Choosing Bullet Weight Based on Barrel Length-

Discussion in 'The 1911 Forum' started by RunningOnMT, Nov 11, 2011.

  1. RunningOnMT

    RunningOnMT New Member

    Nov 19, 2008
    Akron, Ohio
    This could be posted on several different forums but since except for the fact that I only own one each of .22 and .357, and the rest of my handguns are .45 acp I'll post it here. For this question I'm thinking only of a bullets defensive effectiveness.

    Can anyone help me determine what bullet weight is optimum for pistols with 3, 4, and 5 inch barrels? I'd prefer to use one weight, brand, and type for all my pistols as it's easier for purposes of stockpiling. Right now I use 230 gr Remington Golden Sabers for SD, and several brands of 230 gr. FMJ (Winchester, PMC, etc) for the range.

    Here's the thing, I realize that the muzzle velocity is lower out of a shorter barrel, but the question is can using a lighter gr bullet make up for any loss in effectiveness?

    I've made several assumptions that may or may not be true. One is that a bullets energy is directly proportional to wounding capability, and using the formula 1/2 mv(2) or 1/2 the mass times velocity squared, and the manufacturers advertised muzzle velocities I have found that in a given length barrel it's pretty much a zero sum trade off in terms of energy.

    For ease of calculation and comparison I didn't use any specific units of measure, but rather the numerical value of the units involved. For example let's take the Federal Hi-Shok. A 230 gr bullet is advertised as having a muzzle velocity of 850 fps, so 230 X 850 X 850 divided by 2 = 83087500. A 185 gr. bullet is advertised as having a muzzle velocity of 950 fps. 185 X 950 X 950 divided by 2 = 83481250, a very small difference.

    So, in terms of effectiveness would there be any advantage in using a lower weight round in my Kahr w/ 3" barrel than in my 5" 1911's? JLA I'm pretty sure you can tackle this one but I welcome all responses.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2011
  2. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    My choice would be 200 gr projectiles for all 3. Think of it as a happy medium, and there are many choices between both target bullets and defensive hollowpoinds in the 200 gr weight. My preference is 200 gr SWC for target and range practice, and 200 gr XTPs for defense.

  3. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    Now I do load hunting ammo for my 1911s. they are just backups to my rifle in the field but are 230 gr XTPs loaded to 850 fps. In a hunting situation you want the penetration the heavy bullet provides.
  4. RunningOnMT

    RunningOnMT New Member

    Nov 19, 2008
    Akron, Ohio
    Thanks Josh, I'll try out some 200 gr XTP's. The price isn't too bad either.
  5. Archie

    Archie Active Member

    The kinetic energy theory of bullet energy relies heavily velocity. Since velocity is the first thing to go with shorter barrels, so is kinetic energy. Using a lighter bullet means the bullet slows down faster after leaving the muzzle.

    I'm a heavy bullet, momentum fan. A lower initial velocity heavy bullet tends to retain what velocity it has better than a lighter bullet. I also find the recoil of a low(er) velocity, heavy(er) bullet load less offensive.

    But, you are all big kids and will make up your own minds.
  6. jacksonco

    jacksonco New Member

    I use 200 grain XTP JHP in my 3 1/2" BBL Citadel. 230 grain XTP JHP in my Commander and full sized bbl 1911s. ( all hand loaded rounds with 6 grains Unique))

    Works out well for me. But I am just as comfortable carrying a 9 MM or 380 Auto.
  7. reynolds357

    reynolds357 Former Guest

    Oct 24, 2011
    Kinetic energy is not really the important factor in handgun ammo. I learned this through analyzing photos of handgun shots on people when I was taking homicide investigations. The common pistol rounds do not have enough kinetic energy to deliver the damaging shock wave that makes kinetic energy a killing factor. Penetration, expansion, and depth of wound channel are pretty much all that is relevant in a handgun wound. You can shoot a block of ballistic gelatin with a .357 magnum and then shoot it with a .358 shooting times Alaskan. With the .357 magnum in time lapse, you will see almost no pressure wave in the gelatin. With the .358 shooting time Alaskan, you will see the entire block of ballistic gelatin become a shock wave.
  8. carver

    carver Moderator Supporting Member

    Balistics by the inch:
    Federal 230 gr. Hydra-Shok JHP, 5" barrel: 895fps
    Federal 230 gr. Hydra-Shok JHP, 4" barrel: 865fps
    Federal 230 gr. Hydra-Shok JHP, 3" barrel: 787fps

    Federal 165 gr. Hydra-Shok HP (low recoil), 5" barrel: 1033fps
    4" barrel: 964fps
    3" barrel: 870fps

    I shoot 230gr bullets only. I can get 756fps with a Gold Dot 135 gr. bullet from my snubby .38.
  9. Twist not length is the criteria for optimum bullet choice and that is more critical in rifles than it is in handguns with the shorter distances invlved. Just pick one that shoots good and you are good to go. We can't tell you for your gun based on what works in our guns because every gun has it's own little preference in what flavor works best. Best we can do is get you close.
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