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.357 mag vs .38 sp: can police forensics tell the difference?

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by jpruitt, Nov 27, 2019.

  1. tbob38

    tbob38 Member

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    Possibly, IF you could determine the manufacturer of the bullet and that manufacturer used different thickness of jacket and/or hardness of the bullet core. Pretty slim chance, I would think though.
     
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  2. 94045

    94045 Member

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    I looked but I couldn't find the pressure for the Buffalo Bore 158 gr .38/44 (Hot .38 Special for Large Frame Revolver) but it ran about 60 fps slower the Speer Gold Dot .357 Magnum out of a 4" Barrel in testing.

    PS I bet it would turn an Aluminum J-Frame into scrap in short order.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2019
  3. John Joseph

    John Joseph Member

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    Perhaps, but there would be many caveats. Unburned powder, if identified, may be exclusively used in one or the other in factory loads but that would depend on the manufacturer.. The bullet type should be identified which would provide a parameter(158 gr JHP .38 vs 158 gr JHP 357). I doubt this would be possible with hand loaded ammunition as the variables would be absurd.
    Just thinking out loud.
     
  4. Pat Riot
    • Contributing Member

    Pat Riot Contributing Member

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    I took a concealed carry course in Oregon. The instructor “had extensive training experience with police, military and forensic technicians” That stuck out to me because he said “forensic technicians”.
    Anyway, he said one should always use factory ammo in carry guns because that way the police and forensic folks can match the bullets, wounds, powder dispersion, powder burns, etc to your gun and ammo to corroborate your statements and testimony.

    When he was pressed further on these statements by a guy who was asking detailed questions (I think the guy was trying to call our instructor out) the instructor starting blathering a lot of Mumbo-jumbo then the guy hit him with “So they can tell if you used a .38 versus a .357 or a 9mm?” After a lot more Mumbo-jumbo the instructor finally said “Maybe”. He did say wound penetration would help determine the cartridge used but even then it might be difficult.
     
  5. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    TV and movies have given many folks an idea that forensics are similar to CSI. That crime labs are full of high tech equipment (all backlit) with lots of scientists bustling around (the women wearing tight uniforms and high heels) with plenty of time to solve fascinating issues like what type bullet it was and what gun did it come from that was used to shoot a guy in a bar that got in a fist fight with the wrong person. Or trying to figure the caliber of a gun shot wound with no bullet, no case, no gun and no suspect or witnesses.

    Lab folks don't say, "This bit of leather came from the rear seat of a 1978 Cadillac El Dorado. All we have to do is find who is driving that car with a scrap of leather missing from the back seat and we have the killer!".

    A lot of the time they don't have the time or the money and the "lab" is a trailer or two in the parking lot behind the County Court House. Anything tricksy they send to the FBI labs.

    Notice in all those shows that when folks enter a dark room they never turn on the lights. They all pull out tiny flashlights and start poking around.
     
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  6. robhof

    robhof Member

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    002.JPG You all left out my 357 Max, I've tried it with 130, 145, 158, and many other wts in between, and it does have a 6" barrel.
     
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  7. TheBigFundamental

    TheBigFundamental Member

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    Thank you so much for a My Cousin Vinny reference!

    What’s a Ute?
     
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  8. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    I think not. Not in the real world anyway.
     
  9. QED

    QED Member

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    Well, if the body could be represented by ordnance gel and the bullet was recovered fairly intact, then one could measure the bullet path length and calculate the required impact velocity. However, as most of us know, that is not the case... But if a substantial bone is solidly hit, .357 would leave a substantially larger dent in the bone than a .38 special.
     
  10. Confederate

    Confederate Member

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    If it was handloaded, it would be doubtful. Forensics can tell a great deal about the weapon used, however, by the effects bullets have on a body. A 125gr jhp .357 has a much different effect than a 125gr jhp .38 Special, even with different barrel lengths. And most 110 jhps tend to be fired from .38 Special. Those fired from .357s also tend to be recognizable in a human body because they blow up to very large sizes, oftentimes fragmenting. When one's been with forensics for any considerable period of time, one gets adept at seeing subtle differences. Bullet cannelures also can sometimes tell forensics experts what caliber a bullet is from.

