How much power is lost with a 2" barrel?


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vito
April 4, 2013, 07:45 AM
Probably my favorite gun is the one I have owned the longest, a Model 19, 4-inch barrel that I keep loaded with 38+ Speer ammo for home defense. Despite my old, somewhat shaky hands, I can shoot this gun fairly accurately at self defense distances, i.e., under 10 yards or so. But in anticipation of concealed carry coming to Illinois, I purchased a S&W 640 a few years ago. Being a J-frame it is not nearly as nice to fire as my 19, but it certainly is easier to conceal. My question is about stopping power and how much of that I give up by firing the same ammo from a 2 inch barrel instead of a four inch barrel. I know I don't want to load it with 357mag since even at the range I find that caliber painful to fire, but I am assuming that with 38+p I still have enough stopping power to end a threat.

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Radagast
April 4, 2013, 08:09 AM
http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/38special.html

Billy Shears
April 4, 2013, 08:23 AM
My dad tells me a story from his days on the Norfolk Police Department (the same department I now work for). He said one day when he went to qualify, they had an FBI agent at the range giving a demonstration. The agent borrowed one of the detectives 2" barreled chief's special, placed the barrel almost against the windshield of an old junker car they had towed out there, and fired. From a distance of only about two or three inches, and almost a 90 degree angle, the .38 bullet failed to penetrate. This was back in the 60s, when Super Vel was out, but almost all police, including Norfolk, were still using round nose lead, 158 grain bullets in their .38s.

Of course, even out of a 4 or 5 inch barrel, the .38 firing that load was no powerhouse, but it does lose a lot of velocity out of a 2 inch barrel.

Greg528iT
April 4, 2013, 10:10 AM
If he did this knowing it'd not penetrate that's pretty ummmm brave. That slug was going to go somewhere and to hold the gun that close, HE was that close.

Did he then try and get a 38 slug to penetrate with a 5" barrel???

jmr40
April 4, 2013, 10:22 AM
Look at it this way, the ballistics published for most revolver rounds are from 8" test barrels. Most published centerfire rifle ballistics are from 24" test barrels. Most people would not be surprised to find a 30-06 with a 6"-12" barrel is going to produce velocities well below what the ballistics charts say, but are surprised to find revolvers with 2"-4" barrels do.

Shorter barrels can still be effective with proper ammo choices. The lighter 110-125 gr bullets at fast speeds from longer barrels work, but they need speed. If I were using a short barrel I'd be loading bullets on the heavier end of the spectrum since they are less dependent on speed to work.

rcmodel
April 4, 2013, 10:41 AM
From a distance of only about two or three inches, and almost a 90 degree angle, the .38 bullet failed to penetrateThat is just pretty hard to believe!!

We had an Ford old truck cab in a ditch on the farm a good 200 yards from the barn, and I put enough holes through it at that distance with a 2" S&W it looked like swiss cheese.

rc

natman
April 4, 2013, 10:49 AM
A 38 Special will lose from 150-300 fps from a 4" to a 2" barrel. That may seem like a lot, but remember a 2" barrel is only half as long as a 4" barrel.

You should only use a 2" if you really need that short a barrel to carry concealed. Otherwise go with the 4".

Certaindeaf
April 4, 2013, 11:00 AM
1000+fps with a 158 SWC will do very well..

https://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=291

The difference between a 4" and a 2" is close to 100fps with this round.
I see no reason to buy this load though if you reload.

Billy Shears
April 4, 2013, 12:15 PM
If he did this knowing it'd not penetrate that's pretty ummmm brave. That slug was going to go somewhere and to hold the gun that close, HE was that close.

Did he then try and get a 38 slug to penetrate with a 5" barrel???
Apparently the agent had done this enough times to know the bullet was going to get stuck in the windshield. I don't think he repeated the performance with a 5" bbl.

That is just pretty hard to believe!!
Actually, I find it pretty easy to believe. Look at the ballistics data: a 158 RNL bullet coming out of a 2" bbl isn't moving at much over a paltry 600 feet per second. I find it very easy to believe that will fail to penetrate a car windshield. I find it especially easy to believe since my department, just a few years ago, used 9mm S&W 6906s, and issued 147JHP ammo. The first sergeant I had was involved in a shooting, and he fired at the driver of a vehicle, his bullets struck the windshield and also failed to penetrate. This was not point blank, I believe it was a bit under ten yards away, but the 147 grain 9mm load was specifically developed, with input from the FBI after the infamous 1986 Miami-Dade shooting, to have better penetration than the 9mm silvertip that the agents had used in that shooting. An automobile windshield is pretty tough. It's two layers of tempered safety glass with a plastic sheet laminated between them to keep everything held together in the event of an accident. A bullet will go through the sheet metal of the car body a lot easier than the windshield. And remember, the .38 super and .38/44 and .357 magnum were all developed in the depression era partly because police were complaining that their .38 revolvers weren't doing a very good job penetrating the car bodies of the era.

Edit: I came across this site, and while I can't vouch for the accuracy of the data, the author looks to have been fairly methodical in his testing. If this data is correct, I may actually have overestimated the velocity of 158gr RNL .38 ammo from a 2" bbl at somewhere just north of 600fps.

http://www.yankeegunnuts.com/2012/07/30/38-special-ballistics-snubnose/

His data for Federal American Eagle 158gr RNL, standard pressure .38spl ammo shows an average velocity of about three hundred feet per second when fired from a 2.125"bbl! Wow. Now the old '60s vintage ammo would have been loaded a bit hotter, since they downloaded standard pressure .38s a bit in the early '70s when they developed the +P loads, but still...

Certaindeaf
April 4, 2013, 12:39 PM
I guess the moral of the story is to not use 158 grain RNL.. for about 100 years.

Radagast
April 4, 2013, 07:08 PM
Depends on if the wreck predates safety glass in cars or not. I would fully expect it to penetrate the older style of windows, and it would probably penetrate a modern window.

beatledog7
April 4, 2013, 07:50 PM
I invite you to look at it this way:

If a gun with a 2" barrel has a "power coefficient" of 100, and you can carry it concealed because of its short barrel, you're carrying power 100.

