Doesn't surprise me at all. A shot in the face isn't necessarily lethal. Actually a major part of the head would not be all that harmed by a gun shot from a handgun round. The brain itself is a very small target. A shot to the upper part of the neck through the face or esophagus would be very lethal but other than that a handgun wouldn't do much harm if it didn't hit the brain.
In the grand scheme of things handguns are poor stoppers compared to long guns. That's just the way it is. In terms of kinetic energy rounds like 38 spl and even 45 ACP simply pale in comparison to the power of a shotgun or rifle. Handguns basically punch holes in things. The permanent wound cavities produced by them is rather anemic. THe majority of people shot by handguns of all calibers survive. This case is not an indictment of the 38 spl.