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Why powder puff the .38 spl ?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Diggers, Oct 12, 2010.

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  1. Diggers

    Diggers Member

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    I have read many times here that the .38 used to loaded much hotter, than it is today, out of the factory. People have even said the .38+p ammo of today is what regular .38s used to be in the past, and more. AND any all steel .38 can deal with the +P ammo of today because its actually pretty tame in comparison.

    I've not looked into this my self but I've heard this here alot so I'm assuming it to be accurate. (Though I've seen my share of urban myths here too. :uhoh:)

    Anyhow, why powder puff the .38? What would be the point of that?

    The only thing I can think of is the .357 came along, so the ammo makers felt they could turn the .38 into a easier shooting caliber. OR maybe they just didn't want to take any chances pushing the .38 toward its upper limits.

    Whats the story on this?
     
  2. CajunBass

    CajunBass Member

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    One reason: Because there are a lot of old 38's of unknown quality still out there. The 38 special cartridge may have evolved. Those guns didn't.

    Others will have other ideas I'm sure.
     
  3. Sport45

    Sport45 Member

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    Also, the way they test chamber pressure has evolved. Loads that were thought to be safe before may have been getting too far into the gun's safety margin than powder and bullet companies feel comfortable with today.

    Just because it didn't blow up the gun doesn't necessarily make it safe...
     
  4. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

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    Some reasonable theories posted so far.

    Keep in mind, though, that effectiveness is really the bottom line, not necessarily fps. The reduced fps is likely to be at least partially due to considerable improvements in .38spl bullet design over the years: Today, it's possible to get adequate penetration & expansion without having to be pushed as fast. The same can likely be said for other older cartridges that remain outstanding performers, despite being "powder puffed".

    The change could also reflect a shift to increased use of jacketed bullets, which typically run slower than cast bullets, all else being equal.
     
  5. OldMac

    OldMac Member

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    I have backed off maximum loads for accuracy and follow up shot accuracy when using a snub nose. Max loads tend to end up with a big ball of fire that makes me blink or flinch. That screws up my vision and reaction time to get the follow up shot on target. The longer barrels revolvers and lever action rifle don't have the same problem and get hotter loads.
     
  6. Quoheleth

    Quoheleth Member

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    One word: lawsuits.

    Ammo & gun manufacturers are prime targets for fat lawsuits. To protect themselves they have backed off the charge weights & pressure on their loads.

    (Too, I'm sure modern testing methods are much more accurate and precise than old "well, that looks good to me" tests of yesteryear. However, I maintain lawyers have a big part to play in what ammo engineers do & don't do.)

    Q
     
  7. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    Well, I love shooting wadcutters over 2.7 grains of B'eye.

    It's a litigious society we live in. Perhaps it's all the RG38s still out there? :eek:
     
  8. jfh

    jfh Member

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    That litigious society has created a new type of thinking among business owners. The fact is, nominally two-generations-worth-of MBA-thinking is having its impact on all types of businesses. At one point in time, the implicit charge for a business was to develop "the best"--and the best ammo was typically associated with best "performance".

    Nowadays, the best ammo company is one that rewards its investors / owners the best--and that is true for many different industries.

    Jim H.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2010
  9. Diggers

    Diggers Member

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    Quoheleth, I agree, lawsuits do make the most sense.

    The other reasons have some good points too.

    About the modern bullets, what I find interesting is when the more powerful .38 ammo was being made the bullets used in those loads were most likely the softer lead round nose type. That load must have had very good penetration, to the point of passing totally through the target, and little expansion. It seems that modern ammo/bullets try to find that perfect balance between expansion and penetration. (Often the error is on the side of expansion, though in the last few years they have seemed to find a very good balance.)

    I have found there is a large disconnect between the users of firearms and the makers of those weapons. The users seem to assume that every change to or new firearm/ ammo was intended to make it more effective for the user. When in fact, the change or new firearm is intended to make MONEY for the company that makes the product. (lawsuits don’t make companies money) There is some overlap between effectiveness and profit but only some. S&W, Ruger, Remington, all of them in the business, exist only to make a profit and will do whatever they need to do to make that happen. Many gun people seem to have a hard time with this concept for some reason.

