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Continuing +P tests. More of the same plus something new.

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by SaxonPig, May 24, 2006.

  1. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Well-Known Member

    Still shooting the Remington +Ps through a pre-war S&W Military & Police .38 Special to see if anything happens. As you may recall after shooting a couple boxes of this ammo I was underwhelmed by its performance and wondered out loud what all the fuss and concern was over this load. This most recent range session didn't answer that question.

    Shot another box through the old M&P without any effect to the gun. I will keep shooting but given the ammo's obviously mild character I don't expect to see any effect. Just for fun I took along an old Model 40. This gun was made around 1958 or so and I wanted to feel what this load was like in a J frame pistol. One of the dire warnings I often hear and read about +P is the vicious recoil in a J frame.

    Yeah, right. As an experiment, I held the revolver with thumb and middle finger only, deliberately leaving the ring finger and pinky dangling in air and not gripping the gun at all with them. I ripped off five rapid fire shots holding the gun thusly and I had no trouble at all in maintaining control. So much for all that recoil.

    I am still of the mind that factory +P is nothing more than a gallery load. The pressure and power levels are actually quite mild and I have absolutely no idea how this ammo has attained the fearsome reputation it seems to enjoy in some quarters. Maybe at one time it was a stout load, and of course the specilaty companies like Cor-Bon may be putting out some stiff loads, but +P as sold by Remington, Winchester and Federal is my opinion little more than a good plinking load.

    I'll keep shooting it and report what happens. So far it's big hairy bore.
  2. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    There is plus-p and then there is PLUS-P!

    I don't think the stuff you're shooting in a pre-war S&W Military & Police is going to hurt it in the near term, but be careful to make frequent checks for developing cylinder end shake. If there is going to be a problem this is where it will start.

    You are correct in thinking that the Plus-P tag on most ammunition is to spur sales. This has worked to the point where it is next to impossible to find non-plus-p loads (excluding cowboy stuff). However it is always possible to get some real PLUS-P cartridges that could over time effect some older guns. While the fit, finish, and general overall workmanship was better the steel they used then wasn't equal to that used now.
  3. Jim March

    Jim March Well-Known Member

    The "+P" load you've chosen is junk. There have been endless discussions of which 38+Ps are worth looking at. The top contenders:

    * Cor-Bon 110gr and 125gr +P JHP

    * Winchester Supreme 130gr +P JHP

    * Speer Gold Dot 125gr +P JHP (OFTEN bought as components by smaller ammo houses such as Black Hills, Proload, Georgia Arms, others. Also available as a Speer load.)

    * Speed Gold Dot 135gr +P JHP (currently a Speer-only load)

    (Of the above two, the 135 is more effective but the 125 will probably put at least as much stress on the gun as loaded by any of the better ammo houses.)

    * Speer 125gr projectile loaded wild-child hot by Buffalo Bore.

    * Various 158gr LSWCHP+P loads by a variety of ammo houses. Ranked in order from mildest to wildest, I would list them like so:

    -Federal (junk)
    -Winchester (not terrible but not great either)
    -Remington (NOW we're talkin')
    -Cor-bon (no longer made but many still floating around - HOT HOT HOT)
    -Buffalo Bore (probably hotter than old Cor-Bons, turns a snubbie 38 into a raging beast, 350ft/lbs energy, well into 9mm and even 9mm+P territory)


    My advice: this test would be valid with Georgia Arms 125+Ps based on the Gold Dot projectile. That would be a very combat-effective load for that gun and not be TOO insane a stress test - and that load would be cheap enough in bulk to do this with.

    If *I* owned that gun and wanted to load it for self defense, I'd find some Remington 158+Ps - the plain slick lead load of higher weight would put less stress on the frame, throat and cylinder bores than any other good fighting load worth shooting. Second choice would be the Winchester 130, and if I had to carry it with Speer 135s I would. That's as hot as I'd go, avoiding all Cor-Bons other than the non+P 110s and avoiding all BuffBores.
  4. the naked prophet

    the naked prophet Well-Known Member

    What about the really sturdy revolvers like the Ruger SP101? Would those be able to stand up to the Buffalo Bore loads?
  5. Jim March

    Jim March Well-Known Member

    Heck yeah :).

    Any gun rated for 357Magnum can take the wildest, gnarliest 38+P you can score and not hiccup. Feed it the Buffbore stuff all you want.

    But it's not really cost effective. Here's why: there are now lower-powered 357s meant for smaller 357 guns that are just about a wash with the BuffBore 38+Ps in terms of effectiveness -=BUT=- cost about half :D.

