Is .38 special recoil from a gp100/sw686 similar to 9mm recoil from a glock/xd?


:( I live in Cali :( :(
May 29, 2011, 06:32 AM
I heard that semi-auto pistols generally have a slightly lessened recoil as a result of their slides getting blown back by the recoil as part of the action, which absorbs some of the kick, with all else being equal (like, if you were comparing a revolver vs a semi-auto pistol and the lb/ft force of bullets tested were identical and weight of the guns were identical)

However, the .38 special is a much weaker round than a 9mm, about half as powerful in muzzle energy on average for the .38 special than the 9mm on avg

And a ruger gp100 or s&w 686 is bigger and heavier than the typical glock/springfield xd pistol

So what I'm wondering is, does the weaker .38 special round, and the heavier revolver weight more than cancel out the fact that you take the kick full on in the revolver, compared to a 9mm in a semi-auto pistol where some of its kick gets absorbed by the action of the slide, or does it still generally feel like a harder kick?

I'm a bolt action rifle shooter, and the only pistols I've ever shot were .22lr, so I have no experience with "real" pistols that actually have some decent recoil and am not sure what to expect.

For the past year or so my right arm has been pretty messed up with both elbow problems and shoulder problems, so the less recoil the better

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May 29, 2011, 06:51 AM
The felt recoil of the .38 in your example will be noticably less, especially if you use cushy grips. The GP 100 and S&W 686 are rather common so you should be able to try one to see how it works for you. Most shooters are accomodating to others.

Friendly, Don't Fire!
May 29, 2011, 07:04 AM
^^^^^What he said.

May 29, 2011, 07:27 AM
The recoil from a pistol is way different from revolver's recoil. You can't compare them. I think that you will find that .38Spl fired from such a revolver has very pleasant, enjoyable recoil.


Vern Humphrey
May 29, 2011, 07:34 AM
Kinetic energy (the energy of a moving object, such as a bullet) is proportional to the square of the velocity;

E (kinetic energy) = m (mass) X V (velocity) Squared

Momentum, which is what we are dealing with when we discuss recoil, is a straight linear equation;

M (Momentum) = m X V

So kenitic energy favors a light, high velocity projectile, whereas momemtum does not.

If we take typical loads;

.38 Special 158 grain bullet at 966 fps, we get momemtum of 0.68 pounds-feet and kenitic energy of 327 foot pounds.

9mm 125 grain bullet at 1234 fps, we get momemtum of 0.63 pounds-feet and kenitic energy of 388 foot pounds.

So the .38 Special would have slightly more recoil (for handguns of equal weight), and somewhat less kinetic energy. When you add in the recoil-absorbing effect of the automatic pistol, the difference in recoil would be noticeable.

May 29, 2011, 08:20 AM
Ummmmm.....yeah. Vern does have a good point, but, as he points out in parenthesis, all of his calculations assume a gun of equal weight.

But, a Glock 17 weighs 22oz.
A GP100 with 4" bbl weighs 40oz.

So it's not really a fair comparison. The FELT recoil will be significantly less because the weight of the gun absorbs a lot o that recoil.
Also, just as important in my experience, is that the grip shape is different, and if a revolver is going to fit your hand and fill your palm with more surface area, that aids tremendously in the reduction of felt recoil.

May 29, 2011, 08:21 AM
Problem is felt recoil various a lot from individual to individual. It is a highly personal thing, heavily dependant on how the gun fits to your hand. And that would be one advantage of the revolver; you have more flexibility with the size, shape and material. Heck, if you have the skills and tools, you could carve up a set of custom stocks fit perfectly to you.

That said, I find even .38+P to have less felt kick from a 4" or so medium frame revolver than a medium sized polymer 9mm. The 9mm autos also produce more muzzle rise, for me anyway. In an all-steel 9mm, it is about the same to me, though the auto still flips it's muzzle up more.

Your best bet would be to rent examples of both and see for yourself.

May 29, 2011, 09:49 AM
Much less felt recoil from 38. To some people the snapping of the slide is also a distraction and complicates the shooting experience. If you are after less go with the revolver that weighs more and you will enjoy.

