Two of an Imperfect Pair: .45 ACP Magsafe Super Swat & the Speer Flying Ashtray

The gun used in todays testing- my 1911 .45 ACP. It’s a Frankengun with a Systema Colt frame and a post-war surplus slide. It’s a great shooter nonetheless.

A lovely brand new FBI 10% Clear Ballistics ordinance gel block arrived, and I wasted no time putting it to use. I had several loads I wanted to test, including Speer’s venerable 200gr ‘Flying Ashtray’ jacketed hollow-point and the Magsafe .45 ACP +P Super Swat load.

.45 ACP Magsafe Super SWAT

Magsafe Super SWAT was designed for use by SWAT officers that might need to make a ‘hostage shot’ or to shoot where they didn’t want to risk overpenetration.

Magsafe was formed in the 1980s, and specialized in light-weight, high-velocity pre-fragmented projectiles. These were ideally not supposed to over-penetrate standard house walls or ricochet from hard surfaces with lethal force. Typically these consisted of a copper jacket filled with lead pellets in an epoxy matrix rather than a solid lead core. Being lighter than a conventional bullet they were fired at much higher velocities and greater muzzle energy than was typical for the given caliber.

There’s been a lot of discussion over this sort of round, and some controversy. I’ve discussed these at length in a previous post ( so we won’t go into it here. But I have never seen an FBI-style gel-test of this specific bullet I decided it needed to be tried. I set up the gel block and draped it with four layers of denim; my work is messy and I go through a lot of jeans, so obtaining appropriate fabric is not a problem. The results were interesting.

Unlike Magsafe’s more typical offerings that are filled with lead shot in an epoxy matrix, the Super SWAT is filled with a yellow epoxy resin. As a consequence they weigh but 68 grains in the .45 ACP load, and as a result Magsafe claims a velocity of 2200fps. from a 5″ barrel. This gives it a spectacular 771ft./lbs of energy at the muzzle, deep in .357 Magnum territory in terms of power.

I didn’t chronograph this load, but as loud and sharp as the muzzle blast was I don’t doubt it at least approaches the velocity claim. I fired it through four layers of denim into the block, and the results were very interesting indeed.

Top view: Penetration was not good at approximately 7″, and the jacket bounced back in the massive permanent wound cavity to about two inches into the block. Expansion was instant and at about two inches into the block the permanent wound cavity expanded abruptly to a full two inches across.
Side view: The permanent wound cavity is enormous, but relatively shallow.

This wound would be absolutely devastating, and at this velocity would likely produce significant hydrostatic shock and hydraulic damage. Hydrostatic shock is an unreliable ‘stopper’ in handgun calibers, but this one just might be the exception. The denim actually hit the roof of the shop and landed ten feet from the block!

The recovered bullet is a mess, but still had a small amount of epoxy in the base.

The recovered bullet weighed 42.7gr and retained some epoxy in the base.

So, the ultimate stopper? Probably not. It certainly doesn’t meet anything like the established FBI standard of 12-19″ of penetration through four layers of denim. Still, the permanent wound cavity is spectacular. I think it accomplishes it’s mission, which is for use in hostage and/or crowd situations, to not over-penetrate or ricochet. But as a general-purpose self-defense round? I’d not like to rely on it.

.45 ACP Speer 200gr. Jacketed Hollow-Point

In the 1970s the conventional wisdom was that hollow-points were only useful in lighter high-velocity bullets. Larger, slower bullets simply did not have the velocity to expand. Then Speer changed the game with the introduction of their cavernous 200gr. JHP round, which was the first commercial hollow point that would expand reliably at velocities as low as 800-900 fps.

The bullets huge hollow cavity quickly inspired nicknames like ‘The Flying Ashtray’ or ‘The Ballistic Soup-Can.’

The bullet quickly became a legend, and was my bullet of choice for carry in my .45s. I was quite curious to see how they would perform in a standard FBI-style test. The load I used was 6.5gr. Unique with a Federal Large Pistol primer, which yields 920 fps. and 376 ft./lbs with an extreme spread of 45fps. from my gun’s 5″ barrel.

Once again I fired into the gel through four layers of denim. I have to say, this test vindicated the faith I have long placed in this bullet.

From Above: 16 inches of penetration and a pretty decent permanent wound track.
Side View: Expansion began about one inch of penetration. Some serious damage there. The bullet barely broke the surface at the end of the block, then bounced back approximately 1/4″

The bullet carried a significant wad of denim into the block, and expansion was impressive. Maximum expansion was .776″, minimum was .665″, yielding an average of .715″ Yikes!

The bullet carried a surprisingly large wad of denim with it.
Weight retention wasn’t bad, with the recovered bullet weighing 181.3gr.

So, mixed results. I’m a bit dubious about the Super SWAT for my uses, but I am very pleased with the performance of the 200gr. load.

I’ll have further tests coming up in the next few days, two .32-20 loads fired from my Colt Police Positive Special and a new ‘home-spun’ 115gr. JHP load from my Sig Sauer P6 9mm.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 14 December 2020

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