30 Super Carry Ballistics Gel Testing [2023]

30 super carry ballistics gel testing

As part of my pursuit of 30 Super Carry knowledge, I continually find myself heading down new rabbit holes. One of these is rabbit holes is independent ballistics testing. After a few hiccups getting 30SC lumped into other people's testing, I decided my best course of action was doing it myself. Now I'm not Doctor Gary Roberts, but I am a gunwriter with indomitable spirit and good resources. Let's get down to brass tacks.

Background and Setup of the 30 Super Carry Ballistics Gel Test

I spent a significant amount of time researching proper procedure and protocol surrounding ballistics testing before getting started. Most of us are familiar with the works of Dr. Gary Roberts, Chris Baker, and Greg Ellifritz. I've been following them for years, and have slowly been adapting parts of their processes for mine. Where things really started moving was when I had the opportunity to observe Chuck Haggard and Mark Fricke perform their own ballistics gel testing during Revolver Roundup 2023.

30 Super Carry
Every type of 30 Super Carry available on the market, and one that isn't, as of this writing.

To provide readers with greater context, I opted to very closely mirror Chuck and Mark's test procedure, trying to provide 1:1 comparisons. They do annual testing during Revolver Roundup, providing us with a growing amount of data. We'll look at how I mirrored some of their procedure for mine later in this work.

Setup

For this test I purchased a Clear Ballistics 10% gelatin block, specifically their 20"x6"x6" Shooter's Block. This was covered in four layers of mid-weight 100% denim (4LD), exactly like the Haggard/Fricke test, to provide a clothing barrier for the bullets. Before passing through the gel, bullet velocity was measured using a Competition Electronics ProChronoLTD chronograph placed six feet in front of the muzzle. Each load was fired five times into the gelatin to check for any inconsistencies in the ammunition or test procedure.

The test pistol is a Smith & Wesson Shield Plus, which features a 3.1-inch barrel. Rounds would be fired one at a time, with each bullet extracted before firing the next round. Ambient temperatures ranged from 46-50 degrees Fahrenheit during the test, with virtually no wind. Time of day was 0900-1015 hours on 02DEC2023, with testing occurring in Moapa Valley, Nevada.  Primer Peak writer Ally Corless acted as my assistant and scribe during testing.

Control Measures

To help cage our test results, performing a control test is critical. For this I used a Smith & Wesson 351C revolver, loaded with Hornady Critical Defense 45gr FTX 22WMR. This gun and ammunition combination was selected due to a 100% match with testing done by Haggard and Fricke. If my results were similar to theirs using this combination, then the data should be expected to be comparable. Again, this provides easier translation across data sets, providing consistency to the reader.

30 super carry ballistics gel testing
On the range testing 30 Super Carry performance in ballstics gel

Shots were fired through the same 4LD barrier, using the same chronograph to measure velocity, and into the same Clear Ballistics gelatin block. Consistency is key, a trend that you hopefully notice here.

30 Super Carry Ammunition Testing

Loads Tested

Four different loads of 30 Super Carry were tested during this event. Two more 30SC loads were run through the chronograph without being fired into ballistics gelatin. Below are the tested loads:

  • Federal HST 100gr JHP
    • Manufacturer advertised velocity (4" bbl): 1250FPS
  • Hornady Critical Defense 100gr FTX
    • Manufacturer advertised velocity (4" bbl): 1250FPS
  • Remington HTP 100gr JHP (discontinued as of this writing)
    • Manufacturer advertised velocity (4" bbl): 1235FPS
      • Listed as 1230FPS on the box
  • Speer Gold Dot 115gr JHP
    • Manufacturer advertised velocity (4" bbl): 1150FPS

Results of the Test

The results of this test were surprising to say the least. You can download a PDF of my 30SC ballistics gel test results >>HERE<<. Below are snips of the test results, you can see my findings for yourself.

Dan-Reedy_30-Super-Carry_Shield-Plus_Ballistic-Gel-Test_DEC2023_Page_1
The results of my 30SC ballistics gel test, page 1

And another page featuring more photos of bullets after being extracted from gel.

Dan-Reedy_30-Super-Carry_Shield-Plus_Ballistic-Gel-Test_DEC2023_Page_1
Page 2 of test results, showing more pullets after being extracted from the gel

As we can see, performance was lacking to say the least. Hornady Critical Defense is the real winner here, providing fantastic expansion and solid penetration with every round. Unfortunately, HST and Gold Dot failed to expand at all, with nearly every round zipping completely through the 20-inch block. This isn't consistent with how these bullets perform in other calibers, nor is it with other testing I've seen in 30SC. I think I may have an explanation for that, with historical precedent to support.

Drawing Conclusions on the 30 Super Carry Ballistics Gel Test

My assumption regarding lack of expansion and resulting over-penetration of most rounds here is due to velocity. I believe that these 30SC loads were developed with 4+ inch barrels in mind, as would be found in holsters of law enforcement across the US. Only Hornady lists the length of their test barrel on the public product page for their load--a 4-inch barrel. After querying Federal, Remington, and Speer/CCI, they also stated they used a 4-inch barrel for all 30SC testing. Curiously, there are ZERO firearms in 30 Super Carry with 4-inch barrels available to the public as of this writing. Stated velocities across all brands on their product pages are approximately 58-86FPS higher than velocities achieved during this testing procedure.

