As I'm sure anyone who has read my posts on the firearms forum knows, I am a big fan of S&W Revolvers, especially j-frame and k-frame .38 specials. There was a discussion awhile back, started by me, that included comparisons of .38 special vs. .380 in terms of velocity, energy, and stopping power. Without a doubt, even the anemic .38 sp +p loads put out by the major manufacturers, the .38 sp wins the power contest hands down. There is a load out, though, that takes the .38 sp., even in two inch barrels, to a higher plain. That is Buffalo Bores 158 grain swchp gas-checked +p load. It is loaded with a very soft lead bullet with a huge hollow-point cavity, with a gas-check to relieve leading concerns.
Here is what the BB website says about the load:
Item 20A: 158gr., very soft cast, semi wad cutter, (Keith) hollow cavity, with a gas check. This bullet will mushroom violently on impact and will penetrate roughly 14 inches in human flesh. Again, this bullet is gas checked and will not lead your barrel.
S&W mod. 60, 2 inch- 1040 fps (379 ft. lbs.)
S&W mod. 66, 2.5 inch- 1059 fps (393 ft. lbs.)
Ruger SP101, 3 inch- 1143 fps (458 ft. lbs.)
S&W Mt. Gun, 4 inch- 1162 fps (474 ft. lbs.)
Those are actual chronographed velocities in real guns.
There are threads on the S&W forum describing two different sets of tests run by long time members, and their figures almost mirror those from the BB website.
I don't have a chronograph, but I'm willing to take the word of BB and two more sources. I do have some S&W Revolvers, and have been wishing for a little more powerful load for the Model 60 I carry in my pants pocket practically all the time. I ordered up 100 very expensive rounds of the ammo. Figures to about $1.50 per round including shipping. Then, I did some testing of my own.
On Saturday afternoon late, I took my Model 60(nd) snubby and Model 10-7 four-inch standard barrel out in the brutal heat and humidity. I set up a target stand with a piece of cardboard with a one-inch red sticky dot and fired the Model 10. All six shots were right on laterally, but all were five to seven inches high at a stepped off 45 feet. Two-hand hold, single-action, with sweat pouring off me, by the way. I was a little disappointed, because I was excited about having low-end .357 numbers from the four-inch k-frame.
Next, I tried the 2" j-frame from a paced off 12 feet. I consider that to be just about my maximum range for that gun as a personal defense weapon. Same drill, two hands, single action, six o'clock hold. I was elated when the first two shots clipped the red sticky. Actually, they were both inside the one-inch stick-on. The other three shots clustered right around the first two. I reloaded and fired five shots double-action aimed rapid fire. The group opened up, of course, but was still well within what I call combat accuracy. By now, I was literally soaked with sweat, so I called it off until Sunday afternoon.
Sunday afternoon I took a three-inch Model 36-1 and a four inch (of course) Model 15-3 and gave them a try. I first shot the Model 15 from 45 feet with some 146 grain handloads. It printed a couple of inches high. I ratcheted down the elevation adjustment pretty much, in anticipation of the high shot. Sure 'nuff, the first shot with the BB load was still about four inches high. I ratcheted down the screw some more, and tried again. The second shot was only about an inch high. A few more clicks of the screw, and the last three (I had only loaded five) shots were acceptable, although I was by this time pretty well sweated out and nearly used up. Temp was still around 95, down from a high of 99, and no telling what the humidity, as thunderstorms had been in the area, missed us, but provided plenty of moisture for the air.
I was anxious to try the 3-inch Chiefs Special, so I dried off with a towel, and sat in the truck with the air running for about five minutes. I loaded five, and fired from the 12 foot mark, just as I had with the 60. Again, the first two shots clipped the red target. I fired off the last three in rapid aimed fire, got in the truck, and headed for the house and some iced tea.
I hope to be able to do a little more testing of the ammo when the weather moderates a bit, but at a buck-fifty per shot, not too much. I was well pleased with the shoots-to-point-of-aim feature with the j-frames. After all, wasn't the load designed for snubbies? These rounds make me feel a lot better about carrying a 2" pocket pistol. 1000fps and 375 fp ain't to be sneezed at. I am assuming (yes, I know) that velocity/energy figures the manufacturer lists for the 3" SP101 will transfer to the 3" Chiefs Special. 1143fps/458 ft.lbs is moving into serious self-defense power territory. I pocket carry my Model 60, and I hope I will be able to do so with the 36-1. I really want to shoot the Model 15-3 some more, preferably from a rest at about 50 feet, to see if I want to adopt the load for that particular weapon as a truck gun and a side arm when deer hunting with a rifle or shotgun.
Recoil. Recoil was very manageable. Both the k-frame guns have PC Magnas with tyler t-grips, both square butt guns. The Model 60 has round butt magnas with a T-grip, and the 36-1 is square butt with magnas and a t-grip. If anything, I thought the j-frame guns were more comfortable to shoot. I think I must just have a j-frame style hand, because they have always felt better in my hand than any other guns, as long as there is a t-grip. The recoil with the k-frames was not nearly as punishing as a 4" Model 19 with full house .357 158 grain loads. Recoil in the snubbies was stout, but very manageable, and I'm not a recoil junkie. I was very pleasantly surprised. Fired hulls dropped out of all cylinders with little effort. I am anxious to try a cylinder full in my daughter's 442.
Conclusions: I will carry the BB load in my Model 60 regularly now, and have a whole lot more confidence in the little snubby. Same for the 36-1. I am withholding judgement on the 15-3. When it cools off a little, and I can save a little money to order a few more rounds, I'll try it again, and probably a couple more j-frames I carry some times.