Ballistic gelatin test results - Buffalo Bore 158gr (non +P) SWC-HC


Brass Fetcher
April 30, 2007, 06:56 PM
Many thanks to Buffalo Bore Ammunition for sponsoring this test.


Cartridge : Buffalo Bore 158gr Soft Lead SWC-HC (Part # 20C)

Firearm : Smith and Wesson 642 (1 7/8" barrel length)

Block calibration : All depths corrected (From 10.6cm @ 611 ft/sec)

Shot 1 - Impacted at 883 ft/sec, penetrated to 14.5" and was recovered at 0.399" average diameter. Bullet experienced moderate fragmentation, with the individual fragments penetrating deeply enough to be potentially effective.

Shot 2 - Impacted at 899 ft/sec, penetrated to 14.5" and was recovered at 0.429" average diameter. Bullet experienced moderate fragmentation, with the individual fragments penetrating deeply enough to be potentially effective.

Shot 3 - Impacted at 925 ft/sec, penetrated to 14.5" and was recovered at 0.389" average diameter. Bullet experienced moderate fragmentation, with the individual fragments penetrating deeply enough to be potentially effective.

Shot 4 - Impacted at 946 ft/sec, penetrated to 14.5" and was recovered at 0.400" average diameter. Bullet experienced moderate fragmentation, with the individual fragments penetrating deeply enough to be potentially effective.

Shot 5 - Impacted at 878 ft/sec, penetrated to 14.5" and was recovered at 0.437" average diameter. Bullet experienced moderate fragmentation, with the individual fragments penetrating deeply enough to be potentially effective.

Please note that the actual bullet cores (and a few large jacket segments) penetrated out of the back of the block and no more than 1" into polyester fabric placed behind the block. The pictures depict a bullet/fragments that penetrated 16.1" (the entire length of the block). Because the block did not calibrate as a 'perfect' block, a correction formula was applied to the bullet core only. The shape of the core was cylindrical, so that drag coefficient was used (from the book Bullet Penetration). Penetration in an ideal block should be slightly deeper than 14.5" for all bullets tested.

If you enjoyed reading about "Ballistic gelatin test results - Buffalo Bore 158gr (non +P) SWC-HC" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
Old Fuff
April 30, 2007, 07:16 PM
It appears to be an effective load, but at over 900 FPS with a 158 grain bullet, coming out of a 2" barrel, I'd say the load was a bit hotter then what used to be called the "standard load." (158 grain lead bullet/ 870 FPS / 6" barrel). But if the shooter can control the recoil and make fast, accurate repeat shots - that's what matters.

April 30, 2007, 07:32 PM
I wonder what the expanded diameter would have been if the bullets had stayed together better. As it is, the expansion is less than expected (about .6 vs .4 in). Maybe BB just needs to tweak their alloy.

What's with the 70 fps spread? Is that just a short barrel thing, or a chrono thing?

April 30, 2007, 07:39 PM
I like the large initial wound channel and then the deep penetration. That is the best of both worlds. It is hard to tell from the pictures but is the fragmentation the gas check or is it part of the lead bullet itself. Gas check have always shown up as UFO's in gelatin. The are sort of a bonus bisket cutter. Bill

April 30, 2007, 07:41 PM
Sorry for my being so rude, thanks agains JE223 for the hard work and thanks for BB for providing the funds. Bill

April 30, 2007, 07:46 PM
Fascinating. I'm amazed BBore managed to get so much fps out of a non +P. That's a serious hit for a special.

Brass Fetcher
April 30, 2007, 09:19 PM
@wcwhitey - I didn't see anything rude in your post... you'd have to do much better than that! :) The fragments were actually the lead of the nose area... the gas checks all appear firmly attached to the base of the bullet.

@PotatoJudge - I would assume that it was not related to the chronograph ... I use an Oehler 35, which has been a fine chrono, in my experience. But it has been shot a number of times ... :what:

April 30, 2007, 09:44 PM
The penetration is impressive and consistent. I'm not sure if the fragmentation is desirable or not and I was expecting a little more expansion. Based upon your experence and prior test results will you name a few of the most effective carry rounds for the snub revolver? Anyone else care to share? Thanks.

