Gel Testing 9 mm: Proof's in the "Pudding"

Have you ever wondered what happens to your defensive ammo after it’s fired?

by posted on November 23, 2021
Defensive 9Mm Ammo Lede

Although there are other types, the two most common types of handgun ammunition are “defensive” and "range" or "target ammunition." Target ammunition is typically Full Metal Jacket (FMJ), which is designed to pass through its intended target (think punching holes through an X-ring on your favorite paper target). Jacketed hollow point (JHP) ammunition is designed to expand once it is inside its intended target, eliminating the threat, and is typically what is used for self-defense situations. Visuals are always great at explaining what exactly is happening with ammunition, and what better way to depict this than through the use of ballistics gelatin. For the purposes of these gel tests, I used three different 9 mm defensive (JHP) ammo choices.

Clear Ballistics is a South Carolina-based company that provides ballistics gel, molds and more to law enforcement, military and anyone looking to see just what their ammunition does when it hits its intended target. For this project, I was delighted to receive three blocks of ballistics gel held to the FBI standards for ballistics testing on human tissue. During this test, we draped the end of our gelatin blocks in a scrap layer of leather and denim material to mimic clothing worn by the perpetrator. This gelatin can be melted back down into its mold and reused many times over, which is always a plus when you have multiple projects lined up or many rounds to test. If you are interested in testing what you have in your everyday carry gun, be sure to check them out.

NOVX: Engagement Extreme 65-gr. 9mm Luger
Georgia-based company Timberghost Tactical was the first 9 mm defensive round that I sent through our gel. This unique round is comprised of a stainless-steel case topped with a polycarbonate/copper ARX bullet. The grooves you see in this round enable this projectile to fly flat and once it hits the intended target transfers its energy in a manner that is best described on its website as “similar to taking a spinning propeller attached to an outboard motor and submerging it into water.” The shock produced by this defensive round is evident by the resulting wound channel once the round entered the gel block, with the bullet creating an impressive 3 inches' worth of cavitation within our gel block. Of all the ammo we tested, this round was the only one that retained every bit of its weight with 100 percent retention of the 65-gr. bullet that topped this round, as it penetrated roughly 15.5” into our gel block. Stay tuned for even more offerings from Novx, especially if you carry other popular defensive rounds such as .38 Spl, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, or if you plan to hunt with rounds such as .300 Blackout or .308. For more information, visit

SIG Sauer: 124-gr. 9 mm Luger V-Crown JHP
When you hear folks talk about SIG Sauer, visions of a plethora of pistols and rifles come to mind … perhaps optics as well, but what is a hidden gem for many is their ammunition lineup. For this test, I sent the 124-gr 9 mm Luger V-Crown JHP through the gel block. This jacketed hollow point defensive round performed flawlessly in my Walther PPS. The V-Crown bullet design, as depicted on SIG’s website, was created to “provide a controlled and uniform expansion” which equals reliability, and nothing is more important should this round be used to defend oneself. Expansion of the bullet measured roughly 0.6", with an impressive weight retention of roughly 123 grains after traveling through approximately 16" worth of ballistics gelatin. Do you prefer to load your own rounds? Handloaders, fear not, as SIG also offers brass and bullets for those who prefer to DIY their defensive protocol. For more information on SIG’s ammunition lineup, visit

Underwood Ammo: 90-gr. 9 mm Xtreme Defender
Illinois-based ammunition manufacturer Underwood Ammunition rounded out our defensive ammo test with its 90-gr 9 mm Xtreme Defender. This light copper bullet from Lehigh Defense sits atop a nickel-plated brass case and produced the largest wound channel of all as it hit and entered the gel block. After traveling through 16.5” of ballistics gelatin, the bullet retained nearly all of its weight, weighing in at approximately 88 grains with an expansion of just under an inch. Aside from my chosen use as a self-defense option, this round is also a great option for those who choose to take a handgun hunting. Underwood has a multitude of calibers available for various platforms as well as applications. For more information visit




Austen Smith Federal Premium
Austen Smith Federal Premium

Austen Smith Wins 2023 Women's National Skeet Championship Title

Smith joins fellow Olympian Vincent Hancock as USA Shooting's 2023 National Men's and Women's Skeet Champions.

Gun Tote’n Mamas Memorial Day Sale Proceeds Go to U.S. Army Women’s Museum

The company’s line of more than 200 items will be included, with the added benefit of support for this historic museum.

The Armed Citizen® May 26, 2023

A woman defended herself from a man with whom she'd had a history of confrontations.

Taurus Issues Safety Notice for Certain GX4 Pistols

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Additional serial numbers have been added to 

The Fishing Industry Continues to Reel in Women Anglers

A study shows the increase in women fishing benefits businesses to the tune of billions of dollars.

Women's Interests

Get the best of NRA Women delivered to your inbox.