.38 Tumblers

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Michael Tinker Pearce, Dec 30, 2020.

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  1. Michael Tinker Pearce

    Michael Tinker Pearce Member

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    I was reflecting on the difficulty of getting hollow-points to both expand and penetrate deeply enough from a short-barrel .38 and wondered if I could make a bullet tumble after impact. I mucked about a bit and came up with a shape I thought might do the trick. I tested them by firing them into a shot-up block of Clear Ballistics 10% ordinance gel. It was obvious they had tumbled and penetration was decent, but the block was so torn up I couldn't really photograph the wound-track. OK, good enough; I was prepared to leave it at that.

    Then I posted about it on the internet, and people got interested. A fellow down south has to cull feral pigs and volunteered to test the bullets on the carcasses. OK, I can make more. I refined my swaging method, altered the design slightly and cranked out a bunch of them. I loaded some in .38 S&W and some in .38 Special.
    33HOb4r.jpg
    I took the bullets to the range to make sure they were flying straight and they certainly seemed to be; nice, round holes in the targets.

    I re-cast the block of gel and tested the rounds on the 'virgin' block so I could get pictures of the wound-tracks. In the initial tests I used both bare gel and four layers of denim, and there didn't appear to be much difference in the results, so I didn't use it for the second set of tests.

    Loaded into the .38 S&W the bullets were clocking around 620 fps. from the 1-5/8-inch barrel of the test-gun. I started with the .38 S&W, firing one unaltered 158gr. LRNFP and one of the re-swaged bullets. The stock bullet punched through the 16-inch block, leaving a very narrow, smooth wound track that I couldn't really photograph. The tumbler upset immediately on impact, and even after it streamlined produced a relatively wide wound-track as it proceeded backwards through the gel. It dove downward 2 inches and stopped against the table at 11-inches. The picture shows the raw image on the bottom and a contrast-enhanced image on the top.
    AcZyTqN.jpg
    You can just see the stock bullet's wound track at he bottom of the image. That's arguably better than the stock bullet; less penetration but a wider wound track.

    On to testing the .38 Special. These were leaving the 3" barrel of the test gun at about 900fps. I didn't bother firing the normal bullet; if the .38 S&W went straight through the block half-again as much velocity was unlikely to improve things. This time the wound-track from the tumbler was quite a bit more interesting. The bullet stopped right at the end of the 16-inch block after curving upwards approximately two inches. The bullet upset about 3" into the block and didn't fully streamline until around 13-inches. Again the photo shows the raw image on the bottom and the contrast-enhanced image on top.
    5YTKu7W.jpg
    The zone of extreme disruption is in the vertical plane only, and overall the permanent wound track looks pretty impressive.

    Of course gel is a comparative media, not a predictive one, but the permanent wound cavity is comparable to the results from bullets that are proven real-world performers. Of course I don't know what's going to happen when these hit bone or variable densities of tissue; hopefully the results on carcasses will illuminate that.

    BTW, the test guns were a S&W .38 Safety Hammerless with a 1-5/8" barrel, chambered in .38 S&W. The .38 Special was a custom 3" Model 1902 Hand Ejector.

    I'm going to try loading these into a .357 Magnum. The bullets are just lead, so I only plan on pushing them to 1100 fps. Should be interesting.
     
  2. Hondo 60
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    Hondo 60 Member

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    Agreed! Should be very interesting.

    Thanks for taking the time to post.
    I'll certainly be watching this thread.

    Can we get a pic of just the bullet?
    What's the weight?
     
  3. Michael Tinker Pearce

    Michael Tinker Pearce Member

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    The bullet is 158gr., swaged from a LRNFP. The picture shows two recovered bullets and an un-altered 'donor' bullet.
    hEX20QW.jpg
     
  4. Sneakshot92

    Sneakshot92 Member

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    Very interesting thread. I bet in 357 they'd make for a viable deer bullet inside of 20 yds..
     
  5. Random 8

    Random 8 Member

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    Since you got your terminal results with no bullet deformation, I'd think a harder alloy could be used for higher velocity with no loss of effectiveness. Interesting experiment.
     
  6. glockgod

    glockgod Member

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    IIRC there was ,a good many years ago. A 200 grain factory 38 Special load that had a reputation as a tumbler on impact.
     
