Informal 38 Special Snub Tests w/Std. Pressure Ammunition...

This is a discussion on Informal 38 Special Snub Tests w/Std. Pressure Ammunition... within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Hello. A while back, a gentleman at another site sent me some ammunition and requested that it be the subject of an informal expansion/penetration test. ...

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Thread: Informal 38 Special Snub tests w/Std. Pressure Ammunition...

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    Informal 38 Special Snub tests w/Std. Pressure Ammunition...

    Hello. A while back, a gentleman at another site sent me some ammunition and requested that it be the subject of an informal expansion/penetration test. Bad things kept coming up and the shooting session to do this was delayed much longer than I wanted. I finally got the opportunity to do this today.

    He wanted this done with a snub so I picked one that might be representative of what many folks carry, an S&W Model 642 with the usual 1 7/8" barrel. I used my primary "24/7" snub as I'm fairly familiar with what it does with a variety of ammunition so that I could tell if anything seemed way off.


    Shown are the rounds to be fired in today's tests and the S&W Model 642 used in the background. From left to right: Hornady 125-gr. XTP, Winchester 110-gr. STHP, Federal 110-gr. HydraShok, Winchester USA 125-gr. JSP, Stars & Stripes 158-gr. CSWC, and Stars & Stripes 125-gr. CFP.

    I was sent 10 rounds of six different .38 Special loads with the exception of the Federal 110-gr. HydraShok. Scrounging through my .38 ammo, I found two more rounds to make a full 10. (These obviously had a different lot number than the ones sent so I used these with one from what I was sent in the target shooting portion of the test, not the chronographing.

    I normally use at least 10 shots to determine an average velocity, but that would leave nothing for expansion or grouping. Due to limited ammo, the average .38 Special velocities are based on 5 shots, not as good, but maybe good enough to give a general expectation of actual velocities from similar length barrels. (Understand that there can be surprisingly different actual velocities from two seemingly identical guns.)

    I couldn't afford to miss on the groups shot as I had but 3 shots per load, so firing was done at 7 yards, standing and with a two-hand hold and in slow-fire.

    Loads Used & Chronograph Results:

    Federal 110-gr. HydraShok JHP
    Average Velocity: 877 ft/sec
    Std. Deviation: 33

    Winchester 110-gr. Silvertip JHP
    Average Velocity: 841 ft/sec
    Std. Deviation: 22

    Winchester USA 125-gr. JSP
    Average Velocity: 803 ft/sec
    Std. Deviation: 26

    Hornady 125-gr. XTP JHP
    Average Velocity: 826 ft/sec
    Std. Deviation: 16

    Stars & Stripes 125-gr. CFP
    Average Velocity: 861 ft/sec
    Std. Deviation: 20

    Stars & Stripes 158-gr. CSWC
    Average Velocity: 744 ft/sec
    Std. Deviation: 14

    The ammunition from Stars & Strips was from new components. It was not "remanufactured" ammo.


    Only 3 shots could be used, but the Stars & Stripes 158-gr. CSWC hit exact POA for me at 7 yards. Recoil was mild.


    The same company's 125-gr. CFP grouped nicely but just about an inch lower than POA. The shot on the lower left was my fault and neither the gun's nor ammunition's.

    Everything else grouped just about the same as these and what groups best in my individual revolver may not in the next fellow's. I get the impression that group size is not considered all that important to many, so I didn't post any more pictures. No load's grouping really stood out, good or bad.

    Expansion test media was simply newsprint that had been soaked for 24 hours and was super-saturated. It was drained for 30 minutes before shooting. Recovered bullets do correlate well with those shot into calibrated 10% gelatin from what I've read, but this material retards penetration quicker. In other words, a bullet the penetrates 10" in ballistic gelatin will penetrate quite a bit less in the soaked newsprint. Expanded bullets recovered from animals I've shot with 9mm, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Special and .45 ACP have been very similar in expanded diameters to those shot into the soaked newsprint, but were often "chewed up" more due to impact with bone.
    Average velocities listed as well as recovered bullet weights and dimensions are the averages of two rounds each.

    Penetration & Expansion Results:

    Federal 110-gr. HydraShok JHP

    Penetration: 7" for the bullet. The jacket separated and was found at about 4 1/2". The jacket expanded to 0.552 x 0.721". The bullet nose deformed and bent slightly, but no expansion beyond the original diameter was found. The recovered weight of the jacket and bullet was 104.2 grains. (I probably didn't find a tiny piece or two of the jacket.)
    -------------------------------------------------------

    Winchester 110-gr. Silvertip JHP

    Penetration: 5 1/2". The bullet expanded to 0.536 x 0.578 x 0.371" tall. Recovered weight was 108.8 grains. This one usually penetrates roughly 10" or so in ballistic gelatin.
    -------------------------------------------------------

    Winchester USA 125-gr. JSP
    Penetration: 8 3/4". No expansion and no measureable weight loss.
    -------------------------------------------------------


