For years we have been told that the best ammunition for self defense is premium ammunition. It has gotten to the point that it is somewhat suggested that the use of generic ammunition is in fact dangerous and that we should steer clear of these types of ammunition if we are "SERIOUS" about defending ourselves with a firearm. Well, me being me, I felt the need to go out and test this claim myself.
Remington is well known for their Golden Saber line of ammunition. Law Enforcement agencies still use this ammunition and it seems to have earned a reputation of good performance, even through barriers. The less popular, but much more affordable option for the 9mm is their 115 grain line of hollow point ammunition. Often this ammunition is avoided and declared as less effective and low quality, but without evidence to back it up, most of the time. This is somewhat disturbing for me because as I have gotten older, hard evidence and multiple sources of evidence have become very important for me. It is not enough for me to just take someones guess or word on something without seeing something to help verify their claims.
In researching similar bullet designs and weights, my experience told me that it is very common for 115 grain hollow points to do fine in barrel lengths shorter than 3.5". This simply means that it can expand and penetrate an acceptable amount consistently. The problem usually comes with longer barrels and higher velocities. Basically, when you get a lighter bullet going faster, it can get to the point that it opens so much and so fast that it will slow itself down and suffer from less penetration. This is an issue with virtually every bullet design out there, from my experience. Fortunately, I had plenty of videos and reports on this bullets performance out of a variety of different barrel lengths and being shot into several different mediums. The evidence pointed to the fact that it was a bit more versatile than other 115 grain projectiles.
For this test, I decided to go with something known as a "meat target" where I used pork chops to simulate a pectoral, pork ribs to simulate ribs, watermelon for the internal tissues, and pork ribs on the back. All of this was clothed, front and back, with a T-shirt and a fluffy hoody. This may not be the perfect representation of the human body, but I figured that it would at least be close enough to a consistent medium to simulate the hard barriers within the body that hollow point ammunition will face. The 3 firearms I chose for the test were picked to show the effectiveness of the ammunition out of different barrel lengths. I used the Honor Guard (3.2"), the SAR CM9 Gen2(3.8"), and the Beretta M9A3(5.1").
For this test, I did not run the ammunition through the chronograph since I figured it was basically immaterial for the test that I was conducting, which was strictly terminal performance from 7 yards. At this range, it simply works, or it doesn't. There is plenty of information on the web out there if you want to get an idea of the velocities that this ammunition will give you. But just so everyone gets an idea of what they are getting, Remington advertises the velocity out of a 4" barrel to be around 1,135 FPS. For the most part, I find that velocities generally will come in less than the advertised, but that is what they claim.
For the first test, I used the Honor Guard at 7 yards. All four bullets expanded fully and penetrated through the entire meat target and were caught by the T-shirt. This is good performance in my book since it was evident that every round hit ribs going in and coming out. The bullets also still had a good amount of force when coming out the other side. None of the bullets lost their jackets, and they actually expanded pretty darn well. I didn't do any expansion measurements because I found it immaterial for this test. Whether it expands or not, the main goal of any bullet is to penetrate effectively.
The next gun I used was the SAR CM9 Gen2. These bullets all expanded as well, but they got way more chewed up going through the target. Half of the bullets lost their jackets, and one of them failed to make it through the rib it hit on the back side. It think this just goes to show that when the worst case scenario happens, bullets do not always perform like we would like to think. And they definitely do not look all textbook and pretty like when they go through ballistics gel.
The last pistol used in this test was the M9A3. The results out of this pistol were quite interesting since I only found 3 out of 4 of the bullets. There was only one round that actually hit the ribs on the back, but it was a grazing shot. The target fell and kind of messed up the trajectory of the shots to hit the ribs on the back. However, the bullets still did pretty well and I would have to guess that the ribs on the back would have been severely punished by these bullets. The middle bullet shown below went straight through the T-shirt and hoody, and went halfway through my towel roll backstop. The others either went all the way through the hoody or were stopped in the hoody. Even though they did not hit the ribs on the back side. Given the conditions and the behavior of these bullets, I would say that it is safe to say that these bullets would have done just fine and still probably gotten through at least the T-shirt.
So what can we take away from this test? well, it is hard to declare anything for certain, but I would say that it would appear that these 115 grain bullets actually performed very well for being generic and basic in design. This isn't going to tell you much in the way it will perform through intermediate barriers, but I think for general defensive purposes, this ammunition gets a B+ in my book.
The only thing I would have liked to see in this ammo is more penetration through the back side out of the 3.2" and the 3.8" barrel pistols. They did okay, but I am a big advocate for deep penetration. Just remember that we are much more dense than this meat target, so I think it is very wise to caution on the side of more penetration than less. No one likes a minimalist, especially when your life depends on it. But I would say that I do think this ammunition would be a good option for all types of pistols. It isn't the best, but it sure performed like other premium ammunition we pay much more for. For $38, you can get 100 rounds of this stuff at Cabelas. That is a pretty good value if you ask me.
Do It Rite
Alaska-Based Youtube Vlogger, Retired Marine, gun enthusiast, and passionate firearm and gear evaluator.