March 2006

Four 9mm Heavy Hollowpoints: We Would Buy Speer’s Gold Dot

When we tested 9mm Luger cartridges from Remington, Winchester, Federal, and Speer, the Gold Dots offered the best combination of accuracy, expansion, and suitable penetration.

The 9mm cartridge has been around for over 100 years. NATO has chosen it as its standard pistol round, and the U.S. military has been using it for many years in its standard-issue Beretta M9s. Although we at Gun Tests tend to favor the .45 ACP cartridge, the 9mm round has its advantages. It can be chambered in smaller, lighter, and more concealable pistols, such as the recently tested Kahr PM9, than the .45 round can. It is also more affordable and has substantially lower recoil than many other pistol cartridges. Although the 9mm Luger is only 2mm longer than the .380 ACP, also known as the 9mm Kurtz and 9mm short, it has substantially higher pressure and can handle bullets that weigh more than 1.5 times than the .380.

Because of the 9mm’s near-universal appeal, we wanted to test a sample of hollowpoint cartridges in the popular 147-grain weight class. Into our test gun, a Smith & Wesson Model 39-2, we fed four self defense–appropriate 9mm hollowpoint loads: Speer’s 147-grain Gold Dot GDHP (Load No. 23619, Gold Dot Hollow Point); the Remington 147-grain Golden Saber Brass JHP (Load No. GS9MMC, Jacketed Hollow Point), Winchester’s 147-grain SXT (Load No. S9, Supreme T-Series Jacketed Hollow Point), and Federal’s 147-grain Hydra-Shok JHP (Load No. P9HS2, Jacketed Hollow Point).

Shoppers can find these rounds for comparable prices, usually within 3 cents a round of each other. We shopped Midway USA for our ammo and have included Midway’s product codes for your convenience. The Speer Gold Dot 147-grain GDHP (176843) and Winchester Supreme 147-grain SXT (358719) both sell for $13.79 per box of 20, or 69 cents a round. Remington 147-grain Golden Saber (786954) sells for $16.79 per box of 25, or 67 cents each. Federal Premium 147-grain Hydra-Shok (465852) was the most expensive at $13.99 per box of 20, or 70 cents a round.

We selected the Smith & Wesson Model 39-2 for our test gun. The model 39 was the first U.S.-designed 9mm double-action semi-automatic pistol, first available to the public in 1955. It has been used by the U.S. military, and the older steel-frame models are especially valuable. Our 39-2 had a lightweight alloy frame and was made in the 1970s, but we bought it secondhand about 10 years ago. At the time of testing, we had already fired approximately 1200 rounds through the gun, so it was thoroughly broken in and suitable as a self-defense choice.

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