The Browning Hi Power and 147-gr. Ammunition


Heavy for caliber, this load is frequently used by 9mm fans for self-protection by choice or mandated by certain law enforcement agencies.  While I am not an ardent fan of this weight bullet in this particular caliber, I'm no longer quite as adamantly opposed to it as in years past.


This deviation from the more popular and traditional JHP's of both lighter weight and higher velocities began after the Miami Fiasco in which some federal officers were killed by two determined felons who shot it out with them.  One continued to fight for several minutes after taking what would be described as a "non-survivable" wound. A Winchester 115-gr. STHP has punched one arm on the shooter before entering his torso from the side.  A major vessel was severed, but the expanded bullet failed to penetrate to the heart. There has been considerable debate on whether or not it would have made any difference.  Not being a pathologist, I don't know.  Whether the 9mm Silvertip was a scapegoat for poor tactics is not really an issue in that many do use this round now.


I find it interesting that we seem to have come full circle from the early days of Super Vel 90-gr. JHP's at high speed being just the thing for "stopping power". Next came more traditional 9mm bullet weights at either standard or higher velocities.  Now, the cat's 9mm meow seems to be a typical .38 Special-weight bullet at approximately 38 +P velocity.


At the same time, folks seem to be concerned with "over-penetration".  Gets confusing, sometimes.


For quite some time I've argued against the "heavy bullet" approach to 9mm "stopping power" and I remain unconvinced that it's the "best" solution.  That said, recent testing has show me that these loads do tend to expand and do provide plenty of penetration from probably any angle that one would have occasion to shoot a violent felon.


Let's take a look at a few of the 147-gr. 9mm loads as fired from a Browning Hi Power.


9mm 147-gr. JHP Chronograph Information:



Average Velocity


Extreme Spread


Standard Deviation


Win RA97 147-gr. SXT




Remington 147-gr. GS




Speer 147-gr. Gold Dot




Win 147-gr. STHP





For comparison, consider the .38 Special +P+ load shown below.  It was fired from a 4" S&W Model 10.


Federal 147-gr. +P+ Hydrashok had an average velocity of 917 ft/sec.  Not quite a warm as the 9mm's in the same weight, but in the same general area.


From the Hi Power, all of these loads grouped well.  All of them functioned flawlessly.  Certainly, I cannot speak to reliability in all 9mm pistols, but these ran 100% in two separate Mk III pistols.


From this lightly modified 9mm Mk III Hi Power, 5-shots were fired at center mass from 15 yards and five were fired into the head area.  Function was perfect, recoil insignificant, and accuracy was satisfactory. The ammunition used was Winchester Law Enforcement 147-gr. Ranger SXT. Winchester designates this ammunition as "RA9T."  It is a standard pressure load.


This 147-gr. Ranger SXT was fired into water at an average velocity of 980 ft/sec. The recovered bullet weighed 146.3 grains.  It expanded to 0.67 x 0.63 x 0.45" in height.


The Winchester 147-gr. Ranger SXT fed easily and without fail from the factory Hi Power 13-round magazine.  It's my opinion that loading with such ammunition gives you a "high-capacity 38". That may or may not be a good thing depending upon your point of view.


This 147-gr. Speer Gold Dot expanded well over a half-inch in diameter and lost but 2-gr. of bullet weight.


Remington 147-gr. Golden Saber worked well from the Hi Power as can be seen. The recovered bullet on the left was fired into super-saturated newsprint.  The one at the right was fired into water.  Results are quite similar.


This 50-yard group was fired using a Browning Mk III and Winchester 147-gr. Silvertips. I threw one into the 8-ring at the upper left. The rest would represent fairly solid torso hits. I do believe that 9mm ammo in this weight-range is capable of very good accuracy. Indeed, before the call for "subsonic" rounds for "stopping power", such loads were being developed for increased accuracy at distance when fired from the HK MP-5 submachine gun. It was held in high esteem by military counter-terrorist units at the time.


In this picture, we do see a slightly tighter group with the 147-gr. ammunition than with the more traditional 115-gr. +P from Remington.  At this range, would it make any practical difference?  Probably not. The advantage to the heavier bullet is better accuracy at longer distances.


This 147-gr. STHP was fired into super-saturated newsprint.  When fired into water, results were quite similar. It measured 0.64 x 0.61 x 0.42" tall and retained a weight of 145-gr.


Those who seriously test bullet performance seem to pretty much favor the Winchester Ranger law enforcement load in this bullet weight and cite that it is consistent in expansion characteristics when fired into bare or denim-covered 10% gelatin. It is said to penetrate between about 12 and 14", depending upon whose tests are read.  Sometimes, a bit more penetration is reported.


Below is a photograph of Winchester's 147-gr. Ranger SXT (RA9T) compared to its 127-gr. +P+ counterpart.


On the left is the 147-gr. expanded bullet. Its recovered dimensions and weights were listed previously.  The 127-gr. SXT on the right was also fired from a Hi Power. It expanded a little more uniformly with very, very similar dimensions. The recovered bullet weighed 116.3 grains. It impacted at 1269 ft/sec vs. just under a thousand feet per second for the heavier SXT.


In 9mm, I'll continue to use the faster 115 to 127-gr. expanding bullets, but whether by choice or order, others will use the heavier bullets.  Were I going this route, my choices would be in this order:


Winchester 147-gr. RA9T

Remington 147-gr. Golden Saber

Speer 147-gr. Gold Dot


I think they offer similar levels of performance, but the Winchester probably is the more consistent performer under varied conditions.  I'm not sure how well these rounds perform if fired from the shorter barrel compact 9mm pistols so prevalent these days.  This is something folks considering such loads might think long and hard on before doing if using the hideout-size 9mm pistols. If the velocity drops below the load's operating velocity envelope, expansion will not occur and you essentially have a ball round. I have not done any work with the short 9mm's and this weight bullet so I flat cannot offer any first-hand suggestions.


These 147-gr. rounds are all standard pressure, something quite a few Hi Power owners favor. In other places on this site, I've mentioned my choices for standard velocity/standard pressure 9mm defense loads so I won't repeat it here.


Whether opting for one of these cartridges or one of a different weight, be absolutely sure that function is utterly reliable before depending upon it.  Be sure that you can get the hits.  Regardless of bullet weight or velocity, placement remains the primary determinant in "stopping power"…and not just in 9mm.




 Home Browning Hi Power Other Handguns Products FAQs