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Discussion Starter #1
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Some time ago I read an article about the stopping effectiveness of the old Webley 38/200 round. If I recall correctly, it was asserted this round was unusually effective as a man stopper. The theory given was that the heavy-for-caliber 200-grain lead boolit, pushed at relatively low velocity (around 600 fps) was unstable when it penetrated the target. This unstable boolit thus was said to twist and tumble upon impact, which caused a great amount of damage. Because of this, so the story goes, the weight of the standard-issue 200-grain lead boolit was reduced to a 178-grain jacketed bullet in the 1930s, as it was thought the lighter bullet would create more survivable wounds which would be more acceptable to international agreements relating to military small-arms ammunition.

Does anyone have any insight on this theory and the effectiveness of a 200-grain boolit in the .38? If the 200-grain boolit is really so effective at this low velocity of 600 fps, it seems it could be a promising boolit in a moderate load for the 38 Special, especially since it would not be dependant on expansion for quickly stopping an attack. Would it be a good recipe for personal protection in a short-barreled concealed-carry pistol?
 

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This theory about the destructiveness of "tumbling" bullets has been kicked around for quite some time and has, to my knowledge, been debunked. Effective bullets are those that penetrate deep and hit some vital spot. If they expand as well then that's good too.
 

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MikeP - well buddy, you have managed to hit upon a favorite topic of mine, the 200 gn 38 spl loads.

You are correct about the ballistics of the 38/200, slow as it was at only about 600'/sec from a 4" bbl, but very effective. The Brits replaced their old 455 Webleys with the 38/200 as it produced the same battle field effectiveness as the 455. That slow moving bullet didn't tumble when it hit, it was a round nosed slug and penetrated clean through in many instances. In others. the bullet would hit bone and deform, as it was made of soft lead, and would cause non-healing wounds which differed greatly from the jacketed bullet woulds of other calibers. Hence, the 3rd Reich complained about that bullet at the Hague Convention and as a result the bullet weight was dropped to 178 grains where it became nearly ineffective.


Col. Charles Askins once reported that he had shot a German soldier at a distance of about 25 yds as the man turned and jumped over a fence, with a 38/200 - Askins reported the bullet struck the soldier in his backpack and course completely through the body, killing him. Later, after the war was over, Askins was reported to have used/preferred only two calibers, the 45 automatic and the 38 Spl using 200 gn bullets, and he used the 38 spl with that 200 grain bullet a lot.

The 38 Spl with a 200 gn bullet was faster, by almost 200'/sec than the 38/200 which was based on the 38 S&W case, as shorter and fatter case than the 38 spl. However, at 200'/sec faster and equipped with a round nosed bullet, the 200 gn 38 spl would often penetrate completely without bringing down the individual. One NYC Police Chief was reported to have said that the 200 gn 38 was responsible for more dead cops than any other round. It was also said to lack accuracy but penetrted car badies well.

OK, there has been a bunch of discussion on the shooting capabilities of your average LEO and they aren't all that great. Combine that with a slug that penetrates without doing a lot of damage and you have LEOs at a disadvantage.

The only thing that makes the 200 gn 38 spl loading a whomper today is the use of semi-wadcutter bullets. I believe, but may be wrong, that the statistics on one shot stops with the 38 spl's 158 gn bullet increase by 20% or better when they went to the use of the semi-wadccuter bullet at the same weight. With that in mind think of what a 200 gn swc will do....

There is loading data available for the use of the 200 gn swc or rn bullet. My favorite load in 38 snubbies is the 200 gn swc over 3.8 gns of WW231 for a factory load of 770'/sec - probably around 700 from a snubby. You can handload that bullet to about 880'/sec but it is too stiff for use in lightweight snubbies, but steel frame guns handle it well, and it is an accurate load. In a friend's Diamondback that load put 6 into one hole at 25 yds. With my Airweight Bodyguard and its sister, the M37, that load groups to an inch at the same distance. This is the only load I carry in my 38 snubbies. I would say this is an excellent recipe for personal protection.

Now, if you take the same bullet and stuff it into a 357 magnum case and drop in 12.4 gns of WW296, you get 1335'/sec velocity, but a lower pressures than the 158 grainers in that caliber give you. I like that load in my 357s because it shoots so easily, doesn't recoil as bad as the 158 grainers, and is very accurate.

HTH. Mikey.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the information!

I like the slow-but-heavy variety of handgun bullets in any given caliber. I think the ability to generate good energy and penetration at relatively low pressures and blast-effect can create a good combination for short-barrel defensive weapons in the .38 Special and .38 S&W classes.
 

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I’ve always been under the impression that we do not want over penetration for self defense ammo. On a battle field this wouldn’t be an issue but being in a populated area with innocent citizens about doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. There are plenty of good bullet designs that do not over penetrate that are good man stoppers. Why would we compromise innocent bystanders safety?

No pun intended. Just curious.

Take Care and Be Safe,
Scott
 

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TScott0 - good concern but ppossibly a bit unjustified with the 38 Spl and heavy bullets. A whole buncha years ago I worked in Peoria, Ill. We had a LEO there who carried the 41 Magnum. I was on the street with him one afternoon when two bank robbers exited a bank with pistols and $ in hand. A shootout commenced with one man being hit and the 2nd throwing down his gun.

