PMC Bronze Line 9mm Luger FMJ Ammunition Reviews

PMC Bronze Line 9mm Luger FMJ Ammunition

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PMC 9mm Luger – 115 Grains Of Pretentiousness

Oct 13, 2009 (Updated Jul 2, 2013)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A little 'light' in terms of velocity; Good cases

Cons:A lot 'light' in terms of bullet weight and design as regards self-defense

The Bottom Line: A good, 'value' ammunition for plinking and casual target practice.


The basis of this site is purported to be “Unbiased Reviews By Real People.”  I define this as follows:
 
A detailed, systematic inquiry and analysis, which is formed by the practice of compiling or assembling basic, constituent information in a series of useful operations or give an approximate opinion, judgement, or appraisal expressing or involving the merits and faults of "something" so as to change or preserve and communicate the knowledge or skill acquired from actual participation or training in an activity or event or insight, affecting actions.
 
This does not mean I am free of preferences; which, by definition, means a certain level of bias.  Therefore, let’s be up front.  I have never been much of a fan of the 9mm.   I think, particularly in its myriad, modern incarnations, it is a caliber trying to be something it’s not.  As a result, there exists almost too many options in the caliber; not all of which will be suitable for any given handgun design.  This does not make it an intrinsically poor or bad or inadequate round.  It does mean that it has use within the parameters of its design.
 
The Cartridge – Suitable For What?
 
The cartridge itself is over 100 years old.  With much of its early history and virtually all of its military application based on the full-metal jacket (FMJ) bullet.   Unfortunately, the basic idea 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.  In fact, Georg Luger developed the cartridge with precisely 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.).  (You don’t suppose there’s a reason in there, someplace, as to why I’m reviewing this particular version of the 9mm?)  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 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.  What was that I said above about designing the cartridge to ‘fit the pistol?’
 
“Wait a minute,” you say?
 
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.

Let’s see… 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…

Call me crazy, but I think there’s a pattern here.
 
What Is A “PMC?”
 
PMC is a brand of ammunition made in the Republic of (South) Korea, with their U.S. Sales Office based in Houston, Texas and has been around for closing on half a century.  The company’s “Bronze Line” of ammunition is considered to be their “value line;” i.e., can we say “affordable?”  Take careful note of the following from PMC’s website:
 
… PMC has joined forces with Poongsan Corporation of Korea to expand its markets in the Global ammunition arena.  The intention is "Be the Best in the World”… Poongsan, who is known today to be one of the top producers of quality military ammunition, has supplied PMC products since its origin.  Now with the combined capacity of its Angang and Dongrae plants, the supply of hard to get PMC products should be more readily available… PMC will go into 2007 with its most popular items in pistol and revolver ammunition concentrating on its core market of target, plinking, home defense and law enforcement.  The selection of rifle specifications will be limited this year due to the decision to convert the production of its civilian rifle facility to military contracts…

The significance of this is two-fold.  First, based on my own searches for suppliers of ammunition this year, PMC has regularly been available; at least if it wasn’t on the shelf at that moment, it didn’t seem to take long for the vendor to acquire it.  In fact, locally, it was virtually the only ammunition available in quantity.  Second, you will note their change of emphasis a couple years ago to ‘military’ contracts; with conversion of the civilian rifle factory to military contracts.  At this very moment, I have a box of Winchester 5.56mm 55 gr. FMJ (Q3131A1) sitting in front of me.  This is Winchester’s USA (“white box”) brand – with a notation on the back which states “Made in R.O. Korea.”  I’ll let you draw your own inferences.
 
The ‘Standard’
 
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.
 
Since the pistol used for this review was a pretty much stock (more in a moment) Browning Hi-Power Mark III, let’s say the range we’re looking for in a standard is roughly 1,125 – 1,200 f.p.s.; which falls within the upper end of SAAMI’s specs and would be consistent given the extra 0.63” barrel length.  In addition, it allows for an approximate margin of 6.4%; something I consider to be an acceptable standard for this cartridge in factory loads.
 
