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9mm, .38, .357 rumor-mill/opinion question?

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9mm, .38, .357 rumor-mill/opinion question?

Old 07-18-2011, 08:38 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by country1 View Post
As to performance, there is a reason federal agents used a .38 Special snub nose as a backup vs. a 9mm pocket pistol. The ammo needed to adequately penetrate cover.
Do you have any evidence to back this up? No, because none exists.

1) "Federal Agents" are not typically issued a "standard" backup weapon, but are allowed a choice from a list of approved weapons. There could be any number of reasons an agent would choose a .38spcl as a back-up, just as they'd have any number of reasons to chose other weapons on the list.

2) There is no evidence that beyond the "old-school hold outs", that ANY officers preferred to carry a .38spcl as a back up. Yes, the .38spcl and .357mag revolver WERE standard issue at one point, so many agents ALREADY HAD .38spcl back up weapons. There is no evidence that any official evidence supported using a .38spcl. Personally, I see MUCH more evidence that 3 factors contributed to older agents, 20yrs ago, choosing a .38spcl as a backup weapon:
A) They were already familiar with the .38spcl, and or already had a .38spcl back up weapon because that's what used to be their standard issue.
B) They too bought into the anecdotal, yet unsupported gun-lore that the .38spcl was more powerful cartridge.
C) They were hesitant to depend upon semiautomatics. During that time, semiautomatics were criticized by agents for being LESS dependable than the double action revolvers that they replaced.

3) The standard issue ".38 Federal", or ".38 FBI", was actually 20,000psi .38spcl +P, pushing a 158grn bullet at just over 1,000fps. Yes, a .38spcl +P with 158grn bullets WILL out perform a 9x19mm standard pressure with 158grners, based on the simple fact that the 158grn bullet will need to be seated TOO deep into the case to ensure proper feeding, which will displace powder.

You'll also recall that following the Miami shootout in '86, the FBI decided that the .38spcl was underpowered for their purposes. For some reason, the average gun guy only remembers the North Hollywood shootout of '97 and the underperformance of the 9mm, but neglect the tragedy in Miami a decade earlier that proved it's predecessor, the .38spcl +P to be inadequate as well.

A few old hold outs not wanting to depend on a semiauto pistol, not wanting to buy a new backup weapon, and not wanting to give up on their old service revolvers that they trained on for years does not prove to me that the .38spcl has superior stopping power.
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Old 07-18-2011, 08:47 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by country1 View Post
You do loose velocity from a revolver cylinder gap. Gases from the burning powder are expelled through the cylinder gap. A ported barrel in a revolver may increase the velocity of a bullet, but there is definite velocity loss from the cylinder gap. Find someone with a T/C Encore in .357 Mag. Fire a .38 Special round from that and compare it with the same ammo type fired from a revolver with the same barrel length.
No one is arguing that energy/gases are lost through the BC gap, it's a known fact.

It's also a known fact that semiauto pistols, of ANY design, blowback, short recoil, gas-operated, etc, ALSO lose energy via mechanical resistance of moving the slide/bolt, as well as venting gases through the breech.

My point is that the venting of gases does NOT explain why a 9mm pistol is more powerful than a .38spcl revolver. THE PRESSURE DIFFERENCE DOES!!!

If you really want to split hairs, revolvers have an advantage because a 4" revolver will have a longer barrel than a 4" pistol. Revolvers barrels are measured from the rear end of the barrel, essentially THE FRONT OF THE CHAMBER, while pistols are measured from the front of the breechface, essentially THE REAR OF THE CHAMBER. The nose of a 9mm will actually have LESS barrel in front of it in a 4" pistol than the nose of a .38spcl will have in a 4" revolver, so essentially, the .38spcl would have potential to actually have MORE energy due to it's longer barrel, but it DOESN'T.
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Old 07-18-2011, 10:48 AM
  #13  
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Personally across my chrony at 4000' ,its a dead heat between the 9 and the 38 w/125gr bullets. Step up to 147s vs 158s ,my 9 falls off considerably while the 38 holds on. Both sets were standard loads from Federal or Winchester. The 9 showed me 1210/925 125/147,while the 38 gave me gave me 1150/975 125/158. Now Im no engineer,but terminally that looks like a dead heat anywhere inside of 60 feet. Given this the 38 is less by 60fps w/125s but 50fps more plus 10grns of bullet. Those are hard numbers from a 4"FEG HP-9 and a S&W 4" "police" revolver.

In the end dead heat.
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Old 07-18-2011, 10:48 AM
  #14  
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Personally across my chrony at 4000' ,its a dead heat between the 9 and the 38 w/125gr bullets. Step up to 147s vs 158s ,my 9 falls off considerably while the 38 holds on. Both sets were standard loads from Federal or Winchester. The 9 showed me 1210/925 125/147,while the 38 gave me gave me 1150/975 125/158. Now Im no engineer,but terminally that looks like a dead heat anywhere inside of 60 feet. Given this the 38 is less by 60fps w/125s but 50fps more plus 10grns of bullet. Those are hard numbers from a 4"FEG HP-9 and a S&W 4" "police" revolver.

In the end dead heat.
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Old 07-18-2011, 01:11 PM
  #15  
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I’ve seen the ballisticsbytheinch.com site in the past, and personally, while I admire their effort, professionally, a couple guys with too much time on their hands isn’t necessarily what I would call a highly sophisticated and reliable experiment. They admittedly only tested a few shots and report the average velocity for each load, which may be SIGNIFICANTLY altered by atmospheric conditions. This does nothing to combat the known issue with lot-to-lot and shot-to-shot statistical variability for factory ammo. Additionally, these tests were conducted outdoors and on different dates. Several papers have been published regarding barometric pressure and temperature effects on powder burn rates, which would suggest that these tests do not have a high statistical validity.
For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that this data came from a scientifically sound laboratory and not from a couple guys shooting at an old log cabin (which it DID)…
I spent a bit this afternoon looking over their data to specifically find the points you referred to.
Originally Posted by country1 View Post
Go to ballistics by the inch and look at the velocity for a 9x19 and .38 Special fired from a 16" barrel rifle. They have standard pressure CorBon in 124 Gr for the 9x19 and standard pressure Cor Bon in 125 Gr for the .38 Special. The velocity is higher for the .38 Special.
I spent a little time digging on their site and did not find data for a standard pressure 124grn 9x19mm from a 16” barreled rifle for the Corbon load. None of their testing showed a Corbon standard pressure 124 or 125grn 9x19 load. The charts DO list a Corbon 125grn .38spcl, that tracks
I DID, on the other hand, line up the bullets and barrel lengths for the Federal Hydroshoks. For Federal Hydroshok JHP 124grn 9mm vs Federal Hydroshok JHP .38spcl, the 9mm showed MORE ENERGY for every test barrel in 1” increments from 3” to 18”, except for the 16” and 18” length. The 9mm was more powerful in 15 out of 17 test barrels. In REAL WORLD FIREARMS, the 9mm Federal Hydroshok proved more powerful IN EVERY SINGLE LENGTH! The 9mm was more powerful in all 5 barrel lengths. Overall, the 9mm proved more powerful than the .38spcl with Federal Hydroshoks in 20 out of 22 experiments.

