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Handgun Ammo: Short Barrel vs Long Barrel

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by ChanceMcCall, Dec 31, 2019.

  1. ChanceMcCall

    ChanceMcCall Member

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    Recently some manufacturers have been identifying some of their handgun ammo as being idea for either short or long barrels. I'm no expert on this but it makes sense to do this to me at least.

    I'm assuming the powder itself is different and not just a lesser amount of it, but I would really like a real expert to explain how this works. Hopefully there is even a list of what manufacturers offer what and reviews of the ammo.
     
  2. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    Some powder burns faster than others. In rifles it doesn't effect velocity since all of the powder, even the slowest, will burn within just a few inches of barrel. But handgun barrels are short enough to make a small difference in velocity.
     
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  3. fxvr5

    fxvr5 Member

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    Zendude, Dunross and WrongHanded like this.
  4. film495

    film495 Member

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    seems like a good idea, if that is what it is designed for
     
  5. WrongHanded
    • Contributing Member

    WrongHanded Contributing Member

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    To get a high degree of expansion with a low velocity (relative to a rifle) hollow point bullet, they probably only perform well through a very narrow velocity window. Too slow and they don't expand and over penetrate. Too fast and they fragment and under penetrate.

    This is my perception.
     
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  6. 748

    748 Member

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    A member on here showed me ballistics by the inch dot com.
    Pretty cool.
    For example I didn't realize most 380acp could easily go super sonic in a longer barrel.
    They do most pistol barrels from 2 to 16 inches.
     
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  7. stonebuster

    stonebuster Member

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    Check Lucky Gunner ballistics tests on the caliber you're interested in. Most of the major brands and calibers are tested in different barrel lengths. I chose Federal HST Micro 38+P 130 grain JHP for my 2.25" revolver. Expansion was consistent(all fully expanded) average .73" and penetration was adequate at 12-13 inches. Many of the other 38spl defensive ammos tested shot from 2" barrels had poor or no expansion. The Micros have a unique design that allows them to expand at 38spl velocities.
     
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  8. beag_nut

    beag_nut Member

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    That website has a lot of surprising info on it. Takes a while to study it, but can be very informative. A major reason I did not get a convertible .22 Mag. revolver.
     
  9. 94045

    94045 Member

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    It's replaced the Winchester 148 Wadcutter as the ammo of choice around here. Two M60's and one SP101 carrying it now.

    My Aunt still carries the WC in the 340 PD for the reduced recoil. Those little 12 oz revolvers can be nasty.
     
  10. Hokie_PhD

    Hokie_PhD Member

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    This isn’t exactly true. Barrel length usually affects velocity in rifles too. Compare the velocity of ammo in a 16, 18 and 20 inch barrels and you’ll see a difference in most cases.

    For many applications it doesn’t matter that much. But in some it’s very important and why some reloaders chrono their loads and gun combinations.
     
  11. 94045

    94045 Member

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    I think he was referring to powder burn rate.
    The powder rate doesn't really make much difference since the powder has all burnt long before the bullet exits in a rifle.

    Velocity gain for inch of barrel is a different issue.The pressure won't drop to the point it stops accelerating the bullet in the barrel until they get pretty long. Remington Green/White Box .357 Mag125 gr will exceed 2100 fps in a 24" Rifle Barrel and you have to assume the powder was chosen for a 4" Barrel.
     
  12. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    I’ll confirm, there’s very little, if any, truth to the common misconception that powder burn rate should be correlated to barrel length in a “short barrels need faster powders” sense. It’s typically true a faster powder will be lower flash in a shorter barrel than a slower powder, but within the acceptable window of powders for a cartridge, a slower powder matched for the bullet weight will offer the better velocity for a given pressure standard.

    Most of these short barrel load offerings are different bullets and lower flash powders. Not necessarily a faster powder.
     
  13. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

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    Some short barrel ammo is supposed to have flash suppressant too.
     
  14. 94045

    94045 Member

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    In the Gold Dots the bullets often have a slightly different design and the short barrel loads seem to be slightly faster. In reality though if you test them both in a 3" barrel you often see little difference. My inclination is to believe the short barrel loads have a little more margin for proper expansion but that's unsubstantiated.
     
  15. Charlie98

    Charlie98 Member

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    I know the bullets are actually a different component.. in the Speer 230grn Gold Dot, the Short Barrels have a specific part number vs the standard.
     
  16. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    Here is a discussion with Paul Harrell on Remington "Short Barrel" 380 ammo. Worth watching for comparison of ammo with short barrel 2.5" vs. 3.5" velocity and expansion.

     
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  17. cougar1717

    cougar1717 Member

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    Paul has also presented the P365 ammo. "Is it enough of a difference to make a difference? You be the judge." haha

    It is all fine and dandy arguing over the advertising label on the box, but his chrono results are what they are.
     
