Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Clear Gel Terminal Testing Speer 38 Special +P Short Barrel Gold Dot Hollow Point


This Speer Gold Dot offering can be found in 20 count Retail boxes or in 50 count Duty Ammunition boxes.  For this test we used ammunition from a 50 count box provided by Ammunition Depot.  According to the Speer product description, this loading has been optimized for use in short barrel revolvers.   I've included a small snippet from the Speer website describing the virtues of their short barrel line of pistol ammunition.  "Speer’s specialized ammunition designed for back-up guns was designed to work in 2-inch barrels. We redesigned select Gold Dot bullets to make the cavity larger for reliable expansion at the reduced velocities common to short barrel handguns."

Over the last few months many readers have asked me about running this specific test.  It is probably one of the most requested tests this year.

Pistol Specs:
Ruger LCR 1.875" Barrel


Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullets.  Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shoot a five shot velocity test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital chronograph.


The video below documents my entire test from range testing to bullet recovery.

My Thoughts:
This load preformed exactly as advertised by Speer.  We achieved the published velocity and expansion diameter published by Speer.  The small amount of lead fragments left in the wound channel accounted for less than 1 grain of total bullet weight so the bullet also gets high marks for weight retention.  I did notice that this bullet has 7 petals versus the 6 petal design of the Speer Gold Dot 38 Special +P 125 grain loading.  I have to assume that the bullet design change to 7 petals was done to make it "short barrel" friendly.

The key thing I learned from this test is that ft/lbs of calculated bullet energy doesn't always indicate if a load will be good or poor terminal performer.  221 ft/lbs of energy is almost a third less energy when you compare this load to the 124 and 115 grain Gold Dot 9mm standard pressure loads as fired from a short 3" barrel, but this round expanded to similar diameter and penetrated to similar depths.

As my first year of serious terminal testing winds down, I'm finally getting to where I've wanted to be as it relates to comparing various loads for specific calibers.  Earlier this year I tested the Speer Gold Dot 125 grain and Remington 158 grain 38 Special loads.  Pulling up the test details from the two other tests, I can start roughly comparing terminal performance versus this 135 Grain loading.  Data sheets from the previous tests are shown below.

While the previous two tests are not exact comparisons due to terminal testing media change and elimination of denim barrier material in the 135 grain short barrel test, I feel they are fair comparisons.  All three tests were successful and I have been saving all my recovered rounds.  The two pictures below show all three recovered test rounds.  The good news for me is that all three are perfectly suitable for my needs and I'm confident loading any of these in my carry revolver.


Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on which specific ammunition to use for their needs.  It's also critically important to test any ammo in YOUR SPECIFIC FIREARM before relying on it for any purpose.

Ammunition labeled as +P or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.

14 comments:

  1. I appreciate the work you have done!

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  2. So, based on this test, should one even bother with the "Short Barrel" load? It doesn't seem to make any difference. Just another flavor with the same results.

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  3. So, based on these results, should one even bother with the "Short Barrel" loading? Seems like they have the same results as the standard?

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    1. I had to start moderating comments due to spam. That's why your comment didn't appear immediately.

      It's ultimately up to you. I would try both and see which shoots better in your revolver and which one you can shoot with the best balance of speed and accuracy.

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  4. The Speer 53921 load that you test is not their short barrel load. The 23921 is.
    tc

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    1. Thanks for the comment and bringing up the possible error. The box of ammo donated for the test was the 50 round LE packaging. The first number designates the packaging difference. 2 designates a 20 round box and 5 designates a 50 round box. You can check the ATK website if you still have doubts. http://le.atk.com/ammunition/speer/handgun/details.aspx?id=53921

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  5. The Speer 38 SPL+P 135 gr. GDHP that I was refering to says PERSONAL PROTECTION SHORT BARREL on the box. The ammo you have pictured is LE DUTY AMMUNATION, different ammo in my book. Would like to see you test the SB stuff.

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    1. What I can do, is run some of my SHORT BARREL ammo over my chrono and see if I get the same results. If I do, maybe IT IS the same load, just different packaging. I also will simulate a dark house and compare this ammo with some FHS ammo for the amount of flash.

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    2. You may indeed be right that they are different. As I said, I just tested what was donated to me for testing. If you don't mind, can you count the petals on an unfired round of Personal Protection Short Barrel that you have? My stuff has 7 petals, but I've heard that some Retail Speer loads have 6 petals and the LE loads have 7. Just curious if this is one of the loads that has a different bullet for LE vs. Retail. Thanks for the offer to do some chrono testing.

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  6. The 135 gr bullet I'm looking at has seven petals, looks like the same bullet as in your pics. As a matter of fact, the case looks the same too. If the velocity is the same out of my 2 1/4" SP, I'd have to say it is the same round. Will let you know.

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  7. The Speer 135 gr. GDHP chrono'd at 874.8 fps. Slightly higher, but I have a little more barrel. I also ran a flash test last night and the Speer load had minimal flash, about a 2" ball, nothing like the FHS .357 Mag. round. It was about 6" dia and 8" long, really lit up. So, I would say that you are correct, same round. I think it would be a good in house round due to light recoil and low flash especially when sighting with a laser.

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    1. Thanks for running the test and validating the LE and Retail versions are indeed the same.

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  8. Thanks for the info been looking for a good self defense load for my Ruger LCP.

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  9. I have used these in my Snubbie for the last 8 or so years.They are my favorite +P rd. They hit hard and accurate at 5 yds. Great SD round.

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