If a gun with a 4" barrel has a "power coefficient" of 120, but you can't carry it concealed because of its longer barrel, you're carrying power 0.

rcmodel
April 4, 2013, 08:28 PM
I would fully expect it to penetrate the older style of windows, and it would probably penetrate a modern window. .38 Spl LRN failed to penetrate windshield glass because it glanced off the sloping surface of the windshield glass.

But the OP said the officer giving the demonstration held the gun at nearly a 90 degree angle to the windshield.
From a distance of only about two or three inches, and almost a 90 degree angle,

I call Shenanigans.

Either the demo officer was using very downloaded ammo to prove his point?
Or the story got distorted in the retelling.

Again, I shot enough long range .38 Chiefs Special on the farm 50+ years ago against an old Ford truck body to be a true skeptic.

Stupid kids shot a hole through the back window of my wifes Dodge Durango from the street with a CO2 pellet pistol 5 years ago.

As well as one door skin of my Dodge RAM.

A 158 LRN at even 500 FPS will penetrate a car windshield at 90 degrees.
But it won't at 45 degrees.

rc

Certaindeaf
April 4, 2013, 09:46 PM
I think he forgot to tell the part where the car was going backwards at 400mph.

tipoc
April 4, 2013, 11:00 PM
From a distance of only about two or three inches, and almost a 90 degree angle, the .38 bullet failed to penetrate

I have to say I believe this to be inaccurate. A story told as an amazing one and retold and became even more amazing in the retelling, most likely.

I say this because I personally have fired through modern windshield glass from a S&W M640 Centennial with a 1 7/8" barrel from 4 feet away and seen it penetrate with a Remington 158 gr. LSWC +P round. I've also seen the same at 60 yards or so from a Colt Cobra with a 2" barrel.

I also dispute the information in the link posted earlier here...

http://www.yankeegunnuts.com/2012/07/30/38-special-ballistics-snubnose/

Here Yankeegunnuts reported average mean velocities from a snubby of 457.86 fps for CCI Blazer 158gr. +P TMJ ammo. And under 300 fps from Federal 158 gr. LRN ammo.

I believe these figures to be inaccurate.

If we look at the more believable figures here from Brassfetcher shown here...

http://www.brassfetcher.com/38%20Special/38%20Special%20Summary%20Table.pdf

We see a few 158 gr. loads moving at 900 fps and above from the same snubby barrels. A 158 gr. load from Remington is shown at 893 fps and another from Federal at 789 fps.

If we look at Ballistics by the inch, while they have no 158 gr. loads listed we do see other loads from short barrels and none are in the 300 fps range Yankeegunnuts mentions. Possibly his machine was off.

http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/38special.html

tipoc

Billy Shears
April 4, 2013, 11:32 PM
I think he forgot to tell the part where the car was going backwards at 400mph.
Uh, no smartass it's merely the retelling of an anecdote not a carefully controlled scientific experiment designed to eliminate every variable. The agent, as the story was told to me, was standing in front of the passenger side of the vehicle, body brushing up against the vehicle, holding the gun in his right hand, shooting at a point roughly consistent with the passenger position, thus, an angle of close to 90% in the horizontal plane. However most windshields, even in the 1960s, have a backward rake, which varies from model to model, but which means that in the vertical plane, there will be a signficant but unknown angle. Now I know my own father, and he's not a liar. If he says it happened, then it happened, as far as I am concerned. I don't know what specific variable combined to make it happen. But I do have independent data showing how unexpectedly low the power of the .38 RNL load was, particularly from a short barrel -- not just the date from yankeegunnuts, but the established fact that the .357 round was developed partly at the request of law enforcement, who were finding .38 revolvers inadequate against the cover provided by (gasp!) car bodies!

And as for the chronograph data: sure it's possible his machine was off. It's also possible it's perfectly accurate, and if people find that difficult to believe that's their problem. What's more likely, that a machine is wrong or that human perception is? You can decide, but a lot of what people think they know isn't so, and a lot of commonly held ideas are bunk. I've heard countless people tell me a .45 slug would "knock you on your ass" but if you know anything about physics, you'll know that's not so. It's entirely possible that the .38 slug could move at around 300fps, and the fact still not be all that noticeable because a .38 snubby is a belly gun, used the vast majority of time at bad breath distance against unarmored opponents, where even that low a velocity is adequate to inflict lethal wounds. After all, a Remington .41 rimfire Remington derringer would kill you across a card table, despite firing a 130 grain bullet at a measly 425fps. So why should it be any surprise that a 158gr .38 bullet moving somewhere between 300 and 500fps is deadly at similar ranges? And why should it also be any surprise that such a bullet would have a marked difficultly penetrating car bodies -- especially when this was a fact recording during the Depression era, and which led to the development of at least three cartridges designed specifically to address this shortcoming?

Certaindeaf
April 5, 2013, 12:03 AM
Uh, no smartass it's merely the retelling of an anecdote not a carefully controlled scientific experiment designed to eliminate every variable. The agent, as the story was told to me, was standing in front of the passenger side of the vehicle, body brushing up against the vehicle, holding the gun in his right hand, shooting at a point roughly consistent with the passenger position, thus, an angle of close to 90% in the horizontal plane. However most windshields, even in the 1960s, have a backward rake, which varies from model to model, but which means that in the vertical plane, there will be a signficant but unknown angle. Now I know my own father, and he's not a liar. If he says it happened, then it happened, as far as I am concerned. I don't know what specific variable combined to make it happen. But I do have independent data showing how unexpectedly low the power of the .38 RNL load was, particularly from a short barrel -- not just the date from yankeegunnuts, but the established fact that the .357 round was developed partly at the request of law enforcement, who were finding .38 revolvers inadequate against the cover provided by (gasp!) car bodies!

