.38 Special v. .22WMR


January 2, 2010, 08:04 PM
Hello everyone,

I know this may sound very noobish, but on wiki (I know, not very reliable source of info, but info nonetheless) it shows that the .22WMR actually has more muzzle energy than a .38 Special round. Here are the links:


How can this be? The .38 is a much larger cartridge in every aspect, how come it does not put more energy on target compared the .22WMR?


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David E
January 2, 2010, 08:27 PM
But how does it compare when fired from a 2" or even 4" barrel ?

The velocities shown are from a 20" barrel, and states that fact. Comparing rifle velocties with handgun velocities won't mean much, unless you're thinking about carrying a .22 magnum rifle instead of a .38 snubby.

The 110 JHP from Corbon churns up 269 ft lbs from a .38 Snubby barrel.

The 30 grain .22 magnum fired from a 1 5/8th's" barrel, at best, produces about 110 ft lbs.

It's an easy choice for most folks.


January 2, 2010, 09:17 PM
Didn't notice that. So a more proper comparison would be comparing a .22WMR rifle with a .357/.38 lever action style rifle shooting .38's out of it. Nevermind, stupid question I guess.


January 2, 2010, 09:22 PM
Nevermind, stupid question I guess.

Don't beat yourself up over it. No big deal. You wouldn't believe the number of folks that make the same error you did.

It happens. :cool:

January 2, 2010, 10:44 PM
A .22 WMR needs a minimum of a five inch barrel to achieve a velocity to muzzle energy ratio that will exceed the performance of a .22 LR hyper velocity round.

I know someone will slap up a chronograph result to show that some .22 WMR rounds are actually faster out of a short barrel than a .22 Hyper velocity long rifle but the problem the chronograph doesn't show is the WMR bullet sheds the velocity and energy much faster than the HVLR round until the barrel hits that magic five inch length where all things good come together and the velocity and muzzle energy remain greater than HVLR even when this round is fired from longer barrelled pistols.
The WMR velocity and energy continue to improve as the barrel gets longer than five inches.

It is well known that the .22 WMR when fired from a longer barrelled handgun can produce wounds that appear very similar to those produced by high velocity .38 Special and some .357 Magnum loads.

January 2, 2010, 11:04 PM
And velocity plays a disproportionate role in determining energy, while weight and diameter matter more in handguns than in a rifle, whose power level is more flexible and can actually use velocity to increase wounds significantly.

Old Fuff
January 3, 2010, 09:40 AM
Setting aside paper ballistics, Bill Jordan – a U.S. Border Patrolman and ace hip-shooting expert, with some real gunfighting experience – recommended the little .22 WMR cartridge for use in small, ultra-light snubbies carried as a back up or off-duty. That said, his duty sidearms were .357 Magnums, and with any gun he was an accomplished marksman who could hit exactly where he intended too. In his view, the light recoil and deep penetration of the full-jacketed .22 bullet could make an important difference. It should also be noted that Taurus offers small .22 snubbies with a 9-round capacity, not 5.

January 3, 2010, 09:57 AM
Ol' Bill might have had his opinions, but I'll trust a 158 +P .38 in a snubby before a .22 of any kind. I have, however, been thinking, lately, that a 4" NAA mini with a .22 mag cylinder would be a respectable gun when the .38 wasn't practical for carry. I'm not real impressed with the ballistics/penetration of my 1 1/8" .22 LR Mini. But, I'll probably wind up with a new Taurus TCP PT738 in .380. I got the hots for it. :D

January 3, 2010, 10:09 AM
Yes, Onmilo, you are right, I am going to slap up chronograph figures. From identical 2 inch barrel guns, 32gr CCI Stinger goes 1147fps, 40gr CCI Maxi-Mag goes 1144fps. The 40 gr. bullet has a better ballistic co-efficient than the 32 gr. bullet. So, no, the 22 magnum will not shed velocity and energy faster than the hyper-velocity 22lr. This is a marginal power difference, but it does exist.

Old Fuff
January 3, 2010, 11:04 AM
Ol' Bill might have had his opinions, but I'll trust a 158 +P .38 in a snubby before a .22 of any kind.

The trouble is that opinions expressed on this and other Internet forums are you seldom know exactly what the holder’s qualifications are. My ideas are often contrary to those held by many or perhaps most of our more… ah… tactical members. For that reason they are usually ignored, which is fine with me.

“Ol’ Bill” never posted any advise on the Internet so far as I know, but his qualifications did include some actual experience in exchanging lead in a hostile environment. For that and other reasons I paid attention to what he told me during several discussions we had, and I’m simply passing on what he said for those that might be interested. :scrutiny:

If you draw the line at Plus-P .38 Special that’s fine, and a lot of those who are reading this would agree with you. Personally I don’t, but on the other hand I don’t happen to own a snubby chambered in .22 WMR. But if I did, and carried it I wouldn’t feel that I was hopelessly underguned. Obviously Ol’ Bill didn’t either.

