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Old 06-12-2018, 03:02 PM
ec fan ec fan is offline
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Default Need education on 9mm bullet weights for short barrels

Hi,
I've always been a revolver (.38 Spl) girl, but recently I'm trying to develop a love for the auto loaders. I'm not a frequent shooter, just occasionally over many decades. Retired female, small hands.

I have two S&W auto loaders--the original version M&P 9C and the Shield 9mm 2.0. I really like both of these guns, although the Shield's slimmer grip seems to fit my small hands a little better. I haven't changed the 9C's backstrap, though.

I've tried to find the answers to my questions on my own, but the info I've found is often contradictory, so here I am asking in this thread.

Please help me understand the pros and cons of lighter and heavier for-caliber bullets. So far I've only shot 115 and 124 gr. FMJ (Lawman and American Eagle), and 124 gr. JHP (Federal HST, but will try GD too). I don't really recall if I could tell much difference--they all seem to want to jump out of my hands, but so far, I haven't let them. Therefore, I'll stick with standard pressure.

Both these guns have shorter barrels, 3.5" and 3.1", IIRC. I have mostly 124's but recently ordered some 147's, although I've not had a chance to shoot them yet.

What weight (especially for HST or GD) in standard pressure do all of you like in these sub-compacts for a defense round?

Also can you explain how being "subsonic" (147's?) affects performance? I take subsonic to mean slower than the speed of sound, but I don't understand the significance of that in a round. And aren't most rounds going to be below the speed of sound in the very short barrels? Idk.

This may be splitting hairs, but I'm a nerd at heart and just like to understand reasons for preferences, and of course I want to choose the best option. I know I need to shoot all of these, but I still want your thoughts and advice.

Also, I read conflicting info on whether heavier bullets produce greater or lighter recoil. Which is it for the 9mm's?

Bottom line, what weights do y'all like for the 9c (first version) and the Shield 2.0 in 9 mm for defensive ammo? And why, if you don't mind. Any other thoughts and advice are also appreciated.

Thanks much!
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Old 06-12-2018, 03:53 PM
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Default At last, a fellow nerd.....

Quote:
Originally Posted by ec fan View Post
Hi,
I've always been a revolver (.38 Spl) girl, but recently I'm trying to develop a love for the auto loaders. I'm not a frequent shooter, just occasionally over many decades. Retired female, small hands.

I have two S&W auto loaders--the original version M&P 9C and the Shield 9mm 2.0. I really like both of these guns, although the Shield's slimmer grip seems to fit my small hands a little better. I haven't changed the 9C's backstrap, though.

I've tried to find the answers to my questions on my own, but the info I've found is often contradictory, so here I am asking in this thread.

Please help me understand the pros and cons of lighter and heavier for-caliber bullets. So far I've only shot 115 and 124 gr. FMJ (Lawman and American Eagle), and 124 gr. JHP (Federal HST, but will try GD too). I don't really recall if I could tell much difference--they all seem to want to jump out of my hands, but so far, I haven't let them. Therefore, I'll stick with standard pressure.

Velocity is required for SDr bullets to perform properly, therefore it makes sense that in shorter barrels, lighter bullets can attain the velocity required. However Speer makes 'Short Barrel' ammo that is designed to perform at lower velocities. Due to personal preference, though, I like 124 gr bullets for everything, but I do dabble in 147 grains for accuracy in target loads. If it wants to jump out of your hands, but you can control it, it sounds like you've got it about where it should be.

Both these guns have shorter barrels, 3.5" and 3.1", IIRC. I have mostly 124's but recently ordered some 147's, although I've not had a chance to shoot them yet.

For some reason, I just don't care for 115 gr. bullets myself. Like I said above, a 147 gr. bullet with a light charge of Accurate #7 gets great accuracy and repeatability for me.

What weight (especially for HST or GD) in standard pressure do all of you like in these sub-compacts for a defense round?

I lean toward 124 gr.in any configuration and Gold Dot short barrel bullets are 124 gr. in 9mm, 135 gr in .38

Also can you explain how being "subsonic" (147's?) affects performance? I take subsonic to mean slower than the speed of sound, but I don't understand the significance of that in a round. And aren't most rounds going to be below the speed of sound in the very short barrels? Idk.

