Tag Archives: .357 Magnum

What is “caliber”? What is it a measure of?

“Whats a bigger caliber .40 or .380?” “Whats the difference between a 9mm and a .357?” “What does {caliber} mean?”

Caliber is basically the measure of the diameter of the projectile being fired. It is also a direct measurement of the diameter of the bore of a particular firearm. This measure can either be in fraction of an inch (i.e. .380) OR in millimeters (i.e. 9mm).

Common handgun calibers comparison

One common thing to remember in regards to caliber is that SOME calibers are not EXACT measurements. For instance, the .44 Remington magnum is NOT exactly .44 of an inch. It is closer to .429 of an inch than .44 of an inch. Another thing to remember about calibers is that we commonly see SAME caliber bullets stuffed in different size casings. For example, take a look at the figure above. If you did a little math, you will see that the .357 and the 9mm are the same diameter. The .40 S&W and the 10mm are also the same diameter. Let’s observe how this looks in a rifle example.

From left to right .308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, .300 Winchester Magnum (Missing is the Winchester 30-30, and the 300 Remington Ultra magnum)

These 5 cartridges are all in the “30 caliber family”. The projectile of ALL 5 of these cartridges measure’s .308 of an inch. These are essentially THE same SLUG stuffed in a different casing. “So which one is more powerful?” Take a wild guess between the 3 in the photo as to which one is more powerful. If you picked the one on the far right, you are correct. GENERAL RULE OF THUMB. Look at the size of the casing. The LARGER the casing, THE MORE gunpowder its going to hold. The MORE GUN POWDER the casing holds the faster the bullet is going to travel. The faster that bullet travels the more kinetic energy its going to have etc..

GRAIN-The STANDARD unit of Bullet weight measurement

You may hear or read of different bullets being 200 grains (often abbreviated “gr”), or 180 gr. This is the WEIGHT of the bullet/slug/projectile. For example, The .40 S&W is available in 135 gr, 155gr, 165 gr and 180 gr. Lets ask ourselves a few common sense questions and establish a few GENERAL ground rules (there are a few exceptions with high performance ammo manufacturers) 1. The LIGHTER the projectile, the higher the velocity (bullet will move faster through the air) but will not penetrate as deeply as a heavier projectile. 2. The HEAVIER the projectile the slower it will travel, but will work wonders when it comes to penetrating surfaces and retaining momentum. SOO..if you had a .40 S&W pistol with FMJ’s and you wanted to PUNCH THROUGH A WINDSHIELD (or sheet rock, or sheet metal, or plywood) and knock out a target in the front seat, which weight would you use? 135 gr or 180 gr? The 180 gr choice would be more practical. The slower moving 180 gr will retain MUCH more of its kinetic energy than the much FASTER moving 165 gr.

“Sooo…since a 230 gr .45ACP is a bigger bullet than the .357 Magnum which weighs 158 gr, is it more powerful?” The Answer is NO. Take a look at the figure below. 

.357 S&W Magnum (158 gr) on left .380 ACP (95 gr) in middle and .45 ACP (230gr) on right.

Obviously the .45ACP bullet diameter is wider than the .357 magnum. The .45 ACP also weighs more. SO…which one generates more power? To answer this question, Remember the GENERAL rule of thumb we previously discussed. That .357 magnum has a LOT more powder in its casing. This allows the .357’s 158 gr projectile to travel a LOT faster than the 230 gr .45 ACP. This considerable advantage in velocity allows the .357 to generate over TWICE the energy of the LARGER .45 ACP. GENERAL RULE OF THUMB…A LARGER DIAMETER CALIBER IS [NOT] ALWAYS MORE POWERFUL.

 

What type of ammo should I use in my conceal carry firearm?

“What are the pros and cons of hollow points?” “What are the pros and cons of FMJ’s (full metal jackets)?” “Are hollow points barbaric?” “Do hollow points make me look blood thirsty?” “What about Xtreme Penetrators”? These are questions that are asked by the common first time gun owner. Lets say you just purchased your gun, it fits well, its concealable, and you are fairly decent with shot placement. The gun store clerk shoves a box of “Hornady Critical Defense” ammo towards you and fiercely recommends it for personal defense. Could you visualize or articulate the difference between Hornady Critical Defense rounds and regular ol’ bullets (FMJ’s)?

Full Metal Jackets (FMJ’s)

A full metal jacket is usually consists of a SOFT metal core that is encased in a harder metal such as brass. FMJ’s are usually referred to as “ball” ammunition in the military. Full Metal Jackets do a decent job at damaging or penetrating HARD surfaces such as windshields, sheet rock, sheet metal, tin, stone, wood and ceramics.  They also devastate soft targets such as flesh and ballistics gelatin.

FMJ Drawbacks

One main drawback of FMJ’s is that they have a tendency to overpenetrate-they don’t stop until they’ve expended ALL of their kinetic energy. By the time FMJ’s have expended all of their kinetic energy they may have passed through an attacker’s body.

Common Calibers in Full metal jackets

If you are shooting an assailant with FMJ’s from a high velocity CONCUSSIVE caliber like a .357 SIG, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, or a 10mm, you may be increasing the chances of overpenetration. This phenomenon occurs when the projectile FAILS to stop traveling because it has not expended all of its kinetic energy inside the target (this is also called a “through and through”, or an “exit wound”). These overpenetrators are free to fly around and tear up someones engine block on their car, punch through somebody’s vinyl siding, kill somebody’s dog, or even ricochet and kill an innocent bystander.

Jacketed Hollow Points (JHP’s)

A hollow point is basically a bullet that has been hollowed out. This hollowing out causes the bullet to expand when it hits a soft target such as ballistics gel, flesh, or water. This design allows hollow points to expend nearly ALL of their kinetic energy INSIDE of the soft target. Expansion causes the surface area of the bullet to increase substantially. This virtually eliminates the possibility of over penetration. Just visualize FMJ’s as spears. Spears pierce and cut straight through a target. Now imagine Hollow points being like sledge hammers. Sledge hammers crush,Smash, rip, and tear through things. The spear and the sledge hammer are both incredibly lethal, but they work in different ways.

 

Hollow points are ILLEGAL to be used by armies around the world according to the Hague Convention. But they are the ammunition of choice for Law Enforcement in America (hmmm).

Hollow Point Drawbacks

One performance drawback of the Hollow point design is the fact that it relies on liquid or semi liquid targets (like flesh, water, or ballistics gelatin) for expansion. If it strikes a hard surface such as a windshield, it may not punch through. Another performance drawback is that the hollow point expansion can be defeated if an attacker has on THICK clothing like a sweat shirt.Thick clothing will cause premature expansion and basically cause the hollow point to behave like a weak FMJ. “Hornady Critical Defense” solves this problem by filling the hollow point cavity with a rubber like polymer. This eraser-like material DELAYS expansion when/if the bullet strikes heavy clothing and allows the hollow point to behave like a hollow point should.

Count up the cost and weigh your options. Look at the pros and cons of both ammo types. Some gun owners alternate FMJ’s with JHP’s in the magazines to get the benefits of both. DO what works for you.