May 29, 2011, 09:52 AM
The Glock and XD you asked about are a typical size/weight for a plastic-framed gun, but you have to remember that there are also all-steel, full sized 9mm pistols, too, such as the CZ75 and Browning HP, both of which have very little felt recoil, and have enough mass that the shifting weight balance that happens when you fire off 18 rounds from a gun is less noticeable than it might be in a plastic framed gun.

Now, the 9mm load listed above (124 gr @ ~1250 fps) is hardly the only one around. In fact, that is one of the hotter 9mm loads - typical velocity for a 9mm NATO ball round, or +P hollowpoint. For someone with a "messed up" arm/hand, the recoil difference between that hot load and a more sedate ~1100 fps 115gr bullet, or ~900-1000 fps 147 gr bullet might be quite noticeable.

On the other side of things, 4" .357/.38 Specials are quite typical, but you can further reduce felt recoil by going to a 6" gun, which will absorb felt recoil with additional weight, and reduce muzzle flip because the weight is in the muzzle, and reduce muzzle blast because the barrel is longer (allowing more complete combustion=quieter) and the blast is farther from the shooter's face because the muzzle is 2" further away. Another method of reducing felt recoil in the revolver is to use lighter than normal bullets. Instead of that 158 gr slug loaded to 900-1000 fps, go with 100-130 gr, just making sure they are loaded to standard or light target levels (148 gr target wadcutters would work here, too, even thought they aren't much lighter in actual weight).

Now, if you do what I've suggested - use a heavier gun, with lighter bullets going more sedate speeds, your felt recoil will be less. But, depending on how your shoulder and elbow problems manifest themselves, the heavy gun might not be that tolerable to hold up for extended periods of time. Never fear! There are solutions.

One would be to use a lighter gun in a lighter caliber. The Ruger Single Six can be found chambered in .32 H&R Magnum, which will run all .32 centerfire revolver cartridges except the .327 Magnum. The Ruger SP101 has been available in the past in the same chambering, and there are other light revolvers chambering the .327 Magnum, which will run all the .32 centerfire revolver cartridges. You would just then select the level of .32 load you could tolerate the recoil from. The light gun would, obviously, reduce the weight your arm would have to hold up, and light loads, like the .32 S&W Long, are very mild. There are other revolvers out there chambered specifically in the .32 S&W Long cartridge, but they are mostly going to be older "finds".

If that still doesn't work, either because you can't find an acceptable weapon, or because you find that even the .32 recoils too much, then shoot the .22 and be glad that it is available. Many people have been restricted to the .22 because of recoil concerns, either temporarily or permanently, and have been able to continue to enjoy shooting and have been able to defend themselves because they had a .22 available.

If that does not appeal, there is another solution. If it is problems with the right elbow and shoulder that cause you to seek out the lightest recoiling 9mm or .38 Special, consider this radical approach: use your left hand instead. If the left hand has no such issues, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

It is not nearly the same issue to learn to shoot with the off-hand with a pistol that it can be for learning to use a long-gun. All you have to do is tip your hand and head slightly to accommodate your dominant eye, as a cross-dominant shooter must who chooses to use dominant hand and dominant eye, and get to shooting. You may then learn to shoot whatever level of recoil in a handgun you find that you like/prefer, and can shoot whatever handgun/cartridge you prefer.

Good luck! Let us know how it goes, or if you have any other questions.

harmon rabb
May 29, 2011, 10:31 AM
recoil from 38spl out of a gp100 is much, much less than 9mm from something like a glock.

May 29, 2011, 12:17 PM
All that fancy math fails to take into consideration time.

Recoil from revolvers hits you all at once.
Recoil from an auto is distributed over a brief period of time.

A 38 oz 45acp revolver will have more felt recoil than a 38 oz 45acp 1911 even though they have the same 'mathematical recoil'.

Grip shape also plays a big factor.

