Range Report: Ammunition Worthy of a Top Tier Gun — SIG Elite

By Bob Campbell published on in Ammunition, Concealed Carry, Range Reports

A few months ago, SIG Sauer introduced its new line of handgun ammunition. It is always good to see honest competition—especially among the top tier of manufacturers. And this is just what we have, top tier loads. SIG offers full metal jacketed training loads in the popular calibers. It also offers hollow point defense loads.

SIG Sauer 1911 pistol with boxes of SIG Elite ammunition

SIG pistol and SIG ammo—it doesn’t get much better.

Among the most interesting are the three choices in .45 ACP hollow point loads. There are the 185-, 200-, and 230-grain V-Crown bullet weights. Some like a higher velocity .45s, some like good expansion, and others like the heavier, deeper-penetrating bullets. The bullet weight always tells the story, but the balance of expansion and penetration are the goal in personal defense loads.

The 230-grain bullet is the heavyweight. However, others like the compromise inherent in the 200-grain load. The 200-grain bullet weight in .45 ACP enjoys an excellent reputation for accuracy, while the 230-grain seems to be the most reliable in a wide variety of platforms. I obtained a supply of SIG Elite ammunition in the three .45 ACP bullet weights and tested each thoroughly.

The .45 ACP is my favorite personal defense load because, after all, there is much to be said for finishing the job. I used the SIG 1911 target model with adjustable sights in the majority of testing. I also used my EDC carry gun, a Remington R1 Commander. My Remington R1 is normally loaded with 230-grain JHP loads that usually expand to some degree and penetration is optimal.

3 boxes of SIG V-Crown ammunition

SIG’s .45 ACP loads gave excellent results and customized performance.

I am carrying a defensive handgun not for the average scenario but the worst case, so penetration is at a premium. I test each load as if my life depended on it because at some point it may, and I would like my brothers and sisters to be well armed as well. A hollow point should expand as designed. A general-purpose defensive load should penetrate a minimum of 12 inches in water or gelatin testing and show expansion of one and one half times its own diameter.

Things such as heavy clothing may stop expansion. Some may need a heavier bullet that will penetrate sheet metal—vehicles—more efficiently. The 230-grain .45 ACP envelope is a challenge for designers to achieve good results given the velocity limitations. However, we do not really wish to get into +P territory because then we have significant recoil. A fast expanding bullet limits penetration and a deep penetrating bullet may not do as much damage, as quickly, as we would like.

SIG designed the V-Crown projectile to solve a lot of problems. The V-Crown is a bonded bore hollow point which means the bullet stays together, expands, and does not shed its jacket during impact and expansion. The cartridge cases are nickel plated for smoother function. I first conducted a test of reliability, firing a box of each bullet weight in the SIG 1911. Function was good. I cannot easily discern the difference in .45 ACP recoil, however, the 185-grain loads did generate the least felt recoil by a margin.

Three upset SIG Elite V-Crown bullets - petals

The V-Crown hollowpoint showed excellent expansion in left to right 185-, 200- and 230-grain weights.

Average Velocity

Weight 5-inch 1911 4 ¼-inch 1911
230-grain V-Crown 863 fps 820 fps
200-grain V-Crown 978 fps  955 fps
185-grain V-Crown 996 fps 955 fps

Average accuracy, 15 yards, SIG 1911, three five shot group

230-grain V-Crown 1.75 inches
200-grain V-Crown 1.5 inches
185-grain V-Crown 2.25 inches

I was well pleased with the accuracy of these loads and also the clean powder burn and positive function. Next, I moved to testing expansion. I use water jugs as they are six inches wide and easily measured for penetration. Typically bullets will penetrate an inch or two more in ballistic gelatin, and expansion may be more pronounced compared to water. However, water is a good media for all of us coast to coast to compare the expansion of one load to the other. We may not all be able to mix gelatin or obtain ballistic gelatin but we can obtain water jugs!

Average Expansion and Penetration

Weight Expansion Penetration
185-grain JHP .68 inch 14 inches
200-grain JHP .75 inch 16 inches
 230-grain JHP  .85 inch  18 inches

After looking over the test results, we find a 185-grain standard pressure load that offers good accuracy and low recoil—both desirable traits in a carry handgun. The 185-grain load is pleasant to fire. The 200-grain load may be the compromise load. It is accurate, powerful, and delivers good expansion and accuracy.

