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Thread: Real Gel Tests: 38 Special and 357 Carbine

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy curioushooter's Avatar
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    Real Gel Tests: 38 Special and 357 Carbine

    Gel calibrated 3.5" with 17 caliber BB at 590 FPS--within spec.
    4 layers of denim.

    This is the first promising 38 Special load I've found that will work in a subnose revolver. It isn't running even at +p pressures probably being just 5 grains of Unique pushing a 159 grain MP-molds 359 Hammer bullet with the large hollowpoint cast of 30:1 pb-sn.

    Even at 800 FPS this expanded impressively to over 0.6" and but penetrated to only 9" with 99% retained weight. Add another 50 FPS (when fired from my Model 19) it penetrated an inch less but expanded to nearly three quarters inch!

    The relationship between velocity and depth is becoming clearer, and it seems that 38 Special just doesn't have the gas needed to get to the 12" depth IF you want impressive expansion. I am going to try the same load with the soft 30:1 allow and the small HP cavity (bullet weight 162-163) and see if it will reduce the expansion and make a foot of penetration.

    The other test was of the NOE 360-182-WFNGC bullet cast of 91-6-3 (pb-sn-sb) launched by 16 grains of 300 MP. Observations were that this is a mild shooting load with no pressure signs, it cycles perfectly, and gets 1700 FPS out of my Marlin 1894C. Performance was quite good with over .6" expansion and a solid 19" of penetration with 99% retained weight and very impressive smack--the initial "stretch" cavity. It blew the gel off the table and cracked the clay brick it was sitting on! Though it was not as shocking as the 158 grain Hornady XTPFP launched at 1900 FPS!
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  2. #2
    Nice test, curioushooter! And kudos to you for taking the time to conduct your testing in actual BB-validated 10% ordnance gelatin covered by 4LD! Now that is what I call commitment to the process!

    That NOE 360-182-WFNGC at 1,700 fps is a well-balanced load that is most certainly worthy of any white-tailed deer that it is aimed at.

    As for the .38 159-grain MP-Molds 359 Hammer projectile, instead of slowing it down a bit more, perhaps a slightly harder alloy (which should serve to mitigate expansion a bit) might be called for?
    Last edited by The Schwartz; 11-04-2019 at 04:25 PM.

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master
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    In the FWIW department, the top end of the standard pressure range for a 38 Special and 158 grain bullet is 4.7 grains Unique. Max Plus P is 5.3 grains Unique. The load is therefore likely higher than standard pressure but not to the top of the Plus P range.

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    Boolit Buddy curioushooter's Avatar
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    Lyman manual puts the 358156 (has check design near same weight and oal) at 5.1 grains unique as max for 38spl, 5.4 for +p. That's the best data I have.

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    Boolit Buddy curioushooter's Avatar
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    91-6-3 is the hardest allot that isn't overly brittle. If you add more antimony I observed fracturing of the mushroom and loss of weight. Adding more tin hardens it little and adds expense. Thin tin in this alloy already costs more than the lead. If you don't mind loss of weight not an issue, but I eat this stuff. I am a semi-pro game processor and there is a reason why I prefer 99% weight retention.

  6. #6
    Boolit Buddy curioushooter's Avatar
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    That NOE 360-182-WFNGC at 1,700 fps is a well-balanced load that is most certainly worthy of any white-tailed deer that it is aimed at.
    Well, inside 100 yards at least. I've not yet established the lower velocity threshold at which the bullet performs like an icepick. I know that at 1200 fps it's an icepick with the 358 hammer bullet flat point. I am going to try some loads that will put me at 1300-1500 and see where the performance falls apart.

  7. #7
    Boolit Grand Master
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    More recent data is as I have described, including recent Lyman.

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    Boolit Buddy curioushooter's Avatar
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    More recent data is as I have described, including recent Lyman.
    That info is straight from Lyman's 4 cast bullet manual: 358156 to 5.4 grains +p and 5.1 grains for 38SPL. I used 5.0 grains as a max because the Mihec Hammer bullet weighs slightly more (158 grains instead of 155 and my alloy is softer). There is no 5th edition. Where are you getting your data? It is very close.

