.38 Tumbers in the Real World

I started this journey last year. Hollow-point bullets often perform poorly out of snub-nosed revolvers, so I thought, ‘What might be a different wounding mechanism to increase the effectiveness of bullets from these guns?’ I decided to make an aerodynamically-stable bullet with unstable mass-distribution so that it would hopefully tumble post-impact. Gel tests seemed to indicate this was viable; you can read about it here- https://tinkertalksguns.com/2020/12/22/weird-bullets-38-special-tumblers/.

The .38 Special Tumblers, loaded over 4.9gr. of Unique.

But ordinance gel is a comparative media, not a predictive one, and I wondered what would happen under real-life conditions where it would hit things like bone. Would it tumble more? Tumble less? Didn’t know, and no good way to find out…

…except there was. An internet pal Raymond lives in Texas, where they have a feral hog problem. They trap the hogs and shoot them… pretty sure you can see where this is going. Mike, another friend from the Republic of Texas also volunteered. As an aside the acronym is rather unfortunate; referring to the state as ROT and Texans as Rotters… no. Just no. I sent them both some bullets and load data so we could see how they’d work in the real world.

Raymond’s boar trap and his lovely Model 67

So Raymond caught a 92lb. boar in the trap, and he dispatched the boar with two shots. here’s what he had to say:

“Distance to the hog was 8 feet. I made sure to catch two ribs and one shoulder with each shot to simulate a 2 legged critter. Complete penetration was 16 inches both shots. Bullets were buried in the dirt somewhere. No signs of tumbling at all. Straight line penetration. Very little blood shot and a tiny hole in and out. I think the bottle nose just mashed down till it was more shaped like a round nose and transferred very little energy. Took the hog 30 seconds to expire even with two shots. Both shots took out the front of the lungs but missed the heart. The time to expire was average for a lung shot hog. “

This is kinda’ what I was afraid would happen if these rounds hit serious bone, and I doubt a harder bullet would fare much better. Raymond is going to try some at .357 magnum velocities, but we both doubt that will produce a better result.

Mike has yet to catch a hog, but he did fire the bullets through 7-8oz. leather into Clear Ballistics 10% ordinance gel and reported no tumbling at all. Not what we were hoping for, and not sure why they tumbled when fired from my gun and not from his.

Regardless, it appears that these are a bust. Impressive on the street translates into impressive in gel, but it’s not a two-way street; as I’ve mentioned before gel is a pretty good comparative media, but not a good predictive media. These bullets might be good for certain forms of competition; they’re slick as hell in a speed-loader!

So back to the drawing board, and a Patreon member has made a suggestion that has me thinking; you’ll be reading about the results of that soon enough…

Michael Tinker Pearce, 10 March 2021

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