  18. 94045

    94045 Member

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    If you are referring to the velocity of the P365 ammo, I believe part of the design brief was to minimize recoil. If you are referring to velocity difference in different barrel lengths, as you said it is what it is.
     
  19. stonebuster

    stonebuster Member

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    IMG_0103.JPG IMG_0014 (4).JPG View attachment 883037 View attachment 883037
    Here is the page and a photo of bullet design for those that haven't seen them. The complete expansion of all five is what impressed me but don't work well with speed loaders.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2020
  20. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    For comparison here is Harrell's review of the Sig V Crown jhp 115 gr. ammo which is labeled on the box "Optimized for CCW" meaning that it is specially developed for use in short barreled handguns.
    Unlike the vid I posted above where he looked at the velocity of the short barrel ammo and compared the results when shot through his meat target. With the Sig V Crown ammo he looked only at the velocity. Here he compares the V Crown velocity from a Berretta 92 and a compact piece with a 3" barrel against the velocity of other 115 gr. ammo.

    Basically what he reveals is that the velocities of this ammo is near identical to the ammo that is not labeled as being for short barrels. So if the ammo is "optimized" for compact and sub compact guns it would have to be a design of the bullet that allows for more reliable expansion at slower velocities and with less energy. Because they are not "optimized" for more velocity from a shorter barrel.

    In the tests of the Remington ammo I posted above the ammo Remington labels as for short barrels did not expand any more reliably in his expansion tests than standard commercial ammo. He did not do the expansion tests for the short barrels in the V Crown video.

     
  21. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    In the tests here done by "Ammo Quest". Speer Gold Dot 124 gr. +P JHP bullets the tester found no substantial difference in performance in ballistic gel between the standard ammo and ammo meant for short barreled guns (3" barrel in this case). No substantial difference in velocity or expansion in the gel. He does state that he sees more reliable expansion from the +P 124 gr. Likely due to the increased velocity and energy from the shorter barrel with the +P. The latter point is important.



    The point here that occurs to me is that ammo manufacturers seem to be vague about exactly what it is about their ammo that has "Optimized" it for short barrel guns. It does not seem t be the velocity or energy. So that leaves bullet design. That the JHP will more likely expand at a threshold 100 fps less than a 4.5 " or so barrel. If that's the case maybe they ought to just say that. Because that means something and raises other questions.

    If a bullet reliably expands (or tends to) at 1050 fps from a 2.750" barrel and penetrates to 12 or more inches, how does that same bullet operate at 1200 fps from a 5" barrel?

    I don't see a clear advantage at this point in time between commercial ammo "Optimized" for smaller guns and standard ammo wisely chosen.
     
  22. 94045

    94045 Member

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    Gold Dots:
    We do know they spent the money to design and produce a different bullet instead of just relabeling existing ammo. Without any inside info I have to believe the expansion threshold was lowered. This could result in more consistent performance in actual field use. Would likely need to do some reduced velocity test to see how close each bullet is to the threshold to prove or disprove this theory.

    What do I know? I have Fed LE9T5 in my P365.
     
  23. cougar1717

    cougar1717 Member

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    But that is exactly the question - If the velocities are comparable, how much of a recoil difference could there be? Obviously, it depends on the firearm used, but from the velocities presented in Paul's 365 video, it would appear that Sig's "Short barrel optimized" ammo is comparable to the regular Rem and WWB JHP's. Should Rem and WWB label theirs as "short barrel optimized?" Although it appears to be a bigger difference, Sig's EP is only 39fps faster than the 365 JHP ammo in the 92fs (1229-1190) and only 38 fps faster in the P365 (1135-1097).

    Anyone can check this for themselves, but if take Paul's numbers and put them into the kinetic energy formula (or calculator), there is some estimate concerning energy, and from that, some estimate of recoil relative to the P365. The difference in kinetic energy (in Joules) for the P365, between the Sig EP and Sig 365JHP ammo is approximately 6.5%. Comparing the Remington JHP to the Sig 365 JHP, (in the P365) the Remington has 12% less kinetic energy than the Sig 365 JHP. The caveats are that recoil is somewhat relative and the lack of expansion test data at those velocities.

    Even so, that is why it is important to measure the velocity out of a subcompact or micro ccw, even when using an ammo that is short barrel optimized. Expansion testing would be optimal, but there is a reasonable amount of data out there to estimate the expansion threshold of the projectile.
     
  24. Zendude

    Zendude Member

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    In order to lower the expansion threshold, would they just use a softer lead in the short barrel Gold Dot?
     
  25. 94045

    94045 Member

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    I don't know. I only know the Part # and Cavity Dimensions are different.
     
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