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Fiocchi 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ – The Whole Point of Testing
Nov 5, 2012 (Updated Jul 2, 2013)
Review by morilla
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Consistent; Good brass; Often on sale at good prices
Cons:Can be a bit more 'expensive' than competitors when not 'on sale'
The Bottom Line: A solid, value niche offering in 9mm practice/plinking/target ammo.
A year or so back, a local sporting goods retailer got into a ‘price war’ with a neighboring gun shop. The sporting goods dealer began selling certain brands of ‘value ammunition’ just above cost. Not one to let a good deal go to waste if I can help it, several boxes of Fiocchi 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ were acquired. It’s not that I knew much about the brand; though I had used some of their .223 Remington soft points with good results. The idea was that it afforded me an opportunity to expand my on-going ‘testing’ of factory ammunition; a ‘project’ I started back in 2009 with the last ammunition ‘shortage.’ The basic premise revolves around having a good idea how different brands function in certain firearms and how well they live up to their own ‘catalog’ should available options become ‘limited’ again.
Recommend this product?
Fiocchi – The Company
Founded in 1876, Fiocchi is a family-operated, Italian company which began producing metallic case ammunition in 1877. Long story, short, according to the company’s website, in 1983, Fiocchi of America was established by the company as an import distributor for the Italian made ammunition. Shortly thereafter, it was determined that a manufacturing facility was needed in the U.S.; but, it wasn’t until 2005 that the parent company put its weight behind the U.S. facility and market.
Today, Fiocchi offers both American and foreign produced ammunition in the U.S. For instance, the .223 Remington soft points noted above were “Loaded in the USA” according to the box. However, the boxes of 9mm around which this review is based says it was “Made in Italy.” According to the company’s 2010 Catalog, insofar as Fiocchi’s shotgun ammunition:
“The US subsidiary imports empty primed hulls from Fiocchi Munizioni and wads from Italy… Gun powder is from U.S.A. sources…”
While I haven’t bothered to contact Fiocchi, I suspect the “Loaded in the USA” vs. “Made in Italy” hints at a similar strategy for their metallic cartridge production in the U.S. In fact, later in that same catalog, it is stated of their Centerfire Rifle Lines that the “totality of our Center Fire are developed and loaded in our own company facility in Ozark, Missouri.” You will note, however, that it says nothing about the origin of the components. As regards their “Pistol Shooting Dynamics” series, again, the basis of this review, the catalog is silent; though, again, the box clearly states it is “Made in Italy” and uses “Fiocchi Original Bullets.”
Fiocchi – Shooting Dynamics Line
Why this is important stems from an interview with Carlo Fiocchi – found here…
In that piece, it is stated that: “…more than 75% of the ammunition sold by Fiocchi in the U.S. is loaded here in the U.S., a statistic not widely known in the arms industry.” An associated pie chart indicates that Fiocchi’s U.S. sales come from 35% shotshell, 35% pistol, 15% rifle, and 15% rimfire ammunition; with 100% of the shotshells made in the U.S. (their 2012 Catalog states that it’s now 99% of shotshells), 75% of pistol ammunition made in the U.S., 95% of the rifle made in the U.S., and None of the rimfire made in the U.S. article then goes on to note the “long-standing relationship” the company has with Hornady and that Speer projectiles are also used in some of their rifle loads. (The company’s 2012 Catalog states they’ve now partnered with Berger Bullets.)
In checking a couple, local, stocking dealers, the Shooting Dynamics Fiocchi handgun ammunition in .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, and 9mm 124 gr. JHP’s were all marked “Made” or “Assembled” in the U.S.A. The .45 ACP was marked “Made in Hungary.” The 9mm 115 gr. FMJ one of the two had in stock and on sale was, like the boxes I have, marked “Made in Italy.”
The point to all of this is to be ‘aware’ that not ALL Fiocchi ammunition sold in the U.S. is made (or ‘loaded’) in the U.S. Likewise, not all of the components are U.S. sourced.
In a separate, 2006 interview (http://www.chuckhawks.com/carlo_fiocchi.htm) , Mr. Fiocchi indicated the following:
“…We tried to load the best components available on the market of the high grade lines, Exacta and Extrema, but we did not want to compromise on quality when engineering the Shooting Dynamic line. We have above average brass (same standard as the one we use for Military Contracts), reliable powders and bullets. I believe that the high volume shooter will be pleased with this type of ‘cocktail.’”