Factory Specs
 
PMC factory specifications stipulate the following for their Bronze Line FMJ 115 gr. 9mm Luger cartridge -
 
Muzzle Velocity (f.p.s.) = 1150; with a 50 yard ‘zero’
 
[As I’ve noted in other reviews of handgun cartridges, 50 yards is pushin’ it as regards the practical accuracy most can attain with a ‘gun of the hand;’ especially one not intended for hunting, but for self-defense.]
 
This velocity rating would put the PMC factory load directly in the middle of our accepted ‘standard.’  However, factory specs are one thing and performance “in the field” is something different.  Thus, I went out to see what this would do…

Chronograph Results
 
I set up a Chrony F1 (chronograph) 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 around 75 - 80 degrees F and relative humidity around 20% - 25%.
 
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, some time back.  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’ with access to manufacturer’s 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 PMC Bronze Line 9mm Luger, 115 gr. FMJ to establish the following results:
 
Mean Velocity = 1,099 f.p.s.
 
High = 1,118 f.p.s.; Low = 1,073 f.p.s.  – ES (Extreme Spread) = 45 f.p.s.
 
Standard Deviation (SD) = 20.13
 
This puts the average just under the roughly adjusted SAAMI specs; though, given the ‘rough estimation,’ we can pronounce it “close enough for government work.”  While I know of no ‘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 SD of 20.13 is very much in line with factory, ‘value’ ammunition.
 
Accuracy?
 
It’s been nearly 20 years since I actively shot Bullseye and IPSC competition.   Given that the Browning was the choice of sidearm for the British SAS (who’ve now adopted the SIG), I was a little nervous that I might not be able to ‘uphold the tradition’ – so to speak.  Why?  Well… I’ll admit to currently being able to hit the broadside of a barn – provided it’s not moving and I’m standing inside.  It’s not that I can’t hit what I aim at – most of the time.  It’s that I’m not going to be winning any Bullseye matches in the near future.   Further, 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.  While I’m too far out of practice to have competitive speed, as for the practical accuracy necessary for IPSC…
 
I filled two magazines with PMC 115 gr. FMJ, set a target with an 8” black at a measured 15 yards and proceeded to rapid fire through both magazines.  Additionally, I did a stance change every 3-4 shots; Weaver, modified isosceles, squat, kneel, and lean.   ALL rounds ended up inside the black.  Folks… This ain’t braggin’.  I’d have felt bad if I didn’t keep most of them in the black of an 8” bull.  In that vein, I will admit that I put none of the PMC rounds in the 1 inch “X.”  In fact, they kinda spread out around the black.
 
While I had no Failures to Feed (FTF) or Failures to Eject (FTE), I did note with some consternation that the brass ended up ejecting over a wide area (other brands were more consistent).  I’m used to losing a couple cases every shooting session; with the accumulated total over the years being enough to fill all those socks which disappear from the dryer.  However, I also don’t like having to walk a wide circle looking for brass. 

The ‘Round’-Up

With the ammunition shortage this year, popular handgun cartridges have been hard to come by; a situation about to be made much worse with California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signing A.B. 962 into law.  As a result, brand loyalties have had to take a back seat to what’s available.  The trouble is that many people are unfamiliar with many of even the more popular options.  While this is not completely surprising in that once you find a factory load that works for your firearm, you tend to stick with that brand, it is problematic when that particular brand is not available on the store shelf and might not be for some time to come.
 
You may think I’m exaggerating about California’s new law regarding handgun ammo.  I’m not.  Cabela’s has already put their California customers on notice.  In fact, the morning after Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law, Cabela’s moved their Ammunition sub-menu from the bottom of their “Shooting Gear” page, to the first position at the top.  Other online dealers (with comparable pricing) have placed limits on the number of boxes per customer; having already had them there for awhile.  Likewise, the shortage has created circumstances with some online retailers where, if you’re not set up to receive email alerts on your blackberry, you will miss out in that the ammunition will be “Sold Out” in, literally, a couple of hours – at most.  On top of all this, you need to remember that California has just over 12% of the country’s population.  Even with the economy the way it is, less than one day after the Governator signed this bill, I already hear a great sucking vacuum as Californians hurry to stockpile what they can (even though, the way I understand it, the law doesn’t take effect until early 2011).
 
