Hornady’s Top Flight XTP

3 boxes of Hornaday XTP ammunition with scattered bullets on a bed of gravel. The box on the left sits beside another box on top of an open box on a white background.

Most of my handguns are all around-do-anything-go-anywhere handguns. I most often carry a Commander-size 1911 .45, although sometimes carry a .40 or .45 caliber SIG pistol. When hiking, or in an area where large animals might be a threat, a four-inch barrel Magnum revolver is on hand. These handguns are versatile, accurate and, most of all, reliable.

Five Hornaday XTP bullets showing the original bullet and degrees of expansion on a white background.
The XTP bullet performs well at diverse velocity. Note: even the least expansion exhibited (second from left), exhibits a nose profile that would cut flesh rather than push it aside.

There are specialized types of ammunition featuring low penetration for use in home defense and others that feature deep penetration. Some ammunition is designed to break up on metal surfaces and still others designed for target-grade accuracy. When I deploy a pistol for serious use, it is often loaded with ammunition using the XTP bullet.

Tan box of big more Hornaday XTP ammunition with a bullet in the front.
In the big bore and Magnum calibers, the XTP is in a class by itself. It is well worth a hard look.

Hornady, or another reputable maker, may put up the load. Or I may have loaded it myself even though it is not a single-purpose load. The ammunition using the Hornady XTP bullet is accurate, reliable, expands over a wide range of velocity, maintains a good balance of expansion and penetration and may be match-grade accurate. That means a lot. The Hornady XTP bullet is that kind of bullet.

There are many types of XTP bullets ranging in size from .25 to .45 caliber. As a rule, these bullets offer the minimum of 12 inches of penetration demanded in personal defense—with expansion up to 1.5 caliber in the major calibers. While it is possible to design a bullet that fragments or expands wildly in some situations, the XTP bullet handles the majority of situations well.

Recovered XTP in a 9mm Luger loading on left with a new bullet on the right on a light white-to-gray background.
This is a recovered XTP in a 9mm Luger loading. Expansion is excellent.

We train for the worst case—not the average—and I want a bullet that stays together. Marksmanship takes care of the rest. There is a balance between expansion and penetration, and without adequate penetration we have nothing. Remember, the total wound volume is what counts. If the bullet expands less and penetrates more, it damages a lot more tissue. I also prefer a bullet that is not deflected by bone or stopped by intermediate objects.

Another advantage of the XTP is Hornady’s famous quality control. Among the most accurate combinations I have ever fired have been those using Hornady bullets. In particular, the 200-grain XTP has proven extremely accurate in .45 ACP when loaded to about 1,000 fps. Titegroup powder is the sweet spot in the recipe for this bullet, and I am not discussing match grade pistols with fitted barrels. (Although the XTP does well in my Bar-Sto barrel pistols.)

Magnum hunting revolver with black grip and silver barrel, pointed to the right. Four boxes, one open, of Hornday ammuntion with bullets scattered in the foreground.
When loaded to high velocity in Magnum hunting revolvers, few JHP bullets are rugged enough for taking large game. The XTP is an exception.

In my service grade carry guns, the XTP is often the single most accurate bullet to pass through the lands and grooves. In personal defense calibers, the 124-grain XTP in 9mm, 155-grain XTP in .40 and the 200-grain XTP in .45 ACP are excellent choices. The XTP is also an ideal hunting bullet. The 180-grain XTP bullet is among the most accurate I have ever fired in the .357 Magnum revolver. Unlike most light bullets, the 125-grain XTP in .357 Magnum stays together and penetrates deep, which makes the four-inch Magnum usable as a field gun.

As an experiment, and simply for the joy of handloading, I have loaded a number of unlikely combinations over the years. The XTP breaks some of the rules concerning light bullets. Before the XTP, the rule was heavy bullets do not expand well—the XTP does expand—and light bullets fragment.

I loaded the 90-grain XTP, designed for the .380 ACP and 9mm Luger, in the .38 Super case. Accuracy was brilliant from my five-inch Colt at a sizzling 1600 fps. However, when fired into ballistic media, I was surprised. The 90-grain XTP expanded like mad, of course, at this velocity and refused to fragment and penetrated over 10 inches!

Red box of Hornaday XTP 9mm ammunition with a gray-to-white label with descriptive lettering on a white background.
If you handload—and you should—the XTP is an excellent choice as a go anywhere, do anything, loading.

If you handload, and you should, the XTP is probably the best all around choice as a go anywhere, do anything, jacketed, hollow point bullet. In factory ammunition, I have found Hornady loads are consistently reliable with excellent cartridge integrity. The 9mm, .40 and standard pressure .45 caliber loads are often loaded lighter than some competitors. These loads are easy to control in rapid fire and accurate. No matter the speed at which the bullet strikes the test media, there is expansion.

The faster the bullet, the greater the expansion with no loss in penetration. If you want more velocity, the .45 ACP +P load delivers. This is a powerful loading I reserve for steel frame five-inch guns. If you fire a box or two, you just may decide Hornady made the right choice in loading its personal defense loads to standard velocity. Heavy recoil can inhibit accuracy. Just the same, if you need a +P load, the XTP delivers impressive performance.

A young man in a white t-shirt with black ear protection and sunglasses shoots at a target with a Springfield TRP against a background of green grass and trees.
A good point concerning standard pressure XTP loads is that they are accurate and controllable. Captain Campbell demonstrates control with the Springfield TRP. (For more on the XTP read 21st Century Stopping Power, Paladin Press, by Matthew Henry Campbell.)