Price and Availability
Note that “high volume” is an euphemism for “value ammunition.” Well, as defined by the interviewer: “…the high volume shooter, or those looking for that ‘magic blend’ of both price and performance.” In other words, it was intended to compete with the PMC Bronze Line, Winchester White Box, etc. With that said, the company goes out of its way to separate itself from the… ahem… “Marts” in terms of ‘value ammo.’ In their 2012 Catalog, Carlo Fiocchi puts it this way:
“We avoid pandering to the lowest common denominator therefore allowing our Distributors and Dealers to set the desired bar on the margin they need to achieve with our products without having to always measure their final price with a bench mark that they may or may not like. We encourage and support the ‘traditional’ distribution.”
In the 2006 interview cited above, it was stated this way:
“Fiocchi of America wanted to be able to have a more meaningful representation, offering-wise, for the market. Our Company supports traditional distribution, does not sell to ‘Marts’ or mass merchants in an attempt of keeping the integrity of our image and support those who made an investing in time and money in this business. It was natural to increase the offerings in the line to be able to attract more interest for our line and allow the dealer to be able to sell a quality product without having his resale price dictated by the ‘Mart’ down the street.”
The trouble here is that I’m not sure how they define ‘mass merchants.’ I’ve seen Fiocchi ammunition for sale in ‘traditional’ gun stores, but also in chain stores such as Sports Authority and Sportsman’s Warehouse. Likewise, numerous online retailers, from Brownells to Cabelas have the Fiocchi ammunition; though Cabelas doesn’t appear to currently stock the 9mm 115 FMJ, only listing JHP’s.
Insofar as the price for the Fiocchi 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ (product number 9AP), I can definitively say that shopping around pays off. I’ve seen a box of 50 for as low as $10.99 and as high as $19.99. The ‘sale’ price at the aforementioned local retailer is $16.99. As alluded to at the beginning and as this ‘sale price’ hints at, don’t automatically assume that ‘low prices’ are only found online or via chain stores. The same store also had 250 ‘value packs’ of the Fiocchi 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ for $79.99. (Though I haven’t seen their ‘Canned Heat’ packaging, i.e., 100 rd. cans, the 2012 catalog specs are identical to the 9AP and the product number is 9CAP.)
The 9mm Luger – Historically Speaking
Before proceeding, it is important to understand the 9mm Luger in the context of its history. As noted in my reviews of other brands of 9mm ammunition, the first thing which needs to be understood is the basis upon which the cartridge was designed. While the .45 ACP and the 1911 were developed based on the military being desirous of having a pistol with ‘stopping power,' the conceptual basis for the 9mm was to field a medium-sized sidearm or a "full-sized" one with high-capacity. Therefore, the primary criteria initially had little to do with ballistics; but was, rather, the creation of a cartridge that would ‘fit the pistol' - so to speak.
Georg Luger developed the cartridge over 100 years ago with the idea of allowing for a more compact pistol than previous auto-loading designs and was adapted (shortened) from one of his earlier and larger, bottleneck cartridges. The "new," or original, 9mm Luger, so far as I can determine, utilized an 115 gr. bullet with a truncated cone at a velocity of 1,200 feet per second (f.p.s.). In point of fact, it was after acceptance by the German military that the ‘standard' bullet weight was increased to 124 gr. FMJ; with the British retaining the 115 gr., but adopting a round nose bullet.
As presented in a 1943 article in Yank magazine and evidently taken directly from Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 14, May 25, 1943: German Infantry Weapons:
"...Unlike the comparatively slow U.S. 45-caliber bullet, the Luger small-caliber bullet does not often lodge itself in the target and thereby impart its shocking power to that which it hits. With its high speed and small caliber it tends to pierce, inflicting a small, clean wound..."
