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Sometimes I wonder if expanding bullets are truly that much better now than they were as they emerged in the 1970s when I began a shooting career. All sorts of contrived tests we did years ago produced expanded bullets that looked pretty wicked. Only some of these "new-crop" bullets that give the dramatic looking star or saw blade effect really look any better than the expanded bullets of 30-35 years ago and while we may admire the look, are they really better? Did the old designs really give enhanced effectiveness as "stoppers?" Do the current crop of defensive bullets marketed really offer measurably enhanced stopping effectiveness over old designs? Were round nose lead bullets really as bad as they are now made out to be, even if they were "correctly applied," otherwise known as making good hits.

Wish someone with more money than sense would prowl the gun shows gathering quantities of new-old-stock ammunition that is factory loaded with the expanding bullets of yesterday and subject them to the same silly "jello tests" of today. It's entirely possible that today's bullets are perceived to be better based on nothing more than the strength of the marketing that tells us they are better. Contrived tests seem to support effectiveness but is it all "smoke and mirrors?" Gun rag articles are nothing more than ads extolling the benefits of the modern expanding bullet. Forums and gun talk at the range or club further convinces us that we can possess bullets that make our guns equivalent to heavy artillery or death rays.

Rest assured there's some "leg-pulling" involved in modern defensive bullet marketing. Who can say how much?

Is this one of those topics where we aren't suppose to look behind the curtain so much?
 

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Marketing perhaps and like golf equipment, many feel the need for the latest and greatest. I can attest to the fact expanding bullets decades ago worked fine.
 
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I cannot think of a reason that a mushroomed "FBI load" would be any less effective that a mushroomed <Gold Dot/Golden Sabre/etc.> About the only difference I can think of, and it should be taken with a grain of salt because it seems the source of the information always flows back to the manufacturers, is that the newer designs are more reliable in meeting their intended terminal ballistics.

I do prefer the mushrooming/HP load, because a couple of square millimeters in area behind breastbone may make the difference in a fast incapacitation and a slow one (so I have read).

I also think "ballistic tests" are something that the gun aficionados like to dabble in (those videos are kind of cool, you must admit), so there is probably a disproportionate amount of writing on this subject.

Short answer - I don't think today's bullets are any more "effective" if the terminal ballistics are achieved, but I do think today's bullets are *slightly* more likely to achieve that performance.
 
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I've wondered this more than once. I did just pick me up some of the older style Federal 125 HP for my .357.
 

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I believe what I read and see on TV.. that's why I only carry ZombieMax ammo! It's far superior because it can kill zombies!
 

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I believe what I read and see on TV.. that's why I only carry ZombieMax ammo! It's far superior because it can kill zombies!
I am so happy that I live in a "zombie free zone". If they ever come here they will be arrested, fined, lose their CCL's and there weapons......:danceban:
 

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I think the advantage is that they perform better under less than ideal circumstances like after going through barriers/clothing. The 9mm had a horrible reputation in the 80's/90's after reports of real life shootings; not so these days.
 

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Maybe it's marketing gimmick, but I really like the test results that I've seen of Speer Gold Dot +P. Not to mention their short barrel load has really nice speeds coming out of today's mouse guns.
 

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Very good thread! Of course, you may be exposing the " great wizard ", much like that rambunctious little dog from Kansas did.

It is my opinion that size and weight play a much greater role in effectiveness than expansion. Meanwhile, the ammo companies laugh all the way to the bank as consumers scarf up those 20 round boxes of " defensive" ammo.
Its all a grand attempt to take advantage of the move to minuscule calibers to make little bullets act like big bullets.
 

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Modern hollow-point ammunition is indeed better, because now we have much more sophisticated design and modeling platforms, manufacturing methods, and materials. It's not so much about how a round looks when it expands, but how well it penetrates, how much energy is transferred to the target, time from impact to full expansion, percentage of fully successfully expanded spent rounds, how much of the round is stil intact after it's done penetrating, or if it splintered and came apart, the weight of the round before firing vs after recovery, if any clothing of material is caught in the hollow point, affecting it's expansion and penetration, and so forth. All of these factors filter into the ability of a bullet to perform.
 
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Wish someone with more money than sense would prowl the gun shows gathering quantities of new-old-stock ammunition that is factory loaded with the expanding bullets of yesterday and subject them to the same silly "jello tests" of today.
There are tons of tests available on Youtube.