And as for the chronograph data: sure it's possible his machine was off. It's also possible it's perfectly accurate, and if people find that difficult to believe that's their problem. What's more likely, that a machine is wrong or that human perception is? You can decide, but a lot of what people think they know isn't so, and a lot of commonly held ideas are bunk. I've heard countless people tell me a .45 slug would "knock you on your ass" but if you know anything about physics, you'll know that's not so. It's entirely possible that the .38 slug could move at around 300fps, and the fact still not be all that noticeable because a .38 snubby is a belly gun, used the vast majority of time at bad breath distance against unarmored opponents, where even that low a velocity is adequate to inflict lethal wounds. After all, a Remington .41 rimfire Remington derringer would kill you across a card table, despite firing a 130 grain bullet at a measly 425fps. So why should it be any surprise that a 158gr .38 bullet moving somewhere between 300 and 500fps is deadly at similar ranges? And why should it also be any surprise that such a bullet would have a marked difficultly penetrating car bodies -- especially when this was a fact recording during the Depression era, and which led to the development of at least three cartridges designed specifically to address this shortcoming?
Uh, that was a joke, dillweed.

Billy Shears
April 5, 2013, 12:20 AM
Uh, that was a joke, dillweed.
Alright, let me ask you a serious question: how am I to know that? In face to face conversation, one has body language and tone of voice to make it clear. Even over the telephone, one has tone of voice. Over the internet, you have words on a screen, nothing else. Words which can, and very probably will, be taken simply at face value. What is it about that that clearly differentiates jocular good humor from sneering sarcasm? What makes it clear? Absent other cues, people tend to take words at their face value; it's the simplest course of action, and people tend to take it. So how am I to know that I should make an exception in this case? Given that I don't know you or what kind of sense of humor you have, and I can't see your body language or hear your tone of voice, what would inform me that you are joking as opposed to sneering?

I have as much sense of humor as the next guy, but when it looks like I am receiving sneering dismissals or ridicule, I will respond with as much asperity as the next guy also. And I won't apologize for it either. People should keep a respectful tone. I try to. And if the situation is such that derision and sarcasm can't be clearly distinguished from good-natured humor, they ought to be careful in their wording so as not to give offense where none was intended.

rcmodel
April 5, 2013, 12:28 AM
Guys!

It is hard to read a persons comments or intentions on-line.
And that sometimes leads to hard feelings.



You & I didn't agree on that .38 Spl windshield deal either.
But it didn't escalate to dillweed or smartass now did it?
Not here on THR anyway.

Can we all agree to disagree, and Just all get along??

rc

JRH6856
April 5, 2013, 12:57 AM
Anybody have any pet loads they would like run through QuickLoad for a comparison of FPS in 2" and 4" barrels? I'll be glad to run them. YMMV in actual use but the differential should still be close.

rcmodel
April 5, 2013, 01:28 AM
O.K.
Just for arguments sake.

CAUTION = OVER CURRENT SAAMI .38 SPL PRESSURE STANDARDS.
One load I have used for about 50 years in 2" (actually 1 7/8") J-Frame S&W's is a 158 grain Keith SWC over 5.0 grains Unique.

I can GayRonTeeYa it will punch through a car windshield from anything except a glancing angle.

rc

Certaindeaf
April 5, 2013, 01:36 AM
.how am I to know that?.
Maybe the part about a car going backwards at 400mph would be a clue.

JRH6856
April 5, 2013, 01:53 AM
CAUTION = OVER CURRENT SAAMI .38 SPL PRESSURE STANDARDS.
One load I have used for about 50 years in 2" (actually 1 7/8") J-Frame S&W's is a 158 grain Keith SWC over 5.0 grains Unique.

That load charts at:
2" barrel: 594 fps 124ft/lbs 16326 psi
4" barrel: 859 fps 259ft/lbs 16326 psi

difference: 265 fps 135ft/lbs

FWIW:
1 7/8"barrel: 563 fps 111ft/lbs

tipoc
April 5, 2013, 03:23 AM
Stephen A. Camp passed away awhile back but his books and his website, operated by his family, go on. In addition to being an advocate for the Browning Hi-Power he was also a large fan of J frame S&Ws. He wrote a book on them and much of it is at his website.

He chronographed a good many rounds. He mentions here...

http://hipowersandhandguns.com/Snubnose.htm

and here...

http://hipowersandhandguns.com/Feedingthe38Snub.htm

That he tested more than once both Federal and Remington 158 gr. +P LSWCHP rounds from his model 42 and 642. Both with the standard sub 2" barrels. He averaged about 900 fps from the Federal and 838 fps or so from the Remington. There was variation of course. But well above the 300 fps reported above or 600 or so fps. What Camp reported is in line with Ballistics by the Inch, Brass Fetcher and other sources as well as readings I've seen.

tipoc

JRH6856
April 5, 2013, 04:09 AM
In this THR post from 2011, RDub tries to duplicate .38Spl factory loads (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=585725).

He found it difficult to establish a baseline as the performance of the factory powders seemed to vary widely from lot to lot and with changes in ambient temperature.

Remllez
April 5, 2013, 10:07 AM
Let Us not forget that for all it's apparent shortcomings the venerable .38 special in all its various designs has put many a bad guy in potters field. New bullet designs have increased most all calibers effectiveness and the .38 caliber is still one of the most carried to this day.

Billy Shears
April 5, 2013, 10:41 AM
Maybe the part about a car going backwards at 400mph would be a clue.
And then again maybe it wouldn't, since a person engaging in ridicule might say exactly the same thing. Experts who've done research on the topic estimate that only something around 10% of communication comes from the words alone in a person's message. As much as 60-70% comes from body language, and the rest from paralinguistic cues. I repeat, remember that on an internet forum, all the rest of those cues are taken away, and you are left with just the 10% with which to interpret meaning. Consider what someone who doesn't know you and your sense of humor is likely to infer from your words alone when all that other stuff is taken away.

Look, I like the .38. I've got several. I've even owned 2" bbl versions, though I don't own one anymore. I'm well aware of how many people the cartridge has put in the dirt. But then again, so have the .32ACP and .380ACP -- two rounds which can't meet the FBI protocols of expansion plus at least 12 inches of penetration in ballistics gelatin. Most of the time the shortcomings of these rounds don't show up all that well because they are small weapons used, the vast majority of the time, at very close range, against assailants who are not wearing body armor or crouching behind cover, and their lack of power doesn't handicap to any significant degree in those situations -- they're still capable of reaching a vital organ and killing you, with good shot placement. But even from 4 and 5" bbl revolvers, the .38 158gr RNL bullet developed a reputation as a poor stopper, so much so that the FBI worked with ammunition manufacturers to develop the +P loading of the cartridge, which was called "the FBI load" when it was introduced. An unspectacular performer is not improved for being fired from a barrel half the normal length, and depending on the powder used, it can lose a lot of velocity out of a barrel that short.

