Friday, January 24, 2014

Liberty Civil Defense Ammunition...... a 'Meaty' review.

So... this box shows up on Castle Carteach's porch... and it has an OrmD label on it.  That almost always means good things, and this time was no different.   The box contained a bunch of product from Liberty Ammunition, and they were dropping it in my lap for test and review.

Free ammo?  Oh. Hell. Yes!

A guaranteed good review?  Oh. Hell. NO!

Liberty makes ammo for three purposes;  Military use, civilian defense, and hunting.   The fodder in my grubby hands?  The civil defense pistol version.   I was supplied with samples of the major self defense pistol calibers in use today, at least in semi-auto pistols.

Look, there's a lot of fancy 'defensive' ammo on the market, and most of it stabilizes at around $1 per round.  Every company swears theirs is the bestus most wonderfullest fantasmagoricalist stuff that ever hit the market.  Every single round garrunteeeed to stop a charging rhino with one shot, make terrorists quake in fear, and maybe even cause world peace to break out.

The point is, what makes Liberty any different?

It seems they took a completely different direction with their product, at least as has been used in defensive ammo up till now.  They turned away from the traditional jacketed lead bullet of average weight, and re-engineered the whole idea of what a projectile is and does.

Their bullet is made of monolithic copper, nickle plated, and has a hollow cavity you can park a volkswagon in.  The projectile is VERY light weight.... the .45 acp version weighing in at only 78 grains.   The 9x19 and .380 bullets, a mere 50 grains.

Guess what that does to velocity?   You got it Brother.... it's crazy high.   Not willing to believe or accept the companies advertised velocities, The Fat Man set up his own damned Chrono and got to shooting.  The results?   Sheesh...... they were not kidding one bit.

.380, Federal Hydroshock = 860 fps.  Liberty?  1379 fps.

9x19mm 115 grain ball =  1110 fps.  Liberty?  An honest 2028 fps average.

.45acp 230 grain (my own) = 750 fps.  Liberty..... 1847 fps average over two 20 round strings.  That gives a muzzle energy almost double a standard round.

The 9x19mm was Chrono'ed from several weapons, and there is only 20 fps difference between a 3" barrel and a 5" barrel, so this stuff is right at home in a short barrel pistol.  The .45acp was fired from a Glock G-30, and the .380 from a Ruger LCP.   Short barreled pistol all.

Now, I don't for a second think velocity equals stopping power.  My 22-250 will burn a smoking hot little 52 grain bullet along at pretty decent speed, but that doesn't make it a whitetail rifle.  Penetration is at least as much a factor as sheer velocity and energy dump, when it comes to defensive considerations, and most certainly in pistol calibers.

Pistol bullets stop bad guys by two basic factors.  They punch holes, and they break things.  Holes bleed and broken things don't work right.  The movie concept of a thug taking a slug from a pocket pistol and instantly being blown ten feet rearwards while doing a double backflip.... well.... that is just nonsense.  Stopping power is about breaking bones, disrupting the nervous system with shock, and blood loss (internally or externally).

For most of the history of defensive pistol ammunition, the better designs have simply found ways to penetrate better, while still disrupting as much 'stuff' as possible.  Unlike full sized rifle rounds, pistol ammunition really hasn't had the energy to unload a big impressive hit.  The .357 magnum approached 'energy dump' territory, and gained a heck of a reputation as a man stopper as a result.   But... and it's a big 'but'.... there are no common CCW style semi-auto pistols chambered in .357 magnum.  Modern defensive pistols, whether citizen CCW, police, or military, have gone the route of higher capacity and 'decently' performing bullets.

It appears that Liberty designed their bullets to give just that energy dump, while still penetrating, and also fragmenting in a way that makes hamburger out of the target.

How do I know this?   I tested it... that's how.  Sure.... unscientifically and in a highly 'Hold my Beer' fashion, but... well..... look for yourself.

Here is the video that Liberty has uploaded, showing gel-block hits from their products:

Interesting stuff, and to my eye seems pretty effective in comparison to other offerings on the market.  The bullets have fair penetration for the caliber they are, and the fragmentation and disruption is very dependable.
230 grain .45acp slug after magazine hit

My own testing directly comparing my own favorite defensive .45acp handload (a 230 grain soft core HP at 750 fps) against the Liberty .45 acp in the classic 'Stack 'O Magazines' showed about matched depth to the wound channel.   What was different was the size of the wound channel, and the...... condition..... of it.

Where the Liberty .45 slug hit the magazine stack, it left a hole bigger than two of my fingers wide, and deeper than I could reach them.  Friends..... my hands are not small.  

More to the point the hole in the magazine stack was full of confetti, and every single hit left a recoverable copper slug of exactly .45 bore diameter.  It was the bullet base, with the rest of the bullet converting into fragments (big and small) and behaving like a maddened Tasmanian devil crossed with a miniature wood chipper.
.45acp Liberty slug after magazine impact

This intrigued me, as the results were something new.  I suppose that's fitting, as the bullet itself is something new.