May 29, 2011, 06:06 PM
I played a trick on a friend a few months ago. Took my GPs out and had been shooting .357 125gr Remingtons from Wally World, that's all anyone seems to stock locally. I had some .38s as well. He asked how the recoil was and for the .357's I didn't have a problem so I decided to load alternately .38s and .357s in the cylinder and had him shoot. First one was the .357 and he was a little shocked but not bad, could handle it. Second was a .38 and after it just "clicked" he looked at me and called me a name with a smile.

As he told me, it was a little more than shooting a .22 but much less than his 9mm.

May 29, 2011, 06:20 PM
Guys, all that thinking and explanation for a .38Spl fired from a full size revolver? This men shoots with rifles - I think, that he knows something about recoil and how to handle it...


Jim NE
May 29, 2011, 06:25 PM
I guess I'm not sensitized to that, because I don't seem to notice much difference Between my k frame .38's and my 9mm. (Standard rounds in both.) Keep in mind, I use the tiny little stock wood grips on the revolvers because they're smaller and I like they way they look.

But I just purchased a KelTec P11 a few days ago, so I would imagine the difference in recoil will be a BIT more noticeable :)

May 29, 2011, 07:24 PM
They are totally different plastic guns feel more snappy (more, and faster muzzle rise.) A standard .38 out of a full size .357 is like having your gun fart. I know crude explanation. But it really is anti-climatic, almost a let down.

May 29, 2011, 08:38 PM
Boris, he's the one who asked.

May 29, 2011, 08:58 PM
the .38 will have a out the same recoil all other things equal. I wouldn't say the .38 sp is half as strong though. 50 fps or so aint all that bad. I will mention that the m&p pmm I shot had no noticeable recoil. Granted it was running ball practice ammo and I had just finished a few mags of sd .40 out of a much smaller and lighter gun...

May 29, 2011, 10:09 PM
I stink at math,but in my experience the Gp100 in .38 is much more pleasant to shoot than a G17. I own and shoot both often.

May 29, 2011, 10:18 PM
The gp100 is steel and not a part steel part tupperware construct. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you toss some lead off the front then there will be recoil that works along the concept of MV=MV. The velocity of powder and the charge will change this a bit but for a pistol it isn't worth thinking about.

The GP100 will exhibit less felt recoil than a than a plastic semi.


Hondo 60
May 29, 2011, 10:49 PM
I have a S&W Kframe & a 9mm pistol.
In my experience the recoil is MUCH heavier in the 9mm.


May 30, 2011, 03:50 AM
My 3 inch GP100 shot with much less recoil than my XD9SC. I found 38 special pleasurable, and 357 decent. I would say the feeling, for me, was that a hot 9mm would compare more to a 158 grain 357 mag.

May 30, 2011, 07:37 AM
I would put the recoil of a 9mm in a striker fired pistol at about the same level as a light .357 magnum in a 6 inch GP100.

May 30, 2011, 11:58 PM
I find it very hard to answer the OP since IMO he made a lot of assumptions I don't agree with. (like the .38 Special being a much weaker round than a 9mm)

:( I live in Cali :( :(
May 31, 2011, 12:39 AM
Well, the average .38 special round has a muzzle energy of about 200 lb/ft (some a little more some a little less, but the average is right at about 200 lb/ft)

The average 9mm round has a muzzle energy of about 400 lb/ft of energy (some a little more some a little less, on avg about 400 lb/ft though)

So on average, 9mm is about twice as powerful as .38 special.

I'm sure if we compared the absolute weakest 9mm round to the hottest .38 special round, they would be about the same in power though, so, maybe if you were thinking off the top of your head of some abnormally weak specific 9mm round and were thinking in your head of some abnormally hot .38 round, then I can see why you would disagree with a statement of "9mm is a much higher energy round than the .38 special" or whatever, but, if you go by the averages, the AVERAGE .38 special is a LOT weaker than the AVERAGE 9mm, being right about half as strong, which is a pretty significant difference.

May 31, 2011, 12:41 AM
My 8 and 10 year olds fired our GP100 with .38s.
The 10 year old enjoyed it and it was hard to get it away from him.
They didnt enjoy 9mm Largo from my Star Super nearly as much.
.38 special from a GP100 is about as mild as I have personally fired other than a .22.


