The Hornady Critical Duty seems to have started a new trend in bullet technology. The polymer tip seems to be an attractive feature for a few companies who seem to find it advantageous and worthy of following. Granted, these other companies have their own designed hollow point plugs, but it seems that the Critical Duty bullet has made an impact on the market enough to get a good amount of heads to turn, particularly in the Law Enforcement community.
Hornady has a storied history for sure. The story of how the Critical Duty came to be is just as fascinating as learning how Hornady came up with all their other product lines. The first bullet to come on the market and encouraged the concept of the Critical Defense was the Lever Evolution back in 2006. This product proved that polymer could be a good asset in modern hollow point ammunition. The polymer not only made the Spitzer type bullets safer to use in tubular magazines, but also seemed to cause reliable and uniform expansion, which had always been a problem for hollow points to achieve. After much praise from the hunting community, Hornady apparently had the idea that this type of design may have more to offer.
In 2008, Hornady released the Critical Defense to the market. Basically, this bullet was designed to offer the same reliable and uniform expansion that the Lever Evolution was known for, but out of short barreled pistols. In fact, Critical Defense was designed to be optimized for these smaller pistols and to give good terminal performance through heavy clothing every time. However, this bullet, being light for caliber, was not designed to give good performance out of full sized pistols, and inherently was not suitable for Law Enforcement. This caused Hornady to look into advancing this bullet technology to answer that issue.
In 2012, Hornady finally released their answer to the Law Enforcement market that wanted Critical Defense performance for their duty pistols. The big goal when designing this bullet was to not only pass the FBI testing, but to show the merits of the polymer filled bullet and get a near perfect score on the FBI test with penetration depths staying within the 14"-16" range for the highest scores. It took a few years before the FBI actually took a look at the Critical Duty as a liable ammunition. But in 2018 Hornady was awarded the contract for the FBI duty ammo in 9mm and 40 S&W for the remaining 40 S&W pistols in service. According to Hornady, the Critical Duty ammunition was praised by the FBI as receiving the highest score they have ever seen in their testing. Big praise for sure. Since the FBI typically sets the standard for other Law Enforcement, it would make sense why Hornady is going to be seeing a huge uptick in the amount of ammunition orders for the Critical Duty as Law Enforcement all over is going to copy the FBI.
In the years since the Critical Duty has come out, many companies have toyed with the concept of having a pre-filled hollow point in order to keep up with the Critical Defense and Critical Duty in terms of reliable performance. I would say that this makes it obvious that Hornady has effectively led the way in ammunition evolution. Companies such as Speer and Winchester have recently released their own ammunition that takes after the Hornady design, but with their own idea of what the market may want. Winchester released their new Ranger One in early 2019 while Speer released their Gold Dot G2 a few years back. Both companies are obviously trying out the polymer-filled hollow point design, with the goal of adapting the concept to and perfecting their own designs. In the future, other companies very well may outclass Hornady by achieving greater expansion, weight retention, penetration, etc. But there is no doubt that Hornady will go down in history as the ones who started this trend of pre-filling hollow points to prevent clogging and encourage reliable and uniform expansion.
With the new FBI contract in the works, people may soon turn their attention solely to the Critical Duty as being the best round on the market. However, in testing, some people have had mixed results with the Critical Defense, as well as the Critical Duty. There are plenty of videos out there showing the Critical Duty performing poorly compared to regular ammo like the Remington JHP or Winchester White Box 147 grain ammo. When I talked to the employees that work in the product development center of Hornady at SHOT show 2018, they made a point that they are always testing their ammunition and trying to find the perfect lead to tin mixture. They are aware of the occasional problems with the design, but they seem to take their work seriously. I admire that, and it is evident that they are always working to do better since they also just released their 124+P 9mm bullets to the market, which is optimized for barrel lengths around 4", whereas the regular ammo is designed to be fired out of barrels 4.5" or longer. Since service pistols are starting to trend more towards the 4" barrel length, it is nice to see Hornady adjusting to this and getting ahead of the market.
The market for hollow point ammunition is a very diverse one in terms of what people are looking for and what they are willing to believe. Some people like the idea of a bullet that expands so much but with little regard for the fact that penetration is what will make the difference. Hornady does not have too many offerings that give good amounts of expansion. Drawing from their experience in the hunting field, they prefer reliable expansion and penetration. When it comes to the Critical Duty, I think they could indeed get a little more expansion out of their bullets, but not too much more. When a hollow point expands, that increase in diameter acts like flaps on an airplane and slows it down. With that in mind, I think Hornady has about the right amount of expansion in order to encourage deep penetration after going through barriers. However, perhaps there will be other manufacturers who will be able to increase the expansion on their bullets without compromising penetration. Only time will tell, but it seems that the pre-filled hollow point is possibly the way of the future.
Do It Rite
Alaska-Based Youtube Vlogger, Retired Marine, gun enthusiast, and passionate firearm and gear evaluator.