by R. K. Campbell
Not many shooters are familiar with ammunition from below the Rio Grande. Other than a few dozen surplus Argentine .45s-which performed very well-my experience has been limited.
This has changed recently. I have been able to examine the products of Industrias Tecnos, S.A. de C.V., a Mexican company involved in the manufacture of shotshells and rimfire and centerfire ammunition. Tecnos was founded in 1961, originally under the name Cartuchos Deportivas de Mexico, S.A. A main shareholder is Remington Arms Co.
The broad line of handgun and shotgun ammo is distributed in the US by Centurion Ordinance Inc. (11614 Rainbow Ridge, Dept. GWK, Herlotes, TX 78023. Phone: 210-695-4602; fax: 210-695-4602; on-line: www. aguilaammo.com).
Tecnos has significant experience in the cartridge manufacturing industry. Tecnos markets their ammunition worldwide and supplies ammunition to the armed forces of several nations. Three production lines with some 400 workers are kept busy in this pursuit. The plant is located at Km. 6 on the road from Cuernavaca to Tepoztlan, in the beautiful Cuernavaca Valley.
Products include .410-, 16- and 12-gauge shells and a broad range of pistol cartridges.
There are many interesting products, including short-case, reduced velocity buckshot loads. These loads use a special purpose short case that allows for a larger magazine capacity. A six buck load at 1,100 feet per second (fps) is advertised for law enforcement.
An interesting rimfire loading is the .22 Sniper Subsonic. This load uses a heavy 60-grain bullet. (Previously, Lapua held the heavyweight .22 title with a 48-grain load.) Claims are made about this load which, while exhibiting higher initial drop than other .22 loads, has more energy and accuracy than other loads to 200 yards. More about the .22 SSS load in a later issue.
Not to +P Specs
Among the most interesting and potentially useful loads available from this company is the new Aguila High Power .45 ACP loading. While labeled High Power, this load is not loaded to +P SAAMI specifications. It is very much in a standard pressure category, but produces high velocity. The company's description includes these notes:
"The bullet has very high penetration capabilities in hard surfaces, consistently perforating a -inch ballistic polycarbonate plate plus 12 inches of ballistic gelatin. However, it transfers all of its energy into soft targets, when shot in ballistic gelatin."
This is the idea many have strived for-hard target penetration and rapid expansion in soft targets. To an extent, modern loads have achieved this goal. Many loads have a good balance of expansion and penetration. Some penetrate more than we would like, and few designs can guarantee expansion.
The Aguila High Power load works because of a light alloy bullet of only 117 grains. The bullet has nearly the same profile as .45 hardball, but due to the light alloy construction and a very deep hollow point, the bullet has light weight and a long bearing surface. The light bullet makes possible a velocity of 1,450 fps from standard pistol barrels without excess pressure.
We tested these loads at length, not only on the range but also for performance on light sheet metal and other light cover. The results were very interesting. First, we established that these loads are no danger to bullet-resistant body armor or steel reaction targets. The bullets penetrate no more than any other .45 load in standard vest material and probably less than most. Against steel reaction plates, they break up normally.
In ballistic gelatin, the load performs as advertised. Penetration is about 7 inches. The small shank is found at the end of the permanent cavity. The bullet does not expand. It simply breaks as it travels, leaving fragments behind. The fragments do not appear to leave the main wound cavity. While immediate energy transfer may occur, the permanent wound cavity is not larger than that produced by .45-caliber hardball.
Some authorities believe that once a bullet reaches 1,000 fps or more, tissue damage increases a great deal, whatever the bullet shape. Others believe energy transfer greatly aids in stopping a felon's attack. This may be true, but the only proof we have is that the bullet performs as advertised, breaking up in a relatively short distance. In an anti-personnel role, this load would seem to produce a more serious wound than hardball, and there is the potential for additional fragments to increase blood loss and damage.
This potential was not realized consistently in our test. Felt recoil was not excessive-standard for .45 ACP performance. Accuracy was good. At longer ranges, to 25 yards, the Aguila load struck to the point of impact in our service sidearm, which is sighted in for 230-grain loads. This is a big advantage, one not often realized by special loads.
Each fed round, chambered, fired and ejected with complete reliability. We fed several individual rounds up to a dozen times. There was no setback in the case, and no bullet nose deformation. These loads should be reliable in any modern .45 ACP pistol.
We fired a number of cartridges in a vintage Model 1937 Smith and Wesson
revolver. This gun usually strikes a few inches above point of aim with conventional 230-grain loads, but struck to the point of aim at combat ranges with the Aguila load. The High Power load's excellent characteristics may make it the top choice in this revolver as a home defense gun.
The Aguila High Power load may be more likely to break up on hard surfaces than .45 ACP hollow point loads, resulting in ricochet. On the farm, we have found .45 ACP non-expanding loads more than adequate for rodents, pests, and even chicken-stealing feral dogs. We sometimes use hollow points for this duty, simply because this is what is in the gun.
The Aguila load would be ideal for this duty. One of my friends had the unfortunate experience of KO-ing a fox he had been after for some time and having his hard cast bullet fully penetrate the animal lengthwise and strike a bovine, causing further loss.
Not for All Users
The Aguila load would be a good choice in many scenarios. However, if defense against larger animals or the occasional need to put down ill or injured animals is part of your scenario, and the animals are over 200 pounds, this is not the load of choice.
When firing the Aguila load, function was good as noted. However, we noticed more muzzle flash than is usually seen with modern loads. This flash can be distracting, and research into powder technology may be indicated. Many lightweight-bullet high-velocity loads exhibit this trait. In contrast, 230-grain JHPs seldom show any flash or even sparks.
The High Power load's penetration virtually equaled that of most 230-grain jacketed hollow point loads in light cover. It was not superior, but equaling 230-grain penetration is quite a feat for such a light bullet. Most 185- and 200-grain hollow point loads do not produce adequate penetration.
We have experience with other fast loads, such as the IMI 185-grain Uzi load. Fast, hard-jacketed bullets seldom penetrate more than heavy bullets. The velocity is there, but bullets of less mass seem to give up their energy much more quickly in penetration.
The Aguila .45 High Power load is interesting and certainly a good addition to the many choices we have in this popular caliber. Consider the plus and balance tables of your personal equation and choose accordingly: this load may fill a real need.