30 super carry ballistics gel testing
Some suboptimal results from our 30 Super Carry ballistics gel testing

In the past we've seen failings of popular 9x19 loads in shorter barrels due to a reduction in velocity. This would also explain why Jeremy Stafford's testing of the 3.68-inch S&W Shield EZ achieved appropriate penetration and expansion when using Speer Gold Dot and Federal HST, being closer to a "duty" 4-inch barrel. Unfortunately the consumer is often left wanting, given far less concern during the product development cycle than government contracts.

Suggestions for Shooters and Manufacturers

As of this writing, my recommendation is to use Hornady Critical Defense when paired with the S&W Shield Plus in 30 Super Carry. Additionally, I recommend that ammunition manufacturers rework their ammunition to function at wider gaps in velocity. Coming up with "short barrel" variants of their 30SC loads, much like they've done with 9x19 would be a good place to go. Experimenting with +P loads, or different bullet weights, much like with 9x19 could create options that are relatively agnostic regarding barrel length.

30 super carry ballistics gel testing
One of the Hornady Critical Defense 30SC rounds pulled from the ballistics gel block

Additionally, I suggest that firearms manufacturers offer additional barrel lengths to take advantage of the currently available ammunition. Smith & Wesson could create a 30SC version of the Performance Center Shield or the M&P line, for example.

Thoughts On Clear Ballistics Gel Testing

Do not take this one resource as the Holy Grail of 30 Super Carry ballistics testing. As some will surely point out, Clear Ballistics gelatin is not a 1:1 comparison with organic ordnance gelatin. I trust the opinions of others who trust this product and I understand the differences between my testing and the FBI's. Cross reference my data with that from other sources to create an informed decision.

Wrapping up 30 Super Carry Ballistics Gel Testing 2023

Overall this was an eye-opening experience. It truly surprised me to see the performances of some loads here, but I don't think this is necessarily a death knell for 30 Super Carry. There are some things to be aware of when choosing which load to pair with your pistol, and hopefully this helps people make a more educated decision.

This will not be the final gel test of 30SC for me. For future events, I am planning on conducting additional tests using other barrel lengths to help verify my claims regarding the impact of barrel length on bullet performance. When I get my hands on a Shield EZ, or Nighthawk 1911 in 30 Super Carry, I will absolutely compare those results to what we have here. Additionally, I am planning on testing these loads out of carbine length barrels to see how much that impacts performance as well. Keep your ears to the ground, I will post findings as they come, with links here to that data when it is available.

Support My Work

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Writing isn't my full-time profession, and nearly everything I do comes out of my own pocket. Between ammunition, tuition, range fees and more, expenses add up fast. If you like what I have to offer, consider making a donation to my Patreon.

Every bit helps bring more work like this to you, and contributes to shortened timelines or more in-depth work on my part. You'll also have more direct access to me, offering suggestions for future projects, looking behind the scenes, and getting early access to some content. You can find my Patreon >>HERE<<

About Daniel Reedy 399 Articles
Daniel holds instructor certifications from Rangemaster, Agile Training & Consulting, and the NRA. He has received training from Craig Douglas, Tom Givens, and Steve Fisher among others. He also has experience competing in USPSA, CAS, 3 Gun, and Steel Challenge. In his free time Daniel enjoys petting puppies and reading the Constitution. His work is also published by AmmoLand, Recoil Concealment, and Air Force Times. Daniel has also written and edited for The Kommando Blog.

6 Comments

  1. I had such high hopes for this article until I read it used Clear Ballistics brand, so-called "ballistics gel." It is not calibrated ordinance gel. Dr. Gary Roberts will be the first to tell you so. The results are not correlatable. It's a lot of effort for nothing. I just wish all the so called "testing" online would stop using the Clear Ballistics product. Even shooting a Fackler water box would be better. At least that's reproduceable.

    • If you read the article you'd see that I mention how clear gel isn't a 1:1 for organic gelatin. You'd also see that I calibrated this block and performed a control test to compare my results to those done by Chuck Haggard and Mark Fricke to ensure consistency between tests. I also mention Dr Roberts, along with a handful of others, providing a variety of resources for the reader.

      If you don't like what we have to offer, then please go conduct your own testing using organic gelatin and report back, I'll be happy to publish it here. Or you can help foot the bill for me to do testing with organic gelatin, as everything you see here came out of my pocket. Until then, this is what you get. Let's try to be productive rather than simply complain to the computer screen. You'll be happier that way.

  2. >>>"Additionally, I am planning on testing these loads out of carbine length barrels to see how much that impacts performance as well."

    Hi-Point Model 3095? If so, please record & post video of that.
    Otherwise, you've subtlety given away that S&W or some other manufacturer will be offering their PCC in 30SC in the near future (SHOT 2024 or such).

    • I'm referring to the Hi Point carbine in this one. Though I'd love it if S&W made their new PCC in 30SC. I don't expect the 3095 to be reliable based upon my previous experiences with their other carbines, but I'm still curious to see how the barrel length impacts performance.

    • Right? It's crazy to me that you'd build a new round then release literally zero guns that can effectively run that ammunition. I'll be pestering people at SHOT about this. I've already been bothering them on social media.

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