38 Super 147-gr. Expansion/Pentration Results...

This is a discussion on 38 Super 147-gr. Expansion/Pentration Results... within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I am not suggesting that these handloads be used for self-protection, although I personally would if required! I thought that my informal "tests" might be ...

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Thread: 38 Super 147-gr. Expansion/Pentration Results...

  1. #1
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    Array Stephen A. Camp's Avatar
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    38 Super 147-gr. Expansion/Pentration Results...

    I am not suggesting that these handloads be used for self-protection, although I personally would if required! I thought that my informal "tests" might be of interest for folks who might be considering similarly loaded commerical 38 Super ammo as offered by some of the smaller ammunition makers.

    Hello. For a while now I've been piddling around with 147-gr. hollow points in the .38 Super. The test gun is an STI Trojan with 5" bbl.


    Shown is my only .38 Super, a 5" STI Trojan. It is stock other than for the steel mainspring housing which replaced the plastic one. It is the same pistol used in my informal testing of Corbon .38 Super ammunition.

    In the past I had fooled around with 115-gr. aggressive expanders in the Super, but am now interested in utilizing the cartridge's greater case capacity (relative to 9 x 19mm) for use with heavier bullets, namely the 147-gr. genre of 9mm bullets.

    The 147-gr. bullets were all loaded over 8.4-gr. of Blue Dot and ignited with Federal Small Pistol primers. In .38 Super, cases were either nickled Remington or plain brass from Starline.

    Bullets used:

    Remington 147-gr. JHP (old manufacture)
    Remington 147-gr. Golden Saber
    Speer 147-gr. Gold Dot
    Hornady 147-gr. XTP

    There was some slight variation in velocities, but each had very small standard deviations with average velocities between 1182 and 1228 ft/sec. The Golden Saber was at the low end with 1182 ft/sec while the XTP took top velocity honors at 1228 ft/sec. The rest fell in between these two "extremes" Can we just refer to the velocities as "about 1200 ft/sec?"

    Regardless of which bullet was being used, accuracy was more than acceptable out to 25 yards, which was as far as I tried these in my last shooting session. In the past, using a rest, it was no particular trick to get 5 shots into an area roughly the size of a grown man's hand at 50 yards.

    In the past I had fired all of these rounds into water and some into wetpack, but was able to finally do all in the latter test medium. Now I've never claimed that this is the "best" test material, but I honestly believe that it ain't bad and results have closely matched what I've seen when bullets were pulled out of animals.

    In super-saturated newsprint that was completely submerged for 24 hours and drained 30 mins before shooting, here are penetration figure averages. Three shots per load were measured.

    Remington (old) 147-gr. JHP: 9.5"

    Remington 147-gr. Golden Saber: 10.5"

    Speer 147-gr. Gold Dot: 10.5"

    Hornady 147-gr. XTP: 11"

    Using a couple of different methods to see how this relates to ballistic gelatin, I came up with the following estimates based on an average of the two.

    Remington (old) JHP: 16"

    Remington Golden Saber: 17"

    Speer Gold Dot: 17"

    Hornady XTP: 18"

    These estimated gelatin penetration figures are just that, but I strongly suspect that they're in the ballpark, especially since living creatures are not homogeneous.

    The only bullet that would sometimes expand nicely in wetpack never did when fired into water. It was the old Remington 147-gr. JHP. The three newer technology bullets (including the old XTP) expanded in either.


    Here are three of the loads with expanded bullets removed from the saturated newsprint. From left to right: Remington 147-gr. JHP, Golden Saber, and Speer 147-gr. Gold Dot. In this instance, the Remington JHP expanded and when it did, it was quite consistent, but it was an "everything or nothing" situation with this one.


    From an earlier wetpack expansion test we see no expansion with the Remington, but very similar results with the Golden Saber. At the top right is a Hornady 147-gr. XTP.


    Whether fired into water or wetpack, the XTP expanded in a fashion similar to this.

    The XTP figures below were made during a test several weeks ago.
    The rest were made at the same time. The XTP average is based on 5 shots while the rest are based only on 3 each. The final measurement is from the base of the bullet to the top. Weight measurement is probably too great. This is due to the wet newpaper particles I couldn't quickly removed. My main interest is not so much the actual recovered weight; this will vary shot to shot in living animals. What I wanted to see was whether or not the bullets would essentially retain their weight or if they would fragment since they were all being pushed beyond the 9x19mm velocity envelope for which they were intended.

    Remington 147-gr. JHP: 0.615 x 0.610 x .418" tall, 146 gr.

    Remington 147-gr. GS: 0.567 x 0.578 x 03.18" tall, 129 gr.

    Speer 147-gr. GD: 0.542 x 0.508 x 0.384" tall, 143 gr.

    Hornady 147-gr. XTP: 0.556 x 0.574 x 0.484" tall, 147 gr.

    None of the bullets separated. The Speer did begin showing a torn jacket with the lead still attached, but none of these tears resulted in the bullet coming apart to any significant degree.

    When fired into water, the Golden Saber would occassionally exhibit jacket separation.


    Fired into water at approx. 1200 ft/sec, the Golden Saber would sometimes shed its jacket. In live animals, this seems to occur an inch or two from where the recovered lead bullet is found. Note that the separated lead core sort of resembles an expanded XTP. For those interested, this expanded lead portion of the bullet measured 0.494 x 0.502 x 0.403" tall and weighed 111 gr.

