Do you recall seeing or hearing reruns of the Groucho Marx comedy-quiz show from the early 1960s? Well, my age may be showing, but I do, and it was hilarious. The show was called “You Bet Your Life.” That simple title poses an interesting question for a concealed gun carrier:
Do You Train the Way You Carry?
Certainly, you should, and that applies to both your handgun and your ammo, at a minimum. You are in essence betting your life on the ammo you use. So, carefully select, train, and use high-quality ammo, to ensure you will have the quality, performance, and power you need, especially for personal defense. Cost may not even be your main criterion for this very important and vital decision.
Sig Sauer just introduced the new high-performance Military Grade M17 9mm +P Elite Ammunition. It is available in 124-grain SIG Elite V-Crown Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) for personal defense and in 124-grain SIG Elite Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) for training. Both the defensive and training rounds are loaded to +P pressure levels. And Sig Sauer says they produce the same muzzle velocities of 1,198 foot-pounds and muzzle energies of 395 foot-pounds. This is done to ease the transition for performance, handling, and feel between training and actual defensive-ammo use, to help the shooter “Train the Way You Carry.”
Sig Sauer Ammunition’s Senior Director for Brand Management and Business Development, Brad Criner, says:
“We are excited to have the opportunity to offer the M17 9mm +P to our customers who want to shoot ammunition that combines high-quality SIG performance with a military-grade +P ammunition.”
Sig says that the new “SIG M17 ammunition is specifically engineered for exceptional performance in any 9mm +P rated pistol, including the SIG P320-M17.” So, I shot the new ammo through three of my 9mm pistols with various barrel lengths each of which are rated for +P.
9mm Pistols Used to Test the Sig Sauer M17 9mm +P JHP and FMJ Ammo
- Sig Sauer P320 9mm Full Size; 4.7″ Barrel
- Walther PPQ M2 9mm Full Size; 5″ Barrel
- Smith-Wesson M&P M2.0 9mm Compact; 4.25″ Barrel
What is “Military Grade” Ammo?
“Military Grade” usually is intended to mean a product that is manufactured to exacting specifications or “mil spec,” per specific requirements of a military government contract, as I recall from my Air Force procurement work and training. This new Sig ammo is loaded to a higher internal pressure (+P) than the standard for the 9mm caliber, i.e. designated either +P or +P+.
So for Military Grade ammo, there is special attention made for uniformity with less tolerance deviation from the expected standard and precise performance, within specific tolerances. Strict design and manufacturing requirements exist for such things as:
- primer hardness
- chamber pressures and testing
- reliability and consistency
- moisture sealant
- quality constraints
Generally, the “Military Grade” term is used for general marketing purposes, and frequently civilians misuse the term and have an incorrect meaning for it. It does not mean for military use only. And it may vary in how “hot” a load is required. “Military Grade” demands the best quality overall for the lowest price.
Military-Grade JHP Ammo and the Hague Convention
Remember, now the military market uses ball ammo, Full Metal Jacket, as well as JHPs in certain units, e.g., military police, special ops, snipers, and “Special Purpose” uses. There is even a 1987 film titled “Full Metal Jacket.” The U.S. Army has announced that they will shoot JHPs in combat and the approved and selected Sig M-17 Modular Handgun System shoots JHPs.
The Hague Convention of 1899, Declaration III, prohibited the use of bullets which readily expand or flatten in the human body by national armies engaged in international warfare, e.g., hollow points. But, the U.S. (nor Great Britain) never did sign Article IV of this Hague Convention, but has been voluntarily following it in past years. Article IV, Section 3 of the Convention states that the use of hollow points only applies in combat to signatory nations and states.
So this layman’s understanding is that even if the U.S. signed this Article IV, the provisions would not apply to the U.S., unless in combat with another signatory state or nation. What about militant non-signor ISIS, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria?
What is +P Ammo and What Are Its Advantages?
+P ammo is ammo that is loaded to a higher internal pressure, so there is more gun powder packed into the same available space. With it, there is a more powerful explosion when the gun’s trigger is pressed because the cartridge case is not extended to make room for the extra powder.
+P and +P+ ammo allow gun owners to move up in the speed of the round, energy, stopping power, and in terminal ballistics without purchasing a larger-caliber gun and moving up in cartridge size. Basically, if you have a gun that takes 9mm ammo and high-pressure loads, you can increase your velocity and power with 9mm +P cartridges without purchasing a new firearm.
