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Old January 22, 2013, 03:22 PM   #1
Andrew Wiggin
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Gel test: 38 spl 135 gr +P (redux)

I did a previous test with Speer .38 spl +P 135 gr Gold Dot from my S&W 638 and it had less than stellar results. This load is supposed to be one of the few recommended loads for a short barreled .38 revolver and it did not perform as expected. I thought it might have something to do with the colder temperatures the day we did the testing so I redid the test. I left the revolver and ammo in the refrigerator overnight and kept it in the cooler on the way out, then fired a couple shots with it cold and one with it warm. I also fired a shot from a 4" GP-100. All shots were through four layers of denim and impact velocities are noted.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4ukjPssIYQ
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Old January 23, 2013, 04:17 PM   #2
cen
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I would think the 158 grn would do better.
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Old January 24, 2013, 10:04 AM   #3
Andrew Wiggin
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I bought some Buffalo Bore 158 gr LSWCHP and that will be next up for testing.
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Old January 24, 2013, 11:03 AM   #4
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The 158 grain Buffalo is soft cast. Gel tests I have seen have been O.K. - should go 12" to 14" but may fragment. Since it is easy for me to suggest ways for you to spend your time and $$$, please try the Buffalo Bore hard cast 150 grain stand pressure wadcutter, it should go about two feet and the Cor-Bon 110 grain DPX +P - I'm sure it will preform well/best of all if expansion/penetration is the goal out of a 2" barrel. I like the 150 grain wadcutter which should out-penetrate anything out there in .38 special even compared to +P loads.
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Old January 24, 2013, 07:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
The 158 grain Buffalo is soft cast. Gel tests I have seen have been O.K. - should go 12" to 14" but may fragment. Since it is easy for me to suggest ways for you to spend your time and $$$, please try the Buffalo Bore hard cast 150 grain stand pressure wadcutter, it should go about two feet and the Cor-Bon 110 grain DPX +P - I'm sure it will preform well/best of all if expansion/penetration is the goal out of a 2" barrel. I like the 150 grain wadcutter which should out-penetrate anything out there in .38 special even compared to +P loads
+1 on BBs hard cast 150 gr. Works the best in a 2 inch or under revolver.
Howard
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Old January 24, 2013, 09:42 PM   #6
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Interesting.

That is my chosen carry load in my 042.

A few years ago I fired several into a trash can (plastic) full of water at about 20 feet and got excellent penetration and expansion.
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Old January 25, 2013, 12:40 AM   #7
Andrew Wiggin
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Mike, did you shoot through denim? What was the temperature?

jmortimer, I hope it does exactly that. I don't really care for fragmentation in a handgun bullet but if it expands somewhat and penetrates 12"-14" I'm not too worried about fragmentation.
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Old January 25, 2013, 07:27 AM   #8
Mike Irwin
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No, and 70s.

I have trouble conceiving why a cold gun and cold rounds would fail to expand.
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Old January 25, 2013, 11:15 AM   #9
Andrew Wiggin
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Not so much the gun as the powder. Cold powder has been demonstrated to produce lower velocities in other tests and my own testing is consistent with that.

Cold:

801 fps
811 fps
819 fps

Warm:

880 fps

The sample size is too small to be sure, but it even looks as though the warmth generated by each shot caused the subsequent shot to be a little faster.

This load has been well proven in laboratory conditions. It consistently expands well in bare gelatin and through heavy clothing. The problem is, I believe all professional testing is done at around 70 degrees.

As far as water goes, it tends to produce the greatest upset that is possible with a bullet. Gelatin and tissue generally show somewhat less expansion than water does. Water beats the crap out of nothing but if you're going to use water, it's best to use a line of milk jugs or plastic bags (Fackler box) and denim and to bear in mind that it's not quite as accurate as properly calibrated gelatin.
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Old January 25, 2013, 11:28 AM   #10
Mike Irwin
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No, I know that. It's just my understanding that these bullets were supposed to expand at a low threshold of about 700 to 750 fps.

