has long been on the cutting edge in the development of handgun ammunition specifically designed for law enforcement. Three decades ago, Winchester changed the game forever with its innovative line of Silvertip ammunition. Winchester Silvertip represented the first real effort from a major manufacturer to meet the needs of law enforcement.
Winchester has continued to raise the bar by developing even better performing ammunition. The controversial but excellent Black Talon was only on the scene a short time, but it pioneered new bullet technology used in current Winchester offerings. A similar reverse taper bullet featuring a jacket thicker in the nose and thinner at the base is used in Winchester’s SXT, Ranger SXT and Ranger “T” lines. These rounds have also demonstrated proven capabilities in defeating barriers common in police action shootings while still delivering superior terminal performance.
The latest offering from Winchester is the Supreme Elite Bonded PDX1, which is designed to maximize terminal ballistics after defeating common tactical barriers, i.e., glass, sheet metal and heavy clothes. According to Winchester, the FBI has selected the PDX1 as its duty load.
The Winchester PDX1 is currently available in the more popular police calibers and bullet weights, including the 95 grain .380 ACP, 130 grain .38 Special+P, 147 grain 9mm, 124 grain 9mm+P, 165 and 180 grain .40 S&W, and 230 grain .45 ACP.
In designing PDX1, Winchester incorporated a number of proven qualities to ensure superior performance. Once again, a reverse taper bullet to defeat barriers was utilized. A proprietary bonding process welds the lead core and jacket together and prevents separation when impacting hard objects such as glass.
The bonding of the jacket and bullet core also maximizes the retained weight of the fired bullet. The hollow point bullet is notched into six segments, which helps promote consistent expansion at a wide range of impact velocities. For positive functioning and corrosion resistance, cartridge cases are nickel plated.
Winchester PDX1 ammunition made its debut at the 2009 SHOT Show. During an ammo demo, samples of PDX1 .40 S&W 180 grain JHPs were fired through heavy clothing, windshield glass and sheetrock into 10 percent ballistic gelatin. What was significant was that depth of penetration, expanded diameter and retained weight were virtually unchanged despite the fact that diverse types of barriers were placed in front of the gelatin. Expanded diameter was nearly twice its original size with a penetration depth of 11 to 12 inches, which is in the ideal range.
Winchester provided samples of PDX1 ammunition for further testing. They included the 9mm 147 grain JHP, .45 ACP 230 grain JHP and .40 S&W 180 grain JHP. Muzzle velocities of all three rounds were measured with an Oehler 35P chronograph placed 10 feet from the muzzle. Five rounds of each were fired into 10 percent ballistic gelatin to assess bullet expansion, weight retention and penetration depth.
Experience at other ballistic workshops has left no doubt that Winchester’s premium bullets are very capable of breaching common barriers and still delivering optimum levels of penetration and expansion. Heavy clothing, the most common of these obstacles, often plays havoc with bullet performance. While it may not seem to be as formidable as glass or sheetrock, the performance dynamic of many hollowpoints is radically altered when the cavity becomes fouled with clothing fibers.
To simulate heavy clothing, four layers of denim fabric were placed in front of the ballistic gelatin blocks. Four layers of denim is widely recognized as valid for the “heavy clothes” phase of testing.
First up was the PDX1 9mm 147 grain JHP. Since becoming popular in the late-l980s, 147 grain JHPs have posted mixed and contradictory results in police action shootings. In all fairness, premium grade bullets from the major manufacturers are now specifically engineered to expand at lower velocities and to represent a big improvement over earlier subsonic loads. Muzzle velocity from a Glock 19 test pistol averaged 1,016 feet per second.
The 9mm 147 grain load yielded the greatest average depth of penetration at 15.6 inches. This was largely due to the fact that one bullet failed to fully expand and penetrated to a depth of 18 inches. Expanded diameter of other recovered bullets was picture perfect, with an average diameter of 0.54 inches. Weight retention of all recovered bullets was close to 100 percent.
The .45 ACP 230 grain load posted an average muzzle velocity of 900 feet per second when fired from a Kimber Desert Warrior. When fired through the denim barrier and into the gelatin, penetration averaged l3.75 inches and recovered bullets expanded to 0.73 inches. This is excellent performance.
Performance of the .40 S&W 180 grain load during our test matched the performance during Winchester’s SHOT Show demo. Depth of penetration was an optimum 12.55 inches, and the expanded diameter of recovered bullets averaged 0.71 inches. Muzzle velocity from the Glock 22 test pistol was 1,006 feet per second. As with the 9mm and .45 ACP, weight retention of recovered bullets was 100 percent. Again, this is excellent performance.
The other PDX1 offerings (9mm+P 124 grain PDX1, .40 S&W 165 grain PDX1) were not tested. However, the higher muzzle velocity of each version would result in slightly greater expansion and slightly more controlled penetration than the heavier loads in these calibers. Winchester’s 130 grain SXT has been a solid performer in .38 Special snubnose revolvers, and the new 130 grain PDX1 variant promises to be even better.
In addition to PDX1, Winchester also markets its Ranger Bonded line for law enforcement only. Performance specifications between the PDX1 and Ranger Bonded seem identical. When asked, according to a Winchester spokesperson, these two lines of ammo, in fact, use the same bullets. Agencies procuring this high performance ammunition will likely purchase it under the Ranger Bonded banner while individual officers may be picking it up as PDX1.
Can a bonded bullet make a difference? A few years back, a trooper with the New Jersey State Police came under fire from a crazed gunman positioned just a few feet forward of his cruiser. Although severely wounded, the trooper returned fire through the windshield of his vehicle. Unfortunately, his non-bonded ammunition deflected widely due to jacket-core separations. Tragically, the trooper was killed by the shotgun toting assailant.
Good expansion qualities, optimum penetration and the ability to defeat light cover are no longer mutually exclusive qualities. Winchester PDX1 is in a rare class of ammunition that will do just that. Mike Boyle served as a captain with the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Law Enforcement. He is a frequent contributor to firearms and law enforcement journals and remains active as a police academy instructor. Since 1996, he has been on the Board of Directors of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors.