Snubnose Revolver Velocity: How Much Do You Lose?

BY Herschel Smith
1 month ago

Shooting Illustrated.

On average, with the shorter barrel there was a 12-percent reduction in velocity (100 fps). The smallest difference—26 fps—was recorded with the Buffalo Bore 110-grain Barnes TAC-XP load. The most-extreme variation—200 fps—was recorded with another Buffalo Bore load, the +P Outdoors-man, which utilizes a 158-grain, hard-cast, Keith-style bullet. More important than the velocity loss was how the slower velocities affected terminal performance. This is because when it comes to stopping bad guys, penetration and expansion are what matter.

The average penetration depth for the nine loads fired from both barrel lengths was 14.28 inches. The average penetration variation between barrel lengths was only 0.80 inch. For all practical purposes, that’s irrelevant; individual loads can vary more than that from shot to shot. However, comprising that average were a few extremes worth mentioning.

The 140-grain Hornady XTP load penetrated 2.25 inches deeper from the longer barrel simply because of its 99-fps faster impact velocity. With the 110-grain Hornady Critical Defense load, an 85 fps decrease in velocity caused the bullet to penetrate 1.75 inches less. However, with the 125-grain Golden Saber +P load, the longer barrel delivered 3 inches less penetration because the bullet deformed with a larger frontal diameter at the only slightly higher (57 fps) impact velocity. It should be noted that the hard-cast Outdoorsman load passed through all 28 inches of gelatin, regardless whether it was fired from the 1.9- or 4-inch barrel.

With regard to expansion, there was minimal difference. The average variation in expansion between rounds fired from a 1.9- and a 4-inch barrel was a mere .04 inch. The lone exception was the Winchester Silvertip bullet. Out of the 1.9-inch barrel, it expanded with a frontal diameter of .66 inch, but out of the 4-inch barrel it had a recovered frontal diameter of only .4 inch. The higher impact velocity (132 fps) overly stressed this bullet and caused it to shed 46 percent of its original weight. Out of the shorter barrel, the bullet retained 99 percent of its weight.

There was one load that stood head and shoulders above all others. The Speer 135-grain Gold Dot Short Barrel load only varied .5 inch in penetration depth and .03 inch in expansion, even though there was an 83-fps difference in impact velocity. Obviously, this load is aptly named; Speer purposely engineered it to deliver optimum performance from short barrels. Not only did it perform near identically from both barrel lengths, it delivered what many consider optimum terminal performance from a defensive handgun. Any load that will penetrate in excess of 12 inches and expand to 1.5 or more times its original diameter is noteworthy.

First of all, I think this is good news for ankle-carry small frame and short-barrel revolvers.  There just isn’t much of a loss in performance.

Second, it looks like Speer has done a very good job with .38 Spl. ammunition, calling it the “Short Barrel Load.”


Comments

  1. On January 20, 2020 at 11:59 am, Black Talons said:

    Cannot find the RBCD ammo anywhere. It was based out of Canada.
    They had cam evidence of taking out a bear with a 9mm.
    Odd plastic tipped bullets with insane off the charts ballistics.
    Winchester isn’t high rated anymore and Silvertips don’t always expand.
    Outdoor shooting is the best to see what expands and what doesn’t.

  2. On January 20, 2020 at 1:10 pm, Paul Bonneau said:

    “I took nine .38 Spl. loads, with bullet weights ranging from 90 to 158 grains, and fired them into 10-percent ordnance gelatin out of two revolvers. One revolver had a 1.9-inch barrel and the other a 4-inch barrel.”

    Anyone with any knowledge about firearms knows that this is a bogus test. The only way to get correct readings comparing two barrel lengths is to shoot all loads in the long barrel, cut off the barrel, and then shoot all the loads again in the same gun. There are huge variations if you try using different guns. See for example:
    https://www.gunblast.com/Ruger-Single7.htm

  3. On January 20, 2020 at 4:22 pm, BRVTVS said:

    http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com is a good resource for this sort of data.

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You are currently reading "Snubnose Revolver Velocity: How Much Do You Lose?", entry #23026 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Ammunition,Firearms,Guns and was published January 19th, 2020 by Herschel Smith.

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