Personal Defense Ammo for a 1911

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin 

When it comes to the defense of my family or myself, I don’t mess around. I want to know exactly what I’m capable of and how my equipment will perform so I’m testing expansion with my bullets that could possibly be used in a defensive scenario. That includes pistols, shotguns and rifles but this and my next post will concentrate on two concealed firearms. My two concealable firearms of choice are my 1911 chambered in 45ACP as well as a backup Smith & Wesson 10 chambered in 38 Special.

Since my main carry is my 1911, I’ll begin with it. I will admit it is a heavy full size (all steel mind you) with a standard 5” barrel.  My brother tries to sell me a lighter version for easier carry, but I like the one I have. I’m comfortable with it and that goes a long way with me. There is no better feeling than knowing it is close and with the custom holster, it rides well on my hip and even hides easily. What I really wanted to convey with this post though is how the ammunition works.

The bullet is the key to success or failure of ammunition and how it performs is a crucial part of that equation. Impact velocity has a direct relation to how a bullet expands.  At 7 yards, that remaining velocity is going to be close enough to the muzzle velocity to not even worry about it.

Of the three rounds I’ll present here, two are factory ammunition and one is my reload. There are a number of reasons I’m carrying factory rounds not the least of them is legal liability but I liked the performance of them. In no particular order they are Winchester Rangers, Sig Sauer V-Crown, and Sierra’s #8805 230gr jacketed hollow point. I have put my best effort into giving them a reasonable expansion test but my home brew methods are a little unorthodox. My expansions tests uses recycled milk jugs, refilled with water and placed with their flat side touching. Because they are at least 4+ inches wide, I don’t have an exact measurement for penetration.  Also, because water is such a hard medium, my results are going to be a little different compared to actual ballistic gelatin testing.

Here are my results:

Winchester_Ranger_AmmoWinchester RangerThe Winchester Ranger ammo is the continuation of the older Black Talon line. After the black was removed from the bullet, the ammo was known as the T-Series and then went on to become a bonded version. I used the bonded version mainly because it was available and this is what I’ve tested here. The talons are not extended like they used to be but they can still be seen in the photo. This bullet started as a 230gr and now weighs in at 229.56 grains and measures .830” at the widest diameter. The jacket is still secured to the lead core. It went through at least 9” of water and settled in the third jug so I would call that a success. Unfortunately, either I didn’t record the velocity or it was lost in translation, but it wasn’t in my notes so I don’t have that to give. Another unfortunate fact is that I couldn’t find this ammo listed on Winchester’s website but the Platinum Tip looks very similar. In other words, the last remaining box of the T-Series I own is not for sale.

Elite_Performance_AmmoSig Sauer V-Crown:  The V-Crown is the new bullet line from Sig Sauer and as you can see, it looks like a flower when expanded but that is where the cute ended. To handle it, I can feel how sharp the edges of the jacket are. It started out as a 200gr and now weighs 199.64 grains and measures .790” at the widest diameter. The entire jacket is still secured to the lead core. It also went through at least 9” of water and settled in the third milk jug, so I would call that a success also. I do have an average velocity of 950fps from 5 recorded shots.  My notes also stated it gave a smaller, more uniform group than even my reloads.

Sierra_8805Sierra #8805 Reload:  My reload is using Sierra’s #8805 230gr jacketed hollow point.  I have used this load in my IDPA matches before. It is easy to hit moving targets out at 30 yards with it, but it is going significantly slower than the Sig. It is traveling at an average of 810fps from a recorded 5 shots but I only used 6 grains of Unique to find my accuracy with it. The bulk weighs 221.92 and the two fragments of jacket weigh 5.72 grains combined for a total of 227.64 grains. The remaining jacket is still secured to the lead core and it measures .760” at the widest diameter. It also went through at least 9” of water and settled in the third jug.  Despite the slight jacket loss that settled in the second jug, I would call this a success also.

My conclusion:

I’ll carry the Sig Sauer V-Crown on me. I like the way they perform as well as the velocity and accuracy they give me.  Being available factory made ammo gives me piece of mind on several levels.  It also doesn’t hurt that Sierra made the bullet for the ammunition.

