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  #1  
Old 11-30-2012, 09:49 PM
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Default Basic Ammo Question: The higher the grains, the more powerful the round?

..........

Last edited by Chris L.; 02-21-2013 at 06:45 PM.
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:23 PM
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The grain weight is strictly how much the bullet weighs. What you are interested is in foot-pounds of energy that bullet arrives at it's target with.
Let's say that I reload a batch of 38 special, using the universal 158 grain lead round nose cast bullet. In the first batch I load 3.1 grains of HP38 powder ( a great all around pistol powder). This load will generate 782 FPS muzzle velocity, and a load of 3.7 grains of HP38 will yeild a velocity of 834 FPS..as the velocity increases, the foot-pounds of energy increases and so the 'stopping power' of the round increases.
Now take the SAME 158 grain lead cast bullet and load it in a .357 mag case, with 5.0 grains of the same powder, HP38, and the muzzle velocity is NOW 1109 FPS, or approx 30% faster than the .38 special load. I do not have the foot-pounds chart in front of me but the yield is much more.
Same bullet.. just travelling faster and therefore imparting more kinetic energy to it's target.
Make sense??
When you are ammo shopping, look for the right type of bullet for the job, and the factory rating of FPS muzzle velocity.
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:28 PM
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Sorry to disappoint you, but NO 9mm load will out perform the larger 38spl loads. The best bullet weight for 38/357 caliber is the 158gr they were designed for. Buy some Hornady XTP 158gr for your 38spl, and don't look back.
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:40 PM
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Just as a point of information, 1gr. = 1/7000 of a pound. Stated another way, there are 7000 grains to a pound. It is a unit of weight and no more.

Larry
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:41 PM
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It's a complex question (the first one). Everything else being equal, a heavier bullet will generate more energy on target, but larger bullets mean less space for powder so heavier bullets are usually driven more slowly. Bullet construction also plays a factor, in that rounds that don't stay in the target don't transmit their energy fully. Plus, heavier loads equal more recoil and may be less controllable.

So, for example, the 125 gr JHP full .357 load has the best statistical effect of all loads, due to a combination of adequate weight, good expansion and driven at relatively high velocity. The 158 gr loads are no slouch either, so no one should feel undergunned with an expanding round in this weight.

There is no one "best" load for your 642, but many recommend the Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 135 gr +P for defense purposes. You can practice with lighter loads, like 148 gr lead wadcutters or 158 gr lead, but you should be proficient with the self-defense load.
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Old 11-30-2012, 11:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris642 View Post
When you say "heavier loads" you mean the bullet weight right? I'm trying to differentiate what people mean when they say "hot loads" or "heavy loads".
Heavier is relative, and usually refers to the combination of bullet weight and powder charge. As in the example given above, a bullet weight with a smaller amount of powder would be a "light" load, and a few extra grains in the charge turns it into a "heavier" load.
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Old 11-30-2012, 11:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris642 View Post
So I should be looking at the highest muzzle velocity plus ft/lbs energy rather then grain weight of bullet for a small snubbie?
That's part of the equation, but not definitive; higher muzzle velocity does not always equal a better performing round. The type of bullet being used also counts (round nose, hollow point, wadcutter), what material that bullet is made from (lead, copper, combination); quality, type of construction, and sectional density of the cone determining how that bullet behaves on impact -- all play a role in a round's effectiveness or lack thereof. Also the type of powder and what its burn profile is -- fast or slow combustion will have different affects on different guns sporting different muzzle lengths. Too, what pressure it's all loaded to.

High velocity from the right bullet in the right gun might mean excellent ballistic profiles, whereas in a different configuration all that great velocity might make for a hollow point that expands too much too soon after entering the target.

On and on it goes...

What this really means is that instead of grabbing the highest velocity round you can find, look instead to the well established makers and research the rounds designed for your specific needs in the specific (or at least type) of gun you will be using.