As far as water goes, Fackler has a simple formula to correlate the expansion and penetration in water (even a standing column like a garbage can) to expansion and penetration in gelatin. Not sure what it is right off the top of my head, but it apparently shows pretty good fidelity between the two media.
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Old January 25, 2013, 02:52 PM   #11
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I fired a GDHP 135g +P through drywall with no expansion. Just an FYI.
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Old January 25, 2013, 06:44 PM   #12
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link

link2

link3
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Old January 25, 2013, 08:12 PM   #13
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Was the ammo from your previous test and the ammo from this one the same lot number? It sounds to me like Speer might have had a bad batch of bullets and if ammo from a different lot number performs better that would be indicative of such.
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Old January 25, 2013, 08:18 PM   #14
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That is the first negative test I have read of the 135 gr Speer SB (Short Barrel) rounds. When I carried a .38 snub, that was my round of choice.

Quote:
I fired a GDHP 135g +P through drywall with no expansion. Just an FYI.
Everything I have read indicates that firing any JHP (with the possible exception of DPX) through drywall will pretty much always plug the cavity and result in zero expansion.
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Old January 26, 2013, 12:03 AM   #15
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Here is the second unfavorable test of Gold Dot 135 grain short barrel ammunition. 8.5" of penetration in 10% bare gelatin. Corbon 110 DPX seems to be the ticket if you want expansion, I'll stick with hard cast and a large meplat.

http://www.brassfetcher.com/38%20Spe...one%20Test.pdf
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Old January 26, 2013, 09:28 AM   #16
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OK, I have some issues with that... they're shooting through bone simulant plates and INTO ballistic gelatin?

Of course it's going to be a fail. Their testing methodology and their results are, as far as I'm concerned, worthless because the entire test is based on a set of flawed premises.

The reason ballistic gelatin was developed, and has NEVER been used with bones that have been cast in place, is because it approximates the average mean density of ALL tissue in the body combined.

That's why it's used, and that's why it has shown great fidelity with the results from bullets that have been recovered in actual shootings.

You start casing bones into it, you start putting bone simulant plates in front of it, and you mess up that average mean density and the results you get are very likely going to be both wildly skewed AND largely worthless.

If the Lobster People rise and start walking the earth, then I think we might have a valid reason for testing bullets that expand on an exoskeleton.

But until that happens? No.
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Old January 26, 2013, 10:46 AM   #17
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"Of course it's going to be a fail."

The DPX did not "fail." If you read the detailed article, it makes sense. The anatomical illustration and discussion demonstrate that the bullet will often hit bone. Further, your point about putting something in front of the ballistic gelatin makes no sense. It is done by FBI and others as there are barriers externally as well as internally. Brassfetcher does all the above, bare, cloth, bone "simulant." Makes sense to me. Some, FBI included , I believe, add drywall, sheet metal, glass, and plywood. Regardless, the vaunted 135 +P Gold Dot leaves much to be desired in my opinion, as even in bare gelatin it fails minimum penetration standards. It failed with denim barrier in the link above. So like a broken record, I say use the Corbon DPX 110 +P if you want expansion in a short barrel .38 Special. In testing it stands above all others. As for me, I'll take some hard cast lead and a meplat and two feet of penetration from a standard pressure .38 Special.
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Old January 26, 2013, 10:55 AM   #18
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Mike: I understand your reasoning, but I disagree with the testing methodology. If a bullet hits nothing but soft tissue, the gel is a great simulation. But it doesn't show what the bullet will do after striking tissue-enveloped bone. A better test would be to have a bone simulation of rib-like thickness set at a depth in the gel to simulate human upper torso. (If you want to get elaborate, look at the gel torsos on DEADLIEST WARRIOR.) Test results in that medium would be far more informative.
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Old January 26, 2013, 11:25 AM   #19
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Jmortimer... that test of the Gold Dot .38+P from Brassfetcher was into 20% ordinance gel, not 10%. So 8.8 inches works out to be a very good penetration depth. See the comments under that video.

On another note, this thread is very interesting. Very curious to see how the Remington 125+P Golden Saber does in .38 in colder temps.
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Old January 26, 2013, 11:32 AM   #20
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"... that test of the Gold Dot .38+P from Brassfetcher was into 20% ordinance gel, not 10%."

No, video is 20% and the 8.5" penetration was in "bare" 10% - look at the chart.

Here, specifically, quote from link above:

"The ammunition was fired from a Smith and Wesson 642 handgun, through a bone simulant plate
backed by 10% ballistic gelatin blocks. Of the six brands tested, all six of the ammunition types failed to
expand in the bone plate/gelatin target. The only hollowpoints that featured partial expansion was the CorBon 110gr DPX, where on 2/3 of the shots segments of the cavity peeled backwards and the Hornady 110gr
FTX where 1/3 bullets partially expanded."

Last edited by jmortimer; January 26, 2013 at 11:39 AM.
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Old January 26, 2013, 11:55 AM   #21
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This Brassfetcher video was the one I was referring to. I had thought you meant the same. Here, you can clearly see in the font as you play the video that he used 20% gelatin. Must have been either 2 different tests, or a misprint.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VWDYQCFgic

You can also see Brassfetcher's own comments below it:

Quote:
The dynamic penetration depth was 8.8". This is 20% gelatin, which is much tougher than 10% gelatin. We don't look any deeper than 8" penetration for the majority of´╗┐ analysis.
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Old January 26, 2013, 11:58 AM   #22
jmortimer
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Two different tests. Either way, the Corbon DPX 110 grain is the best choice. I think, reliable expansion and the .38 Special, are not synonymous. It can be done, but choose carefully.
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Old January 26, 2013, 02:38 PM   #23
Andrew Wiggin
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Good stuff, guys. Thanks for the links.

Please note that when I fired this load at normal temperature, it functioned normally.

The ammo was all from the same box. It might be interesting to see how another lot does but the velocity I'm seeing at normal temperature is consistent with Speer's published figures and independent tests. I believe it's unlikely that this is a bad lot.
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Old January 26, 2013, 04:14 PM   #24
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Quote:
The ammo was all from the same box. It might be interesting to see how another lot does but the velocity I'm seeing at normal temperature is consistent with Speer's published figures and independent tests. I believe it's unlikely that this is a bad lot.
It's not the velocity that I think may be the problem, but the bullets themselves. As Mike Irwin pointed out, the short barrel Gold Dots' velocity window includes velocities well below what you were getting. They do this because different guns can shoot fast or slow, so the bullets need to perform at a range of velocities to compensate. What I'm wondering is if perhaps the jacket or core was harder than it's supposed to be and thus produced the lack of expansion at low velocities. The issue is that even at the reduced velocities you recorded from a cold gun, those particular bullets should have still expanded.
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Old January 26, 2013, 05:48 PM   #25
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No, it does NOT make any sense at all, because the people who did this obviously didn't pay much attention to the entire development and selection of ballistic gelatin.

The important phrase in all of this is Average Mean Density.

Does anyone know why that's important, or what it means?

It means that 10% ballistic gelatin ALREADY FIGURES IN the density of bone, along with all other tissue types in the body.

People who don't understand that very important fact have, for nearly 30 years, been looking at the FBI gelatin protocols and getting a very dim flicker in their eyes and exclaiming "My God! There's no bone! It's not right! It can't be right! I'll get some bone, cast it into gelatin, and that will make it right!"

No, no it won't make it right, anymore than sticking a plate of bone simulant in front of a block of 10% gelatin (remember average mean density) will somehow produce more realistic tests.

By adding extra bone in front of, behind, or inside a block of 10% ballistic gelatin, that immediately renders the average mean density wrong.

At that point the ONLY valid data you might get is if you intend to be using those bullets against someone who is partially fossilized.

There's a damned good reason why 10% ballistic gelatin is pretty much the worldwide forensic standard. FBI uses it, and ever major ammunition company uses it.

Why do they use it?

Because 10% ballistic gelatin (without extra bones, bone simulants, etc.) produces test results that most closely match -- BY FAR -- the results seen in actual shootings. INCLUDING shootings in which these bullets hit bone.

Oddly enough, though, what have people who don't understand the concept of average mean density found time and time again over the years when they shoot 10% ballistic gelatin in which there is extra bone or bone simulants?

They find that their results don't match either industry test results OR the results seen in actual shootings.

So, I say once again, this particular "test" is flawed and useless because the individuals doing the "testing" don't understand what they're trying to test, or why 10% ballistic gelatin, on its own, is the most valid and most repeatable testing medium there is.

So, what we're really down to, then, is that failed science isn't science. It's failure.
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