Magic Bullet | No Magic Bullets, But Some Options Shine

Posted by Shane Gosa on 18th Sep 2023

I am lawman. It is what I have spent the majority of my life doing, and it is what I know. For the last 24 years I have been in law enforcement. I am currently a Georgia POST Certified Peace Officer, in good standing, sworn with both a state accredited municipal agency and a County Sheriff’s Office – holding statewide powers of arrest. I am further certified by GPOSTC as a General Instructor, Specialized Instructor, Firearms Instructor, Shotgun Instructor, Less Lethal Instructor, and Use of Force Instructor. I hold multiple instructor certifications from many other nationally and internationally recognized entities, in the subject matters of the above, as well as, combatives, close protection, counter terrorism, hostage rescue, and other subsets unique to special operations. Finally, I am classified as a subject matter expert in the use of small arms, tactics, use of force, and 1 of only 12 Master Firearms Instructors in the State of Georgia for the Georgia Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors.

The purpose of this article is to inform and discuss a specific ammunition manufacturer, G9 Defense. This is an Idaho based manufacturer, who uses US made components, with patented bullet designs that are different from what the majority of agencies issue today. I had been asked about this company multiple times, and did not pay much attention to them for a variety of reasons. I was asked by my boss to go to their factory, and investigate and evaluate the validity of their specific models for use as a duty round. I was already skeptical, and by experience as an investigator and interrogator, I know that people stretch the truth for a variety of reasons. However, I set that aside, and I approached this mission as I would any other investigation. I went in to look at the facts, absent of bias, and attempt to see through any possible enhancements of fact.

The first noticeable thing about G9 ammo is the bullet design. It is what they call an “external hollow point.” Two of the rounds (the External Hollow Point and the First Response) are a solid piece of copper. They have flutes cut into the sides of the bullet going up toward the nose. The EHP comes to a small flat tip, and the FR comes to an actual point where all the flutes meet. The EHP has flutes cut in the same direction of most pistol barrel rifling, and the FR has flutes cut the opposite direction. The EHP is an 80gr. bullet, and the FR is a 77gr. bullet. Both come in +p and standard pressure variations. They both use a reloadable brass case, which is boxer primed. Both are sealed at the case mouth, and primer pocket against liquid and humidity intrusion.

At this point, many will begin to think of multiple other companies that have flutes in their bullets. I assure you, they are not the same, nor will they get the same results. Further in the article I will get a little more specific. The G9 bullets are literally blue printed and engineered to perform to a certain standard, with multiple patents in place. Not magic, not marketing gimmicks, not buzz words; simply facts. They are cut to a specific depth, width, and length. The bullet is a specific density and overall length, and weight. All of these are combined to achieve repeatable performance with true barrier blind characteristics, designed to reliably function in a wide range of firearms.

Over a two day period I watched the ammunition be manufactured, watched the quality control checks, spoke with the designer, spoke with the employees, looked at independent laboratory testing results. Learned about documented, multiple real world deployments of the ammunition by law officers against violent felons, personally chronographed multiple rounds and variants through industrial/professional chronographs. Shot many rounds into actual FBI protocol, calibrated, ordinance gelatin; bare and with intermediate barriers. Shot hundreds of rounds through a variety of pistols. And, I watched: thousands of rounds fired through a wide variety of pistols and rifles, the rounds shot through laminated safety windshields, and shot into live tissue. Further, I performed the same ordnance gelatin tests with competitor rounds, including some I brought myself, just to make sure everything was on the up and up. I also watched the competitor rounds shot through intermediate barriers.

This was not the first time I had seen or done ballistic testing, and have been involved with both formal and informal ballistic testing for longer than I have been a cop. I started researching ballistics in 1992, and have watched all sorts of interesting ideas that never panned out on the streets or battlefield. We still use calibrated, 10% ordnance gelatin, not because it proves that the bullet will work against bad people, but because it is the closest proximation we can get to human tissue, most of the time if a bullet consistently does the same thing in gel it will be consistent on the street, and also because it a quantifiable-repeatable measure when protocols are followed.

Into bare gel, the EHP and FR penetrate 16-18 inches, with no deformation of the bullet, no tumbling, and no erratic behavior. They are boringly reliable, and repeatable, which is actually exciting. The flutes, due to the depth, angles, widths, and lengths; along with the weight of the bullet and the velocity they are driven at; regulate the penetration depth. When the gel comes into contact with spinning bullet, the gel goes into the flutes and is pushed outward away in a spiraling motion, creating a temporary wound cavity while transferring momentum throughout the wound track, until it tapers off and the bullet comes to rest. Due to the solid design, the temporary wound cavities start off large and taper down as the momentum comes to rest. This is in opposition of standard expanding ammunition that begins to open in gelatin, creates a short temporary wound cavity, and then runs out of momentum much quicker. Further, if the G9 bullets come into contact with bone, they penetrate that barrier, and have little deviation from their original path. With conventional expanding ammunition, we often see deflection, and erratic behavior; which leads us to intermediate barriers prior to entering the gel.

Of the four recognized barriers in true protocol testing (4 layer denim, drywall, sheet metal, and auto glass) drywall and auto glass tend to produce the most erratic results in my experience. With 3 major manufacturers premier LE duty rounds, every one of them was clogged with drywall, and failed to expand in my test, several times in a row. Including one that was my issued duty ammo. They produced between 18-24 inches of penetration, with virtually no discernable temporary wound cavity, and were often erratic in their paths to their final resting places. This is not new or atypical. It is a fact that even the best conventional and bonded hollow points can and do get clogged, turning them into a FMJ projectile. That is why some manufacturer’s have started plugging the hollow internal cavity with a material that is supposed to prevent clogging, yet theoretically allowing the bullet to expand. Unfortunately, it does not work out as well as designed when bullets are put to use against certain barriers, and in the real world.

