HEAD-TO-HEAD: 4.6x30mm Ballistics Gel (three ammo SKUs)

Tiny but Mighty! You’ve seen us tear up ballistics gel with a variety of big cartridges, but what about something small? 


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About the 4.6×30 Cartridge

Though reclaiming ballistics gel takes some work, we’ve been wanting to test the 4.6 x 30 cartridge through it for some time.

This personal defense cartridge was introduced  in 1999 to compete with the 5.7×28. The 4.6 x 30 is a very small centerfire cartridge that typically sends 23 to 40 grain bullets in the 2,000 – 2,400 fps velocity range. It was initially designed to be used in the HKMP-7, a compact submachine gun. Like the 5.7×28, the cartridge penetrates well, better than some more standard handgun self-defense rounds. It also traditionally produces very little recoil. 

Modern options exist for the cartridge, like the CMMG Banshee AR Pistol we reviewed last November

About the CMMG Banshee

It’s worth noting that the CMMG Banshee is the first AR platform in 4.6×30 and also the first 4.6×30 firearm released to the USA civilian market! We tested this rifle with a few different types of ammunition: Vanguard Outfitters 31 grain Solid Penetrator, Vanguard Outfitters 31 grain EXP and Fiocchi 40 grain FMJ. We had no functioning issues, even when we swapped out the standard AR lower with a full-auto one. 

Here’s our video covering the Banshee in 4.6x30mm:

This gun has a 40 round magazine, is light recoiling, and compact for easy maneuvering. 

Since our full review of the 4.6×30 CMMG Banshee, we’ve made a few updates. 

First we added a Zero Tech Thrive HD 1×28 reflex sight with a 3 MOA dot. This compact sight sat low on the rail and proved easy and fast to use. We also mounted a DefCan 2 Ti 5.56 QD suppressor. It mounted easily to the Banshee’s 8” barrel right over the muzzle brake and proved quite effective in toning down the 4.6’s muzzle blast. 

About Clear Ballistics Gel

We use Clear Ballistics Gel to determine bullet expansion and penetration. While synthetic ballistics gelatin will not 100% reflect what a bullet will do to a human or animal, it provides us with valuable data and allows us to compare the performance of different bullets and different loads.

This Hornady 7mm 150gr CX Bullet penetrated 33” at  3200 fps.

American-made Clear Ballistics Gel is reusable. It can be melted down and utilized again for even more tests. Consult ClearBallistics.com to view all of their offerings!


Every time we use ballistics gel, we put some thought into what we think will happen and compare it to the results. 

Gavin asked me to predict the results of the three different ammunition types when fired into the 16” Clear Ballistics Gel Blocks at about 10 yards. Based on my experience with other cartridges, I came up with the following: 

Here are the full results: (You can find 4.6x30mm ammunition from Vanguard Outfitters HERE).

31 Grain Vanguard Outfitter Solid Penetrator

The 31 grain Vanguard Outfitters solid penetrator made it all the way through a 16 inch gel block and lodged ¼ inch inside the second block. Aside from some rifling marks, it didn’t appear as if the bullet had even been fired! 

31 Grain Vanguard Outfitters EXP Results 

To our surprise, the 31 grain Vanguard Outfitters EXP made it completely through the first gel block and barely into the second. Two of the petals broke off and made their own wound tracks. This bullet didn’t remain in its original form, unlike the solid penetrator. 

40 Grain Fiocchi FMJ 

This ammunition is more of a plinking ammunition, and followed the FMJ tradition of leaving the gel blocks. As a result, we didn’t get final weight retention and some other numbers, but based on the high speed camera footage, we’re assuming 100% weight retention. The velocity is a little low and in hindsight one outlier threw the numbers, so we might have had some chronograph error and should have rerun the test. 


I was quite impressed with the muzzle velocity of this diminutive cartridge! With velocities in the vicinity of 2300 fps, it’s quite flat shooting. Making hits at 150 yards should be reasonably easy with operator skill and adequate sights/optics. 

The recoil is quite tame and very easily handled. This is a gun that can be held on target while delivering rapid fire shots — an important factor in a defensive situation. 

We noted that the temporary wound cavity generated by the little 4.6 bullets was considerably less than we’ve seen with centerfire rifle cartridges we’ve tested recently. To be fair, the 4.6×30 isn’t an elk cartridge! The cartridge didn’t produce large wound cavities, but did penetrate well. Based on the somewhat fragmented nose of the Vanguard Outfitters EXP, I believe it has the most potential of the three tested to inflict damaging wounds.

Vanguard 31gr EXP Expanded Bullet

The Vanguard Outfitters solid penetrator had deep, straight penetration and the 40 grain Fiocchi also had deep penetration, but didn’t stay on a straight track into the gel blocks. 

Fiocchi 40gr FMJ Cavitation

CQB (Close Quarter Battle) training in the Marines and on SWAT taught me to appreciate the handling qualities of CMMG’s Banshee. The AR-15 is extremely popular and well known in the USA, making the CMMG Banshee immediately familiar to anyone experienced in the use of the AR-15. It’s a compact, lightweight, reliable, and accurate personal self-defense firearm with a proprietary 40-round magazine. In a self defense situation, having a number of cartridges loaded and ready is a great thing. Gavin and I discussed the Banshee after we’d completed our tests. Combined we’d only fired about 150 rounds, but neither of us noted a malfunction of any kind. CMMG has done a good job of adapting the AR platform to function well with 4.6×30 cartridges. 

ZeroTech’s Thrive HD 1×28 reflex sight is compact and easy to use. It only took a few moments for me to sight it in at 25 yards. Afterwards, I had no trouble making hits on steel out to 70 yards — as far as I tried at our Industrial Park range. The dot’s intensity is adjustable. I shot it in strong, hot sunshine and had the dot dialed up bright to show against the brightly lit targets & background. This worked perfectly. 

The DefCan 2 Ti 5.56 suppressor was easy to install and greatly reduced the muzzle blast. Make no doubt about it,  though a small round, unmuffled, the little 4.6 has a pretty loud bark. 

Get the Gear

Find 4.6×30 ammunition at VanguardOutfittersLLC.com and FiocchiUSA.com.
As of this writing, 4.6×30 is out of stock at Vanguard Outfitters. 

The CMMG 4.6x30mm Banshee has an MSRP of $1,399.95 while the DefCan 2 TI (5.56, QD) retails for $824.95 plus a federal tax stamp. 

ZeroTech optics offers the Thrive HD red dot in high and low configurations. We liked the low mount for this project, which retails for $249.

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Guy Miner

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