    Anyhow, I guess it’s a better safe than sorry (lawsuit) issue with the .38 AND it really doesn’t matter much because the .357 is there for those who want more bang.
     
  10. Lucky Derby

    Lucky Derby Member

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    .38 Special was born at the dawn of the last century. For the first 20-30 years, depending on manufacturer, the guns were not heat treated. Add to this the questionable quality of the Spanish made copies of both S&W and Colt that were very common in the 1st half of the 20th century.
    Many of these revolvers are still around today. Ammo manufacturers play a game of CYA by watering down the .38 special. The advent of the .357 magnum makes it go pretty much unnoticed. I can't say I wouldn't do the same if were in thier shoes.
     
  11. Rexster

    Rexster Member

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    NYPD still manages to shoot some number of bad guys with the Speer 135-grain Gold Dot Short Barrel load in .38 +P, with their "grandfathered" sixuns and fiveguns, and it is not like this modern load's bullets are bouncing off the bad guys. Indication are that the officers are pleased with the performance.

    There are no flies on the 158-grain +P LSWCHP, either, though whether it is modern or ancient depends upon one's point of view.
     
  12. JWF III

    JWF III Member

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    DING!DING!DING! We have a winner.

    Wyman
     
  13. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    That's because Speer's ammo is loaded to the older 20,000 PSI limits not the newer 18,500 PSI limits. 38 Special ammo loaded to to SAAMI 20,000 PSI or CIP 21,500 PSI is more effective in a short barrel than when loaded to under 18,000 PSI like much of the so called +P ammo is.
     
  14. ccsniper

    ccsniper member

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    +1

    anyone with a 7mm or 8mm mauser know this all too well. Finding ammo at full potential for these two means looking at European ammo or handloading. The .38 has the same problem, Lawyers force ammo manufacturers to down load ammo to cover their @$$.
     
  15. Diggers

    Diggers Member

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    The speer golddot 135 SB +P (jeez try saying that 3 times fast:p) Is what I would call very modern ammo, I would expect it work pretty well. And I mean that because I just bought some for my 442.

    I didn't know speer uped the PSI on their stuff....interesting.

    SO what the heck is Buffalo Bore doing to their ammo? I was looking again at the brass fetcher tests for .38 ammo http://www.brassfetcher.com/38 Special.html

    BB's NON +P 125 grain is moving in the 930 fps range and the 158 grain is almost at 900 fps.....out of a 642 (1 7/8 inch barrel)! The +P stuff is going over 1000 fps from the same gun.

    Any SAAMI info for BB's ammo? It must be waaay up there.

    Whats really crazy is if you put that 125 grain non +P ammo in a 4 inch tube its going to be well above 1000 fps......non +P.....really?

    Humm.....I take it back, not ALL companies out there are real worried about lawsuits. (just most)
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2010
  16. jfh

    jfh Member

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    Diggers: The last time I looked into BB claims, they said that these rounds were no more than plus-p. However, since then they have added the adjective 'heavy' to at least the 158-gr./1000 fps/2" barrel.

    Early on, rumor was that the BB powder (at least for 38 Special/357) was nominally the current Ramshot Silhouette. However, the fastest I've been able to get a 38 Special 158-gr. bullet running from a 2&1/8" barrel has been about 860 fps--and that was running it at CIP max, not 38+P, and with True Blue. My guesstimate for the BB 158-gr. "heavy" loads is that they are runniing about 24,000.

    Jim H.
     
  17. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    There is another reason and that is that the hotter the round, the more wear on the weapon. Now most people don't shoot enough to wear a gun much. But some do.

    With the lack of a quality revolvers on the new market it is no wonder that they want their customers to shoot emasculated 38s.

    Were it up to Smith and Taurus we could only shoot Speer practice ammo powered by only the primer.
     
  18. Diggers

    Diggers Member

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    jfh,

    I'm not a reloader but isn't 24,000 over max pressure for the .38? I recall BB has a warning not to use their ammo in older guns....but :what:.

    I know guns vary in the FPS they produce some what...how about the bullets they use? I think they use a gas check bullet in the 158 grain loads. Could that help add some FPS or would it take away?

    As we all know, you can't get something for nothing. Just curious how high BB goes above other ammo presure levels to get that FPS.
     