Here is a section from a more recent article entitled "In Time of War: The Israeli Answer To Terrorism" by noted, long-time firearm's instructor/author Massad Ayoob:
"...Recent events in Afghanistan have shown the relative impotence of 9mm ball compared to the same style of .45 caliber ammunition that has been in historical evidence since before WWI. GIs in Afghanistan report that Al-Qaeda fighters are absorbing multiple 9mm ball rounds from the issue Berettas before going down, but tend to drop to one or two solid hits with .45 ball fired from the old 1911 style guns still in use by Delta Force.
The medium-caliber handgun cartridge such as the 9mm (.355" bullet diameter) or the .38 Special (.357" bullet diameter) requires an expanding bullet to best do its job of stopping human assault, while the .45 (.452" bullet diameter) has a long history of shutting off attacks with ball type ammo..." - see http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/ayoob81.html
I guess those "small, clean wounds" don't necessarily equate with ‘stopping power.' I also presume that this lack of ‘stopping power' is part of the reason behind the ‘high capacity' designs of most 9mm pistols. More is better and ought to do the job - right?
The Gun Digest Book Of Assault Weapons 7th Edition (2007) by Lewis, Campbell, and Steele addresses that:
"...There has been considerable adverse comment since the 9mm became the service-wide pistol caliber. The more recent controversy centers around performance of the issued pistol in Afghanistan... "But if the 9mm Parabellums were seriously defective, it seems to me the British Special Air Service, the German GSG-9, and the Israeli special ops units would not use them," is the comment from David Steele. [one of the listed authors] "The problem in Afghanistan appears to be a lack of supporting weapons for Special Forces operations. If they want 45 pistols and 308 rifles, they should have them without the usual one-size-fits-all logistics debate..." (pp. 145 - 146)
Further, as Ayoob notes in the paragraph immediately preceding the above cited quote from his article:
"...The 9mm pistol has become virtually standard among civilians in Israel. However, that does not make it the best choice. Anecdotal reports of shootings of terrorists there by citizens and by police and soldiers (who have also standardized on the 9mm handgun) frequently show the bad guy to take many hits before he goes down. This is why the high capacity gun has become the 9mm of choice there. The most common brands are the old classic Browning, the Beretta, the Glock, and the Jericho (an Israeli-made clone of the Czech CZ75 design). One cannot help but notice a corollary fact: the high performance hollow point bullets that brought the 9mm Luger cartridge up off its knees and made it an acceptable fighting round are thin on the ground in Israel. Many citizens and police are likely to carry military style full metal jacket ("ball") ammunition. This stuff tends to just punch through the body, making little dimpled holes like ice-pick wounds and endangering those behind the target with exiting bullets."
Ayoob notes that 9mm ball ammo tends to "punch through the body, making little dimpled holes" and the 1943 Military Intelligence Special Publication stated that:
"...Unlike the comparatively slow U.S. 45-caliber bullet, the Luger small-caliber bullet does not often lodge itself in the target and thereby impart its shocking power to that which it hits. With its high speed and small caliber it tends to pierce, inflicting a small, clean wound..."
Do I see an historical consistency in there... somewhere?
I do realize that the typical retort is that the military and law enforcement in many countries now use this as their sidearm cartridge. As just noted, there are numerous ‘restrictions’ as to the type of ammo which is either available or authorized for use. Even more to the point, there is no, ‘universal' standard which applies. In fact, let’s take a look at this facet of the cartridge.
Is There A ‘Standard' – SAAMI vs. NATO
Unlike many other cartridges, the 9mm has been so ‘tweaked' over the years that there is no real, historical ‘standard' by which to assess modern ammunition. As already stated, ‘original,' 9mm Luger, so far as I can determine, utilized an 115 gr. bullet with a truncated cone at a velocity of 1,200 feet per second (f.p.s.). Current Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) specs for 115 gr. MC (FMJ) list a velocity, measured 15' from the muzzle, of 1,125 f.p.s. (+/- 90 f.p.s.) out of a 4" barrel. Unfortunately, barrel lengths for the handguns chambered in this round vary widely.
For instance, the issue Beretta 92FS has a 4.9" barrel length. The Sig Sauer P226, popular with U.S. Navy SEALS and some law enforcement agencies, comes standard with a 4.4" barrel. Now, the increasingly popular Springfield Armory XD has a Service Model with a 4" barrel; but, the Tactical Model has a 5" barrel. Of course, well known for their 1911-style pistols, Springfield Armory's "Loaded," stainless steel, 9mm 1911 also comes with a 5" barrel. Well, the Glock 17 comes with a 4.49" barrel; but, the Glock 19 has a 4.02" barrel. Then again, the classic Browning Hi-Power Mark III has a 4 5/8" (4.63") barrel.
