What's the deal with Winchester 9mm Silvertip JHP's?  I've heard they're good, but then I'm told they're worthless? No longer the flagship bullet for Winchester's pistol ammunition, the STHP has been eclipsed by Winchester designs like the SXT and Ranger SXT. We now have bonded bullets as well as those in which the jacket plays more of a role in wounding. An example of the first is Speer's Gold Dot and the latter, Winchester Ranger SXT and Remington Golden Saber. The STHP is "old technology", using a gilding metal jacket with skives. Like Federal 115-gr. JHP, the STHP represents ammunition no longer on the cutting edge.

 

But does this mean it's worthless or "bad"?

 

Several years ago, "Miami" cast considerable doubt on the 9mm round in general and the 115-gr. STHP in particular.  Most will recall that two armed and aggressive murders opted to shoot it out with federal agents and one took a hit from a 9mm 115-gr. STHP.  Despite it's being described as a "non-survivable" hit, he continued the gunfight and some FBI agents were wounded and killed. The bullet passed through an arm and into the felon's torso from the side.  It expanded and severed the brachial artery, but did stop shy of the heart. After extensive firearm/ammo tests, the FBI decried the incident as "bullet failure" despite some other rather glaring factors that contributed to the tragic outcome of this lethal encounter. This was the genesis for bullet testing that was more extensive than anything in the past.

 

During this time frame, the STHP met the desired characteristics deemed necessary for "effective" expanding ammunition; it expanded aggressive. It usually penetrates between 9 and 11 inches in 10% ballistic gelatin tests, depending upon whose tests you read with slight differences from varying velocities from lot to lot as well as minute manufacturing differences in bullets from one production run to the next. This seems true for all ammunition, but most keep such variations pretty small.

 

I am not privy to Winchester's marketing records, but suspect that STHP's are not selling in the volume they once did. The bullet was tweaked over the years and is currently skived gilding metal containing a lead core with a sizeable hollow cavity. The bullet ogive is such that the round feeds in most pistols. A +P version existed for law enforcement at one time, but I do not know if it still does and have not seen it listed for sale in a long time. It's probably been replaced with Winchester's Ranger line of law enforcement ammunition. The "silver" color of the 9mm bullet is from an electroless nickel finish. 9mm bullets are not jacketed with aluminum.  Only the .32 version is.

 

In testing, I have found that the less-expensive "USA" version of Winchester's 9mm JHP is a dead ringer for the STHP except it does not have the silver color. Shooting 115-gr. STHP's and USA 115-gr. JHP's across the chronograph screens yields exceptionally similar results. It's my guess that the USA version sells more than the higher priced STHP.

 

In the past, 9mm 115-gr. STHP usually clocked around 1200 ft/sec from the Browning Hi Power, CZ-75, and other service guns like the Beretta Model 92. It could usually be said that the 115-gr. STHP was the fastest standard velocity 9mm load in the 115-gr. bullet weight. The last batch I fired were a little "cooler" but such variations are not unexpected.

 

9mm Winchester 115-gr. JHP Chronograph Results*

 

Pistol

Average Velocity (ft/sec)

Extreme Spread (ft/sec)

Standard Deviation (ft/sec)

Browning Mk III Hi Power

1169

46

18

CZ-75

1183

31

11

Glock 26

1103

58

24

FN GP Comp

1226

21

6

Taurus PT-92

1189

42

20

SIG P210

1194

34

11

 

*Data based on 10 shots fired approximately 10' from the chronograph screens.

 

FWIW, results using Winchester 115-gr. USA JHP were virtually identical!  I think the loads are equivalent with the color of the bullet being the only difference.

 

In my opinion, the STHP got a bad reputation for doing only that deemed desirable by law enforcement and defense minded shooters to that point.  I do think it might lack optimum penetration if encountering intermediate barriers or if entering from the side through an arm as was the case in Miami.  For most private citizens, deadly force scenarios are head on.  From the front, I believe that the 115-gr. STHP will provide aggressive expansion and sufficient penetration for the desired result.

 

Winchester offers the 9mm STHP in two bullet weights, 115 and 147-grains.  From the Browning Hi Power, the 147-gr. version averages 969 ft/sec. It showed an extreme spread of 39 ft/sec with a standard deviation of 15 ft/sec.

 

This ammunition generally feeds well in most pistols and it's never balked in either its STHP or USA versions in any pistol I've fired it in.  It does not appear tweaked for shorter barrel pistols like the Glock 26 as more recent ammunition is.

 

Accuracy has been good and in some cases outstanding.

 

I've seen the 115-gr. STHP used on coyotes and it "worked" fine.  Frankly, I cannot tell any difference in "terminal results" between it and the Federal 115-gr. JHP.  If I preferred standard pressure 115-gr.ammunition in a service size pistol, either would serve, assuming equivalent reliability. An officer who worked on my shift was forced to shoot a man with his 9mm Browning.  It seems that the bad guy simply would not quit pointing a loaded .38 revolver at him!  He fired twice.  One hit was peripheral, but the other entered the torso.  He "stopped", but was not killed. In this case, a 9mm STHP wound was "survivable" and the aggression stopped.  In "Miami", the hit was "non-survivable" and the bad guy would not quit! It remains my view that no caliber commonly used for self-defense purposes can be absolutely counted upon to stun/stop/incapacitate/neutralize a human aggressor all of the time.

 

Shooting both USA and STHP's into water and wet pack have yielded identical results.

 

These two 9mm 115-gr. USA JHP's were fired from a Browning Hi Power.  The bullet at the left was fired into water while the one at the right was recovered from wet pack. Results when using the higher priced STHP version have been identical.

 

Winchester 147-gr. STHP expanded fine in either water or super saturated newsprint. Accuracy was fine as well. I experienced no FTF or FTE with this ammunition in the Browning Hi Power.

 

The USA 115-gr. shot the tightest group of any from a Mk III on this target. I've never found it inaccurate.  Usually it groups very well and can be exceptional. It's not mentioned often, but I think it rivals Federal's vaunted 9BP accuracy in some pistols.

 

I would not be afraid to use Winchester 115-gr. JHP be it USA or STHP from a pistol having at least a 4" barrel. Is it the "best" choice for self-protection?  Probably not, but neither is it impotent, either. Were I required to use standard pressure loads in 9mm, I'd probably opt for the USA for small game hunting and varmint duties, but would not feel ill at ease using it for serious purposes.

 

Best.