October 30, 2019
By James Tarr
The Speer Gold Dot 124-grain 9mm +P has been considered the defensive round against which all others should be judged for almost two decades. But almost two decades is forever when it comes to ammunition. And Speer knows it, which is why it began looking for a successor a few years ago. Enter the Speer Gold Dot G2.
The G2 has actually been around since 2014 or so, long enough for tactical YouTubers to gel test it. In every test I saw, the 9mm Gold Dot G2 was a failure: lack of expansion combined with overpenetration. So when I received a press release a few years ago about the “new” Speer Gold Dot G2 round, I reached out to Speer and learned the firm had re-engineered the round and was reintroducing it.
While you could find the G2 ammo here and there at various retailers, officially it was available for sale only to law enforcement. Recently, though, Speer has begun selling the Gold Dot G2 commercially, in three flavors: a 147-grain 9mm, 180-grain .40 S&W and a 230-grain +P .45 ACP.
This second generation of the Gold Dot features a shallow hollowpoint cavity filled with a nearly clear elastomer. Through the elastomer you can see internal reinforcing ribs for the petals of the bullet, but there’s no gold dot at the bottom of the cavity, which gave the original bullet its name.
Modern bullets featuring polymer in the hollowpoint cavity do so to prevent the cavity from filling up with clothing, drywall and other materials as they pass through. When the cavity gets filled, it tends to inhibit or prevent expansion.
The exterior of the G2 features vertical lines delineating the petals of the hollowpoint, and just below them there’s a line running around the bullet like an equator. The copper jacket is molecularly bonded to an alloy lead core to ensure the bullet stays together, and cases are nickel plated.
To help with some of this testing on the 147-grain load, I engaged the services of Black Hills Ammunition’s ballistics lab. Using FBI standard gel blocks, the folks there tested the 9mm G2 for me under controlled conditions. I also performed additional testing using various FBI-ish barriers and Clear Ballistics polymer blocks I got from Brownells.
Whatever issues the first generation of the G2 had, they’ve been fixed. Out of the Black Hills test barrel, the 147-grain 9mm Speer Gold Dot G2 sped out at 946 fps, which is about average for 147-grain loads. The temporary cavity began almost immediately upon striking the block and stretched for 8.5 inches. The maximum diameter of the temporary cavity was 2.25 inches, and that max diameter stretched for 2.125 inches. This is par for the course with low-velocity pistol rounds.
The bullet penetrated 14.5 inches—besting the FBI protocol minimum of 12 inches while comfortably under the 18-inch maximum—and expanded to an average diameter of 0.608 inch, with a maximum diameter of 0.617 inch. That is excellent performance, and the bullet itself blossomed into a pretty lead flower. It did not fragment at all, and the recovered weight of the bullet was 146.8 grains.
For my own “FBI-ish” testing, I placed various barriers 18 inches in front of the block: two layers of half-inch drywall 3.5 inches apart; a single sheet of 3/4-inch plywood; and two pieces of 19-gauge sheet steel (slightly thicker than FBI specs) 3.5 inches apart.
From my Glock 19 the G2 provided 942 fps. In bare gel it penetrated 16.25 inches and expanded wonderfully. The recovered bullet showed 100 percent weight retention, and expansion was 0.63 inch.
The plywood barrier beat up the G2 a bit, which is typical. While penetration was 13.5 inches, half of the nose of the recovered bullet was peeled open while the other half was pushed in a bit. Recovered weight was 100 percent, though, with the diameter 0.53 inch.
The drywall test was a tough go for the G2. After punching through the double layer the G2 bullet penetrated 27.5 inches. The cavity of the hollowpoint opened slightly, but there was no real expansion.
You might not think two layers of drywall is much of a barrier, but I’ve seen this before with other ammunition, and I’ve found drywall often screws up a bullet’s performance more than plywood or steel.
When fired through the steel, the G2 penetrated 13.75 inches, and the bullet showed a blunted nose, which happens to just about every bullet fired through steel. Recovered bullet weight was exactly 147 grains, with a diameter of 0.46 inch.
So in my tests the 9mm G2 performed as advertised and met FBI standards in bare gel, through plywood and through sheet steel. Penetration was more than you’d want when fired through drywall.
Ammo makers are leaning toward heavier bullets these days in 9mm duty ammo because the weight helps the bullets achieve the depth necessary to perform well in the FBI protocol. But unlike early designs, which often demonstrated a lack of expansion, modern projectiles like the Speer G2 provide much better performance. And now that Speer is selling the Gold Dot G2 commercially, you have another quality option for home defense and concealed carry.