Lighter HP bullets better for short barrels?

Lighter HP bullets better for short barrels?

This is a discussion on Lighter HP bullets better for short barrels? within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; In general, are lighter hollow point bullets preferred for short barrel pistols? My thinking is that lighter bullets are often higher velocity, and in a ...

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Thread: Lighter HP bullets better for short barrels?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array SmoothJazz's Avatar
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    Lighter HP bullets better for short barrels?

    In general, are lighter hollow point bullets preferred for short barrel pistols? My thinking is that lighter bullets are often higher velocity, and in a short barrel velocity suffers. So, to get reliable expansion at longer ranges, is my assumption valid?
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  2. #2
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    It's not invalid but it's not necessarily meaningful either. Generally, I believe the generic standard is somewhere around 50 fps per 1" of barrel (up to a point anyway). You'll see a pretty decent drop in FPS from something like a 5" duty firearm and a 2" snub nose, but even that may not be enough to really have a negative effect on expansion. In order to really know for sure you'd probably need to run some gel tests with whatever specific round you're interested in because it's really going to amount to the projectile and what velocities it was designed to work with.

    Would I worry about it if you're carrying, for instance, some 147 gr. HPs in a subcompact 9mm? No, I probably wouldn't give it much thought (and in fact I don't because I carry the same 147 gr. carry ammo in my 26 as I do my 19 or my 34). However, if you're really concerned, you could always stick with the middle weight bullets (124 9mm, 165 .40, 200 .45 acp) and have all your bases covered.

    Also, just to muddy the waters a little more, expansion isn't really the be all end all. You need penetration depth as well, so even if it expands great, it still needs to penetrate to be effective.
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  3. #3
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    Array Taurahe's Avatar
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    maybe... velocity difference between a 3.5 inch barrel and 4 inch barrel is not hundreds of FPS, so I really dont worry about it. I would still rather have a heavier bullet traveling slower than a light bullet flying fast. Buffalo hunters almost wiped out the buffalo with bullets that were lucky to exceed 1500 fps, yet would fully penetrate a buffalo at 700 yds. Why? Mass is energy. A heavier bullet maintains down range velocity than a lighter bulet, which sheds velocity quicker. IE: If a truck crashes into a building at 60mph, you total the truck and probably take out a wall. If a train crashes into the same building at 60 mph, it levels the entire building...the train is heavier and therefore maintains speed better, which allows for more penetration. To steal car guy saying... there is no replacement for displacement.

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    VIP Member Array maxwell97's Avatar
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    I don't think there's really a way to know for sure, except by testing a particular load out of a particular barrel length. The effect of barrel length depends partly on how the powder burns; two loads that perform similarly out of a 5" barrel may perform differently from each other out of a 3" barrel. And there are some bullet designs that, even at the slowest (heaviest bullet and shortest realistic barrel), can expand reliably.

    Check out the "Ammo Quest" videos done by ShootingTheBull410. If there's better testing out of short barrels, I haven't found it yet!
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    VIP Member Array Stetson's Avatar
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    All my handguns are full size.I want dependability in life or death situations.I not going to lose sleep over losing 50-100 feet per second because of barrel length.
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    VIP Member Array patri0t's Avatar
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    Also, a heavier bullet will stay in the barrel a fraction of a second longer as the powder burns and build up more to accelerate the increased mass, to a degree.
    Gold Dot makes rounds for "short barrels" using a faster burning powder and I use their 124 gr GDHP +P in my 9mms instead of the lighter 115 gr made by competitors. It is a well proven round in LE, even in the smaller 3 in barrels.
    Per the LE approved duty rounds from the 2002 testing by FBI ballisticians, the Heavier albeit slower rounds have proven to be more effective overall despite their slight loss in velocity.

    Consider the 'speedy' 9mm vs the 'lumbering' .45acp and the principle becomes a bit more clear as they offer 'comparable' terminal results in real life scenarios.
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    Senior Member Array kmckinnon's Avatar
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    9mm Federal HST in 124 and 147 gr do just fine. So does Winchester Defend also in 147 gr.

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    Member Array jrobin3360's Avatar
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    I lose about 100fps with 230gr Hydra-Shoks thru my Rock Island Compact as compared to my other 5" 1911's.

    Probably not that big a deal but I do carry 200gr XTP's &/or Gold Dot's in my Rock, just to keep my velocity up for reliable expansion.

    And a 200gr bullet is still a lot of lead & copper.
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  10. #9
    Senior Member Array forester58's Avatar
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    I go heavy in all barrel lengths as I don't worry about expansion. I want consistent penetration. I use 158 grain standard pressure lead semi wadcutter hollow cores in my 2" snub. 158 to 180 in my 5" .357 and 230 in my 5" .45 acp. Expansion is just a bonus.
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  11. #10
    Distinguished Member Array drift's Avatar
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    If all things were equal, it would make sense that a lighter bullet out of the same barrel, with the same charge would exit the barrel faster - but nothing in bullet manufacturing is equal lol.

    If you look at .380's via Ballistics by the Inch, you'll note that the lighter the bullet does not mean faster:
    BBTI - Ballistics by the Inch :: .380 Auto Results (2010)

    Not the case with the .45 either which uses a much greater difference in weights:
    BBTI - Ballistics by the Inch :: Results

    I wonder if all things were equal if it would though.
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  12. #11
    VIP Member Array michael t's Avatar
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    I use 185gr +P in my Colt Officer and 3" Colt Defender 45auto' 2 reasons 1 their is at least a 100fps 2 these compact 1911's run a strong 22 lb recoil spring. Several years ago I had a llama compact . I tested it in side my old old ready to fall down barn . 45 ball would not penetrate the barn wall . But the 185 HP+P blew right thru . So I have used ever since . I shoot 230 for practice or play . Never had a jamming problem with it But for my carry I want to be sure The +P out of 3" I would guess around 900FPS
    enough for penetration and reliable feeding As I remember reading Browning wanted a 200 gr bullet. But military wanted the 230 I know 200 gr+P are very accurate in a couple of my 5" guns.

    By the inch shows 3" shows Buffalo 185+P JHP 1063 FPS Staying with BB their230gr+P JHP at 907FPS for 3" barrel

    I use Corbon ammo for carry
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  13. #12
    VIP Member Array Bad Bob's Avatar
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  14. #13
    Array BritishAgent's Avatar
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    Also, a heavier bullet will stay in the barrel a fraction of a second longer as the powder burns and build up more to accelerate the increased mass, to a degree.
    This is what I've been told too. A lightweight bullet will be gone from a short barrel before the charge even finishes burning so you're really only making your muzzle flash more powerful.
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  15. #14
    VIP Member Array coffeecup's Avatar
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    Since most SD situations occur at close range I chose the Buffalo Bore 115gr all copper HP +P+ loading. 1400 fps and 500 fr lbs energy. Puts a 9mm right in there with a .357 mag. Not quite,but close enough for Govt work .
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  16. #15
    VIP Member Array JDavisArk's Avatar
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    Depends on the projectile design. Lighter and faster doesn't always mean the most expansion when it gets to the intended target. Reliable expansion at longer ranges means the projectile will need enough energy and as we know, part of the energy equation is mass and the other velocity.
    As far a short barreled pistols and if you are thinking about rifle calibers such as 5.56, 7.62x39, or 300BLK then standard velocity polymer tipped projectiles seem to be the best for short or long range compared to HPs. The most dramatic loss of velocity to barrel length goes to the 5.56.
    You can do some of your own research checking out this site BBTI - Ballistics by the Inch :: Home
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