Ammunition is a topic that can be infinitely fascinating, as it is one of the few things that one can look at and see literally dozens of choices that all do the same thing in slightly different ways. We’ve discussed the topic of shot placement and ballistic effectiveness, and I’m sure we can all agree that few topics garner the level of disagreement and endless debate as this. In my own bid to better understand ammunition and ballistics, I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying bullets and human anatomy and physiology, and I’ve had the chance to play with ammunition of all flavors and quality levels.

Boutique Providers

The names Federal, Remington, Winchester and Speer all resonate with shooters, conjuring up images of police or military, hunting, sport shooting, or general shooting sports. Ask a group of instructors about Speer’s Gold Dot or Winchester’s Ranger ammunition, and you’ll get an ear full of reasons why they are great bullets. The problem with these big providers is that to buy their premium loads, you must either do so as a law enforcement officer (by their own policies, not by law), or find a vendor who is willing to sell the law enforcement loads to civilians.  What is generally sold to the civilian public is yesterday’s bullet, loads that by and large have been supplanted by newer, better designs that are restricted.  A few companies now offer either the same law enforcement load in civilian packaging (for which we pay a fairly decent markup), or offer the bullets alone as components for reloaders to take advantage of.

With the rising cost of ammunition and the increased demand of high-performance loads at reasonable prices, new boutique ammunition manufacturers are stepping up, taking advantage of the availability of premium bullets available as components to offer alternatives to the limited supplies seen from the big names.

Great Bang for your Buck…Literally!

Underwood Ammunition is one such company that has stepped up to fill the gap left by the big names, providing respectable quantities of ammunition at good prices for both defensive and target-shooting purposes. Relatively new on the ammunition block, they were brought to my attention by some friends while discussing Buffalo Bore’s offerings. Upon reviewing their site, I was pleased to see the quality of their offerings from a components perspective, and I decided to give their ammunition a try.

While they offer a range of options, from basic generic hollowpoints to loads based on the Golden Saber and Gold Dot bullets, being a 230gr man, I opted for their load featuring the Gold Dot.  I was pleased to see that they loaded this round to a +P level, given the added advantages the higher velocity offers (and I’m also a total speed-freak when it comes to ammunition). With a price tag of $30 per box of 50, this far outstrips the commercially available competition, Underwood does not disappoint.

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Out of the Box Experience

Going into my shooting tests, I had an idea of what to expect. The Gold Dot bullet is one of the few designs out there that have continually performed as close to 100% as possible without the need for design changes over its 20+ year lifespan. Indeed, this design set the bar for terminal performance back when reliable expansion and barrier-blind performance from a hollowpoint was fairly unheard of. Drive that bullet to an advertised speed of 1000ft/sec, and you’ve got a good combination that will put down an animal or a human with prejudice if the need arises.

I did remain a bit dubious as to the speed claims, given that many advertise speeds based on their best-possible and not a consistent actual measurement. It’s impossible to have a load hit the same speed every time, given the way the universe works, and so you figure you’ll have some variation, though with a few makers their load velocity tests vary enough that it makes you wonder how they got their advertised speeds. Running 10 shots over my chronograph to start out the day, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the variation stuck within about 15 feet per second, and all came in right around the 1000fps mark advertised.

Accuracy and controllability were good, consistently holding a 1.5″ group off hand at 15 yards, with the mule-kick one expects from a .45 ACP loaded to push a heavy slug that fast.  Informal testing of expansion proved what I already knew: once again a reliable expansion profile showed up, and the bullet punched right through whatever I threw in front of it.

Bottom Line

Underwood Ammunition is a good company, and they make a solid product. Quality, consistency, and overall performance of this load was what I would expect out of a high quality load, and given my own ballistics snobbery, that’s the highest praise I can give. Given the relative dearth of affordable self defense loads that come with enough per box to allow function testing and carry loadout, it’s an exceptional choice that rivals some of the best makers, including ASYM ammunition, on quality of product, and reliable performance. As such, this load gets an A+ from me, and I look forward to trying more of their offerings in the future.

Stay Safe, Shoot Straight.