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Thread: Does expansion matter?

  1. #1

    Does expansion matter?

    After reading a bit about the FBIs fabric/gel penetration tests I wonder now if expansion even matters. The thinking seems to be that if you put a hole in the vitals you've done an effective job. Thus maybe a .380 that doesn't expand would pass the test. Or a .45 for that matter.

    I mean if passing the FBI test is the goal why not use a solid lead bullet of sufficient weight and velocity, then you dont have to "hope" the bullet expands.

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    With some of the FMJ ammo in common calibers, you get too much penetration according to the tests. The expanding bullet helps stop that aspect as well as inflicting more damage.
    The FBI prefers the bullet to stop inside the person shot.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master

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    I was just thinking about the same thing if your using a 45 acp with a 230 gr boolit for self defense do you need expansion
    kids that hunt and fish dont mug old ladies

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LUCKYDAWG13 View Post
    I was just thinking about the same thing if your using a 45 acp with a 230 gr boolit for self defense do you need expansion
    Personally, I like the idea of the target having holes in front and back. In the case where I would be using my handgun in my own home, I don't have any concerns about where the handgun bullets go after passing through the target.
    I am not in a congested area. The closest dwelling is nearly 100 yards away with trees in between us. The only other person in the house is my wife and I will know where she is.

    For concealed carry, I use the suggested hollow point ammo for 9mm or 38 special to avoid the issue while in a crowd.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master

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    Yes I also use the suggested carry loads but was thinking about a 230 gr boolit going around 700 fps how much penetration would that have
    kids that hunt and fish dont mug old ladies

  6. #6
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LUCKYDAWG13 View Post
    Yes I also use the suggested carry loads but was thinking about a 230 gr boolit going around 700 fps how much penetration would that have
    I have my 45acp pistols loaded with 200 grain boolits(Lyman 452460) at around 800-850fps. These feed perfectly in my handguns and should work nicely.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    I'm seeing anywhere from 25" to 30" of penetration in ballistics gel for the 45 acp ball load. I do like bullets to pass through. If I were shooting something really skimpy like 22 lr, 25 acp, 32 acp, maybe even 38 acp, there is a strong argument for the solid lead bullets. In 9mm and stronger, not as much.

    Worst case scenario for a hollow point bullet is FMJ performance. Unless you are hunting big game, there are no drawbacks to expanding bullets if your semi-auto will feed them.

  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by megasupermagnum View Post
    I'm seeing anywhere from 25" to 30" of penetration in ballistics gel for the 45 acp ball load. I do like bullets to pass through. If I were shooting something really skimpy like 22 lr, 25 acp, 32 acp, maybe even 38 acp, there is a strong argument for the solid lead bullets. In 9mm and stronger, not as much.

    Worst case scenario for a hollow point bullet is FMJ performance. Unless you are hunting big game, there are no drawbacks to expanding bullets if your semi-auto will feed them.
    That is certainly a lot of penetration.
    I would probably get somewhat less with the load I am using. Lighter weight but same velocity.
    Given your caveat for feeding, I don't see a drawback either. Being from a Dem controlled state, I am just thinking about a time when JHP bullets will not be available. I want to have something I can make myself. Cast lead boolits have been serving that purpose for a long time.
    For both my 1911 pistols and my other semi-autos, I have that covered with cast boolits in both 9mm and 45ACP. 40S&W also but I only have one of those.
    Revolvers are no problem. 38/357 loads are easy enough to make.
    Last edited by tazman; 10-21-2019 at 11:51 AM.

  9. #9
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Given I have little enthusiasm for shooting deer with RN FMJ at typical handgun velocities for good reason, and deer approximate humans in size, something that makes a bit larger hole is appreciated. Keep in mind deer are also double lunged most of the time with a single hit while humans are not.

    Critters of smaller size run off some distressingly long distances before succumbing when hit by 9mm and 45 RN FMJ. Not confidence inspiring.

  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 35remington View Post
    Given I have little enthusiasm for shooting deer with RN FMJ at typical handgun velocities for good reason, and deer approximate humans in size, something that makes a bit larger hole is appreciated. Keep in mind deer are also double lunged most of the time with a single hit while humans are not.

    Critters of smaller size run off some distressingly long distances before succumbing when hit by 9mm and 45 RN FMJ. Not confidence inspiring.
    All true.
    Critters tend to get hit with a single shot, though where humans tend to get hit multiple times.
    Reactions are different. A critter will bolt making follow up shot difficult if not impossible. Humans tend to freeze for a short time due to the shock of getting hit making follow up shots more likely.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master


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    I cannot envision an expanding bullet that offers 15" of penetration ever being worse than a solid with the same penetration.

    It may not matter in a deer than cannot kill you, but in a self defense scenario, achieving death as quickly as possible is the goal.

    Shoot non expanding .380's if that works for you. I think it is a poor choice.

