Chronograph Data for 9mm Luger LE Loads (part 1)
As we all know, the muzzle velocities that ammunition manufacturers advertise for their ammunition and the muzzle velocities that we actually obtain from our CCW or duty weapons are rarely the same. Most often the velocities from our carry weapons will be lower than that advertised by the manufacturers.
It’s not that the manufacturers are trying to deceive us. It’s just that they tend to use “test barrels” to obtain their velocity readings. These test barrels usually have minimum spec SAAMI chambers and tend to be slightly longer the barrels typically found in carry weapons. These factors combine to give higher velocities than those from a typical carry weapon.
For this test session I examined fifteen different 9mm Luger “LE” loads from three different manufacturers, in three different pressure ranges (standard, +P, +P+) in four different bullet weights. The SAAMI specification for the maximum average pressure for a standard 9mm Luger load is 35,000 PSI. The 9mm Luger +P (pronounced plus-P, indicating higher pressure) load is specified at 38,500 PSI. To my knowledge, there is no SAAMI spec for +P+ loads. Interestingly, the CIP (European standard) specification for the maximum average pressure of the 9mm Luger is 39,200 PSI.
Four of the different bullet designs that were examined in this session:
Speer Gold Dot
All of the loads examined for this session come loaded in nickel-plated brass cases as exemplified by the Winchester Ranger-T round shown below. (Note the alien pod-like appearance of the round. One can’t help but wonder if the engineers at Winchester were subconsciously influenced by a certain science fiction movie.)
In the Speer Gold Dot design, you can clearly see the petals of the copper jacket that extend over the mouth of the hollow point and down into the cavity of the hollow point. The Gold Dot design also leaves some of the lead core exposed at the mouth of the hollow point. The Gold Dot also utilizes a bonded jacket/lead core construction.
The petals of the copper jacket in the Winchester Ranger-T bullet also extend down into the mouth of the hollow point, but have a tear-drop shape to them. As previously noted, the rim of the hollow-point on the Ranger-T is a series of semi-circular ridges.
The Federal HST bullet has the most unique design of the bullets examined in this session. Note how the lead core at the mouth of the hollow point has water-drop shaped cut-outs. Also note the very long skives in the copper jacket that extend almost to the case mouth and the very deeply notched shape of the skives.
Chronographing was conducted using an Oehler 35-P chronograph with “proof screen” technology. All velocities listed are muzzle velocities as calculated from the instrumental velocities using Oehler’s Ballistic Explorer software program. All strings of fire consisted of 10 rounds each.
I chose a 9mm SIG Sauer P229 with its traditionally rifled barrel as the test vehicle as a representation of a pistol that might be carried on duty or as a CCW piece. The barrel on the 9mm P229 is 3.8” long. The factory barrel used for testing had 200 rounds through it prior to the beginning of this test session.
Atmospheric conditions were recorded on a Kestrel 4000 Pocket Weather Tracker.
Temperature: 72 degrees F
Barometric pressure: 30.03 inHg
Elevation: 950 feet above sea level