If you shoot with a suppressor, subsonic ammo has less of a sonic 'crack'. Many subsonic 9mm rounds are 147 gr. to maintain effectiveness at a lower velocity by providing deeper penetration

This may be splitting hairs, but I'm a nerd at heart and just like to understand reasons for preferences, and of course I want to choose the best option. I know I need to shoot all of these, but I still want your thoughts and advice.

Also, I read conflicting info on whether heavier bullets produce greater or lighter recoil. Which is it for the 9mm's?

PERCEIVED recoil is most important. From your description of 'almost jumps out of your hand', it sounds like you are on the edge of where you ought to be. Practice may improve your ability to take recoil and still provide fast follow up shots, but let your ammo choice reflect your capabilities in this department. In spite of physics forumlas, light fast or heavy slow is about a trade off. Just make sure you can shoot the ammo you carry.

Bottom line, what weights do y'all like for the 9c (first version) and the Shield 2.0 in 9 mm for defensive ammo? And why, if you don't mind. Any other thoughts and advice are also appreciated.



Thanks much!
Like I said before, 124 grains seems ideal to me for a defense round in 9mm. I find the Shield to be comfortable to shoot in spite of its slimness.

The armed forces version of a 9mm uses a 115 gr FMJ Round nose bullets, which pretty much poke holes through the enemy without expanding, Using what the military uses isn't the same thing at all for civilian SD purposes.

And you will get contradiction because differences in personal preferences and 'philosophies' are different between people. An example of a 'philosphy' is that some people believe the light, fast bullet that expands is best or the heavy slug that penetrates. I'm in the middle. I think a medium weight bullet at a decent velocity will get expansion and penetration. Some of these trade-offs don't matter as much as having the right gun and round that you can shoot effectively and repeatably. Being able to hit a vital area is vital.

PS: I favor Federal HSTs, Speer Gold Dots, Remington Golden Saber and any of the well known brands that are proven dependable. I see no use in spending $$$s for 'boutique' ammo when the common brands are so good.
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Last edited by rwsmith; 06-12-2018 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 06-12-2018, 04:09 PM
robertrwalsh robertrwalsh is offline
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I agree with Smith above. Lighter bullet will tend to give more penetration. Heavier bullet will tend to give less penetration. Light weight military ball will tend to give overpenetration hazard, though not quite so much with the short barrel CCW guns. Find what you like, what your gun likes and will run reliably with and go with it. Avoid military ball in 9mm (IMHO) for serious self defense due to penetration issues.
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Old 06-12-2018, 04:15 PM
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Default By the way....

Light bullets out of 9mm short barrels easily exceed the speed of sound.
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Old 06-12-2018, 05:13 PM
WR Moore WR Moore is offline
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Tackling the subsonic question first. Back in the early days of expanding bullets, it was pretty much fact that the bullets had to be at least close to supersonic (~1170 f/s) to expand. That sort of translated to 1000 f/s. Bullet designs improved, reliable expansion is now possible below 1000 f/s. [The 9 mm always had a slight advantage as it operated in a fairly narrow velocity range, so the bullets could be tailored to work in that range.]

Always preferring full size versions, I've no clue as to actual velocities out of the short barrels you mention. However, you have to realize that published velocities and actual velocities vary, sometimes surprisingly. Some of the cheaper, promotional ammo lines (Winchester white box for example) may vary quite a bit.

Perceived recoil is very subjective. I would suggest that in the small pistols you own you stick to standard pressure loads. With that out of the way, heavier bullets that accelerate more slowly may produce what you feel is less recoil. The 147 grain bullet is the best example of this (Yes, it had it's birth in the military need to reduce velocity for use in suppressor/silencer equipped submachine guns.). The 115 gr bullet may feel snappy to you. The 124 gr bullet is pretty much the military standard (Sorry, RW). All I can suggest is that you experiment and see what you shoot best. Bullet design has progressed to the point where any weight of quality bullet will reliably expand. Nothing at all wrong with the 124 grain bullets you have on hand. I'm personally not a fan of the 147 gr bullet, but that's just my opinion/prejudice.

