The firearms industry is highly competitive, and nowhere is the competition stiffer than in the ammunition sector. Every year I spend a great portion of the SHOT Show as I will be doing in just a few weeks, just going from booth to booth looking for new ammunition and/or components. There are so many new loads, bullets, powders and even cases and primers that it’s very difficult to keep track of them all. A good number of these products are simply “flashes in the pan” which never make it into full production. Others, like Speer’s Gold Dot, gain broad acceptance and become full-fledged institutions.
One new trend that’s rapidly gaining acceptance is ammo with fluted bullets. There are several manufacturers now loading this radical, new bullet and the latest is Black Hills Ammunition.
Black Hills calls its new line of ammo Xtreme Defense. It’s topped with Lehigh Xtreme Defense bullets. Presently Black Hills is offering two loads: a .38 Special +P load topped with a Lehigh Defense 100 gr. Xtreme Defense all-copper fluted bullet and a .380 ACP load that has a Lehigh Defense 60 gr. fluted copper bullet. The .38 Special +P load is rated by the company at 1275 feet per second and 361 foot pounds of energy. The .380 is rated at 1150 fps. and 176 ft. pds.
The key to understanding what’s new about these loads is their fluted bullets. These bullets don’t expand like hollowpoints, yet they still rapidly deposit their energy in the target, creating temporary and permanent wound cavities that far exceed those of ball ammunition and even some jacketed hollow points. This enhanced performance is accomplished through the acceleration of tissue fluids as they pass over the flutes and become directed at right angles to the bullet as it transects tissues that lie along the wound track. Once the bullet loses sufficient energy to become unstable, the bullet then tumbles in a straight line as it continues its penetration.
The low sectional density of the bullet combined with the rapid loss of energy caused by the flutes and the bullet tumbling limits penetration. This keeps all of the kinetic energy within the body cavity. This gives the Xtreme Defense bullets in .38 Spl. +P and .380 ACP about half the tissue penetration of a 158 gr. .38 Spl. FMJ or a 90 gr. .380 ACP FMJ. On the other hand, the solid non-expanding construction of these bullets gives them very good penetration against many barriers commonly encountered in self-defense shootings.
Both loads were tested for reliability, functioning, velocity/energy and tactical accuracy. The .380 ACP load was tested with an S&W Bodyguard and the .38 Special +P load was tested with an S&W 340 PD and a 4″-barreled Colt Diamondback. The two loads functioned perfectly in all of the test guns and there were no misfires. None of the loads exhibited any signs of excessive pressure in any of the guns.
The velocity for the .380 ACP Xtreme Defense load averaged 1134 fps. from the Bodyguard’s 2.75″ barrel. Muzzle energy was 171 foot pounds. These results are just what one would expect from a .380 pocket pistol like the Bodyguard. Tactical accuracy was good. Five double taps from an appendix holster presentation produced a 94-2X score on a B-27 silhouette target at 7 yds.
The results from the .38 Spl.+P Xtreme Defender load were acceptable from the 340 PD and very good from the Colt Diamondback. The results from the .340 were complicated by the fact that the gun is chambered in .357 Magnum. When .38 Special ammo is fired in a magnum chamber the shorter .38 Spl. case leaves a gap between the case mouth and the mouth of the chamber. This gap allows powder gasses to expand prematurely and lowers chamber pressure, bullet velocity and muzzle energy. As a result average velocity for the +P load was only 900 fps. and muzzle energy was 180 ft. pds. This is comparable to a .380 load with a 100 gr. bullet. Velocity and energy would have been better if the gun had been chambered for .38 Spl. This is true of all .38 caliber ammunition that is fired in .357 Magnum chambers. Tactical accuracy, on the other hand wasn’t bad. The score was 92-1X for five double taps from an appendix holster presentation at 7 yds.
The velocity and energy levels generated in the 4″ .38 Spl. Diamondback were much higher. Average Velocity was 1102 feet per second and muzzle energy was 270 foot pounds. This is less than that advertised by the factory, but still is quite good for a 4 inch barrel revolver.
The gun was sighted in from the bench at 15 yards. Once the revolver’s adjustable rear sight was regulated for elevation, the Diamondback put its bullets into a 2 inch group. This was more than satisfactory performance.
The new .380 ACP and .38 Spl. +P Xtreme Defense loads from Black Hills good examples of the performance that can be expected from ammunition containing the latest fluted bullets. For further information about this ammunition contact www.black-hills.com.
 The 340 PD is intended for ammunition with bullets weighing a minimum of 120 gr. when magnum loads are fired in the gun. Consult the manufacturer for advice regarding possible chamber mouth erosion before using .38 Special ammunition loaded with bullets weighing less than 120 grains traveling at moderate velocities.