Hornady Law Enforcement Ammunition

Hornady Law Enforcement Ammunition

ABOVE: The 5.56mm TAP ammunition is excellent choice for law enforcement. Hornady offers several different projectile to deal with any situation that may arise.

The name Hornady is well known throughout the industry.  Hornady is a much diversified company being involved in ammunition production, manufacturing bullets for the reloading community, manufacturing reloading supplies (presses, scales, etc.) and so on.  The ammunition business provides advanced projectiles for commercial hunters, target shooters and law enforcement.

The philosophy of the founder of Hornady, Mr. Joyce Hornady, was, “Ten bullets through one hole.”  The company was born out of one man’s vision to provide a better product for his own use; being an avid bench shooter, he wanted projectiles that would have the pin sized precision capabilities he was looking for.  During World War II, Joyce took a job as a marksmanship instructor in a National Guard unit at the Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant.  Following the war he and his family opened a sporting goods store in Grand Island, Nebraska when vast amounts of surplus ammunition entered the commercial market.  This ammunition just did not have the accuracy or performance needed by precision shooters and hunters.  Joyce, and his original partner, Vernon Speer, built a machine that converted fired .22 Long Rifle cartridge cases into bullet jackets, and then into bullets.  This partnership would fail and Vernon Speer went on to open his own bullet manufacturing company, which is still in business today.  Joyce Hornady began in 1949 to produce his own .30 caliber bullets in a rented garage: the .30 caliber, 150 grain Spire Point, which is still one of Hornady’s top selling bullets.  In 1958, growth led the company to move to its present location on the west edge of Grand Island, Nebraska.  To start diversification of his company in 1964, Joyce started Frontier Ammunition that remanufactured ammunition from used military cartridge cases.  Due to the war in Vietnam, cartridge cases were very hard to come by.  Joyce then made another significant decision that Hornady would begin manufacturing their own cartridge cases.  The ammunition business continued to grow to today with the full line of Hornady ammunition.  In 1971, Joyce bought Pacific Tool Company and began the development, manufacturing and sale of reloading equipment such as presses, dies, case trimmers and scales.  Following in the late 1970s, Joyce bought the West Coast Shot Company of Reno Nevada and renamed it Hornady Magnum Shot.  It became an independent company in the early 1990s when it was sold back to its original management.

The 25 yard group with a Glock 21 using Hornady Critical Duty .45 Auto 220 grain Flex Lock ammunition. The group measured less than 2 inches off hand.

In a tragic plane crash in January of 1981, Joyce Hornady along with engineer Edward Heers and customer service manager Jim Garber were killed on their way to the SHOT Show in New Orleans.  The family got through the grief and pushed on.  Steve Hornady became President and sister, Margaret Hornady – David and her husband Don became Vice President and Chief Engineer respectively.  Don retired in the early 2000s and Margaret in 2009.

In 1983 Hornady Bullets, Frontier Ammunition and Pacific Tools merged into one corporation.  To signify the merger, Frontier Ammunition became Hornady Custom Ammunition and Pacific Reloading Tools became Hornady Reloading Tools.  The ammunition line was beginning to increase and the ability to feed the plant with outsourced component cartridge cases became increasingly difficult.  In 1984, Hornady Custom Ammunition began producing their cartridge cases in-house.  In the late 1990s, Hornady Custom Ammunition became an industry leader in development and innovation of modern bullet design.  The first major project was the introduction of Light and Heavy Magnum loads and in 2002 the introduction of the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR) cartridge.  Today, Hornady Manufacturing has over 300 employees, occupies 108,000 square feet of production space and in one day, on one press is able to produce more bullets than the company’s first entire year of production.  In 2010, due to extreme growth rate, led to a building expansion project adding roughly 37,000 square feet of additional space and will for the first time unite the company’s different manufacturing divisions under one roof, enabling swift transfer of components and raw materials to increase overall efficiency.

Hornady’s Todd Seeley fires into the various barriers with 9mm, .40 and .45 Auto caliber Critical Duty ammunition.

The Critical Defense/Critical Duty Ammunition
Hornady’s first true modern hollow point projectile was the XTP or eXtreme Terminal Performance projectile.  This particular round never saw much acceptance in the LE market.  The market was very much taken up by the Federal Hydra Shok and Speer Gold Dot ammunition and some others in small quantities.  The first cartridge developed and released was the Critical Defense.  This projectile was developed to expand and provide the terminal performance needed for close encounters often associated with personal protection situations.  The projectile is the FTX (Flex Tip) bullet, which is a hollow point projectile with a Flex Tip inside.  This rubber-type tip eliminates clogging and aids in bullet expansion when fired through heavy clothing.  The Critical Defense ammunition is optimized for short barreled pistols often used in concealed situations. It will not deliver excessive recoils and muzzle flip.  When you look at the loads offered in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 Auto you find lighter projectiles in the Critical Defense as opposed to the heavier projectiles used in the Critical Duty (9mm 115/135 grain, .40 S&W 165/175 grain and .45 Auto 185/220 grain).  Lighter projectiles mean lighter recoil.  Critical Defense ammunition is offered in a wide variety of calibers including .410 bore, .22 Win Mag, .32 NAA, .32 H&R Mag, .380 Auto, 9x18mm Makarov, 9mm Luger, 3 loads in .38 Special, .357 SIG, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, 10mm, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .45 Auto and .45 Colt.

The Critical Duty offers a full powered round for a duty sized handgun.  The heavier FlexLock projectiles have the Flex Tip, thicker jacket as well with the inclusion of a mechanical jacket-to-core Interlock that keeps the core from separating from the jacket and providing the maximum weight retention through all barriers.  The FlexLock bullet is an “Intelligent Bullet” that reacts differently depending on the barrier it encounters, delivering barrier blind performance after penetrating urban barriers such as ply wood, sheet rock, glass and steel.  Both Critical Defense and Critical Duty ammunition come in nickel plated cartridge cases that eliminate tarnish and ease extraction and ejection due to the lubricity of the nickel finish.  Both lines of ammunition are loaded with a low flash propellant to help with avoiding night blindness due to high muzzle flash.  As of this writing, loads are offered in Critical Duty in 9mm 135 grain and a +P load, .40 S&W with a 175 grain FlexLock bullet and a .45 Auto +P load with a 220 grain FlexLock bullet.

Anatomy of a Critical Defense round. Notice the Flex Tip, cannulure bullet with crimped case and nickel plated case. (Courtesy of Hornady)

Fortunately, at the time this article was being written, Hornady was doing an ammunition demonstration for the local City and County PDs and SWAT Teams.  The demonstration was put on by Bob Litchfield and Todd Seeley.  They brought out over 20 blocks of calibrated 10% ordnance gel and everything necessary to put on a proper FBI protocol ballistic test, which includes plywood, wallboard, heavy clothing, steel and auto glass.  They test fired the 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 Auto Critical Duty into each scenario.  Looking at the data put in their literature against the data we visually conducted, it was clear this ammunition performed consistently the same.  All three calibers/FlexLock projectile met the FBI protocol.  Basically this means in all barriers tested the projectile penetrated the same depth between 12 and 15 inches. It was readily seen that the FlexTip completely prevented the core from being plugged with heavy clothing.  In the gel, the Flex Tip was seen in front of the projectile.  Bullet weight retention was excellent.  The particular round that was most scrutinized by this author was the .45 Auto 220 grain +P load.  Penetration varied from 13.25 to 16 inches.  The 13.25 inch penetration was found when firing through wall board and the 16 inch penetration was found when shooting through auto glass (45˚ angle).  Penetration from steel was just less than 19 inches.  When fired through plywood, the projectile exited the block and continued into the other for an overall 22 inches.  This was 7 inches more than the catalog said.  There could be numerous reasons for this.  Bare gel was a total of 14 inches.  The weight retention was excellent.  In gel, it was 100% of its overall weight, in Heavy Clothing it retained 100% of its original weight, in steel 218.7 out of 220 grains, and wall board retained 100% of its original weight.  In plywood the projectile retained 99% of its original weight and finally in auto glass the projectile retained 151.3 out of 220 grains.  Expansion in gel the projectile went from .451 to .76 inches, Heavy Clothing .70 inches, Steel .52 inches, wallboard .70 inches, plywood .66 inches and steel .54 inches in diameter.