That's why I generally carry a full size gun. When I do carry a small .38, these days I make it a Colt Detective Special with a 3" bbl, and with the 125gr Federal nyclad cartridges in the chambers.

tipoc
April 5, 2013, 01:27 PM
But even from 4 and 5" bbl revolvers, the .38 158gr RNL bullet developed a reputation as a poor stopper, so much so that the FBI worked with ammunition manufacturers to develop the +P loading of the cartridge, which was called "the FBI load" when it was introduced.

I agree with you here that the round nose lead bullet (RNL) did develop a poor reputation (though it was used for a very long time by law enforcement). But I believe the reason was the bullet shape and form and not so much the loads or the guns they were fired from.

JHP rounds and LWCHP perform better in defensive loads than the LRN type. The latter are known for penetration with minimal disruption of tissue. The former are designed to damage more tissue.

Folks don't go to the 38 Spl. and snubby wheelguns because they are looking for the most powerful rounds available. They choose snubbys because of their light weight and small size and load them with the best ammo they can handle well. That way they have something useful on them when need arises.
There are a number of good loads and bullets available these days.

tipoc

Billy Shears
April 5, 2013, 02:04 PM
I agree with you here that the round nose lead bullet (RNL) did develop a poor reputation (though it was used for a very long time by law enforcement). But I believe the reason was the bullet shape and form and not so much the loads or the guns they were fired from.
I don't think bullet shape is enough to explain it. The RNL configuration was no different than bullets that had been in use, in the .38 and all other revolver calibers, for over a century. Wadcutter and semiwadcutter bullets had been around a long time (the first wadcutter, the "Himmelwright wadcutter" was introduced in 1900); if they offered a noticeable step up in performance, it's difficult to see why they would not have been widely adopted for police and other defensive use. They weren't. The somewhat sharp shoulder of the wadcutter might make for a slightly wider permanent wound channel, but not much. Non-expanding bullets all make simple, narrow tracks through the body, unless they are launched with enough power to tumble or fragment, which they're not out of any .38spl, snub-nosed or otherwise. If a bullet like that hits the central nervous system or a vital organ, it will kill you, despite being low powered. And as I've said, even a lower powered bullet of this type, like the old .38spl RNL, or the .41 rimfire derringer, or the .38S&W, or many other old cartridges, were used for self defense, because there were no better loads to be had, and they could be fired out of compact, easily concealable guns. But concealed carriers then made the same tradeoff most of them still do today: they give up some power for the benefit of having a small gun that can be concealed and taken where a large one can't. For most self-defense shootings, this is a viable tradeoff, given the short ranges, and lack of body armor or cover in most such shootings. None of that means for an instant that those old guns, and some current ones, aren't very underpowered guns that will have a lot of trouble penetrating even very light cover, should it be encountered.

Deer_Freak
April 5, 2013, 02:14 PM
I have a hard time believing a 38 with a 2" barrel wouldn't break the windshield of a car. My uncle was drunk and mad he shot the window of his car with a red ryder bb gun and shattered it. I know a 38 from a 2 inch barrel is stronger than a red ryder bb gun.

Billy Shears
April 5, 2013, 02:39 PM
I have a hard time believing a 38 with a 2" barrel wouldn't break the windshield of a car. My uncle was drunk and mad he shot the window of his car with a red ryder bb gun and shattered it. I know a 38 from a 2 inch barrel is stronger than a red ryder bb gun.
You can believe what you want. I have seen for myself the crime scene photos of the car that the first sergeant I had when I came out of the police academy shot with a Smith & Wesson 6906 from several yards away. There were several 147gr. 9mm bullets imbedded in the windshield. I'm apparently not the only one who's seen something like that either (scroll down to the third post): http://www.ak47.net/archive/topic.html?b=5&f=4&t=55329 Interestingly, the load the author of that post mentions, a Winchester 147gr. 9mm black talon, is the exact same one my department used to issue when I came on, and I believe is the same one the sergeant used in the shooting I saw the photos of.

Windshield penetration is dependent upon a large number of variables: the distance, the angle of impact, the velocity of the projectile, the sectional density of the projectile, the thickness of the particular windshield, the condition of the windshield (any previous damage?), etc. Sometimes a bullet will go through, sometimes it won't. Even when it does, laminated auto glass is a thick, tough barrier, and bullets fired from full size service weapons, shooting service calibers out of standard length barrels at close range and almost direct angles, you will get deflection, partial fragmentation, and velocity loss of the bullet. http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/buickot2.htm.

Folks, there are documented cases of bullets not penetrating car windshields: http://crossmap.christianpost.com/news/about-1116

Given these facts, I wonder why some people have such a hard time believing a soft lead bullet fired from a short barrel, whose velocity could conceivably been reduced to as low as a mere 300 feet per second, would not penetrate.

JRH6856
April 5, 2013, 05:41 PM
I have a hard time believing a 38 with a 2" barrel wouldn't break the windshield of a car. My uncle was drunk and mad he shot the window of his car with a red ryder bb gun and shattered it. I know a 38 from a 2 inch barrel is stronger than a red ryder bb gun.
Just an observation, but a soft lead bullet deforms a lot easier (losing energy in the process) than a hard steel BB. And shattering glass is not the same as penetrating it.

vito
April 5, 2013, 06:14 PM
Maybe I should have asked a different question: does anyone know of a real case where a person defending themselves with a j-frame 38 failed to stop an attack due to the low power of the bullet? I know that for many, many years this gun was the standard off-duty carry for LEO's across the nation. If common off-duty shootings had left the BG in good shape I would have assumed that police forces would have quickly changed to another gun or caliber or cartridge. If a 38 in a 2 inch barrel is ineffective, what about a 9mm or 40S&W from a typical 3 inch barrel semi auto? And how much difference is there between the 38+p and a 357mag? (But I just dislike shooting those 357mag, even from a heavier revolver!)

