Hornady ammunition has always been known for its exceptional accuracy, consistency and high standards. Their TAP (Tactical Application Police) rounds have been at the forefront in the development and application of law enforcement-specific ammunition for years. I first came across Hornady TAP 7.62x51mm 168-grain BTHP close to 10 years ago, and it was easily the most consistent and accurate factory ammunition my rifle had ever used. Later, when the need arose for a less penetrative bullet, the 168-grain TAP (A-MAX) round was tested as well and remains our team’s primary deployment round to this day.
Over the years, Hornady has always produced excellent ammunition, so I jumped at the chance to attend a media trip for the company’s newest pistol ammunition designed specifically for the police market.
A common misconception about self-defense ammunition is its ability to automatically be effective in the law enforcement environment. Some would tell you any self-defense ammunition is perfectly suited for police applications and vice-versa. It is a convenient notion, especially if you are selling really expensive ammunition. There is only one problem: It is not always true—especially in cases where officers need to penetrate intermediate barriers. Officers may need to shoot through car glass, doors and other barriers. Although that may occur in a non-sworn self-defense situation, it’s very rare. For a police officer, it is a strong possibility in most shooting incidents.
When it comes to pistol ammunition, a civilian generally needs the best possible expansion with proper penetration through soft tissue. A police officer needs this as well, but the bullet must also work as effectively after passing through drywall, plywood, glass, heavy clothing and even car doors. It is this balance that is really difficult to acquire and why so much testing goes into any change in duty ammunition.
Generally, the ability to penetrate barriers has affected terminal wound ballistics in soft tissue alone. Early in my career, the ammunition issued often failed to penetrate and, more importantly, stay together after going through most barriers. The .38 +P ammunition first issued would not penetrate drywall, let alone a windshield. Luckily, ammunition improvements have solved many of these issues. The advent of bonded bullets certainly helped on that front, but this often meant greater over-penetration or, more critically, a lack of bullet expansion.
The bottom line with handgun ammunition ballistics is the size of the permanent wound cavity. Greater expansion results in a larger wound with more rapid blood loss and tissue damage. The latest ammunition generally offers the appropriate penetration through soft tissue and barriers, consistent expansion, near complete bullet weight retention, and solid accuracy. Hornady’s new Critical Duty pistol ammunition fits nicely into this category.