.38 S&W with 200g bullets, penetration tests - Page 2

.38 S&W with 200g bullets, penetration tests

This is a discussion on .38 S&W with 200g bullets, penetration tests within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Here's the Webley Mark IV and the Colt Banker's Special that I use for .38 S&W shooting. Both give good accuracy with the old cartridge. ...

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Thread: .38 S&W with 200g bullets, penetration tests

  1. #16
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    Here's the Webley Mark IV and the Colt Banker's Special that I use for .38 S&W shooting. Both give good accuracy with the old cartridge. The Webley loved the 200 grain Remington bullet with the 3.1 grain charge of Unique and shot it to point of aim. It shoots 146 grain .38 S&W factory stuff about 8-10 inches low.

    It is easy to make multiple, accurate, rapid-fire hits on a silhouette target out to about 10 yards with the Banker's Special which is very controllable. Personally, I think more highly of the .38 S&W than I do the .380 ACP. I'm likely the only person in the world who does. With judicious handloading one can come fairly close to standard .38 Special snub velocities with the .38 S&W when used in a solid-frame revolver like the Banker's Special. I've obtained over 700 fps in the snub Banker's Special with Unique and a 158 grain lead SWC. The little Colt shoots .358 diameter bullets perfectly.





  2. #17
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    Brian,
    Some nice revolvers! LOTS of character & history there. Could see you in Kenya vs. Mau Mau with the Webley & Fairbairn-Sykes(?) dagger, in a Midwestern bank waiting for Dillinger with your Colt, or starring in a Crocodile Dundee movie with that bazooka of a S&W! I think any deer in its right mind would surrender, if given an opportunity to do so, at the sight of that crew-served pistol. :-)

    PS--a couple of months ago, I would have favored .380 over .38S&W. After seeing a little of what the latter can do, I've reversed that position (thereby proving that I've been wrong at least once, depending on how you look at it).

    BTW, I'm working with "Buckshot" on CastBoolits to get a rig that allows me to flatten noses of my 200g LRNs. I just got his .361 sizer die yesterday & it works great, so I can now test my 150g LSWC mold, too. Can you see at least two more "tests" coming?

    Have also emailed Brassfetcher to see what he charges for testing--his gelatin might provide interesting data re. the post-impact characteristics of the LRNs.

  3. #18
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    Catching up on DC! 200g LFN testing 7 MAR 10

    Trying to catch up on this forum, so here comes some more info! Pardon the delay--this may take a bit to catch up! If you've tracked this elsewhere, sorry for redundancy.
    ****
    200g flat-nose bullets in .38 S&W--penetration testing 7 MAR 10

    I used a die made by "BUCKSHOT" on Cast Boolits to flatten the noses of my 192g wheelweight 358430s, giving them a meplat approx. .275 in diameter, while reducing the LRN profile to something resembling a LWC without the sharp shoulder. Since the flattening process caused a bit of swelling, I ran them thru a 361 sizer to ensure a fit in my guns. I also reduced the charge from 2.7g Win231 to 2.6g, since diameter might have increased from as-cast .360 to .361. COL was reduced from 1.270 to 1.205" due to the bumping process; bullet seating depth was not altered from my earlier tests.

    CHRONO RESULTS (10 shots, 4" bb. Mod. 33-1): LO 608.8 HI 643.0 AVG 629.8 ES 34.28 SD 9.43

    PENETRATION RESULTS @ est. 10' vs. water-filled milk jugs:
    1. 4" bbl, Mod. 33-1. Shot chrono'ed at 604.5fps. Bullet penetrated all 6 jugs in essentially straight line, barely exiting 6th jug, denting a stop board about 1/4" deep, then falling back into the jug (now very clean). I had placed cardboard between each jug, to see whether evidence of bullet tumbling existed. Neither the holes in the cardboard nor the holes in the jugs evidenced tumbling. Since the velocity was actually lower than the chronographed LRN 198g in my earlier testing, the LFP profile seems to account for increased penetration & straighter flight path vs. the LRN version of this bullet.

    2. 2" bbl, S&W Mod. 32-1. This shot screamed over the chrono at 575.0 fps, penetrating in a straight line into the 6th jug, but failing to exit. This bullet was also recovered in a very clean condition :-) No evidence of tumbling.