Jim March
April 30, 2007, 09:57 PM
Interesting. Not what I would have expected. On the plus side: it's expanding quickly, and throwing the large fragments DEEP. Real deep. Suggesting that they're staying with the main core for a long time, and then being spat off late.

So...while the final core diameter is only moderate, the bullet is probably travelling as a wide, expanded, "classic mushroom" hollowpoint for...hmmmm...7 inches or so?

John: are the copper base plates ("gas checks") staying with the core, or coming off?

The more I look at these pics, the more I think "damn, I wouldn't want to get hit with that". It's weird, but lethal stuff...

I'm now REAL curious as to how the +P version will behave. The words "explosive frangible" come to mind...which...given the size of the frangible "pellets" and the large core isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Yo Tim, waddya think? Is this OK, or do you want to harden up your alloy mix juuuust a tad?

ON EDIT: just realized, a +P version of this slug was already tested:

It held together and mushroomed to .577.

Soooo...either Tim went and softened the alloy for this lower-speed variant and maybe went a bit too far, or something was seriously off with one of the blocks of gelatin? (Sorry John, don't mean that as a "dis", but...these are weird results, ain't they? I want to see if Tim changed his alloy formula,)

April 30, 2007, 10:04 PM
That amount of fragmentation is surprising. I sure like the fact that 158 grains got pushed from a 1.875" bbl length that fast AND at standard pressures. BUT, appears some work needs to be done on the bullet composition.

Too bad Speer doesn't have a 158 grain gold dot SB like their 135 available commercially. Were that the case, no doubt Buff Bore could make perhaps the ultimate .38 special load for snubbies.

April 30, 2007, 10:30 PM
First of all let me thank you for the work and the posting of the results!

Second of all the results are exactly why I carry a 158 grain cast load in my snubby. 800 to 900 fps is not that hot and it is easily controllable.

14+ inches of penetration pretty much means a hole gets punched right through all the vitals. This would be more the case with a slightly harder semi wad cutter which would not expand as much. A very effective self defense round for a .38 special.

Since you don't see rifle class wound channels with a pistol the penetration becomes the key to effectiveness. This combo does that very well.

April 30, 2007, 10:38 PM
...the ultimate .38 special load for snubbies
If you build it , We will buy it.

April 30, 2007, 11:17 PM
Thank you for doing this test.

Buffalo Bore Ammunition ,
We appreciate you folks for sponsoring.

Old Fuff, Jim March or anyone.

What was the fps of the old 158 grain loads?

The reason I ask is to find out for clarification if some modern loads are now "backed down" and +P replicates loadings of yesteryear.


April 30, 2007, 11:28 PM
Me need. Anyone carry this stuff in Tucson, or is this order only?

Old Fuff
April 30, 2007, 11:46 PM

See my post #2... :neener: :D

Anyway, the pre-war so-called "standard" police .38 Special load of yesteryear consisted of a 158-grain lead round nose bullet, going 870 FPS out of a 6 inch revolver barrel.

In 1977 Winchester listed it at 855 FPS using the same bullet and barrel length. Remington and Federal were identical.

In 2002 Winchester said 755 FPS out of a 4" vented test fixture (vented to duplicate the cylinder/barrel gap). Remington was the same.

That year Remington .38 Special +P with a semi-wadcutter lead bullet weighing 158 grains was listed at 890 FPS out of the same 4" vented test barrel.

May 1, 2007, 12:39 AM

We did soften up the bullet for the standard pressure load, versus the +P load. We knew they were fragmenting, but after they had already penetrated quite deeply. They are expanding to rouhgly .60 cal. before the pedals peel off. These loads are about as nasty as a standard pressure 38SPL can be. I do think they recoil like a typical +P load though.

The large extreme spreads are due to the dynamics of very soft squishy bullets being fired out of revolvers. It is impossible to get bullets going this fast, with low extreme spreads when they are this squishy. If the chamber throats in the revolver are all exactly the same diameter, it helps some, but the forcing cone has a tremendous efect on these soft bullets too. Its a trade off we were willing to accept in order to get a load like this out of revolvers.