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  7. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    I bet with a gas check or a coating of some sort that it would make for an interesting bullet for sure. Soft and raw has to go too slow, but at mid range 357 velocities it should be very impressive. If it still tumbles and retains mass it should rip a sizable hole and deform a bit too.
    My concern is the soft and skinny tip. I don’t think that it will fare well if it hits a bone.
     
  8. Michael Tinker Pearce

    Michael Tinker Pearce Member

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    These are not dead soft but they're not super-hard either. I'm curious about what will happen when it hits bones too. We'll find out after the carcass tests, but that'll be a bit. I've got a buddy that makes bullet molds and is making noise about doing a hard-alloy version, but we'll see.
     
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  9. GeoDudeFlorida

    GeoDudeFlorida Member

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    It kind of looks like the neck of a .223 casing. If you can swage solid copper alloy, or harden and powder-coat the lead post-swaging, you should be able to run it past 1300fps and any deformation is just going to make the wound channel uglier. Then again, the 200 grain LWFN-HC-GC bullets from Hunter's Supply already work good enough on pigs, at a measly 1000fps, from a ..357Magnum loaded up with 2400, I'm not really sure more is needed. I buy online some 200gr, WRN bullets - Matt's makes them for .380/200 Mk.1 Webleys/Enfields, and so does Reed's; GT makes a very cool 190gr. version like the old Colt's .38 New Police bullet for .38S&W but heavier - and the old-style catalog Remington/dog-bone and Winchester white-box police-use marked .38 Super Police/Special Super Police. You know, the bullet Callahan said he'd seen bounce off windshields - no good for a city. ;)

    In pigs, they tumble and yaw and bounce off bone. Even at the kind-of-not-so-fast 750fps limit of the .38S&W, they do serious damage - USE ONLY IN SOLID FRAMES, FOLKS! let's not be silly and try this in a flop-top pocket-Smithy or a weaker knock-off by the guys who made bicycles!

    Just make sure to aim for behind the ear or a from-behind rib shot. I hit a shoulder shield broadside once with a 190gr. .38Spl WRN loaded with Unique that stepped out of my Official Police at around 850fps and it just made Porky VERY ANGRY. It took two more - and some fancy dancing - to calm him down. I knew better, just got sloppy. That combo had always worked for me when I hit them right. Found the first bullet under the skin next to the poopchute on Porky's other side. No wonder he was so angry! Found the second in his chest in a mess of coagulated blood, and the third exited, I never found it. That was quite a few years ago when I was a LOT younger and more spry than I am today. I'm curious to see how that bottle-neck bullet works out. Who knows, you might be the next "Keith"! :)
     
  10. GeoDudeFlorida

    GeoDudeFlorida Member

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    ---
    You obviously know what you're doing and far be it from me to kibitz, but... If you have a solid-frame .38S&W to test with, it will be a little - probably a LOT - safer for you and your revolver. Those old flop-top Smiths were never as strong as solid frames or the Webley-pattern revolvers and didn't tend to age well. Sorry for putting on the Cpt. Obvious cap but some folks might read this and think, "But this guy said break-top S&W's can handle .38Spl loads...see? It says so, right there..."
     
  11. RevolvingGarbage

    RevolvingGarbage Member

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    If one was trying to push .38S&W into the kind of performance you would expect out of a .38 Special, this would be sound advice. The velocity MTP gave for the .38S&W load isn’t even at the very top of what that revolver should be able to comfortably handle for a good long time assuming the gun is in good working order (and given the owner we can safely assume it is).

    I am very interested in this any any future work along similar lines. I think it’s clear that even with the limitations of the weaker top break action, there’s enough available energy in .38S&W to get more than strictly enough penetration and if a bullet could be made to destabilize after impact in a (relatively) reliable way it could definitely enhance the performance of the round.
     
  12. Michael Tinker Pearce

    Michael Tinker Pearce Member

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    There's a reason the point looks like the neck of a .223; I used a .223 de-capping die to swage them! Good eye, Geodude! Yes, top-break revolvers are weaker, but these loads are well within acceptable specs for top-breaks in good condition. Not for nothing, but I've put between 3000-4000 rounds through the S&W top-break used in this test, and 2/3-3/4 of them were hotter than factory ammo (but still within informally established limits for top-breaks.)
     
