It’s not what the world was used to seeing in a handgun round. The small-diameter bullet, pointed nose, bottleneck case—none of it looks or feels like what we’ve come to expect in handgun ammunition, especially for self-defense. But considering the 5.7x28mm’s pedigree, none of this should come as too great of a surprise. With no parent case, the cartridge was designed alongside the FN P90 and FN Five-seveN pistol. NATO was looking to replace the 9mm—something with more magazine capacity and less recoil, with the terminal effect needed for military and law enforcement use.
Fast-forward a handful of years, and the cartridge and the firearms that shoot it are in use by agencies worldwide. However, for the consumer market, there’s always been a glaring problem: There wasn’t a true self-defense round available. That’s all changed with Speer’s Gold Dot 5.7x28mm, the cartridge’s first-ever load designed specifically for self-defense handgun use.
How It Happened
"We have a relationship with FN," says Speer handgun product manager Chris Laack. "At one point, there was a pile of FN 5.7 handguns in the market, and we knew people were using them for everyday carry guns and self-defense. We also knew there were no self-defense specific loads for the 5.7x28mm."
Naturally, Speer went to work. Research showed that most toting 5.7's for defense were firing handloads, buying ballistic-tip rounds, or simply opting for FMJs, which aren't recommended for protection.
Ballistic-tip loads, full-metal jackets and other options are never the best choice for defense with handguns, but especially so for the 5.7x28mm," Laack adds. “To maximize the potential of the 5.7, we decided to develop controlled-expansion rounds that would provide meaningful expansion and penetration depth.
The Gold Dot Advantage
Speer engineers had a solid platform from which to build the new load, thanks to the law enforcement-proven Gold Dot bullet design.
"We had a lot of data to go off of," Laack notes. "We weren't just reaching in the air hoping to pull something together. Our Gold Dot is incredible and a top choice by those who wear a badge every day and by those that know the importance of protecting themselves and their families. Based on the parameters available from the 5.7x28mm cartridge, we went with Gold Dot. It’s a proven performer."
Laack points to Speer's 22 WMR Gold Dot Short Barrel as a potent example. This 40-grain bullet boasts a muzzle velocity of 1050 fps and provides remarkable performance when fired out of barrels less as short as 2 inches. It promises enough expansion and penetration to be used as a self-defense round.
"We knew if we could make a 22 WMR more terminally effective, we could do the same for the 5.7x28mm in our Gold Dot line," he says. "We knew we could get good expansion and depth, and with the Uni-Cor bonding, we would have a very robust bullet. We can make a bullet that works well when fired from a carbine at a higher velocity, but also optimize performance when fired from a handgun."
More To Come
Though not designed specifically for a carbine, Laack is excited to see what it will do when fired from Ruger's small, newly developed carbine.
"The round was made so we could have a defense-specific load for the 5.7 handgun, and the Gold Dot technology worked precisely as expected," Laack says. "We get a stunning upset—1 1/2x to 2x—and the penetration is great thanks to the bullet's high weight retention. You don't lose mass like you do with a ballistic tip.