Review: Speer 10mm Personal Defense Load

By Bob Campbell published on in Ammunition

Among the most powerful and useful cartridges for self-loading handguns is the 10mm Auto. With a long reach and flat shooting characteristics, the 10mm is an accurate number in the right handgun. The original 10mm load, generally rated at 200 grains at 1,200 fps, proved to be too hot for both 1911 and CZ 75-type handguns. Today, we have loads that offer 1,180 to 1,200 fps with 150- to 180-grain bullets and 200-grain bullets at 1,100 fps.

Gallon water jugs exploding from hydrostatic shock of a bullet strike

Water isn’t gelatin, but it offers a good comparison between handgun bullets tested in a similar fashion.

A handloader may produce loads that offer modest velocity for practice and powerful hunting loads or tailor made defense loads. A few years ago, Federal Cartridge Company offered a 180-grain, bonded-core load at an honest 1,280 fps. It is amazing what research and modern powder technology may accomplish. This is a top-rated load for hunting deer and wild boar.

For personal defense, there are a number of good loads. One is the Federal Cartridge Company 10mm 180-grain Hydra-Shok. This load breaks 1,050 fps and offers superior performance to the .40 S&W. This is a controllable load in full size 10mm handguns. A new loading that offers dynamic performance while maintaining good control is the Speer 200-grain Gold Dot loading.

This load is intended to serve as a personal defense and home defense loading. It would also be useful for defense against feral dogs and the big cats. This load isn’t as hot as possible with the 10mm, but it offers a good balance between power and control.

three upset Speer Gold Dot bullets

Left to right: Expanded Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 9mm 124-grain +P, 10mm 200-grain Gold Dot, and 230-grain Short Barrel .45 Gold Dot.

I tested the Speer Gold Dot 10mm loading in the SIG Emperor Scorpion handgun. This is a custom-grade piece with excellent features—including a special FDE finish, gator grips, and night sights. I began running the pistol through a combat course with this load. Control was good and practical accuracy excellent. In firing 40 rounds, there were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject.

I also fired the load for absolute accuracy. Firing from a solid bench rest firing position, taking every advantage for accuracy, I was able to fire several five-shot groups that measured two inches or less at 25 yards. This is an accurate loading.

Ballistic testing cam next. I clocked the Gold Dot 10mm loading over the Competition Electronics Chronograph. Average velocity was 1,180 fps. In my experience, velocity in the Glock 20 pistol should be slightly more compared to the SIG. Firing into water, the load penetrated 24 inches and expanded to .66 inch. The Gold Dot loading is well suited to personal defense. This would also be an outstanding all around service and outdoors loading.

Other Gold Dot Loads

Bob Campbell shooting a pistol while wearing green hearing protection

We fired the short barrel 9mm in variety of handguns with good results.

There are other specialized Speer Gold Dot loads that have performed well in my previous testing. A concern with short barrel handguns is ammunition performance. As velocity is lost, the bullet is less likely to expand. Yet, if all bullets were designed to open easily at low velocity, when fired in full-size handguns these bullets would expand too quickly or fragment.

A balance between expansion and penetration is needed. Speer offers the 124-grain Gold Dot Short Barrel +P for those deploying compact 9mm handguns. Average velocity in an Honor Defense Honor Guard FIST pistol was 1,149 fps. Accuracy was above average for a compact 9mm. Firing into water the load penetrated 18 inches, optimum for personal defense, and the Gold Dot bullet expanded to .62 inch. Recoil wasn’t difficult to control.

As an experiment, I fired the load in a long slide FNH 9mm pistol. Interestingly enough, the increase in velocity wasn’t great—even with three extra inches of barrel. Average velocity was 1,211 fps. This indicates Speer uses a fast burning powder that creates a full powder burn in short barrels. This is an excellent, all around, purpose-designed loading.

Speer Gold Dot 10mm ammunition box

The Speer Gold Dot 200-grain 10mm load provided excellent results.

.45 ACP Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel

This is a very interesting loading. Like the other two, it is supplied in a nickel-plated case. Unlike most .45 ACP ammunition, this Speer load uses a small pistol primer. I fired this loading in both a SIG P220 and Ruger SR1911 Commander. Accuracy was good to excellent, with the SIG, printing a 1.25-inch group at 25 yards. Velocity averaged 830 fps. The Gold Shot Short Barrel demonstrated a full powder burn with limited muzzle flash. Firing into water penetration was 16 inches and expansion .68 inch. This is as good as it gets in a short barrel .45.

Speer is a force in personal defense and service loads worldwide. The new 10mm loading fills an important niche in personal and home defense—sensibly less hot than hunting loads but plenty strong. The 9mm and .45 ACP short barrel loads are ideal for use in concealed carry handguns. These loads are also backed by Speer’s reputation for reliability and performance.

What is your favorite 10mm defense load and why? Share your answer in the comment section.

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.

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Comments (12)

  • Matt M

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    I’ve carried the 10mm for duty since shortly after the FBI performance report came out. I was transitioning away from a Model 686 .357 Magnum and was delighted to read the ballistic similarities between the 125gr .357 JHP and the 10mm. The first ammo readily available, at least in my area was Remington 180gr JHP that were insanely hot, but since I apparently was a bit different than the “new breed”, I didn’t have any problem “handling” the weapon at all. This was in a S&W Model 1006, and the first thing I found was the amazing propensity for the primers in the spent casings to appear like they were never fired. Yeah, the primers would flow under the case pressure and flattened themselves right out.

