Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Federal 38 Special +P 158 Grain Lead Semi Wad Cutter HP Denim and Gel Test

This is the last of a series of three tests featuring the 158 grain lead semi wad cutter hollow point loads from Winchester, Remington, and Federal.  I saved this test for last because this is the load you won't be able to find in retail stores.  Federal doesn't list this load on their consumer website, but you can find it listed in the Law Enforcement section of ATK's website under Federal Premium.  The best place to find this ammunition is from a LE supply company or one of the online sites that have both consumer and LE packaging available.  

Test Pistol:

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 5 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 10 feet.
Step 3)  Run test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.

Test Results:

Video Documentation of the Entire Test from Range to Bullet Recovery:

My Thoughts on This Load:
If you have followed this test series, the results of this test appear to be right in line with the two previous tests of similar loads from Winchester and Remington.  After clearing the 4 layers of denim, the hollow point cavity was plugged with denim and the bullet did not expand.  Instead, the nose of the bullet was compressed and flattened by the impact with the denim and gel.  This appears to be the standard performance profile for this bullet type at the velocity levels generated in short snub nose revolvers. 

You may not have noticed this, but the Federal load appears to be the only LSWCHP that has lacquer sealed primers.  This makes sense when you consider the Remington and Winchester products are aimed at the consumer market.  LE ammunition is often enhanced with sealed primers because it may be subjected to wet or excessively humid conditions.

Pick or Pan:
Obviously, we would have liked to see some level of expansion from this load, but we've discovered that's an unreasonable expectation for these heavy bullets traveling at sub-800 feet per second velocities.  At least in this test, the test shot left a clearly defined temporary stretch cavity, visible permanent wound channel and stopped within the 18" test block.             

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.

1 comment:

  1. In my experience, even 1/2" or 3/4" of additional barrel length can make a useful improvement in performance, from the improved expansion ratio. Cylinder gap is also important. You didn't indicate what this measurement was in your test gun. But in the .38 Special, using standard pressure lead bullet amunition, which is typically loaded with fast-burning powders, such as 231, Bullseye or similar, you can expect a Delta-V of about 10 fps for each 0.001" change in cylinder gap, from the usual Mean Assembly tolerance of 0.006". For instance, a 2" barrel gun with minimum cylinder gap of 0.004" will give typical velocities approximating a 4" gun with a maximum cylinder gap of 0.008". Cylinder gap tighter than 0.004" should not be used for carry guns to be used with lead +P ammunition, because leading buildup on the cylinder face and exposed barrel extension will cause binding and hard cylinder rotation.