The LEO hit the 1st man square in the chest with a 210 gn 41 magnum slug at full magnum velocities. The slug tore on threw the bad guy and winged an older man walking down the street behind the whole scene. He was knocked down and wounded lightly but not seriously. That is serious overpenetration.

I don't believe we would see that with a 200 gn bullet from a 38. In addition, I'm referring to the use of a swc bullet, not the round nose of the older days. While the rn bullet would penetrate and exit a body, a 38 slug would simply not have the same ooomph as the 41 mag and would not travel so far or with such energy. In addition, the use of a swc bullet would cause more energy to be dumped into the target and overpenetration and after-travel should be limited.

I think some penetration tests are in order. I have some heavy 38s loaded up but I need to laod up some rn slugs to test this theory. Give me a bit and let me see what I can come up with. Mikey.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Mikey, that would be an interesting test, RN vs FP in the 200 grain bullet.

I am planning to down-load some .38 Specials using the 200 grain RN cast bullets to 38/200 velocities of around 600 fps. I'll try shooting some newspaper and water-filled milk jugs to see what kind of penetration I get. I don't want to achieve overpenetration, however that is defined, but I would like a bullet that is sure to penetrate heavy clothing without getting balled-up and stopped short of where it should go like a light hollowpoint might do.

I would assume that at 600 fps, the 200-grain round-nose would be easy to shoot, keep on target at the prescribed short range it would be used at, and yet penetrate where it should. I assume that is what the British achieved with their 200-grain roundnose .455-emulating version of the .38 caliber. There must be something to it that kept the Empire and its Colonies using it all those years. I'm sure they are now using high-pressure 9mm/10mm semiautomatics now like everyone else. To do otherwise would be positively old-fashioned ( like what you can call me).

I still like the idea of a small pistol that achieves great protection with the least buck-and-flash as might be possible. I believe the British chose the 38/200 to replace the .455 Webley because the .455 was hard to shoot for the average serviceman. If the British experience with the 200-grain .38 is a way to achieve battlefield effectiveness with less buck-and-flash, then good for us.
 

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MikeP - I was going to run some penetration tests but didn't ahve to. A buddy and I did that a bunch of years ago. We used two 38 snubbies, a Colt Diamondback and my S&W Airweight Bodyguard. We used reloads in the 200 gn weight and factory 158 gn rn and swcs. The medium was wet newspaper (we used the New York Times and whizzed on it a bunch - lol). The load for the 200 gn rn and swcs was 3.8 gns of WW231 - a factory reproduction load.

The 158 gn bullets penetrated about 4" into the wet newspaper, both types of slugs. The rn went a tad further but not enough to seem to matter. The 200 gn bullets, although moving slower (factory loads listed it at 770'/sec but although not chronographed, we felt it was lower due to the snubnosed revolvers we were using) only penetrated about a inch further in the test medium. At the time both my buddy and I were satisfied that 'overpenetration' did not appear to be a significant concern with that bullet.

I would however, appreciate hearing about the results of your tests. Mikey.
 

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wetpack is not flesh.

try leaning on a knife hilt, see if it goes right into wetpack the way it will flesh. 30 odd years ago, Dean Grennell tested some .38 and 357 loads in cars. The 200 gr Winchester .38, from a 2" barrel, was fired at a car door, from a 45 degree angle. The picture showed a shallow dent in the door. One cop said:"Halt, or I'll scratch up your paint".
 

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yuppie - if you take any round nose lead bullet at about 700'/sec and fire it at a 45 degree angle to a 1950s or 60s car door, as Grennel did, about all you're gonna do is scratch paint. That was a poorly designed test and Grennell knew it. He admitted that he never used the 38/200 or a 200 gn 38 spl in a combat situation.

The only problem with the 200 grain round nosed lead factory loads was the same problem as with the 158 gn round nosed lead factory loads - they were both round nosed bullets that had a tendency to penetrate on through without doing a lot of damage. The benefit the 38/200 had was that it was slower and made of softer lead that woud expand, and did so, much to the consternation of the 3rd Reich. The ammo makers improved on the performance of the 158 gn load by following Elmer Keith's findings on the comparison between round nosed and semiwadcutter slug. Street improvements in performance were noticed immediately as a result of the change in bullet style. That was about the status quo, as I understand it, for a number of years until lightweight high speed expanding bullets came into vogue.

Dean Grennel didn't do such a hot job on that test of his. His 'findings' did not even compare to the NYPD experience with the 200 gn rn 38, which was that although it contained sufficient power to stop a felon, and penetrate car bodies, it lacked accuracy. The 200 gn swcs over Winchester powder loads to original factory specs group cloverleafs at 25 yds from snubbies I both own and have tested.

So, the NYPD find that the 38 spl 200 gn rn bullet penetrates car bodies but grennel doesn't. Hmmmm, makes me suspect of him even more than I was before. JMHO. Mikey.
 

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I got a news flash for you.

