartridge Company's Expanding Full Metal Jacket (EFMJ) projectile.

Over three years ago, the Research Group of Federal, under the leadership of Dave Longren, Bruce Warren and Larry Head, began a serious analysis of the performance of all hollowpoint bullets of every manufacturer, including Federal's Tactical and Hydra Shok. The validity of the FBI test protocol had long been established and with the assistance of the Law Enforcement and Military Sales division of Federal, which gathered actual shootings information from agencies, the need for a more consistent "through barrier" projectile became apparent. In a joint program with Tom Burczynski, of Experimental Research, Inc., Federal focused its efforts on the FBI events that included heavy clothing, plywood and wallboard. They knew that the hollowpoint had to be capped or covered, and yet achieve the expansion characteristics that the LE community demanded from current bullets. The solution became the new Expanding Full Metal Jacket (EFMJ) projectile that Federal introduced at the IALEFI and IACP conferences in the late fall of 1999.

The EFMJ is not a variation of the classic hollowpoint. While some initial consideration was given to simply filling a hollowpoint with a material that would prevent plugging and yet allow expansion, tests proved this to be unworkable and inconsistent in performance. The design started literally from the bottom up. The bullet begins with a conventional copper jacket of a truncated cone design with a small flat nose or meplat. The interior of the jacket is heavily scored in a radial fashion. Inserted into the jacket nose is a rubber core or plug, followed by a lead core. The jacket is then "heeled" over at the base to hold the plug and core in place. Upon impact, the scored jacket flattens, and with the rubber plug sandwiched between the jacket nose and the lead core in the rear, expansion begins. And expansion is consistent and symmetrical.

When I interviewed Bruce Warren, we spoke about its applicability to the wide range of weapons in today's LE arsenal. Federal tested the design through submachine guns, carbines and virtually every barrel length autopistol in use by the law enforcement community. The expansion characteristics remained consistent through gun type and barrier. With virtually every police agency of any size incorporating submachine guns into their tactical inventory, such as the MP-5 variants, and carbines, the performance of the typical pistol round was found in many cases to be somewhat lacking when driven at the longer barrel velocities of the shoulder weapons. Many of these bullets blew up and created surface wounds. The Expanding Full Metal Jacket overcomes these problems.

While it seems we take questions of functionality for granted these days, I continue to hear about failures to feed with some handgun models, a problem that's exacerbated through poor shooting techniques. The EFMJ design is outwardly a full metal jacket. Its nose configuration facilitates feeding. When tested through my military Browning Hi-Power, which will not feed anything but FMJs, six magazines (84 rounds) fed flawlessly.
The ammunition tested was production run 9mm +P 124-grain loads. We must remember that when

Gorge Luger designed his pistol in 1904, the 9mm Parabellum cartridge contained a 124-grain bullet. Since then, pistol manufacturers have continued to remind ammunition manufacturers that the camming surfaces, springs, magazine design and other features of 9mm pistols are designed for a 124-grain bullet at a muzzle velocity of 1120 feet per second (fps). While we have been extraordinarily successful in using bullet weights from 95 to 147 grains and at varying velocities in the 9mm, remember the cartridge was designed with a 124-grain projectile, which caused Federal to produce for their first Expanding Full Metal Jacket ammunition, in the 124-grain weight. Of course, other weights in 9mm are on the drawing board.

Federal has also applied this design to the increasingly popular .40 S&W and the .45 ACP. Prototype designs are being finalized as this article is written. Bullet weights in the design phase for the .40 S&W included 155 and 165 grains, and in the .45 ACP 185 grains. Included in this article is a chart showing expansion, velocity and accuracy of the production/preproduction 9mm, .40 and AS ACP. All production and preproductions samples met the FBI minimum penetration criteria of 12 inches in the mediums tested.

Questions are often raised about a new design's accuracy, which is somewhat surprising when the close ranges of actual gunfights are considered. I won't say the EFMJ is the most accurate 9mm bullet I've shot, but it's close. Consider the EFMJ's weight, jacket shape/configuration, the center of gravity and center of pressure, all of which determines whether some projectiles fly true and others don't. Federal, quite obviously, has the formula correct.

This projectile should receive immediate and serious consideration by both law enforcement agencies and the military. Some departments in the U.S. are still required to use a non-hollowpointed projectile. The European police community has labored under similar prohibitions for many years and the EFMJ should be a natural for their considerations.