If it’s Funny Once…

Someone on one of the gun forums commented that now that I’d nailed the .38 tumbling bullet I needed to try to do something for .32 Caliber. OK, why not? So today I re-swaged some 100gr LFPs. I used the same die as the .38s, which meant I had to re-size them after.

The modified bullet is on the left, the stock bullet is on the right. The stock bullet is .570″ long, the re-swaged bullet is .616″ long.
Loaded ammo is a bit longer than standard ammo, which is 1.280″ long. With these bullets the OAL loaded length is 1.320″

I loaded these with 4.2gr of Unique with a Federal Magnum small pistol primer, which was good for 1018fps. and 230 ft./lbs of energy from the 4″ test gun, and 931fps. and 190ft./lbs of energy from the 2″ test gun. I fired the 4″ test gun first.

The top image is contrast-enhanced, on the bottom is the raw image.

The bullet passed entirely through the block, leaving a jagged permanent wound cavity nearly half an inch wide. The bullet didn’t tumble, but the ragged wound track indicates something was going on; the wound track the unmodified bullet leaves is an intermittent, thin silver line. Some aspects of the PWC make me suspect the bullet was cork-screwing through the gel.

Next I tried the 2″ gun, a Colt detective Special. The wound-track was essentially identical to the one from the 4″ gun.

The 2″ test gun, a Colt Detective Special in .32 Colt New Police (.32 S&W Long) This gun was made in 1949.

Since the bullets both passed entirely through the block I reduced the charge to 3.5gr. of Unique and tested it from the 2″ gun. This load made 893fps, and 177ft./lbs.

The red dots indicate the ends of the wound-track. the shot was fired at a slight downward angle.

Once again the bullet passed through the block, but this time the wound-track was perceptibly smaller and the shot curved slightly downward. Once again the bullet did not appear to tumble.

Interesting results. I decided to modify the bullet further and see what that yielded. Once again I loaded the bullet over 4.2gr of Unique. The results in gel were interesting.

The nose of the bullet is significantly longer and the bearing-surface is shorter.

This bullet stopped in the gel at 10-1/2″ and ended point-first. It certainly didn’t tumble, but created significant disruption for the first 5″ after penetration before streamlining. The disrupted zone looks like the bullet was corkscrewing in the gel. The widest part of the PWC is around 1/2″ or slightly wider. Just above the track from this bullet you can make out the thin, interrupted silver line produced by a stock bullet.

So, no tumbling but interesting all the same. All of the shots from the short-nosed bullets produced a significantly larger PWC than the stock bullet with excellent, possibly too much, penetration. furthermore the bullets did not streamline, but maintained a wider-than bullet diameter track all the way through the block. The last, long-nosed bullet under-penetrated at 10-1/2″ and streamlined halfway through the PWC. The long-nose bullet also curved more than the other bullets, which essentially travelled almost straight.

On the whole if I were to use one of these bullet designs for self-defense it would be the first, short-nose bullet. Because the bullet never streamlines the overall size of the PWC is probably larger. Also the bullet is definitely going to penetrate heavy clothing, which is sometimes a concern with standard-velocity .32s.

It seems that despite the fact that they don’t tumble this could indeed be a useful bullet design. I think more testing is needed.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 30 December 2020

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I Really Thought I Was Done With the .38 Tumblers…

OK, I wanted to see if I could make a simple bullet that flew straight and tumbled after impact. Mission accomplished, time to move along… or not. I linked my blog on some gun pages, posted about it on some forums. I expected people to find it mildly interesting. The reaction was surprising; people are quite interested. One fellow down south is culling feral pigs, and said, “Send me some, I’ll try them on carcasses.”

Sure, why not? I tooled up a little to swage them in bulk, modified the design to shorten the nose slightly and tested them in my shot-up gel. Yep, they still work fine. By this point the Clear Ballistics gel block was so abused that getting a decent photo was impossible.

Tumblers loaded into .38 Special and .38 S&W.

Since I needed to re-cast the block I agreed to do a test on the ‘virgin’ block and hopefully get some good photos. I cranked out a hundred bullets and loaded them into .38 Special and .38 S&W. I took them to the range and tried them at seven yards to make sure they flew straight. I started with the .38 S&W fired from my 1-5/8″ S&W Safety Hammerless.

OK, three of the bullets went into one hole; not the best for seeing if they’re keyholing…

Ran a target out to seven yards, and it appears they are flying straight. OK then, on to the .38 Special. for this I used my custom 3″ Model 1902 and fired at seven yards.

I rapid-fired these at seven yards to spread them out a bit, and still got two bullets in one hole…

They are definitely flying straight. So far, so good. On to the Gel test. I didn’t bother with the four layers of denim this time; it seemed to make no discernable difference in previous tests so why inject crap into the block? I can never seem to get all the denim fibers out…

The results from the .38 S&W were good but not spectacular, and honestly I wasn’t expecting them to be. First I fired an unmodified 158gr. LRNFP. The track was very narrow and even closes up completely in places. I couldn’t even get a reasonable photo. It passed completely through the 16″ block. Then I tried the Tumbler.

