Ammunition Test: Fiocchi 9mm Extrema 124 and 147-gr. XTP
Fiocchi ammunition has served me well for years, not only in my Hi Powers, but other 9mm pistols and while I’ve used it in other calibers, the vast majority has been selections in their 9mm FMJ line. It has consistently been reliable, accurate and the cases worked very well for reloading. When I could find the stuff on sale, I’d buy either 115 or 124-gr. “ball” by the case for “range ammo” and then use the cases for reloads.
I am also a long-time user of Hornady’s XTP line of handgun bullets for reloading not only 9mm, but .38 Super, .357 Magnum, .44 Special, .45 Colt and .45 ACP. My handloads with these bullets are normally “warmish” but not dangerous and the XTP has consistently proven itself accurate for me. If I am seeking an accuracy load, it is not unusual for a Hornady XTP to be part of that equation!
For those interested, here’s the link to an older article done on the XTP design:
The Extrema line of ammunition seems to be gaining interest from what I’ve been reading so I purchased some in 124 and 147-gr. bullet weights. Fiocchi claims velocities of 1290 and 950 ft/sec, respectively.
Fiocchi 9mm Extrema ammunition comes packaged in 50-round boxes. It is made in the US and there is no +P designation on either the box or the cartridge cases for either of the loads I purchased. I was not surprised with this on the 147-gr. because 950 ft/sec to 1000 ft/sec is about normal for this (usually) standard pressure load, but I expected to see it on the 124-gr. listed at 1290 ft/sec. This is “reasonably priced” considering current prices for many JHP loads. This cost under $20 per box of 50.
The cases (made by Starline) are nickel-plated and both cartridges have a LOA measuring a very uniform 1.08”. On the left is the 147 gr. Note that it has a wider hollow cavity than the 124-gr. on the right, but the skives on the lighter bullet appear more “aggressive”. The heavier bullet’s meplat is wider than that on the 124-gr. bullet. This seemingly minor difference might make a major feed-reliability difference on some semiautomatic firearms. (Always test “serious” ammunition in the firearm it is to be fired from. If reliability is not there, nothing else matters.) Bullets are seated firmly in the cases and do not seem unduly prone to bullet setback. I cycled two through the action of my Mk III Hi Power five times from a full (13-shot) Mec-Gar magazine. Average setback was slightly less than 0.001”; in other words: negligible…at least in this pistol.
The XTP bullet is sometimes “talked down” by some “stopping power” researchers. This seems partly because of its being engineered to expand to only about 1.5 times original caliber and partly because in factory trim, it sometimes fails to achieve even that if fired through 4-layers of denim before impacting 10% ballistic gelatin. In my experience with this bullet and“warmer” 124-grains @ approx. 1240 ft/sec, it expands reliably, holds together and penetrates more deeply than at lower speeds. Its expanded diameter is about the same as when the same bullet is fired at lower speeds into bare gelatin. Penetration-depth is increased with speed more so than expansion in my experience with 9mm XTP’s. I have used hot-loaded 9mm 124-gr. XTP’s with very sudden and lethal effect on various small and medium game in the field. I would be quite comfortable with a factory-loaded XTP in this same velocity envelope for self-protection so it was with great interest and anticipation that I began my informal “testing” of this ammunition. (At one time, Corbon offered a 9mm 124-gr. XTP +P load that averaged 1258 ft/sec from the same Hi Power being used with the Fiocchi ammo. Sadly, it was discontinued years ago.)
I decided to focus on three performance areas with these 9mm Extrema loads: accuracy, expansion/penetration qualities and velocity.
I opted for this well-used Browning Mk III to test the Fiocchi Extrema ammunition. No accuracy or reliability work has been necessary on this “Made in Belgium/Assembled in Portugal” pistol though it has been lightly “personalized. The hammer spur has been bobbed, magazine disconnect removed and the factory standard 17-lb recoil spring has been replaced with an 18.5-lb one from Wolff. Checkered wooden grips from Hogue are on the pistol in this picture. This pistol has been used for much chronograph work over the years.
