Gelatin Testing my cast 200 grain .38's

BigslugBigslug Senior MemberPosts: 6,996 Senior Member
This almost went to the "Personal Defense" forum, but I figured there were enough handloading and hunting crossover points to put it here on the main page.

Going back a couple months. . .My problem with a lot of .38 Special and .357 Magnum defense ammo on the market is that you're stuck with two extremes; on the one hand, you have loads that won't deliver adequate penetration when fired out of a snubnose, while on the other hand you have recoil that makes you wonder if your pocket revolver can kill from both ends. While one can certainly accept a level of excessive recoil in a defensive situation, the practical problem this presents is that successive shots are often complicated by having to constantly readjust your grip on the gun every time you fire.

So I started pondering a little bit of history. In the 1930's, the Brits decided that a 200 grain bullet fired at 630 FPS from the .38 S&W cartridge would give terminal performance roughly equal to the 265 grain .455 Webley bullet at roughly the same speed, and do it in a lighter gun with less recoil. The Webley MKIV fired this new round and it was the standard British service sidearm for WWII.

"Hmmm. . .", I said.

So I ordered up a Lyman mold number 358430 (195 grain round-nose) from the good folks at Midway. My father has recently hit on a 5% tin alloy mix which casts very pretty bullets and promises to be a tougher mix for rifle hunting applications than the more traditional 5% antimony. Cast a bunch. Lubed a bunch. Started loading.

After finding load data for 200 grain bullets on handloads.com, my first task was to figure out what at what point recoil became uncomfortable. I loaded batches of .357 brass with charges of Unique starting at the bottom end of .38 Special (3.2 grains), working up to the top end of .357 (6.0 grains). Since I wanted the results of this science project to be applicable to guns other than my own, I tested them out in both a 25-ounce, steel-framed S&W 640, and a 12-ounce scandium-framed S&W 340PD. The scandium gun was bucking uncomfortably by 4.5 grains, and "I don't wanna do this" by 5.0. The recoil of the steel gun started feeling stiff at 5.5, and was becoming uncomfortable at 5.7. Keeping my initial mission in mind, I decided to save the 6.0 grain max loads for my 4" GP-100.

An industry contact of mine frequently puts on "ballistic workshops" for LE agencies in which duty ammo is tested against the FBI protocols. I made a call and stated my intentions and had a block of gelatin mixed up and ready to go in short order. Today, we did the shooting.

The plan was to start with the lightest loads and work up until "adequate penetration" of 12" was achieved. Results as follows:

Minimum .38 Special powder charge of 3.2 grains of Unique delivered 561 feet per second over the chronograph and completely penetrated an 18" ballistic gel block with no deformation. The "wound channel" in the block was not a whole lot wider than the bullet, but it WAS in pretty much a perfectly straight line. The bullet stopped on the 1" thick chunk of heavy rubber placed behind the block to serve that very purpose.

The second shot was with a just-below-+P charge of 3.6 grains which went out at 635 feet per second and perforated the block the same as the first round. We didn't see much point to shooting the hot ones after this.

So what did I learn (or what knowledge was reinforced) from this:

1. I learned that you don't need a wrist-breaking load to get a through-and-through on a human torso analog from a compact .38 revolver. You just need a lot of sectional density and moderate velocity. Both of the loads we shot gelatin with were at a "shoot all day" comfort level, even in the scandium gun.

2. I saw clearly why the African big game hunters like their round-nosed solids. Tapered spitzer bullets are point-light and base-heavy, and therefore want to swap ends and tumble on impact. Round-nose solids are more of an evenly-balanced cylinder and tend to stay in their original orientation when they hit. While they don't have the "special effects" of expansion, so long as they are launched on a direct line towards a vital organ, they can be reliably counted on intersect that vital organ without concerns of tumbling or fragmenting causing the projectile to deviate.

3. An alloy of 5% tin is TOUGH STUFF! The only marks on the slugs were from the rifling and (on one bullet) a slight dent from the rubber backstop behind the gelatin block. While I fully realize that I was shooting into a homogeneous brick of goo with no bones or cartilage, I would still have expected SOME deformation. Nope.