    Not surprisingly, that Remington load went through the chrony at over 1400fps. Not much else was readily available to me, so that’s what I carried for several years. I began to try almost every new load that came out, and had widely varying results. I tried Hornady in 180 and 200 gr versions, Winchester in 180 gr, and also the “fabled” Winchester “Subsonic” load, sometimes called the “FBI Load” that was created for those who couldn’t actually handle a real gun…I found those to be unimpressive, and shortly after that the also-famous (infamous?) Black Talon in 200gr was on the market. I carried that round for many years, and I still have a few boxes on the shelf.

    Today, I use the Winchester Silvertip JHP in 175 gr and they have been doing fine. I never damaged the 1006, but some friends with the Colt did experience frame-cracking with the DE and were quite upset. The 1006 would however emit a distinctive “ring” when firing the old hotter than the sun Remington rounds, so I knew it was getting a workout. Eventually I moved to the Glock 20 3rd Gen, mostly in an effort to reduce the weight on my belt rig. The “young guns” just give me a weird look after I answer their “What do you carry” questions. “A what??”…… I have no desire to downsize at all, even though the 10mm is now often referred to as a “big game round”. I truly shudder a bit when I read that, because I can just see some hot-shot defense attorney trying to hang me out to dry if I ever end up having to stop a threat with it. That’s a little bit concerning…

    Reply

  • Sam Kay

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    I have an early Delta Elite; but not sure if it has the frame revision. Handling and weight were similar to other 1911 models, and I’m sure better than the almost 3 pounds of stainless that was the S&W. I was surprised at the recoil and muzzle rise; and found that my recovery for follow shots was too slow, and decided that it was too hot to carry for everyday defense. I thought it would be better suited for trail or hunting backup. That was somewhat verified when one ammo review stated that “the 10mm Silvertips were a good Whitetail load”.

    Reply

  • Boggman

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    I use the Nosler 200gr Sport Pistol bullet over a healthy dose of Blue Dot. At 10 yards it prints cloverleafs.

    Reply

  • CrawldaBeast

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    My 10mm is a little more niche oriented. I have a Glock 20 with a 5″ barrel that I carry for large animal defence using Underwood 140gr Xtreme Penetrators and Buffalo Bore 200gr hard casts.
    I also have a TNW ASR PCC that will shoot 10mm among 6 other calibers that I typically keep in a ready status for barnyard law enforcement. I like keeping it in 10mm for the extra velocity it gives. I have done a little chrono work with it and the 140gr XPs give same day delivery of a little over 1900fps from the 16″ barrel.
    For personal defence in other situations, I typically carry a Ruger LC9S as it tucks away nicely. I will load it with a fruit salad mix of ammo that groups well so whatever is on the receiving end won’t die of boredom.

    Reply

  • two45triox

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    Underwood is producing 200gr @ 1250fps / 694ft lbs.
    Those specs are the same with all of their 200gr offerings.
    ( hard cast, JHP , FMJ etc. )
    And they also have the solid copper, hyper velocity penetrators,
    140gr @ 1500fps / 700ft lbs

    Reply

  • Franktank

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    My 10mm tangfoglio hunter with a 22lbs spring runs 180gr to 1450fps average

    Reply

  • Richard

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    I love the 10MM offerings. I have a GT10 1911 a Glock 20 in 10MM and just bought a Glock 40 MOS. The Glocks have less recol because of the double recoil springs but all are keepers and accurate. I use a lone wolf compation barrel in the Glock 20 and will most likely do the same one G40. I shoot a lot of Double Tap 200 and 230 gr hardcast for hog hunting as a back up. Love the 10!

    Reply

  • mj

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    Big bullets work…better. It’s easier to achieve penetration and expansion. With that said,I carry a 9mm for other reasons. But 45 and 10mm are easier to make bullets work, less limitations.

    I own a few larger caliber pistols including a 45. I haven’t yet made that my home defense firearm and I’m quite frankly not sure why.

    Reply

  • Bob Clevenger

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    “The original 10mm load, generally rated at 200 grains at 1,200 fps, proved to be too hot for both 1911 and CZ 75-type handguns.”

    Do you have data for this claim? Specifically since the Bren Ten was the only CZ-75 type pistol made at that time and damn few of them. The Colt Delta Elite came along later. The FBI ditched the S&W 10xx series because the round was too much for the “new breed” of FBI agents to handle without more training (which the FBI deigned not to provide).

    My current favourite self-defense load is the 100 gr, Lehigh X-treme Defense solid copper bullet at 1520 fps out of a ported 3.6″ barrel. From a non-ported 4.75″ tube it does 1835 fps. Both velocities are QuickLoad estimates. I did chronograph a few of them and the estimates are very close. For more common bullets I like the Nosler 135 gr. JHP at 1350 fps from the short barrel and 1590 from the longer one. I do not like the heavier bullets for self-defense as they tend to penetrate too much due to their higher mass and, therefore, momentum.

    Reply

    • Bob Campbell

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      The Delta Elite had a kind of Mickey Mouse recoil spring set up. Frames broke. Colt changed the frame design, adding a cut out for stress relief and finally got the recoil spring design correct.

      Reply

    • Bob Clevenger

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      That is true, but it still does not address my point that the DE was not even in existence when the first Norma ammo was produced. That ammo was designed to meet the specs of the Bren Ten project. It was a good spec as verified by my Tanfoglios in 10mm that handle even (slightly) hotter loads. They were not made at that time, but they follow the CZ-75 design as did the Bren Ten.
      Good to see the upswell in interest in the 10mm cartridge.

      Reply

    • dean

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      my glock 21 with 10mm barrel works great with 1200+ 200 grainers,but want to see the 10mm really shine?. Carbine length or Ar pistols 7.5 and 10 inch…home defense carbine perfection.

      Reply

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