Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Max Velocity

So, the other day I decided it was time to go ahead and rotate out the carry ammunition in my heater. I went to the ammo stash and grabbed the partial box of Winchester Ranger-T 127gr +P+ so I could refill the magazine and started to head for the door when I had an idea.

The M&P 357 also had a full magazine, left over from when I carried it last October, of Winchester Ranger-T 125gr ammo. I could take the chrono to the range and compare the two velocities out my own guns, because I'm all nerdy like that. Would .357SIG really be that much faster than the hot nine? Or was it just 9mm +P++, like some people (including me) kept insisting?

I got to the range, set up the chronograph in one of the pistol bays, and drew my pistol. I checked the headstamp on the top round in the mag, just to double-check: Yup, it said "+P+" right on it. Aiming through the skyscreens eight feet away, I cranked off a slow string of ten shots, then cleared the gun, set it down, and went to look at the numbers.

LO: 935
HI: 1220...

What. The. Hell?

That works out to an...

 ES: 285

You could probably buy better consistency than that in a Peshawar back alley. Something was fishy...

I went back and checked the mag on the table. Sure enough, none of the other rounds in there were headstamped +P+. Some time during last winter, I had apparently put a magazine full of RA9T 147gr ammo in the gun, just by swapping the magazines and without changing the chambered round. Then, when I cleared the gun for the last Indy 1500, I reloaded by rotating the chambered round to the top of the mag, so that when I dropped the mag to check, I saw the expected 127gr +P+ round on top of the stack.

I clanged steel with the rest of the magazine and then loaded it with ten rounds of actual RA9TA +P+ from the box I'd brought.

LO: 1190
HI: 1230
AV: 1206
ES: 39.34
SD: 11.13

Okay, that was more like what I'd been expecting. Winchester claims 1250 at the muzzle out of a four inch test barrel; 1206 at eight feet out of a real gun falls into "close enough for government work", and with a pretty impressive level of consistency, too.

Now for the .357SIG...

FWIW, I don't think the M&P 357 is that much trickier to shoot than +P-type street loads in the nine. It's louder, and chucks the brass halfway to Ohio (at least comparatively; it's no CZ-52, whose ejected brass is moving fast enough to make major) but the difference in splits isn't noticeable without a timer.

The tale of the tape for the .357SIG was:

LO: 1314
HI: 1394
AV: 1350
ES: 79.63
SD: 24.18

So, the velocity is spot on what Winchester claimed it would be, and close to 150fps faster than the nine. Is it worth it? I mean, it's harder to find, more expensive to shoot, holds two fewer BBs in the tank, and there's always that picture to bear in mind:

There was a time when I absolutely bought the death ray hype. Other than that P228 I used back in the early '90s for purse carry because I didn't trust a Glock in there, and my romance with the P7M8 back at the turn of the Millennium, I never carried a nine until I bought the M&P three years ago. I was all about .40 and 10mm and .357SIG, and then from '03 until just recently it was all .45ACP, all the time...

I dunno.

Anyway, I put the .357 back in the range bag, reloaded the M&P 9 with fresh BBs, holstered it up, and drove home.


Eric said...

Short fingers and small hands for a 6' 1" guy leads to the 1911, which leads to .45 ACP. I do have a Springfield Target in 9mm, along with an EMP in the same caliber.

If you can shoot it comfortably, put rounds on the target *and* can find it easily, that's the caliber for you.

Anonymous said...

Tam, it's not even 0900 and your giving me friggin statistics lecture.

What's next spreadsheets and pie charts?

I'll be back after another cup of coffee


Matt W said...

The first pistol I bought was chambered in .45 ACP. This was for one reason: at the time in NM, you were restricted to the caliber you qualified with and SMALLER. So, .45 it was and then I could carry most other common calibers on my CCW.

Since then I've moved to Texas and every new pistol I have acquired as been chambered in 9mm.

I appreciate the "Real World Lessons from Range Time with Tam". You should do more of these types of posts.

staghounds said...

