Sunday, February 23, 2014

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

This is the second in a series of three terminal tests with the 158 grain lead semi wad cutter hollow point loads from Federal, Remington, and Winchester.  This is the load that I've carried in my snub most frequently because it was generally available in my area, and it had a great reputation with local shooters.  I've terminal tested this load previously, but never with 4 layers of 14 oz denim in front of the gel block.  I was really looking forward to seeing how this load would stack up against similar loads from Federal and Winchester.

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:
My first thought is that I have to find a new hobby.  I have the absolute worst luck when it comes down to terminal test shots.  There really isn't any good reason why the terminal test shot would be 35 feet per second slower than the five shot velocity average other than just random bad luck.  In truth, I never complain when the test shot goes out faster than the average, and that happens with about equal frequency as shots going out slower than the average.

Would the extra 35 feet per second velocity have been enough to cause bullet upset and allow the bullet to expand?  In this case, probably not.  The recovered bullet was totally plugged with denim, but the nose had compressed and expanded a small amount.  The bullet basically turned into a full wad cutter profile after hitting the denim.  

Pick or Pan:
If there is a trend with these tests of the heavy 158 grain bullets fired from our sub two inch long snub revolver, it seems to be that slow velocity and heavy weight isn't an ideal combination for defeating heavy clothing barriers.  So far we've seen 2 of our 3 test bullets completely plug with denim and fail to expand.  The good news with this test is the bullet left a small temporary stretch cavity, clearly visible permanent wound channel, but didn't penetrate too deeply. 

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. Nevertheless, this result is better than an unexpanded Speer GDSB 135 grain -- which is often the case with a snub in a 4 layers of 14 oz. denim test.

  2. I'll continue to carry vintage 150 gr. Hi-Speed RNL Western loads in my 2" and 4" .38 Specials. I have three boxes of these, they have always worked, give 1085 FPS in a 4" barrel (tested in my Oehler chronograph) and have great penetration, all I have to assure is proper shot placement...

  3. Add two layers of denim and drop 60fps in velocity and the results are totally different from the 2012 test. It went from a stellar performer to a "dud." I have seen a drop in velocity from all major manufacturers over the last three or so years. The factories are more worried about chamber pressure than velocity. It is beneficial to chronograph any load/lot number you plan to carry for self-defense in the gun you carry. I have found rounds from the same lot can give 20-40 fps differences when shot in the same model/barrel length handgun. Just a thought.