I recently read an article entitled Is .40 S&W Dead? The gist of the article is that manufacturers of defense ammunition have been driven by the FBI test standards, and that has resulted in significant improvements in performance (mainly penetration and reliability of expansion). This has led me to wonder whether there is better, more modern ammunition available now, to which I should consider switching.
I carry a Smith & Wession M&P 360 “Chief’s Special”, a snubnose J-frame revolver in .357 Magnum with the lightweight scandium alloy frame. It has a 2″ barrel (1.875″ to be precise). Five years ago, I tested several types of ammunition. I evaluated accuracy, recoil, muzzle flash, and velocity. I settled on Federal 158 grain Hydra-Shok. What sold it for me was the complete absence of muzzle flash.
I decided to buy a box of Barnes TAC-XPD, which uses a 125 grain copper bullet with a cavernous hollow point. This design has evidently performed well through all kinds of barriers. One thing that caught my eye was this claim: “Barnes specially engineered each load using low flash powders to produce almost no muzzle flash, ideal for low-light situations.” Another thing I noticed was that the advertised velocity (1200 fps) was achieved with a 2″ barrel. If I’m honest, another big factor was that I liked the look of the cartridges and the packaging.
I took them first to the indoor range to test them side-by-side. Muzzle flash is much easier to see indoors. Testing them side-by-side is the only way to judge recoil. I found that the TAC-XPD had similar accuracy to the Hydra-Shok. TAC-XPD had a little less recoil, which wasn’t surprising due to the lighter bullet. However, the TAC-XPD had a fair amount of bright muzzle flash, contrary to the marketing verbiage. The Hydra-Shok, as I mentioned previously, had none.