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Mr. Sailfish
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Earlier today I decided to do a little unscientific ammunition testing. My victim consisted of some 12in. deep water jugs and some soaked paper towel rolls, all backed up against a hefty log. I started out with some 9mm ammo, and ran through a few 124gr. Gold Dots and some 124gr. Federal HST Tactical. Both rounds came out looking pretty mean on the other end. Full expansion, no separation, the works.

Anyways, I pulled out my little S&W .38 Special +P Airweight and fed it some 125gr. +P Gold Dots. The results were less than impressive. Neither of the two rounds fired got past the first soaked paper towel roll behind a water jug, and neither came close to full expansion. At most, the petals on the bullet straightened out, but on neither one did more than two or three of the six petals actually bend outwards, not to mention curl back. The best the petals did was to protrude about 45 degrees out, still facing forward.

The guy at the gun store sold me the Gold Dots saying that they were perfect for the gun, but somehow I doubt that.

Any thoughts on ammo for a snubby 38? Maybe I should just stick with a heavy wadcutter, but if there is any expanding ammo that works with a short barrel, I'd love to hear about it.
 
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Alert Today~Alive Tmrrw
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CCI/Speer has a load specifically designed for snub-nose revolvers - it's called the 135gr. 'short-barrel' Gold Dot. It will expand at reduced velocities and give good penetration. Their 125gr +P .38 Gold Dot was designed around 4" barrel velocities.

My first choice still is the 158gr semi-wadcutter hollowpoint known as the "Chicago Load", made by Rem, Fed and Win
 

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In the 80's and thru the mid 90's my primary SD handgun was a .38 Special snubby. I did extensive ammo testing with all the rounds available at the time in a very similar manner and the best round I found was the traditional FBI load, the 158gr semi wadcutter JHP. This round provides penetration more than anything else but can offer some expansion when it hits bone.

The light weight JHP's that perform wonderfully in .357mag's are very poor choices for short barrel sub 1k velocities of the .38 Special snubby. You end up with very little expansion, if any, and only mediocre penetration. I have not tested any of the new "Short Barrel" rounds in .38Sp from a snubby, so have no idea how well they expand or how well they penetrate.

As far as using full wad cutters for SD, I read a number of case file studies from the 60's and early 70's where LEO's had many failure to stops using such rounds. The full wad cutter looks great on paper, but when it hits a solid object, say a door jam or bone, it will almost always get deflected or simply lodge in the bone without penetrating. This is what brought out the FBI testing on .38 Special rounds and led to the adoption of the 158gr Semi-Wadcutter JHP load.
 
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