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9mm vs 38 Special which is more powerful

This is a discussion on 9mm vs 38 Special which is more powerful within the XDTalk Chatter Box forums, part of the XD Talk category; Originally Posted by agalindo Power and foot pounds don'e meain anything. As long as the bulllet penetrates at least 12" and expands the foot pounds ...

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Old 05-31-2009, 05:05 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by agalindo View Post
Power and foot pounds don'e meain anything. As long as the bulllet penetrates at least 12" and expands the foot pounds have no meaning. The more expansion and penetration the better.
Power and foot pounds is what determines penetration depth, so they do mean something. If your bullet doesn't have power and foot pounds you will not get 12" penetration.....
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Old 06-01-2009, 03:46 PM   #22
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I thought I made myself clear I guess I didn't.
Power and foot pounds is not all that is required for a bullet to expand and penertate. Yes of course it is required but foot pounds in not the best measurement of how a bullet will perform. The design of the jacket and cavity have much more of an influence on it's expansion and penetration. If the bullet is designed to expand and penetrate at least 12" in calibrated gel at velocity A and foot pounds A then another bullet that is traveling 100fps faster thus has 100 foot pounds more energy but expands less or not at all is not a better choice. Foot pounds of energy do not wound directly by "dumping" energy into a target they do so by expanding the bullet and pushing it to the required minimum depth.
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Old 06-01-2009, 05:56 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by agalindo View Post
I thought I made myself clear I guess I didn't.
Power and foot pounds is not all that is required for a bullet to expand and penertate. Yes of course it is required but foot pounds in not the best measurement of how a bullet will perform. The design of the jacket and cavity have much more of an influence on it's expansion and penetration. If the bullet is designed to expand and penetrate at least 12" in calibrated gel at velocity A and foot pounds A then another bullet that is traveling 100fps faster thus has 100 foot pounds more energy but expands less or not at all is not a better choice. Foot pounds of energy do not wound directly by "dumping" energy into a target they do so by expanding the bullet and pushing it to the required minimum depth.
While your point is valid, it's sort of an apples and oranges comparison. Let's compare apples to apples. Specifically, Winchester Silvertips and near equal weights. Note, this data is what is posted on Winchesters centerfire handgun site.

For 38 spl. there is just one offering in 38 spl. that is applicable for personal defense, a 110 grain Silvertip hollowpoint. From a 4 inch barrel muzzle velocity is given as 945 FPS. Muzzle energy is listed at 218 ft. lbs..

The nearest equivalent 9mm round is the 115 grain Silvertip hollowpoint. From a 4 inch barrel muzzle velocity is given as 1225 FPS. Muzzle energy is given at 383 ft. lbs..

9mm bullets are only 0.001 inch larger than the 38 spl. Because of the similar weights and designs, I think that it's pretty safe to assume that both bullets will expand to a very similar diameter, provided they retain enough velocity to insure complete expansion.

Now, ask yourself, which bullet do you honestly think will provide more penetration, the slower bullet or the one that is starting out 280 FPS. faster and has a slight mass advantage?

I think that it's pretty clear that the 9mm is the winner. In addition, there is a much wider selection of hollowpoint bullet weights available for the 9mm. To be honest, I think that any self defense round should have at least 130 grains for hollow point pistol ammunition. Mass provides Momentum that can help insure adequate penetration. If I were choosing a 9mm defense round it would be in the range of 130 to 147 grain, not a 115 grain rocket.
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Old 06-01-2009, 06:51 PM   #24
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I would choose the 110gr corbon dpx at 1021fps or the 135 gr gold dot at 865 .38 over the 115gr 9mm silvertip in a heartbeat. The silvertip is an older design and will not expand as reliably as either of the .38 bullets. Both .38 bullets meet the fbi protocol of penetration and expansion.

Notice that in the statistics the person testing didn't mention foot pounds.
Test was done by Dr. Gary Robers using IWBA protocols.

corbon 110gr iwba protol testing show
BG: pen=13.0"; RD=0.52", RL=0.52", RW=109.5gr
4 layer denim: pen=12.4"; RD=0.52", RL=0.51", RW=109.7gr


gold dot 135gr
BG: pen=13.1”, RD=0.56”, RW=134.5gr
4 layer denim: pen=13.6”, RD=0.53”, RW=134.1gr


Now that I post this I remember I wasn't trying to make a choice of calibers I was just making a point. The "this round has 400 ft lbs so it must be better that the 350ft lbs round" was not very accurate. What should be compare is the penetration and expansion of the round, not the foot pounds. Personaly I don't care which one is considered better, I carry either round depending on the situation.
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Last edited by agalindo; 06-01-2009 at 06:53 PM.
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Old 06-01-2009, 07:53 PM   #25
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The answer is simple. The best one is the one you will carry and practice with.

You can own the hottest new cartridge/gun, but if you don't have it with you when you need it, or can't hit anything because you never practice, it isn't going to do you much good.
Well said Danp.
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Old 06-01-2009, 08:30 PM   #26
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please pass me some popcorn.
I'd like some, too. Got any butter?
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Old 06-02-2009, 12:44 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by agalindo View Post
I would choose the 110gr corbon dpx at 1021fps or the 135 gr gold dot at 865 .38 over the 115gr 9mm silvertip in a heartbeat. The silvertip is an older design and will not expand as reliably as either of the .38 bullets. Both .38 bullets meet the fbi protocol of penetration and expansion.

Notice that in the statistics the person testing didn't mention foot pounds.
Test was done by Dr. Gary Robers using IWBA protocols.

corbon 110gr iwba protol testing show
BG: pen=13.0"; RD=0.52", RL=0.52", RW=109.5gr
4 layer denim: pen=12.4"; RD=0.52", RL=0.51", RW=109.7gr


gold dot 135gr
BG: pen=13.1, RD=0.56, RW=134.5gr
4 layer denim: pen=13.6, RD=0.53, RW=134.1gr


Now that I post this I remember I wasn't trying to make a choice of calibers I was just making a point. The "this round has 400 ft lbs so it must be better that the 350ft lbs round" was not very accurate. What should be compare is the penetration and expansion of the round, not the foot pounds. Personaly I don't care which one is considered better, I carry either round depending on the situation.
Coupling this with your previous post, it's pretty simple for me ... I call it metallurgy.

Then again, I have a mechanical background.

Listen to agalindo ... He's telling the truth.
(I'd give you rep, if I could )

A bullet can also over-perform.
Push it to fast (hard) and it will not act as intended.

Side note,
The funniest thing I've ever seen was a guy sighting in a new load in 22-250
It took about ten shots to determine that the reason no one was seeing the impact ... Was because the bullet was fragmenting in the air as it headed toward the target.
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Old 06-02-2009, 01:11 AM   #28
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I'll put a stop to this right now.

All you need is a .45.







Bigger hole ftw.













can you hear the can of worms open???
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Last edited by rudy64; 06-02-2009 at 01:18 AM.
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Old 06-02-2009, 04:44 AM   #29
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Old 06-02-2009, 05:45 AM   #30
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i carry a 38special but a 9mm is better in every way. but i love my jframe it will stay my carry piece.
the J-Frame in your pocket is better than the 9MM in your nightstand drawer. JMHO!
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