But that’s just one load. Unfortunately, they don’t have any other EXACT loading matches, so I evaluated the rest of the data based on average energy per barrel length.
Statistically, the Average Energy of all loads tested for a given barrel length was HIGHER for the 9mm than the .38spcl for EVERY BARREL LENGTH, AND EVERY WEAPON, test barrels and real weapons included. The strongest load tested for each cartridge (highest energy for a given cartridge in a given barrel length) was ALSO higher in the 9mm FOR ALL BARREL LENGTHS. The MINIMUM energy load for each cartridge for a given barrel length was ALSO higher in the 9mm FOR ALL BARREL LENGTHS EXCEPT TWO. Essentially, the 9mm was more powerful in every case except for two of the weakest loads out of the bunch, which were weaker than the two weakest .38spcl loads.
So the whether you compared the data based on the STRONGEST, the WEAKEST, or the AVERAGE, the 9mm had more energy than the .38spcl in 97.5% of cases.
An interesting piece of evidence regarding the effect of the BC gap on energy level, from your own source. This actually surprised me, because I would have thought the BC gap wasted more energy than this data suggests. Check out the real weapon data for the .38spcl, specifically the last two weapons (shortest barrels). A 3” closed breech Bond Derringer compared to a 2.125” Colt Detective Special Revolver. The variance between the two is no more than 5% for any of the 4 loads tested, and two of the loads are FASTER in the revolver, complete with both a shorter barrel, AND a BC gap. The 2.125” Colt Detective Special revolver exhibited similar energy to the 3” test barrel as well, and SIGNIFICANTLY better energy than the 2” closed breech test barrel. The S&W 642 with the 1.865” barrel exhibited more energy with ALL LOADS than the 2” closed breech test barrel as well. The reported velocities for the Colt Python with a 6” barrel were also largely within 8% of the closed breech 6” test barrel numbers as well. Based on this, it is apparent that even though the BC gap DOES vent some amount of gases, NO, it is NOT a substantial portion of the total volume, and does NOT have a substantial effect on the overall power factor of the weapon (within a 10% margin). Like I said, these results actually surprise me, as I would have expected the losses to be much more significant. It makes sense to me that the SHORTER barrels exhibited LESS loss than the longer barrel, since the shorter barrels will hold less back pressure (lower chamber pressure) and the gases have less impulse (time) exposure in a shorter barrel, therefore proportionately less gas will be driven through the BC gap on a short barrel revolver than on a longer barrel model.
Also interestingly, the 9mm exhibited nearly TWICE the statistical deviation as the .38spcl for almost all barrel lengths. In my evaluation, this confirms that the 9mm is MUCH more sensitive to bullet weight than the .38spcl. As expected, the .38spcl’s oversized case allows it to maintain a consistent powder charge, and consistent energy level across a broad range of projectile weights. The 9mm’s smaller case starts dropping off in energy as bullet weights increase and the bullet base displaces powder capacity.
But with that aside, sometimes if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it really does turn out to be a duck…. The numbers from the front of their standard platform, a .38spcl revolver and a 9mm semiauto pistol show the same results that the data from ballisticsbytheinch.com…
The 9mm Luger simply IS more powerful than a .38spcl. How much? Not much, but like I said in my original post, at worst, they’re even, in fairness, the 9mm gets an edge. Muzzle velocities for the same barrel length will be within 10% on average, meaning 20% energy. For a human target, the energy TRANSFER RATE (i.e. bullet DESIGN, as I mentioned in my other posts) will be much more important than the difference in energy.
No I’m not suggesting that the .38spcl is markedly inferior to the 9mm, but I think it’s time to dispel the common misconception that the 9mm is inferior to the .38spcl.
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Old 07-18-2011, 02:39 PM
  #16  
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Here's a wrench for the works, grab a Lyman reloading manual read why ballistians get gray. That will shed even more gray light. You've chosen only a single bullet weight to illistraight a point. Using that method 1 could illistraight that a 30-06 carries more energy than a 458 WM if you only compared 165s I'm sure its true,beyond 100 yards.

Standard loads in a 38 are 125,158 at 18,000 psi, 9mm's are 115,124/5,147 at 35,000 psi. The 9mm burns faster powders than the 38 for a longer sustained peak. You said yourself in rifles over 18" the 38 gets the edge, slower powder longer peak. Heavier bullet same speed more energy. Step up to the heavier bullets and you will find that the 9mm is just about peaked out for energy return around 130gr the 38 is just getting started but actually peaks at about 150grs.

This discussion is kind of like " of course I'd rather be in a Corvette than an F150 but where do you put the deer and the tent?".

You've also compared carbines to revolvers and pistols. My carbine demonstrates a 400fps gain over my 6" revolver in nearly every load tried,more in some. The original discourse was 9mm vs 38 in personal defense w/comparable guns and loads,using rifle data doesn't support that,nor does +p examples.