What all this means is that SAAMI standards aren't going to be quite in line with rounds pushed through many of the actual weapons this round is used in. Longer barrel lengths are going to mean slightly higher velocities. Of course, then again, given that the Luger pistol had a barrel length of 4.25", that puts us, more or less, right back at the ‘original' 9mm Luger with 115 gr. bullet at a velocity of 1,200 f.p.s.
Of course, SAAMI is the governing body for civilian markets in North America. When speaking to ‘standardization’ of what is, essentially, a military cartridge, reference needs to be made to military standards.
According to the 25 May 2011 U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command presentation (available online) NATO Small Arms Ammunition Interchangeability via Direct Evidence Testing, the first NATO qualification for 9mm Ball (FMJ) ammunition occurred in 1964. To date, 22 Designs of 9mm ammunition have been qualified; with a Multi-Caliber Manual of Proof & Inspection (testing procedures) being listed as a “Current Thrust” and ‘near completion.” In addition, the April 1994 Technical Manual (TM 43-0001-27) entitled Army Ammunition Data Sheets, Small Caliber Ammunition FSC 1305 note the authorized cartridge for the Pistol, 9mm, M9 has a projectile weight of 112 gr., with a velocity of 1,263 f.p.s. (+/- 5 f.p.s.). Designated M882, it is noted that it cannot be used in a series of nonstandard weapons; including three pistols – HK P7 series, Walther P38, and FN P35.
The FN P35, better known as the Browning Hi-Power, is one of the “NATO Nominated Weapons” for the testing procedures process in the above NATO Small Arms Ammunition Interchangeability… presentation. The problem? The NATO or M882 round is ‘hotter,’ with higher pressures and velocity than SAAMI standards allow for on the civilian market. What this also means is that the popular Hi-Power, the firearm used in the testing for this review, is not considered ‘safe’ to use with NATO spec ammunition; along with a plethora of other firearms besides those cited in the Army Ammunition Data Sheets. Yet, the pistol is popular with many NATO aligned militaries.
On the flip side, you will read on many firearms forums that the higher pressures and velocities of NATO ammo is largely a ‘myth’ when passed through a chronograph. The problem is that most ‘expertise’ is gleaned from firing civilian purchased ammo (as opposed to military issue) over a chronograph and, as we just noted, there are two, different standards being adhered to; SAAMI (civilian) vs. military. Pressures are measured differently and can lead to confusion; e.g., just like .223 Remington being different than 5.56 NATO ammunition. (See Winchester USA 5.56mm review link below and/or go to my profile page, click on the menu for Guides, Advice Pieces, and Essays, then go to “Ammunition - .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO… There’s an Important Difference.”)
Now, if that’s not enough ‘confusion,’ you can add into the mix the fact that Winchester markets “9mm NATO” ammunition (Q4218) with a 124 gr. bullet and a muzzle velocity of 1,140 f.p.s. to civilians and a “9mm NATO” ammunition in their ‘Ranger’ Law Enforcement series with a 124 gr. bullet and a muzzle velocity of 1,185 f.p.s. Both are FMJ. Both come with a warning to only use in ‘modern’ firearms. Taken directly from a Cabela’s listing for the product:
“This 9mm NATO ammunition is loaded to the same specifications currently used by our U.S. Military. The higher pressure in these rounds deliver increased velocity and energy over standard 9mm ammunition, which also promotes reliable cycling in modern 9mm semi-auto handguns as well as carbines.
Notice: Use only in modern 9mm firearms in good condition. These Cartridges are loaded to military velocity and pressure which is higher than 9mm Luger cartridges. The average pressure is 10% higher than the industry standard pressure for 9mm Luger.”