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy curioushooter's Avatar
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    I've not yet established the lower velocity threshold at which the bullet performs like an icepick. I know that at 1200 fps it's an icepick with the 358 hammer bullet flat point. I am going to try some loads that will put me at 1300-1500 and see where the performance falls apart.
    So I've found that limit. It is ~1400 FPS, which is what the NOE 182-WFN should be traveling at 100 yards if the MV is 1700 FPS.
    At 1400 FPS the load expanded to .475" and penetrated to 24" which is certainly enough. The bullet at 1300 FPS was not recovered...it passed through 28" of gel and showed no evidence of expansion. Bullets lanched at 1500 FPS were not recovered either. As you can see at 1400 the bullet had a uneven expansion profile. I recovered that bullet on the very edge of the gel. The two I shot at 1500 both passed out of the gel to the sides at about 19" depth. I expect that they expanded a little more but where consequently more destabilized. In any case it has been established that with the parameters I have set that 357 Magnum carbine loads with cast bullets have a maximum effective range of 100 yards due to terminal performance, rather than external ballistic performance (the load shoots pretty flat out to 150 yards--5" of drop).

    Softening of the alloy will probably lower velocity needed to achieve expansion, however, softer alloys foul barrels and accuracy can deteriorate.

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  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy curioushooter's Avatar
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    Congratulations on your successful harvest of the gel, shooting the Gel was hunting it? Being this part of this great forum is on Hunting with Cast.

    Ken
    Not sure if this is supposed to be a sarcastic jab because of your inchoherence, but I will assume the worst.

    Gel is the only way to gather consistent data regarding terminal ballistics and therefore it is the only way that one can rationally compare performance or draw conclusions. This data is of the upmost utility to hunters, so that is why it is posted in this subforum. A thousand kill shot pictures will not yield data as useful. I process deer for pay during the season, so I get to see plenty of wounds (from arrows, from all manner of firearms, and from muzzleoaders, too). Yet I've felt it necessary to scientifically and rigorously test this on gel.

    Why? Because so many variables effect the matter than a bullet recovered from an actual kill is nearly useless. The only kind of data like this that could be of use is some data Elmer Keith reported from shooting rabbits in front of a snowbank. The bullets passed through the rabbits (so a rough penetration depth can be determined) and the soft snow cushioned the bullet so the shape of it was probably similar to what it was while in the rabbit. He was a smart man, and I am surprised he didn't think of using hydrated animal protein--gelatin--to test his loads. Unfortunately he used pine boards and other poor analogs of flesh.

    Gel allows you to accurately measure depth and it leaves the bullet in an unaltered state. It is also consistent in density from shot to shot and matters like angle and shot placement are eliminated as variables. The ratio of gel to water can be precisely adjusted to achieve correct density of the target animal. Putting a chrono in front of it gives an accurate velocity reading. I suppose one could hunt with one of those muzzle mounted chronos and get a velocity that way. But none of the other stuff is practical.

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    you say multiple times not recovered, just take a carboard box bigger than the blocks, put some old towels or clothes in it and set it behind the blocks. as long as it slows down a decent bit it catches everything.

    also im gonna try some 44mag soft points using 20-1 for the nose, since near pure was too soft. ill share if I get useful findings

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    Boolit Grand Master
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    Lyman and Alliant. Regular rifle and pistol combined manuals. FWIW. Since we are not using their exact bullet in your testing to some extent it is all guesswork. What would be helpful to know is bullet seating depth in the case compared to the various referenced bullets of similar weight in the manuals as this has notable effect on the actual pressures and velocity developed.

