Range Report: Gorilla Ammunition Silverback

Expanded Gorilla Silverback 230-grain personal defense load

I have been using Gorilla Ammunition for only a few months but have come to respect the brand integrity. I often see preposterous claims concerning velocity, expansion or what a bullet may be capable of. The claims are seldom borne out.

Gorilla Silverback Personal Defense load, left, and the FBI criteria load, right, with 1911 handgun
The Personal Defense load, left, and the FBI criteria load, right, each gave excellent results.

Solid Copper Bullets With an Edge in Performance

The performance is based upon sound manufacture and intelligent choice in projectiles. I have been able to test the Silverback line in .45 ACP. The Silverback offers two loadings, one for personal defense and another that is simply marked FBI. This load meets or exceeds stringent FBI criteria for barrier penetration. My limited testing indicates that each load is well within design parameters. I am impressed by the loads and, after all, my standards are high.

The first concern is cartridge integrity. The loading must exhibit good case mouth and primer seal. The bullet must not be subject to setback in the cartridge case after numerous chamberings. The ability to load and unload the pistol without bullet setback is important. Gorilla Ammunition meets these baseline criteria.

When firing the ammunition I discovered that these loads demonstrate a full powder burn. There were at best a few sparks in the Commander-length pistol I chose for testing. There was little powder ash. I perceived no muzzle flash at all. This is a sign of good load development and powder selection.

Expanded Gorilla Silverback 230-grain personal defense load
The Gorilla Silverback 230-grain personal defense load exhibited excellent expansion.

There was a tendency a few years ago—and a path still taken by some—to load a caliber to the hottest standard, practically too hot in many cases. This was done to ensure expansion with a certain bullet. With a highly-developed pistol projectile, this isn’t necessary. A standard pressure loading is capable of demonstrating a good balance of expansion and penetration without excess recoil.

I chose one of my favorite carry guns to test this ammunition. The Remington R11 Commander suits my needs and has proven accurate and reliable. If you use a 5-inch barrel, 1911 velocity should be approximately 50 fps greater than my Commander length R11. If you use a Glock 21 with its polygonal rifling you will realize at least 50 fps over the R11—perhaps 65 fps. A short Officers Model 1911 might demonstrate 20-30 fps less velocity on average.

The Silverback line uses a solid copper projectile. Solid copper bullets are designed with a hollow point in the nose similar to conventional cup and core lead and copper bullets. The annealing of the bullet is used to control expansion. The design of the bullet and the cuts in the nose that instigate expansion are also used to control depth of penetration and expansion. Solid copper bullets are useful in areas that prohibit lead bullets for hunting or target use on the range. Copper is useful for long-term storage and resistant to corrosion. It is hard enough that it will withstand handling over the long term.

Gorilla Ammunition Silverback .45 ACP upset bullet in plastic water jug
This FBI type JHP stopped in the skin of the third water jug in line.

Firing the personal defense loading first velocity averaged 780 fps. This meets the subsonic criteria advertised. Control is excellent. Accuracy was as well. Although this is a personal defense pistol, its accuracy has proven excellent. Over a solid bench rest firing position at 25 yards, the R11 put five bullets into 1.5 inches. That is “good enough for government work” as they say and above average for this pistol. The FBI load was slightly faster at 802 fps and exhibited a group of 1.75 inches.

Each load had given good results in testing for cartridge integrity. I fired a box of each to familiarize myself with the loading. The R11 is well regulated for 230-grain loads and each Silverback struck to the point of aim. Control, feed and cycle reliability were flawless. I fired the loads into water jugs as my standard test of bullet expansion. I expected some sort of expansion but was not prepared for the outcome. The personal defense load penetrated about 13 inches of water and expanded to 1.25-inch. That is the greatest expansion I have recorded with any .45 ACP bullet.

Often, rapid expansion negates penetration, and deep penetration does not come with good expansion. This loading has both. When testing with water, the bullet may penetrate the first two jugs—12 inches—and come to rest in a third. I carefully estimate the spot the bullet is laying for 13-14 inches of penetration. The water drains, and I shake the bullet out of the jug. The Silverback would not shake out of the jug’s mouth! Coupled with fine accuracy, integrity, and function, this is a credible personal defense load.

The author firing at a target from the view behind the target
A combination of good control, accuracy and power make the Gorilla Silverback a desirable loading.

Some like more penetration—many agencies and the FBI demand it. Dealing with heavily clothed cons in the winter months, or an adversary behind cover or in a vehicle demands greater penetration. Some will opt for a bullet that is capable in the worst case scenario. The FBI Silverback penetrated to just over 18 inches, often stopping in the outer layer of the final water jug, and expanded to .875-inch. This is excellent performance. Anyone needing a load that will perform with a balance of expansion and penetration (favoring penetration) would be well advised to choose the Silverback FBI loading.

Gorilla Ammunition has earned a respectable name in the ammunition world. The Silverback loads are well worth your time and money to explore. Quality control is excellent and performance cannot be faulted.

Have you tried Gorilla Ammunition’s Silverback? Will you? If so, what did your testing show? Share your opinions or results in the comment 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 (13)

  1. Being in Va. I carry 357 Sig. Have the manufactures announced filling that cartridge need? I agree with previous comments that ballistic gelatin should be the standard test medium. I would like to see performance at 7 & 50 yards.

  2. I am a LEO. As such my carry ammo is hyper mission critical.
    Our CO at our LEO range has gel tested / chronograph the top “extreme defence” loads from DT,CorBon,BuffaloBore,Gorilla and Underwood. The gorilla loads performed adequately -tied DT,,was edged out nominally by CB & BB. The Underwood rounds using Lehigh bullets BLEW
    AWAY the Gorrila rounds. If your carry sidearm is Life & Death mission critical myself and my fellow officers count on Undereood EXCLUSIVELY‼️

    1. I am very surprised to see any agency test these loads.
      Must be a small agency with a big budget. Most agencies will choose the FBI standard choice or perhaps buy the state police budget loads.
      I have seen Underwood claims but have not been able to obtain much less
      test these loads. I fail to see how a load could blow away another, considering the limits of pressure and performance I have observed in handgun ammunition. I have a jaundiced eye toward such claims.
      I would very much like to see an unbiased tests of these loads. The velocity Underwood claims for handgun ammunition simply isn’t possible within SAAMI limits.

    2. Steve,

      I’m a retired LEO & have been impressed with Underwood. I’d like to visit with you more about you and your agency’s experience with the Lehigh loads if you’d reach out to me. I’ve included my email, which I hope you can reply to.

    3. I feel like you’re comparing a load meant for penetration to a load meant for maximum wound with little over penetration. Seems like comparing apples and oranges. How did the Underwood Xtreme Defender load perform comapred to the Gorilla Silverback. Xtreme Penetrator load is a whole different monster.

  3. According to Gorilla’s website, these .45 ACP are normally $2 per round, but now on sale for $1.50 per round.


  4. Definitely an interesting round. They do look like they could get the job done, with proper shot placement.

    I often see ammunition tests done with standard and compact length pistols, which is understandable as they’re the most common firearm used for pistol caliber ammunition. There is a smaller group of firearm owners who like pistol caliber carbines (PCCs). How would a round like this fare from a 16 1/2″ barrel?

    For example, reportedly, a favorite/popular 124 grain 9mm jacketed hollow point that also does extremely well in the in standard and compact length firearms, will shed it’s copper jacket at the increased velocity of a PCC. The same round in 147 grain weight is supposed to fare favorably in the same carbine, because the reduced increase in velocity. The 124 grain round gains approximately 200 fps, while the 147 gain round only gains about 60 fps.

    These results tell me that the bullets were designed to operate properly within a certain velocity range. So would these rounds perform as designed in a PCC?

    1. “….will shed it’s copper jacket at the increased velocity….”

      All copper bullet, no jacket to shed. At worst, through non-hydrostatic substances – steel, plywood, etc., the petals may shear off, but the base will remain!

    2. That’s what I was getting at. Will the petals shear off at the increased velocity? That is a significant loss of mass and it’s the petals that a considerable part of the damage. While the base may remain and continue, it doesn’t do the damage that the complete expanded round does. You end up losing much of the incapacitating damage/wound cavity without the pedals.

    3. Jack

      Petals cannot shear off they are part of the complete bullet.
      At some point the petals open. At very high velocity, such as say firing a bullet designed for the .45 ACP at 800 fps in a .454 Casull carbine at 1800 fps the petal would expand much earlier and then be forced back against the base.

  5. Is this available for Handloads for say a 9mm or .357 Sig cartridges? I am sure that the cost is a pretty penny ( expensive).. I like to practice with what I carry. I presently carry 147 grain Hornady factory loads and sometimes 124 grain ( which I practice with as Handloads ) want to try the three water jugs tests on my .357 Sig loads in 115, 124, 147 grains.
    Thanks for these articles. I really enjoy them!

    1. Check out our channel: all ammo tests are unbiased and we use ballistics gel: better than water jugs. If you don’t see a load tested it’s because the manufacturer was afraid to give it to us.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Discover more from The Shooter's Log

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading