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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
On a recent mule deer hunt, I tried dispatching a small downed buck with my subcompact Bersa Thunder Pro in 45 ACP. The buck was trying to get up and facing directly away from me. I shot for the base of the neck where it meets the spine. I was no more than 10 feet away.

The bullet struck near dead center of the vertebrae. right at the base of the “dorsal fin” of the vertebrae (I don’t know the technical term for this feature of a vertebrae, maybe someone with medical knowledge can chime in with the correct terminology). It did break the “fin”, but bounced, traveling about another 1.5” and was facing backwards in the opposite tenderloin. The wound channel was about 4”-ish long and V shaped. The bullet failed to fracture the The main portion of the vertebrae or damage the spinal cord. The shot did temporarily stun the deer but in a matter of seconds it started to recover. I ended up having to cut the poor creature’s throat. The 45 ACP 185 gr copper HP bullet expansion is nearly picture perfect.

The 45 ACP cartridge is sold by Taurus. Taurus brags that it is a Barnes bullet, with Hodgdon powder in a PMC case. Taurus propaganda says, “…delivers maximum accuracy and energy at normal shooting ranges”. The range was only about 3 yards! Gun writers gushed all over the ammo, claiming it to be barrier blind, out penetrate all other handgun ammo, blah, blah, blah.

I’m not sure where the poor performance lies. The short barrel pistol? The action cycles perfectly and accuracy is good. Poor quality control at the loading facility? Taurus bean counters rationing powder? Taurus isn’t exactly known for exceptionally high quality. Gun writers hustling snake oil for a dollars pay? Sure it’s got all the right ingredients, but the sum don’t add up. Am I expecting too much from the gun/ammo combination? I twice had 30-30 bullets bounce off deer neck vertebrae. More like deflect, the bullets hit at shallow angles.

I drank the cool-aid, trusting my life to the ammo in my daily carry.
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
What did that teach you?
Don’t drink the cool-aid and carry a bigger gun... ‘Cept there is not a lot bigger for concealed carry than a 45ACP.

When hunting, I normally carry my GP100 in 357 but my holster was misplaced in my recent move. I’ve got a feral hog cull hunt coming up in a month or so. Maybe I’ll test some ammo.
 

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185 gr 45 acp bullet has very low sectional density to start with, and as the bullet expands it becomes much less. Sectional density is generally considered a positive factor for straight line penetration to a deeper depth, all things being equal. Most light for caliber bullets are designed for quick expansion and energy dump with limited expansion. The bullet did not fail in one respect, it dumped all its energy into the animal. It lost out in penetration because it spent so much energy changing direction to create the V shape wound, a probable outgrowth of limited sectional density. This gets complex because this is a solid copper bullet rather than jacketed lead, but the facts remains, there was limited weight influencing adequate straight line penetration once an obstruction was hit (especially if at an angle or partial contact). This is very common in light hollow points, but gets overlooked because gelatin tests never feature bone like obstacles, which do influence bullet terminal wound behavior greatly. If I desired more dependable straight line penetration would go with a 230 gr. I would not blame the load, it was probably never tested against bone, light weight, high velocity, fast expanding all argue for it being less effective in this application, than other choices.
 

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I hit a spike buck with my truck last week, and it was able to finish crossing the road, where I found it lying down out cold. Very shortly it tried to get up, but apparently had broken a couple of legs and couldn't.

I grabbed my old Ruger P89 9mm from the console and put a 124 gr. JHP in it's brain. It died instantly, but the bullet did not exit.

I think bullet placement has everything to to with a kill on anything. However, my favorite carry cartridge is still the 45 acp.
 

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I'm not intending to be critical, just offering an explanation...

That Taurus bullet is intended for personal defense, not hunting. As greymustang mentioned, it is intended to dump its energy quickly after penetrating only a few inches (say into a thorax).

The early ammo for the Marlin 444 used quick expanding bullets designed for 44 mag handgun velocities and initially suffered from poor performance reviews (similar to yours) as a result. When they started loading appropriate bullets, it was a game changer.

The musculature of a deer is heavy at the base of the neck. Your bullet probably penetrated at least 6" of hide and muscle before hitting that vertebra and breaking off the dorsal spine. Had you hit the ring, or the body of the verterbra it would probably have done what you wanted it to do. Shooting from up close doesn't mean that you can miss the critical spot and still make an instant kill. A rifle, with its much greater terminal energy, would have taken out the cord. But after penetrating hide and 6" of muscle, your 185 gr 45 acp did not have enough energy left.

Sounds like your bullet did just what it was designed to do. It just didn't do what you wanted it to do.
 

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Sorry---I can't help but think about the old western day Elixer salesman: "Step right up folks and get your bottle of Roys Elixer---cures rumatiz, lombego, and anything else that ails you".
I'm willing to bet money that if you had the old GI 230 grain ball ammo in that 45 it would have done more damage.
 

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I'm not a Tauras fan just because I don't buy anything that is made in Brazil or Spain. Not sure where their marketed ammo is made. However, I must admit the ammo you used performed exactly like it should have for personal defense ammo.

I'm a Sig Sauer and Speer Gold Dot fan for my carry guns. I doubt my preference of ammo would have done any better on your deer. Perhaps a 230 grain fmj or Hornady XTP could have done better, I don't know. At least we learned something from your experience.
 

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It's interesting to read the preceding comments since they come from hunters rather than "self defense experts".

I find it interesting that a 124 grain 9mm JHP would not penetrate completely through a deer's skull. I look at all these gel tests and wonder what happens if the attacker's arm gets in the way and you hit the humerus or if your attacker is very over weight or very muscled or if there is time for only one shot. I realize that a 4" S&W Model 29 is not a great everyday carry for most people but there are days when Elmer Keith seems like a fountain of wisdom.
 

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I'm not a Tauras fan just because I don't buy anything that is made in Brazil or Spain. Not sure where their marketed ammo is made. However, I must admit the ammo you used performed exactly like it should have for personal defense ammo.

I'm a Sig Sauer and Speer Gold Dot fan for my carry guns. I doubt my preference of ammo would have done any better on your deer. Perhaps a 230 grain fmj or Hornady XTP could have done better, I don't know. At least we learned something from your experience.



Well, seems we have something else in common, GD and V-crowns, albeit, the latter produced by Sierra Bullets. I carried a 1911 45ACP for decades but when I got to my 50's, I began entertaining the 9mm. It took a bit of convincing but now I own several 9's in polymer and steel. Love the CZ's all metal and how accurate they are.

Then for pistols in the woods it's 357MAG revolvers heavy SWC cast. And a medium meplat avg of .275 to .285 as while the meplat governs tissue wound channel damage, it's also governs the bullets brakes. The wider the meplat the greater the braking and I want penetration. I also like Missouri bullets 180gr Pugnose (WFN) which is about as good as it gets for .357MAG.

That said, GD's and V-Crowns for 9's in 124gr work well for self-defense. Then the 135gr GD HP 357MAG short bbl bullet just has stellar performance! Difficult to beat them.

Jack
 

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Personal defense ammo is strictly engineered to perform in specified ways according to law enforcement's recommendations. Among these is that penetration should not exceed 12-14 inches in a ballistic test medium. This is an effort to reduce through-and-through penetration of the bad guy with the bullets striking and injuring bystanders in the area. Full metal jacketed bullets penetrate much farther. I seem to recall that 147gr 9mm ball ammo penetrates 20" in 10% ballistic gelatin.

Defense ammo is also manufactured to defeat winter clothing, especially denim and down coats, which can fill the hollow points and prevent bullet expansion. They are not necessarily designed to defeat a heavy fur covered hide. That's why defense ammo typically has either very large hollow point cavities, or smaller cavities filled with an elastic plug. Both are approaches to preserve expansion through heavy clothing.

Ballistic test medium is not intended to reproduce bullet performance through tissue of any species. It is used because the results are reproducible and therefore able to be studied and compared from bullet to bullet and caliber to caliber.

Hunting bullets perform very differently in the same test medium than do defense bullets. Manufacturers are usually very proud of their hunting bullets and typically provide a lot of information about their bullets' performance with regard to penetration, expansion, and retained bullet weight at various ranges, as well as testimonials.
 

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Subcompact gun could have something to do with it but to be honest the issue here was the shot placement.

I shoot a 45 as much as anything except 22 when shooting pistols. The ACP and the Colt are my favorites but I do not trust them to expand at normal velocities. I prefer a large meplat bullet in the Colt and good old ball in the ACP.
 

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I can relate to that. I once tried to use a .38 Spl. snubbie running a 200 gr. cast lead round nose on a cow elk that was down, but not out. IIRC, Old Yeller was there. After three tries we used a rifle. A couple of the tries was less that two feet away and all three shots were solid hits. Not a shining moment. Interesting thing is the load duplicated an older factory load that Winchester and Remington both put out. When I was living in Nevada I made up a couple of boxes of that ammo for a retired deputy sheriff who thought that load was the be all end all defensive round. Lots of good comments on that bullet and load in the old Lyman #39 load manual.

I do plan on trying them in a .357 Magnum. Only problem might be due to they're a plain base bullet. I'll try BHN 11 metal as that seems to work nicely in the .357. Should be one penetration son of a gun.
Paul B.
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
185 gr 45 acp bullet has very low sectional density to start with, and as the bullet expands it becomes much less. Sectional density is generally considered a positive factor for straight line penetration to a deeper depth, all things being equal. Most light for caliber bullets are designed for quick expansion and energy dump with limited expansion. The bullet did not fail in one respect, it dumped all its energy into the animal. It lost out in penetration because it spent so much energy changing direction to create the V shape wound, a probable outgrowth of limited sectional density. This gets complex because this is a solid copper bullet rather than jacketed lead, but the facts remains, there was limited weight influencing adequate straight line penetration once an obstruction was hit (especially if at an angle or partial contact). This is very common in light hollow points, but gets overlooked because gelatin tests never feature bone like obstacles, which do influence bullet terminal wound behavior greatly. If I desired more dependable straight line penetration would go with a 230 gr. I would not blame the load, it was probably never tested against bone, light weight, high velocity, fast expanding all argue for it being less effective in this application, than other choices.
I'm not intending to be critical, just offering an explanation...

That Taurus bullet is intended for personal defense, not hunting. As greymustang mentioned, it is intended to dump its energy quickly after penetrating only a few inches (say into a thorax).

The early ammo for the Marlin 444 used quick expanding bullets designed for 44 mag handgun velocities and initially suffered from poor performance reviews (similar to yours) as a result. When they started loading appropriate bullets, it was a game changer.

The musculature of a deer is heavy at the base of the neck. Your bullet probably penetrated at least 6" of hide and muscle before hitting that vertebra and breaking off the dorsal spine. Had you hit the ring, or the body of the verterbra it would probably have done what you wanted it to do. Shooting from up close doesn't mean that you can miss the critical spot and still make an instant kill. A rifle, with its much greater terminal energy, would have taken out the cord. But after penetrating hide and 6" of muscle, your 185 gr 45 acp did not have enough energy left.

Sounds like your bullet did just what it was designed to do. It just didn't do what you wanted it to do.
I'm not a Tauras fan just because I don't buy anything that is made in Brazil or Spain. Not sure where their marketed ammo is made. However, I must admit the ammo you used performed exactly like it should have for personal defense ammo.

I'm a Sig Sauer and Speer Gold Dot fan for my carry guns. I doubt my preference of ammo would have done any better on your deer. Perhaps a 230 grain fmj or Hornady XTP could have done better, I don't know. At least we learned something from your experience.
Maybe I wasn’t so clear in my explanation?
On a very small buck, from 10 feet, going through thin air (7,000 ft elevation), the bullet struck basically straight into the spine. The bullet traveled all of 2 1/2” through relatively thin hide and a small tenderloin before striking the vertebrae.

Anyone thinking this is “normal” for “superior advanced hand gun cartridges” should contact Cowboy about his elixir.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
It's interesting to read the preceding comments since they come from hunters rather than "self defense experts".

I find it interesting that a 124 grain 9mm JHP would not penetrate completely through a deer's skull. I look at all these gel tests and wonder what happens if the attacker's arm gets in the way and you hit the humerus or if your attacker is very over weight or very muscled or if there is time for only one shot. I realize that a 4" S&W Model 29 is not a great everyday carry for most people but there are days when Elmer Keith seems like a fountain of wisdom.
Exactly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Nowhere on this box of this “100% made in the USA” factory loaded ammo does it say self-defense, never claiming it is watered down police grade. They do use a lot of big words like, “superior, advanced, maximum, finest, maximize performance, rigid specifications, specially formulated, extremely, prized…”

Gun writers hyped this loading as “barrier blind”. Claiming it could shoot through a car’s doorposts and still take out the bad guy. I know cars aren’t made like they used to, but a doorpost ain’t tinfoil. A 110 pound deer isn’t made out of steel. One writer actually claims it will “dump a whitetail”.

The Barnes 185 gr copper is a about 20% lighter than a normal 230 grain 45ACP bullet. Barnes claims the bullet will penetrate 25% more than similar lead bullets. The barrel on my Bersa is 3.5”, maybe dropping 150 fps off top speed from a 5”. Taurus doesn’t make any claims to the speed of this cartridge, but some have chronographed at at 950 fps. Maybe I asked to much from this overhyped ammo?

Strike the zipper on a leather jacket of a muscular bad guy coming at you and this round would likely bounce off his sternum. No need for body armor. A 1/2” of drywall and a catchers mitt could probably stop this round.
 

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Ballistic test medium is not intended to reproduce bullet performance through tissue of any species. It is used because the results are reproducible and therefore able to be studied and compared from bullet to bullet and caliber to caliber.
Very good point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Subcompact gun could have something to do with it but to be honest the issue here was the shot placement.

I shoot a 45 as much as anything except 22 when shooting pistols. The ACP and the Colt are my favorites but I do not trust them to expand at normal velocities. I prefer a large meplat bullet in the Colt and good old ball in the ACP.
I was thinking more like, bullet placement is important in a coup de grase situation.
Ouch, Monday morning quarterbacks are harsh 😛

Shot placement, seriously? Central Nervous System shots, up until now, have always been a good and instantly lethal option. If I thought a perfectly placed 45 ACP round couldn’t damage a spinal cord from 10’, I definitely wouldn’t feel confident it could penetrate a skull. Its also a harder target to hit with the animal very stressed and thrashing about. If I didn’t make a good head shot, and wounded the poor thing even more, I’d be sure to really get roasted by y’all.

Maybe you are all thinking a heart/lung shot. Well my game-time quarterbacking says there is a lot more animal to penetrate than 2.5” to the spine. Way more meat to damage with a higher likelihood of hitting a shoulder, or two. With the rear quarters already damaged, if both fronts were too, I still should be able to salvage a couple of burgers, right? A near perfect shot might just end up being a single lung shot. That is a pretty slow death for an already slowly dying animal.

Actually my game-time quarterbacking won’t be convinced a CNS shot wasn’t the best option with a 45 ACP in the situation. Monday morning QB? Different ammunition for sure.

In all seriousness, I could have thrown the gun and done the same damage as this less-than-lethal ammunition.
 
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