Billy Shears
April 5, 2013, 06:29 PM
There were probably lots of cases where a bad guy was not stopped due to the low power of the bullet. But that would have been true with many calibers, not just the. 38. And most of the failures to stop would have been due to a failure to hit a vital organ. Sometimes, no doubt, that would have been because a low powered bullet failed to penetrate deeply enough after passing through a barrier, heavy clothing, an arm, etc., but most of the time it would have been because of poor shot placement. And the reason low powered bullets remained in use for small, concealable guns is because most of the time they did have enough power to get deep enough into the body to bit a vital organ. More power wouldn't have made much difference, except to make the guns bigger and less concealable or harder to shoot. Remember, these were the days when there were no expanding bullets. There just wasn't much way to increase stopping power all that much. In full size revolvers, the extra power did more to improve range and barrier penetration than stopping power. Handguns are and were actually poor manstoppers. It's still true today, and was even more so with non-expanding bullets.

Certaindeaf
April 5, 2013, 06:51 PM
.it can lose a lot of velocity out of a barrel that short..
A hundred fps isn't really a "lot". It only takes 45 fpe to kill a man.

JRH6856
April 5, 2013, 07:14 PM
Maybe I should have asked a different question: does anyone know of a real case where a person defending themselves with a j-frame 38 failed to stop an attack due to the low power of the bullet? I know that for many, many years this gun was the standard off-duty carry for LEO's across the nation. If common off-duty shootings had left the BG in good shape I would have assumed that police forces would have quickly changed to another gun or caliber or cartridge. If a 38 in a 2 inch barrel is ineffective, what about a 9mm or 40S&W from a typical 3 inch barrel semi auto? And how much difference is there between the 38+p and a 357mag? (But I just dislike shooting those 357mag, even from a heavier revolver!)

I have seen reports of actual failure to stop by .38spcl from 4" barrels, and I have seen recommendations from Massad Ayoob in favor of .38spcl (+P) in a 2" barrel. I currently have no links for either but a Google search will probably yield a hit or two.

FWIW, the .38 Long Colt 150gr yields 777fps from a 6" barrel and its failure to stop Moro tribesmen in the Philippines was the major impetus for the US Army switching to the .45ACP.

The report of one such incident reads:

"Antonio Caspi, a prisoner on the island of Samar, P.I. attempted escape on Oct. 26, 1905. He was shot four times at close range in a hand-to-hand encounter by a .38 Colt's revolver loaded with U.S. Army regulation ammunition. He was finally stunned by a blow on the forehead from the butt end of a Springfield carbine." (James, Garry, Colt New Army & Navy Revolver, Handguns Magazine)

Bullet design has changed in 100+years and there are now bullets that can be effective from a short barrel.

rswartsell
April 5, 2013, 07:59 PM
It's really this simple, the loss of velocity and hence useful power of snubbies is easily overstated. IMHO it has been overstated in this post at some points.

It IS however there and ammunition selection should be done with this in mind. They are effective defense against humans weapons when stoked with appropriate ammunition (and in the hands of a practiced shooter, shot PLACEMENT is King) which is being manufactured by a few suppliers (if you can get any at all nowadays).

I recommend Speer Gold Dot 135 gr. Short Barrel +P. Other snubbie users have their favorites.

Bottom line we (.38 snubbie users) are doing just fine thanks with our wimpy little snub .38's. The rest is minutiae and forum argument fodder.

gtmtnbiker98
April 5, 2013, 08:02 PM
I find it very difficult to rely on the momentum or kinetic energy of a round alone to stop a threat. What about shot placement? I don't care if it is 600 FPS or 1500 FPS, if you place that round in a vital area, the threat will stop. Period. Carry only what you can accurately deploy in a sufficient caliber and move on.

jim8115
April 5, 2013, 11:32 PM
I think the answer is.....it depends.
I can tell you this for a fact;
158 Hornady LSWC/HP 4.3 Grains W231 @ 1.455
from a 4" Model 10 Average 780 FPS
from a 1.7" Model 642 730 FPS

So, in this case, it holds the velocity pretty good out of that short barrel
At any rate, I dont want to be behind a windshield that is being shot at ..

JIM

rswartsell
April 6, 2013, 12:18 AM
As my post stated, effective DEFENSE against humans. By any estimation, shooting through windshields-or car bodies is an OFFENSIVE tactic, for which as has already been stated .357 and .38 super were developed in the '30's.

Penetration of this sort is not what .38 snubbies are made for and so I take such arguments against them as a straw man. Could a snubbie do it? Yes, with the correct ammo, likely so. That would be the entirely INCORRECT ammo to use for defense against humans scenario trying for expansion at reduced velocities. As Clint said, "a man's got to know his limitations", AND what his goal is. If I want to shoot through windshields like Purvis chasing Dillinger I will use my 6" DW .357 with Buffalo Bore 180 gr. Hard Cast Gas Checks.

At 10 feet against a strong-arm holdup artist, that round will kill him AND the retail clerk across the street that didn't even know it was coming.

What silly arguments we concoct and what fundamental misunderstandings of why tools, guns among them, come in so many varieties and variations.

tipoc
April 6, 2013, 03:13 AM
Myself and a few others have posted links to sites with actual reports on velocity of 38 Spl. rounds fired from snubbies earlier in this thread. Here are a few more such reports.

http://www.snubnose.info/docs/snubby_ballistics.htm

Reports that 38 Spl. bullets fired from snubbies routinely have velocities of 300 fps or under 500 fps. are greatly exaggerated, to put it mildly and diplomatically.

The OPs original question of "How much power is lost with a 2" barrel?" has been answered. The answer is not as much as some think.

tipoc

rhinoh
April 6, 2013, 03:34 AM
The windshield story- hmm not sure. But I do recall when in about 1969 my father had an Iver Johnson (IIRC) .38 snubbie.
We went out to a local dump and were shooting at an old washing machine from 10 ft....
I was astounded when it would not penetrate the metal skin but my .22 rifle would:scrutiny:

tipoc
April 6, 2013, 03:42 AM
A few other resources...

