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Friday, December 7, 2018

Federal 147-Grain Hydra-Shok +P+ .38 Special Jacketed Hollowpoint P38HS2G

 OMG!  A CIVILLAIN GOTS HISSELF AHOLT OF POLICE BOOLITS!  LORD HAVE MERCY! 
(Intended accent is Appalachian Southern White, i.e., my Grandma.)
(BTW, Whenever Memaw was sleeping, she kept a revolver close at hand.)
Cool down and put your red flag away, Heavenly Ghost of Memaw.
No Federal, State, or local laws were broken regarding my purchase, possession, or use of this ammo. 

Law enforcement agencies have long sought better performance from handguns, and the major ammunition companies have always been happy to oblige by providing them the latest in hot new ammo.  Why the "+P+" and "Law Enforcement Only" designation for these loads?  Well, first off, +P+ is colloquial; there is no such SAAMI rating.  In short, it probably means something like "at the most extreme upper edge of +P where most prudent engineers just don't like to go" but nothing is certain unless a bonafide ammo-industry insider cares to testifiy otherwise.  Selling a product that is deliberately loaded to presssures outside of the industry standards would carry a heavy liability and does not seem like a rational business practice, regardless of any legal disclaimer.   To stay conservative, I treat these particular .38 Special loads as being potentially too harsh (nothing explosive, just accelerated wear) for any of my revolvers rated as being +P or below; in other words, I only fire them from my .357 Magnum revolvers.  Insofar as the origins of "for Law Enforcement Use Only," I'll  be durned if anyone can convince me that he / she / heshe / shehe (etc) knows for certain.  It could have been a simple marketing ploy; exclusivity does sell.   Maybe someone truly believed this load was above and beyond all other .38 Special loads.  Ultimately, "the street" proved this load to be a bit less than equal to the effectiveness of the old-school +P lead-semi-wadcutter-hollowpoints ... its favor (and product life) was relatively short lived.   Perhaps of some historic interest is the fact that (after the tragic FBI shootout in Miami) some agencies had chosen a 147-grain 9mm semi-auto load to replace the 115-grain 9mm load that was in common use.  Law enforcement use of the 147-grain 9mm semi-auto load progressed to a +P load that some agencies found to give better performance.  IT IS POSSIBLE that this .38 Special 147-grain +P+ load was an attempt to bring it to the same performance level as that of the 147-grain +P 9mm load.  Back then some cops / agents carried revolvers while others had moved on to semi-autos; perhaps someone suggested this load as a way of putting all of their agents / officers on an equal footing.

Speculation and hearsay about the evolution, intent, and official use of this load has filled many internet pages.  The short of it is that, although being a good performer, this is no magic bullet and it is far short of being in the power-class of any .357 Magnum load.   

Federal no longer offers this +P+ load and IMHO they never will return it to the product line.

Federal's still offers many other standard pressure and +P Hydra-Shok loads in all popular calibers.






Hollowpoints are meant to expand; the intent is to make a fat hole inside the threat via a skinny bullet.  A mushrooming bullet causes more tissue damage and theoretically ends the threat sooner than a non-expanding bullet and also is theoretically less likely to drill a hole clean through the felonious threat and endanger those beyond.   The problem is getting hollowpoints to expand reliably.   Barriers such as wood, sheet metal, glass, wallboard, and even multiple layers of heavy clothing can mess up the science.  Barrels that are too short or too long will cause velocities that are too low or too high for what the bullet was engineered to do.  Hollowpoints that fail to open, or that open too far too soon, or fragment, are sometimes no better at incapacitating a threat than are the old fashioned solid round nose bullets and semi-wadcutters.  Hydra-Shoks have a great reputation for performing but there are no guarantees. A rifle or a shotgun often is a better bet than a handgun ... 







So how did I originally wind up with a full 1,000 round case of these?  Happenstance; I'm a shooting-hobbyist; I saw them advertised in bulk around a decade (or more) ago so I bought them to add to my inventory for use during my lean retirement years.  Until lately, my biggest use for them was with a Ruger SP101 at the range; the Ruger still carries a full cylinder of them for household self-defense purposes.  These loads are clean burning, don't lead the gun barrel, and my exposure to airborne lead is minimal.  If my handguns happen to have enough barrel length to keep bullet velocity in the range that the design engineers intended, they should mushroom during a defensive encounter, provided that the hollowpoint doesn't plug with debris en route to the vitals of the threat.   

My fervent wish is to never find out firsthand how well any load works in human flesh, from either side of any gun.  





In summary, for range use or personal defense, I have no qualms about using this load in any of my revolvers that are chambered for the .357 Magnum.





My most recent range session used a total of 45-rounds of the subject load.  The first 30-rounds were for a practice Illinois Concealed Carry qualification (10-rounds @ 15-feet, 10-rounds @ 21-feet, and 10-rounds @ 30-feet; of the 30-rounds fired, at least 21-rounds must hit inside the numbered areas in order to qualify).  Nothing pretty, but it was a passing effort.





Another 15-rounds were consumed working on some snub-handling fundamentals at my current durable-zone of suckiness with this particular revolver, 30-feet.  

The remaining 5-rounds (from the box of 50 that I took to the range) went into the cylinder as carry-loads (after I cleaned the revolver upon returning to the domicile).

Anecdotally, the recoil and noise level of this load has never seemed (to me; your senses may vary) any more or less than what I experience when firing the +P 158-grain lead SWCHP .38 Special loads.