When I first got a look at these hollow points at ShotShow I almost could not believe my eyes. Deprived of consent from my brain, I began to litter these gentlemen with questions. Looking at this expanded hollow point was astonishing. They appeared to be a hybrid cross of a ninja star and boat prop. I quickly convinced myself that these bullets were fabricated specifically for ShotShow. The expansion is abnormally large and far to precise to be real. I had to have some. Spoiler Alert, this stuff is for real.
Upon return from our Lehigh Defense ammunition review, I proceeded to tell one of our guys about the 45ACP hollow points we tested. I was pretty infatuated with these rounds that expanded with surgical precision to more than 3X there original diameter. 1.31 inches! He looked me right in the eye and said "Dude... you're high." I ignored his ignorance for a brief moment as I fished the recovered bullet from my pocket. I dropped it in his hand and responded. "No... Lehigh."
With a 20 year + history Lehigh Defense has been driven by a desire to transform. Lehigh started out manufacturing Swiss CNC machine Match Solid Bullets for use in competition. They strive to push the limits of the technology and spent months in the shop working through previously uncharted territory. Their research and testing ultimately led to the development of a world record setting high performance bullet that delivers the highest possible reliability. Convinced they could improve upon a neglected technology, they created the industry’s first Controlled Fracturing bullet for the Muzzle loader industry. (We will be testing that as well in another review) Lehigh has continued to work on and perfect their achievement and now offer a complete line of Controlled Fracture ammunition, Multiple Projectile Technology, and Maximum Expansion Hollow points. In this review we will be running their Maximum Expansion 45ACP & 9mm.
Driving The 45
Lets get right into it. We want to shoot these 45 rounds and see how fast they go. The claimed velocity is 1025 ft/sec. To be fair, we want to use a full length barrel. Our choice to launch these 45's will be the Browning brainchild. Using a Springfield 1911 (Loaded Model) we put a few fatheads through the chrony.
Average Velocity @10', 5" barrel = 1117 ft/sec. Average Muzzle Energy = 482 ft·lb
These 45 rounds are certainly moving fast for a 45ACP. Sure they are diet rounds on the lighter side of the 45ACP spectrum, but 174 grains is nothing to sneeze at. Neither is 482 ft·lb of energy. I say we get them acquainted with our water jugs and see what kind of penetration we can achieve.
We found and recovered the round inside of the third water jug. These jugs were 4 inches each which totals 12 inches in water. That would translate to roughly 7 to 9 inches in gelatin. As we pulled them out, the joke was on us. These bullets did in fact look identical to the expanded bullets we saw at ShotShow. Forming a perfect star with each blade, every petal was equally as perfect as the next. It really does resemble a boat prop. Well... a boat prop that has been engineered with surgical precision. I certainly would not want to get hit with one.
When we put the digital caliper on the expanded bullet it measured 1.31 inches. To give you an idea of how large that actually is, click the picture to the left. For comparison we also shot and recovered a Winchester PDX1 45ACP. This is Winchester's premium hollow point that they claim the FBI uses. One single petal from the Lehigh Defense ME round is larger than the entire expanded PDX1. If that is not impressive, than I do not know what is. This is without a doubt the largest expanding hollow point I have ever shot.
Once we had passed the recovered bullet around for about 10 minutes or so, we finally made it to the scale to see how much weight it retained. Our scale reads 174.4. We did calibrate it prior to use, so that means the the projectile retained 100% of its weight. A picture perfect example of excellent design. Perfect expansion and perfect weight retention. On the flip side, the recovered PDX1 bullet weighed 210.2 grains. It lost 20 grains after impact.