Accuracy: Being short on time today, I opted to fire only at 15 yards and to do so using both hands, while seated and with my wrists braced on sandbags. I do not own a mechanical rest for wringing out the very best accuracy from a pistol, so this approach is my substitute. If I can shoot satisfactorily small groups this way, I can be relatively sure that the gun and load are more accurate than I am under either field or stress conditions. (Fifteen yards was chosen because there were folks all over the 25-yard range practicing for an IDPA match scheduled for the next day.)
This 10-shot group was fired using a dead-on hold at the center of the dark 2”-diameter bullseye.
The same hold and shooting procedure was used for the 147-gr. load. The POA’s for both loads were surprisingly close.
These were the best groups fired with either load. I couldn’t do this every attempt and most groups were a little larger, often with one or two shots just out of the black. I used the best groups to show what I believe this load/pistol accuracy combination is capable of. I do not have the skill to fire these smallish groups standing and off-hand.
Expansion & Penetration: I frequently “test” these qualities by shooting super-saturated newsprint that has been soaked for 24 hours and then drained 30 minutes before shooting. I have never claimed that provides the same results as the gold standard, 10% ballistic gelatin, but neither do I bow to detractors, who claim that it is “meaningless”.
These expanded 9mm bullets are not XTP’s but were fired from the same Hi Power being used in this article and are 127-gr. Winchester Ranger +P Rangers. The one on the left was recovered from super-saturated newsprint. The one in the middle was recovered from a (legally-taken) Texas whitetail deer, and the one on the right was fired into water. Are these exactly the same? Nope, but neither are they much different. I suspect that there will be greater shot-to-shot variation on bullets recovered from non-homogeneous flesh, blood and bone “media” than gelatin, water or any other homogeneous test material. I have been told that this is not true, but I don’t believe it and the reason is simple; I’ve seen otherwise on repeated occasions. I leave it to the reader to make their own decisions on this subject.
The muzzle of the pistol was approximately 3’ from the surface of the soaked newsprint and 5 shots were fired with each load. The 124-gr. load penetrated an average of 6”, which translates to approximately 9” in bare 10% ballistic gelatin. The 147-gr. averaged 6 ½”. It would penetrate an estimated 9 ¾” in gelatin.
These are typical of the recovered expanded XTP’s fired into the soaked newsprint. On the left is the 124-gr, which measures 0.548x0.553x 0.396” tall. It weighed 123.1 grains but keep in mind that I couldn’t remove all of the soaked newsprint and don’t know exactly what this particular bullet weighed before firing. The same holds true for the recovered 147-gr. on the right. Its expanded measurements are 0.502x0.538x0.527” tall. It weighed 146.6 grains. I think it might be more accurate to simply say any possible weight-loss was negligible.
Chronograph Results: Due to the lack of felt-recoil, I figured I would be disappointed here and my “calibrated hand” was right. Neither load is even close to its advertised velocity. Actual velocities are significantly lower.
Firing 10 shots with each load 10’ from the chronograph screens, the 124-gr. (listed at 1290 ft/sec) actually got a very consistent average velocity of 1072 ft/sec with an Extreme Spread of 18 and Standard Deviation of 13. The 147-gr. version averaged 876 ft/sec with an Extreme Spread of 18 and a Standard Deviation of 7! I was disappointed but not surprised due to the really low felt-recoil from the very first shot I fired. Still, I kept hoping that somehow this ammo would meet expectations, but it is just not to be…at least not with either of these ammunition lots.
Frankly, I feel as though I was deceived. I do not know what barrel length was used or if it was even in an actual firearm or a test fixture for the factory’s listed velocities, but neither of these Extrema loads’ true velocity results are acceptable to me. Does this mean that these loads are not “dangerous” or that they will not expand? Nope! Hornady lists the acceptable velocity ranges for expansion with their 124-gr. XTP at 850 to 1350 ft/sec, and the 147’s at 750 to 1200 ft/sec. Both of these Fiocchi loads fall within these parameters, but I have severe doubts as to how well the XTP may perform if forced to penetrate any sort of intermediate barrier before entering an aggressor’s torso.
In my opinion, Fiocchi “missed the boat” with these two loads. Both proved accurate and reliable in my Hi Power but are just too slow for me to trust them for any sort of self-defense use. I would use them over some ball rounds or perhaps if I had some physical disability that severely limited my recoil-tolerance.
As it is, I will use them for range and accuracy work and save the cases for reloading.
It can be said that my disappointment is extrema.