Shown is the bullet press machine manufacturing projectiles at the Hornady plant. (Courtesy of Hornady)

The Critical Defense and Critical Duty are premium grade ammunition for both LE and personal protection.  The ordnance gel spoke for itself.  The Critical Duty gives the shooter FBI protocol proven characteristics that would be beneficial in a LE-type engagement.  For the average shooter who carries a small compact carry gun, the Critical Defense would be excellent.

Law enforcement has seen many changes over the last 10 or so years.  Threats have increased in technical knowledge as well as more lawyers.  Police have steadily been replacing their trusty old 12 gauge shotguns with patrol carbines.  These have been mostly semiautomatic AR carbines.  SWAT teams have been using M16/M4 carbines right along.  New ammunition has been developed to deal with the needs of law enforcement.  Not every situation is the same and every administration has their concerns.  Hornady has been on the forefront of developing ammunition to meet these needs with their TAP (Tactical Application Police) line of ammunition.

For the assault rifle, Hornady makes both .223 Rem and 5.56mm loads.  Without going into details, 5.56mm ammunition is loaded to higher pressures and should never be fired in a SAAMI commercial .223 Rem chamber. However the 5.56mm chamber fires both safely.  Hornady has provided several projectiles as options.  For the department who wants to limit collateral damage as much as possible the TAP Urban projectiles are loaded.  These are designed to explode on impact leaving little to no retained weight.  There is little to no risk of the projectile passing though the target.  These are loaded in the lighter 40, 55 and 60 grain projectiles.  These are a poor choice if penetration through barriers is needed but destructive on tissue.  When penetration is required, Hornady offers their copper alloy projectile.  These monolithic projectiles loaded in 55 and 70 grain weights meet the FBI protocol.  These penetrate steel and glass and still retain most of their weight and expand upon hitting tissue.  For the department who wants a projectile that really is in-between the TAP Urban and the GMX, Hornady offers the TAP Barrier projectile.  This bullet allows the projectile to maintain its structural integrity while punching through barriers, yet initiates expansion in soft tissue.  This projectile is a Spire Point Heavy Jacketed Bullet and is the most popular in the .223 Rem/5.56mm line of TAP ammunition. This 62 grain projectile meets all FBI protocol on all but glass.  For short barrel rifles (14.5 inches and under) and snipers there is another round to fit the bill of large wound cavities and match grade accuracy.  This is the 75 grain Boat Tail Hollow Point Match T2 TAP.  Similar to the Navy Mk262 Mod0 round this round delivers match accuracy for use by snipers with consistent devastating tissue damage.  This is not a projectile for barrier penetration.

Shown is the hand inspection and packaging process of Critical Duty ammunition at the Hornady plant. (Courtesy of Hornady)

The rounds looked at specifically for this article are the 5.56mm loads in 62 grain TAP Barrier (8125N) and 70 grain GMAX (81265).  The 62 grain TAP Barrier is the most popular duty load in the TAP line up.  Its ability to accomplish the entire needed tasks make it stand out.  Penetration in barriers range from 6.5 to 15 inches in gel.  In bare gel, the round will penetrate 11.75 inches while retaining 73% of its original weight and when tested against wallboard will penetrate 12.75 inches while retaining 68% of its original weight.  When going through harder barriers, the round will penetrate 11 inches when going through steel and retain 56% of its original weight.  For most rounds, being fired through safety glass is the most difficult to overcome and still have enough energy to cause tissue damage after exiting.  The TAP Barrier projectile penetrates auto glass and penetrates 6.5 inches while retaining 29% of its original weight.  Expansion is impressive when the projectiles were retrieved from the gel.  In bare gel the projectile expanded from .22 to.54 inches, steel .43 inches, wallboard .48 inches, plywood .41 inches and auto glass .40 inches.

The GMX round clearly performed better on barriers and retained its weight better.  When going with a solid projectile, less tissue damage is made due to it retaining its weigh and not breaking apart.  When fired into gel, the .22 cal bullet penetrates 20 inches and retains 97% of its original weight.  Expansion was from .22 to .47 inches.  When penetrating steel, the projectile retained 100% of its weight penetrating 16.5 inches into the gel with no expansion.  When fired at wallboard, the projectile penetrated 14.25 inches in gel retaining 95% of its weight with an expansion of .49 inches. In auto glass testing, the projectile penetrated an impressive 13.75 inches while retaining 91% of its original weight with a minimal expansion of .34 inches.

