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American Handgunner July/August Digital Edition - Page 30
BETTERSHOOTING dAve ANdersoN Velocity Vs. Barrel Length Barrel Length Cartridge/Bullet Weight (grs.) 17/8" 31/2" 51/2" 20" hornady Critical Defense/45 speer Gold Dot/40 winchester hp/40 remington hp/40 remington premier/33 winchester supreme/30 (velocities in fps, average of 10 rounds.) 1,001 1,086 1,084 1,016 1,095 1,305 1,137 1,252 1,243 1,205 1,277 1,495 1,298 1,385 1,351 1,365 1,473 1,770 1,680 1,850 1,813 1,852 1,918 2,190 .22 Mag Vs. .38 Special Yes? No? Maybe? S mith & Wesson has a couple of very light J-frames in .22 Magnum. The model 351PD with 17/8" barrel weighs just over 12 ounces loaded. Compared to similar .38 Special/.357 Magnum models they offer increased cartridge capacity (seven rounds vs. five), along with much lighter recoil and a milder report. The theory, and it’s not an unreasonable one, is it’s better to hit with a .22 Magnum than to flinch and miss with a .38 or .357. As a small-game/varmint cartridge in a rifle the .22 Magnum is one of my favorites. There’s no questioning the round’s effectiveness in a rifle. What about in a handgun? Both Hornady and Speer have .22 Magnum loads intended specifically for short barrels. The Hornady Critical Defense round has a 45-gr. bullet rated at 1,000 fps. The Speer Gold Dot shortbarrel/personal-protection load has a 40-gr. bullet rated at 1,050 fps. These velocities are from sub-2" barrels. Both loads delivered the advertised velocity in our tests. I did find a 31/2" barrel provides a pretty good velocity increase, from around 150 to 200 additional fps. Check out the chart. I wouldn’t mind seeing S&W offer the option of a 3 – 31/2" barrel on the 351PD. I didn’t have a 2" .22 LR on hand but did run some high-speed .22 LR (36-gr. HP) through a couple of 4" revolvers (S&W 34 and Ruger SP-101). Velocities were around 200 – 250 fps slower than those of the .22 Magnum in similar barrel length. hornady Critical Defense .22 magnum with 45-gr. ftx bullet, fired into paraffin block from (l-r) 17/8" barrel, 31/2" barrel and 51/2" barrel. the speer load performed similarly, with both loads holding together well. coNsIsteNt & reLIABLe ’ve read these two loads from Hornady and Speer use a powder especially suited to short barrels. Could be, though velocities were no better than other loads using similar bullet weights. Personally, I don’t think the magic, if any, is in the powder; it’s in the bullet. The bullets appear to be designed to provide expansion, weight retention and good penetration even at moderate velocities. To get some sense of bullet performance I fired them from various barrel lengths into paraffin blocks. I won’t pretend this is as informative as using ballistic gelatin but it is at least consistent. Both the Hornady FTX and Speer Gold Dot bullets performed splendidly in this medium. Even from the short barrel there was bullet expansion, increasing as velocities increased in longer barrels. Penetration was consistently around 5" to 6" regardless of barrel length. It seemed, as velocity increased, greater expansion slowed bullets down more quickly, and they ended up with about the same penetration as slower bullets. The Gold Dots seemed to expand a bit more violently, possibly because they are a bit lighter and faster, or maybe Speer is using softer jacket/core material. The Gold Dots also tended to lose a bit more weight as velocity increased. My impression is this ammunition, from both makers, is superlative in quality. Both loads gave consistent velocities and both were extremely accurate. In a rifle they equaled the accuracy of the best load I’ve ever used, the Winchester 33-gr. Supreme. There’s also a perception rimfire priming is inherently less reliable than centerfire primers. While I’ve had occasional misfires with .22 LR ammunition I have never had a misfire with .22 Magnum ammunition, over the course of firing many thousands of rounds. o, do I carry a .22 Magnum handgun for personal defense? No, and for the same reason I don’t carry a .32 or .380. For me, at least, there is no downside to using a .38 Special or 9mm (both +P). I have compact handguns available for these cartridges, easy to carry and conceal, and I can shoot them as fast and accurately as I can a .22. I often have a .22 Magnum revolver along during outdoor activities, but for small-game or varmint shooting rather than defense. Is a short-barreled .22 Magnum as effective as a .38 Special or 9mm? No it is not. Is it better than a .22 LR? Definitely, with 20- to 25-percent greater velocity and greater ignition reliability. How about compared to a .380? There I’m on the fence. The best .380 loads provide similar velocities, with heavier bullets. On the other hand I prefer revolvers for pocket carry. The 12-ounce S&W 351 I borrowed from a friend is a mighty appealing little revolver! I A Quandry? these .22 magnum loads were made specifically for short barrels, though they performed splendidly in longer barrels as well, such as the 3½" barrel on my old s&w 51 kit Gun. S * For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/product-index and click on the company name. 30 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • JULY/AUGUST2012