The thing is..... how does one test terminal ballistics in a projectile?  I seem to be clean out of bad guys to defend myself against with force.... and I'm extremely thankful that is the case.

Traditionally, one would use a ballistic medium like the gel shown in the video provided by Liberty.  This is used almost universally as a substitute for shooting... you know.... actual bad guys, and is recognized as a good way to judge terminal ballistics.

Myself.... I have other thoughts.  The ballistic gelatin is a substitute to shooting real flesh and blood bodies.  It's scientifically repeatable, and allows direct comparison of one projectiles terminal effects against another bullets effects.  It's also a make-do, a substitute, and a compromise to use instead of what the bullets are really designed for.  Until real world results begin trickling in from real world encounters, the ballistic gelatin test is simply a good compromise test medium.

My thought.... this Liberty Ammo is something new in the arena, and perhaps the old fashioned Gel testing simply isn't going to cut it.  I decided that 'compromise' should be set aside for this evaluation, and the real world needed to intrude.

The bullet needed to be fired into.... not a substitute.... but into solid meat and bone.  My theory is only that will come closest to actual boots-on-the-ground real world.  

Hitting up my favorite meat market expert, a large pork butt was procured.  10 pounds (and a bit) of solid meat, bone, and tasty goodness sacrificed to the cause. A moment of silence was held at the butcher counter, heads bowed in sadness at the BBQ pulled pork that wasn't going to happen.

The .45 Liberty bullet fired from my G-30 struck square on the huge chunk of meat, clearly hitting bone on the way in.

Following the clean hit, it was off to the cutting board for some investigation. If there be squeamish eyes present...... shoo them away RIGHT NOW!   
.Are they gone yet?

Okay, here's the impact site:

By no means a clean hole. If that had been a living critter, blood loss would have been substantial and fast.  There appeared to be significant hydraulic shock at play here.

Sliced in two, the permanent wound cavity is nothing short of impressive as hell:

With a quarter used as a size reference, the dimensions of the cavity show clearly.  The bullet struck bone going in, shattered it with prejudice, and the fragmented bullet proceeded to convert several pounds of pork roast into hamburger. The bone fragments were driven into the meat all around the cavity.

The round piece of metal next to the quarter is the base of the bullet, recovered intact just as every other Liberty round I tested.  It was lodged another inch beyond the main wound cavity, and was removed with a small knife.

The permanent wound cavity measured 4.5" deep, from entry to end of burger.  Beyond that, the meat was torn in multiple places from hydraulic shock, following lines of sinew or fat.

Look, this is not a scientific test.  On the other hand, it's dramatically close to real world results.  That's a damn big hole, with a shattered mess inside it.

I'd like to continue the testing, seeing results over multiple hits and with multiple calibers.... but it's just not feasible.  Not only are huge pork butts expensive, but the guys at the meat market would certainly have some unfriendly comments about abusing ..... well..... it just won't happen.

Accuracy wise, the hyper velocity Liberty ammo hits to a different point of aim than I am used to, striking lower than my regular carry ammo did.  I suspect this is due to a phenomenon known as 'Bullet time in barrel' in relation to the weapons recoil, and is a subject for another article one day. For my G-30, the impact point is roughly two inches lower at 30 feet.

Groups were acceptable over all.  Not match accuracy, but easily on par with most factory ammo.  My own loads, tuned to the pistols, shoot better groups.... but that's not what defensive carry weapons are about.

The real question....  Would I load this ammunition in my regular carry pistols?

The real answer.... it's already there. 


Rev. Paul said...

Interesting, and impressive. Thanks!

.45ACP+P said...

Thanks, I have some and as previously mentioned it shoots well. It may just migrate to the carry mags.

Anonymous said...

awesome! fantastic review - i think the pork butt should become the new standard of terminal dynamics!


michigan doug said...

One question.Recoil, a little more or a lot more?

Carteach said...

I didn't think to mention that. No more than my normal 230 grain defensive load, and less than most +p .45ac I have tried.

The Liberty ammo IS a +p rated round.

Long Island Mike said...

My natural inclination is to never be on the bleeding edge of tech. Whilst I enjoy the pork test, a respectfully point out that defensive shooting involves circumstances where glass windshields, car doors, couches, doors and walls, clothing of all types, and cans of food (like in a bodega) come in between you and bad guy. I keep going back to ball ammo as the most tried and true solution. Probably more folks killed with it while it was only availble ammo in first 100 years. Of course everyone has to make their own decision.

Shane W said...

I was wondering about the recoil also. Thanks for the answer and an awesome review! The pork test was great. I like it better than the ballistics gel.
I'm gonna have to get some and give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Interesting and impressive crater. However, 4.5 inches of penetration doesn't seem adequate unless small dogs (chihuahua size) are the aggressor. I'll stick to ball.

Carteach said...

I suspect some penetration testing would be a good idea. Perhaps a car door, and comparing several traditional rounds against the new Liberty offering.

Penetration is good, but over-penetration is bad. My guess is the luck of the draw has a lot to do with that, but pre-planning is not a bad thing.

