At-home bullet testing: Try it today

It took a couple of months and a refrigerator full of ballistics gelatin, but the performance results are in

The products from reputable law enforcement suppliers like Remington, Hornady and Winchester, by the way, generally perform as advertised. Few of them, however, perform well in every media.

Agencies looking at cartridges really need to take a look at their general needs, too. For example, a rural agency may have tertiary duties, like dispatching large animals involved in motor vehicle accidents. The .357 SIG won’t give an advantage here, but some rural agencies like a cartridge that gives extra penetration on rural pests. An urban agency will likely put more weight in after barrier performance where vehicles are likely cover. Beach patrol? Well, you know.

Here are some of the things I found. (By the way, I predicted these results, but let the tests do the talking.) I have some “real world” experience with the Winchester 40 S&W cartridges. My SGT did a lot of research on its performance before it went on duty, for which I am thankful. The improved cartridge is tested here. This is what I carry now, and this is why. However, if I go with the 45, the Hornady’s Critical Defense is definitely up for critical defense. The Winchester T Series gave a little too much penetration.

I like the .357 SIG because there is inherent reliability in the design. When I was getting ready for this article, I began shooting some Load-X Ammunition Company 115-grain .357 SIG cartridges across my chronograph. I didn’t test the Load-X cartridges, but I have tested them in a previous article. If anyone was wondering why I didn’t test EVERY cartridge out there, there simply isn’t enough time. COR@BON is in my off duty/backup article, which will follow in the near future. I’ll give everyone a hint: As a rule, if it says DPX, it will generally perform in after-barrier tests.

OK, back to shooting Load-X: The 115-grain .357 SIG bullets screamed over my chronograph screens at an average of 1,700 fps. I had to stop and shoot something different just to confirm there wasn’t a variable I was overlooking. I shot dozens of bullets over the screen at 1,700 fps.

Velocity is a component of cartridge efficiency, which opens up another debate. That is, a bullet pushed at a higher speed is usually more efficient. A heavier bullet pushed at that speed is even more efficient. Some like lighter, faster bullets and insist that this is the way to go. Others like bullets which create large holes, pushed to moderate velocities. There are arguments that suggest that the temporary cavity is inconsequential. This may be correct, to a point. For example, if the temporary cavity is captured (like in the cranial cavity), temporary is the same as permanent. If given the choice, I would pick moderately lighter, much faster bullets for a given cartridge.

The problem with .357 SIG lies in the bullet, not the cartridge. They either break up after barrier, or over-penetrate. In previous tests the Load-X bullets tended to shed its jacket. My theory is this: Cartridge makers tend to use bullets designed for the 9mm loaded in the .357 SIG, which do not perform the same way with about 500 fps more speed. This was evident when I shot the Hornady Critical Defense .357 SIG. It gave satisfactory performance, but the jacket and core separated after tempered glass. Still, this cartridge can outrun any 9mm out there, with similar recoil and a reduced low light flash. The Winchester .357 SIG? You bet.

I have added a table of preliminary results. Bear in mind, that these results should be integrated in the overall results of many tests, in order to establish trends. I encourage agencies and individual officers to run their own tests. Most importantly, I encourage officers to adhere to the three rules in cartridge performance:

Shot placement, shot placement, shot placement.


Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer who teaches at Hartnell College in Salinas, Calif. He welcomes comments at

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