Terminal Ballistics Data for Handgun Ammo The question of terminal ballistics comes up often enough to publish some data that will provide information to aid in the determination of which bullets to select for concealed carry and home protection. The following information was taken from a Guns & Ammo Dec. 1996 article. Newer and better ammo may now be available, however, a few loads in a few calibers produce a one-shot stop 94 to 96% of the time based on a database of more than 500 shootings per load. That is as good as it gets for a handgun load. 22 Long Rifle The most effective .22 lr load is the same load that started the trend to high velocity hollowpoints decades ago: the CCI 32 grain Stinger. The 32 gr Stinger is advertised at 1,500fps from a rifle, but it still reaches 1,255fps from a handgun. Surprisingly, it does not expand at these velocities. Instead, it tumbles base-over-nose to a depth of 9.8" in ballistics gelatin. The average adult male torso is 9.4" thick front to back. The Stinger produces enough penetration for the frontal upper torso shot. The other "hyper velocity" rimfires like the Remington 33 grain Yellow Jacket perform in ordinance gel just like the CCI 32 gr. Stinger. For years ammo experts have been saying the .22lr does not have enough power to stop hostilities instantly. Now we know the best 22 rimfire load is successful just one time out of three attempts. Based on 395 shootings, the Stinger has a 34% one-shot stop. Second place in the 22 lr caliber are the 36 to 37gr. lead hollowpoints. In actual shootings, these "high velocity" lead hollowpoints are just 29% effective. The original 40 gr. roundnose lead has the dubious honor of being the least effective of the known defensive handgun loads. This classic RNL plinker is just 21% effective with one torso shot". .25 Automatic The 25 ACP is the least effective handgun caliber, period. The top load is the Winchester 45 gr. Expanding Point (XP). This is effective just 25% of the time. The Expanding Point load uses a lead hollow-point with a number 4 steel birdshot pellet crimped in the hollow-point cavity. This does not assist expansion. In fact, it limits expansion. It does, however, greatly assist feed reliability in auto pistols of all vintages and quality levels. The 45 gr. XP only expands to .29 cal or so in ordinance gelatin. It penetrates a respectable 13.8 inches. The 50 gr. FMJ from Federal, Remigton and Winchester have proven to be just 22 to 23% effective. These results are based on more than 6,200 shootings with this hardball load. The 50 gr. load produces 18 inches of penetration, but only pinhole size crush and stretch cavities. .32 Automatic The .32 ACP has been a popular choice for Seecamp-packing pistoleros. It's popularity took another leap upward with Beretta's 1996 SHOT show announcement of a Mod.21-based auto pistol. We now have .32cal wound ballisitcs from a pistol sized to handle the .22 and .25 calibers. The hollow-point ammo that defines the .32 ACP is the Winchester 60gr. Silvertip. This 970 fps pure aluminum jacketed hollow-point expands extremely well. In 10% gelatin, we get .57cal recovered diameters. As a result of this large mushroom, the penetration is limited to 6.5 inches. This matches exactly the penetration of the .380 Auto 85 gr. Silvertip. This depth has proven to be enough for a frontal or near-frontal upper torso shot. This may seem to be a little shallow fo most other shot placememts. However, in a cross section of 83 shootings, the .32 ACP Silvertip has been effective 63% of the time with one shot. This is actually better than many .380 ACP loads. .380 ACP The top load in this popular caliber is the Cor-Bon 90 gr. JHP (+P). With 70% one-shot stops, this rivals the .38 Special 125gr JHP (+P) from duty-length revolvers. Using a Sierra bullet, the Cor-Bon load feeds well in everything from a S&W Sigma to a Colt Mustang. At an honest 1,050 fps, the Cor-Bon 90gr. JHP has enough energy to punch through heavy bone. This was one of the contenders for the U.S. Secret Service contract. Very close behind the Cor-Bon load, and in an absolute tie in street effectiveness, are Federals 90gr JHP and 90gr. HydraShok. Both produce 69% one-shot stops. Both have a substantial database of shootings to validate these percentages. However these two loads achieve their stopping power very differently. The 90gr. HydraShok is a ballistic match to the 90gr. Cor-Bon. Bothe produce a lot of expansion and just enough penetration. The Federal 90gr. JHP, even though it uses a Sierra bullet, is going slow enough not to expand very much. The result is nearly the deepest penetration in the caliber for a hollow-point. Regardless of the indicators from gelatin testing, this is one of the most proven-effective loads in the caliber. .38 Special (+P) For quite some time, the 158gr. lead hollow-point was the top street load at 78%. This load did, indeed outperform the 110gr.JHP(+P+) against car bodies. More recently, the top .38 Special load was the Cor-Bon 115 gr. JHP (+P+) with an impressive 83% one-shot record. This was an update to the Police-only "Treasury" load and it was available to all shooters. Winchester and the St. Louis Police invented this SWC lead HP circa 1972. While the hyper-velocity 110 gr. (+P+) load produced mostly spectacular results and occasionally dismal results, the St. Louis lead hollow-point was much more consistent. These loads produced 77 to 78% one-shot stops regardless of clothing, car bodies, or other barriers. This load remains as one of history's best loads from duty-length revolvers. However this reputation does not carry over to shorter-barreled guns. The velocity loss from snub-nose barrel lengths must be made up by going to lighter bullets. This explains the growing popularity and street success of the 125 gr. JHP's, led by the Federal (+P) version. This load expands to .69 cal. and penetrates 12.2 inches of calibrated gelatin. These JHP's produce 73% one-shot stops. 9mm Luger The top loads in this caliber are the 115 and 124 gr. (+P) and (+P+) hollow-points. Most of these (+P+) loads are restricted by the manufacturer to police use only. However these same exact wound ballistics are available to all shooters from Cor-Bon, Triton Cartridge, Georgia Arms, and Remington with their 115 gr. (+P) ammo. In fact, with 91% one-shot stops, the Cor-Bon 115 gr. Sierra HP actually leads the caliber. The police-only (+P+) versions produce 86 to 90% one-shot stops. Behind the 115 gr. JHP (+P) ammo, second place loads in this caliber are the 124 gr. JHP (+P) ammo. Remmington makes a 124 gr. (+P) Golden Saber while CCI Speer, Cor-Bon, and Georgia Arms load a 124 gr(+P) Gold Dot. These are 83 to 84% loads. Those shooters with access to police-only ammo should also consider the Federal 124 gr. HydraShok (+P+) and the Winchester 127 gr. Ranger SXT (+P+). .357 Magnum (my personal favorite) The .357 Magnum remains one of the most effective calibers in history. Withiin this caliber, one load stands out from all the rest: the 125gr. JHP. With more than 750fully documented shootings, the Federal and Remington versions produce 96% one-shot stops. This appears to be the upper limit for any handgun, period. These loads expand violently upon impact and fragment back to very small recovered diameters. The penetration depths vary from 12-14 inches. These loads produce large stretch cavities. Regardless of the various theories of stopping power, this kind of performance in gelatin literally defines success on the street. Second place in the .357 Magnum caliber goes to the crop of 110 gr. JHP's led by the Federal and Remington versions. These both produce 10 inch penetration depths ideal for the home defense and concealed carry scenarios. Due to the stiff recoil from the full power 125 gr. loads, the 110 gr. JHP's are a much more popular choice for snub nose .357 Magnums.