In the comments on yesterday’s article on the PMC Starfire, Shawn requested a data dump on the Winchester Silvertip.

The Silvertip handgun projectile was designed in reaction to Winchester-Western products’ poor showing in the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) testing of the 1970s. While greatly derided now in light of modern test protocols from the IWBA and FBI, the LEAA testing was the only game in town in the 1970s. The goal in those days was for a projectile to completely stop within six to eight inches of 20-percent ballistic gelatin.

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What most people don’t realize is that there are multiple generations of the Silvertip. Winchester product engineer Henry J. Halverson filed the first generation patent in February 1978, receiving US Patent #4,193,348 in March 1980. The first generation used aluminum jackets, and Halverson believed that their usage would be appropriate to velocities up to 1,200 feet/second. Note that the projectile was formed by punching the hollow cavity through the nose of a FMJ profile bullet, instead of the typical reverse drawn jacket and core. If this sounds familiar, this forming trick will appear again in the later Winchester Black Talon.

Work on the second generation started as early as 1983 with the goal to improve performance in low velocity cartridges, such as the .380 Auto, short-barrel barrel .38 Special, and .45 Colt. Two of the original applications were abandoned in favor of one filed by Halverson in June 1985. This received US Patent # 4,610,061 in September 1986. Basically, skiving was added to the jacket’s nose prior to the hollow-point being punched.

More changes came in terms of the jacket material. Aluminum jackets were reserved for the lowest velocity cartridges. Medium velocity loadings like the 185-grain .45 Auto used an aluminum-manganese alloy. Later, they reverted to a nickel-plated, copper-zinc alloy jacket for higher velocity loadings in 9x19mm, .38 Super, .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, and .44 Magnum.

Note the classic Silvertip jacket with exposed base on the .45 Auto, while the 9x19mm has a jacketed base.

In more recent years, Winchester has reverted to a reverse-drawn jacket on certain Silvertip loads. One wonders if this wasn’t to remove the jacket’s “talons” in light of the Black Talon controversy. On the classic aluminum alloy jackets, the talons were not as prominent after expansion.

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The latest .22 Long Rifle Silvertip is not related to the Halverson design. It is really closer in concept to Tom Burczynski’s Quik-Shok segmented bullet patent. But that is a story for another day.


  1. It's just Boris says:

    Please keep ’em coming!


  2. Rocketguy says:

    I never knew they used aluminum jackets…in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of aluminum jacket material. Of course, most of my interest in guns started around the early 90’s so that’s not surprising.


  3. Shawn says:

    Now, correct me if my memory is off here, but I recall that one of the early versions of the silvertip had some failures to expand and so they tweaked it. Seems I recall that being talked about back in the day in some gun rags.
    The 80s/90s silver tip for hunting bullets is still much admired any many places and there was a lot of gnashing of teeth when winchester stopped production and went to the ballistic tip “siver tip”

    since you brought up the back talons…..


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