The bottom line is that the governing body for NATO standards is STANAG (NATO Standardization Agreement); which is what the aforementioned NATO Small Arms Ammunition Interchangeability via Direct Evidence Testing presentation was referring to vis a vis a ‘near completed’ Multi-Caliber Manual of Proof & Inspection (testing procedures). The trouble here stems from the fact that the April 1982 STANAG 4090, Edition 2 (the one dealing with 9mm ammunition), states the following:
“The mass of all bullets shall be within the limits 7.9 g (108 grains) to 8.3 g (128 grains) inclusive.”
That means that a “9mm NATO” round can have a bullet between 108 gr. to 128 gr.; making the M882, with its 115 gr. bullet and Winchester’s 9mm NATO with its 124 gr. bullet both “NATO Standard.” The critical attribute, however, is the pressure standard. The 1982 STANAG 4090 cites a ‘corrected radial copper pressure’ (CUP) of 37,000 psi, with no pressure exceeding 42,700 pounds psi or an MPa (metric) mean of no more than 230, with no individual pressure exceeding 265.
This brings us back to SAAMI standards, which call for 124 gr. 9mm Luger Metal Case (FMJ) cartridges to have a Maximum Average Pressure of 33,000 psi. If we take note of Winchester’s warning (noted above) that their 9mm NATO is loaded “10% higher than the industry standard pressure for 9mm Luger,” then add 3,300 psi (10% of maximum SAAMI standard), that gives us 36,300 psi. Bearing in mind that the 37,000 psi NATO standard and the 33,000 psi SAAMI standard are averages, that’s close enough for, literally, government work. (According to the April 1994 Technical Manual (TM 43-0001-27) entitled Army Ammunition Data Sheets, Small Caliber Ammunition FSC 1305, ‘case mouth pressure’ for the M882 ‘NATO,’ 112 gr. ‘ball’ ammunition is 36,250 psi max, with 31,175 psi average.)
Labels and “Common Knowledge”
The point of this rather protracted discussion has to do with the ‘common knowledge’ profligate among the arm chair commandos on the chat rooms and in gun shops. (Most credible magazines, at least, attempt to get it right and differentiate; but, I’ve seen some ‘issues’ emerge there as well.) While 9mm Luger is most commonly available in a 115 gr. configuration on the civilian market and such is ‘standard’ for certain militaries, so too is the 124 gr. bullet available for both civilian and military use as ‘standard.’ Both meet the definition of being a standard “NATO” round; not because of the bullet weight, but because of the pressures and velocities involved.
***Therefore, you CANNOT assume that a given brand/series of 9mm cartridge is ‘standard’ for the industry, for the military, or for your individual firearm simply because it has a particular bullet weight.***
The bottom line is it can readily be seen that not only is there a notable difference between SAAMI (civilian) and NATO (military) standards, there is no, single, all-encompassing ‘standard’ for 9mm ammunition insofar as bullet weight or velocity. Therefore, one has to be very careful when shopping for 9mm ammunition in that terms labels such as 9mm Parabellum, 9mm Luger, 9 x 19mm, 9mm +P, 9mm +P+, 9mm NATO, etc. are ever-present.
Fiocchi 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ (9AP) – Factory Specs
Since the ammunition is listed as 9mm Luger, as we just established, it is not “NATO” ammunition. Likewise, while Fiocchi America is a member of SAAMI and, therefore, manufacturing specs for their U.S. ‘loaded’ or ‘manufactured ammunition is governed by SAAMI, given that the 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ sitting in front of me is “Made in Italy,” specifications are governed by C.I.P. (translated as ‘Permanent International Commission for Firearms Testing’). The C.I.P. is the “European” equivalent of SAAMI; with participating ‘international’ member countries which, geographically speaking, are not necessarily located strictly in ‘Europe.’ There can be differences in the standards between the two organizations for a variety of cartridges.
So far as I can determine without an hard copy of C.I.P. standards available to me or a statement from Fiocchi that they conform to SAAMI standards with regard to their “Made in Italy” ammunition, C.I.P. pressure standards for 9mm Luger fit within SAAMI specifications for the same cartridge. With that said, as noted above, current Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) specs for 115 gr. MC (FMJ) list a velocity, measured 15' from the muzzle, of 1,125 f.p.s. (+/- 90 f.p.s.) out of a 4" barrel.