It should be noted that my 2 inch revolvers are flinging this bullet at just over 850 fps. None of mine are getting any where near 900 fps.

When/if the 150gr. HARD CAST full wadcutters get tested and posted here, you'll notice much smaller extreme spreads.

Many thanks to JE223 for the testing.

May 1, 2007, 12:39 AM
Old Fuff,
When you get my age you will make mistakes - just you wait and see... ;)

Thank you sir...:)


Jim March
May 1, 2007, 01:26 AM

Well, Tim's explanation matches the gelatin pics pretty well.

First thing, if this load is a softer lead compound, then John's testing isn't way off. That's good.

Second...well, one good thing about a bullet this soft is that if a given gun is loose, sloppy and otherwise shooting bullets at abnormally low speed, this round will STILL work well. Take a worst-case: a gun is only spitting them around 775-800fps. Betcha it'll still expand, and punch to 12" or so. That will git'r'done.

Some of us may have guns that due to the barrel, cylinder gap or whatever are spitting rounds slow. With this slug, we're still covered. So it's a round we can rely on. In contrast, the Remington is barely able to expand out of snubs. It does so, but...if anything goes wrong, be it a light barrier layer, heavy clothing, I would bet on this Buffbore standard pressure over it's cousin the Remington 158+P with a similar projectile shape.

Is it perfect? No. But in terms of standard-pressure 38, it's revolutionary.

May 1, 2007, 06:12 AM
Is it perfect? No. But in terms of standard-pressure 38, it's revolutionary.

I agree completely. I must get some for my S&W 337 snub!:)


Brass Fetcher
May 1, 2007, 10:16 AM
@Jim March - No 'dis' received. :) In fact, I think that it is good to be skeptical of all experimental results, including the results from my gelatin tests.

I wouldn't say that the results were unexpected (deviating from the performance of a fragmenting bullet), but they were better than most fragmenting bullets that I have seen, which tend to scatter small pieces of lead during a mostly-shallow penetration.

Old Fuff
May 1, 2007, 10:17 AM
Jim March:

I have a feeling that if those folks that insist on tight barrel/cylinder gaps (.003" - .004") start shooting soft lead bullets, they may have trouble getting the cylinder to revolve after a few reloads. Older revolvers had wider gaps (.006" - .010") for a reason. :uhoh:

May 1, 2007, 10:24 AM
Its amazing how they can get the 158 grain bullet to travel over 900 FPS from a 2" 642 with only standard pressure. It makes me wonder how much validity there is to labeling something +P. I currently use the Remington +P 158 gr LSWCHP, and from reading what Mr Camp has posted in his tests, this usually gets 800-850 FPS from the same gun. I find this load fairly stout in the recoil dept, not uncontrollable, but stout.

I was concerned about shooting the Remington "+P" load in my non magnum J-frame, but if the Buffal Bore is getting 50-75 FPS more speed with a standard pressure bullet, I guess I won't worry any more. I think I'll just stick with the Remington because I imagine recoil is more powerful with the BB load, and its more expensive. But for those who don't mind the price or recoil, it looks like this is a very good .38 special snub round. Thanks to JE223 for continuing to post these tests, it's appreciated.

May 1, 2007, 10:28 AM
Sundles, thanks for answering my questions. I'm a big fan of better performance at lower pressures (I'll take 45 Colt over 44 Mag that is), and these rounds fit the bill well. Your work in stuff like this makes me more excited about the future of ammo than new cartridges or fancy hollow points.

JE223, thanks for all the work you put into doing these tests well.

May 1, 2007, 10:41 AM

Any time.

Normal revolvers have way too wide a range of manufacturing tolerances.

I have a S&W Mt. Gun on a 7 shot L frame. I love this gun, BUT it has one chamber throat that is .003 bigger than the others and this particular chamber generates about 110 fps less speed than the other six chambers--bummer. IF I was uninformed, I would assume that the ammo was inconsistant. But in reality, it is this revoler that is inconsistant.