  13. Archie

    Archie Member

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    This experiment and research put me in mind of the 380/200 load for the Webley .380 revolver and the Americanization .38 S&W 200 grain 'Super Police load. It worked fairly well, but the fad after WWII was velocity. The .38/200 used a 200 grain bullet (FMJ for the British military and lead for the police load). However, from what I've seen, the bullets were round nosed and not as prone to 'tumble' on impact. Not sure if your design - which I appreciate, by the way - would fit the chamber of a .38 S&W or 38 Special considering how long the nose would have to be to make 200 grains. Just a thought.

    I will be interested how this works out.
     
  14. GeoDudeFlorida

    GeoDudeFlorida Member

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    Yup. Figured you'd keep it safe. Read your blog. Good writing.

    Like the sigline: "Small sign by my front door- 'This door is kept locked at all times. This is for YOUR protection, not mine.'"

    Reminds me of "The Watchmen": "You don't seem to understand. I'm not locked in here with you... you're locked in here with me!" Rorschach
     
  15. Michael Tinker Pearce

    Michael Tinker Pearce Member

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    Thanks! Loved The Watchmen... read the graphic novel in the way-backs, and fairly sure it's still here someone.
     
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  16. Michael Tinker Pearce

    Michael Tinker Pearce Member

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    Someone suggested I see what I could do with .32 S&W Long and I thought, 'Why not?.' I wrote full write-up in my blog so I'll just give you the Reader's Digest condensed version here. I used a 100gr. LFP as the base bullet and swaged them in the same die I used for the .38s. I needed to re-size them after. I did two variations, a long-nose and short-nose. most of the testing was done with the short-nose bullet.

    NV1hJ5z.jpg
    This is the short-nose bullet on the left with the standard bullet on the right. The picture below shows the long and short-nosed variants.
    z9S4jEU.jpg
    Both bullets were loaded over 4.2gr. of Unique with a Federal magnum small pistol primer. This made 1018fps. and 230 ft./lbs from the 4" gun, and 931fps. and 177ft./lbs from the 2" gun. The bullets didn't tumble, but they did produce a relatively wide PWC and passed completely through the 16" gel block. The bullets did not streamline before they exited the block. It looks as if they corkscrewed through the block. This was a significant improvement over the standard bullet, which left a wound-track that was basically a thin, interrupted silver line. Both PWCs were essentially the same so I'll show you the one that photographed best. the picture below shows the raw image on the bottom and a contrast-enhanced version above it.
    hRTMEw2.jpg
    The PWC is nearly a 1/2" at the widest and maintains this for the entire length of the block. I also tried one downloaded to 3.5gr., and aside from producing a narrower PWC performance in the gel was nearly identical. next I shot a single long-nose bullet from the 4" gun. Once again the bullet didn't tumble; it destabilized immediately producing a broad PWV before streamlining approximately 5 to 5-1/2" in, then came to rest at 10-1/2". It also curved significantly, and again appears to have cork-screwed rather than tumbled. Just above this PWC is the thin silver line of the stock bullet's path.
    UOiLPz2.jpg
    Interesting results. If I were to use either for self-defense it's be the short-nose variation. Plenty of penetration and enhanced wounding-power throughout the bullet's track, at least compared to the standard bullet. So, while they don't tumble they do present a useful enhancement which might contribute to incapacitation.
     
  17. GeoDudeFlorida

    GeoDudeFlorida Member

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    Interesting! What models of revolver?
     
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  18. Michael Tinker Pearce

    Michael Tinker Pearce Member

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    3sqpo5k.jpg wGVHLAD.jpg
    Colt Detective Special and a H&R
     
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  19. jaguarxk120

    jaguarxk120 Member

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    Check out the Lyman 358430 mould. It comes in 195 weight, round nose.
    With a light load of Unique it should perform just like the British police load.
    That long bullet moving slowly becomes unstable when it hits something!
     
  20. GeoDudeFlorida

    GeoDudeFlorida Member

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    I have a 732 just like that but not the DS. I do have a Pocket Positive, 3”. Great project.
     
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