    I'm a big fan of the .357, but I have a great deal of respect for the .38 Special. I must admit, though, more than a passing respect for the 9mm. The .38 is great for use in the home, and a .357 in the home is better stoked with the .38 Special. But for camping, hiking, fishing and hunting, the .357 is s superlative! Also for driving in cross country trips. If David Mann, in the movie Duel had had a .357 in his glove compartment, the movie might have been considerably shorter.

    The case could be made that the 9mm renders the .38 Special obsolete, but the .357 and the guns made for the .38 pretty much flattens that argument. My S&W 36 is but one example. I keep my .357 Speed-Six loaded at home with .38 ammo. And the gun in my night stand is a 5-shot, 3-inch, Rossi 88 .38 loaded with 110gr jhp +P.

    If someone was shot with a .357, I don't think many forensics experts would be fooled. By seeing the effects the bullet had on the body, I think most could make a pretty good guess as to what was used. Guessing the barrel length would be a completely different story, though.
     
  11. Morgo

    Morgo Member

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    Between a .38 and .357 I'd very much doubt it apart from perhaps a hot .357 load where a .38 simply couldn't create the same amount of damage. Although a hot .38 load from a longer barreled lever action rifle for example vs a .357 revolver could throw that out as well.

    People reloading, aftermarket/custom barrels etc means they can not say for certain based simply on the projectile recovered.
     
  12. Labguy47

    Labguy47 Member

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    The lands and grooves on the bullet are traceable to certain weapons but I don't think just having the bullet is going to differentiate between the two calibers.
     
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  13. Koroner

    Koroner Member

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    Its not like you can win an Oscar by throwing a fit and stomping your foot,.....






    unless you are Marisa Tomei!

    And here in Utah we have lots of Utes. (Wasn't Fred Gwynne great?)

    I can't believe people here are wasting time debating "facts" suggested by films. Can anybody imagine the eye rolling in the climbing community when the movie Cliffhanger came out? Bolt guns? Really?
    (But there IS a great story about one of the biggest name pro climbers who was hired as a rigger for the film and got deported from Italy after nearly burning down a hotel in a case of domestic discord.)
     
  14. fordtrucks

    fordtrucks Member

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    Looks like the Question is answered: Maybe, probably not though.

    Personally, I’ve seen a lot of shootings from the medical perspective, mostly hardball 9mm because that’s what felons tend to use. Mostly all looks and acts the same.

    22’s make small holes and no exit usually. 38 and above usually make a medium sized hole and larger exit depending on location of shot. I’ve never seen a “dented” bone. Bullets typical fracture a bone into multiple small pieces. Frequently handgun torso shots don’t exit. Head shots depend, from some that don’t even break the skull to some transcranial with entry/exit, which is more likely unless it’s from a 22 which usually doesn’t exit.

    shotgun or rifle you can tell the difference, usually. An extremity rifle shot may be hard to tell from a handgun, depending on where it hit and what angle.

    but to expect to tell the difference in caliber? Probably not. I’ve seen hundreds (maybe a thousand? But lots) of gunshots over 30 years of ems/medical work. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a known 357 gunshot, but I only see the living or very recently dead ones. Thugs and police both tend to use 9mm where I’m at. If they’re obviously dead, I don’t see them. They call the coroner and tape off the area.
     
  15. QED

    QED Member

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    Actually a figure of speech -- appreciable impression or effect.


    Would that include 9mm hardball frequently not exiting torso?
     
  16. fordtrucks

    fordtrucks Member

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    Yes. Anecdotal about 50/50 chance.
     
  17. QED

    QED Member

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    That's verrry interesting (apology to Artie Johnson) since 9mm FMJs typically penetrate close to 30" in 10% ordnance /Fackler gel. Incidentally, I've heard this before, thanks for confirming it in your experience.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2019
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