When choosing ammunition, you must first ask what does the bullet do? While most ammunition is used for mundane chores, such as target shooting and plinking, a bullet must perform more serious duty at times.
The critical job of personal defense and the important job of hunting each require careful ammunition selection. And the critical job of penetrating flesh and disrupting vital function is too serious to ignore.
A necessary study is anatomy. Every creature relies on oxygenated cells. The circulatory system pumps oxygen-rich blood. The nervous system, often erroneously called the central nervous system, sends signals through the spinal cord. Significant damage shuts down oxygen to the organs or stops signals.
Having taken quite a few game animals and investigated critical incidents, I believe hydrostatic shock exists although it does not have a significant effect past the immediate area of a wound channel. Clearly a pistol cartridge cannot create significant damage based on hydrostatic shock.
Actual damage is all that matters. The larger the target is, the less apparent the impact of even a high-velocity bullet. Game animals are seldom knocked to the ground. Projectile velocity is important for delivery to the target and instigating expansion, yet the determining factor of the damage is the wound channel.
There is a lot of discussion about defensive ammunition. The criteria outlined is simple, and it is a complex thing to design a loading that achieves acceptable goals. A personal goal is that the loads not be rated +P. Overpressure and +P may not mean the same because overpressure often means dangerously high.
Just the same, +P loads are heavier so they accelerate wear and make a handgun more difficult to control. Handguns are not very powerful, and fast follow-up shots often are needed.
I was very interested in SIG Sauer’s personal line of ammunition. The ELITE loads are a result of product development that seems extensive. A simpler route would have been to license a maker to produce SIG-marked loads using any number of readily available projectiles.
SIG took the more difficult route by designing their own bullets. The V-Crown projectile is a bonded-core bullet, meaning it expands well and the lead core and jacket do not separate since they are bonded together. The cartridge cases are nickel-plated for smoother function. It is difficult to prove, and nickel plating is supposed to provide smoother chambering.
I recently tested nickel-plated rifle bolts and have done considerable research; I will take nickel-plated cartridge cases when I can get them. I obtained a good supply of .45 ACP and 9mm Luger loadings for testing.
The .45 ACP hollow-point loads use a 200-grain JHP at a listed 900 fps. That is not a heavy loading, and is faster than the 230-grain. Using a projectile with a good balance of expansion and penetration results in good control, excellent accuracy and reliable function.
I test fired the loading in a SIG Fastback 1911, which seemed appropriate. I also backed up the test with a couple of other .45 ACP handguns. Function was flawless. Average velocity was right on the money for factory specifications.
|905 fps||5-inch barrel SIG Fastback|
|870 fps||4 3/5-inch barrel SIG Scorpion|
|809 fps||3.3-inch barrel SIG Ultra|
- Average of two 5-shot groups
- 25 yards
|SIG Fastback||2.0 inches|
|Smith and Wesson E Class SW1911TA||1.75 inches|
I fired most of the loads in the SIG Fastback and control was never an issue. The expansion testing showed an excellent balance of expansion and penetration.
I have been looking for a service load for my Heckler and Koch P7M8. That handgun features a short, 4-inch barrel. The fastest 124-grain factory load I have clocked runs at 1080 fps, and you cannot use +P loads in that gas-retarded blowback handgun. It is what it is, and that is reasonable for a factory 124-grain JHP loading.
I tested the SIG Sauer 124-grain 9mm in my P7M8 to explore the JHP as a carry load. I need little prompting to fire that interesting handgun. The SIG 9mm 124-grain JHP clocked an average of 1100 fps in the P7M8. Control is good, and the powder burn is clean.
Now, I have my carry load!
I also fired the SIG 124-grain JHP in my long-serving and proven SIG P228 9mm pistol. Results were excellent.
|1103 fps||HK P7M8|
|1121 fps||SIG P 228|
|1144 fps||SIG P 226|
- Average of two 5-shot groups
- 25 yards
|HK P7M8||2.0 inches|
|SIG P228||1.7 inches|
The SIG ammunition line is a good addition to the ammunition scene. Velocity, function, accuracy and ballistic performance are all there and, in some regards, exceptional.
Do you use SIG’s excellent products? What are your plans for using their new ELITE ammunition line? Share your thoughts and plans with us in the comments section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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