    3. Both recovered bullets miked at .360 and evidenced no weight loss or deformation.

    ACCURACY RESULTS: 50' off sandbags, 2 1/2" group 10 rds, POI +5", L 1 1/2".

    ADDITIONAL ANALYSIS:
    1. Penetration in LFP profile is markedly deeper & straighter than LRN profile of same bullet, despite lower velocity of the shot. The bullet hole is clearly larger and rounder in both paper target and mik jug than the LRN; larger wound channel and greater tissue damage are therefore likely. If any benefit obtains when the bullet tumbles in LRN form, however, this would be lost in LFP form.

    2. 192g LFP penetration is slightly less than 161g LSWC and 215g LFP (35-200). The meplat and bullet hole sizes of the 192g LFP and 161g LSWC are very similar; both are larger than the LRN, which is in turn larger than the 215g LFP.

    Next tests are with a Lyman Ideal 360271 mold, nominally 150g, which casts 50-50 in WW-Pb + tin at .364+ and 157g lubed.

    Cartridge line-up

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Cartridge photos are (L-R):

    1. 215g LFP (RCBS 35-200). This is a .35 Remington fifle bullet. Loaded in .38 S&W, it resembles the British 178g FMJ in shape, and the tumble-lube almost makes it look jacketed.

    2. 358430 "bumped" from LRN to LFP

    3. 358430 in original LRN

    4. 161g LSWC (Lee 358-158-SWC-TL)

  4. #19
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    50-yd. 200g test against pine tree, 157g against milk jugs

    1. 200g results @ long range

    Attached photos of 50-yard target fired off of sandbags, prone, with the 358430 bullet in .38 S&W (vel. c. 630) from S&W Mod. 33. Bullet weight was 197-98g, cast .360 from 50-50 WW-Pb + tin. See also "better" target with .38 SPL @ 725fps, 192-93g, cast from straight WW, sized .358, fired from S&W Mod. 67.

    I've plinked with autos at 75 yds before, but this is the first time I've fired a 50-yd. target with revolvers. Although my marksmanship is nothing to brag about, it would not have been fun to stand in front of the targets, especially since there was no keyholing at all. :-) I presume the difference in accuracy was due primarily to better fit, sights, weight of M-67, esp. since Mod 33's sights are nickel--a bit of a strain in sunlight.

    I also fired .38 SPL into a live pine tree at 56 yards and my probe touched the base of the slug 1" deep, so the nose of the bullet penetrated about 1.8" into the wood, plus 1/4 to 1/2" of bark.

    When I fired the .38 S&W slug into a different live pine tree at 58 yards, my probe found the base 5/8" deep, so the nose penetrated about 1.5" into wood, plus 1/4 to 1/2" of bark.

    So, the .38/200 supposedly bounced off of an overcoat???? I can't speak personally for the British 178g FMJ service round, but this 358430 is very similar to the original Brit lead bullet 200g load, and anyone expecting his overcoat to stop this bullet had better be wearing blue tights with a big "S" on his chest! :-)

    2. Water-filled milk jug penetration test with 150g LSWC

    BULLET: Lyman Ideal 360231 LSWC, nominally 150g, but 157g as-cast with 50-50+tin, sized .361

    LOAD: 2.5g Win231. COL = 1.086" Crimped in crimp groove.

    REVOLVER: S&W Mod. 33, 4" bbl.

    CHRONO: LO 694.6, HI 713.7, AVG 703.9, ES 19.08, SD 6.85

    POI @ 60' approx. +2"

    PENETRATION @ 10 FT." (with both 4" and 2" guns)
    a. Mod 33, 4" bbl: Shot chrono'ed at 690.3 fps, drove straight line thru all 6 jugs, halfway-exited #6 and buried up to shoulder in 2x12 stop board. Note deformed bullet nose in photo.

    b. Mod 32-1, 2" bbl" Shot chrono'ed at 581.2 fps. drove straight line thru 5 jugs, cracked hole barely in front of #6, and stuck horizontally between #5 and #6. Note undeformed bullet nose in photo.

