Ballistic Testing of O.A.T.H. Tango in .45 ACP

IMGP3209

Last month we published a series of articles on some ballistic gel testing of some “exotic” 9mm rounds. The series was sponsored by Clark Armory who provided the testing medium and rounds. A number of you readers detailed that you would like to see other rounds tested, and so Clark Armory has graciously sent us a couple of more gels and a new round to test.

Technical Details of O.A.T.H. Tango in .45 ACP

The O.A.T.H. Tango is a 100% copper, two-staged projectile. It has a copper “cap” that is seated over the main body of the bullet. Upon impact the round is designed to “flower” out (the 9mm has four petals and the .45 ACP expands six).  These rounds are “exclusively designed to deliver all of their energy in the first 7″ of penetration”.

There were not a lot of details on O.A.T.H.’s website regarding the round.

  • Weight : 163 Grains
  • Speed : 1100 Feet per Second

About O.A.T.H.:

Operators American Tactical Hardware (O.A.T.H.) is a company purpose-built to create superior ammo for the military and law enforcement.  O.A.T.H.’s Tango pistol series features copper bullets with an expansion-aiding tip that forces 4-6 petals open upon contact.  For rifles, O.A.T.H. produces lines of both solid copper and brass bullets, spun for superb accuracy.

O.A.T.H.’s website: http://oathammo.com/product/45-auto-p-tango-copper/

Test Parameters and Setup

Our testing format is going to be different this go around. Rather than testing several different rounds and comparing them, we are going to test a single round per article against the same four tests that we conducted before. Specifically we are going to shoot against bare gel, gel covered with several layers of clothing, gel behind drywall and gel behind automotive glass (both of the last two will also have a layer of clothing over them).

First order of business will be testing the density of the gel with a BB fired at a known rate. We will fire this into a corner of the gel

Each round will be fired through a chronograph at the ballistic gel and this

The test will look like this:

  1. Set up shooting position and recording devices
  2. Fire two rounds through the chronograph at the bullet trap
  3. Set up naked gel
  4. Fire BB at 500 to 600 feet per second at Gel and photograph penetration
  5. Fire round at gel while filming video and then photograph penetration from front, side and top.
  6. Repeat steps 3 to 5 with the other tests.

We wanted a good chronograph record of two rounds (which we got) and they were slightly below the stated velocity (of 1100 fps), though not far off enough to be invalid. We actually fired four rounds but had two errors with the chronograph.

Chronograph test of the rounds. We had two errors from the chronograph (the front sensor did not register; probably due to our placement of the light bars)

Chronograph test of the rounds. We had two errors from the chronograph (the front sensor did not register; probably due to our placement of the light bars)

Since this ammo was .45 ACP we felt that it was only appropriate to conduct the test with a 1911 (a well broken in Kimber Gold Combat to be exact; provided by Walt at BMC).  Additionally we did confirm the density of each gel block prior to each shot via BB penetration.

Test 1: Bare Gel

BB Penetration of 3.5 inches.

BB Penetration of 3.3 inches.

Hard to see on the new gel but the red circle shows the entrance wound.

Hard to see on the new gel but the red circle shows the entrance wound.

Side view of round in naked gel.

Side view of round in naked gel.

Top view in naked gel

Top view in naked gel

Findings

The round behaved as advertised. The round fully expended it’s energy right at seven and a half inches. The cap travelled another five inches (leaving a very small wound channel). The petals opened most of the way and the round tumbled.

The round would not technically pass the FBI standards as a significant portion of the mass did not penetrate twelve inches.

Test 2: Heavy Clothing

Clothing set for shoot.

Clothing set for shoot.

BB penetration at 3.5 inches

BB penetration at 3.5 inches

Front entrance

Front entrance

Side view of shot through heavy clothing

Side view of shot through heavy clothing

Top view of round after penetrating heavy cloth.

Top view of round after penetrating heavy cloth.

Findings

The round mostly behaved as advertised. The round expended most of it’s energy right at seven inches. The cap travelled another six inches (again leaving a very small wound channel). The petals, however, fragmented and sent pieces forward causing further damage to the gel.

