Test Gun: S&W M442
Barrel length: 1 7/8 inches.
Ammunition: Underwood .38spl 158gr +P Hard Cast Keith (item 743)
Test media: 10% Clear Ballistics Gel
Distance: 10 feet.
Chronograph: Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph G2.
Velocity average: 1035fps
Summer is almost over and the kids have been bugging you to take them camping. You make plains to go next weekend to go to your favorite camping spot. But you heard about the critter problem. Legend tells of a bear with big claws, sharp teeth, and bad breath. A bear so big they call him Bunyan. Normally, you don’t worry about taking your family two hours into the woods without protection, but this time you think it would be a good idea.
All you have is a Smith and Wesson snubby Airweight in .38 spl. The small size, light weight, and tiny rosewood grips make a great carry piece, but certainly not enough for such a beast. A guy at work recommends getting some Underwood Hard Cast and filing off the front sight. Unsure as to why he thought it would be a good idea to remove the sight, you elect to keep it on.
The “nothing less than .44 mag” crowed would consider the idea of using a snub nose .38 as a false sense of security, and they may have a point. While the .38 may not be the best choise, I think the caliber is very capable in the woods’ role. A snub nose on the other had, maybe not. The qualities that make it a good carry gun, like small size and weight, make it harder to shoot and rob velocity from the projectile.
So, how doses this round perform out of such a small package? First off, it should be no surprise about how much recoil it has. It flat out hurt to shoot. I had chronograph issues and was only to get the velocity of two rounds, but It’s hot. A 158gr bullet at 1035fps is a lot to handle out of this gun. The point of aim was very high, at 5 to 6 inches at 10 yards, and this caused me problems when shooting the blocks.
I took 4 Clear Gel blocks and lined them up end to end at 10 feet. The high point of impact was giving me problems, and the first three rounds hit high and exited the blocks. Finally, the fourth round hit and stayed in and penetrated to 34.5 inches. This bullet curved to the right after impact and probably limited the distance it went in the blocks. The last round, as luck would have it, stayed in the blocks and was recovered at 47.5 inches, just a half an inch short of the fourth block. There was no expansion or loss of weight with either bullet.
After this, my hand was hurting, and I decided to stop and call it a day. Penetration was very good, and I can only image how much better it would have been out of a more appropriate size gun. On the other hand, if you thought this test was crazy, next week I will be testing the Underwood 380 ACP Hard Cast out of a Ruger LCP.