I'd like to see what difference would result in keeping the weight and velocity the same, but changing the bullet weight to a truncated flat point. I went with the Lyman round nose because I had no idea what velocity I would need to get the desired effect, and I was concerned that a longer bullet would not fit into a .357 cylinder when loaded on top of .357 brass. Since I CLEARLY do not need the capacity of a .357 case, I may pick up a 200 grain truncated mold and try this game again in a .38 case - possibly with an even lighter charge.

Always a good day when you learn stuff!
WWJMBD?

"Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee

Replies

  • EliEli Senior Member Posts: 3,074 Senior Member
    So, when do they go into production? :tooth:
  • Uncle BSUncle BS Member Posts: 380 Member
    I wonder if reducing the tin content when you retest with a flat nose will require a measurable increase in powder to achieve terminal performance. Assuming that a little softer bullet will deform and cause more damage, how much more velocity will it take to effect deformation in conjunction with adequate penetration?
    cpj wrote: »
    Wow. I never knew I enjoyed grilled foreskin.
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 6,996 Senior Member
    Uncle BS wrote: »
    I wonder if reducing the tin content when you retest with a flat nose will require a measurable increase in powder to achieve terminal performance. Assuming that a little softer bullet will deform and cause more damage, how much more velocity will it take to effect deformation in conjunction with adequate penetration?

    At the low velocities we're talking about, I'm not terribly optimistic about getting much expansion at all, even if I made the bullet out of bubble gum. A flat point at least be less streamlined travelling through tissue, and will tend to crush and tear more stuff.
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 6,996 Senior Member
    cpj wrote: »
    Neat story, its a shame it didnt happen.
    You REALLY need to joins the 90's and get the whole posting pictures thing down.

    What? Your imagination can't conjure an image of a nearly-pristine round-nose with rifling marks on it?

    My enthusiasm for computers runs something like this - your next ten laptops will be outdated before my 1911 is. I'm tellin' ya bro - the thousand words is easier to post than the picture of equal value. :p
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • DoctorWhoDoctorWho Senior Member Posts: 9,496 Senior Member
    I believe that is what happened to make Me loose faith in the 158 grain RNL rounds I had available in Banana land, no expansion, zip through, terminal yes, but too long in taking effect, moved up to .45 acp, and although it also was non expanding, terminal effects seemed much quicker.
    "There is some evil in all of us, Doctor, even you, the Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation, and I may say, you do not improve with age. Founding member of the G&A forum since 1996
  • WeatherbyWeatherby Senior Member Posts: 4,750 Senior Member
    I'd like to see the results of some 148 grain Hollow Base wad Cutters loaded each way
  • knitepoetknitepoet Senior Member Posts: 18,727 Senior Member
    Big, I expect you'd get similar results with the plain old 158 LRN, you know, the one that most folks abandoned 30+ years ago for horrible terminal performance.

    If it makes you're happy, by all means, enjoy. Personally, I'll pass
    Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, Rule #37: There is no “overkill”. There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload”.


  • DanChamberlainDanChamberlain Senior Member Posts: 3,365 Senior Member
    I'd bet the "hot" ones might not have the same penetration.
    It's a source of great pride for me, that when my name is googled, one finds book titles and not mug shots. Daniel C. Chamberlain
  • NNNN Senior Member Posts: 23,936 Senior Member
    Bufflobore has a SWC 158 gr +P hardcast that supposedly stoped a black bear attack with one shot breaking the front shoulder and hip.
    I expect you have hit upon something good.
    A Veteran is someone that served in the Military, it does not matter where they served.
  • dlddld Member Posts: 377 Member
    cpj wrote: »
    Neat story, its a shame it didnt happen.
    You REALLY need to joins the 90's and get the whole posting pictures thing down.

    bang
    IIII
    I(bounce)
  • wddodgewddodge Senior Member Posts: 994 Senior Member
    Bigslug wrote: »

    your next ten laptops will be outdated before my 1911 is.

    If I was gonna have a sig-line, that would be it!! <VBG>

    Denny
    Participating in a gun buy back program because you think that criminals have too many guns is like having yourself castrated because you think your neighbors have too many kids.... Clint Eastwood
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 6,996 Senior Member
    knitepoet wrote: »
    Big, I expect you'd get similar results with the plain old 158 LRN, you know, the one that most folks abandoned 30+ years ago for horrible terminal performance.

