Black Hills HoneyBadger 100-gr. 9mm Ammo

By Jeff Johnston, FE Hunting & Shooting Editor

For about the last 75 years and counting, a copper-plated, lead-core, hollow-point has been the bullet of choice for self-defense experts due to its balance of penetration, expansion, and resilience. It’s simply a better mousetrap than the solid lead bullets of old that would fragment upon impact with barriers and fail to penetrate adequately into its target. That’s why there are currently dozens of these premium rounds available from every major ammo manufacturer, and all of them are better in actual defensive situations than cheap bullets meant for target shooting. 

But even the best jacketed hollow-points are not without flaws. Primarily, different barriers can make them perform inconsistently. Windshield glass is generally hell on them, often causing the core to separate from the jacket. Clothing can plug the hollow point, preventing it from expanding as it should. (That’s why Hornady designed its FTX bullet.) The point is, hollow points aren’t perfect for all situations, so I’m always testing new bullet technology as it becomes available. 

Black Hills Ammunition originated as a small shop, custom ammo maker in the early 1980s. Being small and family owned, the quality of its ammo has been the very best in the world, bar none, although it’s never been the cheapest for the same reason. (Navy SEAL DEVGRU guys, who could use anything in the world, Geneva be damned, often choose Black Hills.) The company loads the best bullets in its ammunition, regardless of who it has to buy them from, and it also loads some of its own. 

The HoneyBadger is its proprietary line of ultra-premium, all-copper bullets that are individually CNC machined. By thorough engineering and constant trial-and-error testing, Black Hills has made a bullet that penetrates like a solid yet creates a temporary wound channel for stopping power more like a hollow-point, regardless of the barriers it may encounter along its way.

Before high-speed video and gel testing, most of us would have been skeptical of these bold claims, because generally a solid bullet does not expand and therefore isn’t a great stopper. But even in my own backyard during gel testing and on wild hogs, the results are easy to see: The shape and angle of the HoneyBadger’s flutes create cutting surfaces that spin at nearly 100,000 rpm, causing it to behave something like a boat propeller as it drills through its target, expelling flesh and fluid in a spiraling path of destruction up to twice its diameter. While the bullet itself slices flesh and breaks bone, this temporary wound channel causes mass hemorrhaging and shock, much like a hollow-point after expansion, but with more consistency. Simply put, with its monolithic construction there’s less that can fail. 

Factory testing reveals a Black Hills 100-grain, 1250 fps 9mm HoneyBadger round going through a glass windshield and still displaying perfect performance as it traverses over 16 inches of gel in a straight line. It does the same thing after going through heavy clothing, two pieces of 20-gauge steel, or, as I found, a giant wild boar’s forehead. 

Just as Barnes all-copper bullets did for marginal rifle calibers like the .223 and .243, I believe the HoneyBadger increases the terminal performance of the 9mm round—a round that is marginal at best as a true stopper of men. Because I can’t carry my rifle concealed as I go about my daily life, a 9mm is my best practical option. So I demand that it be loaded with the best ammo I can possibly get. That said, no bullet is perfect for every situation. For example, the HoneyBadger is probably not ideal where overpenetration is unacceptable—perhaps in apartment buildings and other places far from the country where I live. 

While I understand that what I’ve written above is only theory because I don’t have any personal data on killing bad guys, that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve got to choose something. The HoneyBadger’s consistent performance is extremely convincing, and that’s why my mags are now loaded with it. I view this decision kind of like some rapper put it: If I ever find myself in a gunfight, I’ll have 99 problems…but a bullet ain’t one.       

Cost: $35 per box of 20 cartridges

Pros: top-notch penetrator; creates a large wound channel; extremely accurate; light for caliber (low recoil); consistent performance

Cons: could overpenetrate in some scenarios

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