Manufacturer = Lehigh Defense Type = Maximum Expansion Hollow Point Caliber = 45ACP Weight = 174 Grains
Average Velocity @ 10' | 5" barrel = 1117 ft/sec. Muzzle Energy = 482 ft·lb
Penetration = 12" in water Expansion = 1.31" Retained Weight = 174.4 grains
Lehigh's 9mm 105 Grain After the success of the Lehigh 45ACP round we were anxious to test the 9mm. Although, the 1911 is my favorite platform, 9mm remains my favorite caliber. It is easy to shoot, cheap to shoot, and the advancements in the 9mm cartridge never cease to amaze me. In spite of vast improvements to the 9mm, many claim the 9mm is to small to be effective. Well to put it bluntly, you are wrong. The Lehigh 9mm has a strong case to prove it. Lets have a look shall we?
What if I told you I had a 9mm round that not only has a higher velocity, but also expands to near double the expansion of another premium 45ACP? Do I have your attention? Not only could you have a larger hollow point, you also have twice the capacity. Not only can you have twice the capacity, but the shots could be more controllable and follow up shots could be quicker. You could also carry these wonder bullets in a smaller pocket sized platform for better comfort if you so desire. Is any of this making sense? If not, it will.
Average Velocity @ 10', 3.86" barrel = 1239.4 ft/sec. Average Muzzle Energy = 358 ft·lb
This 9mm load easily exceeded the claimed velocity of 1150 ft/sec. Not only was the speed impressive, it was actually pretty mild to shoot. This is a very controllable round. Putting a few of these through the water jugs we achieved the slightly greater penetration than the 45ACP which was 12". The bullets made it into the fourth water jug. There was no mark on the backside of the jug so we are going to assume it stopped short and achieved 15" of penetration. That would equal 9 to 10 inches in gelatin.
Upon recovery of the bullet from the fourth water jug, yet again, we were amazed. The hollow point had expanded flawlessly. It was identical in shape and just as precise as the 45ACP round. Yes it was smaller than the massive 1.31" 45ACP but it was still almost the size of a quarter at .83". It is also 40% larger than the Winchester PDX1 45ACP we previously fired. Again one of the largest expanding 9mm hollow point we have ever tested.
Here is an example of when a picture is worth a thousand words. Click the picture to the left to see it full-size. We are not comparing two 9mm bullets in this picture. It is the Lehigh 9mm and the PDX1 45ACP. The size of this 9mm bullet is simply astounding. When compared to the Winchester PDX1 45ACP, the precision of the Lehigh 9mm should be equally impressive. The PDX1 expanded, but with no consistency. You could fire 100 PDX1 rounds and no two would alike. We recovered three of these Lehigh 9mm rounds and each was identical.
Placing the recovered projectile on our handy scale, it weighed it at 105.2 grains. I guess it is safe to say it retained 100% of its weight. Here are the final figures for this round for you to compare.
Manufacturer = Lehigh Defense Type = Maximum Expansion Hollow Point Caliber = 9mm Weight = 104 Grains
Average Velocity @10' | 3.86" barrel = 1239.4 ft/sec. Muzzle Energy = 358 ft·lb
Penetration = 15" in water Expansion = .83" Retained Weight = 105.2 grains
Lehigh's 9mm 70 Grain HERO Along with a series of other loads, Lehigh included a lighter 70 grain bullet for us to run along side the 105 grain. Classified as HERO Professional Series, it is slightly different than the other hollow points in appearance and is rated +P. The claimed velocity for this round is 1650 ft/sec. using a 4 inch barrel and 1550 from a 3 inch barrel. Using our SIG with 3.86" barrel we should be somewhere in between. Let's shoot it.
Average Velocity @ 10', 3.86" barrel = 1592.6 ft/sec. Average Muzzle Energy = 394 ft·lb
According to our chronograph, the claimed results are pretty close. The recoil from this round (even though +P rated) was about the same as the 105 grain we shot earlier. It is fairly soft shooting and very easily managed. These would be awesome for double taps.
When shot through the water jugs, the HERO 9mm load had the same penetration as the 45ACP, 12 inches in water. Likewise it made a pretty impressive explosion on impact. Yes all the hollow point did significant damage to the cartons, but this load blew the first two jugs completely apart. We actually had to hunt for the pieces to put them in the bin.
