Overpenetration of the .357 magnum?

This is a discussion on Overpenetration of the .357 magnum? within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I've been following this forum for a couple of months now, and have learned a lot. There's something that's puzzled me though. One of the ...

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Thread: Overpenetration of the .357 magnum?

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    New Member Array McInnis's Avatar
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    Overpenetration of the .357 magnum?

    I've been following this forum for a couple of months now, and have learned a lot. There's something that's puzzled me though. One of the first threads I read concerned the merits of the .357 mag. vs. the .45 ACP for self defense. Many people were concerned with the .357 mag's over-penetration. And I've read that in other posts since then.

    I don't have a lot of experience with terminal ballistics of handgun bullets, but in general, for expanding bullets fired from hunting rifles a big slow bullet will out-penetrate a lighter, faster bullet. Classic example, my .45-70 firing 350 grn slugs will far out-penetrate my .30-06 shooting 165 grn bullets of similar construction. So I've wondered why that wouldn't apply to handgun bullets.

    Today I did a test. I loaded some 140 grn Remington 140 SJHPs for my S&W model 442 with 5.5 grns Unique, and some of those same bullets for my Ruger GP-100 with 8.7 grns Unique. I don't have a chrono, but I would guess the velocities were about 1200 and 750 fps respectively. I shot a bullet from each load into a box stuffed with phone books I had soaked, then smashed by stepping on while still wet.

    The .357 mag did penetrate an inch more, 4.5 " vs. 3.5 ", but of course expanded more as you can see it did expend a lot more energy while slowing down. I know wet phone books aren't the same as living tissue, but what do you all think about my test? Is the over-penetration thing with the .357 something of a myth?



    This is my first time to try to post a photo, so if it isn't bit enough, you can click on the attached file (I hope) and see what the two bullets looked like after I pulled them out of the phone books.
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  3. #2
    Member Array mpd563's Avatar
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    Overpenetration isn't much of a concern in the .357 as long as 125g hollow point ammo is used. The round usually travels about 12 -14 inches into the target and "explodes" creating a massive temp cavity which delivers around 98-99 % one shot stops!
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    Senior Member Array usmc3169's Avatar
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    pretty much any hollow point that expands properly, fired out of a handgun is NOT going to over penetrate - but if it does imagine how much of the energy of the bullet is already expended! I doubt it would do much more than bruise a person on the other side. Of course that only applies to torso, head, or thick limb shots. shoot some one through a hand... who knows.
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    VIP Member Array SIGguy229's Avatar
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    umm....has anyone read a report about someone being shot through-and-through and hit someone on the other side?

    I would think as many defensive shootings there have been in the last 10 (?) years, there would be more information. Not to say this is an internet rumor--as the possibility exists of a through-and-through shot, has anyone read anything about it?

    If so, distance, caliber, type of ammunition?
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    Your results are about right, try some 110 gr bullets.

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    Member Array Marvin Knox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mpd563 View Post
    Overpenetration isn't much of a concern in the .357 as long as 125g hollow point ammo is used. The round usually travels about 12 -14 inches into the target and "explodes" creating a massive temp cavity which delivers around 98-99 % one shot stops!
    I'll just say that I disagree with the concept of "exploding" hollow points, massive temp. cavities and the delivery of 98-99% one shot stops.

    No offense intended. I think such talk is nonsense as most experts would tell you IMO.

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    Member Array Marvin Knox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SIGguy229 View Post
    umm....has anyone read a report about someone being shot through-and-through and hit someone on the other side?

    I would think as many defensive shootings there have been in the last 10 (?) years, there would be more information. Not to say this is an internet rumor--as the possibility exists of a through-and-through shot, has anyone read anything about it?

    If so, distance, caliber, type of ammunition?
    I'd say we all need to be sure that our ammo is not a known "over penetrator". Arguably - we should all strive for 12" or so of gel. penetration with great mushrooming in the widest caliber bullets we can handle with great accuracy and quick return to target between shots.

    Having said that - it always amazes me the stress some put on over penetration when it is a fact that around 80% of all shots fired by even trained police officers miss their target. God knows what the stats would be for the average civilian during the time of stress that a gunfight would cause.

    And still we seldom hear of bystanders being killed by police misses (even though it does happen occasionally, I'm sure).

    Assuming that it is a very rare occurance - what do you think the odds are for one of the 20% or less rounds that actually do connect with a bad guy "center mass" over penetrating and killing a civilian by mistake. Very slim, I'd say, even if the officer was carrying a round that was "known" to over penetrate.

    Now what do you think the odds are for this rare event happening with the very few civilian CC permit shootings that occur?

    It's not rocket science is it? Pretty slim, indeed!

    Perhaps you get into a gunfight once in every lifetime or two. Perhaps in that one gunfight you miss 90% of your shots. Perhaps in those 1 or 2 properly placed accurately delivered one in a dozen over penetrates.

    I'm not saying that such things are not something to consider. I'm just saying they pale compared to bigger issues like controlability, penetration depth and quality of mushroom with an adequate caliber.

    Over penetration is the least of our worries for most of us here, I'll bet. Not saying not to pick a good round. Just saying don't loose sleep over that particular aspect of concealed carry. There are bigger fish to fry IMO.

    Just a few thoughts for consideration!