Here is a test of the old school Federal Hi-Shok 115gr JHP. 9mm Federal HI-SHOK 115 gr JHP AMMO TEST - YouTube
Compare that to the modernized Speer Gold Dot 115gr JHP. Speer Gold Dot 9mm 115 gr Gel Test - YouTube

Here is the 147gr HST, arguably one of the best 9mm loads you can carry. Federal HST 9mm 147 gr JHP SIM-TEST w/Denim - YouTube

Besides overall reliability, also take into consideration hard barrier penetration. Modernized rounds are often bonded or have very strong construction so they can retain more weight when pushing through auto glass or metals than an older design.

When the old rounds (Hydra-shok) costs just as much as the new rounds (HST), why purchase the older rounds? Before the ammo panic, SGammo was selling L.E. packaged HSTs for the same price as L.E. packaged Hydra-Shoks.

Do you want an $8,000 2008 F-150 in mint condition or an $8,000 1992 F-150 in mint condition? Both will usually get you where you're going, and run over crazy drug addicts just fine, but (fanboyism aside) which is the better choice? It shouldn't be hard.

By the way, I refuse to purchase self defense ammo in 20/25rd civilian packaging. It's way too expensive!
Ammo manufacturers don't use dark wizard magic or Jedi mind tricks to make you buy their ammo. An educated consumer buys it because it out-performs the competitors.
 

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I'll be your huckleberry on this one.

Pocket Guns and Gear: My 4 P's of Ammunition Selection




Sometimes I wonder if expanding bullets are truly that much better now than they were as they emerged in the 1970s when I began a shooting career. All sorts of contrived tests we did years ago produced expanded bullets that looked pretty wicked. Only some of these "new-crop" bullets that give the dramatic looking star or saw blade effect really look any better than the expanded bullets of 30-35 years ago and while we may admire the look, are they really better? Did the old designs really give enhanced effectiveness as "stoppers?" Do the current crop of defensive bullets marketed really offer measurably enhanced stopping effectiveness over old designs? Were round nose lead bullets really as bad as they are now made out to be, even if they were "correctly applied," otherwise known as making good hits.

Wish someone with more money than sense would prowl the gun shows gathering quantities of new-old-stock ammunition that is factory loaded with the expanding bullets of yesterday and subject them to the same silly "jello tests" of today. It's entirely possible that today's bullets are perceived to be better based on nothing more than the strength of the marketing that tells us they are better. Contrived tests seem to support effectiveness but is it all "smoke and mirrors?" Gun rag articles are nothing more than ads extolling the benefits of the modern expanding bullet. Forums and gun talk at the range or club further convinces us that we can possess bullets that make our guns equivalent to heavy artillery or death rays.

Rest assured there's some "leg-pulling" involved in modern defensive bullet marketing. Who can say how much?

Is this one of those topics where we aren't suppose to look behind the curtain so much?
 

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Is this one of those topics where we aren't suppose to look behind the curtain so much?


^^Maybe^^^^^^^^^


But lets not overlook the fact that bullet makeup(what the bullet is made of), the powder mix, and the overall design (how the bullet is put together), I believe make it perform better, and more consistently than days gone by.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
gman gets it.

Under normal conditions the "shorty" packages of ammo are not a good deal at all, true enough.

The pickup analogy gets right by me as I love the 1992 Dodge D150 I bought brand new, preferring it to any newer model for styling, features (appreciate the lack of accessories actually) and dependability. I mostly appreciate the long years without pickup payments.
 
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Modern hollow-point ammunition is indeed better, because now we have much more sophisticated design and modeling platforms, manufacturing methods, and materials. It's not so much about how a round looks when it expands, but how well it penetrates, how much energy is transferred to the target, time from impact to full expansion, percentage of fully successfully expanded spent rounds, how much of the round is stil intact after it's done penetrating, or if it splintered and came apart, the weight of the round before firing vs after recovery, if any clothing of material is caught in the hollow point, affecting it's expansion and penetration, and so forth. All of these factors filter into the ability of a bullet to perform.
Whew! That's a lot of " ifs " and other variables just to punch a hole. Sure hope they all come together everytime.

Make mine 4 something, 200something, and about 800 something. Simple effect, time proven, and easy on the wallet. It has over 100 years of jello tests filled with bone and flesh, and thousands of eyewitness accounts of effectiveness.
 

