9mm Hi Power and Winchester 127-grain +P+ JHP
Most serious students of "stopping power" opine that the most potent load for the 9mm under a variety of situations is either Winchester's 127-gr. +P+ Ranger JHP or their standard pressure 147-gr. Ranger load. I prefer the former as I personally think that velocity is more important than some folks do. Both of these rounds are "restricted" by Winchester for law enforcement sales only. There is no federal law against private citizens using it, but it is possible that some states prohibit its use by non-law enforcement folks.
For these reasons, many people seek out this ammunition with a fervor…and my layman-like testing indicates that it is very good. It probably is the ne plus ultra of high-performance 9mm loads.
Winchester's Ranger line of law enforcement ammunition in .380, 9mm, and .45 ACP is probably the ultimate currently available high-performance ammunition. The expanded 127-grain 9mm bullet shown next to the loaded cartridge was fired into water. It achieves this type of performance through barriers as well and this is why it seems to be a most desired round. Note also the "hooks" due to the reverse taper jacket. The overblown "liberal" reaction to these hooks that "rip your guts out" by the liberals is why Winchester took their original "Black Talon" ammo off the public market. During the Clinton years when Black Talon was introduced, there was a very real effort to ban all JHP ammunition and Winchester voluntarily removed their "offending" Black Talon to avoid this possibility.
Another reason that this load is popular is that it works well from shorter barrel 9mm pistols like the Glock 26. There's only 23 ft/sec less velocity from the round fired in a Glock than the longer barreled Hi Power.
Based on 10-shot averages, I obtained the following chronograph data with this ammunition:
Fired from the Browning Mk III with the factory bbl, the Winchester 127-gr. +P+ JHP (RA9TA) averaged 1269 ft/se. Extreme spread was only 31 ft/sec with a standard deviation of 11 ft/sec.
From the Glock 26, it averaged 1246 ft/sec. It had an extreme spread of 33 ft/sec and a standard deviation of 13 ft/sec. Expansion was essentially the same as from the Hi Power.
It is my belief that if you plan to shoot +P+ ammunition in the Hi Power that you are best served by going to a Wolff conventional 18.5-lb recoil spring and I also use a buffer. At least use the 18.5-lb spring if you plan to shoot much of this ammunition.
The Winchester RA9TA groups well from the Browning Mk III. It's grouped very well in several other 9mm pistols that I've tried it in as well. Accuracy potential is not a problem with this load.
A Browning Hi Power loaded with this ammunition is probably about as good as you can get in terms of "stopping power." The question is, "Is it THAT much better than other loads more readily obtainable by private citizens?"
In 9mm, a Hi Power loaded and tested with this ammo is probably about as potent a combination as one can have in this caliber. Though I've found the RA9TA to be utterly reliable in several 9mm pistols, always test any potential defensive ammo in the pistol it's to be used in.
While I believe that Winchester's LEO ammo to be at the top of the heap, I do not believe that it's "vastly superior" to other ammunition. I certainly don't think its fine expansion characteristics or "hooks" are enough to offset the need for placement. All is NOT lost if you're forced to load your defensive 9mm handgun with something other than this ammunition. With solid hits, I'm not convinced that we would actually see any difference in terminal effect. The strong point with this ammo is that it reliably expands under almost any conditions and after passing through intermediate barriers. If memory serves, it penetrates in the 12 to 14" range in 10% ballistic gelatin from most pistols.
While I cannot say for sure as I've heard of no actual shooting results with it, Corbon's new "PowRball" 100-gr. +P 9mm cartridge might be about as good for self-protection. Though it expands massively in water and 10% gelatin tests, it is described as being a "hard" bullet and it does normally penetrate about 12" in gelatin. Its profile mimics that of FMJ and I've found it to be both reliable and accurate from the Browning Hi Power. Though costly, it is available to private citizens.
For people wanting high-performance loads, but who cannot get Winchester's Ranger "T" line of ammo, I think that Corbon 100-gr. PowRball might be a very viable substitute. It's consistently expanded very well after passing through barriers from plywood to 4 layers of denim before hitting the test gelatin.
Speer offers what might make a really close "substitute" for the Winchester in its Lawman 124-gr. Gold Dot Hollow Point in the +P loading. From the same Mk III, it averaged 1199 ft/sec and gave very good accuracy and 100% feed reliability. It, too, has performed well in ballistic gelatin whether or not barriers have been placed in front of the gelatin or not.
While the Winchester load probably does sit at the top of the list in "effectiveness," one should not assume that other loads simply cannot do the job. I think they can and suspect that the actual difference in performance will be insignificant compared to placement, tactics, and to some degree, luck. That said, Winchester's 127-grain +P+ JHP has proven itself to be extremely reliable and consistent. It is my first choice in defensive 9mm loads, but it's not the only choice.