"Low Penetration" Ammunition for the 9mm Hi Power


Despite the trend for 9mm protection rounds that provide "adequate" penetration, there remains a contingent of people concerned about "over penetration" and the possibility of an innocent third person being injured or killed by a bullet that has completely passed through its initial target. There are also professional people working in extremely crowded scenarios that prefer ammo almost guaranteed to remain within the average human torso.


If the average upper male torso is 9" deep, some opine that penetration beyond that is unnecessary.  In 10% ballistic gelatin, which closely indicates penetration in humans, most 9mm expanding loads will get between 10 and 16" penetration, depending upon maker and bullet weight.  Most scribes consider 10" to be short on penetration and specify a minimum of 12" penetration.  A sizable number prefer between 14 and 16" penetration depths.


A myth is that JHP expand in hard targets like wallboard or wood; usually they plug up and penetrate as would a FMJ of the same weight and moving at the same velocity. In other words, a bullet that averages 10" penetration in tissue might very well exceed that in the event of a miss and one should not expect that it will expand and stop in common house or building walls.  Misses are misses and none are good, but there are 9mm rounds that consistently penetrate less than others in soft targets.


These include Aguila 65-gr IQ hollow points, Corbon 90-gr JHP +P, Corbon 115-gr JHP +P, Corbon 100-gr PowRball +P, Federal 115-gr JHP +P (9BPLE), and the 80-gr Glaser Safety Slug. Certainly, there are others, but I've not shot them personally to any great degree.


Let's take a look at what's been listed:


Aguila 65-gr IQ: From a Browning Hi Power, this round averages 1537 ft/sec and it groups well at 15 yards, and is supposed to break into three separate pieces besides the base. In 10% ballistic gelatin, the round averages around 4" to 9" penetration.  While this is none to "deep" to be sure, it is pretty inconsistent. I've not seen it personally, but it has also been reported that frequently only fragments into one or two pieces and that the "wound tracks" often veer off at angles rather than penetration straight on in.


You can see that that zinc bullet of the Aguila IQ is deeply skived to enhance breaking into three pieces.  The recovered bullet was fired into water.  My results with this round have mirrored that of others in that it seems to be an inconsistently performing round. I don't trust this ammunition.


Corbon 90-gr JHP +P: This ammunition usually averages around 1500 ft/sec from the Hi Power and provides decent accuracy at 15 to 20 yards.  Lightweight bullets for caliber do lose velocity quicker over distance than do heavier ones, but that should not be expected to make them any "safer" in the event of a miss. In 10% ballistic gelatin, penetration is normally in the 5 to 6" range. This round expands reliably and consistently fragments. 


Glaser 80-gr Silver Safety Slug +P: One of the very first "pre-fragmented" rounds, the Silver uses larger shot size than the Glaser Blue.  In recent years the bullet profile has been made more rounded and accuracy has improved significantly.  This ammunition groups very well from the Hi Power at 15 yards or so and has proven reliable. From the Hi Power, it averages 1573 ft/sec. Its compressed shot generally penetrates up to 6 to 8."


Corbon 100-gr PowRball: Closely resembling the Safety Slug in appearance, the PowRball works entirely different. The polymer ball impacts rearward upon target impact, rupturing the jacket material and exposing the large hollow point to aid expansion.  The bullet penetrates approximately 12" of ballistic gelatin and has an average velocity of 1465 ft/sec from the Hi Power.  Accuracy is good and like the Glaser, its rounded bullet profile aids in reliable feeding.


The recovered PowRball bullet and fragments on the left were fired into water.  The recovered bullet in the center was fired into mud.  On the right are fragments of the bullet and jacket from another PowRball fired into water in which the bulk of the bullet was lost.  Expansion has proven very consistent with the PowRball in several calibers regardless of the test media being used.



Federal 115-gr JHP +P: Still restricted to law enforcement sales, this hotter version of the same company's standard pressure 115-gr JHP averages between 1280 and just over 1300 ft/sec from the Browning Hi Power, depending up the lot of ammunition. Accuracy is good and the bullet's rounded ogive aids in feeding although I suspect that it's more likely to hang up in "ball only" automatics than would the PowRball or the Glaser.  Expansion is aggressive and the bullet usually fragments a bit. I've not shot this ammunition as heavily as I have with some other makes, but it's always been a very good performer for me.


Corbon 115-gr JHP +P: From the Hi Power, I find this ammunition averaging from just below or just above 1400 ft/sec.  It can vary with lot number, but the lowest average velocity I've obtained has been 1381 ft/sec and the highest, 1411 ft/sec.  Accuracy has been good and expansion is dramatic.  There's always some fragmentation as well.  In ballistic gelatin, it averages between 9 and 11" penetration.


This 9mm Corbon 115-gr JHP was fired into super-saturated newspaper.  Expansion in water is virtually identical.


Were I choosing ammunition from the cartridges listed, my first choice would be either Federal or Corbon 115-gr JHP +P.  I'd make my final decision on whichever proved utterly reliable in my Hi Power.  If both were reliable, I'd go with which gave the best groups.  Performance seems very close.  Second choice would be Corbon 100-gr PowRball.  This stuff is not only reliable, but accurate and seems very consistent in both expansion size and penetration levels.  My third choice would be the 80-gr Glaser Silver.  It's reliable and gets a little more penetration than does the Corbon 90-gr JHP +P or the Aguila.


I believe that either of the 115-gr JHP bullets or the 100-gr PowRball is very unlikely to penetrate a grown man's torso, even with a straight-on shot and all seem to reliably expand.


While I normally opt for a little more potential penetration and 124-gr bullets in 9mm, should you prefer something lighter and feel better with more limited penetration, I'd take a hard look at the ammunition recommended in this report. I would NOT use Aguila despite its being the least costly.