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Review: Fenix Pistol Competition Ammunition

Review: Fenix Pistol Competition Ammunition

Based out of Michigan, Fenix Ammunition produces three pistol loads of interest to competitive shooters—two in 9mm Luger and one .40 S&W. The 9mm match grade competition loads feature the same 147-grain plated round nose bullet, but they are loaded to different overall lengths. The “standard” 9mm load has an overall length of 1.135 inch. The second load seats the bullet at 1.169-inch overall length. Both rounds are rated at 880 fps.

Why the different overall lengths? Well, the long-loaded rounds are intended for 2011 pistols, which are double-stack versions of 1911 pistols (e.g. Para Ordnance, STI, SVI/Infinity frames). The 1911 was built around a .45 ACP cartridge which is longer than the 9mm. The .45 ACP’s maximum length is 1.275 inch compared to the 9mm at 1.169 inch. Thus, the magazines are longer front to back to fit the .45 Auto. Moreover, the 1911 was designed to reliably feed the longer 45 Auto. A shorter round can sometimes have trouble feeding in these guns.

The 1.169-inch overall length is also the maximum overall length of the 9mm round as defined by SAAMI. Therefore the 2011 length rounds should fit most 9mm pistols—with one caveat. It should fit in every 9mm magazine, but it might not fit in every 9mm chamber. Depending on the shape of the bullet and the chamber’s throat, many bullets loaded to that overall length simply won’t fit the chamber because the bullet nose engages the rifling before the round has fully entered the chamber. Shooters who reload their own ammunition often run into this problem and are forced to adjust the overall length to fit their gun.

Fenix Ammo
The 9mm rounds appear to use the same bullet, differing in how deep they are seated in the case. The two-piece NAS3 cases are used by several ammunition manufacturers. Fenix training 9mm ammo (not shown) is loaded in traditional brass cases. Fenix’s 40 S&W competition load is also loaded to longer than normal length to aid feeding reliability in 2011-like pistols.

The .40 S&W competition round is loaded with a 180-grain plated bullet, and is also designed for 2011 pistols. It’s loaded to 1.186-inch overall length, which is longer than the .40 S&W’s maximum SAAMI length of 1.135 inch. Samples of Fenix’s ammunition that I measured ranged from 1.188- to 1.190-inch long. Loaded in new brass, the sample’s headstamp was JAG (Jagemann) rated at 950 fps.

The 9mm competition ammunition is loaded in Shell Shock Technologies’ NAS3 cases, which are a hybrid of an aluminum lower and an alloy steel upper. Lightweight, they weigh about half as much as brass cases, and are reloadable and magnetic.

The standard-length Fenix 9mm competition rounds in my samples measured between 1.140 inch and 1.142 inch. The 2011-length rounds measured between 1.165 inch and 1.168 inch. The 2011-length rounds were plunk-tested in several barrels to see if they would fit. They fit in my Kart barrel, a Glock G19 and two S&W M&P 2.0 barrels. They also fit in an Apex Tactical 9mm barrel for a S&W M&P, but just barely. One round loaded to 1.168 inch was just touching the rifling and did not want to fall out under its own weight. Thus the 147-grain bullet nose profile is somewhat forgiving and the 1.169-inch rounds will fit in a range of chambers, but if your gun has a short throat make sure they fit in your barrel.

In addition to testing Fenix’s match-grade 9mm competition ammo, I also tried its 9mm training load with the same 147-grain bullet, which are loaded in mixed headstamp brass cases. Reported overall length for these is 1.135 inch, and my samples measured between 1.139 inch and 1.146 inch. This round is rated at 890 fps from a 4.75-inch barrel.

Accuracy was tested at 25 yards with the guns in a Ransom Rest. I used two 9mm pistols, a Para Ordnance wide-body frame with a Caspian slide and a 5-inch Kart barrel, and a S&W M&P9 2.0 with a 4.25-inch Apex Tactical barrel. Last but not least, the .40 S&W pistol sported a Para Ordnance wide-body frame with a Caspian slide and a 5-inch Ed Brown barrel.