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Those "ifs" are called physics and mechanics. They apply to any projectile on a ballistic trajectory. The reliability and ability to repeat a predictable outcome is improved through newer technology and materials. If you don't like those variables, then stick to FMJ ammunition, and wonder why the threat isn't stopped after 3 or 4 or 15 rounds when all of the energy of the round is lost with over penetration, because the round didn't expand, and stop inside the target, thus transferring all of it's energy into that target.

By the way, I don't ever recall saying, "if" in my statement, let alone saying, "if" many times. Your response didn't even make sense, to be honest. 2, 4, 800 what? rounds? ft-lbs? what are we talking about? your 100 years of what? your gun? your round of choice? Please specify what you're talking about so I can at least follow your side of the conversation enough to make sense of it. I'm not trying to be mean. I just can't understand what you're trying to convey, and I'm usually pretty outstanding at deciphering "Internet grammar."
 
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
"...because now we have much more sophisticated design and modeling platforms, manufacturing methods, and materials"

The thread was intended to be thought-provoking.

Do we really have more sophisticated designs? We have the same .223" to .452" bore diameters to work with. Velocities may be demonstrated to be no more "enhanced" than they were in yesterday's ammunition. Modeling platforms? How does that transfer to superior bullets? Manufacturing methods? It is suspected that despite many processes touted by manufacturers the bullets are produced much the same as they always have been. Materials? Looks like the same ol' copper and lead mostly with perhaps some insignificant alloying metal thrown in ... or not.

Consumers have bought into the notion of the "performance" jacketed bullet far more than they did when I was young. I can recall a time when jacketed handgun bullets meant FMJ intended for automatics. Now folks think a bullet won't open up if it doesn't have a jacket and a hollow point and won't perform against an assailant.

There's room for a healthy skepticism of the hocus-pocus promoted these days.
 
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Those "ifs" are called physics and mechanics. They apply to any projectile on a ballistic trajectory.
Yes. Then, as well as now.


The reliability and ability to repeat a predictable outcome is improved through newer technology and materials. If you don't like those variables, then stick to FMJ ammunition, and wonder why the threat isn't stopped after 3 or 4 or 15 rounds when all of the energy of the round is lost with over penetration, because the round didn't expand, and stop inside the target, thus transferring all of it's energy into that target.
The implication being: newer = better, different technology = better. Maybe. Maybe not. My quarter says it depends on the design.

There are loads from prior years that are pretty darned stout (in, say, .357mag, standard .38sp, or .44mag for example), and some of today's de-tuned equivalents aren't quite on a par for sheer speed/pressures. Plenty of "street" numbers "back then" to suggest actual performance was way more than just fair.

And then there was marksmanship. The mere fact that "then" was known for marksmanship, generally speaking, and "now" is known for "spray and pray" has got to be part of the discussion on actual on-target performance as well. Might well be that technology's a farce, in this area, that it simply matters how good good is, accuracy-wise, not marginal changes here or there in cartridges.

It would be interesting to take 1000rds of every bullet ever made (assuming, for a moment, that 1000rds could be obtained) and do a head-on series of tests in a few different ways. Contemporary calibrated gel tests, sure. But also a few "meat" tests (variable though those might be). I, for one, would be interested to see the various performance parameters from load to load, over the years. It might be illuminating, to help identify whether "old" materials, recipes/loads in period guns really can't hold their own against contemporary equivalents simply because those happen to be "new."

And so, the wondering and debate goes on.

Myself, on a given caliber/load combination, I try to evaluate based on a few indicator tests, including both gel and "meat." And then at some point, not being a ballistic physicist or a load/recipe chemist, I've got to trust the numbers and what I see. Much like others, I suppose.
 

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I would be comfortable loading my SD pistol with the bullet technology of 20 years ago.
What was available?
Here are some examples:
9mm: Federal 115 gr. JHP +P+, Remington 115 gr. JHP +P, Black Talon 147 gr.
40 S&W: 155 gr. Silvertip, Federal 180 JHP
10mm: 175 gr. Silvertip
45 acp: Remington 185 gr. JHP +P (I carried that in a Glock 21 when I was a cop, department issue load), Federal 230 Hydra-Shok
 
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I think Michael Stivic's (aka "Meathead") skepticism is just as timely as it was almost 40 years ago: "What's all this 'new and improved'? What did we use before, 'old and lousy'?"
 
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