There are those who prefer the fragmenting bullet that trails fragments behind the bullet and takes off in all directions like a bursting melon. I prefer a bullet with integrity. Energy figures are not really applicable to gauge the damage a projectile might do, although they are interesting: actual damage is what matters.

Momentum means something, and if the projectile has integrity and weight, I do not wish to sacrifice that integrity. As Galileo remarked during his trial, upon noticing the movement of a chandelier, Eppur si Muove—See, it does move. I feel the same about momentum. It is there for all to see, and a heavy bullet at decent velocity will prove effective.

The XTP is a credible design, well suited to all around use.

Have you used Hornaday’s Top Flight XTP ammunition? What do you think of it? Share in the comments section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (12)

  1. I have a S&W 357mag K frame model 19-3 Revolver with 4inch barrel. My question is…is the Hornady american gunner 125gr XTP considerd a hot load? It has some muzzle flash. And ive herd you can crack the force cone (something like that) and my gun would be a parts gun if that happens. Ive been told that a hot load is something some one loads themselves at home. But any ammo out a retail store is safe. But im making sure by asking you all. Please give me your ideas thanks and God Bless.

    1. Hornady lists that load at 1500fps which is in line with a standard magnum load for that bullet weight. I would imagine muzzle blast and recoil to be sharp but not punishing in a 4 inch k frame. The 125gr 357 loads were hard on k frames when they were fed a steady diet of these lighter bullets. They accelerate very fast out of the cylinder and “smack” the forcing cone with more force than a heavier bullet. Flame cutting may also be an issue.

      I prefer 158gr bullets from my 4inch L frame. The blast and recoil are diminished somewhat and I have no qualms about effectiveness. With that said, if you decide to stick to 125s, go ahead. I just wouldn’t send thousands of them downrange. For occasional practice, carry and home defense, you should be fine.

      Also, take a look at the Remington Golden Saber 125gr load. I’ve chronographed them in the mid 1200fps range from the 4 inch L frame. It is much more mild mannered.

      It is not my preference, but don’t count out a good 38 special load in the k frame. They have put plenty of bad guys down and are super easy to shoot and make good hits with.

    1. There appear to be several in 9th edition Hornady manual using 9 different powders.

    2. Looks like another reason to buy another manual. Been thinking about getting the Hornady manual for a while now anyhow.

  2. I’ve been preaching the praises of the XTP on every forum I go. Now, it’
    s nice to have a professional’s article on the bullet to back up my anecdotal claims. As I tell people,. it’s the only self-defense round I use, and I can buy them cheap enough to use for practice, too.

    It is the cxleanest, most accurate, and most consistently performing HP on the market. I also pointed out how it is the bullet of choice for major manufacturers like Barnes, that I doubt there is another bullet made that has found its way sitting on top of so many other factory-fresh bullet makers as well as so many bullet reloaders – both commercial and consumer.

    I read a comment on a forum by a chap who had a box of Hornaday 147 gr 9mm XTP’s sitting in his closet for a year and they performed identitcally to a box he bought the preceding day.

    One other big plus for Hornaday, proper, is that, as far as I know, they are the only major manufacturer to pack 25 rounds in a box versus the standard 20 round boxzes for SD ammo.

    So, to buy a round that is superior to virtually all comers and much less expensive – both in terms of its per-box price and the fact that you are get 25% MORE rounds for a lower price of the other brand’s 20!

    I’m serious when I say that I can buy 124gr Hornaday CUSTOM XTP’s for $0.56 a round while for me to buy 124gr. Federal Hydra-Shoks, I’d have to drop $1.25 per round!

    XTP is a no-brainer.

  3. I use and trust Hornady Critical Defense, 9mm, 115-grain rounds as my home defense loads. I prefer the Underwood, 9mm, 124-grain, P+ Gold Dots or Hornady 135-grain, P+, Critical Duty if I am out of the house (more likely than not I am carrying Underwood, Sig 357, 125-grain Gold Dots or the 124-grain XTP’s both rated at 1475-fps, in my Glock 33. (Oddly enough, even with that short barrel I haven’t been able to get velocities below 1560fps & in a Glock 32 they never got lower than 1645fps, & both the XTP & Gold Dots never over penetrate…that’s some serious energy dumped into your opponent)! If you shoot them as an 9mm +P+ they also are very close in velocities to the Sig 357 loads…there are plenty of UTube Videos verifying these findings. Both bullets are near perfect designs for accurate , reliable self defense rounds!

  4. I’ve tried numerous loads in my XD .45 Compact, but the Hornady 200 gr. was the only one that made me leery. When I would attempt clear the pistol it was extremely difficult to retract the slide in order to eject the round. I had to find a safe place to point it and really lean into it. When fired it had no issues, but it was enough to make me not trust it as my carry load. I’ve also used the Hornady 185 Critical Defense, but without any issues. It may just be that cartridge/pistol combination, because everything feeds, fires, and ejects without a hitch.

  5. I use hornady bullets in my reloads 4 1911 & 10 mm. 170grn. 4 10 mm & 185 grn. 4 my 1911. Also cast a lot of 201 grn. cast semi wadcutters for my 1911 for bulk shooting fun. 230 grn. fmj if I want to have fun with my Mac 10.

    1. Could you please add speed/velocity (fps) and energy (ft/lb) that you get from each hornady bullets.

  6. I want flailed sharp cutting copper petals in my self defense round. Critical Defense & Critical duty give that performance. Also, Winchester Lawman T-series bullets.

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