A short video on the role of the snub nosed revolver in law enforcement.

http://www.officer.com/video/10245399/defensive-snub-revolver-part1

A little more Stephen Camp ...

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/Snubnose.htm

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/Short%20Look%20at%20Snubs.htm

A few more links...

http://www.snubnose.info/links.html

tipoc

Billy Shears
April 6, 2013, 09:53 AM
Reports that 38 Spl. bullets fired from snubbies routinely have velocities of 300 fps or under 500 fps. are greatly exaggerated, to put it mildly and diplomatically.
You are clearly refraining outright from calling the guy who tested those loads on yankeegunnuts a liar, but that's just clearly the inference you expect everyone to draw. However, if those are the results that guy got with his chronograph, then those are the results he got with his chronograph. The other loads he tested were more in line with his and other people's expectations, so what is more likely? That his machine somehow developed the ability to the 158gr. RNL from all other loads, and malfunction specifically for them? Or that he simply recorded the accurate results he got? And what motivation would he have to lie about it? What's his angle? What would he get out it?

And I still don't understand why people find this so inconceivable. It is entirely possible that the loads he tested, Federal American Eagle, were loaded with a relatively slow burning powder that loses a lot of velocity from a short barrel, because the bullet leaves the muzzle before combustion is complete. That may perfectly well be an atypical result for .38spl ammo, but it is by no means beyond the realm of possibility, as you imply. Add in the fact that the cartridge dates from the black powder era, and is sized for that less efficient propellant, and is really overly capacious for modern powders, and you have another factor that can contribute to incomplete combustion, which an reduce velocity still further. Add in that this is recently made ammo, and it's also quite possible that Federal used a slow burning powder for that lot, because they figure nobody's going to use RNL these days for much except practice, so who cares if it's loaded with slow burning powder that won't be ideal for short barrel? It depends on the powder, but I repeat, there's nothing that makes this impossible.

tipoc
April 6, 2013, 12:41 PM
Billy,

It's good to read that you agree with me when I said that if a fella says or implies that loads for the 38 Spl. routinely get only from 300-500 fps of velocity from a 2" barrel that they are mistaken, or wrong or fooling themselves or a combination of those.

That may perfectly well be an atypical result for .38spl ammo, but it is by no means beyond the realm of possibility, as you imply.

You agreed with me that the results the fella got for 38 Spl., if accurate, are atypical.

I called no one a liar. I said they were wrong. A very different thing.

That his machine somehow developed the ability to the 158gr. RNL from all other loads, and malfunction specifically for them?

In your posts on this thread you've made a mistake I think, equating the RNL profile bullet with specific loads. RNL bullets are not a load, they are a type bullet as you know. They can be loaded up or down for more or less power. They are not now and never really have been a good defensive bullet design. There are better bullets available. Some loads of 38 Spl. can be quite week and some powerful. The bullet doesn't change that. You say this a few posts back. Then above you repeat the mistake.

I'm not clear what you are arguing Mr. Shears.

Snubbies loaded with a good round of 38 Spl. with a good bullet can be useful defensive handguns. They have their place and the person that carries one, trains with it, and knows their limitations won't be underarmed for most circumstances.

tipoc

Certaindeaf
April 6, 2013, 12:55 PM
Anything is possible. Any physicist will tell you that there's a 100% certainty that monkeys will fly out of your butthole.. given enough time. A .38 at 300fps, regardless of barrel length is an outlier/oddity.
pretty much don't happen however you cut it

Billy Shears
April 6, 2013, 01:07 PM
In your posts on this thread you've made a mistake I think, equating the RNL profile bullet with specific loads. RNL bullets are not a load, they are a type bullet as you know. They can be loaded up or down for more or less power. They are not now and never really have been a good defensive bullet design. There are better bullets available. Some loads of 38 Spl. can be quite week and some powerful. The bullet doesn't change that. You say this a few posts back. Then above you repeat the mistake.
I'm well aware of all this. I'm also well aware that it's quite possible, even perhaps likely, that ammo manufacturers, back in the '50s or '60s, would be using different powders, perhaps even from one lot to another from the same manufacturer. Absent collection and comparison testing of old ammo we'll never know. And what I am also asserting is perfectly possible, is that the most common load of those days -- the 158gr. RNL lead bullet, was routinely loaded with a slower burning powder optimized for a longer barreled weapon, such as uniformed officers carried, since those were the ones who did the most shooting with that type of ammunition. Target shooters tended to shoot wadcutters, and civilian shooters didn't tend to shoot as much back then -- it wasn't at all uncommon for someone to buy a box of ammo with their gun, and 20 years later still have that same box in the bedroom dresser next to the gun. That's exactly what my grandfather did. He kept a .38 in his bedroom that I know had ammo in it (RNL, natch) that he'd bought decades earlier (it was corrosively primed). And if the police ammo of the time was loaded with a slower burning powder intended for 4 or 5" barrels, it could lose a very surprising of velocity out of a 2" chief's special, conceivably enough to drop velocities as low as 500 fps or even lower.

At any rate, as I said, my father saw this demonstration, and I've never known him to be a liar, so I believe him. Moreover, the way he describes it makes it sound like something the agent had done before, because he was clearly expecting the result he got.

Hondo 60
April 6, 2013, 04:30 PM
natman - I have several snubbies & several 4 inchers.
You said "A 38 Special will lose from 150-300 fps from a 4" to a 2" barrel. "

All I can say is, I've never seen that much of a difference.
100 fps, yes, but not 150-300.

Just my experience, YMMV

JRH6856
April 6, 2013, 05:12 PM
natman - I have several snubbies & several 4 inchers.
You said "A 38 Special will lose from 150-300 fps from a 4" to a 2" barrel. "

All I can say is, I've never seen that much of a difference.
100 fps, yes, but not 150-300.

Just my experience, YMMV
I have, and it depends a lot on the powder. A slow burning powder can easily lose 250-300fps going from a 4" to 2" barrel. The faster the powder, the less the difference.

k_dawg
April 6, 2013, 06:28 PM
btw: keep in mind you need to compensate for the difference in 'barrel length' between most revolvers and semi-automatics.

