Thursday, May 30, 2013

Winchester Ranger 38 Special +P 130 Grain Bonded Ammo Test

First off a word of thanks to Justin D. for sourcing the ammunition of this test and sending me some to work with.

Filling the only 38 Special slot in the Ranger Bonded line, this 130 grain JHP boasts 960 feet per second muzzle velocity from a 4" test barrel.  I was very curious to see how much performance we would lose when stepping down to a snub nose revolver with a barrel length of less than two inches.

Test Pistol:

Test Protocol:
I've recently changed my standard test protocol.  This is one of the first tests run under the new 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 8 feet.
Step 3)  Run first bare gel test shot into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 4)  Run second test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 5)  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:
As I mentioned above, I really wasn't sure how this load would perform from the short barrel revolver used for testing.  I was pleasantly surprised by the velocity we achieved and the text book terminal performance of this load when fired into bare gel.  Performance was virtually identical to a similar test done on the Speer Gold Dot 135 grain 38 Special +P Short Barrel load back in December 2012.  I've included the results from that test below.

The 4 layers of denim test shot indicated that this round may have problems expanding through heavy clothing barriers.  Even with the partial expansion, the bullet did not demonstrate unreasonable penetration.

Pick or Pan:
Based on this test, this load is definitely a pick.  I found it to be a bit stout on recoil, but that may be due to extremely light weight of the test pistol.  I'll be looking for these as ammo supply starts to catch up with demand.

As I was looking into the specifications of this Ranger LE loading, I noticed that Winchester catalogs a S38PDB load in their Elite PDX1 Defender line of ammunition.  This may be the Civilian version of the Ranger LE loading, but I could not confirm this with Winchester at time of publication.  Easy enough to comparison test in the future now that we have a benchmark performance test completed on the Ranger loading.  I have seen the PDX1 Defender available at many retail outlets previously.

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. It's my understanding that the PDX and Ranger loads are the same, just different packaging.

  2. Same load, but I believe the bullet configuration is slightly different, so the points remain sheathed after expansion. Still should be effective.