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Loss of faith in the .38

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Puncha, Jul 29, 2006.

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  1. Puncha

    Puncha Member

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    I recently did some penetration tests with some 148gr S&B LWC target loads shooting at a phonebook place 23 meters away. The gun in question was a S&W model 10 and the load was selected due to some opinions that it could still be effective for SD even if fired from a snubby.

    Anyway, I fired 3 shots and all failed to penetrate the phonebook. From what I could see, the slugs bored holes through about 200 pages and ended up stuck in the middle of the phonebook. The implication here is that they lack enough energy to penetrate through bone and into vital organs if used as a self defense/personal protection round.

    I know that standard LRN rounds deliver more energy than LWC loads (200 ft/lbs vs 166 ft/lbs), but to what extent will the penetration ability be greater? Can I expect to see a phonebook to be shot clean through? Did the range of 20+ meters make a difference? Would a closer range of 8-9 meters see MUCH greater penetration?

    BTW, if anyone is asking me to consider HP rounds or +P rounds, I would like to add that the local authorities have very recently tightened controls over the sale of +P or HP ammo to non LEOs.
     
  2. TexasRifleman

    TexasRifleman Moderator Emeritus

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    First rule of a gunfight: Bring a gun.

    If that gun happens to be nothing more than the "lowly" .38 Special then you are still way ahead of the game.

    Just in sheer volume it's likely the .38 Special has killed more men in non-military engagements than anything else.
     
  3. enfield

    enfield Member

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    So the phone book is still alive?
     
  4. Kurac

    Kurac Member

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    Phone books are very hard targets. I have fired .223 FMJ at phone books. They go through but just barely and the bullets went to small pieces.
     
  5. sgt127

    sgt127 Member

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    Phone books are very hard targets.

    +1. A dry flat phonebook is damned near solid wood. Pretty tough to poke a hole in.

    Go get a big post roast and shoot it with the same round.
     
  6. Puncha

    Puncha Member

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    The implication here was that I could have used a phonebook in lieu of a ballistic panel and it would have saved by life if my assailent was shooting 148gr LWCs at me from medium range! :confused:
     
  7. aguyindallas

    aguyindallas Member

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    When I think of self defense situations, one of the first thing that comes to mind for me is potential distance. I was taught and have a belief that although it doesnt need to be a belly gun fight to justify, you may be hard pressed to prove threat or non threat in a distance such as 23 meters. Typically I believe 7 yards or less is more than fair game and is easy to justify. Anything longer than that and you could be answering to the question that you should have made an attempt to retreat before firing your weapon.

    With that said, I am not a lawyer and have never been in front of the grand jury.

    I believe the .38 is still a very viable option in self defense.
     
  8. Sistema1927

    Sistema1927 Member

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    You won't get too many volunteers to stand in front of you to perform a real world test of those wadcutters.
     
  9. Serpico

    Serpico Member

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    What scares me is they bounce right off the bible.
     
  10. mete

    mete Member

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    Wells Fargo type armoured cars used to use phone books to make them bullet proof.
     
  11. Hugo

    Hugo Member

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    Hundreds of layers, each one slows the bullet a little. Hmmmm. Layers seem pretty effective. Whether its a home security system or ballistic protection, layers work.
     
  12. 1 LT MPC

    1 LT MPC Member

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    Try your experiment in something that more closely resembles HUMAN tissue. Maybe 10% ballistic gelatin, if you can find it. There are a lot of articles on the tactical forum that discuss this very topic, in detail, based on empirical data. The experts conclude that the .38 full wadcutter (standard pressure) is more effective than standard pressure hollow points, out of a 2 inch snubbie. :)

    The caveat is that the WC must have sharp shoulders, as does the Winchester lead Super-X Match ammo.

    If your model 10 has a 4 inch barrel, then by all means use hollowpoint ammunition, as you will get more velocity with resulting expansion and penetration.
     
  13. albanian

    albanian member

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    Phone books may not be the the best medium for tests but at least the guy was doing his own tests and not just reading gun rags. A little real world tests goes a long way in showing yourself what does what. You can debate 9mm vs. .45acp all day long and never learn a damm thing but if you take both of them to the range and do some tests, it might just show you what you want to see.

    I am of the camp that a round should have a least a certain amount of penetration to have faith in it. I am happy with my 9mms because I have tested them against .45acp and .40S&W and found that they tend to penetrat better than either. If using a JHP, you get great expansion while still getting decent penetration.