I guess it’s a case of deciding whose opinion carries the most weight, and neither Ol’ Bill nor I are likely to be on the winning side of any discussion on this subject.

But as for myself, I seldom am anyway, “but frankly my dear, I don’t give a hoot.” ;)

January 3, 2010, 11:25 AM
Here's what you could expect out of a little NAA BlackWidow 22 Magnum, showing different brands of ammo.


January 3, 2010, 11:31 AM
Some interesting information about .22 mag:http://www.brassfetcher.com/index_files/Page1504.htm

I have a S&W 351pd which when loaded weighs way less than a pound. It is also a lot of fun to shoot. By the way, how does the .22 mag "Shed," Velocity? Physics is physics.

January 12, 2011, 01:24 PM
I would also like to call on this "shedding velocity" comment. That os a ballistics coefficient question and a 40 gr fmj out of a 22 wmr does not have a lower bc than a 22 hvlr.

January 12, 2011, 01:54 PM
In the Kinetic Energy formula it states that mass is multiplied by 0.5 whereas velocity is squared. That means that velocity has a lot more significance than mass in determining bullet energy. Just remember, energy is not everything when it comes to stopping power.

Jim Watson
January 12, 2011, 02:07 PM
I recall Bill Jordan's recommendations on .22 WRM.
He wanted a specific revolver, a J frame with aluminum everything except lockwork and barrel bore, long before current Airlites at maybe 10 oz.
He was also considering it versus .38s of an earlier day, much less choice in ammo and little of that as high velocity hollowpoints.
His thought in deployment was to carry it in the left pants pocket. An adversary might reasonably be watching your right hand and you (or at least Bill) could pull the gun with your left hand and execute a border shift before the other guy realized he was under attack.

Chick Gaylord also commented in 1960 that the .22 WRM left a worse wound than a .38 Special's then still standard lead roundnose. He was in cahoots with a lot of NYPD and had access to the reports, even showing pictures of bullet holes in dead men in his book.

January 12, 2011, 02:20 PM
I think I remember reading something in a gun magazine column (maybe Bart Skeltons?) about a Bill Jordan demonstration when he was demonstrating his fast draw and pulled a .22 snubbie with his left hand.

I think the comparison is a light .22 magnum vs. a .38 special in the older loads like 158 gr or 130 gr not the newer +P or regular loads made special for .38 in the last ten years of so.

The point being a pre +P S&W snubbie using say the old 130 grain roundnose vs a .22 magnum ... similar results and easier recoil - manageability with the .22magnum.

IF I remember correctly.

I know that my old S&W lightweight bodygaurd model (not recommended for +P loads) recoils like a beast.

January 12, 2011, 02:33 PM
Anyone who discounts the potential of a .22mag hasn't stood in the dark and fanned 6 of 'em downrange.
I'm not saying it's comparable to a .38, but it sure is a sooped-up .22.

January 12, 2011, 03:28 PM
The 22 Magnum Hollow Point from a rifle will make a nasty wound. I dont know if it would be as effective as a 38 Special snubbie but its nothing to sneeze at. I live in GA and shoot at a wildlife area range. I always saw a lot of 22 Magnum empty cases out there. The 22 Magnum is much more expensive than the 22lr so I wondered why. One day a couple of guys were shooting their 22 Mag rifles and I asked them about it. Under GA game law you can hunt wild hogs during small game season on wildlife management areas using small game firearms only. That means 22 rimfire, shotguns with birdshot and muzzle loaders. They said the 22 Magnum worked fine on hogs with a head shot.

January 12, 2011, 05:53 PM
The 22 maggie is one of my favorite cal.in rifle or hand gun and Ive taken a lot of critters with it.
That said,Give me a 38spl.with 158gr LSWC-hp loaded warm any day over it
at self defence ranges.

January 13, 2011, 01:31 PM
The .22 mag. is a very potent round when fired from a rifle. Even from a revolver with a 6.5" barrel it's still pretty darn potent. In my youth my truck gun was a Winchester 9422M and I killed more hogs than I can remember with that old rifle.

January 14, 2011, 09:23 AM
If you have ever shot .22 Magnum out of a six inch or longer revolver, which I have, you might be pleasantly suprised that it can generate energy levels approaching that of the .38 Special.
Out of a shorter barrel revolver, not so much.
Ever wonder why there are more 8 3/8" Model 48 S&W revolvers than 6" Model 48s?
Because out of a longer revolver the figures get even better.

Shoot a .22 Magnum out of a 6" or 8 3/8" revolver and tell me the bullet isn't moving faster @ 50 or 100 meters than a bullet fired from a 2" revolver.

Go to 150 meters.

If you don't understand why, don't quote physics to me.

Oh, .38 Special is also reloadable and can be purchased for less money than .22 Magnum rimfire in most places, another nod to the Special.

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