Ballistic gelatin is often used to provide an indication of bullet performance. (PHOTO COURTESY FEDERAL CARTRIDGE CORP.)
The 9 mm +P HST
Although bigger is better, the author feels the 9 mm can be an effective police cartridge with proper ammo selection. The 9 mm +P HST loads are two excellent choices. PHOTO COURTESY DAVE SPAULDING
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There’s no telling what cops will encounter in the street these days. Police ammunition must, therefore, be able to work effectively through a wide variety of barrier materials, and it must also be accurate and boast tremendous terminal performance. Selecting the best duty ammunition for a variety of situations is critical to our success.
To that end, Federal Cartridge Corp. loads high-tech, jacket-bonded ammo that will maintain its structural integrity through most barriers. Federal has long been on the cutting edge in the development of handgun ammunition for law enforcement applications, with product lines like Hydra-Shok, Tactical Bonded, American Eagle and its new Force-On-Force interactive training cartridges. It manufactures a complete line of shot shell, center-fire and rim-fire ammunition for sporting, military, personal defense and law enforcement applications.
HST is Federal’s next-generation, high-performance duty ammunition. It offers high-velocity, consistent expansion and optimum penetration in an effort to deliver the best terminal performance. The specially designed hollow-point tip won’t plug while passing through a variety of barriers, and the bullet holds its jacket regardless of what it encounters along the way. HST is engineered to provide 100% weight retention through most materials and still offer impressive expansion—as much as twice the original diameter. Available in 9 mm, 9 mm +P, .40 S & W, .357 SIG, .45 GAP and .45 ACP, I opted to test the three most popular law enforcement calibers—9 mm +P, .40 and .45 ACP—in an effort to get a solid understanding of the HST line.
My testing was completed in 10% ordnance gelatin that was covered with a cotton t-shirt and leather jacket. Although the FBI standards include shots in bare gelatin, gelatin covered in heavy clothing, steel, wallboard, plywood and the toughest challenge of all—laminated automobile safety glass—I don’t have the facility to undertake such tests. But this doesn’t mean the information isn’t available. A check of the federal law enforcement Web site offers the results of ballistic workshops across the United States where local law enforcement agencies tested HST against other popular police loads. The results are worthy of review. The clothed gelatin test, to me, is the most interesting, as well as the one most likely to occur in the street, followed closely by a round fired through vehicle materials.
A word of caution: allistic gelatin is an indicator of performance. It should not be viewed as what a bullet will do in human tissue. Gelatin is a consistent substance; the human body is not. Humans are filled with inconsistent material, such as muscle, fat, bone and air-filled lungs, and this inconsistency can wreak havoc on the performance of any bullet. Add clothing to this, and I think it’s safe to say that the only thing an officer can expect of their bullet is to not really expect anything. Bottom line: Always be prepared to fire again, because it’s very possible, maybe even likely, that your first shot or two will not incapacitate your opponent.
Once this is understood, ballistic gelatin offers an excellent side-by-side bullet evaluation substance. Using it properly, an agency can make an informed decision about what to expect from its selected duty ammo. Please don’t read this as me bashing the FBI’s test protocol—I’m not. It’s a well thought out procedure, and I’m merely pointing out that laboratory tests don’t always reflect what happens in the street.
I like to combine testing with actual shooting results to make an informed decision, but even then it’s an informed guess, because street results are seldom consistent. For every load that I have had a good report on, there’s another report that failed. What I look for are loads that perform well more often than not. From the few shootings I’ve seen with HST, it’s a very encouraging new addition to the police arsenal. Agencies that issue HST are, by and large, happy with how it has performed on the streets.
I tested the HST loads using a 4" Glock 19 in 9 mm, a Smith and Wesson M&P pistol with a 4.5" barrel in .40 and a Colt Government Model with a 5" barrel in .45 ACP. Accuracy was tested by shooting five rounds supported on a Hornady Delta bench rest at 50 feet, as well as firing an additional five rounds, slow-fire, unsupported at the same distance. For velocity, expansion and penetration, a Shooting Chrony chronograph was placed 15 feet from the muzzle and five rounds of each load were fired, with the average reported. Two rounds of each load were shot into the covered gelatin, with the average of the two reported. The results are below.
I was encouraged by the small test that I performed. Accuracy, velocity, expansion and penetration were consistent across the board, with each load performing as it was designed. Depending on the agency’s performance requirements, there’s an HST load that will meet them.
HST Load SA UA Velocity Expansion Penetration
124 grain +P 9 mm 1.25” 3” 1,218 fps 0.68” 12.5”
147 grain +P 9 mm 1.00” 3” 1,047 fps 0.67” 14.5”
155 grain .40 1.50” 3.25” 1,087 fps .73” 14.0”
165 grain .40 1.50” 3.50” 1,068 fps .72” 15.0”
230 grain .45 1.25” 2.75” 907 fps .92” 15.75”
Some don’t think about felt recoil when selecting duty ammo, and that’s a mistake. It’s a good idea to consider what any agency’s least skilled shooters will require from a duty load. As I said, it’s quite possible that quick follow-up shots will be needed to incapacitate an armed suspect, and if a given load can’t be adequately controlled, the shots will miss, rendering all of this careful testing moot.
Officers, like ammo, come in various sizes. However, too many agencies adopt a policy of “one or nothing,” which is problematic for some small officers. Although I’m the first to admit that I think a bigger bullet is a better bullet, how much better is a valid question. If an officer can’t control the recoil of a .45 or hot .40, then the additional power won’t serve them well. Hitting is the object of shooting, and thus, a 9 mm is a better choice for some. Some will say, “With enough training, anyone can handle a .45," and I agree. But will your agency offer the required time and ammo? Will the officer in need seek out this training? Important questions and concerns, don’t you think?
It’s likely in a fight that both the officer and suspect will be moving and the environment will be pandemonium, filled with non-hostiles potentially in the line of fire. Do you really want to field an officer with a gun/caliber they can’t control? Of course not, and for this reason, I’ve come to believe that the 9 mm is an effective cartridge. I readily admit that, unlike large calibers, it requires proper load selection. Although I’m familiar with just a few shooting incidents, I believe the 124 grain +P and 147 grain +P HST loads fall into this category. Both have enough velocity, when combined with the superior design of the HST bullet, to ensure expansion even through clothing. If the officer does their part, the HST 9 mm will do its part.
In .40 and .45, I think that the HST will eventually move to the “top of the pile” in law enforcement duty ammunition, proving to be an outstanding performer.
The truth is, law enforcement ammunition is better than it has ever been, with more testing and development occurring than ever before. Agencies and officers should decide what their operational parameters are for their ammo and select carefully. All of the major ammunition manufacturers will travel to your agency and conduct ballistic workshops at no cost. I suggest you make use of this excellent resource.
Federal Cartridge Corp.
900 Ehlen Drive
Anoka, MN 55303