    I used phone books as well as other non-scientific mediums and I felt that I learned more by doing my own tests than reading about it. If I have to shoot someone, I want to be sure that even if they are wearing a heavy leather coat, I still have enough penetration to make a hole. Make a hole first and then worry about expansion. If your bullets are bouncing off your attacker, they are not going to expand much!:neener:
     
  14. 1 LT MPC

    1 LT MPC Member

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    My point is that if one is going to do "tests," Then the tests must be realistic; otherwise garbage in , garbage out. There needs to be a modicum of common sense used. Example, why would I test a personal defense round at 23 meters when the vast majority of fatal shootings occur at ranges of less than 21 feet? Do I have a room in my house that is 23 meters long? Is my (or your) center of mass equal to a 3 inch thick telephone book? Is over penetration more or less fatal? :banghead:
    Just some things I would consider.:D
     
  15. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    You can have your wadcutters and round noses for SD. I'll keep carrying a 158 grain JHP or SWCHP at 260 ft lbs (+P) from a 2" barrel, thanks. :rolleyes: I'm not sure how many phone book pages the FBI load can penetrate, but in shootings in the real world, it's one of the best .38 loads going measured either by Marshall/Sanow OR Fackler. If you want to optimize penetration, go for a hard cast +P 158 grain SWC. Wadcutters are for punching holes in targets (Also GREAT for small game:D ) and round nose is eclipsed by just about any SD load on the market for SD use. IMHO, you are testing the two WORST loads in all of .38 specialdom. You seem to be listening to the wrong people. That 168 ft lbs or whatever it was should give you some idea of its lack of effectiveness. If you wanna optimize penetration, go with a 158 grain bullet and push it at a decent velocity. That will increase momentum as well as energy and make Fackler and Evan Marshall happy. ;)
     
  16. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    The only directly applicable "real world test" would be to go out and actually shoot 1500 people and measure the incapacitation time, then do your statistical analysis. In lieu of that, folks have used goats and such to do the testing. Me, I'll just do it the way I always have, read, compare exterior ballistics, pick my handload recipe to optimize accuracy as much as energy, and shoot for center mass. Practice, practice, practice cause the bullet don't even have to expand if it hits the heart.
     
  17. 1 LT MPC

    1 LT MPC Member

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    MC gunner, I agree, if you have a snubbie that can shoot plus p ammo. My colt cobra doesn't do well with +p and I suspect that many other alloy guns would do better with standerd pressure. I use 158 LSWC +p in my SP101 with no problems at all.
     
  18. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    Oh, okay, that makes sense. I'd try a good 158 grain SWC at standard pressure, though. I can get over 200 ft lbs with such a load out of a 2" gun. As for factory loads, I don't pay attention to what's available. I do have a mild +P recipe that is very accurate that I'd use in that Cobra no problem, or carry and fire only occasionally. It is an old standby, 5.0 grains Unique behind a 158 grain SWC. It gives 220 ft lbs. I don't think you need worry about expansion at the velocities you'll get with these loads, so the SWC with its wide flat point makes sense. Too, speed loaders are near impossible with wadcutter loads to get any speed with, where a SWC will guide into the cylinder easier. I really don't think wadcutters have ANY advantage over the 158 grain SWC as far as energy transfer/temp stretch cavity, what ever you want to call it. The facklerites would have you believe that's not important and if you believe that then use round nose bullets, but they're pathetic performers in the real world and this is well documented.

    Anyway, my vote is for a good hard cast 158 grain SWC at the highest velocity you're willing to push it. I think it'd work about as good as any non- +P load.
     
  19. 1 LT MPC

    1 LT MPC Member

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    MCgunner, the wadcutters (148 gr) penetrate at least 12 inches in gelatin, about the same as other bullets using standard pressure. Since the wads are flat- faced, they don't have to expand. The hp's do and don't have the velocity, therefore becoming, in essence, round noses, which are undesirable. Ergo, in the Cobra, I carry six wadcutters with a speedstrip backup loaded with 158 gr LSWC's, +P. (If I have to re-load, I'm not so worred about my gun anymore!). Follow up shots with the full wads are a breeze and six fast rounds can be placed on target in a manner of seconds (plus easy practice sessions). :D
    All of this is prefaced on a 2 inch barrel. This point is moot if one carries a 3 or 4 inch revolver.
     
  20. Lone_Gunman

    Lone_Gunman Member

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    The moral of the story is that if you are being attacked by phone books, get something better than a 38.

    Seriously, I see no relevance between performance of a bullet in a phone book, with performance of a bullet in living tissue.

    There are many, many corpses in graveyards right now with 38 caliber bullet holes in them.
     
  21. usmccpl

    usmccpl Member

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    I have never fired a single round into ballistic gelliten but i have fire several into large phone books. The only bullets ive seen go more than half way through the book 375 H&H mag rounds that the jacket opened to create a large hole while the steel core dug deep. Even my 44mag using 330gr hard cast lead bullets only go about half to 2/3 of it.




    one shot one kill
     
  22. EddieCoyle

    EddieCoyle Member

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    OK, I'm sold. Where do I get a phonebook vest?
     
  23. RON in PA

    RON in PA Member

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    Do your test over, but soak your phone book in water first and shoot at 7 yards.
    Nobody tests penetration in dry phone books.
     
  24. Iggy

    Iggy Member

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    Also, find a way to supend the wet phone book.. If it is against a hard backstop etc. the resistance is growing as compaction increases.:rolleyes:
     
  25. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    Well, I think a .22 short, maybe even a CB cap, could penetrate the Port Lavaca, Texas phone book. :D
     
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