And my suggquestion is- since you're playing with the chronograph and it's summer, how about leaving a box on the dashboard for a couple of weeks and see what constant heat does to velocity and consistency?

Angus McThag said...

That picture...

The Wife was concerned about that since she carries a .357 SIG. "It's not any better than 9mm and I have fewer shots!"

True, but bird in hand; budget, etc...

There are lots of things we focus on that are more of a "getting a new gun" worry than a "must discard my old gun!" imperative.

Anonymous said...

Allow me to nerd out for a minute or three:

If you have to have the velocity of the .357 Sig, you could go with .38 Super and not take the two BB penalty when compared with 9mm...of course I don't know of anyone who makes a double stack .38 Super that isn't a full-size race gun.

Just curious and still nerding out, why did you leave the 10mm behind? It takes the same two round penalty over 9mm (and the theoretical modern .38 Super carry gun), would seem to offer a ballistics advantage over both .357 Sig and .40 S&W, and is availabe in a modern double stack carry piece (in contrast with .38 Super)...seems like the best choice if you are going to take the two round penalty.

FWIW, depending on conditions, I alternate carry between a compact single stack 1911 in .45 ACP (using Colt compact 7 shot mags + 1 in the chamber) and two different pocket .380s (one a single stack and the other a double stack) you can clearly see that my nerding out doesn't really affect my carry choices, it's just a fun theoretical exercise.

Best Regards,
Aaron the Gunshow Ammo Guy

Scott J said...

Brass moving fast enough to make major. Glad I didn't have a mouthful of coffee when I read that :)

Makes me think about what I read in Hatcher's " Book of The Garand" a couple of weeks ago. One of the candidate rifles during the development of a semi-auto service rifle (the Thompson I think) would fling ejected .30-06 cases hard enough to stick in a board 30 feet away.

I can tell you that .357 Sig sucks to SO. Particularly indoors. Ditto for 10mm. However neither sucks as bad as 5.7x28.

PhilaBOR said...

Love me my majik boolits. I carry the 357 M&P while the 9's, 40's & 45 sit on their safe thrones. I know I'm wrong because I don't produce TV shows, run a gun school or work at a gun store and they all say 9 is the new 40. But they used to say 40 all the way...

Anyway I don't plan on a 1 shot stop, but figure odds are better with a faster pill. After all, which is better: 38 special or 357 mag? But I endorse the shoot until they stop plan.

Ballistic Pressure Wave.

Coconut said...

I really don't get the calibre wars.

From what I've read, all the major pistol cartridges now are very similar; a 10mm hurts the wrist more, and you can rattle off .380 more accurately, but in terms of pill and effect they all seem about the same.

Just feels like a storm in a chamber pot.

The Raving Prophet said...

I expect that's a potential reason the .357 SIG just hasn't managed to get all that much traction.

Does it hit harder than a 9x19? Sure, but not a ton. If you are willing to take the capacity hit with the .357 SIG, why not just drill a bigger hole with the .40 S&W?

That bottleneck means it's going to be an easy cartridge for a gun to feed but it also means the brass isn't as easy to reload.

I kinda like the idea of the .357 SIG, I have a conversion kit for my P250 that will shoot it, but I just haven't really thought that I really needed less than a couple hundred more fps more than I needed a couple more rounds of capacity and the money to feed it.

Weer'd Beard said...

For McThag, Just call it .38 Fat-bottom Super.

See it is better than 9x19! Hell it's better than 9x23SR!

Don M said...

I wonder what a modern hollow point .30 Carbine round would do. The old .30 Mauser was supposed to be a pretty effective round, and it was slower than the .30 Carbine by a few hundred feet per second.

Biologically, the important organs that have to be damaged to stop an aggressive human, tend to be in the back, so the thickness in the damage line at the 6 inch to 8 inch mark would be of most interest.

Tearing the nerves near someone's spine would result in loss of control over the distal end of those nerves.