In their 2012 Catalog, Fiocchi lists the Shooting Dynamics 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ as having a muzzle velocity of 1,200 feet per second (f.p.s.), plus or minus 10 f.p.s.; i.e., a muzzle velocity ranging from 1,190 – 1,210 f.p.s. While that would put it at the upper end of the SAAMI specs (1,125 f.p.s. + 90 f.p.s. = 1,215 f.p.s.), it puts it right in there with both the Winchester USA (“white box”) 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ which specs at 1,190 f.p.s. and the Sellier & Bellot 9mm Luger 115 gr. ‘extrapolated’ spec of 1,207 f.p.s. (see review links below). It is also spot on, as noted above, with the original, 9mm Luger, which utilized an 115 gr. bullet with a truncated cone at a velocity of 1,200 f.p.s.
A ‘Standard’ for Testing
We’ll need a benchmark or ‘standard’ for testing is required to see how the factory specs match up to real world use. Fiocchi’s 2012 Catalog claims the test barrel length was 4” – which is consistent with SAAMI. Since the firearm I’ll be using is the classic Browning Hi-Power Mark III and, as noted, it has a 4 5/8" (4.63") barrel, we can derive a somewhat arbitrary standard based on SAAMI specs.
SAAMI says 1,125 f.p.s. (+/- 90 f.p.s.); i.e., a range of 1,035 – 1,215. Given their specs are based on a 4” barrel length and the Browning has a longer barrel, meaning it is likely to generate slightly higher velocities, let’s arbitrarily halve the “minus 90 f.p.s.” and subtract 45 f.p.s. That would give us a ‘low end’ for our ‘standard’ of 1,080 f.p.s. Meanwhile, we’ll take the high end provided by the factory specs by using the “plus 10 f.p.s.” – which gives us an ‘high end’ for our ‘standard’ of 1,210 f.p.s.
If that seems a little too arbitrary, bear in mind that we just spent considerable time establishing that there is no consistent standard for 9mm Luger. Even SAAMI’s range is quite a spread. But, as was also noted above, Fiocchi claimed they did not want to ‘compromise on quality’ with even their ‘value ammunition’ lines. Add to this that most manufacturers seem to err on the side of caution when it comes to their production loads (remembering that 1,200 f.p.s. is pretty much at the top end of SAAMI specs) and it seems ‘reasonable’ to narrow the range a bit.
As a result, an expected ‘testing standard’ velocity range of 1,080 – 1,210 f.p.s. would indicate an expected, ‘test average’ of 1,145 f.p.s. Given the mean velocity of the 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ ‘value ammunition’ reviewed thus far – PMC (1,099 f.p.s.), Sellier & Bellot (1,178.29 f.p.s.), Winchester USA (1,163.38 f.p.s.), see links below – works out to 1,146.89 f.p.s., our ‘arbitrary’ standard may not be as ‘arbitrary’ as it might seem.
I set up a Chrony F1 and measured a distance 10 feet from the muzzle. (I know that I just said SAAMI measured 15' from the muzzle, but you don't need to be that far; 10' is sufficient to mitigate the muzzle blast's potential to influence the chronograph results in this handgun caliber. It also doesn't help that I don't shoot 9mm all that often and, therefore, am not all that anxious to see if I can avoid shooting my chronograph.) The elevation was 5,500 ft., on a clear day with temperatures hovering somewhere in the mid-80 degrees F.
As stated, the test gun was a fairly stock Browning Hi-Power Mark III (Made in Belgium, Assembled in Portugal) that was obtained used, at a more than reasonable price, several years ago. The only thing I know that has been done to this weapon is that the feed ramp has been ‘polished.' Bearing in mind that I am not a ‘gun writer' and, therefore, do not have access to manufacturers in terms of obtaining ‘donated' ammunition for testing, the sample size is, of necessity, a bit small. Be that as it may, 10 rounds from two different boxes/lots of Fiocchi 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ were used to establish the following results:
Mean Velocity = 1,184.78 f.p.s.
High = 1,204 f.p.s.; Low = 1,161 f.p.s. - ES (Extreme Spread) = 43 f.p.s.