The 38 and 9mm w/in their primes are so close it doesn't matter, the real decision is 5,6,8,10,13,15 or 20 . If I missed a capacity forgive me.

I've a 9mm bed side and a 38 in the cash stash and a 357 in the kitchen so no prejudiced.
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Old 07-18-2011, 03:17 PM
  #17  
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Originally Posted by harter66 View Post
You've chosen only a single bullet weight to illistraight a point. Using that method 1 could illistraight that a 30-06 carries more energy than a 458 WM if you only compared 165s I'm sure its true,beyond 100 yards.
Not correct. I didn't pick anything. I pointed out that the common belief that the 9mm is substantially weaker than a .38spcl is incorrect. I supported that opinion based on factual evidence, comparing similar bullet weights and barrel lengths. Then one of the respondants brought ballisticsbytheinch.com into the mix, which actually supports the fact that 9mm on average is actually MORE POWERFUL than the .38spcl.

Originally Posted by harter66 View Post
Standard loads in a 38 are 125,158 at 18,000 psi, 9mm's are 115,124/5,147 at 35,000 psi. The 9mm burns faster powders than the 38 for a longer sustained peak. You said yourself in rifles over 18" the 38 gets the edge, slower powder longer peak. Heavier bullet same speed more energy. Step up to the heavier bullets and you will find that the 9mm is just about peaked out for energy return around 130gr the 38 is just getting started but actually peaks at about 150grs.
If you'll read my post again, as well as take a look at the data supplied by the other respondant, I never said that the .38spcl surpasses the 9mm IN ANY BARREL LENGTH, and the data SHOWS that in fact, the 9mm IS SUPERIOR IN ALL BARREL LENGTHS. And again, you'll note that I acknowledge the extremely limited case capacity of the 9mm, which explains why all of my reloading manuals suggest approx 30% LESS powder charge for 147grn loads vs 115grn loads. And again, as I've stated over and over in this post, the longer the bullet, the more powder it displaces, and the less resultant energy the 9mm will have. The .38spcl is NOT capacity limited, therefore is able to handle heavier bullets without tailing off on energy. However, the 9mm STARTS OUT HIGHER THAN THE .38SPCL, then tails down.

Originally Posted by harter66 View Post
You've also compared carbines to revolvers and pistols. My carbine demonstrates a 400fps gain over my 6" revolver in nearly every load tried,more in some. The original discourse was 9mm vs 38 in personal defense w/comparable guns and loads,using rifle data doesn't support that,nor does +p examples.
No, in fact, the data supplied by the website DOES NOT compare carbines with revolvers and pistols. The experiment compares a closed breech T/C Contender with custom built barrels that were LITERALLY sawn down 1" at a time. Then they also include data for REAL WORLD WEAPONS (multiple weapon models/designs) and list the barrel length for each. Basically, they provide close breech velocities for different barrel lengths in 1" increments from 3" to 18". My statistical evaluation classified each different barrel length, evaluating ONLY on an apples to apples basis. Again, the evidence I presented specifically says "FOR EVERY BARREL LENGTH, THE 9MM EXHIBITS MORE ENERGY THAN THE .38SPCL.

Originally Posted by harter66 View Post
The 38 and 9mm w/in their primes are so close it doesn't matter.
This was my point exactly. My original post was to derived from a conversation I had with some "old timers" at our range (awful lippy for shooting FREE on MY range). The old gun guys were suggesting that the .38spcl was far superior to the 9mm in terms of energy, which obviously isn't true. Again, at worst, they're equal, but in reality, more often than not, the 9mm will have MORE energy (supported by 20/22 experiments comparing 10 loads over 22 matched barrel lengths).
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Old 07-18-2011, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by harter66 View Post
The 38 and 9mm w/in their primes are so close it doesn't matter, the real decision is 5,6,8,10,13,15 or 20.
This touches on what the older gents were trying to push off on us. My wife was shooting her .357mag (trying out both .38spcl, .38 +P, and .357mag loads) along side her 9mm, and the gents assured her (who is a double distinguished expert pistol shooter) that she should shoot the .38spcl because the 9mm is "underpowered". In not so many words, the shooters were saying that the 9mm is so underpowered that having 5 shots of .38spcl is better than having 9rnds of 9mm, which was the root of my interest in this conversation. Again, I could NOT convince these older shooters that the 9mm had AS MUCH IF NOT MORE energy than the .38spcl, and apparently some people on here don't want to listen to the facts either.

