.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; Update, 15 FEB 10, for heavy bullet fans. TARGET: 6 water-filled jugs, backed by 2x12. RANGE: approx 10 feet GUNS: S&W Mod. 32-1 (2") and ...

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

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    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    .38 S&W with 200g bullets, penetration tests

    Update, 15 FEB 10, for heavy bullet fans.

    TARGET: 6 water-filled jugs, backed by 2x12.

    RANGE: approx 10 feet

    GUNS: S&W Mod. 32-1 (2") and S&W 33-1 (4"). Chronography done from 4" bbl. approx 3" from muzzle.

    LOAD:
    a. BULLET: Lee GB mold 358430, LRN, 197-98g with 50-50 WW-Pb + 4 oz. tin per 20 lbs. alloy. Estimated BHN = 7-9. COL: 1.270"

    b. POWDER: Win 231. Charge: 2.7g. My charge IS IN EXCESS OF RECOMMENDED LOAD FROM LYMAN 49th. USE A RELOADING MANUAL, CHRONO, etc. TO WORK UP YOUR OWN LOAD. In previous tests, I have noted that my lot of Win231 appears to be slower than average, which lot variation has been noted by Ed Harris as characteristic of this powder. Therefore, I start with recommended data and then work it up over the chronograph to vels similar to published velocities. Ed considers 700fps max for a 200g bullet in this gun.

    CHRONO RESULTS (10-shot string): LO 624.4, HI 651.9, AVG 639.0, ES 27.54, SD 8.54.

    PENETRATION OUTCOMES:

    1. 4" bbl. chrono'ed for this shot at 662.7fps on this shot. Bullet tracked straight thru 2 jugs, then began curving down and left. Broke extreme bottom of 5th jug and did not impact 6th jug. Bullet not recovered.

    2. 2" bbl. chrono'ed for this shot at 624.2fps. Bullet tracked straight thru 2 jugs, began curving down & left. Came out extreme bottom left of jug #4 and failed to hit #5. Bullet not recovered.

    I'll update tonight with photos of loaded 161g and 198g cartridges, as well as target patterning of chrono'ed strings. Also ME and free recoil calculations. Stay tuned! Times are tough for milk jugs. . .

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  3. #2
    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    Thanks for your test data. Now I don't have to try that one. It was on my list of things to test when the weather breaks.

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    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    BTW, for those wondering. . . I chose this caliber for my wife & girls because I could relatively easily obtain 8 practically new guns of the exact same pattern--except 2" for car or purse, 4" for HD. Also, the frame fits them beautifully, 20 oz steel a perfect size/weight, and recoil/report are nice (BIG issue for one daughter), and I've now removed all training glitches such as which way the cylinder rotates on this one, pull/push/press cylinder latch, speedloader interchangeability, etc. etc. If I could have gotten 4 ea. Chief's Spls, plus 4 ea. J-frame 4" barrel S&W's in .38 SPL, I would have. My girls have small hands & can't adequately handle a K-frame.

    ME & free recoil calculations in 20 oz. gun for .38S&W:
    Factory: 146g @ 685: ME 152 fpe. Recoil: 3 fpe, 12 fps.
    Handload: 161g @ 709 (see yesterday's post): 180 fpe. Recoil: 4 fpe, 13 fps.
    Handload: 198g @ 639fps (see yesterday's post): 180 fpe. Recoil: 4 fpe, 15 fps.

    BTW, I've also done these tests already with .38SPL with LSWC-K, and posted in several places. Here's an excerpt:
    " #1: Colt Detective Special .38 SPL, 2" bbl, with 200g Mt. Baldy LSWC-K, meplat .280 (I think) seated deep and crimped over front shoulder, with 3.4g Win231. (This load and gun previously chrono'ed at 718 fps, thereby trying to ensure similarity to original factory ballistics of 770 fps from 6" bbl. It is modified from "Mikey's load" of 3.8g of the same powder.)
    RESULTS: penetrated all 6 jugs and struck nose-first into a 2" x 12" placed behind the last jug, knocking a hole in the board up to the bullet shoulder, then falling out onto the ground while knocking down the 15" long board. Bullet path was arrow-straight, exiting through the tape on the back side of the sixth jug at same relative location as it struck the first jug. All caps remained intact. First two jugs failed at the circular "dimple" molded in the side; all others bulged the dimple outward without causing it to fail. After impact, the row of taped-together jugs toppled over and fell off the two 2"x4" boards I'd placed them upon."

