High velocity law enforcement

High-speed alternatives to big-bullet guns

     When it comes to bullet dynamics, some things are known. A bullet will damage an area through which it passes. But the use of slow, heavy bullets versus slim, high-velocity bullets is often debated. Some like high velocity bullets that meet the penetration criteria; others advocate high inertia bullets that create large wound channels. If we don't know the answer to which is best (we really don't), we at least know this: Officers can deliver lightweight high velocity bullets at targets with a great degree of accuracy and speed, increasing their ability to engage multiple targets.

     Law Enforcement Technology (LET) took a look at three high velocity guns on the market — the Sig Sauer P239 in .357 SIG, the Sig Sauer P250 and FNH USA's FiveseveN USG — not to fuel the debate, but to explore some alternatives to big bullets. In our tests, shooters equipped with our test guns increased their skills and engaged multiple targets with surprising speed in their follow-up shots.

Sig Sauer P239 in .357 SIG

     The Sig Sauer P239 is a compact off-duty or backup gun (BUG) suitable for duty calibers. Its single-stack magazine gives it a slimmer profile than its wide body siblings. In all other aspects the P239 feels, looks and handles like the doublestack models, except it sits better in an IWB holster.

     The gun comes in 9mm, .357 SIG and .40 S&W. The slide and breech face area is rather robust, and Sig Sauer probably knows that it can be configured for dozens more calibers as they become fashionable. Its .357 SIG cartridge is a .38-caliber combination that approximates the ballistics of the revered .357 Magnum, one of the most versatile cartridges ever designed.

     Sig Sauer also uses a hard two-piece synthetic grip, which is appropriate for the unique decocking system. The decocking lever is close to the web of the hand, which requires a smooth sweep from the bottom of the slide downward until hammer drop. The smooth grip material is good for decocking and snag-free concealed carry. It was a bit too slippery for us, so we added AGrip decals from Brooks Tactical Systems.

     The P239 is deceptive. At 27.5 ounces, it is light enough for off-duty and BUG carry, and the magazines are flat enough to be discreetly carried in a pocket. Yet, it looks and handles like a duty gun. Large-fisted shooters don't have to feel alienated: the compact grip holds all four fingers, instead of three like many similar products. It even sports a finger hook on the magazine base.

     This model has seen several federal law enforcement adoptions recently in the Sig Sauer DAK trigger configuration. The DAK trigger, also available on the P239, gives officers a light, consistent trigger pull that allows a second strike capability in case of ammunition failure. The P239 we tested also has the second strike capability, but with a double/single action trigger. This means that the initial trigger pull is double action, and subsequent pulls are single action. The decocking mechanism can safely drop the hammer and the gun is in double action again. Both actions are safe and simple, designed for natural manipulation and stressful environments.

     Our Oehler 35 Proof chronograph helped us gain even more respect for the .357 SIG cartridge, and Load-X of Santa Rosa, California, supplied our .357 SIG bullets for testing. We found that the Sig Sauer P239 preferred a bullet weight of around 124 grains. When we consulted with other gun testers we found that bullets near 125 grains or so give the best overall performance. Although lighter bullets were more comfortable to shoot, we found they over-penetrated and were slightly less accurate.

     We did some cursory barrier testing in order to get a feel for the .357 SIG. The Load-X 115-grain JHP (jacketed hollow point) averaged 1,624 fps. The first time we shot it into bare gelatin, it cleared nearly 24 inches of penetration. Despite the excellent expansion and wound channel, this was a bit much. Over-penetration is a problem in a law enforcement round because it can mean that the bullet did not transfer all of its energy within the desired area. Worse, it could strike a secondary target.

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