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Old July 6, 2011, 08:09 PM   #1
jephthai
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Light rounds in short barrels

UPDATED 2011-07-07: I added .357Mag and 45ACP to the graph

I'm looking for something for concealed carry, preferably small and light. I was looking at numbers for 38 Special and 380 ACP, and getting a little bewildered by it all. I thought that visualizing it instead of trying to flip back and forth between tables of numbers might help. Using the data from http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/, I put together the following graph. Note that I converted to muzzle energy, since that combines bullet weight and velocity (I am aware that some aren't fans of the energy metric, but I need some metric!):



One caveat, of course, is that BBTI uses the semi-auto method of barrel length measurement, so I'm not exactly sure where to put the real-life revolvers (I checked a couple loads against manufacturer test barrels, and it looks like adding 0.5" to 0.75" to the revolver's barrel finds about the right spot on the graph). But anyway.

I was surprised to see the convergence of the 38 Special and 380 ACP. I had believed that I should avoid the 380 as "below the minimum", but in the short barrel category, it seems to compare favorably (given careful load selection) with the .38, which seemingly receives much less criticism from the "pundits."

I guess if I'm willing to carry a 38 Special in a 2" barrel (which maps to ~2.75" on this graph, if my back-of-napkin estimations are correct), then I should be willing to carry a 3" 380 ACP, eh?
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Old July 6, 2011, 08:18 PM   #2
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Have a S&W airweight with a CT laser grip. Absoulty love it. I sometimes have to pat my pocket to make sure its still there. Its super light and after I put about 50 rounds through it I became pretty accurate with it to about 15 yards. Prolly got 1k through it now and still shoots like a charm. To me a gun that small is easy to control recoil so I get 5 shots off fairly quick. Killed a couple hogs with it also. And to me as far as numbers go if its got gun powder it will kill.
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Old July 6, 2011, 08:20 PM   #3
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I wouldn't worry about numbers like that too much. Out of a pocket gun, they're very similar. I'd worry more about getting a gun you like shooting and can hit stuff with.
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Old July 6, 2011, 08:32 PM   #4
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I wouldn't worry about numbers like that too much. Out of a pocket gun, they're very similar.
Evidently! Criticism of 380s was what kept me from even considering them.
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Old July 7, 2011, 12:46 AM   #5
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Now , put a .357 on the chart.... then go buy one, and have fun.
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Old July 7, 2011, 04:44 AM   #6
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Well if you listen to the internet, anything short of field artillery is woefully inadequate.
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Old July 7, 2011, 05:46 AM   #7
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All true info is good info, and if that chart is accurate, thanks for posting.

I know there are better pistols than my LCP, but I carry it for convenience, and that outweighs many of it's shortfalls.

If a bg does not mind me shooting at him with my "low muzzle velocity" pistol, then I will oblige em.

Also, all ammo won't register the same, some will be more and some less.
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Old July 7, 2011, 07:29 AM   #8
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Good morning
Years ago I went with the 38 Special in 5 shot revolvers. I am a bullet caster and reloader so I found what works best for me. A 165 grain soft (40-1) lead semi-wadcutter over 4 grains Unique. This combination will put down a 90 pound mean dog with no fuss. I figure two of those slugs will take care of most other menacing preditors. I have also shot .380´s for a long time and do not see any where nears that type of "Thump" on target.
The light weight 5 shot revolvers weigh hardly anything. Get one in caliber.357 and you can fire +P 38 special for the rest of your life without any concern about damaging the revolver. And a revolver is about as foolproof as a knife.
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Old July 7, 2011, 09:27 AM   #9
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Please, remember it's not ...

what you use, BUT where you place them.

Mostly using a J-frame, and using old Hornady load of 140gr XTP. [No longer made] making transition to current 125gr XTP from additional manufacturers.

REcommend that you find a "bowling pin" shoot and try your sidearm and ammo under a "Timed" event and reload using loaders WITHOUT looking at sidearm.

This will help in knowing what you are capable of doing.
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Old July 7, 2011, 10:25 AM   #10
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Choosing between a light .38 special revolver and a light blowback .380 is basically a matter of choosing what kind of discomfort you want to experience while shooting.



On a more serious note, for .38 Special/.380 and below I'd take a good long look at solid, flat-nosed bullets rather than hollow points. Making sure you punch deep enough to hit something vital becomes sketchier the less powerful the cartridge.
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Old July 7, 2011, 09:12 PM   #11
jephthai
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Now , put a .357 on the chart....
Not sure if you were serious, but I did it. I notice that, given data from BBTI, the 357 mag and the 45 acp cross too...
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Old July 7, 2011, 10:21 PM   #12
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Not sure if you were serious, but I did it. I notice that, given data from BBTI, the 357 mag and the 45 acp cross too...
I was. Many people think there is not much difference between a .357 and a .38, it's just a little so it's OK, but there is a lot of difference. The good thing is shooting the .38's and .357's out of the same gun. You can practice a lot with the .38's, some with the .357's , and carry with the .357's so you have it when you need it.

