Sweet, With Sizzle

Range Day With Black Hills’ HoneyBadger
Defensive Handgun Loads

By Payton Miller

The search for ever-more-effective defensive handgun ammo has been never ending. Speaking for myself, I can remember Super-Vel, the Glaser Safety Slug, Winchester’s ominously-named Black Talon, Federal’s Hydra-Shok and many others whose brand names escape me. They relied on various things to achieve their goal of “stopping power” including high velocity +P loadings behind light-for-caliber bullets, multiple encapsulated projectiles, imaginative JHP designs and so forth.

South Dakota’s Black Hills Ammunition, in conjunction with Lehigh Defense, went and bent a few preconceptions with their new HoneyBadger line. The name may sound fairly innocuous, but it really isn’t. If you don’t know what a honey badger is, best brush up on your Robert Ruark. The ill-tempered little mustelid’s local name of “ratel” is also used for a highly-regarded South African Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

The bullets in the HoneyBadger line are both monolithic (in this case, pure copper) and light for caliber (with the exception of a subsonic 9mm load which features a 125-grain bullet—certainly in spec for 9mm). But the .45 ACP, .44 Magnum, +P.38 Special and .380 ACP loads feature bullets weighing 135, 160, 100 and 60 grains respectively. As you can imagine, velocities are boosted considerably.

Nothing in the HoneyBadger family contains anything remotely resembling a conventional JHP. But there’s a bit more to it. Black Hills has this to say about the line:

“Our new bullet design, developed with Lehigh Defense, LLC, is solid copper, non-deforming and non-fragmenting with large machined flutes and a small frontal area. This bullet doesn’t rely on a hollow-point and has sharp edges that’ll cut right through barrier material…”

The narrow, X-shaped cutting nose translates to paper easily.
It’s tough to mistake this stuff for anything else.

Barrier penetration is one of the rationales behind the HoneyBadger’s unconventional design.
This is an exit hole (above) through a 4-inch beam with the 135-grain .45 ACP load. Distance
was 25 yards. Ballistic gelatin
performance (below) from the same load is even more impressive.
Gelatin photo: Black Hills.

We recently got our hands on three of these loads—the .45 ACP, .38 Special and .380 ACP. We had a pair of common handgun models for the .45 ACP and .38 Special loadings, but not a suitable .380 ACP, so it wasn’t included.

The right gun for the .45 ACP stuff proved to be Thomas Mackie’s S&W Performance Center 1911. Shooting this full-size Gub’mint Model with the 135-grain HoneyBadger load was an odd sensation. It seemed louder than with 185-grain +P JHP’s and the speed with which the stuff got downrange was exhilarating—kind of like lighting off a mega-Tokarev 7.62×25. If you’re used to lobbing 230-grain hardball, this stuff is going to make you sit up and take notice. But recoil was very manageable (to the point of near-negligible) and the 135-grain bullet was accurate as all get-out. Despite the bumped-up velocity, the point of impact at 25 yards was only slightly off in terms of elevation and windage, well within one or two corrective clicks on the PC’s target sights. It’s unlikely, however, anyone with a fixed-sight 1911 is going to have any issues with this stuff at defensive ranges.

For the .38 Special load we used a 3-inch Detective Special. From a 6-inch test barrel, Black Hills rates the stuff at 1,275 fps. From a 2-inch snubbie it’s said to clock just over 1,000. So we were curious to see what we’d get out of a 3-inch—which was 1,066 fps. It seems pretty safe to assume the stuff’s going to be hitting at least 1,100 fps from a 4-inch revolver. At 25 yards we got very tight groups, although a bit high-left. Granted, 25 yards is beyond commonly accepted “defensive yardages,” but the extra inch of sight radius on the DS may have emboldened us somewhat. Even with fixed sights this would make a pretty effective combination.

As far as the barrier-penetration claim goes for those HoneyBadger bullets, it seems accurate. We shot a 4×4 beam with the .45 ACP stuff and it left a wadcutter-like entrance hole and blew an impressively raggedy exit out the back. This “small frontal area” incidentally, does feature a distinctive cutting-edge “X” easily visible on the Shoot-N-C targets we used.

The search for a “magic bullet” in terms of high-performance handgun ammo will go on. And that’s as it should be. But this stuff from Black Hills looks promising.

From an S&W Performance Center 1911, the 135-grain HoneyBadger load
delivered impressive 25-yard accuracy.

A 3-inch barreled Colt Detective Special printed another nice 5-shot group at 25 yards.
This .38 Special load has definite short-barrel potential.

A Colt/Smith pairing fit for “The King.” Photos: RIA

Kissin’ Cousins

When it came to choosing between Colt and Smith & Wesson, it appears Elvis Presley believed in equal opportunity. Two of his revolvers were the stars of the show at Rock Island’s May auction. Elvis bought them in Beverly Hills in 1970 and then sent them to Germany for some suitably high-end, exhibition-grade embellishment. Known for his generosity toward members of his inner circle (not to mention complete strangers as well), Elvis presented one—a 6-inch Colt Python—to employee Richard Grob (talk about Treat Me Nice!). The other, a 2-1/2-inch S&W Model 19, was gifted to then-Vice President Spiro Agnew. It was returned to the Presley estate following Agnew’s resignation. For information on future RIA auctions, contact them at www.rockislandauction.com, (800) 238-8022.

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