10mm Ballistic Gel Testing

Video 9mm vs 10mm ballistics gel

By Yamil Sued

The 10mm Auto is an undeniably powerful round, born in the mid-1980s from disappointment with the perceived inadequate performance of the 9mm. The cartridge was designed from the ground up to have immense stopping power, and it would prove itself to be a capable performer in both self-defense and hunting applications.

Testing the Perception

But how powerful is it, exactly? We all hear about how terrific the 10mm is, but what if we perform a 10mm gel test to see what kind of penetration and expansion we can expect?

I decided to do just that, taking a Springfield Armory Range Officer Elite Operator 10mm 1911 and running three different full power 10mm loads through it and into ballistic gelatin. Check out my video above to see how it all did on the range.

Shooting 10mm self defense ammo into ballistic gel
Yamil used a Range Officer Elite Operator in 10mm for the ammo test.

For this 10mm ammo comparison, I selected three loads, all with bullets weighing 200 grains. These loads covered both high-performance 10mm self defense ammo as well as basic range ammunition. I tested Federal Personal Defense HST, Speer Gold Dot Personal Protection Gold Dot Hollowpoint, and CCI Blazer FMJ range ammunition. Both of the full power personal protection loads used proven hollowpoint bullet designs while the range load used a 10mm FMJ projectile.

Federal HST ammunition
The first load tested was Federal’s 200-gr. HST 10mm. Note the uniform expansion of the bullet recovered during penetration testing in ballistics gel.

10mm Ballistics Performance

I set up a 32″-deep batch of ballistic gelatin and set about running all three loads through the RO Elite Operator 10mm. I was very impressed with the performance of all three loads and found that the 10mm does really push out some power.

10mm ballistics gel test
The author set up 32″ of ballistic gel for the testing.

Hollow Point vs. FMJ in Ballistics Gel

When testing 10mm penetration, both the Speer and Federal drove to roughly 18″ deep in the gelatin (within 1″ of each other), and expanded very nicely. These are both very powerful and effective rounds.

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With the Blazer load, the FMJ punched clean through all 32″ of the gelatin, and impacted heavily on the safety berm behind it.

Excessive penetration is generally not preferred for defensive ammunition. While FMJ loads are great for paper targets, they simply do not expand in an attacker and will generally overpenetrate as this 10mm gel test shows.

10mm Speer Gold Dot
Speer Gold Dot Personal Protection 200-gr. 10mm ammo was also tested. Like the HST, the 10mm Gold Dot bullet also showed excellent expansion in gel.

I also chronographed all three 200-gr. loads to see how they performed. The Federal HST came in at an average of 1,130 fps, the Speer Gold Dot at 1,100 fps, and the Blazer ammo at 1,030 fps.

10mm Blazer FMJ ammo for target practice
Yamil also threw some Blazer 200-gr. FMJ ammo into the mix. When comparing self defense loads with FMJ, the ball rounds will almost always overpenetrate.


My test was intended to show 10mm ammunition performance and penetration, both full power self defense ammo and FMJ target ammunition.

FMJ vs Hollow Point in Ballistic Gel
The two hollowpoints expanded nicely and stopped at around 18″ of penetration. The FMJ round blasted through all 32″ of the gel.

I think that the results speak for themselves — the 10mm is an undeniably powerful round, and one that clearly will excel in both a hunting and self-defense role.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>