CAUTION: Some firearms use +P or +P+ ammo and others do not. So be sure your gun is rated and manufacturer-recommended for +P or +P+ ammo before you use it.
What are the Considerations & Possible Disadvantages of +P Ammo?
The Considerations and Possible Disadvantages of +P ammo are:
- Your specific handgun may not handle the higher internal pressures
- Possible damage to your handgun and injury to yourself and/or others, if the gun cannot handle +P (or +P+) pressures
- Increased felt recoil from increased pressure and increased velocity
- Possible long-term wear to your gun
SAAMI Recommended Maximum Chamber Pressures
Depending on the make and model of gun used, +P ammunition may be recommended by the manufacturer for regular and occasional use. It may be completely acceptable and safe to use. Other manufacturers, however, may not recommend that increased pressure loads be used in their guns. So, pay attention to your gun’s Owner’s Manual, know specifics and manufacturer’s recommendations for your guns, and be safe!
The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute, or SAAMI, maintains weights and specifications, for guns and cartridges, including maximum pressure ratings and typical muzzle velocities and energies for cartridges. They essentially define and influence what ammo is or is not +P and +P+ rated. In the table below, for example, SAAMI rates the standard 9×19 Parabellum, Luger 9mm ammo’s maximum chamber pressure at 35,000 PSI, as well as +P 9mm ammo at 38,500 PSI. Anything above the +P rating level is rated +P+.
|Caliber||Maximum Chamber Pressure SAAMI Recommended||Muzzle Velocity||Muzzle Energy|
|22 RF Long & LR||24,000|
|.38 Special +P||18,500|
|.45 Auto +P||23,000|
|9 mm||35,000||1,150 fps||364 ft. per sec.|
|9 mm +P||38,500||1,220 fps||410 ft. per sec.|
|.44 Remington Mag||36,000|
Recognize that higher-chamber pressures exert greater long-term wear and tear on the gun’s chamber and its moving parts. Some guns can fail to cycle with high-pressure ammunition, and some may even have major and dangerous operational failures. Know your gun!
+P is most often used for self-defense purposes. Upon contact with the target, the JHP +P rounds help turn forward energy into improved penetration and expansion. The faster the bullet is moving, the deeper it will penetrate and the better it will expand. Because of the increase in speed and energy, it can deliver greater stopping power, which makes it ideal for personal protection. The enhanced speed helps the bullet maintain a straighter trajectory for a longer distance and improves performance for self-defense and competition loads.
Ammo Convenient for Both Carry and Training Purposes
The Sig Sauer Senior Director for Brand Management and Business Development, Brad Criner, says “the M17 V-Crown JHP and FMJ loads are both ballistically-matched, making it easy for our customers to train with the ammunition they carry.” So, I was anxious to shoot both the JHP and FMJ rounds to determine for myself if they are appropriate for both my concealed carry and my training goals, what the felt recoil was, how my handguns handled both loads, and how the ammo and guns performed.
Powerful Ammo for Concealed Carry and Training
I wanted to learn how accurate, reliable, and powerful this new ammo really is. Combining the ammo with my guns, I wanted to use my standard Concealed Carry Drill from a concealed carry draw to see if I could quickly get three rounds in each of my five circles at ten yards.
Free Concealed Carry Drill and Targets
Permission to Download, Print, and share “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” is granted when my website address and copyright are included and kept on it. You can Download and Print “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” and targets for FREE by clicking on that Link at the bottom of my website’s Article’s Page at www.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com.
Both the JHP and FMJ loads have a muzzle velocity of 1,198 fps and muzzle energy of 395 foot-pounds, above the usual standard levels. The SIG V-Crown JHP ammo has a stacked hollow point cavity to help attain on-target energy with maximum weight retention and expansion for the ultimate stopping power. SIG FMJ training ammo is made to match SIG JHP ballistics for an easy transition from training to carry ammo. It has durable, copper jacketed bullets, for affordability and performance. Both the 9mm JHP and FMJ rounds use the 124 grain +P weight.
Other than bullet grain or weight and type, the best bullet to optimize accuracy and/or stopping power also depends on the length of your gun’s barrel, the bore’s twist rate, quality powder and propellant, velocity, distance, penetration, expansion, and personal application of the basics of marksmanship, etc. So I used three different barrel lengths in my ammo field tests. Such a challenge!