    PHOTOS:
    #017: Mod 67 .38 SPL with 50-yd. target
    #018: Mod 33 .38 S&W with 50-yd. target
    #004: Mods. 33-1 and 32-1 used for water penetration test of 150g LSWC, with recovered bullets at respective muzzles. Other cartridges shown, with nominal bullet wts. (L-R): Lyman 360231 LSWC 150g; Lee LSWC-TL 158g; Lee GB of Lyman 358430 LRN 195g; flat-pointed Lee GB of Lyman 358430 LRN 195g; RCBS 35-200 LFP, 200g.

  5. #20
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    OK, scientists & ballisticians, your expertise needed!

    Now, I'm no ballistician and no scientist, so please shoot holes in these concepts wherever possible. My Dad was a chemist, and my nephew is one, but the scientific gene skipped a generation in yours truly :-)

    Hypothesis:

    a. Brits chose .380/200 for its deep penetration and blunt-nosed smashing effect when it hit bone, plus it "pushed right through" when it hit target. (NOTE: at this time, I don't know the barrel twist rate of Enfield/Webley revolvers, so cannot account for this factor yet.)

    b. American police, etc., using the Colt New Police (.38S&W/200, with flat nose), probably had the same results. Ditto for those using the Winchester factory cartidge, with its very blunt nose.

    c. American police, etc., using the "pointier" Remington .38S&W/200, probably were more likely to experience tumbling, as the pointier, even longer, perhaps less stable bullet tumbled when it hit the target, as it was only marginally stabilized.

    d. Tumbling may also have partially resulted from use of S&W revolvers, with their slow twist of 1:18 3/4". Possibly the faster-twist Colts stabilized the bullets more fully, reducing likelihood of tumbling with any .38S&W/200 ammo. Likewise, faster-velocity 200g loads, such as the .38 SPL "Highway Patrol" load of c. 730-770 fps, may have been more stable & therefore less likely to tumble.

    e. Possibly, changing barrel lengths from longer to shorter (i.e. to snubbies) may reduce velocity and stability of one or more loads to the marginal stability point, and cause a load to tumble in a snubbie that doesn't normally tumble in a 4" or longer barrel. Additionally, it is imaginable that a gun/load/bullet combination that is stable at close range, could become unstable as its velocity decays to a critical point over longer ranges.

    f. Based on (a) thru (e) above, I hypothesize that the famous "tumbling" effect was more likely with "pointy" bullets at low vels (c. 600 or lower) when fired from S&W snub-nosed revolvers, whether in caliber .38S&W or .38SPL, and at relatively longer ranges. Conversely, that blunt bullets were unlikely to tumble in general, and even less likely at close range, when fired from Colts, 4" S&W's, or in higher-vel loads such as the "Highway Patrol" loading.

    PROPOSED EXPERIMENTAL METHOD: attempt to obtain an adequate supply of both "pointier" bullets and blunt designs. Develop loads of c. 600, 700, and 750 fps with both bullet styles, to approximate .38S&W, .38 Colt New Police or .380/200 British, and .38 SPL "Highway Patrol" loads. test each load from Colt, S&W and even Enfield/Webley revolvers against water jugs and wet newspaper, to determine which factor, or combination of factors, is more likely to give a tumbling effect. test at close (7 yds), medium (25 yds) and long (50 yds.) range.

    If we can succeed in identifying any real trends, we may have some decent answers even before we get our hands on British 1920s testing results and analysis. Accordingly, a modern-day shooter can optimize loads for his gun, because he can more reliably anticipate the effects associated with any of the popular loads/vels, bullet profiles, and revolver/barrel choices. For instance, one might learn to use a pointy bullet at low vel with an S&W snubbie if he wants the "tumbling" effect, whereas someone with a Colt may determine that "tumbling" is unlikely anyway, so he should load blunt bullets at the highest attainable velocities. If someone has only blunt bullets, he may forget tumbling completely.

    If we can confirm my hypotheses, then it's time for more testing. Who out there has a Colt revolver in this caliber & would like to do some testing? How about Enfield or Webley? And a S&W .38SPL snubbie? Maybe some Remington (or other?) "pointy" 200g bullets?