These days pretty much any product of the major manufacturers [Black Hills,CCI, Federal, Hornaday (too concerned with penetration to my tastes), Remington, Speer and Winchester (I don't buy Winchester due to past QC issues)] will all work well so far as terminal ballistics go. If you're value shopping, the Remington High Terminal Performance line will feed in any pistol that will feed ball ammunition and at least try to expand. BTW, Streicher Police Supply sells 50 round boxes of quality ammo at prices near that of the smaller boxes. Speer Gold Dot and Federal HST are good choices. There are other internet sources too.

As noted above, the most important part of the equation is where you put the bullet. Practice, practice, practice.

Last edited by WR Moore; 06-12-2018 at 05:23 PM.
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Old 06-12-2018, 05:27 PM
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your defense loads.... I did a lot of experimenting this one heres what I know, I like 124gr+p gold dots or 147 standard pressure fed hst. the 147 gave great expansion and between 13 and 14 inches penetration. in the 124+p I felt the gold dot did the better and was very consistent. I think any of these loads would be great in the 3.5in barrel and the 147 in the shield just because they were a little softer shooting. good luck with your choice.
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Old 06-12-2018, 05:28 PM
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Default We are both wrong....uh...right...

From wiki...

Its official nomenclature among NATO members is "9 mm NATO".[7] Standard bullet weight is 7.0 grams (108 gr) to 8.3 grams (128 gr)..


It's interesting to ask then, why not 147 gr.?
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Old 06-12-2018, 07:02 PM
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I like big, slow moving jacketed hollow points.
147gr for me.

I'm fixin to tell you about some backyard range testing that is as unscientific as it gets.

Living here in The Texas Hill Country, I have no shortage of limestone rocks. I like to pile them up on a cedar stump and plink at them from 25yrds (or so) away.

A .45 230gr hardball round will disintegrate a limestone rock the size of a softball upon impact. Dropping down to 9mm I find that I can most closely approximate this spectacular show of flying dust and debris with 147gr hollow points.

I don't know how all of this would equate to felt recoil as I'm using a 5" 1911 and a 5" Beretta 92fs. Heavy guns with long barrels.

It's my storybook inspired unscientific belief that heavy bullets have more knock down power.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
I have been threatening to mix up some ballistics jell but always end up making Jello Shots in mid-stream.
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Old 06-12-2018, 07:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rwsmith View Post
From wiki...

Its official nomenclature among NATO members is "9 mm NATO".[7] Standard bullet weight is 7.0 grams (108 gr) to 8.3 grams (128 gr)..


It's interesting to ask then, why not 147 gr.?
Because they wrote the spec Lord knows when and published it in the STANAG document 4090 in 1959 and they emphasize the ability to penetrate helmets & body armor (of the day). That type of penetration requires projectile integrity and velocity. While you might get integrity from a 147, you're not gonna get velocity.

They haven't updated the spec because the handgun is rawther (intentional spelling) irrelevant in the big picture. Besides, special ammo for special purposes isn't forbidden, the end users just have to figure out their own supply problems.

FN developed the 5.7 mm round to penetrate the armor of today and it hasn't been a rousing success in the open market. It has allegedly seen adoption by some specialized military and police units, but they also have to figure out their supply situation on their own.

Last edited by WR Moore; 06-12-2018 at 07:35 PM.
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Old 06-12-2018, 07:27 PM
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I like 147 grain
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Old 06-12-2018, 07:42 PM
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For range use, it doesn't matter. Experiment with different rounds/weights and see what shoots best in your gun.

For self defense, my personal preference is for medium-to-heavy bullet weights for caliber. In 9mm, I would consider that to be in the 124-147gr range. I keep my Beretta 92FS loaded with 147gr HST, as it's established a good track record in actual shootings. I would have no problem carrying it in a compact or subcompact.

I would suggest Googling Dr. Roberts' ammo recommendations. I would be ok with just about anything he recommends, though I do have a preference for HST or Gold Dots.

As far as bullet weights, generally speaking, the heavier JHP will penetrate deeper because the increased mass retains their energy/momentum. Lighter bullets, because of their higher velocity, will usually expand faster and penetrate less. After shot placement, penetration is generally considered the most important part of effectiveness. The good thing about JHP in the medium-to-heavy weight range is that they tend to exhibit a good balance between expansion and adequate penetration.