  13. #13
    Boolit Buddy curioushooter's Avatar
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    Lyman and Alliant. Regular rifle and pistol combined manuals. FWIW. Since we are not using their exact bullet in your testing to some extent it is all guesswork. What would be helpful to know is bullet seating depth in the case compared to the various referenced bullets of similar weight in the manuals as this has notable effect on the actual pressures and velocity developed.
    You took your data from Alliant...they used a swaged non-gas checked bullet, and Alliant doesn't list pressures, so it may very well be below the max as it often is for their lead bullets. In my observation this alters the matter a great deal. Softer bullets show pressure signs before harder ones and before jacketed ones. None of this is observable in 38 however. It is in 357 mag and max. OAL I've found to have little effect in a case like 38 Special as it is so oversized to begin with, but the lyman data did use a bullet seated to a longer OAL so that is why I backed it off a little. Something like 9mm is a different story. I am confident that 5.0 grains of Unique pushing a gas checked 158 grain lead-alloy projectile is safe in any modern 38 special firearm (which are all 38 +p rated to my knowledge) in good condition, and that is what matters, isn't it?
    Last edited by curioushooter; 11-06-2019 at 01:01 PM.

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    Boolit Buddy curioushooter's Avatar
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    you say multiple times not recovered, just take a carboard box bigger than the blocks, put some old towels or clothes in it and set it behind the blocks. as long as it slows down a decent bit it catches everything.

    also im gonna try some 44mag soft points using 20-1 for the nose, since near pure was too soft. ill share if I get useful findings
    Tried this. Too much stuff going on and for the times it happens it just isn't worth it. Half the time it goes through the towels anyway. And the bullet can be deformed, so the data is questionable. Also, I have 28" of block. Something that penetrates more than that penetrates too much for deer IMO.

    That idea with 44 mag sounds like it is worth trying if you push it hard enough. The problem is that at REAL WORLD handgun velocities, which for 44 Mag are usually under 1400 FPS, it can be difficult to get expansion. Soft alloys foul barrels and get bad accuracy in such powerful loadings. I would suggest a gas check design with 32:1 and a soft lube with a boolit like Lymans 429215 if you are going to try this. I don't know how long the barrel is but you might be able to get this above 1400 FPS with something like 296/110.
    I predict that the optimal performance for 44 in a normal sized revolver (like a 4-6" barrel) and loaded to modern spec (under 35kPSI) would be achieved with a 210-220 grain medium sized cast hollow point (like a hollowpointed RCBS 430-225-SWC) in 16:1 or something with a tad of antimony (especially if not gas checked) pushed by 12-13 grains of Unique or 19-21 grains of 2400.
    In a Marlin I was able to get 265 grainers going to 1650 FPS with a heaping helping of 296. This should expand if the alloy was soft enough. I was paper jacketing in those days so I could use quite soft alloys provided the ogive was well supported.
    I am going to test the lower limits of expansion next. I am going to try and find how low velocity can with the softest alloys possible and non-hollowpoints expand. I do know that at 1300 FPS and lower my 91-6-3 alloy bullets are always an icepick and overpenetrate.
    Last edited by curioushooter; 11-06-2019 at 01:04 PM.

  15. #15
    All of what you have written above is accurate.

    Quote Originally Posted by curioushooter View Post
    Not sure if this is supposed to be a sarcastic jab because of your inchoherence, but I will assume the worst.

    Gel is the only way to gather consistent data regarding terminal ballistics and therefore it is the only way that one can rationally compare performance or draw conclusions. This data is of the upmost utility to hunters, so that is why it is posted in this subforum. A thousand kill shot pictures will not yield data as useful. I process deer for pay during the season, so I get to see plenty of wounds (from arrows, from all manner of firearms, and from muzzleoaders, too). Yet I've felt it necessary to scientifically and rigorously test this on gel.

    Why? Because so many variables effect the matter than a bullet recovered from an actual kill is nearly useless. The only kind of data like this that could be of use is some data Elmer Keith reported from shooting rabbits in front of a snowbank. The bullets passed through the rabbits (so a rough penetration depth can be determined) and the soft snow cushioned the bullet so the shape of it was probably similar to what it was while in the rabbit. He was a smart man, and I am surprised he didn't think of using hydrated animal protein--gelatin--to test his loads. Unfortunately he used pine boards and other poor analogs of flesh.