Good chart. Who's data is this based on ?
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Old July 7, 2011, 11:00 PM   #13
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Find what you like and practice with it. Learn to hit in the kill zones. Then carry what you can shoot. Not everyone can shoot a .45 well. Even those who think they can, likely cannot in a crisis. Tactical awareness and shot placement are much more important than "caliber."
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Old July 8, 2011, 06:38 PM   #14
jephthai
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Good chart. Who's data is this based on ?
It's the info from Ballistics by the Inch:

http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/

All I did was graph it -- took me awhile to figure out how, but once I did, figured I'd share.
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Old July 9, 2011, 02:02 PM   #15
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Nice to see numbers translated to a visual graphic (is there any other kind?). I realize you limited your criteria to energy but you should know that the bullets of a .38 spl hollow point may be much different than the .380 by the same manufacturer. The Speer Gold Dot has a mouth that practically gapes in .38 special while the .380 does not do so nearly as much. Plus, I'm a believer in bullet momentum more than energy. When that is considered, the .38 spl fares better because of generally heavier bullets.
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Old July 9, 2011, 11:02 PM   #16
jephthai
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Plus, I'm a believer in bullet momentum more than energy. When that is considered, the .38 spl fares better because of generally heavier bullets.
And of course conservation of momentum is key to understanding recoil, which is why people like 125gr bullets in a 38 or 357 over 158s, even when the final result is equivalent (or similar) energy .

Maybe someday the energy-dump folks will reconcile with the sectional density folks, and settle terms with the hydro-static shock theorists and temporary wound cavity proponents, and we'll have some sort of unified theory of terminal ballistics.

One question I've always had about the energy dump people is that there seems to be no recognition of the energy lost to deformation of the bullet -- sure energy is conserved, but the target does not experience additional damage when real ft-lbs of energy are wasted in spreading the hollow point.

What are the drawbacks to using only momentum?

Ballistics is complicated...

EDIT: You may have convinced me. I did some searching, and found some very compelling material. E.g., this article discusses some of the reasoning behind a momentum preference. Thanks for bringing it up!

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Old July 9, 2011, 11:29 PM   #17
jephthai
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BTW, here's momenta for 380ACP, 38 Special, and 357 Magnum. Note that BBTI did not use any 158-grain loads for their 38 Special testing (max of 135 grain for the Speer Gold Dot load), so my guess would be throwing one of those in there would make the 38 Special curve overlap with the 357 at the short end (they essentially touch without heavy bullets included!).



Note: in case you're a physics nerd, and question the use of "pound-feet/second" as a unit, note that it is fair to refer to pounds as an imperial unit of mass when on Earth. Cf. wikipedia on Pound (mass). Otherwise, how could there be 7,000 grains in a pound, since grain is a measurement of mass?
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Old July 10, 2011, 12:56 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teuthis
"Find what you like and practice with it. Learn to hit in the kill zones. Then carry what you can shoot."
There is a lot of wisdom in what Teuthis posted.

Terminal ballistics are interesting to play around with, in an academic sense, and those are nice looking charts.

Given wide disparity in reported real-world shooting outcomes, however, there is a distinct lack of anything approaching validity to any conclusions drawn. There are too many variables among the population of humans shot by handguns to allow any reliable cause/effect relationships to be verified.

Still - it will generally remain true that if a victim is able to fire several rounds accurately into an attacker, the attacker will lose interest and go find something else to do. It matters more that the attacker is hit somewhere vital several times, than what the attacker is shot with.

While terminal performance is interesting to measure, whatever handgun you choose to carry, you want to find the round you can shoot very well under duress. While some of the larger caliber rounds on your chart will theoretically perform better than others, in a gunfight getting multiple rounds off accurately and rapidly is more likely to be the determining factor.

Someone else's signature line puts it well, something like 'all else being equal bigger bullets are going to leave bigger holes, but all else is rarely equal...'

Find the round you can shoot amazingly well, and that's the round to carry!

JMHO - YMMV...
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Old July 10, 2011, 08:34 AM   #19
jephthai
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Quote:
There is a lot of wisdom in what Teuthis posted.
This is certainly true -- and I agree with you! I'm not posting graphs and asking about ballistics because I disagree with the following advice:

Quote:
in a gunfight getting multiple rounds off accurately and rapidly is more likely to be the determining factor.
I agree! This logic makes great sense. If I can carry a mid-weight 38 Special in my LCR now, because I know I can shoot a couple inches in a couple seconds at a handful of yards, that makes sense -- and it agrees with your advice. It would be foolish of me to load up 180-grain 357s, because I do not have the skill to shoot it anywhere near as well. That said...

Doing this analysis, I can see that it would be better (all things being equal ) to carry a heavier one, if I can develop that skill. This may help me set a training target that is certainly achievable. Why assume that "the round you can shoot well" will never change, and can never be upgraded?

You also stated this:

Quote:
Terminal ballistics are interesting to play around with, in an academic sense, and those are nice looking charts.
It sounds like your argument is something like this: "ballistics is fun, but it has no value." I disagree with that implication -- perhaps only because I'm a consummate nerd, and can't help it .

Variability in the Real World is very high, but playing around with these things is valuable, because you do what you can. If you can optimize some variables, then optimize them -- don't suppress discussion because of scary probabilities. The real-world probabilities do, as you say, make conclusions difficult. But they're not impossible, and more risk means you should make more effort, not less, to understand and mitigate it. All things being equal is a useful, and valid, tool for isolating variables and making improvements.
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Old July 10, 2011, 10:11 AM   #20
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For those who are curious about the 158 gr performance, you'll be happy to know that we included a number of different brands in both .38 +P and .357 Mag in our recent testing. I've been entirely preoccupied with getting another project launched, but still hope to have those data sets up on the BBTI website later this month.

jephthai, nice graphs! Mind if I link those off our blog & Facebook pages? Also, those two places are where the first announcement of the new data being up will be made, though I'm sure that it'll be linked here and elsewhere fairly quickly.
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Old July 10, 2011, 02:05 PM   #21
jephthai
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...nice graphs! Mind if I link those off our blog & Facebook pages?
Sure, go for it. If you're interested, I can share the code (written in R) I used to generate them.
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Old July 10, 2011, 02:20 PM   #22
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Thanks - if you'd like to post that here, or on either our blog or FB page, feel free - I'll admit that it's beyond my computer skills.

Cheers!
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Old July 10, 2011, 02:21 PM   #23
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Quote:
Someone else's signature line puts it well, something like 'all else being equal bigger bullets are going to leave bigger holes, but all else is rarely equal...'

Find the round you can shoot amazingly well, and that's the round to carry!
While that's true to a point, there is a balance that must be reached. For example, the vast majority of people can shoot a Ruger Mk. III quicker and more accurately than they can a Glock 17. The difference in terminal performance between a .22 Long Rifle and 9mm is such, however, that unless the Glock cannot be shot well at all, few people would advocate the Ruger Mk. III as a self-defense gun over the Glock.

The above is, of course, an extreme example. Between the major service calibers (.38 Special, 9mm, .357 Sig, some .357 Magnum loadings, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP) there is actually very little difference in terminal performance and ease of shooting will make a much larger difference than slight variations in ballistics. While this may seem like an obvious disclaimer, some people have a tendency to take things to their logical (or perhaps illogical) extreme.
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Old July 10, 2011, 02:48 PM   #24
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I'm surprised by the precipitous drop with the .357 after slightly less than 4" of barrel length.
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Old July 10, 2011, 04:44 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jepthai
"...It sounds like your argument is something like this: "ballistics is fun, but it has no value." I disagree with that implication..."
I had no intention of implying that "ballistics...has no value". My intention was rather to indicate that - as Webleymkv stated, perhaps better than I;
Quote:
Originally Posted by Webleymkv
"Between the major service calibers (.38 Special, 9mm, .357 Sig, some .357 Magnum loadings, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP) there is actually very little difference in terminal performance and ease of shooting will make a much larger difference than slight variations in ballistics."
Webleymkv and I are in violent agreement.

I've been interested in ballistics research since the late 1980s, following the Miami FBI shootout with Platt & Matix, and over the intervening 20+ years I've seen no empirical evidence that suggests any of the major service calibers is consistently more effective than the others. Nothing hand-held seems to produce reliable, consistent results with respect to shooting humans. This is not due so much to variability among the various calibers or manufacturers of ammunition, so much as variability among humans shot with it.

Your conclusions are reasonable - 'all else being equal', some calibers and rounds produce laboratory results that appear more effective than others. Learn to shoot "more effective" rounds if you can. But IMO the anecdotal evidence over the past 20 years from actual shootings tends to suggest that the first combatant who can score several vital hits on their opponent tends to win the gunfight.

Therefore, if you can shoot a 9mm like nobody's business but have issues in getting accurate follow-on shots off with heavyweight .357 magnum rounds, even though the latter measures out as a more effective round ballistically, in your hands the former is likely to be the better choice.

Again, just one guy's opinion.

Nice work with the graphs.

Doc
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