Select a few based on the ones that test best and experiment with them yourself in your gun. Choose the one that yields the best accuracy, reliability and ease of shooting as you would measure it.
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Old 11-30-2012, 11:52 PM
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Yes- What they all said. It takes time to understand what your needs are then find the right combination of bullet type, weight, velocity. Remember "stopping power" is a relative term to help us compare apples, oranges and bananas!! The formula for energy is weight in grains X velocity squared, divided by 450400 = ft/lbs of energy. As for your 642 I use speer 135 gr gold dot shot barrel in my 638 and titanium, accuracy is "good", expansion was impressive, in my limited testing. The Corbon your using should be fine if it hits to point of aim. Be Safe,
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Old 12-01-2012, 01:38 AM
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For s&w revolvers that are non+P rated the Federal 125 Nyclad and the winchester 110gr silver tip are the two best rounds to use............the standard 158 Lswc and the 148wc
are also used by some............since the heavier bullets tend to penetrate more than the lighter bullts that loose their velosity and energys much faster in tissue.

A copper jacket bullet needs around 900fps for it to expand in
a snub nose.............840fps at 8 feet will not work work on water jugs,per my test a few months ago,with a 125 and 110gr
Jhp.
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Old 12-01-2012, 03:40 AM
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Originally Posted by all357mag View Post
Sorry to disappoint you, but NO 9mm load will out perform the larger 38spl loads. The best bullet weight for 38/357 caliber is the 158gr they were designed for. Buy some Hornady XTP 158gr for your 38spl, and don't look back.
Au Contraire. You have it backwards. NO 38 Special load can outperform the 9x19mm.

Lets compare just two brands in the same/near same weights and bullet designs.

Speer standard pressure 9x19mm 124gr Gold Dot = 1150fps MV
Speer 38 Special +P 125 Gold Dot = 945fps MV

Hornady standard pressure 9x19mm 124XTP = 1110fps MV
Hornady 38 Special 125XTP = 900fps MV
Hornady 38 Special 158XTP = 800fps MV

There is NO factory loaded standard pressure 38Spl load that can outperform the standard pressure 9x19mm in equal bullet weights. And this goes for +P and +P+ loads too.

And as another example, even the 9x19mm 115JHP+P+ has superior ballistics AND proven stopping ability on the streets over the 38Spl 110JHP+P+.
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Old 12-01-2012, 04:43 AM
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OK, lets start with a basic understanding of the actual problem: Assuming sufficient velocity and penetration, unless the bullet strikes vital organs, systems or structures of the body, it doesn't really matter what caliber, bullet weight or velocity is involved. In short, your ability to place rounds accurately is more important than the actual cartridge or bullet you use.

As an example, the late great Jack O'Conner once placed a shot badly on a small antelope (gut shot it) with a .375 H&H. They spent about 3 hours chasing the poor critter before being able to put it out of its misery. Now, the .375 has been slaying everything from elephants on down for 100 years with great reliability when the bullet is properly placed. If a literal elephant gun (putting out 20 times the muzzle energy of a .38 Special) can't "stop" a 100 pound critter with a badly placed shot, exactly what do you think is going to happen if you fail to place your shots in a vital area with any .38 bullet?

So, find a load you can shoot accurately and practice, practice, practice. So long as you're using a good hollow point (although guns have been killing critters of various types for 400 years without expanding bullets) by a major manufacturer, you'll do fine-IF YOU HIT VITAL ORGANS, SYSTEMS OR STRUCTURES!

To quote an SAS training specialist: "We can argue all day if one is better than another if you get sloppy and put your bullets somewhere other than where they ought to go. What you can't argue about is that if you run out of bullets before you run out of bad guys, you're (deleted) dead!"

Last edited by WR Moore; 12-01-2012 at 04:55 AM.
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Old 12-01-2012, 03:24 PM
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Yep , ya can do direct comparisons of 9mmP and .38 Special loads at many of the ammomakers websites.

Even if domestic 9mmP ammo is loaded a bit lighter than European stuff , no .38 Special factory load , std or +P , will beat it's numbers on paper.
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Old 12-01-2012, 11:25 PM
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Bullet weight, type, and velocity are all secondary to proper shot placement. Spend more time improving your marksmanship and gun handling through practice and less time worrying about what the best load is.
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Old 12-01-2012, 11:33 PM
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Good point about the .38 vs 9mm, the easy solution, use a .357/.41/44 mag.
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Old 12-02-2012, 12:54 AM
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No 9mm in any bullet weight will outperform a 158 grain .38?

Excuse me, but my sides are hurting. I just can't take any more of this comedy.
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Old 12-02-2012, 12:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CTG_COLLECTOR View Post
Au Contraire. You have it backwards. NO 38 Special load can outperform the 9x19mm.

Lets compare just two brands in the same/near same weights and bullet designs.

Speer standard pressure 9x19mm 124gr Gold Dot = 1150fps MV
Speer 38 Special +P 125 Gold Dot = 945fps MV

Hornady standard pressure 9x19mm 124XTP = 1110fps MV
Hornady 38 Special 125XTP = 900fps MV
Hornady 38 Special 158XTP = 800fps MV

There is NO factory loaded standard pressure 38Spl load that can outperform the standard pressure 9x19mm in equal bullet weights. And this goes for +P and +P+ loads too.

And as another example, even the 9x19mm 115JHP+P+ has superior ballistics AND proven stopping ability on the streets over the 38Spl 110JHP+P+.

And the .38's don't even reach the same expansion levels as 9mm.
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Old 12-02-2012, 02:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris642 View Post
My needs are probably similar to a lot of other members needs here wishing to carry a 642, LCR or other similar snubbie. I want the best performing ammo for my type of gun with the least recoil possible.
There are two ways to address this. From a mechanical/physical standpoint, you have a lightweight gun that is firing a (relatively) large round for its size and weight. If you want to use the "best performing ammo", there is no repealing the laws of physics; you are looking at medium-heavy bullet weights and powder charges to achieve this, which will generate lots of recoil in a 642. You can mitigate this simply by using larger stocks that allow a firmer hold and spread the impact on your hand, or a heavier gun, or both.

The second way is lots of practice and learning to deal with the recoil.
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Old 12-02-2012, 02:27 AM
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Most 38 specials need a 4" barrel to get the factory ammo to expand be it lead or copper jacket bullets.

Best load in my mod 49 with the win and Rem 125gr sjhp
was an Alliant maximum 38 special of Unique that reached 931fps but the pattern was all over the place..........so I still agree that a 38 special does not really need a +P load and it will preform much better with regular factory velosity ammo.

Only factory loads that work in the snub nose is the silver tip and Nyclad for self defense and a bullet that will expand.


I will agree that a 124gr Jhp 9mm at 1200 fps is better than a 38 special J frame................ but a K frame or heavier will match this bullet and my L frame can get 1305fps out of a 38 special case with just Unique with out going to the magnum powders.
A 125gr in a 357 magnum can hit 1700fps ......
but only 1450 fps is needed........and 1250fps will work.
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris642 View Post
.... I tried some of those 158gr XTP's in my LCR and found the recoil disagreeable. Their 110 gr FTX standard pressure and +p were more manageable...
This is an important part of the equation. Carrying a super duper hot hand cannon doesn't mean a thing if you can't bring the gun back to point-of-aim quickly after the first round goes off.

As others say, find a round that you are comfortable shooting and practice until you can hit what you're aiming at. Then, practice often.
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:39 AM
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Interesting discussion! Just the other day a friend & I
were discussing the relative merits of "big & slow" &
"light & fast" in reference to s/d loads, so this thread
is very informative.
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Old 12-02-2012, 08:39 AM
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With the right hand cannon, no second shot needed...
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Old 12-02-2012, 12:10 PM
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if you go to the midway site they list the foot pounds of energy for the particular rounds that they sell.

if you go to the georgia arms site they have a calculator that you can use to determine the foot pounds of energy using the bullet weight and velocity.
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Old 12-02-2012, 12:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris642 View Post
Are you saying that a +p load is a waste in a .38spl?
No, Ed is just relating his personal experience with "heavier" .38 Special loads.

+ P loads will deliver more energy (and have a greater effect on target) than a standard pressure one. You just have to be able to deliver it accurately, and with greater recoil and muzzle blast (especially for follow-up shots) it is more challenging.
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Old 12-02-2012, 01:21 PM
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38 +P ammo is the cats meyow in a 38 revolver if it was made to handle this higher pressure ammo.........
A 148wc target load has 1.16 ft/lbs of recoil and the Rem FBI 158Lhp load has 5.86 ft/lbs of recoil but is a proven bullet in SD,over the years.

However a +P in a revolver made for 38 special "Non +P" loads can cause damage to the weapons action and working parts and spring the frame, making the gun usless.
Why would anyone want to kill a "work of art" just for a few more ft/lbs of energy shooting lots of +P til it dies.
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Old 12-02-2012, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Nevada Ed View Post
but a K frame or heavier will match this bullet and my L frame can get 1305fps out of a 38 special case with just Unique with out going to the magnum powders.

A 125gr in a 357 magnum can hit 1700fps ......
but only 1450 fps is needed........and 1250fps will work.
Where in the world are you getting these figures from?

The best (max) .38 Special 125gr JHP+P load listed in Speer data (6grs Unique) only hits 1082fps out of a 6in barrel.
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Old 12-02-2012, 04:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silentflyer View Post
With the right hand cannon, no second shot needed...
Uh-huh; just one shot - as long as the right Knucklehead is aiming it and correctly squeezing the trigger on the first shot, in the right light conditions where a quick and decent sight picture is possible......

Last edited by durco; 12-02-2012 at 05:07 PM.
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Old 12-02-2012, 05:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silentflyer View Post
With the right hand cannon, no second shot needed...
And that magic hand cannon comes from which genie in which bottle?
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris642 View Post
OK... so the grain weight is the actual bullet, and not the powder level (grains of power?). This explains a lot. That is why a .45acp can hit so hard, and a .22LR can travel so far?

So I should be looking at the highest muzzle velocity plus ft/lbs energy rather then grain weight of bullet for a small snubbie?
First, I appreciate your wanting to learn some facts about different cartridge loads, and it can be confusing to have a lot of numbers/stats/charts thrown at you. For a self defense load in a snubbie, you want the bullet to expand as much as it can, and expend as much energy as it can in it's intended target (bad guy).
As several previous posts indicate, there is no one best load...you have a choice of bullet weight, bullet design, bullet material and then factory powder loading. IN NO CIRCUMSTANCE SHOULD YOU USE A HANDLOAD FOR SELF DEFENSE...simple legal truth here, dont take my word for it, but do some reading on this.
Now, in a snubbie you will probably feel the recoil more intensely than in a heavier gun especially with a .357 or .38+P load. Simple physics here and much has been written on this topic by scribes smarter than I. Heavier bullet out one end=more recoil on the other end. Shorter barrel = more muzzle flip and flash.
Choose a bullet design which best serves YOUR needs. For example, if you are in a cold area and a potential social encounter would include heavy winter coats and multiple layers of clothing, perhaps something like a CorBon Powrball round with a hollow point containing a polymer ball to prevent becoming clogged with leather/denim/whatever and possibly not expanding.
The good news in all of this rambling is that there are many choices for defensive ammo available now, and I hope that this is helpful to you.
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Old 12-03-2012, 12:22 PM
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You must have the new "Lawyer" aproved Speer volume........

My Speer shows the maximum for a 125GR. Speer soft point at 1207 fps with Unique and 1308 fps with 2400 powder.
Hogdon #23 has the 125jhp listed at 1181 and 1206 fps.
Even the new "Improved" Alliant data show the 125 +P getting to 1165 fps, which we all know has been watered down............which matches Federals 124gr at 1180fps.

Last edited by Nevada Ed; 12-03-2012 at 12:27 PM.
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Old 12-03-2012, 12:51 PM
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Simple and complicated.

A lighter bullet must be driven faster to give the same penetrating qualities of a heavier bullet.
All things being equal, with respect to caliber and velocity, a heavier bullet has a longer sectional density than a lighter one. The added weight and density help give it more punch.

I have found that with the proper load, a 38spl bullet has more thump than a 9mm bullet. It has more case capacity, and the ability to use bullets up to 200 weight.

As for small vs big, such as a 9mm vs 45 Acp, well, all they are doing is making a small bullet act like a big bullet by trying to get it to expand and drive up the velocities.

While small calibers are effective with the proper velocity and bullet construction, it is depending on variables such as speed and expansion to, well, act like a bigger caliber!

As for the use of reloads for SD; this has been going around for years. The assumption that reloads will get you into trouble legally was based on a specific set of incidents reported by Mas Ayoob years ago. Mas was not incorrect in what he said, but the application of the intent has been misunderstood by the masses.

In a SD situation, if the use of deadly force was justified, it makes little difference if you used a hammer, axe, Louiville Slugger or crow bar or knife to defend yourself. The same goes with handloaded ammo.
What sounds more ominous, a lswc bullet handload, or " Guard Dog, Zombie ammo, or Black Talon?

The problem cited in one incident Mas talked about was a suicide where the victim used light handloaded ammo made by her husband to allow her to shoot the gun for SD. Since the ammo didn't leave powder residue or burn make characteristic with crime lab testing, the distance of the gunshot became an issue.

Yes, anything can happen. But using handloads for SD is not in itself a determining factor in lawful use of deadly force.
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Old 12-03-2012, 05:43 PM
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People. Energy is energy. Period. You know that E=MCsquared thing. Many of you keep making unrealistic comparisons. IMO..for the purpose of a person to person defence load...Throw caliber out the window, except to say start at .380 and go up from there. Only minor exceptions would be .22 mag or 327mag. But in general..Now think of it like this: any load that generates between 300 f/lbs and 600 f/lbs is where you need to be. Once you get up around 600 f/lbs. and above things start to change, having nothing to do with caliber. It is energy delivered to target. An Apple to Apple comparison would be .380, 95gr at 1000ft/sec vs .243, 95gr at 2960ft/sec. Tremendous difference in energy. Exact same mass at 3 times the speed. In the 300-600 ft/lb range there are no Magic One Stop Bullets.
Pick what you are comfortable shooting and run with it. .45 is way overrated and outdated. And....proven many times...faster bullets expand better, transferring that energy to target. Oldest, hottest topic on any forum. Best wishes
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Old 12-03-2012, 06:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nevada Ed View Post
You must have the new "Lawyer" aproved Speer volume........
Naw , not quite. This is from the Speer pages of a .38 Special LoadbooksUSA 2000 edition. And the data was probably a few years old then.

They copy the Speer/Sierra/Hornady/Nosler pages directly from the manual.
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Old 12-03-2012, 06:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Number1gun View Post
People. Energy is energy. Period. You know that E=MCsquared thing. Many of you keep making unrealistic comparisons. IMO..for the purpose of a person to person defence load...Throw caliber out the window, except to say start at .380 and go up from there. Only minor exceptions would be .22 mag or 327mag. But in general..Now think of it like this: any load that generates between 300 f/lbs and 600 f/lbs is where you need to be. Once you get up around 600 f/lbs. and above things start to change, having nothing to do with caliber. It is energy delivered to target. An Apple to Apple comparison would be .380, 95gr at 1000ft/sec vs .243, 95gr at 2960ft/sec. Tremendous difference in energy. Exact same mass at 3 times the speed. In the 300-600 ft/lb range there are no Magic One Stop Bullets.
Pick what you are comfortable shooting and run with it. .45 is way overrated and outdated. And....proven many times...faster bullets expand better, transferring that energy to target. Oldest, hottest topic on any forum. Best wishes
Where do you factor sectional density into the "energy is energy" equation? Or the effect of different loads in different guns within the same caliber? Or the effect of identical loads in different guns within the same caliber? How is more velocity automatically and always better if, dependent on the particular application, it results in early expansion and under-penetration?

I agree that the topic can and often is debated to death, and in general picking a comfortable caliber and getting good with it is advised, but there's a little more to selecting the best round for the specific gun and job than that.

Also, .45ACP rocks.
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Old 12-03-2012, 09:00 PM
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Only looking at raw energy available. Yes there are issues with terminal ballistics and it is as hotly debated as the caliber issue.
To me the correlation is clear regardless of bullet type. As the energy goes up so does the damage. Having a bullet open up just right is a bonus. A .50BMG producing about 10,000ft/lbs is so massive not too many people survive. The hole is only 5/1000ths of an inch larger than .45. The bottom line is that there is a huge disparity between energy but not the size of the hole. If you can transfer enough energy then you could have an absolute 1 shot stop. You can not get there in a hand gun. Well you could it is not practical though. More over most people start to have issues with recoil in the heavy .40 S&W range. Never mind 10mm and up. Just saying as a practical matter that there is no real difference in caliber as it relates to self Defence if the energy produced is the same or pretty close. A great read...? Can't find it. May be on Glock Talk. Study on actual shootings. Bottom line was that 70% of the time the attackers stopped doing whatever it was that needed stopping with one shot reguard less of caliber between .22 and .44mag. None of those were fatal. They stopped because they did not want to get shot again. The study broke it down to a point where number of rounds to complete incapacity was averaged out. No caliber averaged as 1.0 if I remember correctly .44mag was 1.3 and .22 was 1.8 or 1.9 everything else fell in between. If you find it read it and think about it. To me it sounds perfectly logical.
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  #35  
Old 12-04-2012, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Number1gun View Post
Only looking at raw energy available. Yes there are issues with terminal ballistics and it is as hotly debated as the caliber issue.
To me the correlation is clear regardless of bullet type. As the energy goes up so does the damage. Having a bullet open up just right is a bonus. A .50BMG producing about 10,000ft/lbs is so massive not too many people survive. The hole is only 5/1000ths of an inch larger than .45. The bottom line is that there is a huge disparity between energy but not the size of the hole. If you can transfer enough energy then you could have an absolute 1 shot stop. You can not get there in a hand gun. Well you could it is not practical though. More over most people start to have issues with recoil in the heavy .40 S&W range. Never mind 10mm and up. Just saying as a practical matter that there is no real difference in caliber as it relates to self Defence if the energy produced is the same or pretty close. A great read...? Can't find it. May be on Glock Talk. Study on actual shootings. Bottom line was that 70% of the time the attackers stopped doing whatever it was that needed stopping with one shot reguard less of caliber between .22 and .44mag. None of those were fatal. They stopped because they did not want to get shot again. The study broke it down to a point where number of rounds to complete incapacity was averaged out. No caliber averaged as 1.0 if I remember correctly .44mag was 1.3 and .22 was 1.8 or 1.9 everything else fell in between. If you find it read it and think about it. To me it sounds perfectly logical.
Will have a look and appreciate your thoughts.

And welcome to the forum.
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  #36  
Old 12-04-2012, 01:47 PM
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It really does not matter what you shoot..................

as long as you can get two placed center of mass in under one second, if possible................under all conditions.
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Old 12-05-2012, 11:19 AM
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What is the best grain weight to use in .38spl for my S&W 642?
To not add to all of the rhetoric about light and fast vs. slow and heavy, but to answer your last question, these are the 2 .38 Special +P loads I carry in my 340 (which can chamber .357 magnum, but I find too punishing):

Speer 135 grain GDHP+P (modern design with a great track record)

158 grain LSWCHP+P (Chicago, St Louis, FBI load-great old design, great record; I carried this as a duty/off duty load while working as a police officer in northern Chicago suburbs 30 years ago, very similar to your weather in Wisconsin. Any manufacturer will work, I prefer Federal Nyclad if you can find them.)
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Old 12-05-2012, 12:20 PM
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There are tons of info on ballistic gel performance & penetration . I read some very intresting articles discussing f.b.i. test & what they demand from a bullet . They usually want around 11 to 15 inches of penetration . I'm a fan of 165gr ( hard to find ) out of my model 66 no dash . I've had problems & read info on the 125gr can damage the forcing cone & in my own experice locked the revolver up tight. Having stated all this I must say over penetration is my biggest fear in a defensive situation . So in my 44mag (Ruger redhawk ) I shoot 44 specials.
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