The .308 Win TAP ammunition is an excellent choice for snipers in any environment. There are several options to choose from based on the environment the sniper will be engaged in.

For the sniper, Hornady offers an excellent selection of .308 Win caliber ammunition.  Similar loads to the .223 Rem/5.56mm but with more emphasis put on precision accuracy.  They offer the standard lightweight TAP Urban projectile, which causes traumatic wounds while retaining little to no weight.  Expansion begins immediately upon entry and should not be used where barrier penetration is desired.  The A-MAX TAP Precision projectile offers match accuracy with a high ballistic coefficient providing excellent long range performance.  The round has similar fragmentation of the UrbanTAP round but with much more penetration and retained bullet weight.  The GMX, like the 5.56mm, is constructed of a monolithic copper alloy projectile.  These projectiles penetrate all barriers with an excellent retention of original weight.

The 165 grain GMX TAP Barrier round clearly performed better on barriers and retained its weight better than any other in the lineup.  When going with a solid projectile, less tissue damage is made due to it retaining its weigh and not breaking apart.  When fired into gel, the .30 cal bullet penetrates 29 inches and retains 99% of its original weight.  Expansion was from .30 to .53 inches.  When penetrating steel, the projectile retained 97% of its weight penetrating 22.75 inches into the gel with no expansion.  When fired at wallboard, the projectile penetrated 27.5 inches in gel retaining 99% of its weight with an expansion of.59 inches.  When penetrating plywood, the projectile retained 100% of its weight penetrating 27 inches into the gel with an expansion of 0.58.  In auto glass testing, the projectile penetrated an impressive 21.5 inches while retaining 90% of its original weight with a minimal expansion of .62 inches.

Hornady offers two versions of their new high performance protection round. First is the Critical Defense (left) and then the Critical Duty (right). Notice the thicker jacket and the interlocking band on the Critical Duty. Thick combined with the heavier projectile gives the full size pistol better penetration and weight retention and enables the projectile to meet FBI barrier protocol. The Critical defense is lighter in weight as well as the jacket to provide less recoil and less barrier penetration for short barrel personal defense weapons.

The 165 grain Interbond TAP Barrier is an excellent general purpose police round providing outstanding penetration and terminal performance.  The projectile is polymer tipped, bonded and has a cannulure for best performance in autoloading rifles.  When fired into gel, the .30 cal bullet penetrates 24.5 inches and retains 94% of its original weight.  Expansion was from .30 to .62 inches.  When penetrating steel, the projectile retained 73% of its weight penetrating 21.5 inches into the gel with an expansion of 0.56.  When penetrating plywood, the projectile retained 92% of its weight penetrating 19 inches into the gel with an expansion of 0.75.  When fired at wallboard, the projectile penetrated 21.5 inches in gel retaining 78% of its weight with an expansion of .60 inches.  In auto glass testing, the projectile penetrated an impressive 16.75 inches while retaining 69% of its original weight with a minimal expansion of .61 inches.

The most popular single use Police sniper round in the Hornady TAP lineup is the 168 grain A-Max TAP Precision.  This round meets FBI barrier penetration protocol, creates large wound cavities, minimal deflection on glass and provides match grade accuracy.  It gives the penetration and terminal performance that would best suit a sniper who only wants to use one round.  The projectile is polymer tipped and match grade. When fired into gel, the .30 cal bullet penetrates 14.25 inches and retains 72% of its original weight.  Expansion was from .30 to .94 inches.  When penetrating steel, the projectile retained 61% of its weight penetrating 14.5 inches into the gel with an expansion of 0.69.  When penetrating plywood, the projectile retained 76% of its weight penetrating 17 inches into the gel with an expansion of 0.79.  When fired at wallboard, the projectile penetrated 15.75 inches in gel retaining 74% of its weight with an expansion of .83 inches.  In auto glass testing, the projectile penetrated 13.25 inches while retaining 42% of its original weight with a minimal expansion of .67 inches.

The rounds discussed in detail in this article are but a few in the Hornady TAP lineup.  Knowing your environment and what you particularly frequently encounter will dictate what round you will choose for any particular task.  Hornady has a round for whatever that may be.  Hornady also offers other calibers such as 6.5 Grendel, .300 Whisper and 6.8mm SPC calibers.  Seems every year they are coming out with something new. Hornady ballisticians are constantly improving their ammunition for SWAT and military use.