Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Federal 115-gr. JHP 9mm Ammunition

Hello. A topic of discussion near and dear to many pistoleros addresses what does or does not constitute "good" ammunition in a given caliber. Many times, the flash-retardant powders coupled with state-of-the-art bullet technology makes recommending some of the better known companies' flagship line of defense ammo a pretty sure bet.

At the same time, we have some folks who simply cannot or will not pay the ever-increasing tariffs on such ammo or no outlet in their area carries it.

Some will argue that the new technology choices are the only way to fly. After all, "How much is your life worth?" Sound familiar?

Countering, others will suggest, "If it worked satisfactorily in the past, it can still work today. Human beings are no different now than then, are they?"

While there is merit in both arguments as I see it, such discussions seem to inevitably degenerate into the proverbial "shouting match", something that bores me nearly to death.

I thought it might be interesting to provide the results of some informal ammunition "testing" on this Federal "Classic Hi Shok" round. It will not meet any sort of "scientific method scrutiny" and was never intended to do so. At the same time, when I can relate how a particular bullet performed in actual tissue, I will do so.

I leave it to the reader to make their own choices concerning this load. After all, that's really what we all do in the end, isn't it?

"Average velocity" is based on a 10-shot average fired 10' from the chronograph screens and the firearm used will be noted. This seems to be the norm for obtaining the velocities (I know that it is actually "speed" since no direction is specified, but I use the term "velocity" simply out of habit when discussing projectiles. If it bothers you, please try and bear with me. If not, there are other sites to read, I'm sure.)

Informal bullet expansion/penetration "testing" is done either in water or in "wet pack" in my tests. This article focuses only on wet pack results.

The reason is simple: Money!

I have to pay for my ammunition and simply cannot afford 10% ballistic gelatin. Neither do I have access to a laboratory with constant temperature settings optimized for use with this stuff!

Since it takes so long to get any volume of expanded bullets from actual living tissue (animals), some substitute for gelatin was necessary. I wound up using super-saturated newsprint. Jeff Cooper coined the term "wet pack" for it, if memory serves.

I soak plain old newspaper for 24 hours and drain 30 minutes before shooting. This offers an easy-to-obtain sort of consistency in the media and it doesn't seem affected by temperature at all so long as it is above freezing. (Below freezing is fine too so long as the test media is not allowed to freeze.)

Penetration and expansion results are not equivalent in wet pack (or water) to 10% ballistic gelatin, but then neither does gelatin consistently predict actual penetration depths and expansion characteristics in human targets. The reason is simple in my opinion. The human body is not homogeneous as is gelatin. It has organs of differing density and tissues may have different limits of elastisity and there is quite a bit of bone to be dealt with in the real world. That said, most serious researchers do agree that 10% ballistic gelatin is the gold standard for such work. FWIW I agree, but I do not accept that anything else is worthless as some say, often times at the tops of their lungs! I have never understood this emotionalism that is so often involved in any sort of layman ballistic discussion.

So now the reader knows my frame of reference and "where I'm coming from".

Federal 115-gr. JHP (standard pressure):

Here is the Federal 115-gr. JHP. This standard pressure load is noted by many as being both accurate and having a good "track record" in "the real world."
Fired from a Browning Hi Power with factory barrel, this one averaged 1177 ft/sec. It penetrated 7" of wet pack and retained 107 grains bullet weight. In ballistic gelatin, it usually penetrates 10 to 12", depending upon particular ammunition production lots. To correlate the soaked papers to this, multiply the penetration depth in wet pack by 3 and divide by 2. In this case, the resulting depth is 10 1/2". Is this going to be exact in all cases? Probably not, but it seems to jibe pretty well with gelatin results.

In decades past, I've seen critters up to about the size of Texas coyotes hit with this load, usually from Browning Hi Powers. It was more effective than might initially be expected, particularly by folks not trusting the 9mm cartridge. Keep in mind that these animals were hit very nicely in the lung/heart region of the body by folks capable of making "good" shots and passing on the shot if a humane one couldn't be made.

Some law enforcement folks I've visited with over the years have used this very load in deadly force scenarios. They were pleased with their individual outcomes but the number of people I could actually speak with is "statistically invalid". Though I have no doubt that such is true, that I have repeatedly heard of the round being satifactory is not something I am going to just discount for that reason.

While it may not be the most accurate load in all of my Hi Powers, it is almost always one of them! In some guns, it will be the most accurate, at least in this bullet weight.

Federal 115-gr. JHP does not use flash-retardant powder and usually throws a "whitish" colored flash in dim light. That said, I've fired quite a lot of this ammunition in dark surroundings and have never been blinded by it whatsoever.

Over the years, it has been pretty consistent one lot number to another in my observation. It usually averages about 1140 to 1180 ft/sec depending upon lot number when fired from a Hi Power.

It can be found in both 20 and 50-round boxes. I prefer the latter when possible as it's usually a better bargain compared to the smaller count box. Were I interested in securing a rather large supply of expanding 9mm ammunition, this would definitely be a top contender in my opinion.

The bullet seems to be very nicely secured in the case and coupled with its rounded ogive for feeding slickly, bullet setback seems the exception rather than the norm.

This round is not at its best when fired from short barrels common to really compact 9mm pistols. The powder doesn't seem "optimized" for these shorter tubes when compared to some of the more expensive lines of ammunition. It should also be noted that this load does not always expand if fired through 4-layers of denim ( a common test) into ballistic gelatin. Some discount the load at this point. I am not so quick to do so as it might be that my aggressor is not wrapped up like a "tamale felon". Most agree that the dreaded "4-layers-of-denim" test is a worst case scenario result but there are several newer loads that do defeat such a test reliably. The Federal 9mm 115-gr. JHP is simply not one of them. Even so, it wouldn't bother me one wit to rely on it for serious purposes

I would use it in 9mm pistols having barrels at least 4" long.