Velocities for 9mm from my 5-inch Kart barrel ranged from 953 fps for the 2011 length, and 974 fps for the standard-length competition load. Both produced PF numbers of 140 and 143, respectively. The brass-cased training 9mm load clocked in at 957 fps for a PF of 141. The average 10-shot group size of the 9mm competition loads was about five inches, and the 9mm training load group size was smaller at 3.20 inches.

Fenix Ammo accuracy chart for competition loads
Accuracy with the 9mm Kart 5-inch barrel and the .40 S&W are the average of three 10-shot groups. Accuracy with the M&P9 was an average of two 10-shot groups with the 2011-length ammo (*) and one 10-shot group each with the standard-length competition and training ammo (**). Velocity was recorded with a Shooting Chrony chronograph at about 10 feet and is the average of 10 shots.

As expected, the S&W M&P9 2.0 produced lower velocity from the shorter 4.25-inch barrel. The 2011 ammo clocked at 902 fps, the standard-length competition ammo at 925 fps and the training ammo at 908 fps. PF was 133, 136 and 133, respectively. The M&P’s Apex Tactical barrel liked the competition ammo better than the Kart barrel. Average 10-shot group size with the 2011 ammo was 2.80 inches, and the one 10-shot group with the standard-length competition ammo was 3.49 inches. But the M&P didn’t do so well with the training ammo, producing a 10-shot group of 8.50 inches.

The .40 S&W competition ammunition clocked at 981 fps for a PF of 177. Average 10-shot group size was 3.01 inches. I also collected an aggregate 30-shot group target with the .40 S&W ammo (something I neglected to do with the 9mm ammo). It measured 3.75 inches, indicating that the gun shot this ammunition fairly consistently.

Some 1911 and 2011 magazines are modified to properly fit standard length 9mm and .40 S&W rounds, usually by putting a spacer in the rear of the magazine to keep the round closer to the feed ramp. Perhaps either the 9mm 2011-length or standard length will fit and feed in your gun. The 40 S&W 2011-length round is too long to fit in a .40 S&W-length magazine. It requires a “10mm length” magazine. I used Para Ordnance double stack pistols for my tests. Their 9mm and .40 S&W magazines don’t have spacers and will fit full-length .38 Super and 10mm ammo, respectively. My 9mm pistol fed the 2011-length and standard-length Fenix rounds perfectly.

My .40 S&W Para pistol is very picky about overall length. It often chokes on normal-length .40 S&W rounds. I usually load my handloads longer than normal length to keep it running. However, I’m happy to say that the Fenix .40 S&W ammo fed and functioned perfectly in my gun. In addition to the bullet being seated longer, it also has a fairly wide nose profile, which aids feeding in some pistols. Since Fenix ammo is loaded long, make sure it will fit in your chamber. Many 2011 .40 S&W competition pistols have extended chamber throats especially for handling long-loaded ammo, but test the Fenix ammo in your barrel to make sure it fits.

Fenix’s ammunition easily made PF requirements for these rounds, even doing so from my 4.25-inch M&P. The .40 S&W met Major PF at 165, even with room to spare in my 5-inch barrel. With a shorter barrel, chronograph it in your gun to see how it measures up.

My Kart 9mm barrel preferred the training load, producing noticeably smaller groups than the match-grade competition ammo. My M&P 9mm with the Apex Tactical barrel reacted just the opposite, handling the competition ammo better than the training load. These loads appear to use the same bullet, but with different powders, which explains why they shot different.

Fenix is aware its 2011 ammunition might not fit in all 2011 pistols, and suggests contacting your gun builder for advice on overall length before you buy. The company does not accept returns on 2011-length ammo.

The match-grade 9mm competition ammunition costs $16 per 50-count box, and .40 S&W competition ammo costs $21 for the same quantity. Training 9mm ammo costs $12 for the 147-grain ammo, and less for the 115- and 124-grain training ammo. Fenix Ammunition also has .380 Auto, .357 SIG, .38 Special, 10mm Auto, .44 Magnum, .45 Auto and .45 Colt loads for handguns, as well as .223 Rem., 5.56 NATO, .300 Blackout and .450 Bushmaster for rifles. Visit fenixammo.com.

See more: High Pressure Loads In Shell Shock NAS3 Cases

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