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    I currently own a smith and wesson 500. I was originally able to buy a S&W 500 because I won a settlement in a lawsuit. For special reasons, I was forced to spend all the money in a month, and living in California, I could only buy one handgun a month. I chose to buy the most expensive gun I wanted with the money, because I knew I could never afford to buy a 500 through saving up, with a $1500+ price tag. I was planning on buying another gun later through saving up, because I was worried about overpenetration if someone broke into my house and attacked me. The 500 was really just for hunting and target shooting.

    So my question is this: are you saying that with the low recoil, 1100 foot pound hollowpoint rounds for the 500, there wouldn't be significant overpenetration? Or should I still go out and get another gun like a .357 magnum or .38 special revolver?


    Edit: This is the model that I own: http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/w...-1&isFirearm=Y

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    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolver C View Post
    [For the S&W 500] So my question is this: are you saying that with the low recoil, 1100 foot pound hollowpoint rounds for the 500, there wouldn't be significant overpenetration?
    Depends on the use.

    A human body (of an intruder/attacker) is only going to be so thick, so dense, and have so many layers of clothing on. The FBI requires penetration of at least 12" in properly prepared ballistic gelatin. Needless to say, if you're using a bullet that's going past 20" consistently, then you've got something more suitable to bison than criminals.

    With 2500-3000 ft-lbs energy, the S&W 500 is going to go well past that. Some suggest it penetrates 40-60" in "tough" game animals.

    1100 ft-lbs is about what a hot .44mag does, but that's still twice what a stout 9mm, .40 or .45 pistol cartridge will achieve.

    Overpenetration? Yeah, you could probably say that. For human (criminal) targets, that is. Perhaps even for the 1100 ft-lb variety of ammo, as well, though I've not seen any gel tests comparing this load to others.

    The issue in a self-defense situation will almost certainly come down to this: why on earth did you have a hand cannon ... were you intending to kill? For that reason alone, it's probably safer to go with a generally accepted pistol cartridge as your primary carry weapon (something from .44mag down).
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    Senior Member Array AZ Desertrat's Avatar
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    I love the .357 and have used them for many years.....I have never really seen anything that I would call "over" penetration.....yes it may go a couple of inches more that a .38....but I don't believe all the talk of this "magic" rocket going thru two or three people then out thru the drywall into the next house.
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    New Member Array Revolver C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ccw9mm View Post
    Depends on the use.

    A human body (of an intruder/attacker) is only going to be so thick, so dense, and have so many layers of clothing on. The FBI requires penetration of at least 12" in properly prepared ballistic gelatin. Needless to say, if you're using a bullet that's going past 20" consistently, then you've got something more suitable to bison than criminals.

    With 2500-3000 ft-lbs energy, the S&W 500 is going to go well past that. Some suggest it penetrates 40-60" in "tough" game animals.

    1100 ft-lbs is about what a hot .44mag does, but that's still twice what a stout 9mm, .40 or .45 pistol cartridge will achieve.

    Overpenetration? Yeah, you could probably say that. For human (criminal) targets, that is. Perhaps even for the 1100 ft-lb variety of ammo, as well, though I've not seen any gel tests comparing this load to others.

    The issue in a self-defense situation will almost certainly come down to this: why on earth did you have a hand cannon ... were you intending to kill? For that reason alone, it's probably safer to go with a generally accepted pistol cartridge as your primary carry weapon (something from .44mag down).
    Well, I don't make much money. I suddenly got a lot of it, and I bought the gun for target shooting/hunting. I was just wondering if I should buy a seperate gun for self defense. I wanted to know if the 1100 foot pound hollowpoints would be too dangerous to use, if it would put people in danger. Since it has the same power as a .44 magnum with those rounds, I figured it might be acceptable for self defense, but currently I am not so sure. As to why I would use a handcannon: because that is the gun I have. Should I buy a separate one for defensive carry?

    EDIT: I plan to move to a state where I can carry a gun for defensive purposes soon.
    Last edited by Revolver C; June 1st, 2009 at 12:39 AM. Reason: Clarification

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    Member Array Bart's Avatar
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    Does anyone load their 2" gun with the same round as their 4" gun? Asking about the .357 round only, not the .38 special. Why, or why not?

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    Senior Member Array AZ Desertrat's Avatar
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    No....I think it is kind of a waste of ammo expense.....the .357 does best in a 4 to 6 inch barrel. 38+P is more than enough in our 2 inch snubs. IMHO.
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    Member Array Bart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AZ Desertrat View Post
    No....I think it is kind of a waste of ammo expense.....the .357 does best in a 4 to 6 inch barrel. 38+P is more than enough in our 2 inch snubs. IMHO.
    If that's true then the .357 snubby is nothing more than a PRICEY .38 Special revolver with a +P rating, designed for people desiring a heavier gun, a louder bang, and a lot more re-coil. I do agree that the .357 does best in a 4 to 6 inch barrel, but, that can be said about every caliber out there. Because of the statistics to back up the stopping power of the .357 125 gr. jhp fired from the longer barrel, that's the round I load when carrying my Taurus 4" M65 .357. However, IMHO I believe that the .158 gr. jhp in .357 is the best round for SD.(very close range) when fired from my S&W M60 snubby, outperforming any +P .38.

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    +1 on the 158 gr for 357.

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