Looking up in some med information, I find the average thickness of a grown mans torso is 10-12 inches. Looking at the wound cavity in the test I did, I simply cannot imagine ANYPLACE on the torso that would not be a stopper.

Comrade Misfit said...

Interesting stuff and thanks for doing the test. But like L.I. Mike, I wonder how it will do against a Goblin who has on any sort of heavy clothing.

For the moment (and until a lot more t&e is done), I'll stick with the more traditional cartridges that will get through such stuff.

Earl said...

I like the write up, now I know what is there when I see it again. Great test on the pork butt, it would be a stopper when used.

ASM826 said...

I don't understand why you didn't cook it as a follow-up. What was the harm? Deer get shot and cooked by the millions.

Carteach said...

ASM826, As a matter of fact, I did. With some judicious butchery, I ended up with enough to make a hellacious dutch oven full of pulled pork.

It were quite tasty :-)

Anonymous said...

Just curious. Do you use a heavier spring in a 1911 with this ammunition? It seems like it could beat up the frame if you did not take the higher energy into account.



Erin said...

Great review, answered all my questions and then some!

Anonymous said...

Not sold on another "gimmick" type of ammo. The penetration is really not on par with "traditional" defensive carry loads which to me is well over half of my reasoning for not stuffing my mags with this ammo. When one does their ballistic testing with gel you should be placing about a 1/4" thick piece of pine board up to stimulate a breast bone. I just cant be convinced this ammo will have the mass to attain the extreme blood loss that causes the dirt ball to lose blood pressure and go into shock causing him/her to become combat ineffective.

Anonymous said...

Good review and I carry this as well, not just for weight difference but because of the shaer stopping power. The unique way the Bullet is designed is something that had years of testing and the CIA and NSA have used it now for a while. You can shoot through hardened object (i.e car door, glass, most media) and the bullet won't fragment until it hits soft tissue mass and then it fragments. The distinct Advantage for Agents using these rounds is very flat shooting, less recoil, no over-penetration, which makes their Teams Safer by not getting hit by a round or the bystanders. The cadavre testing I got to see at the Denver Federal Lab was insane. Most hollow points went through the cadavre making a small temporary wound channel whereas the Liberty rounds made a significant Permanent Wound Cavity. I have shot all the rounds Liberty has top offer in Test & Evaluation Standards and they are way ahead of everyone else.

Ray C. said...

Thank you for the impressive review of the Liberty Civil Defense ammo. I just picked up my Glock 30 and have been looking for a carry load for it, I think this is it, lots of shock to start, then you get a wound channel that is the size of your fist or larger, then it doesn't pass through into the poor bystander behind the target. This ammunition seems to fill the bill for carry ammo.

Revolver guy said...

After 150 rounds of various ammo through my new SP101 I thoroughly cleaned it and slid 5 357 CD into it and they were tuff to get out, shot some 38 sjhp and they slid rite out, so I shot 5 more CD and 3 of the 5 had to be removed with a ram rod, i inspected and shot the 38's again and they slid out, 5 more CD and after the 5th shot the trigger locked all the way back! Finally got it to release,opened the cyl to find a primer hanging out! That round required a lot of hitting to remove! Can't trust this ammo to protect me and my family!! Worst ammo i've ever shot! Vary disappointed!!

Anonymous said...

Some thoughts on defense cartridges:
I'm no ballistician. I won't presume to discuss the relative merits of momentum vs. energy, power factors or knockdown factors. These have been endlessly debated by experts...

A light for caliber projectile will give up penetration for speed. (See Glaser and MagSafe etc.)
A small diameter projectile is likely to overpenetrate, thus wasting energy. (Expanding bullets reduce overpenetration, and create a larger wound channel.)
A heavy projectile at moderate speed will likely transfer all energy to the target.
A big, deep hole is probably more effective than a small, through hole.(But elephants can be killed with a 7X57 Mauser.)
Clothing or barriers may cause bullet failures.
45 ACP and .45 LC have similar ballistics. Coincidence?
Are hydrostatic shock, Bullet tumble and secondary wound channels from fragments effective stoppers? You tell me.

I tend to favor heavy for caliber bullets. However, lighter bullets are generally easier to manage.
A hollowpoint that fails to expand is essentially a wadcutter. Wadcutters are unlikely to fragment or overpenetrate.
In some jurisdictions hollowpoints are restricted, wadcutters might be a good option in those areas.

With these factors in mind it seems something like a .45 ACP 200gr RNFP at about 950 FPS would be an effective all-around choice. Additionally, the flat point is likely to cause significant tissue disruption.
(Speer offers this cartridge in the Lawman line.)


649-3 said...

Nice review.Folks ,there is no law that says you can't run different ammo styles in the same mag,say fmj,147gr hp,and liberty or whatever floats your boat .Trouble comes unexpectedly and you have to be prepared for anything.That being said the liberty ammo has so much noise and muzzle flash it makes a 9mm look like a 38 super.