  19. 336A

    336A Member

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    The current SAAMI specs for the .38 SPL is 17,500 PSI while +P is 20,000 PSI (this is also stated in the Speer #14 manual) with a Maximum Average Pressure (MAP) not to exceed 21,500 PSI.

    BTW the reason that it is impossible to safely acheive BB .38SPL +P performance is due to the fact that BB uses a special proprietary Non-Canister grade powder. Which means that it is not available to the public. The powder they use is very akin to the powders that Hornady is using in they're SuperFormance and LeverEvolution line. Trying to attempt the performance of the BB .38 SPL +P loadings in a .38 SPL chambered gun is foolish. As all of the canister grade powder available to the public will put you above max safe pressures before you reach the BB performance levels.

    If one wishes to concoct such loads (aka .38-44 loads) do some research and fire them from a .357 revolver. You will save yourself a lot of grief and possible medical expenses this way.

    http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=120341&d=1272497612
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2010
  20. CoRoMo

    CoRoMo Member

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    So, 9x19 is older, 45acp is about the same age. Are they also a powder-puff version of their former selves?
     
  21. Dave T

    Dave T Member

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    Or you could shoot them in one of the originals, a Outdoorsman or Heavy Duty like this one:

    [​IMG]

    The Buffalo Bore load is a real kick (pun intended) out of one of these N-frames.

    Dave
     
  22. CoRoMo

    CoRoMo Member

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    I know this is the revolver forum, but I only asked about 9x19 and 45acp because, I've never heard that they are no longer the level that they started out being. I've only ever heard that applied to the .38spl round. So... are they? Anyone know?
     
  23. jfh

    jfh Member

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    Diggers: see 336A's comments re BB 20A / 24,000 PSI--

    My answer, originally, was unnecessarily brief--arguably, inaccurate. 336A calls out what is probably the most important factor: the use of proprietary powders / powder blends not available to the home reloader.

    As for the 24,000 PSI number--that was the number a few of us came up with, playing with both Quickload calculations and some Avogadro's-formula variations, based on recipes built in both 38 Special and 357 Mag cases--but all fired, by most of us, in 357-mag revolvers.

    As a result of all of this fooling around, I've concluded that even with the proprietary powder angle, I don't think BB can do this while staying under at 20,000 PSI or less, and probably can't do it staying at the MAP (aka CIP / European spec) pressure of approx. 21,500 PSI.

    As a result, where discussions like this invariably lead to is discussions of probability--which is what ammunition is really all about, anyway. Ultimately, if your 1907 H&R 38 Special revolver blows up because that BB 20A round is, at the 95% probability level, the cause of your gun blowing up, the company lawyer can say 'yeah-but-what-else-was-fired-in-that-gun-in-the-last-103 years'--and argue that you own them money for disparaging the BB name. Then they'll have to settle anyway, because their insurance company will fold the hand.

    Meanwhile, when I carry BB20As, they go in an M&P 340, a 640, etc., etc.

    Jim H.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2010
  24. MikePGS

    MikePGS Member

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    It's funny, I was looking up this exact question earlier today. I came across a thread on another forum that gives a lot of good insight. It's written by someone using the name Saxon Pig which I'm guessing (but not 100 % positive) is the same Saxon Pig that posts on here :D
    http://www.smithandwessonforums.com/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=194
     
  25. ironhead7544

    ironhead7544 Member

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    I think the main reason factory ammo seems downloaded is that more people have chronographs. The original loading for the 38 Special with 158 gr rnl was listed as 855 fps. The actual velocity from a 4 inch is about 700 fps or so. The 38-44 High Velocity ammo was loaded hot for about a real 1050 fps or so from a 6 inch with the 158 gr bullet. Todays +p 38 Special 158 gr lswchp goes about 820 from from a 4 inch.
    Also there is a difference in the way the smaller makers rate the pressure. The big companies max pressure is the max spike for the load. The smaller makers use the average of pressures so the spikes are really higher. I cant confirm this but have heard it from several sources. I really doubt this would ever hurt the average gun owner as who could afford to shoot enough to loosen up a revolver? The Buffalo Bore is over $1.00 a round. Also the loads have quite of bit of recoil and noise so not too many people would practice a lot with it in the lighter more fragile revolvers.
    Just my .02.
     
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