Spec ops Grunt
May 31, 2011, 12:54 AM
.38's have more of a push, 9mm have more of a snap.

.357's have a pushy snap. :D

May 31, 2011, 02:58 AM
If you measure power solely by muzzle energy, sure, the .38 seems weak compared to the 9mm.

If you measure by penetration and tissue damage, that's something else entirely, and they are a lot more similar than the paper numbers saying "xx ft lbs vs. yy ft lbs". Rah, rah, bigger is better.

You were talking about messed up joints in your dominant limb. When that is a consideration, you shouldn't have your weapons' power level as your primary concern. You should have being able to tolerate shooting it, and being able to hit well with it, as your primary concerns.

Hits trump ft lbs.

May 31, 2011, 02:57 PM
Well, the average .38 special round has a muzzle energy of about 200 lb/ft (some a little more some a little less, but the average is right at about 200 lb/ft)

The average 9mm round has a muzzle energy of about 400 lb/ft of energy (some a little more some a little less, on avg about 400 lb/ft though)

So on average, 9mm is about twice as powerful as .38 special.

I'm not going to argue with you and this will be my only post on this subject.
Using Speer Gold Dot ammo as a test and their posted velocities here's the data:
9mm 124gr @1150 fps = 364 ft/lbs
38 Spl 125gr @945 fps = 248 ft/lbs

Hardly twice the energy. Sure it's more but twice??

BTW, the post above mine by "sixgunner455" is a very good one.

May 31, 2011, 03:04 PM
"...comparing a revolver vs a semi-auto pistol..." It's an apples and oranges thing.
"....38 super from a GP100..." Is unsafe. .38 Super and .38 Special/.357 Mag are not interchangeable. You have no headspace.

May 31, 2011, 03:06 PM
Energy has nothing to do with recoil - force that is needed to move a bullet (bigger weight - bigger force) and to accelerate it to certain speed does.


May 31, 2011, 03:29 PM
The great thing about a full sized .38 special is you can learn to shoot it with wadcutters. (Very low recoil lead bullets) and work your way up to 'defensive loads'.

This is what you are looking for:

There isn't really an equivalent in 9mm. Most 115-124 grain bullets will feel the same recoil wise in a given auto pistol.

May 31, 2011, 03:43 PM
"....38 super from a GP100..." Is unsafe. .38 Super and .38 Special/.357 Mag are not interchangeable. You have no headspace.

Not quite. .38 Super is semi-rimmed, and will quite happily headspace on it. May not be a good idea, pressure may not be compatible, may not be accurate, etc, etc, but headspacing is not an issue. Old .38 Super semi-autos headspaced on the semi-rim. Only when it became a competition cartridge did the builders start making them to headspace on the case mouth for better accuracy - but still, that was in semiautos.

May 31, 2011, 05:15 PM
Sunray, thanks for the catch... should have been ".38 special from a GP100".
Fixing it now.


May 31, 2011, 05:28 PM
6 shots from a full size revolver in .38
are easier to shoot than 17 from a Glock 9mm.

for a reason.

The revolver is overbuilt and steady.
The Glock is maxed out as a combat firearm.

Both are great. The Revolver is tame in that configuration.

June 1, 2011, 10:17 AM
I think this thread should have been started in handgun general discussion, because you're not getting an unbiased opinion here in revolver world - lol

A glock 17 is a long way from being "maxed out" lol that gun shoots like a dream. Shooting .38 out of an airweight j frame revolver is pretty harsh. Shooting 9mm out of a g26 is a walk in the park. When you move down to a pf9 sized gun the recoil starts to hit the .38 Jframe feel. Now shooting .38 out of a full size revolver is quite pleasant. I agree that the semi auto seems to spread out the felt recoil of the gun by the action of the slide absorbing a good bit. Plus it hits your hand higher up.

So in short I wouldn't worry about recoil out of any compact or above 9mm or out of any full size metal revolver. You're good to go!

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