Ballistic gelatin test results - .38 Special wadcutter


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Brass Fetcher
December 21, 2006, 12:16 AM
Firearm: .38 Special with 1 7/8" barrel

Cartridge: 148gr Federal Gold Medal Match, full wadcutter

Block calibration : 8.9cm at 586 ft/sec

Single shot fired at block, bullet penetrated to 16.0" and was found 'sandwiched' between the rear face of the gelatin block and the front face of the polyester bullet arresting box. Bullet recovered at 0.386" average diameter.

The recoil from this round was very slight, penetration depth was more than adequate, and slight expansion occured. I like it as a choice for recoil-sensitive shooters, using .38 Special snubnose revolvers.

Thank you,

JE223
http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=49635&stc=1&d=1166678076

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Gordon
December 21, 2006, 12:40 AM
Well finally, in full color no less! A great test and you are the man, 223 ! Thank you very , very much I know it is a labor of love!:)

huntershooter
December 21, 2006, 05:54 AM
This is my choice for carry in older alloy frame revolvers.(S&W mod. 37/ Colt Cobra). The load shoots to POA with these fixed sight revolvers.

Iggy
December 21, 2006, 08:33 AM
Thanks for taking the time to do this.The info gained from your tests and posts is great..

Your efforts are greatly appreciated

ChiefThunderstick
December 21, 2006, 08:45 AM
Great report with info I can use. Thank you for your hard work.

HiWayMan
December 21, 2006, 02:01 PM
Any idea what velocity that round was making? I have some I load to 920fps, so was just curious. Also, did they enter from the right in that picture? It looks like a decent temporary cavity, then a straight bore for the rest of the block if it did.

And thank you for running this test.

GRIZ22
December 21, 2006, 02:09 PM
I've seen this before a while ago. Thanx for the post. I am one of many that advocate wadcutters in a short barrel gun and you provided the proof.

GunNut
December 21, 2006, 02:41 PM
Nice report, have you had a chance to test the Speer Gold Dot 135gr short barrel load?

Steve

Brass Fetcher
December 21, 2006, 04:26 PM
Thank you for the nice posts ... I can't really guess as to the velocity, I got to about 1' from the face of the block, to make sure that I landed the shot where I did (my skills with the snub leave something to be desired :) ). Pure lead generally starts to deform at around 800 ft/sec, so probably closer to that velocity.

The shot came in from the right of the block and exited the left.

GunNut, there are lots more .38 Special tests on my website, including the SB load.

JE223

Vern Humphrey
December 21, 2006, 04:49 PM
I used hollow based wadcutters loaded backwards in a .357 my first tour in Viet Nam. They work. They lead ferociously (but all lead bullets did in those days), but they have the desired terminal effect.

B36
December 21, 2006, 08:17 PM
Velocity from a 5 inch barrel is only 690fps--would be somewhat less from a 2". Check Federal' site.

With reasonable winter clothing covering the jello, there would have been no expansion, and penetration would have been in the 20 inch area.

Little tissue damage would result--see the lack of jello damage in the bullet path.

Too many good HP rounds around to use this for self defense--I use Cor Bon DPX in my old 36 and 37 and same round in my 642s.

To each their own;)

McCall911
December 21, 2006, 08:52 PM
Some of my younger police officer cronies in the late 1970s used to make fun of a senior officer who used .38 Special WC's in his service revolver (a "humble" S&W Model 10.) I was not one of them, however, simply because I thought he knew what he was doing.

Anyway, interesting test, JE223. Keep up the good work!

Pumpkinheaver
December 21, 2006, 09:36 PM
As for a real world report on the effectiveness of wadcutter. I shot a possum a couple of weeks ago with a remington wadcutter and you would have thought I had missed. Shot it 2 more times to finish the job.

Gordon
December 21, 2006, 10:30 PM
That's weird. I have shot lots of creatures in the under 30 pound class with wadcutters in S&W Masterpieces and Colt Officer's match and they die real quick! The killing effect is comparable to a .22WMR in a rifle for me on animals bigger than squirrels and smaller than goats!;)

Stainz
December 22, 2006, 06:16 AM
If memory serves me, the 158gr +P LHPSWC from a 2" snubby .38 is somewhat higher, percentage-wise, in the 'One Shot Statistics' tabulated by Marshall and Sanow, from 'real' reports, than 230gr .45 ACP ball ammo from a 1911. That shocked me - and changed the diet for my 2" +P rated 10.

