November 7th, 2010 03:59 PM
Short Barrel Ammo Range Report: 38 Special Snubnose Comparison (S&W and Ruger)
Fired a couple of different 38 Special short barrel self defense loads in a Ruger LCR and S&W 637-CT yesterday. The LCR in 38 Special has one sweet trigger that is superior to the S&W 637-CT (Laser Grips / single & double action) and shoots dead-on at 21' with Buffalo Bore's (BB) Standard Pressure 158-gr. FBI load.
Recoil, OTOH, was noticeably more on the LCR with the factory supplied Hogue-Tamer finger grooved grips because it weighs 15% less.
The Model #5401 LCR is a polymer framed unit and only weighs 13.5-oz. with a 1.875" barrel that retails for $525. The S&W 637-CT (aluminum stainless steel Airweight) weighs 16-oz. with Crimson Trace Laser Grips and 1.875" barrel (retails for $901), but recoil definitely felt about 15% +/- less.
I tried 3 different types of ammo in the LCR and each brand appeared to recoil the same, with the Buffalo Bore load yielding the tightest groups offhand at 1 1/2" by 2". The LCR was then put in a shooting vice and yielded the following results (after perfectly aligning the open sights and locking things down):
1. Federal Classic 38 Special +P 158-gr. LSWCHP (Item #C38G) grouped 4" low and 3" to the left at 21'.
2. Speer Short Barrel 38 Special +P 135-gr. Gold Dot (Item #23921) grouped 2" low and 2" to the left at 21'.
3. Buffalo Bore Short Barrel Standard Pressure 158-gr. LWC-HP (Item #20C) grouped dead-on left-to-right and 1/4" high (probably due to a warm barrel) at 21'.
For self defense, the wife uses the S&W 637-CT (small exposed hammer & laser) with Speer Gold Dot 135-gr. or Federal 158-gr. +P FBI load. I have used this setup with a laser to shoot 1 1/8" ragged groups 1/2 dozen times while braising myself. Federal's 158-gr. load shoots within 1/4" of Speer's short barrel load with the laser.
The LCR will be a BUG and naturally stoked with Buffalo Bore's Standard Pressure Short Barrel 158-gr. since this load shoots to Point of Aim (POA) with the factory sights. Basically, Buffalo Bore's #20C load pushes a 158-gr. HP at the same speed as Speer's 135-gr. HP (both at about 850 fps) with the same recoil.
Out of the 3 types of ammo, I have concluded that they're all suitable for self defense and I would not hesitate to go into the ammo supply in storage for either load in either revolver.
Note: Shooting 148-gr. wadcutters in both snubnose revolvers is much funner / manageable for extended shooting time. If you bring your spouse to the range, let her shoot a larger 38 Special with the potty mouth cat recoil. Wadcutters offer the lowest recoil, then FMJ, and etc., so there's no harm in letting them shoot lighter recoiling loads in a snubnose.
When your life is on the line, recoil won't be felt and it won't matter.
Aim for the Thoracic Triangle Area between the armpits and the base of throat.
1. Shot Placement: Center Mass Between the Armpits & Base of Throat
2. Heavy for Caliber Bullet Weight / Construction
3. Choice of Caliber
November 7th, 2010 04:44 PM
I prefer the 158 GR SWCHP in mine but do load the wadcutters for my girlfriend. 15 ounces seems to be the cut off point, in weight, for the heavier loads.
November 7th, 2010 09:01 PM
Great little test and write-up! Thanks.
I tried out the Ruger LCR and didn't care for its trigger when compared with J-Frame Smith & Wesson revolvers but that is only personal preference and based on familiarity with J-Frame triggers. I did like the LCR's trigger about as well as the double action trigger on my Colt Detective Special. Both are quite "livable."
Charter Member of the DC .41 LC Society
“No possible rapidity of fire can atone for habitual carelessness of aim with the first shot.”
Theodore Roosevelt, The Wilderness Hunter, 1893
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