Standard Deviation (SD) = 12.97
That puts the mean velocity a bit higher than the ‘test standard’ and notably higher than the SAAMI average of 1,125 f.p.s. It also makes it the ‘hottest’ 9mm Luger 115 gr. load reviewed to date; although only by 6 ½ f.p.s. over the Sellier & Bellot. It’s interesting, as an European-produced cartridge, that the mean velocities for two European manufacturers, with factories in different countries, would be that close. Not necessarily ‘significant;’ but, ‘interesting.’ (The Winchester USA was 21 ½ f.p.s. slower and the PMC was 85 ¾ f.p.s. slower. Same pistol. Same testing location. Widely separated test days.)
While I'm unaware of an ‘official' marker for standard deviation on factory ammo sold on the civilian market, an SD of around 20 has always been a bit of a rule of thumb; with low-end ammo starting to verge on ‘unacceptable' around 30 or so and ‘match' ammo having an SD of somewhere around 7 - 10. Remember, you're talking about assembly line production, not individually weighed handloads.
Viewed from that perspective, an approximate SD of 12.97, is very good for the ‘value ammunition’ niche. (The test results for PMC, Sellier & Bellot, and Winchester USA 9mm 115 gr. FMJ ammunitions – see links below – were 20.13, 14.66, and 33.44 respectively.) In fact, bearing in mind my limited sample size, it could be claimed that there is more ‘truth’ than ‘marketing hyperbole’ to Carlo Fiocchi’s claim that they did not want to ‘compromise on quality’ with even their ‘value ammunition’ lines.
There were no failures to feed or eject during testing.
As I sat down to write this review, I realized that it doesn’t seem as if I’ve ever fired the Fiocchi 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ at an actual, paper target. I do know that I’ve shot it at various, impromptu, targets of opportunity; e.g., 2 inch thick branches, ½ gallon milk jugs, pine cones, etc. You know, the kind of thing generally regarded as ‘plinking.’
It’s been over 20 years now since I shot Bullseye and IPSC competition. Likewise, given my preference for the .45 ACP, I simply don’t dedicate that much practice time to the 9mm. Thus, as I’ve noted in my other reviews of 9mm, in terms of my currently being able to hit the broadside of a barn... I can - provided it's not moving and I'm allowed to stand inside. It's not that I can't hit what I aim at - usually.
In that sense, the limbs, pine cones, milk jugs, et al. were hit when aimed at. Yes. There were a couple notable ‘misses’ that cannot be blamed on the ammo; such as the first couple of shots at a dead branch, impudently standing aloof at about 20 yards. Let’s just say that, in the end, its reach was shortened a bit. The bottom line is that I have none of the technological aids which help to take the ‘human factor' out of accuracy tests; e.g., a proper rest such as a Ransom Rest.
That’s the long way ‘round of suggesting that the Fiocchi 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ is plinking and target ammunition. As the company says in their 2012 catalog:
“…to train and remain proficient with a handgun… you must practice. We, as shooters too, realize the importance of both value and training. That’s why we make the Shooting Dynamics Line of handgun ammo… You can practice with our economical training ammo and then load and carry our Extrema XTP ammo for home and self defense…”
Part of this is due to the FMJ bullet. Given the previous discussion regarding battlefield reports related to the effectiveness of 9mm ‘ball’ ammunition, suffice to say that 9mm Luger does not do its best work with ‘ball’ ammunition in the context of self-defense. That’s why the company itself is recommending their XTP (Hornady hollow point bullet) as better suited to that role.
I see a lot of back and forth on the boards about Fiocchi 9mm brass having a lower case capacity, tight primer pockets, off-center primer holes, varying case lengths, etc., so forth, and such like. I’m not going to wade into such discussions. Why? Because there are too many permutations and for every post which claims a ‘problem,’ there always seems to be 3 or 4 individuals who respond that they haven’t had a problem and find it to be good brass. (The 2012 catalog also, definitively, states that there is no steel in the cases for the Shooting Dynamics series.)
I’ve only reloaded an handful of cases from the Fiocchi 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ (G.F.L. headstamp) while testing loads. There’ve been no problems and the cases seem to be good quality. (Bear in mind, as I’ve noted other reviews, however, I only reload cases 5 – 6 times; particularly those used in semi-automatic firearms.
