Jacketed hollowpoint bullets are generally regarded as the best choice for self-defense. When passing through tissue, a well-designed hollowpoint will expand to a diameter significantly larger than the original caliber. An expanding bullet will crush more tissue and inflict greater damage to vital organs and blood vessels, increasing the likelihood of rapid incapacitation. Almost every domestic law enforcement agency uses jacketed hollowpoint (JHP) ammunition in their service handguns and the better versions represent a quantum leap in stopping potential over what was available just a few short years ago.
But are jacketed hollowpoints the only way to go? A viable alternative is the expanding full metal jacket (EFMJ) developed by the Federal Cartridge Company. At first glance, a cartridge loaded with an EFMJ bullet looks very much like a traditional ball round. But the EFMJ is an entirely different critter that does exactly what its name implies.
But why even bother? History illustrates that hollowpoints work just fine. So why go through all of the trouble of coming out with something entirely different? It all begins to make sense when you consider the following.
First of all, hollowpoints are not perfect. Even some highly rated designs have been known to fail after passing through the kind of barriers common in shooting incidents. One of the more formidable barriers has been heavy clothing. Hollowpoints sometimes fill up with clothing fibers and fail to expand, acting much like ball ammunition.
Although just about every modern autopistol will reliably feed hollowpoint ammunition, this was not always the case. A generation ago, many self-loading pistols and most submachine guns were pretty much ball specific. When fed hollowpoints, these guns would often choke and leave you with a stoppage. Needless to say, this could be real inconvenient if someone were shooting back. An expanding bullet with ball-like feed reliability might give some of these classics a new lease on life.
Additionally, there are some jurisdictions that restrict the use of hollowpoint ammunition. Their misguided judgment is beyond the scope of this discussion, but an expanding bullet that meets the legal test would certainly present pistoleros who reside there a far better choice than ball.
Federal’s EFMJ represents an entirely new direction in bullet technology. Internal scores weaken the nose of the bullet jacket. A unique two-part bullet core features rubber in the forward section and lead in the rear. When impacting a target, the jacket ruptures, driving the rubber tip into the lead core, causing the bullet to expand dramatically. Since there is no hollow cavity to clog, bullet expansion through heavy clothing is pretty much assured.
Recently, I obtained three different EFMJ offerings. Marketed in Federal’s Personal Defense line, this ammunition is packed in a clear plastic 20-round box. Samples included a 105-grain 9mm, 135-grain .40S&W, and a 165-grain .45ACP.
Testing consisted of firing the EFMJ rounds into 10 percent ordnance gelatin covered with four layers of denim. Depth of penetration and the diameter of recovered bullets were noted. Test pistols included a SIG SAUER P239 9mm, S&W 4013 .40S&W, and a Kimber Desert Warrior .45ACP. Additionally, a S&W 940 9mm with a 2-inch barrel and a S&W 325 .45ACP Night Guard with a 2.5-inch barrel were utilized to see what, if any, effect reduced muzzle velocity would have. Muzzle velocities were measured with an Oehler 35P chronograph set 10 feet away.
Performance of the 105-grain 9mm load was most impressive. Four layers of denim effectively replicate heavy clothing and if anything, represent an even more formidable barrier. In any event, the 9mm EFMJ penetrated to a depth of 12 inches and expanded diameter of recovered bullets was 0.57 inches. Even when fired from the 2-inch S&W 940, muzzle velocity was clocked at 1101 fps (feet per second) and recovered bullets were indistinguishable from those fired from the pistol.
The .40S&W EFMJ fired from the S&W 4013 was yet another slick performer. Expanded diameter was 0.68 inches with a 10.25-inch depth of penetration. Felt recoil in my 4013 was very mild, making quick follow-up shots a piece of cake.
I initially had some reservations of how the ultra-light 165-grain .45ACP EFMJ would perform in my Kimber Desert Warrior. To my relief, a few odd magazines cycled just fine. Muzzle velocity of this load was 1042 fps and performance in the gelatin was excellent. The .45ACP EFMJ yielded an average expanded diameter of 0.74 inches and penetrated to a depth of 10.75 inches in the tissue stimulant. From the shorter barrel of the 325 Night Guard, velocity was still 989 fps with slightly greater penetration. Federal EFMJ does indeed fill a niche. Felt recoil of all loads tested was mild and this should enable one to be at their best. Expansion qualities are very good rivaling the best hollowpoint designs. For personal defense, I consider bullet performance through heavy clothing to be very important criteria and Federal’s EFMJ loads delivered every time.
Left to my own designs, I would still select a quality JHP for self-defense. Since retiring from active law enforcement service, however, that’s no longer an option for me. Unfortunately, my home state prohibits carry of hollowpoint ammunition by private citizens. Needless to say, a quality, high performance, non-hollowpoint like a Federal EFMJ holds considerable appeal for me.
And if that old classic pistol just won’t run with hollowpoints, you may want to consider EFMJ ammunition. This innovative offering from Federal just may take that old pistol to a whole new level of performance.
In addition to Personal Defense EFMJ line reviewed herein, Federal also markets some similar offerings for law enforcement. These EFMJ loads feature more traditional bullet weights and should deliver greater tactical penetration.