Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel expansion test

I recently hand loaded some 180 grain “Gold Dot® Short Barrel®” rounds in .40 S&W. Yesterday I did the promised “chronograph and water jug testing”. Here are the results:

Powder: 3.9 grains of Bullseye
Primer: WSP
OAL: 1.132

10 shots over the chronograph from 10 feet away.

Minimum velocity: 814 fps
Maximum velocity: 864 fps
Mean velocity: 838.1 fps
Standard deviation: 15.5 fps
Power Factor: 150.86

The water filled milk jug test was to determine if the bullets would expand at this relatively low velocity. The 0.401 bullet expanded to just under 0.6 and retained nearly 99% of it’s mass:




This is very good.

Brother Doug was a little worried that with the lower velocity perhaps a non-expanding bullet would be better for self defense because of the better penetration. Would it penetrate deep enough to “do the job”? I didn’t have any ordinance gelatin but my guess is that it penetrates just fine. They fully traversed three one gallon milk jugs filled with water. This is just under 18 inches of water.

I didn’t expect it would penetrate that far and for my first shot I only used two jugs for depth and put one on each side of the rear jug in case the bullet didn’t go straight after hitting the first jug:


It fully penetrated the two jugs and I was unable to find the bullet in the berm.

The second time I changed the configuration to just three jugs lined up in a row:


Again the bullet penetrated all the jugs but I found the bullet just sitting on the ground behind the jugs.


13 thoughts on “Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel expansion test

  1. Great and informative post. I’m putting my reloading stuff together and noticed your caliper… Yours looks to be a Midway branded caliper which doesn’t seem to be available right now.

    Would the Starrett 120 that Midway is selling be a similar caliper in capability?


    • I purchased mine close to 20 years ago but the Starrett 120 looks almost identical to mine. My dad had a number of Starrett precision tools that he used for close to 60 years and I have no reason to believe the company has lowered their quality.

    • FWIW: I like Enco (www.use-enco.com) as a source of tools. They offer a range of quality/price points, from “import” to “USA” to brand name. So if you want Starrett, they carry that. They also carry Mitutoyo, which is a high end Japanese brand my father used a lot. (I inherited his Mitutoyo vernier caliper. Very nice.)

  2. Joe, you don’t say what your barrel length was for the test, but you seem to be well under the M/V shown in Ballistics By The Inch, by at least 120 fps. Handloads.com lists Alliant’s loading for 180 JHP with Bullseye to be 5.0 > 5.5gr, with 5.5 giving 1015 fps, giving a power factor of 182. Yours is NOT the Gold Dot Short Barrel load, but rather, seems to be a load brewed up expressly for the purpose of making Major Power Factor by the minimum necessary to compete in that class of IDPA/IPSC/USPSA.

    Speer is more interested in seeing that the bad people are efficiently stopped, which is why their load zips 146 fps faster.

    Conclusion: you should not call that load by it’s commercial title, it does not resemble it enough to do that with “duplicate” added.

    • I used a 5″ barrel.

      It is not, and I did not call it, a Speer loading. Speer created great potential for confusing by selling both ammunition and bullets by the same name. I specifically linked to the Speer bullets of that exact name in the hopes of avoiding that confusion.

      The load data used was not from Alliant. It was the minimum load from the Hornady manual for use with their 180 grain XTP bullet with a predicted velocity of 800 fps.

      The load has nothing to do with IDPA/IPSC/USPSA and does not come close to making major PF. Major PF in USPSA is 165. This load is just barely over 150.

      As I pointed out, in the other link in this post, this load was because “I needed these for handgun students with difficulty handling factory loads.” Factory loads are in the 180 PF range and are far more than what my student can handle. Had there been any factory loads which met her needs I would not have put so much effort into this project.

      With factory loads off the table I wanted to enable her to use her existing gun but still be able to practice in comfort. Factory loads made her physically ill. Practice is one thing but an additional requirement was that she have good results should she ever need to defend herself. That is what this post is about. I put a great deal of research and work into creating a .40 S&W load that is very low recoil for such people. In fact this loading produces only slightly more recoil momentum that 9mm self defense loads and produces significantly less recoil energy. While recoil energy is somewhat bogus in many respects it does somewhat capture in numbers the “snappiness” of recoil which creates a lot of the discomfort. The velocity of this loading is essentially the same as 230 grain bullet in .45 ACP. Which, I’m certain you know, is more of a “push” than a “jump”. And with a 180 grain bullet, instead of the 230, is a much gentler push.

      For further reference see on this project Student shooter update and Powder puff load report.

      • I misremembered how recoil energy is calculated. Ignore what I said about recoil energy.

        • Okay, I was confused too. Joe, I’ve been teaching defensive pistol for decades, and I never heard of recoil at any level making a shooter physically ill. If her hearing and eyesight are adequately protected and she gets sick while shooting in any phase or level of recoil, you have huge liability being anywhere her and shooting. You need to disengage as her instructor, at least until a medcal answer is found, because you could be found to have contributed to her ill health.

          I am curious, though. Has she shot any centerfire revolver at all? If so, if she still gets ill, this is most likely a stress reaction of some sort. As you might guess, were she to lose control of a loaded autoloader, serious injury might result. If you still want to work her through this, put her hands only on revolvers, preferably SA ones.

  3. Looks like a viable load, so long as the gun cycles it reliably. It’s similar in energy and velocity to the old percussion 44 caliber “Army” revolvers of the 1860s using round ball but with a slightly heavier, expanding bullet.

Comments are closed.