View Full Version : Use of Expanding Bullets in Small Defensive Cartridges

09-02-2012, 11:24 AM
I asked a similar question in the C&R section, but I think maybe this is a better place for it. Specifically, I'm researching 9mm Mak ammo options for self defense. I've looked into options from Corbon, Hornady, and Buffalo Bore. I've narrowed down the contenders to (in no particular order)

Hornady Critical Defense 95gr FTX: http://www.hornady.com/store/9-x-18mm-Makarov-95-gr-Critical-Defense/

Buffalo Bore +P 95gr JHP: https://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=233

Buffalo Bore +P 115gr hard cast flat nose: https://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=220

While considering these options, I read this on BB's site: Use of Expanding Bullets in Small Defensive Cartridges (https://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_list&c=60). IMHO, he makes some really good points.

So what do you think? What have you decided when choosing HCFNs over JHP? I'm starting to think that JHPs would be a good choice for the nightstand (best chance at not blast thru a wall and into my neighbor's house), and HCFNs would be a good choice for in the campsite (no walls to worry about). What do you think? Why?

Or maybe the FTX is the better than both the other two, and can handle both nightstand and campsite duties? Does it accomplish both goals?


PS: Please don't turn this into a caliber debate. I'm strictly interested in the thoughts of those who have decided a "small caliber" is the right choice for them, and why they've chosen to use expanding bullets or not. I really don't want to see this degenerate into a debate about the use of small calibers for SD instead of larger calibers, so please don't go there.

09-02-2012, 11:43 AM
On something over 100 defensive loads in everything from .22LR to .45 Colt.
There was no data for the 9Mak. The author's criteria for an effective self defense load was 1000 fps, 13" of penetration in Ballistic Gelatin, and expansion to 1.5X diameter.

None of the .380 ACP loads met these standards. While many consider the 9mak about halfway between the .380 and 9mm Luger it relies on the same bullet as the .380 ACP.
I think, in terms of performance, it would be closer to the Mak than the Luger.

Hardcast ammo will give you penetration at expense of no expansion and ought to give pause to any type of self defense shoot.
If your concern is large predators like bear then it might be worth considering.

09-02-2012, 8:40 PM
The author's criteria for an effective self defense load was 1000 fps, 13" of penetration in Ballistic Gelatin, and expansion to 1.5X diameter.I liked the article, but I wish the 1,000 fps wasn't a criteria. It's arbitrary and meaningless. Who cares how fast the bullet is going if it penetrates a certain amount and does a sufficient amount of damage on its route?

At any rate... for some of these "sub" calibers I'd take a fair bit of convincing to carry hollow points. I'm not confident that, with the light bullet weight and the lower velocities, they will actually be able to penetrate if they expand. I think I would be more comfortable with solid bullets that I know will get the necessary penetration.

Heck, stagger them in your magazine. It seems like only weirdos do this or, for whatever reasons, "experts" think it's stupid, but as long as your gun has been proven to cycle various loads, it'll cycle those loads whether the whole mag is full of just one load or the mag is mixed with all of them. You may find that the recoil impulse is different depending on bullet weight and powder charge, but if that bothers you there are probably JHP and solid loads that feel identical when shooting. Load the first few JHP and the rest solid. Mix 'em one, the other, one, the other, etc. Whatever you want for what you feel is the most likely use scenario :cool2:

John Browning
09-02-2012, 11:10 PM
There is not a 9mm Mak that I'd trust to eat anything but FMJ, and the cartridge really is not capable of reliable expansion anyway. FMJ ball rounds are the way to go.

09-02-2012, 11:57 PM
Read this:


It is very interesting and informative.

I use Cor-Bon JHP .380's in my GF's Bersa. It feeds reliably and I am comfortable with the 1000+ fps expansion rule of thumb.

09-03-2012, 4:04 AM
Just my 2 cents. It doesn't much matter.

What are the odds someone will invade your home? Really, really small.

The odds of you *ever* firing a shot defensively are tiny. If you do, the odds of you missing, and a bullet over penetrating and actually hitting someone are even smaller. How many times have you heard of this happening? The press would be hysterical over it.

The odds of a bullet from a Mak going through someone, through a wall, and hitting someone are even smaller yet.

This is like worrying about an asteroid hitting you in the head. Lifes too short. Use a round that feeds reliably and call it a night. This ammo has been disabling people for a long time, it'll work for you.

If it doesn't, I'll buy you a box of hollow points. :)

09-03-2012, 6:21 AM
Any thoughts on the FTX stuff from Hornady? Best of both worlds or snake oil in sub calibers?

09-03-2012, 6:38 AM
Any thoughts on the FTX stuff from Hornady? Best of both worlds or snake oil in sub calibers?

It seems all right, IMO. There isn't a whole lot to choose from. I would suggest Cor-Bon but they don't make a 9x18 mak round.


Sir Stunna Lot
09-03-2012, 10:24 PM
from what i've seen, its hard to find good expanding rounds for small caliber (like 9x18 in my case). the trend is that they dont expand well due to clogging of the hollow cavity from going through clothes. Hornady seems to have found a solution for this with their FTX. I personally carry Hornady's on all my carry guns, i believe in their product.

09-04-2012, 2:47 PM
Exempting the 22lr, the smallest defensive caliber I have is the .380. I use FMJs as I want the added penetration. Don't listen to those who are worried about over-penetration in a handgun bullet for self defense. You want penetration and in the smaller calibers penetration is hard to get. The FMJ will at times penetrate deeper. Remember, some hollow points in these sub-caliber really don't expand at all. Function is the other reason for the FMJ. So test in your gun.

09-04-2012, 3:35 PM
Adequate penetration is the most important factor in terminal ballistics. I have yet to see a JHP in any caliber less than 9mm that penetrates sufficiently (except .38 spl. but it's debatable whether that is a lesser caliber than 9mm). I would use nothing but FMJ in any of those calibers. Of course I wouldn't use any of those calibers for defense anyway...

09-05-2012, 6:16 AM
You have to check to see if HP cycle through your gun.The old military firearms prefer FMJ.If it shoots ok with HP [200 RD TEST] I would stagger HP and FMJ.