Self-Defense 9×18 Makarov in a Surplus Pistol

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One of the best priced handguns available on the surplus market is the Polish P64.  Despite its heavy double action trigger pull and six round magazine the P64 can serve as a nice compact conceal carry weapon, or a back-up to your primary conceal carry weapon.  I really like the P64 pistol for its small, thin design and accuracy.  But, regardless of the firearm no self-defense weapon is any good without effective self-defense ammunition.  In my search for effective self-defense ammo for my 9×18 firearms I happened to come across two brands that were designed for self defense; Silver Bear Hollow Points and Hornady Critical Defense.  The Silver Bear was priced at $14.99 for 50 rounds, whereas the Hornady Critical Defense was priced at $22.99 for 25 rounds.  Wow! What a price difference.

Hornady states that their critical defense ammunition is “Loaded with the patented FTX bullet, these bullets provide consistent expansion through heavy clothing, and won’t plug up like conventional hollow points.”  Which seems odd to state they won’t plug up since they’ve already plugged the hollow point with plastic (???).  They add that the critical defense ammo is, “Unaffected by thick and heavy clothing, including denim and leather” and has “reduce(d) recoil in lightweight handguns, and perform(s) consistently in all temperatures.

Silver Bear offers standard hollow points and they state that they, “offer high quality at reasonable prices” and their “product uses Berdan priming for long shelf life and sure-fire ignition. Silver Bear is loaded to exacting standards.

Both manufacturers purport their products shoot 1000 fps.

So, I set up my chronograph to see what kind of difference I got between the two products.  I set my chronograph 5 feet from my P64’s muzzle.  Target was placed at 10 yards.

I fired 5 rounds of both manufacturer’s ammunition for a total of 10 rounds.  Neither the Hornady Critical Defense or the Silver Bear failed to feed or failed to eject.  I didn’t notice any difference in felt recoil between the Hornady and the Silver Bear – both were pretty snappy in the little P64.

Just a little background on ballistics; there are basically three forms of ballistics that are measurable and they are Internal Ballistics, External Ballistics and Terminal Ballistics. The information provided in this article measures only the External Ballistics under limited testing.  So therefore, take it with a grain of salt.

Anyhow, to the left (first target) are my 5 shots fired from 10 yards with a 3 inch barrel using the Hornady Critical Defense ammunition.  The group is respectable, and the shot at the 7 o’clock position was my first shot.  After my first shot I realized where my shots were going and adjusted my point of aim.  The other four shots managed to go right where I desired.

To the left here (second target) are my 5 shots at 10 yards with the same firearm using the Silver Bear Hollow Points.  The three shots in the center are respectable.  Of the other two, I know for certain I threw at least one of those as soon as I pulled the trigger.

As far as shooting point of aim – considering my little pistol with a short barrel along with my aging eyes I think both are accurate enough to do their job on a bad-guy.  The ammo is probably more accurate than I am.  So that leaves us with the data gathered from the Chronograph.

As you can see, the average velocity was 958 fps which is slightly slower than what is reported by Hornady.  However, its unknown what Hornady used for a test firearm to gather their velocity data.  A longer barrel will generally result in higher velocities as there’s more time for the pressure to build as the bullet travels down the barrel – resulting in higher velocities.  Foot Pound Energy is 194, calculated using the 95 grain projectile and the average velocity shown.



The Silver Bear performed similar to the Hornady with slightly slower velocities, slightly higher velocity separation and slightly higher standard deviation with an average 934 fps.  Again, it’s unknown what firearm Silver Bear used for their test firearm.  Foot Pound Energy is 182, calculated using the 94 grain projectile and the average velocity shown.

When comparing external ballistics of these two cartridges it appears that Hornady Critical Defense ammunition appears to have a slight edge over the Silver Bear regarding velocity and consistency.  Probably not enough to make any real difference in a self-defense shooting; however you never know.  I believe both manufacturer’s bullets would do the job based upon the information gathered from this test.  However, Hornady Critical Defense ammunition’s notable edge over the Silver Bear, using the FTX projectile, can only be measured by testing its terminal ballistics; examining how well the projectile performs through thick material and its consistency and control in expanding, and then comparing it to the Silver Bear.  Maybe it is through terminal ballistic testing where we would see, and justify, the significant price difference between the two cartridges.  More testing to come – and making homemade ballistic gelatin.

Safe Shooting!

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