If you check most gun shops for 5.7x28mm ammo to feed your new Ruger 57 pistol, you’ll likely only find ammo loaded with 40-grain bullets — usually rounds like the 40-grain FMJ practice loads from American Eagle or the FN 40-grain V-Max Sporting Cartridge.
While the 40-grain Sporting load is adequate for self-defense — with performance in ballistic medium similar to that of the 9mm — the 5.7×28 is most effective when topped by a 27-grain bullet. That is what the 5.7 was originally designed to launch. This effectiveness comes from the tendency of 27-grain lead-free bullets to yaw when striking soft tissue. While 27-grain loads aren’t carried by most gun shops, they are available from internet ammunition suppliers.
To give you an idea of the potential of 27-grain 5.7x28mm loads, I obtained three different self-defense loads. I also included a custom 50-grain self-defense load for comparison. I chronographed all four loads first, then fired each one into a 25-pound block of moist modeling clay. All rounds were fired from the Ruger 57.
FN SS195LF (Lead Free) Blue Box
Loaded with a 27-grain lead-free (aluminum core) jacketed hollow-point bullet, the SS195LF is an outstanding performer. Sadly, FN has discontinued this round, but quantities are still available from Ammo.com. Price is $32 for 50 rounds. I just bought another box.
Average Velocity: 2,085 feet per second
Muzzle Energy: 261 foot-pounds
Performance in Clay Block: The SS195LF made a half-inch-diameter entry hole. It penetrated the 10-inch clay block and created a 4.5-inch-maximum-diameter cavity. Part of the bullet may have exited the block sideways, but I was unable to recover it. Performance like this makes the SS195LF more than adequate for self-defense.
FN SS198LF (Lead Free) Red Box
The FN SS198LF is another 27-grain JHP load that is distinguished by an enameled green tip. Although originally a law-enforcement-only item, some have been released to the civilian market. I am unsure if FN has discontinued this load. There seems to be ample quantities available from SGAmmo.com. Price is $28.95 for 50 rounds.
Average Velocity: 2,172 feet per second
Muzzle Energy: 283 foot-pounds
Performance in Clay Block: The SS198LF blew a 3-inch-diameter entry hole in the block due to significant, immediate yaw. The bullet expanded and turned, ending travel through the block base first. It penetrated only 7 inches but created a maximum cavity diameter of 4 inches. YouTube test videos of this load show 9 inches of penetration in ballistic gel with yaw. While 12 inches of penetration is considered optimal, the SS198LF would still produce a serious wound. It would be a reasonable choice in cases where overpenetration is a concern.
Elite Ammunition T6B Custom 27-Grain Black Anodized Trident Bullet
Elite Ammunition makes highly specialized, custom 5.7×28 ammunition. The 27-grain specialty T6B Black Trident Bullet load is formed from exotic, copper alloy rod. The bullet features a sharply pointed tip, a narrow wasp waist and a flat base.
Average Velocity: 2,380 feet per second
Muzzle Energy: 340 foot-pounds
Performance in Clay Block: “Astounding” is the only word I can come up with that adequately describes the T6B’s performance. When the bullet penetrated the block, it turned 180 degrees to the rear. I found the cylindrical lower half of the bullet protruding from the end of the 10-inch block, base first. At a depth of 7 inches, the tip broke off at the waist and went on its own path, exiting from the right side of block. I recovered it lying on the cardboard support box. The maximum width of the cavity was 5 inches! Price is $50.40 for 25 rounds.
Elite Ammunition Protector II Custom 50-Grain Ballistic-Tip Self-Defense Load
This is a 50-grain heavyweight load designed for self-defense. Because of the bullet weight, Elite Ammunition does not recommend it for the PS90 carbine. It can cause poor functioning. The Pro2 also turned out to be an impressive performer.
Average Velocity: 1,653 feet per second
Muzzle Energy: 303 foot-pounds
Performance in Clay Block: Upon entry, the bullet shattered into multiple pieces. A portion penetrated and exited the block, leaving a trail of pieces from the jacket and core and the deformed plastic tip. No yaw was detected. The maximum cavity width was 3.5 inches.
With the emergence of the Ruger 57, more shooters can afford a 5.7x28mm pistol and thus enjoy the benefits of low recoil, flat trajectory, excellent accuracy and impressive terminal performance. If you give the Ruger 57 a try — with the right loads — I am sure you will be as impressed as I am.
About Scott W. Wagner
After working undercover in narcotics and liquor investigations, Scott W. Wagner settled down to be a criminal justice professor and police academy commander. He was also a SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader before his current position as patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. Scott is a police firearms instructor certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.