Excellent Ammo Test – 1

The guys at Lucky Gunner don’t just sell ammo at decent prices;  their ammo tests are superb.  Here’s the .38 Spec / .357 Mag test, using both 2″ and 4″ barrels(!), and the ability to rank by various factors such as speed and penetration makes the test just gold for guys like me, who want the very best combination of effectiveness, but lack the space or facilities to do the testing for ourselves.

Just looking at this chart for my 2″-barreled S&W 637, and given that I’d like penetration greater than 14″, expansion greater than .38″ and velocity higher than 800 fps, it would appear that these two loads would be my best choices for .38 Spec ammo:

Incidentally, my current carry load is the Hornady FTX, which seems to have better expansion and speed than the Federal.  But the Federal ammo seems to have the more consistent penetration (note the tight grouping) — and as a former statistician, I prefer results that are consistent with not too many “fliers”, such as Federal’s heavier load, which is all over the place:


Now, when I finally (eventually?) get my hands on a 4″-barreled S&W Model 65 in .357 Mag, I’ll be looking for penetration > 16″, expansion > .50″ and velocity > 1,300 fps — which means that these two cartridges will be getting my attention, you betcha:

There’s just this caveat, however.  As LG themselves note:

“Keep in mind that the loads with the best numbers might not necessarily be the best choice for your defensive revolver once the effects of recoil are taken into account.”

…so any of those options might not be my final decision, of course.  That would require… field testing!

I love this stuff.  And well done, Lucky Gunner.  When I test the ammo, I’ll be getting it from you guys:  it seems the right thing to do.


  1. Ancient history, but Speer used to make a series of half-jacket swaged lead SWCs that were spectacular. The .429 240 grainer was – at least in everything I tried it in – a laser beam that was stunningly effective on game. Didn’t feed worth a hoot in lever rifles (unless the ministrations of a severely skilled wizard were applied to it) but in revolvers? Superb. And, for the small but dedicated cadre of the Velocity-Challenged Set (.44 Special owners) it was available in a 225 grain HP SWC.

    The swaged core was slightly harder than most and a thick half-jacket held it together. It was not uncommon to retrieve something that weighed about 220-230 grains with the lead core mushroomed around the jacket.

    Same deal applied to the 160 grain pill in .357, with the lighter HP one being – IIRC – 146 grains. In a longish barrel (my 6″ Python, for example, and for a while I used an 8 3/8″ Model 27 afield) velocities – and performance – were impressive, if one could master WW 296.

    Alas, for reasons unknown Speer no longer makes either, or from what I can tell, anything similar (I suspect it’s the feeding problems inherent in lever rifles that may have driven the SWCs out of the catalog; either that or manufacturing complexities that some bean counter decided were excessive) and I can’t help but believe that, at least for those who roll their own, and commercial manufacturers who appreciate them, they would more than hold their own in the gelatin wars.

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