Ammo test

About a month ago I received an email from Steven Otterbacher at

Hi Joe,
I really appreciate your posting about our opening a few weeks ago ( ; things are going well and I appreciate your help!

I have an idea I wanted to run past you:

We just started carrying Fiocchi ammo and are trying to get the word out about it.  If we shipped you a box, would you be willing to give it a fair try and post a review about it?

As long as you link back to the category page on our website (i.e. – maybe with anchor-text like “Bulk 40 cal ammo” or “bulk 40 S&W ammo”), not the product page, we are 100% fine with a positive or negative review – whatever is truthful based on your experience – we just want you to give it a chance!
If you are interested, which product/caliber do you prefer:


If you are interested, just confirm you are on board, let me know which caliber you prefer, and then give me your shipping information (and confirm that you meet are terms of sale – i.e. you are over 21, are legally able to own this ammo, etc, etc) and I will get this ammo shipped out to you ASAP!

If this goes well, we might even be able to do a few more as time goes on!

I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you soon!


I accepted his offer and asked for the .40 S&W 180 grain ammo. I was on vacation at the time and there were various things like blowing up pumpkins that kept me from getting to the ammo testing until today. I don’t have a good place to do this type of testing in the Seattle area and had to wait until I could get out to the Boomershoot site.

Since I was going to have everything set up for group and velocity testing I decided to test some other ammo at the same time.

The ammo I actually received was not the JHPs but FMJ. I didn’t realize that until I got out on the range with all the JHPs I was ready to compare to. I did the comparisons anyway.

Rounds fired: 10
Gun: STI Eagle 5.1 with a KKM Precision barrel.
Temperature: 30 F
Elevation: 3000 feet
Chronograph: CED Millennium
Distance to Chronograph: 11’ to first screen
Distance between screens: 2’
Distance to target: 25’
Bullet mass: 180 grains (except the Remington Golden Sabers which were 165 grains)

Here is my setup and the ammo used:


The bag of lentils was torn by the muzzle blast on the first shot and I switched to a roll of paper towels to replace the leather sandbag I had left at home.

The handloads were assembled in 1998 for bowling pin shoots. I used Winchester cases with Rainer Restrike JHP bullets over 6.4 grains of VV N350 powder.

The following table describes the velocity performance at 12’ from the muzzle. If you want velocity at the muzzle add about 4.5 fps to the numbers below.























Golden Saber







Ranger SXT RA40T







Gold Dot






Black Hills








Rainer Restrike JHP






Feeding was perfect with all ammo types.

Accuracy information can be derived from the picture below (click to enbiggen enough to see the bullet holes and the ammo names on the targets). The target on the top right is the BVAC. I didn’t label that target in the field because I couldn’t remember the name of the ammo. It was a bulk buy and I had transferred it from the original boxes (of 500 each) into ammo cans.

The accuracy was acceptable for everything except my handloads and perhaps the BVAC remanufactured FMJs. The Black Hills and the Fiocchi ammo did the best.

I was aiming at the bottom edge of the black to get the maximum contrast with the sights as that sliver of “white” disappeared into the black. The order in which the targets were shot is as in the table above.


For self-defense ammo I don’t really care much if the group size is one inch or three inches at 25 feet. Nearly all self-defense shootings are at ranges less than that and the nearly all ammo is going to have enough accuracy to hit the target. The shooter is going to be the dominate factor.

What is important is the velocity of the bullet, the expansion diameter, and depth of penetration. The penetration depth is also affected by the covering of the target. Shirts, jackets, windshield glass, etc. all make a difference. I didn’t have the time or enough ammo to do a full scale test of everything but I planned to do an expansion test with water.

I put a concrete paving stone in the bottom of a old diaper container that was laying around in the garage and put five gallons of water on top of it. This gave me about 15 inches of water to shoot into. I put the paving stone in the bottom to make sure the bullet wouldn’t punch a hole in the bottom if the water wasn’t deep enough.

As I prepared to fire into the container I tried to remember what had happened when Myth Busters did similar tests. I remembered that the 9mm FMJ had surprising depth of penetration and that the water splash was impressive. I keep thinking there was something more I should remember… what was it?

I anticipated getting severely splashed with water but that wasn’t the thing I should have worried about. I fired from about four feet above the container and only my hand and the gun got a little wet. After firing I was pretty sure I just relearned with Myth Busters had learned. The outward pressure of the water is quite strong. The pictures below tell the story:


Yes. The container was blown completely in two and split down the side. The bullet fully penetrated the water and impacted the paving stone.

The bullet jacket completely separated from the core. Here are the bullet pictures (click to see higher resolution versions):




If you know your bullets the jacket in the first picture will tell you which bullet it was. If you can’t guess I’ll put the answer in the comments by EOD on Monday.


13 thoughts on “Ammo test

  1. Camera is a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT with the out of the box lens. 55 mm focal length, f/14, 1/400 S.

    Black Talon isn’t sold anymore. These were fairly recently purchased. But you are close enough that you would win the prize, if there were one.

  2. Jackets are brass, right? The jacket looks like copper on my computer. Now I’m wondering if it’s the camera, the jacket, or my computer that’s screwing up the color…

  3. Winchester would say, “Supreme eXpansion Technology.” They can’t be the same because these bullets aren’t black. 😉


    The jackets are typically copper. The shell casings are typically brass.

  4. Some bullet jackets have been made from cupronickel, but now most of them are “gilding metal” which is a very high copper content brass (about 95% copper and 5% zinc). Most common yellow brass is about 60% copper, 40% zinc, or up to about 70:30 which is getting into the “rose brass” category. You could call the bullet jackets copper and be 95% correct.

    I see some jackets that look like common yellow brass though, so they must have a lot more zinc.

  5. Appears to be a Winchester “T-Series” that lost its jacket, by the little folded-back “talons” on the jacket.

    Odd. The Golden Saber has a rep for losing its jacket a lot in this kind of test, the T-Series, not so much.

  6. I like Fiocchi , I’ve used quite a bit of it in my S&W 5906, never had any problems with it.
    I shot a couple boxes of Fiocchi 9APB down at Diamondback in Lewiston, had a guy in the lane beside me from CCI down on the river ask me if he could have my spent brass, he said it was better than their brass, not sure if that is true or not, but I do not relaod at this time.

    Oh.. if you want to make that SXT look dark like the old evil Black Talons, you could try something very simple, it may not work as this would be “Internet Chemistry” but you may want to try.

    Get a cloth with a little Palmolive Dishwashing liquid on it and rub the rounds with the cloth. If you look at the Palmolive label see if it contains sodium bisulphite and or any other sulphur derivatives, that should darken brass and or copper.

    I learned that trick from a friend who’s father makes brass steam engines… it may just work ;p

    Though you may not want to rely on those rounds for anything other than looking at after that.

  7. I think you could make some very cool jewelry out of those jackets. Do you throw them out?

  8. No I did not. There was only the one and I saved it to give to my officemate (from India) who has a small collection of spent shell casings.

  9. If Fiocchi can ship me some 6.5mm Grendel with a 120gr spire point, and the cases are Boxer primed, and it costs about $.50 per round, I’d be delighted to try some out. I’ll post photos on the web site and everything.

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