Sendarius said...

Scoot J:

Try 9 x 25 Dillon. There's a reason why IPSC Australia banned it.

The first time I saw it used in a match, it was setting fire to close targets.

When I shot it, the second shot of a double tap was about a foot lower than the first, and every third or fourth shot had a HUGE fireball from the ignition of the unburnt powder gathered in the compensator. Bang, bang, bang, BOOM.

Kristophr said...


You can't stop a gun nerd from being a gun nerd.

She will use her new chrono toy, and you will learn to like it.

abnormalist said...

Personally still a 45 fanboi...

Really though its a pressure thing. If I can reload my brass a few more times I get more bangs for the buck.

Then again, I like big heavy and slow (reminds me of myself) in most of my guns, the 44 carbine I like me some 300grain xtps at 1600fps vs the 180xtps at 2200fps.

Those 300s THUMP

Paul said...

Good write up. Main reason I am carrying 9mm. Maybe NATO was on to something after all.

Scott J said...

"Personally still a 45 fanboi..."

A combination of becoming a boolit caster and IDPA shooter did this to me.

.45 is far more cast friendly than 9mm in my experience.

.38 is more so (and mid range .357) but I go from pathetically slow to downright comical running the wheelgun in the action pistol game.

Anonymous said...


OK. But if Tam starts graphing pressure curves versus relative humidity and ambient temperature for 25 different lots of 9 mm Kurtz ammo, we will need to do an intervention.


newrebeluniv said...

Army wants to buy a new pistol. The demanded specifications are all about folklore and myth and nothing provable. Magic formulas from translating "wound channel size" = stopping power is going to be used to justify someone's favorite pet rock caliber at Fort Benning.

mikee said...

I got a Glock 9mm way back when, because the ammo was $3.86/50 rounds of Blazer at the local sporting goods store, and .40 or .45 was about twice as much.

Now I find that my original caliber of choice is making a comeback from its prior disdain.

Should I hang on to those really wide ties from the 1980s, or can I let them go, too?

Scott J said...

"Try 9 x 25 Dillon"

Sounds quite unpleasant.

I feel a bit guilty complaining because I do have a .357 load that throws a 140gr cast SWC at 1,000 fps out of my 2.5" 66 using No. 5 powder that's probably no fun to SO either.

Geodkyt said...


While pretty much all the "service calibers" perform about the same with conventional modern JHP loads (thus making 9x19mm one of the best choices for just about everyone), the same doesn't hold true for FMJ, necessarily.

Whether the easier controllability and higher round count of 9x19mm FMJ is better than .45ACP FMJ is debatable. The .45 simply destroys more tissue and makes a slightly larger path that can disrupt important things than the 9mm, but you can put more 9mm on target in the same amount of time.

Frankly, with FMJ, I'd say it's a wash -- 3x 9mm ball rounds is at least eaqual to the 2x .45 FMJ rounds you would likely land in the same timeframe. Still, I'd rather have the .45, if I am restricted to Hague compliant ammo -- I am probably already starting from a serious disadvantage (i.e., I'm stuck with a pistol in what is realistically a "rifle, GPMG, and artillery" fight) and may only have time to GET one round in the target before he returns fire with a rifle. . . under those circumstances, I'll take the bigger hole every time. If you're stuck in a Hague compliant gunfight, the number of rounds in your pistol is probably the least disadvantage you have -- get thee to a rifle most rikki-tik.

Matthew said...

Her snark will become like xkcd, I'll understand it's supposed to be funny, but half the time I'll have no idea why. :)

Matthew said...

VFTP will become like xkcd. I'll know tje snark is funny, but I won't understand *why*.

bedlamite said...

Don M- The modern 30 carbine is called the 300 blackout.

Matt said...

I second this notion

Ed said...

I must have arrested development. I still have my SIG P228 9mm. I was contemplating getting night sights and some Mec-Gar 15 round magazines to carry instead of the standard 13 round magazines to "upgrade" and "modernize" it.

