I enjoy testing ammunition and handguns and try to wring the most performance from my handloads. I have been disappointed by quality control and performance in some of the makers that were the darling of the popular press. Choosing a wide mouth hollowpoint that doesn’t feed well or failing to achieve the advertised velocity is a sure way to lose my business. I have clocked .380 ACP loads I knew would never reach the claimed velocity and sure enough they were 188 fps off! Another concern manufactures frangible ammunition that only expanded if you hit a brick wall with it. If I were not in the business I would have an ammunition larder with far less diversity. A maker I originally sought for hunting loads and full power .357 Magnum loads also offers among the best if not the best 9mm defense loads available. These loads offer a balance of expansion and penetration that is ideal in my opinion, with different levels of penetration depending on the shooters needs. One load makes the 9mm viable for animal defense as well. Lets look at some of Buffalo Bore’s 9mm loads. I used the new Springfield Echelon in testing some loads and also a SIG P210 when things got interesting.
It didn’t take long in the early years as a young epistles and journalistic pilgrim to realize that a lot of the shooting done in the popular press seems done with the type writer. As I slowly sequed to expert status- not to mention Professor- I took my own counsel and developed a test program. Each loading has been chronographed over an RCBS chrono and also a Competetion Electronics unit to double check figures. Ethically there is no other way. I am something of a crank concerning ammunition. While guns and ammunition are important don’t forget a failure to see the whole picture is the leading cause of death in a defensive encounter.
The first load I tested may be the most effective and a top choice for service and institutional use. Don’t use this load in second rate pistols. They wont blow up but small parts take a beat and slide velocity may outstrip the ability of the magazine to feed. The 124 grain +P+ load is advertised at 1,300 fps. This loading actually clocked 1,344 fps in the SIG and 1299 fps in the Springfield. Recoil is more than the average 1200 fps training load of the same weight but not uncomortable. The Hornady XTP bullet expands well while refusing to fragment. I like this load a great deal. I don’t really feel the average .357 Magnum load in a three inch barrel concealed carry revolver has an advantage in wound ballistics over this loading.
Many years ago when +P+ ammunition was developed police agencies were desperate to find a 9mm load that would be effective. Most 9mm loads of the day gave poor performance. Most were inferior to .38 Special defense loads. Makers supplied a hold harmless agreement. This meant if your gun cracks a frame the ammo manufacturer was not responsible. Don’t use these loads in a SCCY, small frame Kel Tec, or a Hi Point. The Model 39 and Model 59 at my old agency were not well suited to these loads. An old Ruger P 89 as digested hundreds. These loads are the result of a great deal of development and of course they are safe and reliable. The 115 grain +P+ is 100 fps faster than the 124 grain. This load clocks 1413 fps in the SIG. That is fast very fast. I have fired a great deal of high performance ammunition and loaded quite a bit of comparable handloads. This load offers a full powder burn and excellent accuracy. I fired a 2 inch 25 yard group, five shots in a tight group with the 115 grain loading. Importantly in institutional service similar loads have a very good record.
If recoil is a concern and it certainly can be in lightweight handguns the +P loads are viable. Perhaps +P+ in the SIG P226 and +P in the SIG P365 XMACRO. The 124 grain +P load clocks a solid 1210 fps in the Springfield. The Springfield is a nice shooting gun that handles recoil better than most and I have to admit this load was greeted with ballistic skepticism until I clocked the loading. It didn’t feel that fast! This is an excellent all around choice. If you prefer something a little more fast opening, also using the proven XTP bullet, the 115 grain +P clocks a true 1300 fps in most 9mm guns beginning with the Glock 19. I carry a Shadow Systems MR920 often as it is a very reliable but very light handgun. I clocked the 115 grain +P at 1289 fps in the MR920, versus 1321 in the SIG P210, statistically meaningless.
Next up is the Outdoorsman load. This isn’t a load for home defense or general purpose concealed carry use. Like the other calibers offered in the Oudoorsman genre the 9mm Outdoorsman uses a hard cast bullet. Hard cast bullets are NOT lead bullets. They are a mix of material including tin and antimony. The 147 grain loading breaks just under 1100 fps in the Springfield. This is a powerful loading but in firing this heavyweight loading reoil was lightest of the bunch- perhaps partly due to the Springfield’s recoil spring design. There was some smoke as is expected with hard cast bullets and bullet lube. Buffalo Bore has a video posted of a real outdoorsman using the Outdoorsman load in 9mm to kill a dangerous bear. You know I carry a .357 Magnum with 180 grain Buffalo Bore loads when hiking. (1334 fps) But if you only own a 9mm- and there are only small bears in my area, big cats and feral dogs are more likely- this deep penetrating load is a good option. I tried to test penetration and ran out of water jugs at 42 inches penetration more than twice the penetration of a 124 grain JHP.
Buffalo Bore offers a 124 grain penetrator load at 1300 fps. I think I would prefer the 147 grain load for animal defense. I have not tested the 124 rain Penetrator so I must not comment save to note it is available.
I have never cared for the 9mm 147 grain hollow point for personal defense. These loads are very accurate and make a great choice for long range accuracy. They have given poor results in personal defense. Too little expansion and too much penetration. If a load short cycles it is most often a 9mm 147 grain loading. Most clock 880 to 990 fps. But they have not been given the Buffalo Bore treatment. Buffalo Bore offers a +P+ loading that jolts a 147 grain XTP to a solid 1140 fps in the Springfield. If you live in a true four season climate and your adversary may be heavily bundled in winter clothing or likely behind cover this is an outstanding loading. Accuracy was superb with the SIG P210 turning in a 2.0 inch 25 yard group.
Lightweight loads in 9mm have usually failed to offer adequate penetration. Some of the JSP types intended for use in agencies in which hollow points were politically incorrect failed to expand. Barnes Bullets and their TAC bullets changed this. The bullet is solid one piece copper. The nose is scalloped and these cuts cause the softer nose to peel back and expand. The solid base insures expansion. At 1500 fps the Buffalo Bore 95 grain load is a speedy loading. Penetration is in line with most 115 grain loads while expansion is excellent. I need to explore this performance a bit more but at present it seems a very good loading. Feed, function, and accuracy are good. Recoil is the lightest of any of the loads tested. There loads offer the best performance available in America’s most popular caliber. Practice with generic loads but proof you gun with Buffalo Bore and carry these loads in harm’s way.