The round would not technically pass the FBI standards as a significant portion of the mass did not penetrate twelve inches.

Test 3: Dry Wall

BB density test with just under 3.5 inches of penetration.

BB density test with just under 3.5 inches of penetration.  This is one of the older gels from the original tests.

Slight possible deflection (or challenging aim)

Slight possible deflection (or challenging aim)

Dry wall penetration of a little more than 12 inches.

Dry wall penetration of a little more than 12 inches.

Top view after penetrating drywall. Hard to see (though you can still make it out) through the older gel.

Top view after penetrating drywall. Hard to see (though you can still make it out) through the older gel.

Findings

Paradoxically the round passed but did not behave as advertised (expending it’s energy around seven inches). It did finally pass the FBI guidelines, penetrating twelve and a half inches. The round did not flower open nor break apart, maintaining it’s shape through it’s entire path.

Test 4: Automotive Glass

Holes in the glass...

Holes in the glass…

The automotive glass was conducted using Tom G’s scaffold from the previous tests we did. This time we were able to cut the windshield down into more manageable pieces. The glass was placed at a forty-five degree tilt, rotated forward by fifteen degrees, and set eighteen inches in front of the gel.

BB Test for Auto Glass

BB Test for Auto Glass at 3.4 inches of penetration.

We rotated the gel on it's side (you are looking at the bottom). Note the separate paths.

We rotated the gel on it’s side (you are looking at the bottom). Note the separate paths.

Gel rotated on it's side. Note the three separate entrances.

Gel rotated on it’s side (you are looking at the front and bottom). Note the three separate entrances.

Findings

This test was the most interesting of the set. The first round was aimed dead center of the gel (the aiming dot was placed on the gel itself). The first round was deflected downward nearly two and a half inches and completely missed the gel, impacting on the ammo can we had the gel staged on (the round did not penetrate the can, barely denting it).

Since we were interested in the effects against the gel, we re-conducted the test. This time we placed the aiming dot just below the upper edge of the gel. The round was still deflected down, but did make it into the gel, though it came apart before entering. The farthest traveling piece made it five and a half inches into the gel.  The white misting that is visible is actually glass dust from the shot (it gets everywhere in, on, and around the gel; which is why the older gels are a bit dirtier).  Also note that there was not even enough energy to displace the clothing (which we just drape; and actually fell during the other tests).  I apologize for the poorer quality of this video (and for the worse gel)… 🙂

The round would not technically pass the FBI standards as a significant portion of the mass did not penetrate twelve inches.

Conclusions

Firing position for the auto glass

Firing position for the auto glass

Overall neither Tom Gomez nor I are a huge fan of this round. In the naked gel test and heavy clothing test it did follow the manufacturer’s data against our calibrated gels. In both tests the round expended the brunt of it’s energy by the seven inch mark which is a little short of the minimum twelve for the standard.

The drywall test showed the round penetrating deep enough, but then did not exhibit the “utility” of having the petals open (which I would assume was the main purpose of the design), and did not follow the manufacturer’s expectation.

The automotive glass showed significant downward deflection (which we did not experience with any of the 9mm rounds in the first four tests we did). It also exhibited a loss of energy, penetrating well under the FBI standards, and a little under the manufacturer’s detail.

We can debate the efficacy of the FBI standard (in the comments), but it is a pretty well defined and understood test at this point, and provides a good way to compare rounds. That said, we have not tested any other .45 ACP rounds to date with this method and so have no comparative data on the behavior of other rounds.

Credits

Thanks to Clark Armory and BMC Tactical for sponsoring and supporting this test. Clark Armory provided the Ballistic Gel from ClearBallistics and the O.A.T.H. Tango .45 ACP.  If you are not looking for the ballistics profile that the Tango provides, Clark Armory has numerous other defense rounds that you may want to check out.

BMC Tactical provided an indoor lane with consistent lighting and temperature to run the test which is going to be a great benefit moving forward.  Our first run of tests were in too many different locations and I think introduced some unnecessary variables.

We appreciate these two companies providing necessary materials and infrastructure for the tests.


Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


Advertisement

  • DAN V.

    This is a good review.

    • Doc Rader

      Thank you! And seriously, thanks to Clark and BMC for making it possible. I think this will become a monthly thing. I know Sawyer from Clark armory reads the comments so I this would be a good place to suggest rounds that people would like to see tested.

      Our goal is to try to keep the reviews as objective as possible, and provide clean pics and data.

    • Thomas Gomez

      Thank you Dan.

  • Mrninjatoes

    Damn good review. I hope this is going to be a monthly series.

    • Thomas Gomez

      We are planning on it. Take care!

  • Jimmy Lovelace

    I think that the more third-party reviews we have, the better informed we will all be as shooters. I know for myself that I can’t go out and test every possible round, so a lot of what I have and use is, honestly, based somewhat upon conjecture and a lot of online research that isn’t always fruitful.

    Please, keep the reviews coming!

  • BattleshipGrey

    I have no problem with referencing the FBI test, I suppose in a way it’s nice to have A standard set somewhere. I think in general, it also allows for real-life encounters in that a bad guy will probably be moving in a way that’s not completely squared off toward our muzzle and it may take 12″ of flesh and bone to reach vitals. However, I would never not select a defensive load based on a failure to meet that standard.

    These kinds of tests allow us to see consistency, or a lack there of. At this point it is a little bit unfair to completely rule out the OATH round because we’ve only seen one round per test component. But between the 4 components, it was quite inconsistent, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when you’re looking to trust your life with it.

    Thanks to Clark Armory for the donations, and thanks to Team Toms for the testing.

    • Thomas Gomez

      Cheers Battleship! Always nice to see you in the comments. Happy New Year!

      • BattleshipGrey

        Thanks, Happy New Year to you as well.

    • R H

      Also should be noted is the fact that ballistics gel is a test medium that is supposed to simulate MUSCLE tissue. I don’t think most people realize that skin is pretty tough, not to mention all of the bones that might be in a bullet’s path. I believe it was estimated that penetrating the skin accounts for roughly 3″ of ballistics gel penetration. Which makes total sense once your think that the gel is calibrated with a BB that has to penetrate about 3.5″. This is what drives me nuts about the bird shot crowd and the “scientists” who make a torso out of gel and expect it to be a good simulation.

      EDIT: Looks like Pharmer Andy beat me to this by about half a day!

  • Plumbiphilious

    This is what I come to TFB for (aside from new products/gimmicks news and history posts). Loved this article.

    I really love shop talk for guns, and testing out gimmicky stuff that would otherwise waste my money (and teaching me stuff/factors to watch out for).

  • mosinman

    i’m wondering just how important it is for the round to reach 12 or more inches of penetration… in my uneducated opinion i don’t see it as crucial

    • Thomas Gomez

      When the FBI selects a round, they want at least 12 inches of penetration in ballistic gelatin. This is to ensure good penetration of bones, tissue and organs. The FBI has had this standard for a long time.

    • PharmerAndy

      It is a common mistake for people to think that 1 inch of ballistic gel = 1 inch of flesh but that isn’t how it works. 12 inches of ballistic gel penetration is what the FBI considers enough penetration to consistently make it through tissue to a person’s vital organs, no matter where or what bones and skin it hits. Just look at how they calibrate the gels, a BB is supposed to go around 3-3.75 inches into the gel, you wouldn’t expect that BB to go that far into you. It is better to think of it as “all or nothing” when it comes to the 12 inch penetration, not 7 inches of gel penetration = 7 inches of tissue penetration.

      • Doc Rader

        Agreed. The only documentation we had on the round stated it was “exclusively designed to deliver all of their energy in the first 7″ of penetration”. I can only assume that was referring to gel.

        And it did follow that advertising with the exception of the dry wall and glass tests. I would think the round would be fine for heavy clothing and below. It would punch drywall as well. I’d be nervous relying on it in all situations though.

  • Bear The Grizzly

    What I’m failing to understand is why would someone want these rounds to begin with? It said it would stop 7 inches in and it did so good on them, but I can’t imagine why I’d ever require that. Disclaimer: I don’t even oper8.