My next post will have my report of my short barreled 38 Special. Some of the results will be shocking to say the least so I hope to see to you then for another conversation.

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9 Responses to Personal Defense Ammo for a 1911

  1. Zbigniew says:

    I’m not sold on ‘magic’ bullets. I’ll take a flat-nose solid bullet that penetrates any day.


  2. Dana Mangham says:

    Enjoyed your write-up and find the info helpful. I look forward to your .38 SPL article as well, especially since you dangled the teaser line about surprising results!! Seriously, though, both of these calibers are important ones, but I have trouble finding out the performance envelope designed into Sierra bullets. If it’s on the website, please steer me to it. If it’s not, please prevail upon the “Powers that Be” to add it to your website. Hornady lists a low & high velocity for each bullet in simple tabular form, and I’d sure appreciate something similar from Sierra!


    • Our website does contain information about each bullet on its individual page but the velocity information you are looking for was in the 4th edition manuals or earlier. Some of these bullets have changed since then and new information is needed so I am constantly bringing this to the higher ups attention. Thanks for the interest. – Philip Mahin, Ballistic Technician


  3. Dana Mangham says:

    I know I was happy to see info on the page for the .38-158-JHC, which apparently starts expanding at about 800 and is positive at 1000+, but I’ve struck out on finding expansion info on the other .38’s, .44’s and .45’s that interest me. And since I mostly shoot low-moderate pressure cartridges, I have to be a little picky about my bullets. Do Sierra bullets, weight for weight, open up easier than Hornady’s XTP’s?


    • Unfortunately, I don’t have a report on ours versus theirs but it does sound like a great test for a future discussion. Thanks for the idea. – Philip Mahin, Ballistic Technician


      • Dana Mangham says:

        You’re welcome, and I hope y’all will take a crack at it. Right now, speaking of handgun offerings, Hornady component bullets are available everywhere; Winchester and Remington products are hardly avaiable at all; Nosler’s handgun lines are rather limited and their 250-count boxes require triple the money just to sample their bullets. Speer has some famed designs, but apparently the Federal govt. is buying everything they manufacture, because they’re almost absent on the civilian market.

        The shelves at Academy, Cabela’s, and Bass Pro are full of Hornady’s red boxes, almost to the exclusion of everyone else.

        Sierra is therefore matched head to head against Hornady, and that’s who you need to beat, IMO. I love their XTP for hunting, but it’s notorious for (a) the hollowpoint plugging on clothing; and (b) generally requiring high velocities to open up reliably. If your designs can beat theirs at handgun speeds for self-defense, I will jump on your bullets, and I think others would, too.

        From a technical perspective, I also would like to see Sierra articulate the difference between your lead-tipped JHC bullets and the JHP’s which show a fully-jacketed bullet. Do the JHC’s open faster and at lower velocities but penetrate less? Why two different designs? (I’m sure there’s a good reason, but I can’t tell what it is.)

        Final note from a prospective customer’s perspective: illustrations of your bullets show a 90 degree side profile only, so I have no idea what size hole is in your HP designs. If you could add a 45 degree view to the same picture, it might go a long way towards helping the customer get a feel for the product.

        Thanks for listening. Not trying to tell you how to make bullets or sell ’em; just trying to let you know what I think as I look at ads and try to figure out how to spend my scarce “gun money” 🙂


      • This may require more information than space allows so send me your questions to my direct email address. You can get me at and I’ll do what I can to answer all your questions. – Philip Mahin, Ballistic Technician


      • Dana says:

        I’d like to know the velocity envelopes of your hollowpoint bullets best-suited for defense use in .38 SPL, .357, .44 SPL, .45 ACP, .45 Colt. I realize that many of the bullets are the same (.38/.357; .45 ACP/Colt), so no need for duplication.
        Thank you,
        Dana Mangham
        Baton Rouge, LA

        Sent from my iPhone



  4. Pingback: Personal Defense Ammo for a 38Spec | Sierra Bullets

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