    Thanks to bmcgilvray and rojo, who originally posted these photos on this forum. They are very helpful in helping me try to develop the hypotheses above! NOTE: bullets are ID'ed in title when you click the thumbnail.

  6. #21
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    You are in earnest about 200 grain bullets in the various .38 revolvers!

    Your report is interesting and thought provoking. I never conducted any penetration tests with the .38 S&W and 200 grain bullets but only shot paper out to 15 yards. No tumbling was observed with either a 5-inch barrel or a 2-inch barrel. I did punch through 6 water-filled gallon milk jugs with a 200 grain bullet and the .38 Special, the bullet thwacking into a stand of willow trees some 50 yards behind the row of jugs. Later, the same load took the deer. I didn't mention earlier that the bullet was found resting sideways in an offside rib.

    I going to need to either fire up my last remaining box of Remington 200 grain component bullets, obtain a proper 200 grain bullet mold, or a source for cast 200 grain bullets.

    It would be an easy matter to conduct your tests if I can get the bullets. Probably the quickest way would be to purchase the bullets. I'll do an internet search.

  7. #22
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    Yes, just like my book is a perfect example of "when fanaticism meets opportunity"! My quest to determine whether I had a Civil War ancestor. . .became an 800-page book, six years later. :-)

    I'm not looking to get that deep this time, but it just sticks out to me like a sore thumb that the .38 in 200g has so many who despise it, yet a number who view it as a real slobberknocker. Also, the fact that it either tumbles or it plows straight through w/o deviating. . .those just seem to be mutually exclusive propositions. Also, I'm "Type A" enough to squirm when I see people scorn 200g lead completely, on the basis of the poor performance of the 178g FMJ British ammo! Icing on the cake is the raft of horror stories about that FMJ load that OBVIOUSLY have nothing to do with the load design; rather, the real story is a defective cartridge, squib load, oil contamination, etc.

    I'll be happy to mail you a bunch of bullets that you can load & shoot for these "tests." (Think we could call it "Pig Board III"? If you have a bunch of troublesome wild hogs over there in Texas, we could. . .) I'll PM you this evening, but am thinking: 358430 LRNs, plus some "bumped" to LFN. Maybe some of the 35-200s, regular and "smushed"? You load to the several vels we agree upon, and shoot at 7, 25, 50 yds with your Colt .38 Colt New Police and your S&W .38SPL snubbie (I think)? We'll discuss whether different ranges are better.

    If you do want a mold--and want a flat-nosed style--perhaps go for the group buy LSWC I mentioned before? Won't ship till August, though.

    Anyone who does need to buy 200g bullets on-line:
    1. Mt. Baldy Bullets, 200g LSWC-K. Great bullets! Min. order = 100.
    2. Colorado Creek (I think. . .it's definitely Colorado-something). Same bullet, in wholesale numbers & prices. Minimum order is 2000.
    3. Mid-South Shooters' Supply sells Magnus 200g LRNs relatively cheap.
    4. Others I'm aware of are LBT-styles from several makers.

  8. #23
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    Correction: the Lyman 150g LSWC mold I use is the 360271, not 360231.

  9. #24
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    Several developments:
    1. Ordered the Skennerton book on the Enfield No. 2 today. Will advise when/if it provides good info on the cartridge.

    2. Bought the only box of factory .38 S&W I've seen in 3 months, some Remington LRN. Will use it for "control" over chrono & vs. the long-suffering milk jugs :-)

    3. Received two packets of British .380 Mk 2Z ammo from a kind donor in the Lone Star State. Will chrono, penetration test & publish.

    4. Will cast pure lead 200g slugs tomorrow & test later in the week. Ditto for a new 140g LSWC Lee mold I bought--may have to "beagle" it to get it to cast .360ish.

    5. Possibly on Sunday, a fellow enthusiast will bring up his 4" Police Positive, in caliber .38 Colt New Police, to provide some comparison results in penetration versus the slower-twist S&W's I'm shooting. He also scared up a 1946 NRA book on pistols & revolvers, with detailed data on this cartridge, to include published vels (and the bbl. length used in testing). I'll post that info soon with these other updates.

    6. Will mail some 200g slugs tomorrow to bmcgilvray in TX to shoot thru his 2" Colt and Webley. Will be interesting to see if the differing rates of twist will make any difference.