    • kregano

      It’s probably aimed at people who want defensive ammo, but are concerned about overpenetration.

  • USMC03Vet

    Is it in yet?

    – that’s what the gel block said

  • robocop33

    I’m impressed with this review. No BS and the tests were sound and proven fair. I will continue to read Tom’s reviews as long as he is this fair and thorough!

  • Laserbait

    Thanks for the review – once again, very informative!

    One observation. If the round is designed to “exclusively designed to deliver all of their energy in the first 7″ of penetration”. So no energy = no movement (physics), and this would mean that any travel past 7″ should be considered a failure of the bullet.

  • Kivaari

    I’d like to see a test showing how well auto-glass deflects bullets when fired from behind the vehicle. Like an escaping crook. The reason being is well over 40 years ago a nearby tribal police car was shot up by a man having a .45 submachinegun. He fired at the car from roughly a 45 degree angle so his target was from the rear right side of the car. He shot the light bar to pieces, then fired through the passenger side window, The windshield was hit multiple times from the rear and none of them passed through the glass. A FBI agent was with us as we recovered evidence. He said it couldn’t have been a .45, since a .22 short would go through the glass. I then started handing him .45-230-FMJ slugs. The auto glass was quite strong. Shorty after that shooting, another BIA cop was patrolling through the village when a shooter fired a .30 caliber rifle through the back window. The bullet passed through the rear window, the plastic shield (prisoner cage) hit the officer with a tiny cut on his ear, then hit the windshield and deflected down by the windshield and went into the dash. Safety glass is amazing stuff. It took awhile but the shooter in the first case was captured and sent to prison. This was the 70s when AIM – types were causing so much trouble, like the murder of FBI agents at Wounded Knee. That led to a long standoff, with lots of shooting. One AIM member, Russell Means, was well known for having his photo taken while holding a real AK47, in defiance to the government. That led to him getting movie deals, like “The Last of the Mohicans”. Being a revolutionary got him jobs.

    • Bill

      Glass is just plain funky to shoot through, particularly laminates and auto glass. Glass technology has advanced a lot, so issues like deflection and complete failures to penetrate don’t surprise me a bit. I’ve reached the conclusion that in general shooting at cars with a handgun is essentially futile. You can’t do enough damage to the car to stop it, and getting a solid hit on the driver is iffy, short of jumping on the hood and blasting a magazine through the windshield, which I don’t recommend.

      Wounded Knee was messed on on many angles. It was also triggered by a lot of corruption in the tribal government at the time. And that was the Hoover FBI…

  • kyphe

    I fail to see the relevance of FBI standards on a round that specifically was designed not to penetrate 12 inches, as if it did reach 12 inches then it would be a failure. That is like criticizing an AP round for over penetration. The real story is why they designed it to perform that way and if people think that is a valid concept.

  • El Duderino

    I thought the “super light grenade-like fragmentation” school died after the 1986 Miami shootout. Forgotten lesson or just a company trying to “be different” in order to attract sales?

  • maodeedee

    Trading mass for velocity will always be a losing proposition. Light for caliber projectiles which fragment do impressive things in ballistic gel but the human body is not homogeneous like a block of Jello. in ballistic gel testing, projectiles ALWAYS travel in a straight line but in the human body, anyone who has ever worked with gunshot wounds knows that bullets often change directions within the body.

    There is simply too much blind faith involved with ballistic gel testing. People like it because it’s seemingly cut and dried with no gray areas and no intervening variables. It simplifies a complex issue and allows seemingly easy conclusions.

    The glass penetration part of the testing, however was pretty interesting to observe the deformation that actually takes place. However, Hornady has done a lot more research in this regard and what they concluded was that it was better to use a heavy for caliber bullet to allow for a loss in mass during the penetration of the glass.

  • The Brigadier

    Another major ammo maker came out with a solid copper round around ’07 that petaled quite nicely. I believe they made it in .45 ACP and .357 magnum. I don’t remember which company made it. If it still being made it would be interesting to see if it compares with the OATH round.