    Gel allows you to accurately measure depth and it leaves the bullet in an unaltered state. It is also consistent in density from shot to shot and matters like angle and shot placement are eliminated as variables. The ratio of gel to water can be precisely adjusted to achieve correct density of the target animal. Putting a chrono in front of it gives an accurate velocity reading. I suppose one could hunt with one of those muzzle mounted chronos and get a velocity that way. But none of the other stuff is practical.
    Soft tissue analogs are actually preferred for testing and evaluation due to the fact that the use of those analogs eliminates confounding variables (like varying tissue densities and compositions) while providing a consistent, reliable proven medium in which test results can be repeated. At the time of this writing, there are only two non-living test test mediums that have been shown to correlate with performance in soft tissue: validated 10% nominal concentration ordnance gelatin and water. The benefit of using correctly prepared 10% ordnance gelatin is that, because it is a soft solid that will support shear, maximum penetration depth can be measured in situ. Of course, the technical burden of mixing, preparing and validating the gelatin is also present but, for those willing to do so, there is indeed a rough 1:1 ratio of maximum penetration depth and expansion ratios between gelatin and torso tissue to be observed—for example, Wolberg's study of nearly 150 San Diego OIS incidents showed the majority of the 9mm 147-grain bullets fired by officers had penetrated about 13" and expanded between 0.60 to 0.62 inches in both human tissue and in 10% ordnance gelatin.

    Using water as a test medium, where shear is not supported, direct measurement of maximum penetration depth in situ is not possible and must be obtained by conversion. Equivalent (gelatin) penetration depth of the test bullet must be obtained through the use of a modified Poncelet penetration equation using the bullet's average recovered diameter (D), retained mass (M), and impact velocity (V). For those doubtful of computational predictive methodology, it is supported by research in CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and can be confirmed be evaluating gelatin-derived test data. Using curioushooter's prior test data for the NOE 360-182-WFNGC bullet cast from a 91Pb-6Sn-3Sb alloy that reached a maximum penetration depth of 19 inches in his 10% gelatin as an example, we can correlate curioushooter's gelatin test data, D= 0.66", M= 182 gr., and V= 1,700 fps by applying it to both models in Quantitative Ammunition Selection.

    Applying D= 0.66", M= 182 gr., and V= 1,700 fps to the modified Poncelet penetration equation (the Q-model), the predicted maximum penetration depth is 17.30 inches.

    Similarly, by applying D= 0.66", M= 182 gr., and V= 1,700 fps to the modified THOR penetration equation (the mTHOR model), the predicted maximum penetration depth is 18.68 inches.

    Regardless of test medium chosen (water or gelatin), the test results match reality closely.

    Keep up the good work, curioushooter. You are doing great!

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    Boolit Buddy curioushooter's Avatar
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    Is there a manual bringing all those predictive models togther in one place? Seems like it would save time. I plan on branching out into more cartridges.

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    Boolit Buddy ACC's Avatar
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    This makes me believe that a cast bullet can be used for self defense. May be I missed it but what bullet metal mix were you using. I have yet to find a pistol cast bullet that will expand. I have always used pure wheel weights.

    I need expansion or its no better than an FMJ.

    ACC

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    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by ACC View Post
    I have yet to find a pistol cast bullet that will expand.
    you should be able too with almost any cartridge. at 357 or 44mag speeds any flatpoint with around aircooled wheelweight hardness should expand. but generally tin is good and antimony less good for expansion. i don't have any roundnose but i think its harder to expand.

    say were talking ~10 hardenss instead of just ww to get that hardness 2% antimony 2% tin would be more malleable even though the hardness is similar. or just lead with 5% tin would work good also

    or say its to slow for that hardness to expand you could always start at pure lead and just keep adding 1% tin until leading and groups are good. and then stop adding tin before expansion stops and you got your right alloy. gas checks and or powder coating, correct fit ect. help the leading and groups part allowing softer lead.

    if that still fails a pure lead hollow point should expand in anything that its possible

  19. #19
    Boolit Buddy res45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ACC View Post
    This makes me believe that a cast bullet can be used for self defense. May be I missed it but what bullet metal mix were you using. I have yet to find a pistol cast bullet that will expand. I have always used pure wheel weights.