The trouble is that while 9mm Luger is a very popular cartridge and the 115 gr. FMJ load is, perhaps, the most commonly available at this time, supplies have been sporadic.  While PMC has been fairly successful in providing something close to a ‘steady’ supply to dealers this year, prices have been anything but.  Locally, I’ve seen a standard 50 round box of PMC 9mm Luger 115 FMJ go for as much as $30 this year.  Online… Cabela’s currently lists it for $13.99 for a box of 50.  They also list bulk packs at $85.99 (300 rds.), $154.99 (600 rds.), and $294.99 (1,200 rds.).  That’s when they have it!!!
 
Would this be my first choice in 9mm Luger, even at the 115 gr. niche?
 
No.

I would, however, strongly consider it for older firearms.  Why?  It isn’t as ‘hot’ as other alternatives and will be easier on them.  As long as it works the action, then be kind to your old warhorse.  Insofar as more ‘modern’ pistols…

If it’s the only thing available, then it does work well for plinking and casual target shooting.  For reloaders, the brass is good enough to compare to Winchester ‘white box.’  (I can’t tell you what absolute case life is.  First, that’s going to depend on your loads.  Second, cases I utilize in autoloaders are consigned to the brass bucket after 5 or 6 loadings as S.O.P.)  For me, given the price is reasonable, just being able to get the cases is, sometimes, enough incentive alone.
 
As a self-defense load?  After reading the beginning of this review – are you kidding?  While I agree that shot placement is critical with any caliber, I simply don’t have much faith in the caliber and virtually none when it comes to ‘ball’ ammunition in 9mm Luger.  If the observation regarding the 9mm cartridge is the same today as it was in 1943 and the consensus of opinion is that it requires high velocity and expanding bullets to be ‘effective’ or ‘do its best job,’ then where am I going wrong in saying that it’s a pretentious little cartridge trying to be something it’s not? 

Is that a bias/preference based on prejudice or does it more closely approximate the above provided definition of “unbiased review?”  Again, I’m not saying the 9mm is an intrinsically bad cartridge.  But, it does mean that one must understand its limitations and applications.
 

Other Ammunition Reviews

Aguila .30 Carbine Ammunition – Good Enough 

CCI .22LR Mini-Mag (HV) Ammunition - It Can Be an Ace in the Hole 

CCI .22LR Mini-Mag HP Ammunition - My Hunting Standard 

CCI .22LR Velocitor Ammunition - When You Want to Reach Out and Touch Something 

CCI .22LR Stinger Ammunition - My 10/22 Likes It...  

Fiocchi 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ - The Whole Point of Testing  

Magtech 9mm Luger 115 gr. FMJ (9A) - For The Purposes Intended...   

PMC .45 ACP Ammunition – 230 Grains Of Series 70 Fodder  

PMC .38 Special 132 gr. FMJ - Not My First Choice, But Not My Last  

PMC .223 Remington – If I Had A Choice…

PMC .30 Carbine – It Functions The Bolt, As For The Rest… 

RWS .45 ACP 230 gr. FMJ - Maybe as an Occasional Serving 

RWS 9mm Luger 124 gr. FMJ - Worth Experimenting With 

Sellier & Bellot 9mm Luger – It’s An European Cartridge… What’d You Expect?

Sellier & Bellot .45 ACP – Say It Ain’t So…

Sellier & Bellot .223 Remington – Is It Really 5.56mm?

Sellier & Bellot .30 Carbine – About As Good As It Gets

Winchester USA 5.56mm - "White Box" Is Something Of A "Gold Standard" 

Winchester USA .45 ACP 230 gr. FMJ - When Measured Against The Alternatives...

Winchester USA 9mm 115 gr. FMJ - More Than A Slight Deviation  

Winchester Super-X Power Point .22 LR 40 gr. Lead Hollow Point - Uh... 


Recommend this product? Yes

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