Liberty Ammunition 9mm Ballistic Gel Test

Liberty Ammunition was founded soon after 9/11 with the goal of creating premium, lead-free rounds. They got their start producing ammunition for the military and started selling on the commercial market in 2013, and their ammo has been enjoying increasing popularity. The Personal Defense Network recently put their 9mm Civil Defense HP rounds through ballistic gel tests. At just 50 grain the lead-free rounds are incredibly lightweight which both minimizes recoil and enables them to zip down-range at impressive speeds, and during testing PDN found they penetrate even after passing through barriers.


During testing the 9mm rounds were first fired directly into ballistic gel and noted to have penetrated to a depth of between 5″ and 6″. Then they were fired through multiple panes of tempered glass that had been placed in front of ballistic gel. Throughout testing, which involved about 500 rounds, PDN’s Rob Pincus reported just a single double-feed.

Take a look at video of testing:

These rounds chronographed at a muzzle velocity of more than 2,000 feet per second and muzzle energy of 450 foot-pounds.

We’ve certainly discussed this before from various angles, but what do you guys think of the light weight and 5″ ballistic gel penetration of these rounds? Are these really viable defense rounds?

Liberty was in the news last month for winning a lawsuit against the federal government for patent infringement. The judge ruled in Liberty’s favor, ordering a payout of $15.6 million along with royalties of 1.4 cents for every single round the government buys until Liberty’s patent runs out in 2027. The rounds the lawsuit concerned? M855A1, the Enhanced Performance Round version of the original M855, the rounds BATFE now wants to ban on a commercial level. The appeals deadline for the lawsuit is February 19, 2015, and there is, as yet, no sign of an appeal being filed.

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  • Sledgecrowbar

    It sounds tinfoil-hat even to me, but with the little stretch of the imagination, it seems like the government is a sore loser. Announcing that they’re considering a ban on steel penetrator on the civilian market so soon after having to pay out for patent infringement (and that 1.4 cents per round will add up to dwarf the 15 million right quick). Even if the two are not related, the latter event certainly affects Liberty directly.

  • sianmink

    “During testing the 9mm rounds were first fired directly into ballistic gel and
    noted to have penetrated to a depth of between 5″ and 6″ ”

    Um. No it didn’t. The petals broke off and scattered to 5 or 6 inches in depth and the base continued to about 11. (at about 1:40 in the video) A penetration of only 5 or 6″ in gel would be considered an abject failure for any defensive round.

    • floppyscience

      A projectile falling apart with the just the base coming 1″ short of the standard minimum penetration specifications is also an abject failure.

  • floppyscience

    Okay, so the super light, super fast bullets don’t produce effective wounds. What’s this stuff supposed to do then? What’s the intended niche? Is it meant for people who want to pay a lot of money to make shallow, ineffective wounds? Is that a large market in the US?

    • MrBobBarker

      I remember it being marketed as an effective close-range self defense round with safety benefits and lower recoil. The safety selling point was to prevent bystanders by limiting over-penetration and the bullets ability to penetrate through walls.

  • David Knuth

    If it doesn’t hit 12″ of penetration in gel, it’s not good enough for law enforcement or the FBi. They tend to shoot more people than I do, so I’ll gladly go with their standards.

    • Katie A

      Agreed absolutely, David

  • Tassiebush

    It’s good to see this data. It doesn’t look like the best choice which is a shame given the presumably flatter trajectory it’d offer. It’d have a quite cool niche for shooting pests though!

    • Ko I

      How far out are you expecting to use a 9mm Luger firearm, for self-defense, that the flatness of the trajectory would even matter?

      • Tassiebush

        Gee fair point! It’d only really be relevant to rare situations.

    • the ammo addict

      I’ve shot a pumpkin with the Liberty .380 ammo. For pumpkin shooting, it worked better than the other hollow point rounds I tried (which didn’t open up at all) – and that is precisely why I would NOT use the Liberty stuff for self defense. They simply open too quickly and will not penetrate deep enough. Varmint shooting would indeed be a fun niche for them though, as long as we are talking something smaller than coyotes (ours get pretty big!).

  • shadow

    If I have to shoot, I am not going to use a round that is just gonna make somebody mad.

  • Will

    Sorry but I’m still old school. My favored 9mm defense round is still the Federal, 147 grain JHP. Heavy bullet that retains all the pieces under impressive controlled expansion.
    Just my opinion.