The only consistant revolvers I've ever found are Freedom Arms revolvers--of course they are $2,000.00+ too. I've ownded nearly a dozen of them over the years and currently have two of them in 454 and two of them in 475. Their chamber throats are very consistant within the same gun and their forcing cones are precisely done too.

Freedom Arms warns against shooting soft bullets out of their revolvers for the very reasons I've outlined here. Super soft bullets out of the 454 will "slug up" (obturate) when they hit the forcing cone at 60,000 PSI and then when the barrel tries to resize the bullets back down at this pressure, it actually splits the barrel. Of course the 38 SPL is only operating at 18,000 PSI, so no problem with barrel splitting in 38 SPL.

May 1, 2007, 03:36 PM
Good ammo, good outfit. Corporate communictions at its finest.

May 1, 2007, 03:56 PM
+1 to MartinS

May 1, 2007, 05:47 PM

Did you get my private message? Im not much of a computer geek. I tried to reply to you, but dont know if I did it right. Thanks for the kind words.


May 1, 2007, 05:52 PM
Yes I got it. Thank you very much for the quick reply.
I also went back to your website, and saw a paragraph addressing my question. I guess I missed it before!
Thanks again.

Gary A
May 1, 2007, 08:26 PM
Maybe you guys can explain something to me. First, I don't know how we can get "something for nothing", i.e. more speed, less pressure. Second, I have always believed that the problem with Plus P in the airweights was not only the pressure (back thrust) but the recoil of the more powerful/heavy round which would "stretch" the frame. After all, the cylinder in the airweight is the same strength as the cylinder in the model 36 or 60. If the BB load is getting that much speed, regardless of pressure, would it not exert an equal force backwards against the recoil shield, thereby increasing the chance of frame stretch? Believe me, as soon I am convinced std pressure BB is OK for my older-style J-frames, I'll buy some but I gotta try to understand what is going on.

May 2, 2007, 01:00 AM
Maybe you guys can explain something to me. First, I don't know how we can get "something for nothing", i.e. more speed, less pressure.
Pressure is measured at its peak. As I understand it; by using newer advanced powders you have a lower peak pressure, but you maintain that peak pressure for a longer duration. I believe the old loads, if the pressure was graphed, would rise quickly to a peak and then drop with equal speed, like hill or mountain. The new loads would rise, hold, and then drop off, like a plateau. That is my very basic understanding of the concept. Mr. Sundles please correct whatever I screwed up in that explanation.

May 2, 2007, 01:20 AM
JE223 - The usual Achilles heal of low velocity handgun bullets is expansion after clothing. I greatly appreciate you sharing this info with us. However, I think it could be more useful if you used the now standard "4 layer denim" test. From what I have seen bullets that fragment through bare gel actually do very well through covered gel.

Anyway, just curious why you have chosen bare gel?

May 2, 2007, 01:39 AM
Respectfully tiptoeing in among giants here.
Reading to learn what to carry in the revolver on my right side ... (see below)

JE, great work.
(Images remind me of those emerging from
quantum physics experiments in bubble chambers (

Buff-Bore/Sundles: Keep it up. Evolution in action.

Cartridge : Buffalo Bore 158gr Soft Lead SWC-HC (Part # 20C)

Firearm : Smith and Wesson 642 ...<Cheers from the 642 crowd>

Yeah; that's what I'm talking about (see above).



May 2, 2007, 02:08 AM
What a great thread! So much concrete info! Thanks to all who contributed.

May 2, 2007, 03:22 AM
JE223, awesome test, thanks! Is there one in the pipe for the new Buffalo Bore very hardcast full wadcutters?

Very hard cast 150gr. WAD CUTTER bullet 868 fps

May 2, 2007, 09:20 AM
Awesome information - Thank You. Could I be the first to request a sticky for all of JE223's ballistic tests, or even a sub forum?

Jim March
May 2, 2007, 10:42 AM
I second a sticky-link to John's site. Several, on several forums.

John's latest thing is, on each page at brassfetcher where a load is described, he also links to the THR forum thread where it's discussed. So no separate forum is needed, rather brassfetcher is already becoming "interwoven" with THR.

Now all we need are stickies. I'll try and work with the mods on that....

May 2, 2007, 07:58 PM
So they're just a swc with no hollow point?