Joseph said...

For comparison, my Sig P6 with threaded Bar-Sto barrel achieved the following with the Winchester +P+

LO: 1224
HI: 1251
AV: 1236
SD: 10.69

Wonder if the extra half inch makes that much difference or the Bar-Sto is just a better barrel?

Haven't shot any of the +P+ through my M&P9 Full size, don't suppose you have an extra box?

Don M said...

Sign another one up for arrested development. There are a lot of bullets that will do the the job. .30 Mauser is better now than it ever was, and it was pretty darned good back then.

Ken O said...

I have been dying to play with one of these. Years of Bambi murder have left me leaning towards velocity, and lots of it. Of course I still pine for the .40 Super.

EgregiousCharles said...

The raw capacity of a moving object such as a bullet to do physical work, such as making holes in people, is measured by kinetic energy.

The kinetic energies for the pictured rounds are
124 1181 384
147 1032 348
125 1319 483
165 1076 424
180 995 396
230 875 391

Bullet makers have been working for decades to make handgun bullets penetrate at least 12" in ballistic gelatin and make the biggest channel possible while doing it. All of these bullets are attempting to do the exact same thing with the energy available.

Biggest energy difference in the pictured rounds is that the lowest-energy round, the 147gr 9mm, second down, has 72% of the energy of the highest, 125gr .357Sig, third down. Look at the second and third from the top. There's a visible difference there. It's not a huge difference. Maybe somewhere close to the channel from the 9 being 28% smaller?

This picture is a picture of a bunch of tools which are designed to do the same thing given the same energy doing almost the same thing given almost the same energy.

There's no magic bullet, because physics works and JHP bullet technology has gotten to where the available energy of bullets in common handgun calibers & weights can be used efficiently. Unlike the .45 FMJ vs 9mm FMJ that most anecdotes come from. If you want to see a bigger difference in gelatin, you need a bigger difference in energy.

But for a big difference in energy you need to get into uncommon calibers, and the bullets might not be in their design envelope anymore. Stick a 110gr 9mm bullet into a 9x25 Dillon and is probably not going to work as intended. (I always thought the 9x25 Dillon should have been a .357x25 Dillon because the available bullets are better designed for the velocity.)

BTW, there is not a direct tradeoff between energy and recoil; recoil is caused by momentum not energy. Energy is based on the weight of the bullet times the _square_ of the velocity, while recoil momentum is based on the weight of the bullet times the velocity plus the weight of the gas times velocity. More velocity gets you more energy without adding as much recoil.

That means, assuming you trust the bullet designers and you don't have too much wasted propellant, faster bullets are better.

All this is plus big hands and a large tolerance for discomfort is why I still carry a large, full-power 10mm.

Tam said...

*looks over glasses at EgregiousCharles*

I'm just kinda curious as to which part of anything you typed you think was news to me? ;)

EgregiousCharles said...

Tam, actually I'm afraid I wasn't thinking of you personally when I left this comment on your personal blog, I was kind of treating it as a public cartridge discussion. Or maybe you're happy to hear that, since I didn't assume you didn't know any of it. I would in fact be surprised if any of it was news to you personally. Probably I was a little late for a general comment though.

Tam said...


I apologize for the snark. :)

EgregiousCharles said...

No worries, snark is your thing and painfully earnest nerdular nerdence is mine. If you sounded like me I wouldn't read you everyday. ;)

Dave said...

Farmer Frank had a good post about this subject, based on actually killing things. Real proof comes from doing.

Tam said...


I've talked to lots of folks who've killed things, including Farmer Frank. Some agreed with him. some didn't.

Me, I haven't killed a lot of things myself, but my limited experience of killing things says that if you shoot 'em in the right place, you'd probably be surprised what a .22LR will kill.

Ritchie said...

Another nerdnote- if chrono readings become erratic or absent, check if the Sun is shining in the little tollhouse. I had to fabricate black plastic shades for each one.