    • El Duderino

      That’s a good one. I take it down a notch to the Critical Duty 135gr. I thought the “super light 9mm JHP” book closed back in the 1980s along with the 110gr .357 and such.

  • noguncontrol

    with penetration like that, might as well go with fmj.

    hmmm, 50 grains fmj at 2000 fps, sounds good.

  • Core

    The bullet base penetrated 11 inches, that’s deep enough. The wound channel and cavity produced dictate the shock inflicted on the tissue. Blood loss causes incapacitation and death. So shooting into gelatin and theorizing what the temporary wound cavity may do is pointless. The real question should be the penetration falls within a minimum and maximum length, and the bullet is capable of causing rapid blood loss through effective destruction of blood vessels. The science behind gelatin testing and wound cavity is very wish washy. It’s believed that high velocity results in larger temporary wound cavities, resulting in temporary shock and incapacitation. So these high velocity projectiles that penetrate 11 inches is good. To improve upon the design it may be necessary to make the petals on the bullet tip more robust so they do not seperate from the base.

    • Ko I

      Hydrostatic shock also needs some degree of momentum, which this bullet sheds when it loses those petals. If the entire bullet made it to 11″, the hydrostatic shock would probably be a fair trade-off. However, with it shedding those petals, it will create a nasty surface wound and a minor deep wound.
      All that said, it has to be admitted that most successful defensive shootings are going to be based on how much it hurt to be shot and not how many vital organs are disrupted.

  • CommonSense23

    These are the best performing pistols rounds I have seen in Live Tissue Labs.

    • the ammo addict

      LOL! On something smaller than a coyote, they are probably good at killing. On a human size target, no way.

      • CommonSense23

        The live tissue labs are conducted by former 18Deltas and PJs. When they recommend a round I listen to them. When I say the effects multiple times I started believing. They is a reason the US military has issued these round before.

  • Mark N.

    Underwhelming. After the first inch, the petals peal off. The remaining base probably weighs about 35 grains, i.e. it is flattened .22. For penetration, you still need weight retention, and this loses what weight it has almost immediately. Through glass, there was nothing left of the bullet that would do any damage beyond skin depth. and where was the denim test? A wide mouth like this is almost certain to clog up. What then?
    I have a variety of HP rounds, and I suspect they all perform better than this, even if they are quite a bit slower. For a sold with a massive wound track, I’ll buy Leigh Defense.

    • sianmink

      I don’t think the tip would clog.
      Why not? Because it’s a cavernous hollowpoint that puts the old flying dustbins to shame. there’s literally nothing in there except the base and the breakaway shell. It’s like a cored olive in there. Plenty of room for activities.
      I’m still not convinced it’s a good round, but I do have 15 rounds of it in my spare mag because it weighs nothing. Also the entry hole is like someone took a sharpened hollow arrow shaft and pushed it in. It’s literally a hole punch. That thing would bleed like crazy.

  • ozzallos .

    I’ll be honest– The only round out of this line of ammunition that truly impressed me was the .45acp ballistics gel tests. 9mm and 380 were pretty meh, but watching a .45acp halo slam into the same block was jaw dropping. The end result was similar: pedal fragmentation to about five inches with a base to 11 inches. I know it’s black magic and voodoo to some, but I couldn’t help but to feel the massive wave of hydrostatic shock would have been debilitating by itself. 9mm didn’t even begin to compare… The gel nearly hopped into the air on impact.

    Not saying you have to buy into it, but it’s on youtube. Worth the look.

    • Tassiebush

      The .45 was like a totally different beast!

  • DaveP.

    Well, we can see it would fail a standard FBI 12″ penetration standard. The Heavy Cloth (four layers of denim) test is where the rubber meets the road, though. Anyone want to bet how those would work out?
    Less snake oil, please.

  • Ko I

    Velocity does not equal effectiveness, as the gel testing quite aptly demonstrates. Most 380 ACP hollowpoints can do better than 6″ of penetration.

  • Zebra Dun

    I’m afraid 50 grains is too light for a 9 mm.
    Five inches is the distance between an arm and a penetration of the chest wall without hitting a vital area.
    Was a test run on denim clad gel?

  • Laserbait

    I’d love to see a 60 grain Flat Point version.