    BTW, I have little faith in what the FBI deems "adequate". I want more than "adequate". And like tazman, I am not concerned about the bullet exiting the target.
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

  12. #12
    Boolit Buddy
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    You can color me contrary here , but my first choice for ammunition
    Is ammunition that is reliably consistent , it must feed , go bang and hit where I aim it every single time .

    Any other considerations come after that . I won't jump into the expansion versus none argument because it doesn't matter to me and I know nothing about it .

    Reliability is my concern above all else .

  13. #13
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by redneck1 View Post
    You can color me contrary here , but my first choice for ammunition
    Is ammunition that is reliably consistent , it must feed , go bang and hit where I aim it every single time .

    Any other considerations come after that . I won't jump into the expansion versus none argument because it doesn't matter to me and I know nothing about it .

    Reliability is my concern above all else .
    I agree. Reliability and accuracy is more important than anything else. A .22 is not my first choice for self defense, but several, well placed .22 rounds can still be very effective.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master

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    In calibers like 40S&W and 9mm and 357mag, I would like a good hollow point. Lots of speed and penetration in these calibers.

    But with 45ACP, 380ACP, and 38spl I’m good with hardball. Maybe even a SWC. In a living target with different densities of organic material to get through, these need more penetration help.

    But, that is just my observation/opinion.

    Lefty
    I'll be needing that for squirrels and such.....

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by redneck1 View Post
    You can color me contrary here , but my first choice for ammunition
    Is ammunition that is reliably consistent , it must feed , go bang and hit where I aim it every single time .

    Any other considerations come after that . I won't jump into the expansion versus none argument because it doesn't matter to me and I know nothing about it .

    Reliability is my concern above all else .
    That isn't being contrary. Those are the first requirements of any defensive load. If the load doesn't work like you stated, it isn't a good load.
    The expansion is a secondary consideration. That said, anything that helps the performance of a defensive load is worth considering. Expansion is one of those things.

  16. #16
    Boolit Grand Master
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    I am not aware that 45 ACP with a decent JHP is underpenetrative even given rather wide expansion, so I do not see it as requiring the “penetration help” of a nonexpanding bullet. 380 yes oftentimes....45, absolutely not.

    Review widely posted studies to get a more accurate and representative picture of which calibers do what. In penetration 45 ACP has little to distinguish it from other adequate calibers using expanding bullets. FMJ penetrates quite a lot. The 45 ACP does not “need” FMJ to attain reasonable penetration for defensive use.

    I do not consider the overpenetration concern as relevant as putting a decent sized hole through something important.
    Last edited by 35remington; 10-21-2019 at 02:45 PM.

  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Some results that illustrate the point above.

    https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/sel...c-tests/#45ACP

  18. #18
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by redneck1 View Post
    You can color me contrary here , but my first choice for ammunition
    Is ammunition that is reliably consistent , it must feed , go bang and hit where I aim it every single time .

    Any other considerations come after that . I won't jump into the expansion versus none argument because it doesn't matter to me and I know nothing about it .

    Reliability is my concern above all else .
    a voice of reason. i agree.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by redneck1 View Post
    You can color me contrary here , but my first choice for ammunition
    Is ammunition that is reliably consistent , it must feed , go bang and hit where I aim it every single time .

    Any other considerations come after that . I won't jump into the expansion versus none argument because it doesn't matter to me and I know nothing about it .

    Reliability is my concern above all else .
    We probably think alike. Where I'm going with this is ammo expense and practice. The premium performance ammo is often priced at a point where testing its reliability is prohibitive (for my budget anyway). I just can't afford to burn off 1,000 rounds of Federal HST.

    If you look at Lucky Gunner there are a number of 147 grain 9mm offerings that failed to expand but fell squarely within the 12-18" of penetration for the FBI's criteria. 147 grains is heavy-for-caliber in 9mm so the weight/velocity must be balanced just-so. You'll see a number of .45 bullets that fail to expand but those over-penetrated. So for .45 you could probably dial back the velocity even.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Reliability first.

    Penetration through the vitals is second.

    Expending all the bullet energy in the target is third.

    And all of these assume that you can hit the vital area of a target.

    IMHO the good thing about the FBI test standards is the number of cartridges developed by the mfgs to specifically meet the criteria. Especially the ability to expand and dump energy in a target after penetrating heavy clothing, something that older hollow point bullets failed at miserably.

    Also interesting are the different bullets made for different cartridges, such as the .380 vs 9mm, .38spl vs .357mag, .40 vs 10mm, etc. You get bullets designed to work at the velocity of the cartridge, not a 'one size fits all'. And reliability has gone way up as well in the semi-autos. I buy all of my carry ammo because of this. I don't think you need to shoot 1000rnds to determine reliability. For me it is between 100 and 200. Many years has shown me that ammo that is unreliable will show up in the first magazine or two, much of the time with the second or third round. Practice is easily done with cheap reloads of the same weight and velocity as the carry load.

    If you want to carry your own ammo then the story is different as you need to craft the ammo to work well, both in the pistol and the target. I would not use ball ammo, but, that is what the .45ACP was designed around after the .38 ball ammo failed to perform (a controversy itself).

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