I learned over the years for long-range shooting, heavier weight (grain) bullets are less susceptible to being blown off course by the wind. But, if the bullet is too heavy, it might not have enough velocity to keep stable at longer distances. Trial and error for each of your handguns is best to determine the effects. Barrel length affects velocity, and there is a velocity gain with a longer barrel, as I discovered in my ammo field tests.
Sig Sauer M17 9mm Ammunition MSRP
- M17 124gr 9mm +P V-Crown JHP — $ 20.95 (per box of 20 rounds)
- M17 124gr 9mm +P FMJ — $ 18.95 (per box of 50 rounds)
The Sig Sauer M17 V-Crown JHP and FMJ ammunition are now available for purchase at www.sigsauer.com/store and other ammo websites. I checked and found it on several websites. Sig Sauer manufactures the Sig Sauer Elite ammunition at its state-of-the-art ammunition manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, Arkansas.
Thanks to Sig Sauer for providing me the JHP and FMJ ammo used in my field tests.
Evaluating the Sig M17 9mm +P 124 grain Ammo
Below are the combined results for the M17 ammo using my Ammo Criteria, when I field tested the M17 ammo in all three of my above-listed handguns. I assigned a total possible point score of ten points for each of my five criteria for a total possible score of 50 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine. Below are my five Ammo Criteria and the results for each ammo criterion.
1. Accuracy – Score: 9
Both the FMJ and JHP loads produced very good groups on my Concealed Carry Drill targets at ten yards for all three handguns. See the above results for Sig P320. I found the heavier (124 grain) JHP +P rounds to be plenty powerful and accurate. For me, the longer barrel of the PPQ increased the exit velocity of the round and helped accuracy some, but I know this is controversial for some. And my personal shooting technique and fundamentals are variables to consider. I need more practice, but this premium ammo helps.
TIP: The muzzle velocity change for guns with a Standard-rated muzzle velocity between 1,000 to 2,000 feet per second is roughly about five feet per second for each 1″ change in barrel length. Advantage longer barrel.
2. Reliability – Score: 10
I had no problems at all with malfunctions and stoppages; not a single round misfired in all Sig ammo tested in my three guns. The brass was ejected smoothly and cleanly, without any issues. And after the last round, the slide always locked back.
TIP: Watch the long-term wear on your recoil spring with any frequent use of +P ammo.
3. Felt Recoil & Handling – Score: 9
Recoil was very manageable for me with the 124 grain 9mm +P rounds in my guns. They “like” these rounds. I could notice just a very slight recoil increase from the 115 grain 9mm rounds I usually shoot, in the shorter 4.25″ barrel gun. I got my follow-up shots easily on target. And the power is there. I could easily handle each gun when firing it one-handed.
TIP: Bullet Mass is measured in Grains, and there are 437.5 ounces in 1 Grain (1 pound = 7,000 grains.) I believe that bullet weight or grain is a variable that can have some effect on felt recoil, although some disagree. Do you know that the standard military M80 ball round uses a 147 grain FMJ bullet?
4. Versatility – Score: 10
This 124 grain 9mm +P ammo can be conveniently used for both personal defense and range training practice. Since it has the same muzzle velocity and muzzle energy for both FMJ and JHP rounds, it is easy to transition between uses, and you know what to expect with the same power and pressure levels. The ammo functioned very well in all three different barrel lengths.
5. Cost – Score: 10
This 9mm +P ammo is reasonably priced for personal defense. Since it can be conveniently and easily used for both training and self-defense, this makes the cost factor very convenient and helpful.
Total Ammo Score: 48 Points (out of 50); 96%. Recommend.
This Sig Sauer M17 124-Grain 9mm +P ammo is fun and easy to shoot, and adds velocity and power over the standard load. It is versatile and can be used for personal protection and range training and practice. While I did notice a very slight increase in felt recoil over the standard 115-Grain and 124-Grain 9mm ammo I mostly shoot, this was to be expected for powerful +P ammo and not a problem. I really like the heavier 124 grain rounds. This ammo shot great in the three different handguns rated for +P, with three different barrel lengths. But, I did notice a slight accuracy improvement with the PPQ, probably due to the longer barrel length. I prefer the higher-pressure premium load of the 124-grain +P JHP and will use this load for concealed carry and self-defense. I certainly will use both the FMJ and JHP rounds, respectively, for training and personal protection. I “Recommend” them for training practice and self-defense. Success!
Images: By Author and Sig Sauer.
Contact for more information: visit www.SigSauer.com/products/ammunition
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2018 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].