A recent post on one of the forums I frequent brought up the idea that of using common carry pistols as a defense against dangerous animals one may encounter when enjoying the great outdoors. When talking about common calibers I’m talking about pistols chambered for rounds as small as the 9mm. Most would consider carrying anything less than a .44 magnum to be silly if not downright dangerous but people have used much smaller rounds to defend themselves against larger creatures up and including grizzlies.
Apparently, a relatively new bullet has changed the minds of many and that bullet is the Lehigh Defense Xtreme Penetrator. Lehigh states about their Xtreme Penetrator ” The progressive nose geometry allows for deep, straight penetration while creating a permanent wound cavity diameter exceeding that of most expanding bullets.” Well, that sounds great. In my opinion, deep penetration is the most important aspect of a good pistol round when trying to stop a large animal bent on hurting you.
The 10mm seems to be the favorite caliber when using this bullet up in Alaska, but I don’t live there and I don’t have a 10mm. What I do have is a Colt 1991 in .45ACP. When I lived in Eastern Washington I carried this pistol with a hot loaded 230gr FMJ ball as my woods gun until I replaced it with a S&W Mountain gun in .44 magnum. I no longer live in Eastern Washington and I no longer have that .44. I do however still have my .45 and I still have that hot load to carry in it.
So the thought came to me, maybe this Lehigh bullet would give me more penetration and be better suited as a woods load. I ordered a box of 50 from Midway USA and with shipping, it brought the price of each bullet to almost one dollar each. Certainly not cheap but if it performed as well as I hoped, then I felt it would be worth it. 50 bullets isn’t a lot when trying to develop a new load so my first stop was the Lehigh’s website. They have a PDF one can download with data for both standard and +P loadings. It had one powder listed that I had and so I started with their max load instead of starting at the recommended starting load. I know this isn’t best practices but with so few bullets to try I went with this course of action. The data showed a velocity of 960fps but it was coming in well under this just breaking 900fps. I was also showing signs of slight pressure and so decided to look for something else. After trying a few different loads with another powder found a load that was getting me the 1000fps I was looking for with no sign of pressure. Even though the load was not showing any pressure I had to go well above standard or +P data and into .45 super data to achieve it. Shooting the round at 10 yards, the point of impact was dead on just like the two 230gr rounds tried. Recoil wasn’t much more the Winchester but was noticeably less my 230gr handload. None of them were partially harsh.
Now that I found the load I was looking for it was time to try it out in Clear Ballistics gel. I also tried my current 230gr woods load and a round of Winchester 230gr USA “white box”. I tried to think of something that would simulate bone but I could not find anything I felt would make a suitable substitute and just decided to see how it did in bare gel and I would revisit the idea if I thought it had merit.
The Winchester round had an impact velocity of 834fps and penetrated to 26.5 inches. The chronograph didn’t pick up the velocity of my handload but it has an average velocity of around 1000fps. It penetrated both 16 inch blocks and 6.5 inches into an old block that I used to stop anything that went more than 32 inches. That gave it a total of 38.5 inches of penetration. The Lehigh had an impact velocity of 1002fps and penetrated to only 23 inches. Yes, the Lehigh penetrated less than the generic Winchester ball and much less than my “woods load”. I was surprised and disappointed, to say the least.
This limited test doesn’t take into account what may happen if a shot was taken at a bears head. I do feel like it would probably do much better at not glancing off then round nose ball. I also feel that the .45ACP may not be the best platform for this bullet. I’m thinking the 10mm would do much better in this role. For now, I will just stick with my handload. The animals I’m likely to encounter now are not nearly that big with small black bears being the most I would have to worry about.