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8,029 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Posted May 4, 2006, with Updates Sept. 20, 2007:

I ventured into hollow point terminal ballistics testing using wetpacks - 2 tests with soaked newspapers and one test with soaked paper towels.

These are backyard tests! I tried hard to at least be consistent, but I don't claim that these results replace laboratory testing. I hope to generate some discussion and I welcome critique on the procedure and results. The effort was fun, informative, and did keep me sober for several days.

Wetpack tests are most usefull when comparing how ammunition performs in relation to other ammunition in the media. In other words, these types of tests won't tell you how directly ammunition will perform under more realistic conditions. But, I argue that testing with ballistic gelatin may not do that either.

My results don't correlate all that well with other previous 9x18 wetpack tests:

And the results don't correlate that well with gelatin testing:

Stephen Camp has provided excellent data on testing of the 9x18 round and I followed his recipie for creating wetpack. See his sticky on this forum ( and check out his website (

First Test

First I took 16 rolls of paper towels apart, tied the pile with string, then soaked them for 18 hours. That made a 12 1/2" high stack. Then I did the same with an 11 1/2" stack of newspaper. All bullets expanded.

Results (Brand, penetration)
(All bullets are Hollow Point):

Paper towels

PowR'Ball 70-grain: 6 1/2"
Hornady 95-grain: 8 1/2"
Brown Bear 115-grain: 7"
Barnaul 95-grain: 6 3/4"
RAM 95-grain: 6"
Cor-Bon 95-grain: 8", fragmented into 4 pieces


PowR'Ball 70-grain: 4 1/2"
Hornady 95-grain: 4 3/4"
Brown Bear 115-grain: 6"
Barnaul 95-grain: 4 3/4", fragmented into 2 pieces
RAM 95-grain: 4 1/2"
Cor-Bon 95-grain: 5 1/4", fragmented into 2 pieces

Newspaper covered by 2 layers of military-issue wool blanket

PowR'Ball 70-grain: 5 1/2"
Hornady 95-grain: 6"
Brown Bear 115-grain: 6 3/4"
Barnaul 95-grain: 5 1/2"

Here's what they looked like according to my old camera:

I shot one round of Sellier & Bellot (FMJ) into the 11 1/2" pile of newspaper and it penetrated the whole stack; coming to rest on a board at the bottom. The bullet just stopped there and showed no deformation.

Second Test

Then I soaked a 14"-high bundle of tied newspaper for some tests through denim. Not all bullets expanded.

Newspaper, through 2-layers denim:

PowR'Ball 70-grain: 4 1/4"
Hornady 95-grain: 7 1/4", only slight expansion
Brown Bear 115-grain: 10 1/2", no expansion
Barnaul 95-grain: 4 1/2"; fragmented into 5 pieces
RAM 95-grain: 3 3/4"
Cor-Bon 95-grain: 4 3/4"
CCI GDHP 90-grain: 4 1/4"
Tiger 95-grain: 3 1/2"
Silver Bear 115-grain: 5 1/4"
Fiocchi 90-grain: 8 1/2 inches, no expansion
Federal Hi-Shok 90-grain: 4 3/4"
Wolf 120-grain: 10 3/4", no expansion

Newspaper, through 4-layers denim:

PowR'Ball 70-grain: 3 3/4"
Hornady 95-grain: 8", no expansion
RAM 95-grain: 4 1/2"
Brown Bear 115-grain, 9 1/2", no expansion

If and when more hollow points are available, I think the next test would be to test 3 or 5 of each variety to get more representation.

(That last comment was written before Silver Bear came out with their current 94-grain FMJ)

8,029 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
There were a lot of comments to the tests, most were appreciative in nature. Here are some comments from Stephen Camp:

Posted - 05/06/2006 : 10:47:37 AM'pop_mail.asp?id=1166')

Hello. I appreciate your efforts and hope that we can all benefit from them to one degree or another. I cannot say why (yet) it remains difficult to come up with a factor that would correlate penetration in supersaturated newsprint to water to 10% ballistic gelatin. Who knows, perhaps newsprint is not as consistent as we might think? I don't know this, but also don't know of any "consistency tests" on it, either. I am well satisfied that "wetpack" limits penetration from what really happens in tissue, but do believe that expansion results are not all that different when only tissue is struck.

Posted - 05/06/2006 : 10:47:37 AM'pop_mail.asp?id=1166')

Hello. It appears that the XTP as made for 9x18mm Makarov does expand more than for other calibers. I guess this could be because the round is used only in the Makarov where the 90-gr. bullets for .380 can also be shot in 9x19mm, 38 Super, .357 SIG, etc.

I'd read this same thing from folks who'd shot the Hornady Mak load into gelatin as well as other media.

Posted - 12/20/2006 : 9:32:58 PM'pop_mail.asp?id=1166')

Hello. It strikes me that even the "gold standard" of bullet expansion and penetration testing at best gives a ballpark figure. I am in no way knocking those who go through the rigorous and expensive process of gelatin testing; I would too if I had the controlled temperature environment and money to afford it.

In animals I've shot with various loads and calibers, seemingly identical shots are not and the results are not either. In one instance, the recovered bullet may look like an ad picture for Winchester, Federal, etc, but in another...not so nice. Penetration depths can vary in the same species quite dramatically as well as expansion figures.

The most consistent results I've seen have been from Winchester Ranger JHP's, Corbon's DPX, Speer Gold Dots and Hornady XTP's. The first two do well in the dreaded 4-layers of denim barrier tests, but the XTP's don't do quite so well. The XTP's and the DPX bullets have consistently penetrated deeper than their competitors but this is little surprise as the first is designed not be an aggressive expander and the latter bullet's expansion
characteristics and design are intended for deeper penetration for bullet weight than might normally be expected.

Again, it is my belief that the 9x18mm Makarov XTP does expand a bit more aggressively than other calibers offered in the XTP line.

Were I going to use a 9x18mm pistol for self-protection, I'd probably go with the Hornady. It might not do as well after passing through denim, but it does seem to penetrate as nicely as other expanding rounds and has been both reliable and (surprisingly) accurate in the three Makarov's I've tried it in.

That said, no JHP I've tried penetrates quite as deeply as I'd like to feel secure that if firing from an angle or hitting an intermediate target like an arm I'd still have sufficient penetration to punch vitals. Barnaul JHP's have always expanded nicely for me, usually trying to turn inside out and for a non-obstructed frontal shot, any of the JHP's offered in this caliber are probably fine.

I cannot argue with folks who opt to go with FMJ in this caliber.

In the end, as is true for all defensive handgun calibers in my opinion, placement is essential and probably multiple good hits to more quickly deck a determined opponent who simply will not stop unless physically unable to continue aggression.

The nice thing about the Makarov is that it's a good little pistol, convenient to carry and not prohibitively expensive for folks wanting a carry gun. Though prices for both the pistols and the ammo have risen, it is still a gun that permits lots of practice and proper practice can likely mean more than the "best" bullet, though I am not saying that bullet choice is inconsequential.



North Bender:

Posted - 12/20/2006 : 11:47:58 PM'pop_mail.asp?id=1207')

Thanks for adding more of your thoughtful input to this thread Stephen.

You write: "I cannot argue with folks who opt to go with FMJ in this caliber." I would not argue that point either.

8 Posts
i agree and it verifys to a high probability what i have always believed about available 9x18 ammo for personal protection.

of course all those years of experimenting with rifle loads didn't hurt ;-)

now if i could just get them to make a nosler partition in 95 grain 9x18 hahahahah

715 Posts
thanks for your effort
you did allot of research, i kinda wish you had tested one fmj just for comparison. Anyone who says the mak can't get the job done must not mind having bullets 8 inches deep


8,029 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
ckinser1, I only shot one round of Sellier & Bellot FMJ into the wetpack. I made this note:

"I shot one round of Sellier & Bellot (FMJ) into the 11 1/2" pile of newspaper and it penetrated the whole stack; coming to rest on a board at the bottom. The bullet just stopped there and showed no deformation."

82 Posts
ckinser1, I only shot one round of Sellier & Bellot FMJ into the wetpack. I made this note:

"I shot one round of Sellier & Bellot (FMJ) into the 11 1/2" pile of newspaper and it penetrated the whole stack; coming to rest on a board at the bottom. The bullet just stopped there and showed no deformation."
I've thought for some time now that a new gelatin test may be in order. Various muscle parts and organs have different densities and elasticity. (If anyone has info on this please share)
How about slices of gel with some being harder/less elastic put together like a loaf of bread?
Maybe add a piece of wood to simulate bone?
It could be just me, but that would seem to simulate a body better than a uniform media like the current standard.
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