While I’m talking about cartridge effectiveness, this information should be important to the officer on patrol. On a high-risk stop where the officer stands in an open vehicle door for cover, the more he can close the door (and create a steeper angle), the more effective the cover. Don’t let this be a panacea for officer safety. I routinely shoot Winchester RA9BA rounds through car doors at angles between 120-140 degrees. As long as the bullet doesn’t hit the internal reinforcement (designed into most doors for crash resistance), +P and +P+ 9mm rounds will retain some effectiveness once through the door. If we are talking about 40 S&W or 45 auto, even two car doors should not be considered adequate cover.
I’m certain someone will ask, so let me preempt the questions: Both Winchester and Hornady 380 auto products gave the same type of performance. They both expanded to 150 percent and retained 100 percent of their weight in gelatin. They both delivered less than 3 inches at 25 yards from my North American Arms Guardian. Both gave the same amount of flash in the short barrel. It was bright, but not unexpected.
I didn’t expect to consistently get about 11.5 inches of penetration, but I did. Bear in mind, however, that short barrel velocities of the 380 auto are really what we consider borderline for a bullet of similar design to expand.
The Hornady FTX uses a tip that does not get impacted with clothing fibers, allowing it to consistently expand in media. The Winchester PDX1 bullet uses an exaggerated hollow point, which also gives amazing expansion. Winchester’s bonded jackets do rather well in intermediate barriers. I resolved my 380 auto dilemma; I carry my North American Arms Guardian with magazines filled with half Winchester, half Hornady.
I’m going to pick on the .22 LR for a minute here. As many know, the .22 LR comes in a variety of options, including a hollow and solid point version. I am picking on the .22 LR because there isn’t a reasonable way one can employ “.22 LR” and “effective” in the same sentence. I have, in fact, shot .22 LR bullets into gelatin and can testify that the tiny hollow point is a moot point in a handgun. It just doesn’t expand. However, a .22 LR fired from a rifle (and longer barrel pistols) will expand.
Through a handgun barrel, about 7 inches of bare gelatin is about the average for the highest velocity .22 LR cartridges. The velocity capable of pushing a 30-45 grain bullet through this amount of media is generally not enough to expand the bullet to any consequence. As barrel lengths increase, the effectiveness of the .22 LR increases also. In a rifle, a .22 LR is an entirely different subject. If anyone needs a recommendation here, I would pick something else. If someone fails to heed my advice, at least use CCI Stingers. Yes, I have shot these into gelatin, too.
There are officers willing to accept the risk of carrying a .22 caliber handgun. If this is the caliber of choice, make it .22 Magnum. I think that Hornady Critical Defense has made the Smith & Wesson 351C a viable choice. This is a seven-shot, 11-ounce, .22 Magnum revolver.
The Hornady 45-grain FTX Critical Defense bullet does expand in ballistic gelatin, even when fired from a 1 1/8-barrel gun. This cartridge has been optimized for short barreled guns, which means it does all of its power burning while the bullet is still in the barrel.
In fact, I recorded several passes over my Oerhler .35P chronograph that averaged 1085 fps from my North American Arms NAA-22MS. I recorded 9 inches of penetration with 100-percent retention. Two of the bullets tested penetrated 12 inches, with about 120-percent expansion through layers of denim, by the way.
I recommend an upgrade to the NAA-BWC for a tiny gun for running. This gun allows practice with the cheaper .22 LR cartridges and carry with the .22 Magnum. Mind you, the .22 Magnum cartridge is not a caliber of choice, it’s a caliber of compromise. The .22 Magnum makes an excellent third gun, and the quality of any North American Arms products is superior to most production guns. Since they have just introduced a mini revolver with a swing out cylinder, every law enforcement officer should have one.
If .38 Special is the caliber of choice, the lightweight ones require a specific strategy. Select lighter, faster cartridges to improve the speed of follow-up shots. In my tests, Cor-Bon 110-grain DPX cartridges are the ones to carry in a .38 Special.
Your .38 Special loads come in bullet weights that are generally within the 110-160 grain range. Although the heavier bullets suggest better theoretical performance, lighter ones are easier to control. The DPX bullets are solid copper, which expands consistently, ignoring windshields and clothing. I have shot Cor-Bon .38 Special bullets in 12-ounce handguns also, where the 110-grain bullet really makes a difference.