    NOTE: all milk jugs are 6" wide, so my .38 S&W snubbie LRN penetrated 24" and the 4" with LRN penetrated 30". The .38 SPL 2" with LSWC-K penetrated 36" with some power to spare. So did my LSWC .38 S&W 161g bullet (see yesterday's post). Other tests with 200g LRN in .38 SPL demonstrated similar deviation in penetration path as did the .38 S&W LRN. One theory about the old Super Police 200g LRN was that this tumbling increased effectiveness vs. straight LRN penetration, which tends to poke a self-sealing hole to some degree.

    I'll soon try 200g LFPs (a .35 Remington bullet) and in August will receive Landric's group buy LSWC. I'll post those too, after testing. Not sure about the LFP, but the LSWC will doubtless penetrate straight.

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    Ex Member Array jahwarrior72's Avatar
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    my brother has a 3" H&R breaktop. it's accurate enough for SD at 10 yards. the only .38SW he could find was 158g. LRN. a lot of what you wrote was a little hard for me to foolow, so i want to ask, how does his ammo compare .38 Special 158g FMJs, or 115g 9mm FMJs?

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    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    jahwarrior,
    If your brother bought 158g ammo, it's almost certainly .38 Special, not .38 S&W. Have him double-check CLOSELY, because you don't want to try to fire.38 SPL in that .38 S&W revolver.

    Soon I'll test some 158g .38 SPL lead bullets vs. the wily milk jugs, but in general you should expect lots of penetration from lead or FMJ .38SPL or 9mm cartridges. They are in a higher power class than .38 S&W.

    If you shoot expanding bullets from .38SPL and 9mm into water, you'll probably get less expansion that the lead bullet from .38 S&W, because the expanding bullet basically acts like a parachute and slows drastically as it expands.

    Take a look at terminal ballistics
    The tests he provides are far more comprehensive than mine.

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    Ex Member Array jahwarrior72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LouisianaMan View Post
    jahwarrior,
    If your brother bought 158g ammo, it's almost certainly .38 Special, not .38 S&W. Have him double-check CLOSELY, because you don't want to try to fire.38 SPL in that .38 S&W revolver.

    Soon I'll test some 158g .38 SPL lead bullets vs. the wily milk jugs, but in general you should expect lots of penetration from lead or FMJ .38SPL or 9mm cartridges. They are in a higher power class than .38 S&W.

    If you shoot expanding bullets from .38SPL and 9mm into water, you'll probably get less expansion that the lead bullet from .38 S&W, because the expanding bullet basically acts like a parachute and slows drastically as it expands.

    Take a look at terminal ballistics
    The tests he provides are far more comprehensive than mine.
    mmm, nope, they're .38SW, but since i can't locate the box, i'm unsure if the grain.

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    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    If his ammo is commercially loaded .38 S&W ammo made in the US, it's almost certainly Remington or Winchester, and weighs 145 or 146g.

    I haven't tested any of it, but it would be somewhat less than the 200g handload I tested, most likely. Lighter bullet, slightly higher velocity.

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    Ex Member Array jahwarrior72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LouisianaMan View Post
    If his ammo is commercially loaded .38 S&W ammo made in the US, it's almost certainly Remington or Winchester, and weighs 145 or 146g.

    I haven't tested any of it, but it would be somewhat less than the 200g handload I tested, most likely. Lighter bullet, slightly higher velocity.
    yep, it's Remington. it's hard to get it around here, but the gun isn't shot much, luckily.

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    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    On the .38 S&W front, I've loaded up some RCBS 35-200 slugs that weigh 214-215g with my alloy of 50-50 WW-Pb + 4 oz tin/20 lbs. After studying this .35 Remington bullet next to a Lee group buy 358430 200g slug, it turned out I was able to seat the 35-200 perfectly in its crimp groove using the same die settings I used with the 358430, which I crimp in the top lube groove. The 35-200 has less bullet inside the case and a slightly longer COL of 1.275" vs. 1.270".

    I'll chrono it tomorrow with my starting load of 2.5g Win231--I reduced the 2.7g I used with the 358430, just for a safety margin. I'll try to develop something in the low-mid 600fps range and then try the obligatory milk jug test!

    Photo shows (L-R): .38 S&W 161g LSWC; 358430 LRN 198g; 35-200 LFP 215g; .38 SPL 193g 358430. (All wts. as-cast, rather than nominal.) Bullets are tumble-lubed and arrayed above respective loaded cartridges, with crimp locations aligned to facilitate comparison. Guns are Police Positive Special and Mod. 33-1.

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    A very interesting report!

    You're using some fantastic .38 S&W revolvers for shooting tests.

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    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    Thanks, Brian--having lots of fun over here "next door" to you.
    Note that the Smiths are the .38S&W, the Colt Police Positive Special is a .38 SPL.

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    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    RECOIL test (1st try) and more heavy bullet penetration testing:


    RECOIL: I tried the 198g LRN in .38SPL with 3.0g Win231, seated in crimp groove. Average vel 574.6, so I'll probably need to try a 3.2g load to get velocities about the same as my .38S&W/200 load.