On the bottom is the raw image, and on top is a contrast-enhanced image for a better look at the wound-track. The bullet upset immediately on impact and produced a wound-track almost 3/4″ wide for the first 3″ or so before the bullet streamlined, travelling in reverse. Going from there the permanent wound cavity remains larger than the unmodified bullet’s, but isn’t overly impressive. The bullet stopped against the table at 11″. Not world-shaking, but it does appear to be a notable improvement over the stock bullet. Note that this bullet was travelling approx. 620 fps.

On to the .38 Special. The test-gun was my custom 3″ S&W Model 1902. The bullet makes right around 900 fps. from this gun; I’d originally intended to fire a comparison shot with the un-modified bullet, but if it sailed through the block at 620 fps. adding another 300 fps. wasn’t likely to change that so I didn’t bother. The results were a bit more impressive this time…

Once again the raw image is on the bottom, the contrast-enhanced image is on the top.

This time the bullet stopped right at 16″. It started to tumble about 3″ into the block, and the permanent wound cavity resembles what you’d expect to see from a .38+P hollow-point, except the bullet never properly streamlined until the last 3″ or so. I was gob-smacked. I really did not anticipate this performance from this bullet. The PWC is 3-dimensional, but the extreme disruption of the block in the middle is all on the vertical plane. The wound track does curve upward, but it’s a lot less curve than the original design, and a lot more damage.

The bullet on top was fired from the .38 Special, the middle from the .38 S&W and the bottom is an un-fired stock bullet. The rifling impressions on the .38 S&W bullet are faint, but they apparently do the job.

I’m going to have to do more testing, and use a shorter-barreled gun, probably my custom Taurus 85 with the 1-3/4″ barrel. We should be seeing some results from the hog carcasses next month, and I’ll share that here as well. I also want to try a full wadcutter for comparison, and try these in a .357 Magnum at around 1100fps. and see what happens.

I’ve decided to call these bullets a ‘Lead Bottle-Nose Flat Point.’ or LBNFP. More technically descriptive than ‘Tumbler.’

Interesting stuff here.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 29 December 2020

Weird Bullets- .38 Special Tumblers

Currently the most popular self-defense revolvers are snub-nose revolvers like the S&W J-frames and Ruger LCR. These are most often chambered in .38 Special, and have barrels around 2″ in length.

The S&W Model 442 in .38 Special is one of the most popular self defense revolvers on the market today.

It seems the most important factor in stopping an attacker with a handgun are penetration, hit location and the permanent wound track. But while it doesn’t top the list, there’s little doubt a bigger permanent wound track is better than a small one. The most common way to produce a larger wound track is to use a Hollow-point bullet, but from these short barrels hollow-point bullets tend to not expand, or to expand and under-penetrate. There are a couple that seem to do well, but they can be hard to find, especially these days.

But maybe there’s another way…

As long as a bullet penetrates deeply enough anything that makes the permanent wound-track bigger is all to the good. What if a bullet can be induced to tumble reliably? It’s not a new idea; some say the British .38/200 was designed to do exactly that, and the King’s armed forces were satisfied with that for decades.

To perform reliably such a bullet needs to be stable in flight, but unstable on penetration; if it tumbles in flight it will be inaccurate. Making a bullet nose-heavy, like a hollow-base wadcutter, makes it more stable. Moving the center of gravity towards the base of the bullet has the opposite effect, but rifling can still make it stable in flight and this is the method most often used for things like military rifle bullets. Since pistols typically use rather stubby bullets their rifling-pitch is set up for those bullets, and increasing the length of a bullet beyond what is normal can also make it less stable.

I started with a 158gr. LRNFP, and experimented with swaging various shapes and arrived at one that looked like it might fit the bill, and in addition would work very well in a speed-loader.

On the left- the re-swaged ‘tumbler.’ On the left the standard 158gr. LRNFP.

I loaded the bullets over 4.5gr of Unique with a Federal Magnum Small Pistol primer. For my test gun I used my 3″ K-frame. I set up the chronograph in front of my much-abused Clear Ballistics gel bock covered with four layers of denim. backing off approximately 10 feet I fired three test shots.

First of all the load averaged 908 fps., producing 289 ft./lbs with an extreme spread of 21 fps. The bullets did not key-hole in flight and shot to point of aim… hardly surprising given the short range. One bullet rotated 180 degrees and ended up base-first in the block. The other two made a full rotation and ended point-forward. The wound-tracks expanded to about 1 inch at the widest. Penetration was 11-1/2 to 13 inches.

You can see the bullet at its resting place, point-forward after apparently making a complete rotation.

The ballistic gel block is so shot up it’s hard to get a good photo of the wound-track. The bullet started to tumble after about 2″ of penetration. While the bullets penetrated adequately every wound-track was curved, which given the importance of hit location is not ideal.

Bullets were loaded with a heavy crimp to make them easier to use in a speed-loader.

So, this seems to be a successful experiment. It is arguably an improvement over a standard wadcutter or semi-wadcutter, but is it enough better to be worth the effort? Really not sure it is, what with the wound-tracks curving the way they do. Still, I doubt they are worse than a semi-wadcutter.

There are worse ways to spend an afternoon, and it was gratifying to succeed in implementing the idea. That being said I’m not convinced it’s worth pursuing this.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 21 December 2020

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