My wife ACTUALLY usually carries the .357mag revolver now for the simple fact that it's a DA with no safety.
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Old 07-18-2011, 06:25 PM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by Nomercy448 View Post

Claiming that the BC gap vents all of the .38spcl's power is BS. I could equally argue that a revolver should have MORE power because none of it's energy is wasted on driving the slide rearward, nor vented through the breech...
I did not say the cylinder gap of a revolver vented ALL the power of a .38 Special. I said the the cylinder gap of a revolver causes the cartridge to lose velocity. It appears you believe a revolver should have more power than a semi-auto.

You were talking how a 9x19 almost always had more velocity and power than a .38 Special. I commented that a round fired from a revolver loses velocity due to the cylinder gap. I then stated if you wanted to compare the potential of the two cartridges (for an apples to apples comparison) fire a 9x19 from a revolver and then fire a .38 Special from a revolver with the same barrel length and bullet weight. I then mentioned the info on BBTI.

It seems many do not understand what started the 9x19 fall from favor. Several LE agencies had moved to the 147 gr in the 9x19 full sized service pistols. The 147 gr was implemented for better penetration against barriers (windshield, car door, etc.) There were several incidents in LE where a perp was shot multiple times (some 10, 15 times or more) yet survived. It was discovered the 147 gr HP bullets used to obtain desired penetration had failed to expand as expected. LE was interested in high cap magazine semi-autos, but felt the 9x19 did not provide the penetration combined with results that were desired. This is what brought about the .40S&W cartridge idea. A high cap mag cartridge that had the potential to pass their penetration tests and perform on the perp as desired.

What I have be informed in the past is that for a federal agent to use a firearm, it was suppose to pass specific tests using approved ammo. It was not easy for a short barrel firearm to pass the required tests. Yes, the .38 Special was the cartridge that was 'suggested' for backup if not the standard.

You seemed to be hung up on the whole energy issue. This is why I mentioned the .45 ACP. Like I stated earlier, there are 9x19 offerings that have higher energy numbers than a .45 ACP. However, it is not just how much energy the cartridge produces but how that energy is used. Some LE agencies realize this and have moved from the .40S&W to the .45 ACP as their issued caliber. A full power standard pressure .40 S&W has more energy than a full power standard pressure .45 ACP when conventional powders are used. The .45 ACP still has better numbers for actual performance.

As to your claim that the farmers and ranchers I mentioned were using better quality ammo for their .38 Specials than the 9x19, the bullets were of the same type. Because a .38 Special is designed to be fired from a non-autoloading firearm, there is not the need to worry how it will feed in an autoloader. IMHO, the design of the .38 Special bullet is better at using its available energy than a 9x19. The 9x19 has to be designed to function well in autoloaders first and then work on performance. The .38 Special can be designed to focus on performance first if not entirely. This allows for the potential of a bullet design that is more efficient at using the available energy.
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Old 07-19-2011, 02:31 AM
  #20  
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You don't get it Country1. When they measure velocity and energy, it's after it left the barrel. Which means whatever was lost, has not been measured because it has no relevance. The relevance of that fact has no bearing to anything like you claim.

The measurements are taken at the point of impact at certain distances, and those numbers are the raw numbers used for comparisons. Any energy lost was lost before the important data was collected.

The numbers gathered by the major ammo manufacturers, the federal agencies that make firearm recommendations, and just some TV show people who like to play with numbers consistently show that the .38 +P rounds have less energy and velocity compared to 9mm rounds across the board when using similar rounds.

That's why the .38 caliber should be considered after the 9mm to the .45 ACP crowd. They are more effective rounds assuming you can control them reliably.
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