May 2, 2007, 08:22 PM

No, they have a huge hollow nose, which is part of the reason the petals break off after some pretty deep penetration.

May 2, 2007, 08:51 PM
No, they have a huge hollow nose, which is part of the reason the petals break off after some pretty deep penetration.
Cool thanks. Any chance of seeing an iwba denim test? The fabric is often what ruins otherwise nice looking fbi loads.

Brass Fetcher
May 3, 2007, 11:52 PM
@DBR - Bare gelatin was chosen because it is the industry standard. The addition of denim fabric evaluates a bullets general ability to defeat heavy winter clothing and is quite useful for giving an idea of a bullets expected performance.

@PaladinX13 - Yes, the BB 150gr full wadcutter is the next to be tested. I have a test tomorrow, where the shooter will be bringing a 4" revolver and (I believe) shooting 1 each of the Buffalo Bore 125gr +P and 158gr +P... but the WCs will require three blocks to capture the entire path - that is why they were not tested earlier this week.

@MODS! :) I am still very excited about the sticky idea. I do have links to the specific THR threads with the gelatin results, on the appropriate pages on my website. Right now, I have one link to THR on the .38Spec page and almost all of the .17HMR and .22lrs pages done.

May 4, 2010, 01:45 PM
How come the description at the bottom of page says "Please note that the actual bullet cores (and a few large jacket segments) penetrated out the back of the block...."

I thought this bullet didn't have a jacket ?

May 4, 2010, 04:29 PM
I'm guessing he means the gas check.

And I love the heavy 158g +p loading out of my 2.5" k frame and 2" 442 powerport. Not too much snap, very easy to keep on target and an honest 1000+ fps out of both of them.

Buffalo bore has become my one and only for self defense out of a revolver.

May 4, 2010, 04:36 PM
Where-as the original specs of .38 Special in 1898, were 158 Grn RNL, 3f BP propellent, Baloon Head Case, 950 fps, out of a 6 in Barrel...I think the charge was 21.5 Grains BP.

I have tried to duplicate this, but the modern Cases do not hold as much Powder even with very forceful I was using a roughly .040 thick Lube-Wafer under the Bullet. I was getting low 9s in a 90 year old 6 inch Barrel Colt Army Special with Chronograph set up at ten yards from Muzzle...on 20.5 Grains hard compression.

Have not chrono'd 158-BP loadings in my two Inch S&W M&P Snubby yet...but, I would guess they will be in the low 6s.

I bought some Buffalo Bore...tried one round through the Chrono at ten yards, and, if I remember right, it was mid eights out of a 3 inch Model 10 S&W.

I have not miked the Cylinder Throats on it yet...been meaning to.

Been meaning to try and mike the BB Bullet also.

Eventually - for at least one or two Revolvers - I hope to both have uniform Cylinder Throats, a right-shaped Forcing Cone for Lead, and, to elect Bullet Diameters for moderately soft Lead-Tin Bullets, and for them to be about .002 or possibly .003 Larger than the Bore.

This then I expect will allow me the optimum fps for any given Lead Bullet loading...and, alleviate much of the so-far vagueries or fps spread I find in even quite careful uniform Cartridge Loadings through the Chronograph.

Anyone know what the actual diameter of the BB Bullets are?

May 4, 2010, 05:04 PM
Dredging up an old post for sure...but a good one too. If you want to take a closer look at a completely non-scientific review of the round and the +P version, follow the link in my sig.

BTW - IMHO, felt recoil of the standard pressure round from my 642 is much less than that of the Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 135gr.


May 4, 2010, 05:29 PM
Oyeboten, I'm not trying to insult your intelligence here in any way at all. You are correct about the powder charge weight being 21.5gr, however the 3F is refereing to FFFG Black Powder. FFFG is a lot finer in grain size as compared to FFG which commonly used in the larger BPC (Black Powder Cartridges) of the day. The ammo companies probably had to go with FFFG because 21.5gr of FFG would not fit into the .38 SPL case. Also I just got done reading a very interesting article about reloading the .45 Colt with the original 40gr charge of BP. You can most certainly get the full charge weight of the powder into modern day brass. What you will have to do however is order an special compression die that fits into your expanding die. IIRC you can order this from,150.html For what it is woth the author found that the 40gr charge was less accurate than his 35gr charge and only produced like 20 fps more when shot through his 7 1/2" revolver.