    7. Will call Remington & Winchester tomorrow and request historical information. Wish me luck!

  10. #25
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    See what was awaiting me when I went to the post office today. A nice fat sack full of nice fat 200 grain bullets, especially made for the .38 S&W. I'm looking forward to poking these into a couple boxes of primed brass. Will be trying a couple of different propellants with them.

    Thanks LousianaMan!


    Here's a collage of .38 S&W stuff I gathered up for this photograph. On the bottom of the .38 S&W ammo stack on the shelf in the ammo locker I found a partial box of 200 grain handloads using the Remington component bullet over 3.1 grains of Unique. Also found a box of 158 grain handloads using 2.5 grains of Red Dot. From left to right: Remington 200 grain round nose handload, 158 grain lead SWC handload, and a factory Winchester Western 145 grain cartridge.

    Also see an example of the nice 200 grain round nose lead bullets provided by LouisianaMan. These are nicely made, consistent in weight, and lubed properly. They will give good performance.

    I also found an interesting box of older Western primed .38 S&W cases that I forgot I had. These cases possess a curiously vivid red copper tint. A once fired and slightly tarnished Remington Peters .38 S&W case is shown for comparison. The box of primed brass probably is early 1960s or older as the factory address doesn't possess a zip code.

    The old .38 S&W may be considered moribund by most folks but it is easy to concoct performance handloads for it in solid framed revolvers. The fellow who has a sound Colt or Smith & Wesson revolver so chambered can enjoy performance superior to the .380 ACP in my view because the .38 S&W can throw heavier bullets to useful velocities.

    In coming weeks we'll see what may be gen'ed up in both a 2-inch barrel and a 5-inch barrel with this old wheezer cartridge.

  11. #26
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    "Fire when ready, Gridley!" I look forward to seeing what results you get from your Webley & Banker's Special.

    Sunday I'll test some flat-nosed 200g made from pure lead, and will see what they do when they hit water.

    Also. . .the long-awaited "greatcoat test" will take place with some British Mk 2Z FMJ ammo. I'll do 50 push-ups if the round doesn't penetrate! :-) Will also test my other ammo against the coat, just to ensure that everything can eat its way thru. . .

  12. #27
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    The "German Greatcoat Story" debunked! No push-ups required!

    Many of you have heard of the report attributed to a British sergeant, who stated that the weak .380/200 FMJ ammo wouldn't even penetrate a German greatcoat. Well, after thinking briefly about that claim, I concluded it was either an exaggeration or a case of a near-squib load. Who ever heard of any service bullet that can't penetrate a coat?

    Today I shot some CIS-manufactured 178g Mk. 2Z ball ammo from my Mod. 33-1 S&W 4", and it zipped thru three layers of an overcoat, a gallon jug of water, and hammered into the pine tree from which the coat & milk jug were suspended. On the first try, the water caused the bullet to tumble, but it still embedded itself about an inch into the tree--sideways, undistorted.

    An additional test saw the bullet drill straight through 3x coat layers, the jug, and drive straight into the tree, much deeper; since the wood closed in behind the bullet, I couldn't measure the depth of penetration. My steel probe couldn't find it. A Colt Police Positive Special 4" bbl. in caliber .38 S&W had the same results. Ditto for another bullet fired from the 33-1 thru three layers of overcoat, w/o a water jug--straight into the trunk, too deep to find. Tomorrow I'll try to find them with a drill.

    I've seen a report elsewhere by a former member of the Royal Hong Kong Police, who stated that he shot much of the Mk. 2Z ammo in the 1960s, and many bullets barely made it out of the barrel. (I'll find the link & include it in my upcoming range report.) Clearly, that's a manufacturing flaw in the ammo and is not any true reflection of the caliber's inherent capability. I believe that the "German greatcoat" story stems from the same cause: bad manufacturing, not bad design per se.

    More follows soon about a variety of other .38 S&W tests conducted today, as well as photos of today's "Greatcoat test." I'll also chronograph the 2Z ammo I'm shooting, to compare to British Army specs.

  13. #28
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    Chrono results from British Army Mk. 2Z ammo testing, plus more "Greatcoat Shooting"!

