The Gold Dot


by R.K. Campbell

photography by R.K. Campbell

August 3rd, 2009




A generation ago American police were rocked to the core by what became known as the Miami Massacre. Two well trained Federal agents were murdered and others wounded by well armed felons. Courage and audacity were not in short supply in the FBI, but that day agents suffered. The deaths of the two felons was a poor trade off. After the event all focus was on equipment and what many perceived as equipment failure. There was a consensus that better performance was needed from police handguns. At the time both the .357 Magnum and .45 ACP cartridges were available but were not used. The agents were armed with 9mm automatics and .38 caliber revolvers. None of the agents were initially armed with long guns although one would arm himself with a shotgun after he was wounded. The felons were armed with a mix of weapons but most of the damage was done with a .223 caliber automatic rifle. There was along a six inch barrel .357 Magnum in the felonís hands. In short, the felons were better armed than most modern criminals, and better armed than the police.

FBI agents were not as well armed as agents of the 1930s, who often carried the Colt .38 Super or Colt .45 Automatic and the Thompson submachinegun. The pistol that stopped Baby Face Nelsonís vehicle might have proven similarly effective in Miami. There was much discussion of the events and we have to look at any information that might help avoid a repeat of such a tragedy. While the hardware must be considered, there are other important issues. The two felons were ex-military men who by all reports were good soldiers. They seemed to have adapted to civilian life and proved capable of holding good jobs. There is speculation, but no real clues as to why they turned to the dark side. But they did so and chose to murder and rob on a big scale. They were far from the average robber gang, but just the same as any other group of thugs, they were murderous cutthroats.

After the incident was over it was determined that each felon had taken about a dozen hits. While all were not solid shots, one felon was termed a Ďdead maní walking because of a 9mm hit that would have proven fatal within minutes, but he did his murderous deeds after this hit. The 9mm bullet stopped short of actually hitting his heart. The other felon was hit by a .38 that cracked his skull. The best technical accounts are those written by the FBI, but the most readable and accurate account every published in the popular press is that by Dean Spier, a formerly famous writer, now available at the Gun Zone. After much experimentation, the FBI adopted a 10mm pistol with two different power levels of ammunition available.   Since that date they have adopted a .40 caliber service pistol and a .45 caliber SWAT issue pistol. The 10mm outperformed the .45 in testing, but not by a considerable margin. Todayís .45 ACP +P loads, notably the 185 grain Hydra Shock +P and Gold Dot 200 grain +P,  are probably as good as 1990s era 10mm loads- but the 10mm does maintain an edge with the best modern loadings. The .40 and .45 are more practical.

Caliber and penetration are vital to effectiveness. A well designed expanding bullet will considerably enhance the ability of a caliber to produce wound volume. Wound volume is simply a mathematical combination of the depth and width, the total volume, of a wound. A bullet design adaptable to several popular calibers was needed. Major police agencies were transitioning from the revolver to the automatic pistol at the same time, adding a requirement for good feed reliability as well as performance. 

The Federal Hydra Shock was among the first new generation designs developed. This bullet achieved a good reputation in the .45 ACP 230 grain version, setting a high standard for police bullets. Speer / CCI considered the requirements of the FBI and developed a bullet that has proven superior overall in weight retention after meeting barriers such a plywood, glass, and heavy clothing. The Hydra Shock is a fine choice for most duty but the Gold Dot has a balance of expansion and penetration favoring the Gold Dot in a worst case scenario. The Gold Dot was designed to incorporate a bonded core bullet because Speer engineers realized that a bonded core would be a great aid in maximizing penetration. A conventional JHP bullet is comprised of a soft lead core in a copper jacket. The bullet expands when the sump or hollow point fills with fluid. A conventional JHP may work adequately in most scenarios, but is subject to variations depending upon the material it meets. At too high a velocity the bullet nose may expand too quickly, producing under penetration. The nose may even expand quickly and break off. The core and the jacket may separate. When the bullet nose expansion or mushroom is not maintained throughout the wound channel, the wound potential of the cartridge and bullet is not realized. When the Gold Dot expands properly, a gold dot is seen in the bottom of the hollow cavity; actually the copper base is showing. A bonded core bullet expands against the bullet jacket producing controlled expansion. The bullet nose cannot simply blow off. The bullet expands well at conventional velocity. If driven faster at +P velocity the bullet simply expands more and may even penetrate more deeply, an opposite reaction than expected from conventional JHP bullets. Overall the modern bonded core bullet is a considerable improvement in wound potential and the Gold Dot among the best types. Marksmanship and shot placement are most important, but the Speer Gold Dot is a top flight bullet. The expansion data illustrated comes from a test of standard pressure 230 grain Gold Dot ammunition in a short barrel .45. Even though considerable velocity was lost in the short barrel pistol, wound potential remains excellent. As a bonus Speer ammunition is of premium quality, with excellent accuracy potential and quality control. The Gold Dot is a winner and should be seriously considered in any competition for a personal defense loading.  

Short barrel .45 performance - Speer Gold Dot 230 grain (velocity average 765 fps)

Expansion / Penetration Comparison

  Expansion Penetration
Bare gelatin 0.73" 14.5 inches
Heavy Clothing 0.752" 14.5 inches
4 Layers Denim 0.73" 14.5 inches
After penetrating steel     0.51" 15.8 inches
After penetrating plywood 0.451" 19.3 inches

Velocity Comparison

Load Gun Velocity
.45 ACP, Speer 230 grain Gold Dot Colt Defender 750 fps
.45 ACP, Speer 230 grain Gold Dot Glock 30 765 fps
.45 ACP, Speer 230 grain Gold Dot Kimber Pro Carry (4 in.) 790 fps
.45 ACP, Speer 230 grain Gold Dot S&W 1911 PD (4.25) 809 fps
.45 ACP, Speer 230 grain Gold Dot S&W 1911 (5 inch) 860 fps
.38 Special, 135 grain Gold Dot S&W 442 (2 inch) 844 fps
9mm, Speer Gold Dot 124 gr. Beretta 92 1134 fps
9mm, Speer Gold Dot 124 gr. +P Beretta 92 1201 fps
9mm, Speer Gold Dot 147 gr. Beretta 92 1001 fps

Bob Campbell

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This is the Speer Gold Dot 135 grain load, especially designed for the 2 inch barrel .38. 



This is an expanded Gold Dot bullet - impressive.



This is a perfectly expanded Gold Dot from gelatin. Note the gold dot at the bottom of the hollow cavity.



Above all else, Speer handgun cartridges have excellent quality control.



This is a tough Gold Dot bullet after impacting a steel plate.



The Gold Dot bulletís design has been tweaked to the point of applications in 9mm,.38, .357, .40 and .45 calibers.



If you deploy one of the popular .38 caliber revolvers, the Gold Dot in 135 grain weight is especially appropriate.