    Hornady 125-gr. XTP JHP

    Penetration: 8 1/2". The bullet barely began expanding, but was recovered at 0.462 x 0.387 x 0.556" tall. It weighed 124.1 grains.
    -------------------------------------------------------

    Stars & Stripes 125-gr. CFP

    Penetration: 8 1/4" with no expansion or weight loss
    -------------------------------------------------------

    Stars & Stripes 158-gr. CSWC

    Penetration: 8 3/4" with no expansion or weight loss
    -------------------------------------------------------

    As a "control", I fired two rounds of Remington 158-gr. LSWCHP +P into the "wetpack" and it expanded to 0.576 x 0.578 x 0.484" tall and weighed 156.2 grains. It penetrated 8 1/2" and had an average velocity of 839 ft/sec from the Model 642; both the velocity and expansion/penetration results were very similar to past tests and what I expected to see.


    Here are the recovered bullets that were fired into the test media. From left to right: Winchester 110-gr. STHP, Federal 110-gr. HydraShok jacket & bullet, Stars & Stripes 125-gr. CFP, Winchester USA 125-gr. JSP, Horandy 125-gr. XTP, Stars & Stripes 158-gr. CSWC, and Remington 158-gr. LSWCHP +P.

    With regard to expansion, the Winchester 110-gr. STHP performed the best of these standard pressure loads.


    Here we see the 110-gr. STHP compared to the Remington 158-gr. LSWCHP +P. Expanded diameters are very similar, but the heavier, +P load penetrates deeper. The +P load averages about 14" in ballistic gelatin from a snub. There will be some variations depending upon the gun and ammunition lot number used, but this is pretty much the norm for the load. The 110-gr. STHP penetrates about 10" in gelatin.

    Observations:

    There were no real surprises in these tests. With the standard pressure loads, we can either get expansion and penetration below the FBI 12" protocol or minimal to no expansion and meet or exceed it. The Winchester 110-gr. STHP is possibly the most effective of the rounds fired with regard to permanent "wound cavity" size but probably does lack adequate penetration in the event of it striking an intermediate barrier (such as an arm) while enroute to the torso.

    Of the standard pressure loads, I'd probably go with the Stars & Stripes 158-gr. CSWC. It strikes POA for me, at least at 7 yards, is mild to shoot and penetrates nicely. Speaking only for myself, I honestly do think that the +P loads such as the Remington used here as well as Speer's new 135-gr. Gold Dot "Short Barrel Load" and Corbon's 110-gr. DPX are more effective assuming good placement, but they are +P rated.

    While I am definitely a fan of Hornady XTP handgun bullets/ammunition, it would not be my first choice in .38 Special std. pressure from a snub. The expanding ammo used today might very well expand nicely from a 3" or longer barrel, but I'm not sure that penetration would be sufficient. Also keep in mind that velocity loss in going from 3" to 1 7/8" is significant. There is usually a much larger loss than when going from a 4" barrel to a 3".

    There were no problems extracting fired cases with any of the ammunition used today nor was anything usual noted.

    For those interested in the Stars & Stripes ammunition, here's a link to their site:

    http://starsandstripesammo.com/index2.html

    If interested in similar informal tests on .38's but with +P ammo, here are a couple of links that might be of use:

    http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/3...mmo%20test.htm

    http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/3...on%20tests.htm

    Best.

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    Great test and review as usual...thanks.

    I recall the older Nyclad standard load (I forget the manufacturer and bullet weight) which had the lead HP encased in a "nylon" jacket. I only ever fired one box of the stuff back in the 80's through a first generation Colt Detective Special. That was supposed to be a reliable expanding round if I recollect the gun rags at the time.
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    Hello. Yes, the standard and +P versions of the Federal 125-gr. Nyclad hollow point did expand but penetration is in the 10" realm, about like the Winchester 110-gr. STHP.

    Best.

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    Great review and much appreciated, as my wife just switched from some lead semi-wadcutter ammo to Silvertips since we could finally find the non +P (she's got a 642 as well). I was wondering how that ammo performed. I'll probably kick around whether there's enough penetration.... and then quit thinking because I know the Silvertips expand and she's a good shot with them.
    Thanks again!

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    Mr Camp does it (yet) again

    Thx Steve - I always find your info posts of immense value and interest - as I am sure do all the other readers. All very time consuming stuff but much appreciated
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    Hello. Thank you all.

    Best.

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    great

    excellent info, thanks

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    Excellent info, thanks.

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    JWM
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    Mr. Camp:
    Any thoughts on the Remington 125-grain SJHP +P load in .38 (catalog #R38S2) ?? My gun is a 70's era steel-frame Chief's Special with a two inch bbl. I think I would get more penetration than the W-W 110 silvertip, but not as much recoil as the 158 grain +P loads.

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    Hello, sir. I have no information on that one. Sorry.

    Best.

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    Stephen,

    very informative post. I too like the 158gr lswc for practice and carry in my 642.

    V-fib
    livin in the woods...feelin mighty good

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