    Just a short report tonight from the battlefront, as your correspondent is busy catching up on both shooting and writing at this time. More to follow soon on yesterday's shoot!

    LOAD: CIS .380 Rimmed, Mk. 2Z ball ammo, 178g FMJ

    GUN: S&W Mod. 33-1, 4" bbl.

    CHRONO RESULTS (10 rds.), temp. 80 degrees: LO 618.1; HI 656.4; AVG: 641.1; ES: 38.29; SD: 13.49. Completely consistent with 600-650 fps velocities listed for British ammo. Quite consistent. Absolutely no barrel fouling.

    POI at 50 feet, off chair/sandbags, sitting on ground: +5 3/4", R 2 1/2". First two rds. off paper (high); adjusted POA to bottom of cross, resulting in 8/8 hits in 2 1/4" group. 7 of the 8 went into 1 1/4".

    ADDITIONAL "GREATCOAT testING":

    1. Shot #1 @ 15', chrono'ed at 604.1 fps: went thru approximately 12-16 layers of wool coat plus multiple linings, cracked open milk jug behind the coat. Bullet fell out of coat upon examination, and the density of folds made it impossible to accurately determine the bullet's path. (It makes a small hole in the wool, and tends to practically seal up.) Bottom line: poorly-designed test shot, but it did show that if you rolled your overcoat up into a tight roll about 12"H x 18"W x 18"D, the bullet wouldn't get through :-) In the photo, the uppermost cartridge case & bullet are from this shot. Bullet is undeformed, and neatly fits into fired case.

    2. Shot #2, chrono'ed at 632.2 fps: went through 8 layers of wool coat fabric, 8 layers of synthetic coat lining, 4 water-filled milk jugs, lightly dented stop board and rebounded into jug #4. The holes ripped in the milk jugs indicated the bullet was nose-first entering jug #1, tumbling as it exited jug #1 and thereafter. I read somewhere that the water:gelatin ratio for bullet penetration is approximately 2:1. If that's correct, this shot would have penetrated 12" of gelatin (9" while tumbling), plus 8 plastic layers of milk jugs (7 while tumbling), AFTER passing through 16 layers of coat/lining. The bullet path was generally straight, deviating only slightly while traversing the jugs more or less through the center. Appropriately, this coat was marked "Made in England"! In the photo, the lower cartridge case & bullet are from this shot. Bullet is undeformed, and neatly fits into fired case.

    I guess opinions may differ as to the desirability of having a pistol bullet tumble within its target, as tumbling may generally cause the bullet to veer unpredictably. If it was originally on track to hit vitals, it might miss. On the other hand, if it was originally on track to miss vitals, it might veer into a vital part. But the way Shot #2 acted, it provided both a straight track & lots of tumbling; plenty of penetration against unarmored targets, with presumably a wicked wound channel. This would also tend to reduce overpenetration & get lots of "target effects" before possibly exiting the target.

    I will provide more shot analysis from yesterday's shoot ASAP. I'll close now with the observation that it's high time to put the infamous "German Greatcoat Story" to rest. Obviously, it was a case of faulty ammo. BTW, the only BIB I've ever experienced was in a S&W M-1917, shooting WWII surplus .45 ACP ball ammo. That didn't lead me to argue that the .45 was a "weak sister."

  14. #29
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    Good penetration here considering the low velocities obtained.

    Doesn't appear that a person can hide behind a heavy coat to avoid .38 S&W bullets.

    I'm still saving newspapers and jugs. Will be out of town for a few days but back next week for some testing from this end.

  15. #30
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    Super Police

    I've been into hand loading & bullet casting for almost 35 years and in handguns the "British" approach of a heavy slow moving slug has always seemed to me to best the best approach for any caliber less than a 9mm or .357 magnum. A S&W 180-200 grain lead bullet moving at 600 to 700 fps worked for the "empire" and its recoil is quite manageable. If I can't get the 1100+fps from a two to four inch barrel in a non magnum then I'll be content to settle for the heavy, unstable, tumbling, lead round nose!

    After all, (if I recall correctly)100 years ago it was called the .38 S&W SUPER POLICE!
    Inmate Assault

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