The Sig Sauer 365 JHP goes toe-to-toe with the Hornady 115-grain Critical Defense for the title of best self-defense 9mm ammunition. As both are solid contenders in the personal defense realm which one takes home the gold?
A Little History
Both the Sig Sauer 365 JHP and Hornady Critical Defense loads are designed to fill the same general niche in the concealed carry market. They are both designed around compact self-defense guns but are equally at home in standard size pistols. Hornady has been well established on the ammunition scene for decades and has been responsible for some of the major advances in ammunition seen in recent years. The Critical Defense line revolutionized concealed carry ammo due to its FTX tip, which does not clog or allow the bullet to fill with clothing or debris.
Sig Sauer, on the other hand, is a new player in the ammunition scene. They have done a great deal to expand into the ammo market, releasing some interesting products. The 365 ammo was designed primarily to be used in conjunction with Sig’s P365 line of micro-compact, high capacity self-defense pistols. The bullet construction and velocity are meant to work in conjunction to deliver performance in small guns with the V-Crown bullet offering a traditional jacketed hollow point.
To remove any perceived bias from the review, I chose to shoot both ammunition from a Glock 19X — instead of potentially swaying any results by using the Sig Sauer P365. The Glock 19X brings a reliable, well-balanced and accurate design to pistol shooting. To measure accuracy, the Glock 19X was placed in a rest at 15-yards. I shot five, five-shot groups with both the Hornady Critical Defense and Sig Sauer 365. The test was then moved to steel plates at various distances out to 25-yards.
On paper, the 365 load delivered an average group size of 1.75-inches with the smallest grouping measuring 1.25-inches and the largest grouping coming in at 2.2-inches. When it came to steel plates, the ammunition was accurate, though it required a slight hold to the right of center.
The Critical Defense load produced an average group size of 1.2-inches with the smallest grouping at 1-inch and the largest group measuring 1.85-inches. Overall, this load pretty much shot to an inch for all practical purposes. When it came to shooting plates, this load shot centered, but slightly low. At 25-yards on plates, the bullets impacted inside the front sight, meaning that the target was obscured during firing.
To test velocity, I fired both loads over an Oehler 35P chronograph. Velocity equates to the average of 20 rounds fired at 5-feet from the chronograph. The Sig 365 ammunition averaged 1,176- feet-per-second. Hornady came in at 1,161-feet-per-second. The velocity was essentially identical for both rounds.
Recoil & Handling
Neither of these rounds is rated as +P, so both offered mild recoil. Stacked up against each other, the Sig 365 loads brought a snappier feel while the Hornady round delivered a smoother recoil. Though the Hornady load was smoother, the 365 rounds didn’t experience violent recoil. It was simply a matter of the more sudden slide cycling. While every gun handles a bit differently in terms of recoil, the clear edge went to Hornady.
As far as handling, the Critical Defense won on the merit that the smoother recoil impulse allowed for more concentrated and faster follow-up shots with less interruption. This is not to say the Sig 365 is a bad choice, as it performed very closely overall, but the Hornady rounds edged out Sig 365 ever so slightly. It’s worth noting that neither brand reliability suffered a single failure to feed or fire.
Using Clear Ballistics gel, the Glock 19X fired five shots of each load into the gel from a self-defense distance of 3-yards. The Sig 365 averaged a five-shot penetration depth of 13.8-inches in bare gelatin. All of the recovered bullets showed perfect expansion and were uniform. The deepest penetration measured 15-inches and the shallowest measured 12.5-inches.
The Critical Defense achieved excellent performance as well with all five shots penetrating to within an inch of the same depth at 14.75-inches. All the bullets retained their plastic inserts until they came to rest. The expansion was quite uniform, but not quite as uniform as the 365.
This is a pretty close call because these two loads performed in a very similar fashion. I found that, for the most part, they were equal in terms of end-use; but just narrowly beating out the Sig 365, the Hornady Critical Defense wins overall due to its handling and smoother recoil impulse. That being said, you can’t go wrong with either of these loads.
GRAB A BOX OF HORNADY CRITICAL DEFENSE HERE