FYI, there's a guy on YouTube who did some good gel tests of 9mm ammo in subcompacts. I think his channel was called, "ShootingtheBull," or something like that (sorry, it's been a while since I've seen it). While I prefer loads with an established "street record," gel tests can be informative.
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Old 06-12-2018, 07:50 PM
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Here is a good site for comparing ballistics and results of various rounds.


https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/sel...llistic-tests/



My wife carries Federal 124 grain standard pressure HST rounds in a gun with a 3" barrel. She quit carrying a light weight 38 after forty years due to recoil pain in her hand. Now she carries a Kahr 9mm.


I too went from a heavy revolver to an automatic pistol and use Federal 230 grain HSTs.

They are awesome.
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Old 06-12-2018, 09:11 PM
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I prefer Winchester PDX-1 124gr in my G43.

Highly effective in my unscientific testing (gallon jugs full of water) and highly manageable in that tiny pistol.
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Old 06-12-2018, 11:09 PM
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When I carry a nine (don't since I got my Shield45), I carry 124 grain Gold Dots. I carry 230 grain Gold Dots in my .45. Both have shorter barrels. I'm plenty comfortable with that!
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Old 06-13-2018, 12:00 PM
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A true Sub-Sonic load is hard to find, since the ammo makers want
their bullets to clear your barrel and also work the action for the next shot.

Usually 1090fps is bare bones with most ammo sold to shooters
with the lighter bullets close to 1200fps or even more.

I choose any "Standard" 9mm ammo for target use and the Ball ammo
like the 115gr FMJ is one of the top sellers for the 9mm target use do to light recoil and it works in most pistols.
The 124 FMJ has a little more recoil but in a standard load is manageable.

For those of use that have tried the heavy 147gr standard target ammo
most of us have found it pleasant in a 3 or 3.5" pistol and in
my case very accurate. Even better with reloading ......

Lawman does around 877fps but when loaded, the heavy bullet
at 1.14" for me can get down to a nice soft 822fps.

I saw where Federal had a 125 JHP S/S loading that was said to run
around 1030fps.
I just have not found it as yet.

Have fun.
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Old 06-15-2018, 10:21 PM
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You will have a hard time going wrong in terms of how well the bullets work. Bullet design has changed so much over the past few decades that nearly every major brand bullet in every weight is going to work pretty darn well. Boring answer, I know. But it's just a fact. The FBI and most LEO agencies have gone BACK to the 9mm just because bullet design these days is so good.

But that doesn't mean that there isn't a right answer, it's just an answer you can't find without going to the range.

So the right round for SD is
A) whatever feeds best in your guns.
followed by
B) whatever shoots closest to point of aim. Different bullet weights especially in smaller guns will often hit to very different heights. The heavier bullets usually hit higher, maybe much higher. The lighter bullets tend to hit lower. Maybe much lower. For me, hitting a little high is fine, hitting a little low (below the front sight) is a little more problematic.

To really make sure that bullet XYZ feeds in your gun, I suggest you run the guns one handed, limp wristing them a bit (which is most challenging condition for the gun) and make sure they still feed. Full size guns tend to run nearly everything, in all conditions, but compact guns generally will show some preference. I've found that Gold Dots sometimes feed a bit worse than HST's in my compact guns. Other people might find the opposite.

Either way...you just gotta get to the range with all your ammo!

Final note, speaking generally I've found that 147's are noticeably more accurate in most of my 9mm's (longer bearing surface) so that's what I run, but I like to mess around and thwack the 100 yard steel plate when i get bored, at least with my full size pistols. It's much easier to do that with the 147's. But at 10-20 yards, there isn't much difference.

Last edited by atx357; 06-15-2018 at 10:22 PM.
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Old 06-21-2018, 10:59 PM
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Well no need for me to say what everyone else here already said. So I'll just tell you what I use as my EDC round.
I use Sig V-Crown 115gr or Hornady Critical Defense 115gr in my EDC shield.
Shot placement and reliable ammo go without saying.
The cost is reasonable and Cabela's near me carry both. Every couple months I fire what I have been carrying and replace it with new ammo.

Last edited by dan323; 06-21-2018 at 11:12 PM.
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Old 07-07-2018, 08:43 PM
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I carry a 9c with 147gr HST. At the range I shoot 115-147gr fmj and jhp. I can definitely feel the heavier recoil of the 147gr in the small 9c. So many varying opinions, but Federal HST 124 and 147 seem to be very popular and very dependable rounds. And they feed and eject in all my pistols without a hitch.

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