    If it makes you're happy, by all means, enjoy. Personally, I'll pass

    Well, I'm long from being done with this particular foray into weird science, but yes, I probably would be perfectly happy carrying this load (or one much like it) for personal protection. Some of the lobes in my brain are in awe of what the modern duty 9mm/.40/.45 hollowpoints do, but based on things I've seen them NOT penetrate, some of the other lobes in my brain think they are just so much Kool Aid mixed up for the benefit of the hand-wringing Nervous Nellies in the "overpenetration is bad" camp.

    The thing that I am stoked about is that I achieved the goal of a snubnose load that is (a) totally non-fatiguing to shoot, and (b.) will unquestionably make it to the Tootsie Roll center of the Tootsiepop. That I was able to accomplish this with a STARTING powder charge for a .38 Special tells me that I have plenty of room to massage the variables of alloy and shape. I want to try flat-noses for the reasons stated earlier, but I also want to see if anyone is making a mold that replicates the long, tapering profile of the British .38/200 bullet. It may be Internet hooey, but I've read an account or two stating that these bullets were back-heavy and right at the edge of stability in the standard rate of twist. Supposedly, they tended to swap ends and tumble on impact.

    An extra-heavy wadcutter has some appeal once it's in the chamber, but as reloading them in a hurry is a bit problematic, they aren't likely to be part of the program.
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 6,996 Senior Member
    I'd bet the "hot" ones might not have the same penetration.

    With 20/20 hindsight, I'd have had multiple blocks lined up to see exactly what it took to stop these things. I was fully expecting to hole the block before the end of the experiment, but I was totally NOT expecting a pass-through with the lightest powder charge. They stopped on the firm rubber backstop without much in the way of nose-denting, so they clearly didn't have a lot of steam left, but it's a mystery until I can set this up again.

    At any rate, based on the alloy, bullet shape, and speeds this particular platform CAN throw the bullet at, I doubt very much it would penetrate less as speed increased. Fragile, butt-heavy .223 bullets act this way, but this slug seems to be the polar opposite of projectiles that exhibit those tendencies. In this case, I think faster is simply going to equal deeper.

    Would be one HELL of a pig bullet in a full-power load. . .
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • Big ChiefBig Chief Senior Member Posts: 32,990 Senior Member
    They had a load similar to yours in .38 Spl, for police (or anyone else) it was a 200 grain RN copper plated bullet. I had some and still may. I believe it was in a WW Yellow box. Not sure how good it was for police work (probably not so good), except it was sorta like the RN 158 grain lead loads, but heavier and slower.

    However, a lot can be said for heavy bullets moving a slower velocities, look at the .44 S&W Spl and the .45 ACP. The British called theirs the .38/200, I thunk.

    BTW, the Ruger/Colt cylinders are a tad shorter than S&Ws are, as I found out shooting some 158 hard cast truncated bullets I once reloaded. The S&W cylinder would close with room left over, the others were a No-Go. One was a Ruger GP-100 and the other a Colt King Cobra (?) a SS .357. I was using my S&W 686.

    Here is some discussion on heavier .38 cal bullets, you may be interested in.

    http://smith-wessonforum.com/reloading/185670-hvy-bullet-38-spec-loads.html
    It's only true if it's on this forum where opinions are facts and facts are opinions
    Words of wisdom from Big Chief: Flush twice, it's a long way to the Mess Hall
    I'd rather have my sister work in a whorehouse than own another Taurus!
  • breamfisherbreamfisher Senior Member Posts: 13,078 Senior Member
    I think that one thing you need to remember (and you do seem to be considering) is that the .38/200 was originally loaded with an unjacketed soft lead bullet, one which was changed to a jacketed bullet (which was less effective) due to the Hague accords and the way the original .38/200 would deform and cause issues.

    What might be an interesting avenue to explore is cast .358 rifle bullets loaded in .38 Special cases. You could get a long, heavy bullet with a flat meplat and at the same time gain back some length due to the shorter case. Or, if you're going to be using small charges of powder, use a .38 Colt case which is even shorter, and should give more efficient powder burn.
    Overkill is underrated.
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