Neither lrn nor swc's expand in flesh, no matter how soft the alloy. 9mm ball goes thru car doors like so much cheese, at the same angle as the 200 gr .38 was tested at. The heavy slow bullet theory was discredited over 30 years ago, where you been, anyway? The issue with jhp's is getting enough velocity to make them expand. If they don't expand, they do the same job as a lfp.

Out of the 6 158 gr plus P lhp's that Mirules fired at Platt and Matix, 4 were on a line to hit their brains. This was at 3-6 ft from the muzzle, and from a 4" barrel. NONE of the 4 penetrated their craniums. The .38 is just feeble, anyway that you look at it, because of the silly 21,000 CUP limit set on it by the SAAMI people.
 

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yuppie: You said - The heavy slow bullet theory was discredited over 30 years ago, where you been, anyway?

You are correct - the heavy slow moving bullet theory was discredited 30 years ago - by the folks who wanted to push fast moving lightweight hollow-points. Super Vel is one of those products that come to mind.

"Where have I been, anyway"? Using heavy slow moving bullets quite successfully for the past 30 years, I might add.

"The .38 is just feeble, anyway that you look at it.." - Well, I suppose - if you say so..............

Oh Yes - 9mm ball goes thru car doors like so much cheese - yep, ball ammo does but ball 9mm isn't round nose lead. And, wasn't it the general failure of the 9mms in that shootout that failed to take down Matix and led to the deaths of how many FBI agents(?), even after he was hit with 3 lethal rounds in the chest. And Platt - as I recall, he was either blinded or deafened by Matix's burst of automatic fire from his Mini-14 that went off right in front of his face and he never left the vehicle. As I recall, he was still sitting in the driver's seat when Mirules fired at point-blank range, with his 38 (that penetrated their craniums enough to kill them both). And yes, that was with a 158 gn lhp, a standard pressure round, not a +P, but it finished the job.
Mikey.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Penetration Tests With 200 Grain .38

Mikey, I did some penetration tests with the 200 grain .38 Special roundnose this morning in my 2.25-inch Ruger SP 101. My load is 2.8 grains of Red Dot, which achieves about 570 fps over my Chrony. This, I believe, pretty closely duplicates the old .38/200 Webley of about 600 fps, except the short-barrel Ruger loses some velocity to the 5-inch Webley.

My tests duplicated what you stated your snub-nose 200 grain loads did in wet newspaper: five inches. Only I could not obtain the NY Times. My local rag had to do.

One thing I did find, however, is that the bullets went in nose-on, but by the end of the 5-inch straight path, the bullet had turned to the side. The last two or three inches were much elongated, which seemed to be caused by the bullet turning sideways in the wet newspaper. In fact, I found the bullets turned sideways in the paper. Now, whether I am fooled by the test, I don't know. This is my first test in wet newspaper, and possibly all bullets paths look like this because of "bunching" of paper in front of the bullet or something. But it sure seemed to me that the theory espoused in the article mentioned in my opening message was true...the bullet did seem to twist after entering the paper, and created a lengthwise hole for about the last half of its travel. If this is true, the issue of overpenetration should not apply for this bullet and velocity. But it seems it would be a good man-stopper for such a mild load.

I am not a good pistol shot, and the 2.25-inch barrel's sights are not easy to shoot with precision, and, of course, the pistol is not designed for target shooting, but for close-and-personal protection. With that said, I shot groups of 0.33 inches at 5 yards, 1.2 inches at 10 yards, 3.2 inches at 15 yards, 4.1 inches at 20 yards and 5 inches at 25 yards. All bullets were going in nose-first, so no keyholing outside of the target was noted, which can be a concern for relatively low velocity, heavy-for-caliber bullets. Since this is a short-range gun, I won't test at any farther ranges. These groups were shot a couple of weeks from my initial testing.

The results of my test were very satisfactory. I think the 200-grain .38 bullet provides excellent accuracy (I'll get better with practice with this new gun) and excellent potential for stopping power for such a mild and pleasant-to-shoot load.
 

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MikeP - my standard load for that bullet is 3.8 of WW231. Supposed to get 770'/sec, but I don't know the length of the barrel it was fired in.

Your Ruger Sp101 is one of those solid little pieces that should be able to handle anything in the 38 caliber you can throw out of it.

My old Lyman manual shows that for that bullet (they list 195 gn), 8.0 - 9.5 of 2400 powder takes that bullet from 770'/sec t0 895'/sec from a 6" bbl. I've fired that load from a 4" M10 and a couple of 357s and you can tell it is a heftier load than the factory duplication.

Interesting thing about testing in wet newspaper. The NY Times and competitors are fulla bs, which means they are likely not as substantive as some of your local papers might be. Also, there is a consistency to wet newpaper that you don't find with critters and folks. None the less, I'm glad you feel more confident with the overpenetration concern and how the bullet works.

Now, ya oughta try bumping up the speed a bit to the factory load and see how that bullet performs, and then load her right up and see if she does any different. I do note that it is interesting that your lower powered load gave similar penetration to the loads we tried. Hope this works fer ya. Mikey.
 
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