    I've just about shot up the supply of old manufacture Remington 147-gr. JHP's that were given to me by a friend. The rest will be used to punch paper and nothing more. I have little doubt that they would not expand at typical 9mm velocities in the 950 to 1000 ft/sec range. When they did at around 1200 ft/sec, they did quite nicely but as was mentioned earliar, they either expanded nicely or not at all.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Golden Saber and Gold Dot performed as well as they did. I expected these to maybe break up and for the GS's jacket to routinely separate. It did only when fired into water. With the one deer I killed using it in the .38 Super, broadside penetration was through and through with no remnants of the jacket or bullet found. I found it interesting that the average penetration depths for both it and the Gold Dot were the same.

    It was not a surprise to see that the XTP penetrated deeper than the rest, although not by much. It lost esentially no weight and its average diameter was less than the JHP and in the same general vicinity as the Golden Saber and Gold Dot, although at one point in their expansion process their diameters were larger than recovered. This would have been when expansion had occurred but the edges of the expanded bullets had not yet been forced more rearward.


    Here is a closer view of the recovered Golden Saber. Its "petals" which are more like "streamers" when recovered were at one point more horizontal and provided a larger overall expanded diameter. I have no way of knowing for what distance.

    For my purposes (shooting critters in the field), I don't really have a preference between the XTP, Golden Saber, or Gold Dot.

    The 8.4-gr. Blue Dot load is not quite at the maximum load level according to my data but I would be careful if using it in an unsupported chamber. I have not done so and cannot comment on case expansion. In the STI's supported chamber, no problem and cases resize quite easily. I could go hotter, but see little point. I'm getting the penetration I think I might could use in my neck of the woods, accuracy is quite nice, and my subjective description of felt recoil would be to say that these feel about like a standard 230-gr. ball load in a 5" steel 1911 pattern pistol; maybe a bit less. In any event, it is not hard to control at all.

    I think that there might be a smaller ammo company or two that offer this weight bullet at about the same velocity, but I've not really looked into it. For me, the .38 Super is a handloading proposition. Factory ammo costs too much. For me and my particular gun, there is another reason: reliability. With standard .38 Super cases, my gun is not 100% reliable with fully-loaded magazines. Using .38 Super Comp cases from Starline, it feeds slick as a gut.

    I would really, really like to see more ammunition manufacturers offer expanding .38 Super ammunition in bullet weights ranging from
    about 135 to 150 grains.

    Best.

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    VIP Member Array Bud White's Avatar
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    Very nice Review as always I've though about packing a 38super

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    Awesome Mr. C...thanks for posting this thread!

    I have a EAA Witness full-size steel framed semi auto in .38 Super on its way to me......I have Blue Dot in my powder supply....I need dies, some bullets and cases and away I go.
    USAF: Loving Our Obscene Amenities Since 1947

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    Steve - you once again all but outdo yourself!! Many thx.

    I am again indebted to you for such an excellent report - your total selection now of various tests is positively awesome and outstanding.

    I am also one who has found the Sabre to be a bit ''odd' with its expansion - see pic below. That was from tests done in wet pack thru an R9 - where it was likely with one bullet some tumble may have occurred, and another which might have glanced off another bullet already embedded. The center is what we would hope for. I do feel they are not a consistent expander anyways.


    Chris - P95
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    "To own a gun and assume that you are armed
    is like owning a piano and assuming that you are a musician!."


    http://www.rkba-2a.com/ - a portal for 2A links, articles and some videos.

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    Fantastic write-up as normal, Mr. Camp. Thank you!

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    Thanks for the review, Stephen. The .38 Super is on my want list and I have a friend in Texas who probably has a Colt that he might be willing to part with. The question is whether I have enough $ that I am willing to part with to make the transaction. I'll see and of course I post info about the pistol.

    Thanks for the great info you provide for us.
    George

    Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe. Albert Einstein

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    Hello and thanks very much.

    P95Carry: I've not personally chronographed anything through the pistol you mention, but a fellowed sent me this article which does have some chronograph results. The Golden Saber is not there but still, it might be of use:

    http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/R9.htm

    The Golden Saber is sort of "long for caliber weight" due to its thick brass jacket not being as dense as lead. It may be (and this is a guess) that it's right on the edge of being too long to stabilize at the R9 velocities. If the average speed from your pistol say is just fast enough, it could be that the low standard deviations dipping below that average allow the bullet to become unstable. It may also be that the velocities you are getting are right on the edge with regard to the bullet's expansion capabilities. Were it my gun and I was having this problem, I'd take a look at the Speer 124-gr. Gold Dot. It might prove stable while offering expansion due to its shorter length in the same weight bullet.

    Best.
    Last edited by Stephen A. Camp; July 5th, 2006 at 12:26 AM.

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    Steve - there is a link from my R9 site to a page I put together giving some chrono results - albeit with quite small samples. This will help maybe for folks putting std vel thru a short barrel -

    This is the actual page

    I only use 124 GD's in the R9 BTW.
    Chris - P95
    NRA Certified Instructor & NRA Life Member.

    "To own a gun and assume that you are armed
    is like owning a piano and assuming that you are a musician!."


    http://www.rkba-2a.com/ - a portal for 2A links, articles and some videos.

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    Hello and thanks. Very interesting, especially the low reading for the A-Merc, which is yet another reason I refuse to shoot that ammunition.

    Best.

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    Senior Member Array threefeathers's Avatar
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    Stephan a great review. I have a wonderful Colt El Campeon in 38 Super and it is one of the most accurate handguns I own. It is the 1911 I carry to CA, (properly sotred) ready for emergency use. It gibes what is in reality a legal single stack high cap with CMC mags 10 + 1.

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