    Apparent recoil in the Colt Police Positive Special, cal. .38SPL, was approximately the same--perhaps a bit stronger--than the .38S&W/200 fired from a S&W Mod. 33-1. Both barrels are 4".

    Free recoil in the Colt .38SPL: 3 ft-lbs, 12 fps. In the S&W .38S&W: 4 ft-lbs., 14 fps. In other words, the .38SPL should have felt like it kicked less than the .38S&W.

    In all likelihood, the somewhat stronger felt recoil of the .38SPL was a function of two things: the roundness of the Colt grip isn't as stable for me as the S&W grip, and I was in an extreme prone position as I fired over my chronograph.

    Will post further recoil comparisons after I up the .38SPL/200 load to about 630fps, and fire it slow and rapid fire alongside the Smith .38S&W/200.

    PENETRATION: Although no milk jugs were injured in conducting the experiments above, 6 paid the ultimate price when I test fired one of the .38S&W/215g RCBS 35-200 cast from 50-50 WW-Pb + tin. An 8-shot string chrono'ed as follows:
    LO 596.4, HI 668.4, AVG 622.8, ES 72.03, SD 21.44. Excepting the HI and LO shots, the other six were from 605 - 627 fps.

    The bullet tracked STRAIGHT through 6 jugs and embedded itself into the stop board 2x12, which was backed by other jugs. Clearly, the flat nose provides straight-on penetration, rather than the curving & apparent tumbling of the 200g LRN. Note that it is deeper in the stop board after 6 jugs than the 158g after 5 jugs.

    Photos below show embedded bullets (2 x 161g LSWCs, 1 x 215g LFN); revolvers and 50' targets--probably the first time these two minty guns were ever fired. POI was +7". The very clean LRN bullet in the photo of the 4" gun was found next to my line of jugs--it was one of those previously shot thru the jugs and originally not recovered.

    7 of my 8 .38S&W revolvers are shown; #8 is in active service w/daughter. . . :-)

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    Good stuff here! Attractive revolvers too!

    I thought to post my results using 200 grain lead round nose bullets in the .38 S&W over a 3.1 grain charge of Unique but can't find where I recorded the data. Seems like the bullet was traveling about 675 fps from the 5-inch Webley Mark IV and 625 fps from the Colt Banker's Special.

    I also obtained complete penetration of 6 one gallon milk jugs with the 200 grain lead round nose bullet over a maximum load of 2400 in the .38 Special. The same bullet and load tumbled to some extent when I used it on a whitetail deer and did not exit. It had a smear of expanded lead about the size of a dime off one side of it and still weighed over 190 grains. The deer took a few wobbly steps, quickly collapsed, and had expired before I could climb down from the tree.

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    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    bmcgilvray,

    Interesting story on the 200g vs. deer! Specifically, it's an attention-getter for me that you're pretty sure it tumbled. . .and that the effect of the hit was dramatic. Any idea if you hit bone, thus causing the deformation/expansion ofthe bullet? And while I'm asking, do you recall what alloy you were using? The ones I'm casting for this caliber are 50-50 WW-Pb, + a little tin, so should be quite soft. Were yours WW, or something softer?

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    The bullet was the Remington 200 grain round nose lead component bullet, now long discontinued. Those bullets were dead soft and gave every impression of being pure lead.

    A Smith & Wesson Model 14 K-38 Masterpiece with an 8 3/8-inch barrel was used to take the buck. The deer was only 15-17 steps out from my tree stand, quartering away from me with the right shoulder visible. The bullet struck a rib high and near the back of the rib cage, damaged the bottom of the right lung, clipped the top of the heart, severed an aorta, and ended up logged in a rib, low on the left side.

    The 200 grain bullet was loaded over the maximum charge weight of 2400 as listed for the .38 Special in the Lyman 46th manual. Lyman's data actually was created for their own 195 grain cast lead round nose bullet but worked fine with the Remington bullet.

    From the Model 14 with 8 3/8-inch barrel, the 200 grain bullet with the heavy charge of 2400 chronographed 922 fps.

    The same load clocked 842 fps from a 4-inch Smith & Wesson Model 10.

    The old Remington 200 grain round nose lead bullets came out of the box with a hard black lube which didn't seem effective and which stunk to high heaven when the ammunition was fired. These bullets leaded like fiends but rendered really good accuracy for a few cylinders-full.

    I save significant deer bullets that have been recovered and this one is in the can but can't find the can just now.

    Here's the S&W Model 14 K-38 that was used to take the deer. I've had it 30 years as of last month. It's probably had only about 1500 rounds fired through it and still looks new. I'm guessing that it was used to take the deer in about 1984.


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