U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- When the 22 WMR, or 22 Magnum, debuted in 1959, it was intended as a more powerful, longer-range alternative to the ubiquitous 22 Long Rifle cartridge. As such, it was meant to be a rifle cartridge, but like its predecessor, the cartridge was offered in a pistol configuration almost immediately.
The 22 Magnum cartridge boasts more velocity over the 22 LR, even in light-weight shorter-barreled handguns, and the debate over the 22 Magnum’s viability as a low-recoiling self-defense option has gained some attention in recent years.
With this renewed interest came the want for a bullet that would perform well out of a short-barreled handgun, as for all of its power, just about all 22 Magnum loadings are designed for maximum velocity and expansion out of a rifle-length barrel. Speer’s Gold Dot line of self-defense hollow-point ammunition is proven on the street in major calibers like 38 Special, 9×19, and 45 ACP.
A few years ago, they released a 22 Magnum offering, consisting of a 40-grain copper-jacketed Gold Dot hollowpoint harbored in nickel cases. The advertised muzzle velocity is 1050 feet per second is slow for a Magnum load out of a rifle, but fairly run of the mill out of a pistol. I have been shooting this ammunition for about two years in my handguns with very few reliability issues and great accuracy to boot. But I had to wonder how it performed out of the short-barreled handguns it was designed for. As such, I grabbed my NAA Sidewinder 22 Magnum revolver, a few blocks of calibrated 10 % Clear Ballistics gel blocks, and some Goodwilled blue jeans before taking off to the range for another misadventure.
I chose my NAA Sidewinder as the platform for my test because it’s 2.5-inch barrel is a good happy medium between the sub-two inch barrel on true snubnosed revolvers and the four-inch and greater lengths found on larger belt guns. I shot five rounds through my Caldwell chronograph from a distance of ten feet to get an idea of how fast the Gold Dots were going. The average of those five shots stood at 1154 feet per second. This load was running faster than advertised and is somewhat faster than the competing Hornady Critical Defense load, which clocks in at 1058 feet per second out of the same revolver. When dealing with velocities this low, a difference of ninety-six feet per second may be enough to make the difference.
I set up my gelatin blocks and fronted them with four layers of blue jean denim to represent a worse-case heavy clothing barrier. Pacing back ten feet, I shot the block three times. The first shot traveled through the first twelve inches of gel before skipping out from the top of the block. I fired two more rounds, which were captured in the block.
The Gold Dots appeared to use much of their energy in the first 3.5-8 inches of its travel through the gelatin, stretching it beyond the size of their original .22 caliber diameter. The disruption mikes out at just over .40 in both wound tracts. The projectiles settled down, penetrating in ice-pick style, tumbling backward before coming to rest at the thirteen-inch and fifteen-inch mark, respectively. There was no expansion.
I will get dinged for subscribing to the FBI’s standard for a street effective cartridge–12-18 inches of penetration through ordnance gel. This seems excessive, given the composition of the human body, but bone can make bullets go haywire, especially light projectiles used in 22 rimfire cartridges. The Speer Gold Dot failed to give any expansion, but expansion may well have created too much drag that would hamper penetration. Other tests have shown the Gold Dot expanding and penetrating enough to reach that arbitrary level of effectiveness. My tests are always a sample size of one and the Gold Dot still delivers in the penetration category. It pays to have a round that will penetrate adequately instead of one that expands into a flesh wound that may not be physically disabling.
The only penalty the Gold Dot gets is value and availability. Some gun shops stock Gold Dots and some do not and when I find them locally or online, they are about twice the price of conventional 22 Magnum rifle ammunition. The promise of best performance in short-barreled revolvers did not pan out in my case, so the extra cost is not warranted for the same performance you would otherwise get with cheaper 40-grain rifle loads. While it is a worthy load, I am not too quick to trade in my preferred CCI full metal jacket carry load.
About Terril Hebert
Terril Hebert is a firearm writer native to south Louisiana. Under his motto-Guns, Never Politics-he tackles firearm and reloading topics both in print and on his Mark3smle YouTube channel, where he got his start. Terril has a soft spot for ballistics testing, pocket pistols, and French rifles. When he is not burning ammo, he is indulging his unhealthy wildlife photography obsession or working on his latest novel. Scourge of God, published in 2017. See more from Terril on youtube under Mark3smle