The 230-grain JHP offers what I consider an ideal balance of expansion and penetration. I particularly like the .85-inch mushroom even though part of this is the jacket rather than the mushroomed lead, but just the same, that is a wide nose to impart damage on flesh and bone. Cartridge integrity is excellent with a full powder burn and little unburned powder ash. SIG did its homework and gave us excellent options in the .45 ACP.

SLRule

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 Shooter’s 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.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

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Comments (9)

  • Troy

    |

    Looks like great performance across the board. I would be leery of any more than 16 inches of penetration, so I might shy away from the 230. Great info, though; good to know the performance. Thanks much for doing the testing. Been hearing a lot of good things about V-Crown. I like that they have both 38 Super and 44 Special loads. Both of these cartridges are widely overlooked and are quite viable. Bob writes great articles; been reading him for years in various places.

    Reply

    • Bob Campbell

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      Sir,
      Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Reply

  • Stephen Michael Jakubowski

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    Shooting the bull 9mm ammo quest tested the 9mm version of sig’s in ballistic gel; with and without denim. The results were not encouraging. Tpn outdoors, also tested then and the results also were disappointing.

    Reply

  • Dan

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    A comparison to other brands would be helpful. Will we see that in the near future?

    Reply

  • Camelot

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    I bought a case of the Sig Elite in .357Sig and it has a round-nose FMJ bullet, good accuracy, and overall good quality, but seems to have hard primers. I experienced quite a few light strikes in my M&P and also a Glock. I have a case of the Speer Lawman .357Sig with Clean Fire loading, and on the box there is an advisement that the CF primers may not ignite reliably with some guns. Both the afore-mentioned guns of mine shot several hundred rounds of the CF with no light strikes, so I suspect very hard primers in the Sig ammo.

    Reply

  • big daddy

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    If you do not use the FBI protocol for testing of any ammo for self-defense you are not doing it correctly. By not using this protocol you really have no idea how this ammunition will perform. This testing standard is there for a reason. As long as no proper testing is done i will not carry that ammo in my guns. This whole article was useless and I recommend the author state that you did not use proper accepted protocol and not to be taken seriously. It was done just as a simple test. If anybody is reading this, use whatever your local PD uses or the FBI or any other large LE agency. They have the funds to test firearms and ammunition, Also look up testing on youtube for guys that use the FBI protocol. This article is total BS and from the tests I have seen this ammo has failed many times.

    Reply

    • wr

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      Of course it is a simple test. The author probably did not have the funds to test 228,00 rounds of ammunition as one major agency did. While carrying what the cops carry isn’t a bad idea there are plenty of good products that deserve our consideration. I know the author and I doubt you would have called BS to his face And please tell us where this ammo has failed many times? I am pretty well read and in the loop and have not seen a single report of SIG ammo failing, nor do I feel that it is likely the well designed V crown with many months of development is going to fail in a fair test procedure. The report as I saw it tells us of the different penetration between different bullet weights, the different accuracy, and also the different criteria for personal defense. Most of us are not shooting at felons behind vehicles or behind sheet metal. There is also a very good chance SIG ammo, like their firearms, will not come in with the low bid. I am eagerly awaiting your verified information on the failures of SIG ammunition. I doubt it will be forthcoming.

      Reply

    • Camelot

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      The author states that water jugs may not be as good a test as gelatin, but is easier to do for most shooters, and is still good for general load-to-load comparison. I agree, and I do water jug testing myself, just for load-to-load comparison, with the understanding that gelatin or actual human tissue results will differ. The author also states the V-Crown load uses a bonded bullet, but the bullets in the photo are not of bonded construction.

      Reply

  • Captain Witold Pilecki

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    I just bought some of this Sig ammo in .45 Long Colt with the 230 grain V-Max bullet for my S&W Governor. I had previously stayed away from any .45 Long Colt because all I could ever find were lead flat nose target rounds or Cowboy Action loads. This allows me to shoot a JHP that is not .45 ACP in a full moon clip, but something that can give me a good mixed load with 000 Buck shotshells. My winter time nightstand load is three Sig .45 Long Colts and three Federal .410 000 Buck shells, alternately loaded, with the cylinder set so the Sig round exits first. If a follow up shot is required the bad guy gets (4) 000 lead balls. I can do this 3 times and then a reload is a full moon clip of .45 ACP. When investigating sounds in the night, the full moon clip rides on my left pinky finger and since practice makes perfect, I can reload very quickly in the dark.

    Reply

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