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Four 9mm Defensive Loads at the Range

March 29, 2023
Mike Sampson

First off, I don’t carry a 9mm and rarely go to the range with one. Gun Talk gave me a chance to change that with several defensive 9mm Luger loads for testing, so I saw firsthand the benefits in that caliber.

I ran the four loadings through my Beretta 92 SBC at an indoor range. I described this hammer-fired 1983-vintage pistol in my Gun Talk article A Beretta Tale | Gun Talk Media. Empty weight is 34.8 ounces with its 4.29-inch barrel. The pistol has a nice single-action trigger, with a factory-estimated 6-8 pounds.

The four loadings were 9mm SigSauer in 115-grain V-Crown ($39.99 for a box of 50) and 124-grain V-Crown ($37.99 for a box of 50), Nosler’s ASP (Assured Stopping Power) in 147-grain jacketed hollow point ($37.99 for a box of 50), and Black Hill’s 100-grain HoneyBadger ($34.95 for a box of 20). Prices are from a quick Internet search.

A fairly new Sig plant in Jacksonville, AR, manufactures the company’s ammo.

Ballistics specs on the defensive loads show:

·      Sig 115-grain with 1,185 feet per second (fps) and 306 foot pounds of energy (fpe) at the muzzle.

·      Sig 124-grain with 1,165 fps and 374 fpe.

·      Nosler 147-grain with 950 fps and 295 fpe.

·      HoneyBadger 100-grain with 1,250 fps and 347 fpe.

I began my target session at 21 feet and first shot two rounds of Remington 9mm Luger 115-grain metal case, manufactured not far from me in Lonoke, AR. I then loaded and fired five rounds of each load with the Sigs on one target for comparison. The Noslers and HoneyBadgers went on another target.

My handgun preferences are .45ACP and .38 Special, so taking a 9mm to the range does not happen often, and my groups showed that. All 10 Sig rounds mainly were a bit to the left of center within three inches, and two of the 124-grains were touching.

On the second target, the Noslers printed the best at 1 1/2 inches, with two touching and one flyer. The HoneyBadgers, with more felt recoil, spread to 1 5/8 inches and one flyer.

Were I to spend more range time with the pistol to build comfort and confidence, I know the groups would tighten.

I did take my other 9mm, a Smith and Wesson SW9VE, to the range and ran the Sigs through it.  I bought the pistol new in 2008 with four 16-round magazines and simply do not use it. At the time, this striker-fired pistol had great reviews. Empty weight is 22.4 ounces with a four-inch barrel.

At my first trip to a range in Santa Fe, NM, with the new Smith, the left side plate loosened halfway through 50 rounds. Getting in touch with Smith, the warranty came into play and Smith solved the problem with postage paid both ways. Reportedly, quality of this pistol improved with later production.

The trigger on the pistol, per reviews, is “long and heavy,” and I agree. The safety is part of the trigger mechanism. Reportedly, dry firing and range time will help smooth out the pull. The white-dot sights are good. Smith has a similar pistol, the SD9VE, on its website.

For a comparison between the 115-grain Sig and 147-grain Noslers, I ran five rounds each through the SW9VE, and I am severely rusty with that pistol. The groups were similar to the Beretta. Five of the Sigs were within 1 7/8 inches and the five Noslers were within 1 ½ inches.

Years ago, I stocked up 9mm ammo when prices were low, thinking I would shoot the round more than I do. Running the four good defensive loads gives me a new reason for more range time with both of my 9s.

Given current events nowadays with crime and violence, using your firearms regularly helps firm the motor skills to stay safe, be prepared. ~ Mike

Mike Sampson
Mike now calls Northwestern Arkansas home, but has lived and worked in several states and internationally. He has been an independent contractor and consultant since 2006 specializing in risk management, emergency management and training. In addition to work as a law-enforcement planner and technical writer with the Boise, Idaho, Police Department, he has experience in journalism, crop and animal agriculture, dryland farming for 20 years in western Kansas, plant and animal diseases, pandemic influenza, agroterrorism, bioterrorism, food safety and healthcare marketing.

He has a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and has newspaper and agency writing and editing experience. At Washington State University in Pullman, he earned a master’s degree emphasizing adult education and communications.

While living in Lander, WY, Mike provided photographic coverage of the One-Shot Antelope Hunt for three years, and got to meet and accompany folks such as Chuck Yeager, Carroll Shelby, Buzz Aldrin, Dale Robertson and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf on their hunts. He also worked as an outfitter’s guide.


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