Black powder unlike smokeless will be just fine with compression. However it is not alright to leave air space between it and the bullet unlike some smokeless powders such as Bulls Eye. Also there is no need for a lube wafer jujst use a BP rated bullet lube which will do plenty to soften the BP fouling. BTW what Buffalo Bore ammo is it that you tried? The +P version or the Non +P version?
Also Buffalo Bore buys their bullets for the 158gr LSWCHPGC loadings from here they are the one and the same.

May 4, 2010, 06:18 PM
Hi 336A,

Thank you...

I was just trying to supply an addenda to Old Fuff's reply in which he had outlined Standard .38 Special 'Police Loads' of pre-War vintage...since, these were generally not as spunky as the original Loading had been...and, many of to-day's Standard Loadings of off-the-shelf 158 Grn RNL are not quite as spunky as the 1930s-1940s 'Police Loads' had been.

Hence, my 'where-as' lead in...( sorry if I had appeared to be out of continuity there...the 'where-as' was in reference as addenda to Old Fuff's mention, and not in reference to the BB Cartridges. )

Yes...I understand it is tacit, that when refering to traditional BP Hand Gun Cartridges, that BP would mean "3F".

I have a Lyman Tru-Line Junior Press, where, there are limits to how hard I will feel good to depress the Lever.

I have also a 'EZY-Loader', which would allow enormous pressure to be realized for it's vastly more robust build, and, this, probably, would allow me a 21.5 Grain 3F BP under a 158 Grain Bullet in .38 Special.

Whether your acquaintance's .45 Colt experiments showed less accuracy with a full charge of Powder, or, was implying issues of Cylinder Throats, Forcing Cone and Bore to Bullet fit, I don't know...

A different revolver may have had differing results.

Original .45 Colt BP Loadings, in a 7-1/2 inch Barrel, I think were over 1000 fps with 250-ish Grain RNL.

I used the ( Home made ) Lube Wafers simply because my Lubrisizer was not set up yet, and, I wanted easy cleaning and sure Bullet Lube for the Bore. I have been very pleased with them in Cap and Ball.

Once I have the Lubrisizer the rest of the way set up...I may elect to use the Bullet's Lube Grooves and forsake the Lube Wafer.
when seeking maximun BP Charges.

As for my personal Daily Carry, being a 3 inch S&W Model 10-6...I elected to carry the 'Buffalo Bore' Cartridge, of which I had bought a couple of boxes quite awhile back.

These are not the +P version, though I suppose the Model 10 would abide the +P alright, if they were.

I might send off for a couple of Boxes of the +P also...try a few through the Chrono...and elect to carry them.

My Hat is definitely off to Buffalo Bore, for producing and offering such a unique and inviting Cartridge...and for their time and trouble to have developed it.

If one carries a short Barrel .38 Special, it seems to me that the BB Cartridge would be a first choice for all round Carry.

May 5, 2010, 12:46 AM
I got lucky.. Maybe it was the micrometer that I take to gun shops with me. :cool:

I just got a Ruger NM Blackhawk .45 that has mic'ed out to be a perfect .450 throats with a nicely done forcing cone. Slugged and measured at the grooves, measures out at .449 at the cone and .448 at the muzzle. The thing should be an accurate shooter. It must have been a good day at the factory. The tolerances finally stacked in my favor for once. :o

Dropped in a powers custom bisley hammer/trigger, and a belt mtn base pin, But, The darned thing came with an aluminum frame. :cuss: Looking at getting a Keith #5 to replace the bud light can. :)

I'd love a set of sambar stag grips for it but I'll make a set from a Elk I took a few years ago.

Brass Fetcher
May 6, 2010, 07:47 PM
My fault. "Segments from the hollowpoint cavity". :)

If you enjoyed reading about "Ballistic gelatin test results - Buffalo Bore 158gr (non +P) SWC-HC" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!