    I need expansion or its no better than an FMJ.

    ACC
    I use 50/50 alloy half pure lead and half wheel weights with a bit of tin. I get excellent expansion with 38 and 45 Cal. cast HP bullets.

    NOE clone of the Lyman 358145 HP fired from a S & W Airweight 38 Special cast with the above alloy with the gas check left off. Bullet was recovered from wet newspaper media at 7 yds. MV around 850 fps.


    NOE TL452-234-RF in 45 ACP cast from the above alloy with HP pins installed, recovered from soft dirt bank at 30 yds. MV 1050 fps. from 45 ACP carbine.

  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy curioushooter's Avatar
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    357 or 44mag speeds any flatpoint with around aircooled wheelweight hardness should expand. but generally tin is good and antimony less good for expansion. i don't have any roundnose but i think its harder to expand.
    Are you talking 357/44 handgun velocities or rifle velocities?
    If you are talking handgun then you are wrong. Alloys hard enough to prevent leading at these velocities with solid cast boolits do not expand reliably or at all below 1200 FPS. At 1400 FPS I've observed modest expansion with WFN designs. At 1600 (rifle velocities) then solids expand reliably. The problem is that in rifles which are used at ranges where velocities decrease considerably many cast boolits launched at 1600 FPS will be under the expansion threshold by the time they arrive. My tests of 358 round nosed (SAECO 390) vs. 358 SWCs (Lee 358-158-SWCGC) of the same weight showed virtually no performance difference at real world 357 Mag handgun velocities (~1250 FPS). They are both .358" icepicks. The flat nose did seem to make a more impressive "temporary cavity" in the first few inches, but both passed through over 2 feet of gel and weren't recovered.

    Hollowpoints are another story. They expand surprisingly well at very low velocites. 32:1 158 CHPs 38s out of my 442 run 800 fps and expand nicely. The problem is that when you crank them up they break apart. Past 1400 many will break up even with the hardest alloys that don't fracture (91-6-3). So, it's HPs for handguns and solids for rifles, basically.

    We newsprint and other substitutes for real hydrated animal protein of equivalent projectile resistance to muscle tissue (calibrated gelatin) are a waste of time IMO, yielding data that is at BEST questionable. Unless you are shooting deer made of wet newsprint that is. It has been suggested water is a good substitute. I say it ain't as good as gel for a number of reasons (the primary being it is a LIQUID). Go gel or go home.

    This makes me believe that a cast bullet can be used for self defense. May be I missed it but what bullet metal mix were you using. I have yet to find a pistol cast bullet that will expand. I have always used pure wheel weights.
    ACC here are three CB loads that would would for self defense and have been tested in calibrated FBI spec gelatin + 4 layers of denim.

    38 SPL+P: 5 grains of Unique pushing the MiHec 359 Hammer bullet with large hollopoint cavity cast from 32:1 pb-sn with carnuba blue and hornady gas check. Goes 800 FPS from my S&W 442, .625" expansion 9" penetration. Notice how just 50FPS velcocity increase from my Model 19 resulted in very large expansion and an inch less penetration.
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    357 Mag (under 35kPSI) 13.5 grains of 2400 pushing MiHec 359 Hammer bullet with small hollow point cavity cast of 91-6-3 pb-sn-sb with carnuba blue ad hornady gas check. Goes 1200, 1250 from my model 19 4" and 686 5" respectively. .635" expansion, 16" penetration.
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    357 Medium (probably around 25kPSI, just past 38+) 6 grains of Unique pushing the MiHec 359 Hammer bullet with large hollowpoint cavity cast from 91-6-3 with carnuba blue and hornady gas check. Goes 1100 FPS from my 4" model 19. Performance is nearly equivalent to the more powerful load above. Less recoil and probably a better load for a light revolvers.
    Last edited by curioushooter; 11-20-2019 at 02:31 PM.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check