I know that the LRN .38 Special round was often referred to as the 'widow-maker' by the NYPD in it's latter days of use. A full WC - or even a SWC - would do more internal damage. Of course, temper this with the 'earlier' police round... the .32 S&W - or the hotter .32 S&WL/,32 Police Positive Special... that .38 Special was a great improvement in 'stopping' ability. Still, all are effective, if you remember the real estate logo - 'location, location, location!'. Good marksmanship really helps.

Stainz

Gary A
December 22, 2006, 06:35 AM
Stainz, I know this is probably what you meant, but it is worth noting that the term "widow-maker" referred to the wives of the shooters who relied on that round becoming widows, not the wives of the "shootees".

Captain
December 22, 2006, 09:53 AM
The slight temporary cavity was probably caused by the fact that it was shot at from only 1' away. That's close enough that some of the gas entered the block. Shots from a handgun into ballistic gel are usually from 10' so that the gas disipates and doesn't flaw the results.

This isn't a knock on this test, only a clarification. JE did a nice job. Clear gel block and nice photo.

I personally wouldn't carry target wadcutters for defense against a human being. Just lack power or punch. I want something that will reliably expand and give a decent temporary cavity. For recoil sensitive people, this load may be the ticket....I'm not there yet. I'll stick with DPX or Speer short barrel loads.

The Real Hawkeye
December 22, 2006, 10:39 AM
With reasonable winter clothing covering the jello, there would have been no expansion, and penetration would have been in the 20 inch area.Are you sure about that? I've done some testing of hollowpoints on actual meat and bone through various kinds of clothing (homeless people I catch hanging out on my property, NOT), and I've found that the reason hollowpoints fail to expand in meat and bone after passing through clothing is that the hollow point clogs up with fabric. With a soft target wadcutter, though, the expansion happens as a result, not of a hollowpoint, but because the lead is so soft, and the impact is enough to cause expansion without a hollowpoint.

If memory serves me, the 158gr +P LHPSWC from a 2" snubby .38 is somewhat higher, percentage-wise, in the 'One Shot Statistics' tabulated by Marshall and Sanow, from 'real' reports, than 230gr .45 ACP ball ammo from a 1911. That shocked me - and changed the diet for my 2" +P rated 10.Absolutely, which is a good reason not to ever use target wadcutters for self defense in snubbies unless you are dealing with someone who is recoil sensitive and must carry a flyweight snubby.

In fact, we've had 25 years of extensive use of the 158 grain LHP +P load in snubbies, and it has been universally hailed by those who've used it (huge numbers of police and federal agents during all those years) as an incredibly effective fight stopper. Typically, people get hit solidly with it in the torso and they go down after one or two hits. Studies of actual shootings put it in the same class as the .230 grain hardball .45 in terms of stopping ability. Amazing, but it must be true considering how much massive recorded experience we have to look at with this particular load/weapon combo.

Ohen Cepel
December 22, 2006, 10:48 AM
Great info. Nice to see some real research.

Thanks!

The Real Hawkeye
December 22, 2006, 10:50 AM
Stainz, I know this is probably what you meant, but it is worth noting that the term "widow-maker" referred to the wives of the shooters who relied on that round becoming widows, not the wives of the "shootees".That's correct. I remember those days very well. Back in the 1980s, when I was first really getting into concealed carry, my instructor was a retired deputy sheriff, but his son was an NYPD police officer. He used to tell me how they hated having to carry the LRN in their .38 Model 10s, and he referred to it as the Widow Maker in the way you describe. By the way, the reason he sited for this was not so much the deficiency of the round, as the fact that more and more people they were shooting were so doped up they didn't know they were even being shot. Non doped up people fell fast when shot with the old LRN .38, so long as you hit center of mass.

Anyway, this guy told me that the NYPD officers got around this by carrying a back up weapon loaded with more effective ammo. Apparently the rules about what ammo they carried wasn't as strict with the backup weapon, or maybe they were cheating, I don't know, but his son carried a Beretta 92 as a backup weapon, loaded with jacketed hollowpoints, and if he ever had to draw to save his life, his service weapon would stay in the holster as he drew his "backup" weapon. I think lots of low level superiors just looked the other way at this sort of thing, knowing that the officers felt under gunned with the LRN in their service weapons.

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