Thus far, I’ve found case weights to be reasonably consistent and, on average, a bit lighter than other brands of ‘value’ 9mm. (Randomly grabbing 6 Fiocchi once fired, de-primed, cleaned cases, the average case weight is 58.53 gr.) Likewise, randomly selecting a different set of 10 cases, the case length of once fired, de-primed (not resized), cleaned cases was between 0.742” and 0.745” with 5 of the 10 measuring 0.744”.
(Just as a basis of comparison, I grabbed 10 each of Remington and Federal Champion cases. The Remington had an average case weight of 58.74 gr., with case lengths between 0.740” and 0.746” and a bit more variation. The Federal cases had an average weight of 60.84 gr. and case lengths between 0.741” and 0.748”, an even greater variance.)
Beyond that, I’m reluctant to make any sweeping generalizations for, as stated, I haven’t loaded the Fiocchi cases to any great degree. Well, there’s always the boilerplate stuff…
If you’re using heavier bullets and tend toward max loads, as is always the circumstance when substituting a ‘component,’ you should drop the load and work back up to your preferred combination of bullet and powder charge. Remember, no two cases are created exactly alike; even from the same lot and manufacturer.
Fiocchi does have occasional problems with recalled ammunition. In 2006, the company recalled 40 consecutive lots of 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ due to ‘defective propellant.’ On 17 September 2012, they issued a recall notice for .22-250 and .243 Winchester centerfire rifle ammunition, citing that those lots listed may have been loaded with ‘multiple bullets.’ That doesn’t necessarily indicate an universal or on-going problem with production as other manufacturers do, periodically, recall ammunition for one reason or another. It is, however, something to be aware of.
If you mix Winchester, Fiocchi, Remington, and Magtech 115 gr. 9mm in a single magazine, you’ll know when you’re shooting the Fiocchi. As noted, it’s what I’d term a ‘hotter’ load; not necessarily ‘hot.’ But, it is ‘stiffer’ than the others and while not +P territory, it’s a factor you should consider depending on the pistol you intend using it in.
Is the Fiocchi likely to replace Winchester USA (“White Box”) as my ‘standard’ practice ammo? Not likely. First, unless on sale, the Fiocchi still runs more expensive than the Winchester; at least in a box of 50. Second, the Winchester is more readily available to me locally these days. For that matter, so is the Remington and PMC. With that said, if the price is right, given the consistency of 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ load and how potentially good the brass seems to be, I wouldn’t hesitate to “buy it for the brass.”
Three years ago, the Sellier & Bellot was my 9mm Luger 115 gr. load of choice, primarily for its consistency and accuracy from my pistol. When on sale, the Fiocchi tends to be competitive in price with the S&B. Further, it has proven more consistent than the Sellier & Bellot, though just an hair ‘stiffer.’ On top of that, I haven’t, yet (knock on wood), run into the ‘tight primer’ issue I’ve had with the Sellier & Bellot when it comes to reloading the cases. As a result, it is tempting to say that I like it ‘better.’ However, I’m not sure that I’m prepared to do that – just yet.
What I am prepared to say is that, based on the shooting I’ve done thus far, the Fiocchi 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ is just as good as the Sellier & Bellot in the same load and, in some respects, may be a bit better. While I’m not going to go out of my way to pick up either brand in preference to, say, the Winchester, I will admit that ‘immediate availability’ and price are likely to be the deciding factors. In a sense, that’s not all bad since it allows for a certain ‘flexibility’ in the mindset when selection is limited; which is precisely the point of all this ‘testing’ of factory ammunition.
Other Ammunition Reviews
Aguila .30 Carbine
CCI Mini-Mag (HV)
CCI Mini-Mag HP
Magtech 9mm Luger 115gr. FMJ (9A)
PMC .45 ACP
PMC 9mm Luger
PMC .38 Special
PMC .223 Remington
PMC .30 Carbine
RWS .45 ACP
RWS 9mm Luger
Sellier & Bellot .45 ACP
Sellier & Bellot 9mm Luger
Sellier & Bellot .223 Remington
Sellier & Bellot .30 Carbine
Winchester USA .45 ACP
Winchester USA 9mm Luger
Winchester USA 5.56mm
Winchester Super-X Power Point .22 LR 40 gr. Hollow Point
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