In contrast, the G9 bullets did not deviate course, were not clogged by intermediate barriers, created the same temporary wound cavities as they did in bare gel, and consistently penetrated 16-18” total.

When shooting laminated vehicle windshields, the shooter is faced with having to remember that they must aim in different locations to hit the desired point of impact on the target. If you are outside, shooting into the car, the bullet goes in one direction. Inside the car, shooting out, the bullet goes the opposite direction. This is hard enough to remember on the range, but most people have a very hard time remembering where they are supposed to hold if they are ambushed in their patrol vehicle, or if they are trying to stop a violent felon from running them over. With the G9 ammo, you hit where you aim through laminated glass. There is almost imperceptible to no deviation from where you aim. The theme of consistency continues. It also produces the same wounding characteristics it does in bare gelatin……..

The point of impact is not really discernable from heavier grain ammo out to 25 yards, so there is no worry of practicing with a 115gr FMJ round and loading the 77 or 80gr G9 into your duty mags. This is accomplished with the overall length of the bullet, the density, the location and sizing of the flutes, and the powder charge. All of those things also were designed to work together to ensure proper functioning in multiple weapons. I had or saw no malfunctions of the G9 ammo when shot through, Glock’s, HK’s, Sig’s, CZ’s, Stacatto’s, and M&P’s. I shot them for precision, rapid fire, controlled pairs, hammers, with both hands, with right hand only, with left hand only, from retention, from half hip point, from geometric point, with an intentionally loose grip, with a half hold, intermixed with conventional hollow points, with lights on and off the guns, with optics and without, with flush fit magazines, and with extended magazines. I had no issues, stoppages, or malfunctions with the G9 duty rounds. About half of the guns were already dirty, but had proper lubrication. It was somewhere in the low 30’s, and there was snow on the ground. The ammo cycled in everything. The factory says the rounds produce 30% less felt recoil impulse, and I am positive they have scientific backing for that. For me I cannot say that it was 30%, but it was perceptibly less felt recoil. I also verified this via slow motion video.

What the G9 EHP and FR give you is a round that is all American made, using the best components, intelligently designed from the ground up to be consistent through all barriers, and to penetrate to a consistent depth. While many major brands marketed toward LE claim this, they do not perform this consistently. This is not a conjecture, speculation, or downgrading them; simply fact.

There is also a very specialized round called the Armor Piercing Cavitator (APC). It is a controlled and restricted round, available only for agency purchase. It is identical to the FR, except that the APC is made of solid brass. This round performs exactly like the FR in all barriers, and in bare gel; with a single exception – it penetrates soft armor. It will literally zip straight through the highest end, top performing IIIA NIJ certified vest on the market, give the same wound cavity as if it were in bare gel, and give 16-18” of penetration. Remove the vest, and shoot into bare gel will still get you 16-18” of penetration. So, no worries about over penetration if the violent felon is not wearing armor at the moment.

Some make the argument of why they do not want armor piercing ammo in their duty guns, because if a violent felon disarms the officer, he can shoot through the officer’s vest. Well, let’s look at this rationally and practically. When violent felons disarm officers of their sidearms, they shoot them in the face/head, because they are violent felons. They may all not be smart, but they certainly are ruthless. They know the officer has armor on, because they just wrapped their arms around them or were touching them with their bodies when they ripped the gun from their holster or out of their hands. It has been documented time after time that felons shoot officers in the head after disarming them, either out of ruthlessness, spite, or to ensure there is not a witness. No vest will save you from a head shot.

On the other end of the spectrum we have seen a proliferation of armed criminals now wearing body armor as a standard practice. We are seeing overt cartel actions in the border states, we are seeing domestic terrorist groups overtly wearing armor, and we sill see this trend continue to become more prolific in the coming years, sooner than I would even like to think about. The actionable intelligence is out there if you know where to obtain it from. Would it not be a good idea to have ammo that will defeat this known threat profile, yet will still not over penetrate in an unarmored torso? That is a serious conversation that needs to occur by the administration, the firearms and tactics staff, and the agency attorney to determine if it is right for your entire agency, special units, or certain individuals. It is however, a conversation that needs to occur since the technology is now available should you wish to take advantage of it.

There is no such thing as “knock down power.” Just as “stopping power” is only achieved through proper shot placement into very specific parts of the central nervous system. To do that you need a bullet that performs consistently, and has been proven in actual street encounters (which G9 has). G9 is not a magic bullet, it just performs better and more consistently than conventional or bonded hollow points.

G9 offers newer and improved bullet technology with a lot of actual science and engineering built into it. There will be detractors. There will be those that have a closed mind and do not like change. If you are skeptical, good, that keeps us alive. But, approach it with an open mind, and you will see like I did, that there is a huge benefit to the G9 design. Consistent, known results, with proven terminal performance, with reduced hazard to the general public due to the wounding characteristics of the G9 bullet and their ability to not over penetrate while still offering outstanding performance simply equates to less liability to the agency. I will not recommend anything that I would not carry myself, or anything I would not assign to one of my fellow officers I am charged with the responsibility to equip and train. As I write this, the agency issued sidearm on my hip is loaded with G9 ammo, and my agency just bought it as their duty round. There is not a higher endorsement I can make.