For S/A as well as the ballistis by the inch, the 'barrel length' is measured from tip of barrel to breach face. On revolvers, it is the length of the barrel only. You need to add the length of the cylinder to compare apples to apples.

IIRC, the cylinder length on a .357magnum is almost 1.7".

So, a 2" revolver is ~~ 3.7" semi-automatic in this caliber.

JRH6856
April 6, 2013, 06:59 PM
Good point, k dawg. Now how do you compensate for the barrel/cylinder gap which the S/A doesn't have? :scrutiny:

SlamFire1
April 6, 2013, 07:24 PM
I have shot a boat load of 38 Special ammunition in my snubbies and in a 4" K frame Smith. I did a lot of chronographing.

You can see just how much velocity you lose with a standard pressure load:



Colt Detective Special mfgr 1963 24-Jul-99 T = 100 F !
158 gr LRN 3.5 grs Bullseye thrown, CCI primers mixed cases

Average 751 fps
Standard Deviation 32 fps
Extreme Spread 90 fps
High 805
Low 715
Recorded shots 22

158 LRN 3.5 grs Bullseye WSP Mixed cases 8-Jan-06 T = 52 F
Ave Vel = 675.9
Std Dev = 18.6
ES 96.18
High 723.9
Low 627.7
N = 50

158 LSWC 3.5 grs Bullseye WSP Mixed cases 8-Jan-06 T = 58 F
Ave Vel = 706.8
Std Dev = 15.55
ES 65.87
High 742.9
Low 677
N = 50


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Pistols%20various/ReducedColtDSChromed833724DSCN5855.jpg


Colt Detective Special mfgr 1974
158gr LSWC 3.3 grs Bullseye CCI 500 primers, Dillon Loads 17-Oct-93 T = 65-70F
Ave Vel = 682 fps
Std Dev = 33
ES 96
High 733
Low 637
N = 6


Colt Cobra 2" barrel 30-Jan-05 T = 42 F
158 gr LRN 3.5 grs Bullseye thrown, Fed 100 primers mixed cases

Average 696.6
Std Dev 20.49
Extreme Spread 72.93
High 745.5
Low 672.6
13 recorded shots
shoots point of aim when properly held, otherwise goes left




Taurus M85 B2UL 2" Barrel

158 LSWC 3.5 grs Bullseye thrown, Mixed Brass WSP 11-Dec-04 T = 54 F
Ave Vel = 686.3
Std Dev = 13.63
ES 58.48
High 718.8
Low 660.3
N = 30
shot little high and centered


158 LRN Master Factory Ammo 30-Dec-04 T = 56 F
Ave Vel = 698.2
Std Dev = 20.56
ES 105.8
High 753.5
Low 647.6
N = 50
shot 6" high centered,until barrel leaded



158 LSWC 3.5 grs Bullseye Mixed brass Fed 100 30-Dec-04 T = 56 F
Ave Vel = 706.2
Std Dev = 23.45
ES 81.94
High 748
Low 666.1
N = 48
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Pistols%20various/DSCN5643.jpg

S&W M638-3 Airweight Bodyguard

148 LWC Lead 2.7 grs Bullseye thrown Mixed Brass WSP
18-Mar-07 T = 52 F
Ave Vel = 611.6
Std Dev = 22.04
ES 75.92
High 648.1
Low 572.2
N = 25
little high

158 LSWC 3.5 grs Bullseye Mixed brass WSP
18-Mar-07 T = 52 F
Ave Vel = 611.1
Std Dev = 9.64
ES 28.05
High 626.3
Low 598.3
N = 32
4-6" High accurate

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Smith%20and%20Wesson%20Pistols/ReducedM638AirweightMarkingsDSCN-1.jpg

S&W M637-2 2" barrel

158 LRN 3.5 grs Bullseye WSP Mixed cases
6-Apr-07 T = 48 F
Ave Vel =679
Std Dev =16.48
ES 56.11
High 698.2
Low 642
N = 18

125 Lead BBRNFP 4.0 grs Bullseye Lot BE 532 Mixed cases CCI 500
6-Apr-07 T = 48 F
Ave Vel = 763.9
Std Dev = 22
ES 78
High 806.5
Low 728.5
N = 15
Point aim OK

125 Lead BBRNFP 4.0 grs Bullseye Mixed cases WSP
9-Apr-06 T = 59 F
Ave Vel = 760.4
Std Dev = 27.33
ES = 82.1
High = 798.9
Low = 716.8
N = 19


125 Lead BBRNFP 4.5 grs Bullseye Mixed cases WSP
9-Apr-06 T = 64 F
Ave Vel = 827.9
Std Dev = 23.21
ES = 92.27
High = 879.4
Low = 787.1
N = 20


125 Lead BBRNFP 4.5 grs Green Dot Lot 178 Mixed cases CCI 500
6-Apr-07 T = 48 F

Ave Vel = 813.2
Std Dev = 44.55
ES 176.5
High 903.3
Low 726.8
N = 24
v. accurate at 7 yards, POI at 25 yards, little leading

125 Lead BBRNFP 5.0 grs Green Dot Lot 178 Mixed cases CCI 500
6-Apr-07 T = 48 F

Ave Vel = 867.3
Std Dev = 57.54
ES 178.1
High 966
Low 787.8
N = 21
v.accurate at 7 yds, 1-2" above POI at 25 yards, more leading

125 JHP (W/W) 4.5 grs Green Dot Lot 178 Mixed cases CCI 500
6-Apr-07 T = 48 F

Ave Vel = 760.4
Std Dev = 68
ES 56
High 205.1
Low 885.4
N = 13


125 JHP (W/W) 5.0 grs Green Dot Lot 178 Mixed cases CCI 500
6-Apr-07 T = 48 F

Ave Vel = 808.9
Std Dev = 56.82
ES 95.46
High 914.2
Low 712.8
N = 20
25 yds accuracy OK, accurate POI @ 7 ydshttp://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Smith%20and%20Wesson%20Pistols/CheifSpecialDSCN5011-1.jpg








