I did a careful analysis when I made my original duty ammo selections. Recently, I found a firearms test facility expanding the data out there and was pleased to see my selections performing well. Whether you already have cases of ammo or are trying to decide on a first purchase, take a look at these two sites to see what bullets work and which ones don’t.
I started off knowing the older standard of muzzle energy. F=MA. The heavier the bullet and the faster it moves, the more energy it can transfer into the target. Unfortunately, the tradeoff when staying within a particular caliber is that heavier bullets need more powder to gain more speed, but there’s an upper limit of how much force a barrel in that caliber can take. So you tend to see light, fast moving bullets compared against heavy, slow moving bullets. Which is better? Surprisingly, it depends on the manufacturer and it depends on the label.
The latest in ballistic science is finding that muzzle velocity has more effect than muzzle energy on the amount of wound damage. Small rifle bullets may be comparable in caliber to large pistol bullets, leading you to expect a similar sized hole in flesh. But whereas the pistol bullets cause a small hole which can easily close, rifle bullets leave a mess which looks like an explosion of meat. What’s the difference? Velocity. Below a certain threshold, organic tissue will bounce back like a rubber band. Above a certain threshold, it’s like yanking the rubber band so hard it bursts instantly.
In case any readers dislike graphic images, I’ll not post the photos here. For some photos of what various velocities can do to game animals, scroll to the bottom of this article: “Effective Game Killing“.
Here are the data tables I used for my original selections. Go to Ballistics 101 and pick your caliber from the various drop-down menus.
In each table you’ll see the brand, type, grain, muzzle energy, and muzzle velocity. They highlight the highest muzzle energy for each brand, but you might desire more muzzle velocity for more destructive wounding potential.
You might also consider that the speed of sound is about 1125 ft/sec, so if your muzzle velocity is under that, then suppressed fire will lack the sonic crack as well.
What you choose depends on three different preferences. Do you want high muzzle energy, or high muzzle velocity, or sub-sonic velocity? Maybe you’ll opt for a tradeoff between the factors depending on your scenario of concern.
The new data I found is that Lucky Gunner is testing every type and brand of ammo on ballistic gel get an idea of how much damage the bullets might really do.
Putting it in a car analogy, the first data link is like a list of calculated horsepower and torque for various sport cars. The second data link is like a test of how well the vehicle transfers HP from the engine to the road on a track. Who cares if you have the theoretical best when it performs miserably in the field?
The gel testing can also give you good ideas for caliber considerations as well. Some of the smaller calibers won’t do much beyond make threats (which is good enough deterrent if it saves your life).
The Lucky Gunner data is still being generated, so check back often for updates.
So, if you’re new to the world of firearms, here’s a wealth of data at your fingertips for comparison, so you can decide what brand and type best meets your needs.
If you’ve been buying for a while, check out Ballistics 101 to see if your favorite round is truly the best at what you selected it for, and then check the Lucky Gunner data to see if it performs as advertised. You may be surprised.
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