D&L Sports™, Inc.
Underwater Handgun Shooting
Warning! This text is presented for informational purposes only. Do not attempt. Death, serious bodily injury, or severe equipment damage may result.
This testing process was undertaken with numerous safety precautions in place. This testing was very limited in scope, and the outcome may vary with different conditions.
Do not shoot your firearm underwater, or with any type of bore obstruction.
Again, Do not attempt this activity!
Many theories have been circulated about firing a handgun underwater. Is it safe? Will the gun blow up? How effective will be projectile be?
Custom 1911
D&L Sports™ Custom 1911

Few people have the need to fire underwater, but those who do may have a serious need, and this limited experiment may provide some useful information. So, in line with other extreme reliability testing conducted at D&L Sports™ Inc., here are the test parameters:
 • Fire handguns underwater at a depth of two feet below the surface in freshwater.
 • Fire at a submerged and soaked 1.5" thick pine board from a distance of 4 feet.
Several handguns will be tested:
 • Glock .45
 • Glock .40
 • Colt 1911 with DLS professional model package of custom upgrades and
 • D&L Sports™ signature grade 5" 1911 .45 ACP
A reliability track record was established with each pistol for 1000 rounds on dry land before the water testing was attempted. Both Glocks were factory stock pistols. The Glock .45 demonstrated a 86% reliability rating (14 malfunctions per 100 rounds) during the 1000 round dry land test. The Glock .40 cal demonstrated a 92% reliability rating (8 malfunctions per 100 rounds) during the 1000 round dry land test. Both custom 1911s were highly tuned for reliability (not stock pistols) and demonstrated 100% reliability during the dry land test prior to the underwater test. The dry land testing was conducted to determine what additional malfunction rate the water submersion would cause.
Several types of ammo were used:
 • Federal Ball
 • Federal Hydra Shock JHP
 • Winchester SXT JHP and
 • Remington Golden Saber JHP
Initial testing was done by submerging each pistol into the tank with the slide locked open and one round in the magazine. Once the pistol was filled with water, the slide was released and the chamber loaded. The pistol was then left in the tank for one minute prior to firing.
The first shot of ball ammo fired from the Glock .45 fired, but failed to lock the slide to the rear. Additional single round testing from the Glock .45 resulted in several "no fires" due to light strikes on the cartridge's primer. It should again be noted this pistol was factory stock, and did not have the underwater firing pin assembly installed.
The Glock locked open after the shot was fired only about 50% of the time. This was not a problem during the dry land 1000 round test, so it can probably be attributed to the slide being required to operate against water resistance. The same intermittent slide lock problem was noted with all types of ammo tested in the Glock .45.
All ammo tested in the Glock .45 underwater demonstrated signs of excessive pressure on the cases and primers. However, no case head separations were experienced. No excessive pressure signs had been experienced during the 1000 round reliability test.
Attempts to fire multiple rounds in succession with the Glock .45 were about 60% reliable. Multiple failures to feed occurred, but this was also a problem with this particular Glock during dry land testing. The pistol continued to be erratic about locking the slide open after the last shot while submerged. Additional testing would be required with a more reliable pistol of this type before even a preliminary conclusion could be formed.
Testing of the Glock .40 cal was suspended after the first shot due to a complete case head separation. The high pressure .40 cal cartridge does not appear to be a cartridge which tolerates the additional pressure added by submersion. However, additional controlled testing would need to be done before drawing a final conclusion.
Testing of the two 1911s underwater resulted in the same outcome. Both pistols would reliably fire to slide lock during single shot tests.
All ammunition fired while submerged in both 1911s displayed signs of high pressure on both the cases and primers. Pressure signs on +P ammunition was much more noticeable than on standard Federal 230 grain ball ammo at 850 F.P.S. No case heads separated, and no case webs blew out, but aluminum pistol grips are a wise precaution. Wood grips tend to splinter dangerously when cases rupture.
The 1911s also demonstrated complete reliability when shots were fired in rapid succession underwater. However, all cases and primers continued to exhibit signs of high pressure.
Firing from 2 feet underwater resulted in water spouts on the surface above the muzzle. These spouts were approximately 5-6 feet high and very noticeable.
Muzzle blast noise was certainly noticeable, but muffled when compared to an open air shot being fired.
The theory of zero drain time was also tested with the 1911s, i.e. complete submersion of the loaded pistols, then firing immediately as the pistol is raised out of the water. The pistol and barrel are actually still full of water when the firing begins, but the pistol is out of the water. The barrels used in both the 1911s were stainless steel D&L Sports™ barrels.
This testing resulted in 80 rounds being fired with 100% reliability from both pistols. High pressure signs were absent from both cases and primers during this test. The spent casings looked the same as other cases fired in a standard open air environment. No degradation was noted in ballistic performance.
Underwater 1911 firing test results
Results of underwater rapid fire with 230 grain ball.
230 grain balls
Underwater rapid fire was possible
Federal 230 grain ball
Federal 230 grain ball
Federal 230 grain Hydra Shock
Federal 230 grain Hydra Shock
Winchester 230 grain SXT JHP
Winchester 230 grain SXT JHP
Remington 230 grain Golden Saber
Remington 230 grain Golden Saber
Federal 230 grain ball results
Federal 230 grain ball results

What about the .45 ACP ballistic performance underwater?
Remember, we are shooting at an impact board 4 feet in front of the muzzle.
Remington Golden Saber 230 grain JHP complete jacket/core separation does not even make it to the board
Winchester 230 grain SXT JHP outer jacket peels back erratically, exposing much of the bullet core, but jacket does not completely separate from the core does not even make it to the board
Federal Hydra Shock 230 grain JHP outer jacket peels back substantially, jacket separates from the core about 50% of the time does not even make it to the board
All of the above "high performance" loads demonstrated very noticeable signs of high pressure when fired underwater.
Federal 230 FMJ ball, standard velocity: 850 F.P.S. no noticeable bullet deformation, moderate signs of high pressure penetrated approximately ½" to ¾" of wood

Don't expect much range or penetration from tested pistol ammo underwater. The ammo performs much better once raised into the open air, even if water is still remaining in the pistol. FMJ standard velocity ammo performed best in this limited test.
Use a corrosion resistant pistol finish. Detail strip, clean, and relube pistol as soon as possible after submersion or otherwise contaminated. Use rust protectant.
Use waterproofed ammo.
Warning: Do not shoot your firearms in or underwater. Death, injury, and or property damage may occur.
Danger: Do not attempt to duplicate these tests, or do similar tests.
Underwater 1911 testing
Raising the water filled pistol out of the water and immediately firing was no problem.

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