4" S&W M10-5

148 LWC Valiant 2.7grs Bullseye W/W cases WSP
19-Apr-09 T ≈ 60-65 F

Ave Vel = 696.2
Std Dev = 12.04
ES = 48
High = 721.3
Low = 673.3
N = 32
v accurate, about 2" low, no leading, mild recoil

158 LRN Valiant 3.5grs Bullseye Mixed cases WSP
19-Apr-09 T ≈ 60-65 F

Ave Vel = 758
Std Dev = 22.86
ES = 100.9
High = 810.5
Low = 709.5
N = 32

158 LRN 3.5grs Bullseye Mixed cases WSP Gamma Chrony
5-Aug-06 T = 100 F

Ave Vel = 796
Std Dev = 13.89
ES = 55.24
High = 813
Low = 757.9
N = 23



158 LRN 3.5grs Bullseye Mixed cases WSP
22-Dec-07 T = 52 F

Ave Vel = 768.6
Std Dev = 15.58
ES = 48.52
High = 787.6
Low = 739.1
N = 18



125 Valiant BBRNFP 4.0 grs Bullseye Mixed cases WSP
9-Apr-06 T = 59 F

Ave Vel = 863.4
Std Dev = 30
ES = 70.78
High = 907.5
Low = 836.7
N = 6
Windage centered accurate
Elevation at least 4" low

125 Valiant BBRNFP 4.5 grs Bullseye Mixed cases WSP
9-Apr-06 T = 64 F

Ave Vel = 945.6
Std Dev = 27.28
ES = 75.21
High = 995.2
Low = 920
N = 6
Windage centered accurate
Elevation at least 4" low
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Smith%20and%20Wesson%20Pistols/M10SW.jpg

JRH6856
April 6, 2013, 08:38 PM
FWIW, I used QuickLoad to generate a comparison of seven different powders with loads standardized for 18000psi (high+P) and standard pressure at 14875.

Powders in both tables are sorted from fastest to slowest. As you can see, QL calculates an average loss with +P of 249fps with a 2" barrel. and with standard loads a loss of 238fps. Also note the burn rates and muzzle pressures. Red Dot gives the most complete burn in a 2" barrel with less pressure loss between 2" and 4". It is also the lowest velocity loss, but still over 200fps.

It is also worthwhile to note that higher pressures give a more complete burn in a 2" barrel with all powders, with an average burn of 91% for +P over 87% with standard pressure.

It may be no surprise that Bullseye gives the highest velocity from a 2" barrel at both pressure levels, while from a 4" barrel it is Herco. Unique is in second place at for both lengths at both levels and perhaps would be the best choice for a single load for both barrel lengths.

As always, with QL, YMMV in real life.

rcmodel
April 6, 2013, 09:01 PM
Thanks for the QL info.

I still do not see any of those 300-350 FPS figures though?

As a point of interest?
The old timey cop gun loads were in fact loaded with 158 LRN bullets over Bullseye powder.

And they didn't go only 300-350 FPS out of a snubby either!

rc

tipoc
April 6, 2013, 09:16 PM
Over to Ballistics by the inch as well as the other sites previously linked to they do know how to measure the length of an actual barrel and tehy do use real guns as well as test barrels.

This is not the case from the real world guns section of Ballistics by the Inch which you can see here...

http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/38special.html

As is usual they measure the length of the barrel from the cylinder to the end of the barrel.

I encourage folks to go there and see the amount of velocity actually lost from the drop from a 4" to 2" barrel.

tipoc

JRH6856
April 6, 2013, 09:16 PM
rcmodel, According to QL, any loads producing only 300-350fps are extremely light loads producing low pressure. For example, 2.8gr of Unique will produce 5836psi to drive that 158gr LSWC at 350 fps. For Bullseye, it is 2.4gr for 350fps at 5645psi. You might be able to get that using only a small rifle primer. ;)

JRH6856
April 6, 2013, 09:44 PM
tipoc, As noted on the BBTI page, cylinder gap makes a difference. Basically, what it appears BBTI are saying is that a longer barrel loses pressure through the gap that with a shorter barrel, would be lost through the muzzle, since the longer the bullet is in the barrel, the more pressure is lost via the gap. (QuickLoad does not account for this.)

I once saw some pressure tests with a transducer fitted to a revolver accompanied by HS photos showing that at the moment of peak pressure, the bullet is in the process of jumping the gap and thus creating a sealed environment for the pressure to act on the bullet. As pressure begins to drop, the bullet clears the gap and pressure begins to bleed off so it drops even faster than if the gap remained sealed. But just how much faster, nobody really seems to know.

tipoc
April 6, 2013, 09:59 PM
It's interesting to note that my Lyman, Lee and Sierra catalogs have no listings for a load going so slow as 300-400 fps with any weight 38 Spl. bullet. As was stated earlier any such speed from a factory load would be an anomaly.

tipoc

arizona98tj
April 6, 2013, 10:37 PM
My carry .38 Spl carry ammo, 125gr +P Speer Gold Dots, average 913 FPS out of my 2" Ruger LCR. I've not shot in my 4" Security Six.

However, 130 gr WWB out of my 2" S&W 637 runs 792 FPS while the same load out of my 4" Security Six hit 848 FPS. 130 gr Military ball runs 795 FPS out of my Security Six.

rcmodel
April 6, 2013, 10:43 PM
For example, 2.8gr of Unique will produce 5836psi to drive that 158gr LSWC at 350 fps. For Bullseye, it is 2.4gr for 350fps at 5645psi.Yes, I am aware of that.

But factory loads the old cops carried were loaded with nearly half again that amount of Bullseye.

Try 3.5 - 3.7 grains for instance.

I still contend there were no 300-350 FPS .38 Spl factory loads shot out of snub-nose guns.
Unless the windshield tester intended them to be.

rc

JRH6856
April 6, 2013, 11:23 PM
I still contend there were no 300-350 FPS .38 Spl factory loads shot out of snub-nose guns. Unless the windshield tester intended them to be.

And I still completely agree. That is my point. 300-350fps can only result from a seriously (perhaps intentionally) reduced load.

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