We fished out the HERO load from the third jug and measured it for size. Our digital caliper says the expansion is .64 inches. While not as impressive as the 105 grain hollow point, it is still slightly larger than the PDX1 45ACP round. That is plenty large to cause significant damage.
Looking at the picture left, you will notice this round is different than the previous ones fired. More similar to a Barnes Hollow point, it has six petals instead of four. Because of the two extra petals and reduction in weight, the penetration was effected. This is to be expected. The increased velocity also increased the muzzle energy. 394 ft/lbs is not to shabby, especially when 100% of it is transfered into the target.
The recovered weight of this projectile 70.6 grains. Again the Lehigh hollow point retained 100% of its weight. The design of this bullet has been very well implemented just like the other Lehigh bullets. Here are the final figure for the 70 grain HERO below.
Manufacturer = Lehigh Defense Type = HERO Maximum Expansion Hollow Point Caliber = 9mm Weight = 70 Grains
Average Velocity @10' | 3.86" barrel = 192.6 ft/sec. Muzzle Energy = 394 ft·lb
Penetration = 12" in water Expansion = .64" Retained Weight = 70.6 grains
What Did We Learn
Let me ask the obvious question. After reading this far, would you rather have 10 rounds of the Winchester PDX1 chambered in 45ACP, or 10 rounds of the Lehigh Defense 9mm? Let's take it a step further. Would you rather have 10 rounds of PDX1 45ACP, or 17 rounds of Lehigh Defense 9mm? Personally I would never feel under-gunned with either of these 9mm loads and would easily choose them over the PDX1 45ACP. If the question were, would I rather have Lehigh Defense 45ACP or 9mm, having read this article, I might have a different answer. This is why researching and testing ammunition prior to selecting it is crucial.
My intention in reviewing the 9mm along side the 45ACP is not to debate whether or not the 9mm is more effective than the 45ACP. That is useless. My intention is educate people that there are differences in the performance and quality of ammunition. Sometimes we get what we pay for, and sometimes we get more than we paid for. If you did not just read this article, you might assume the larger PDX1 45ACP round would "make a larger hole". In this case, you would be wrong. People can assume anything, but assumption does not make it true. Testing makes proof, and proof makes fact. What I hope you have learned is that bullet design can easily trump caliber. Not only does Lehigh know this, they may have perfected it.
What about penetration? Isn't the FBI recommended penetration 12 inches in gelatin? Yes it is, but that is a recommendation for the FBI and there are many ways to skin a cat. Penetration is needed, but is not the only way to stop an attacker. The alternative to massive penetration is massive trauma. When the size of the projectile is increased so is the trauma. Likewise, the greater the diameter of the projectile, the greater the force is working against it. You can have massive expansion or you can have massive penetration, but you can't have both. While penetration is an effective way to stop an attack, over penetration increases liability. The Winchester rounds we shot here penetrated through more than 26 inches of water and completely exited our jugs. Performance was more like a full metal jacket round because it lacked the expansion needed to dump its energy into the target. Frankly, I am not sure I am comfortable with this. The liability is far to great. I am not FBI, nor do I have the insurance or lawyers the FBI have. I do not want a bullet to travel completely through a bad guy and continue through the walls where an innocent person may be. In a self defense situation, I prefer my bullets stay with the assailant. Why? Because you will need to shoot the assailant more than once. Regardless of penetration, 8 out of 10 people shot with handguns survive. A one-shot-stop is like kicking a field goal from the 80 yard line. It is possible, but highly unlikely.
After spending day examining the design and performance of these hollow points, I have come to the conclusion that this was the goal Lehigh wanted to achieve. They hit the nail on the head. These are all excellent self defense loads that offer maximum performance with minimal liability. The low recoil greatly helps with accuracy, and the assembly line precision is unequaled. We had no malfunctions of any kind when testing the Lehigh Defense ammunition. Lehigh has created a new standard to which all ammo will now be compared. I can honestly say I trust this ammunition. Don't believe me? Drop the magazine of any home defense pistol in my safe.
If you are interested in purchasing Lehigh ammunition you can find it at lehighdefense.com