Friday, March 12, 2021

Living and learning...

I went up into the attic to rummage around for a round of .38 Spl Nyclad ammunition to photograph for this post, but came up empty-handed. Sorry about that.

Nyclad ammunition originated as a way to minimize lead contamination on indoor ranges by enclosing .38 Special 158gr lead round nosed bullets in a polymer envelope. So you'd get all the benefits of reduced barrel leading offered by jacketed ammo without the expense.

Somehow, over time...and especially after it was discontinued...the hollow point varieties of Nyclad ammo acquired a mystical reputation with some gun nerds as being a wonderbullet in the expansion department. I'm sure there are plenty of nearly 20-year-old posts at The Firing Line and The High Road where I'm extolling the virtues of the standard pressure 125gr hollow point Nyclad .38 Spl load as some sort of ideal self defense round for snubbies. I probably said things about how it expands easily because it doesn't have a jacket to retard expansion or something.

I was wrong, and in multiple ways.

First, standard pressure .38 Special bullets just generally don't expand very reliably at snubnose velocities unless you use a light-for-caliber bullet, like 110gr or 125gr, and even then you need to shoot bare gel or water or some other medium that provides no challenges for the bullet. Four-layer denim? Naw, dog. That bullet ain't expanding.

And not expanding is actually fine for these bullets! Because if a light-for-caliber 110- or 125gr .38Spl bullet does expand, you'll wind up looking at marginal penetration, at best.

It doesn't matter if a bullet hole is .312", .357", or .451" in diameter if it doesn't go through something important.

"Well if that's the case, Tamara, why don't you carry a .22?"

Well, because .22LR at handgun velocities has marginal penetration to begin with and doesn't deal with bone well. But, being aware of its limitations, I still do carry a Smith & Wesson 43C loaded with CCI Mini Mags around the house on those days when I don't change out of pyjamas.

At snub velocities, I'm a lot more worried about penetration than expansion, which is a big part of why I went from carrying a five-shot .38 J-frame to a six-shot .32 H&R Magnum J-frame. No .32 H&R JHP load will reliably expand at snub velocities, but that's okay, I'd rather they didn't. In terminal effect, it doesn't much matter which load you put in the .32 H&R, since they all do the same thing: Shoot pretty much right through a 16" gel block, provided the hollow points don't expand, or you use LSWC ammo in the first place.

To quote my friend Al Thompson, who's shot a thing or two:
Out of an Airweight J, there's not much difference in blast and recoil between a 148gr .38 Spl wadcutter and a 95gr .32 H&R Mag lead semiwadcutter. Both have a flat meplat which should minimize glancing off of ribs and such, and aid in penetration. Both have pretty similar terminal ballistics.

There are a lot more misses on this target than the internet originally led me to believe.