    The Remington Golden Saber 125gr 357 is one such, and now there's the new 357Mag Speer Gold Dot 135gr "Short Barrel" load. I've fired the latter in my New Vaquero side-by-side with Gold Dot 38+P 135gr and Doubletap Ammo 125gr Gold Dot "full house Godzilla" 357Mag loads. The 135gr 357 was both mild and *accurate* shooting in that gun, and would make a splendid load in the SP101. It was only a bit more recoil than it's 38+P cousin. The Doubletap was clearly a MUCH more serious round and I don't even want to shoot more until I get some smooth grips on the New Vaq. I would bet the recoil on that and the Buffbore 158gr 38+P would be a wash with the Gold Dot 357 135gr. Cost on a box of Speer is half that of BuffBore.

    Where the Buffbores shine (and may well be worth the money!) is where you have a decent modern 38spl gun that can't take 357s...something like a late model S&W 10, or a steel J-Frame 38 of 1980s or later vintage. At that point the BuffBore loads are head'n'shoulders the BEST you can carry, period, end of discussion.

    In a weaker gun like my nice old '70s vintage Charter Arms Undercover? Toooo much, in my opinion. Gold Dot 135+P or Remington 158s is as hot as I'll go and those in moderation. Same thing on a Colt Dick Special, early J-Frame, early Taurus Titanium in 38Spl, etc.
  6. ChristopherG

    ChristopherG Well-Known Member

    Man, am I ever glad I reload.
  7. bg226

    bg226 Well-Known Member

    What about a 1970s S&W Model 15? Are they built strong enough for +P ammunition?
  8. RON in PA

    RON in PA Well-Known Member

    bg226: any 38 special Smith K frame revolver built after 1957 is OK with +P ammo and that includes your model 15.
  9. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Well-Known Member

    The two posts above illustrate my point. Here I am posting results (or lack thereof) of shooting factory +Ps in pre-war revolver and bg226 wonders about he newer K frame and Ron assures him that post 1957 guns are OK. The myths continue, being repeated in a thread that should disspell them.

    There are two +Ps; the Rem Win Fed which all have the same published specs and then the hotter versions from the specialty makers. I plan to exceed these hotter loads in my next test with handloads that should go about 1200 FPS but for now if anyone is wondering about the Rem Win Fed loads he can stop worrying IMO.

    BTW- the max pressure for the .38 Special is currently listed at 21,000 PSI and the Rem Win Fed loads run 18,500 so they are well below industry limits. Not sure why they are called plus anything other than comparing them to the pressure level of current standard ammo which is truly pathetic at 16,000.
  10. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Regarding older S&W model 10's and 15's...

    I have examined (and repaired) a fair number of police trade-in's that had excessive cylinder end-shake. Most of them had been fired with an unknown number of Plus-P rounds. These revolvers were by no means unserviceable, but they did have a condition that needed correcting. Unfortunately I had no way of knowing if the end-shake had come with the guns, out-of-the-box, or developed over time, or maybe some of both.

    Smith & Wesson had no control over the kind of ammunition their law enforcement customers (and others) might use. But to sanction the use of Plus-P ammunition in these older guns was to invite a flood of warrantee repairs. Obviously they took the safe road, and said "no."

    As for the ammunition makers, they told the police departments that using Plus-P ammunition, "might accelerate wear, but nothing worse." This the cops accepted as a fair trade-off because if the guns loosened up they could trade them in for replacements - your tax dollars at work.

    An "older Smith & Wesson," or whatever, can be anything from one made during the 1950's back to the early 1900's. When picking ammunition some judgement is clearly necessary.
  11. Jim March

    Jim March Well-Known Member

    Regarding the loose police guns: remember that in the '70s in particular, American police and ammo manufacturers got together and perpetrated a fraud.

    They brewed up "38+P+" rounds that were labeled "law enforcement only" and except for the shorter case length, were basically slightly toned down 357Magnums, and were MEANT to be fired from 357 guns. The stunt they were pulling was to be able to say in court "oh no your honor and jury, we would NEVER fire those evil monster baby-killing MAGNUMS at anybody, waddya think we are, Dirty Harrys?"


    Who else here suspects some of those mislabeled monsters ended up in 38spl guns?
  12. bpisler

    bpisler Well-Known Member

    I tried the cor-bon 158gr +P+ in a ruger SP-101
    chambered in 38 spl.I fired 5 rounds and found
    that i couldn't eject the spent cases.All of the
    primers were badly cratered and it took a dowl
    and hammer to remove the cases.
  13. Jim March

    Jim March Well-Known Member

    Yup. You got hold of some of the "police fraud ammo".

    Here's the odd thing: even if the gun is tough enough for them in theory, you still want a 357-length chamber to fire 'em in.

    See, when you fire off a round the pressure spike's highest point isn't where the round leaves the shell. It's where the round hits the constriction at the end of the cylinder bore. So what you think is the "total firing chamber size" isn't really the case size, it's based more on cylinder bore length.

    It wasn't safe to crank that thing off in a 38Spl size chamber, nor was it meant to be fired there.

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