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Gorilla Ammunition's Silverback Line

Gorilla Ammunition's Silverback Line
Silverback Ammo features a high-end copper bullet.

Gorilla Ammunition's Silverback line is loaded with solid-copper hollowpoints, manufactured on Swiss-style lathes. Wait, what—"Swiss" lathes? Yes. Monolithic-material bullets, what we confusingly call solid-copper hollowpoints, have to be produced on a lathe.

Copper is too strong a material to be hydraulically shaped, at least when it comes to bullets. So they have to be turned on a lathe: A bar of copper is clamped in the chuck, and the end of it gets cut by the tool, guided by the computer controlling things. The finished bullet falls off, the bar is extended, and the sequence is repeated.

The only problem is the pressure of the tool can flex the bar out of alignment. This is not a problem with materials like steel, as it doesn't flex much, but copper does, and that's where
As both a visual and tactile indicator, the .45 FBI load (second from l.) and subsonic 9mm load (r.) are marked with a groove.

the Swiss-style lathe comes into play. This type of machine holds the material at both ends so it can't flex, and Gorilla's copper bullets have less than 0.0005 inch of dimensional deviation.

The Silverback pistol line currently comprises .380, 9mm Luger and .45 ACP. The bullet weights are 95 grains for the .380, 115 and 135 for the 9mm, and 230 and 230 for the .45.

The weights for the .380 and the 9mm are understandable. The .380 is your basic weight, 95 grains, but the bullet is longer because copper is less dense than lead so therefore needs to be longer to achieve a certain weight for a certain diameter. The 9mm loadings are a high-velocity 115 grain and a subsonic 135 grain.

The two 230-grain .45 ACP bullets are designed and engineered for two different uses. The FBI load is a bullet designed for maximum performance in the FBI tests, designed to give penetration and expansion even with intermediate barriers. The .45 Self Defense load is designed and engineered for maximum expansion and not with a barrier in mind. Why the two? Not everyone needs or wants a bullet that maxes the FBI score.

In each, the hollowpoint's cavity is impressively large and has slits down the ogive. The bullets in the 9mm subsonic and the .45 FBI loads have visible grooves machined in them. That way it will be easy to pick one or the other if you happen to jumble your ammo supply.

All Silverback ammunition is loaded in nickel-plated cases, and Gorilla has designed and built a proprietary system for loading ammunition that takes full advantage of the precision lathe-turned bullets can provide. The process that Gorilla uses to plate the cases, and the resulting finish is called Technichrome, and it produces a case with a high lubricity. It will be slick in feeding, and it will resist oxidation and shrug off grime.

For the 9mm, I selected two handguns and one suppressor. The 115-grain load was tested in a Ruger American and a Nighthawk T3 with suppressor-ready barrel. The 135-grain subsonic went through the Ruger and the Nighthawk with and without the suppressor. For the .45, I used a Springfield Armory 1911A1.

The accuracy was stellar. The groups were brag-worthy, and they were consistent. The velocities were not as great as the specs Gorilla publishes, but that doesn't worry me. Handguns vary in the velocity they deliver, and the velocities recorded in actual handguns are often a bit behind the speeds recorded from test barrels.

The expanded bullets I recovered were impressive. When you can get a 9mm bullet to expand to .805 inch, you have yourself a spectacular performer.


The .45 was off the charts. Some of the bullets actually had their petals bend back past perpendicular and would potentially lose points on the FBI scale because the overall diameter was smaller than it could have been had the petals been perpendicular. The .45 Self Defense load achieved just the FBI minimum of 12 inches of penetration, which some may or may not like—although this ammo wasn't designed to meet the spec. Expansion was more than 1.25 inches. If you want more penetration, then obviously the FBI load is your choice, where you get a nice 15 penetration inches and expansion that is "only" just under an inch.

In the end, with Gorilla Silverback we have brilliantly accurate ammunition, using bullets that penetrate to useful depths, and they expand well in test media.

What's not to like? Maybe the price. The 9mm 115-grain Self-Defense load is available directly from the manufacturer and sells for more than $30 per box of 20. By comparison, Barnes TAC-XPD monolithic copper 115-grain 9mm hollowpoint—a +P load—sells for less than $20 for a 20-round box, based on prices from major retailers.

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