If you were doing any serious field handgunning 10 years ago, you probably were handloading your cartridges. While it was a factor, the economy angle wasn't the sole reason. You couldn't buy factory loaded ammunition that was really effective on game.
The roundnosed and full wadcutter lead revolver bullets and the full metal jacket automatic slugs were notoriously poor performers on all but the tiniest of animals, and contributed much to the popular notion that anyone who hunted with a handgun was a bit crackers.
The simplest means of upgrading the stopping power of hunting loads was to load semiwadcutter cast bullets, perhaps hollowpointed, into heavy sixgun cases. Automatic fans found functioning with these lead pills a sometimes thing, and were generally inclined to forego the hunting scene.
The only factory handgun cartridges that were loaded with what could be deemed hunting bullets were the ancient 32-20, 38-40, and 44-40 rounds that were topped with jacketed, bluntnosed projectiles showing exposed lead at the front. Originally designed for the higher velocities they would attain in rifles, by the late 50s they were loaded to popgun levels so as to be safe in older revolvers. These bullets had jackets too heavy for expansion at the leisurely pace that they were thrown by sixguns.
A few enterprising experimenters cranked up about then and turned out some lightweight, lightly jacketed handgun pills that were good at the high velocities they attained in 357 and 44 Magnum sixguns, their improved wounding power due entirely to fast expansion engendered by softnose and hollowpoints. Production of these earlier swaged bullets never became significant on the commercial market, and they were seldom seen on dealer's shelves.
These trim little bullets, which required no hot casting equipment or messy bullet lubricants in their manufacture, sparked an interest in home swaging, and several efficient swaging devices were placed on the market.
The components first made available to the handloader included copper base cups that were too short to fully jacket the bearing surfaces of bullets of normal weight. Leading and inaccuracy was the usual result when the unlubricated, swaged slugs were pushed at top speeds. Although longer base cups are now available, interest in home swaging seems to have ebbed.
Hunting with the handgun, conversely, is rapidly gaining ground as an important outdoor sport. The newcomer to this exacting pastime will probably want to handload, but he doesn't have to - there is a pretty comprehensive selection of loaded factory rounds that will suit his needs perfectly, with old and some new companies jumping on the wagon to provide the ammunition we've needed for so long. If the hipgunner still prefers to roll his own, new bullet styles are cropping up regularly, and can be adapted to a wider range of calibers than ever before.
Norma-Precision, the South Lansing, N.Y., firm that imports the produce of the Swedish factory, Norma Projeklilfabrik, is a case in point. Long a supplier of good rifle ammo and components, Norma now is filling the needs of handgunners with several new handgun items.
One of the best of these is their superb 357 Magnum cartridge, featuring a jacketed, softnosed HP bullet of 158 grains. This Norma bullet ranks with the best ever conceived for the old original Magnum, and is certainly long overdue in a factory round. It is put up in Norma's virgin brass, unplated and uncannelured cases, which are tops for reloading. They are readily available and are my choice of a store-bought slug when the heaviest is desired for sure work on larger game.
The Norma 355", 116 gr. HP, for use in the many 9mm Parabellum pistols at work, is a dandy, and helped boost the new trend toward high-velocity, High-shock auto loads. Its big, fast opening cavity makes it ideal on small and medium game. Although I have not seen them for sale, I have heard that a loaded Norma 9mm round featuring this bullet is beginning to appear around the country.
Norma's first hot handgun shell, a 44 Magnum, is popular, although its mild steel jacket causes it to open more slowly, while penetrating deeper, than some others of similar design. This steel jacket was used by the Swedish plant to clothe their 45 ACP hollowpoint, a 230 grainer which falls short of optimum expansion. I believe a lighter bullet with a thinner jacket, moving at higher velocities within normal pressure limits, will be necessary to make a gamekiller of the old 45 auto.
While Speer, Inc., Lewiston, Idaho, has not come up with loaded handgun ammo, it seems likely they will, since they are now working closely with the famous German industry, DWM. A spell back, the boys at Speer spawned swaged 357, 41, and 44 bullets featuring full length jackets that eliminated leading.
A couple of years ago, a new Speer 9mm bullet, softnosed and weighing 125 grains, appeared, and has proved excellent for both hunting and defense. Demand for this 355", roundnosed number has exceeded production, and Speer is riding the crest of its acceptance with their newest addition, which is essentially a 38/357 version of the same slug. With a diameter of 357" the new roundnose, softpoint weighs the same 125 grains and has the same profile as the 9mm job. Its cannelure is closer to the nose, but otherwise the two could be taken for twins.
Dave Andrews, Speers ballistics guru, sent down a supply of these little dudes, along with some rather startling loading data. In a Smith & Wesson K-38 test gun with 6" barrel, the 125 gr. Speer delivers the following performances.
Charge Primer Velocity
8.0 gr. Unique CCI 500 1150 fps
8.2 gr. AL-7 CCI 500 1079 fps
15.0 gr. 2400 CCI 550 1212 fps
Recently I loaded 100 rounds of the 15 gr./2400 persuasion and tried them out on jackrabbits and crows, first testing them for accuracy and signs of excessive pressure in an old but tight 4" S&W Combat Masterpiece 38 Special. As could be expected, recoil was sharp - almost into the 357 Magnum range - but case extraction was easy and no sign of excessive pressures evinced itself.
Accuracy was excellent, and tissue damage on rabbits was much in excess of the standard police service load, approaching that associated with heavy, hollowpoint cast bullets at maximum 38 Special velocities. Undoubtedly this bullet will do spectacular things when put up for the 357 Magnum.
Along with the jacketed lightweight, Speer rather modestly announced a bullet that, in my opinion, is long overdue. Simply a swaged, 158 gr. 358" semi-wadcutter of lead alloy with no jacket, this good slug is what should have been loaded in all factory 38 Special police loads for that past 50 years.
Speer's styling has two lube grooves, a crimping groove, and a beveled bottom. My loads with it were with CCI 500 primers over 6 grains of Hogdon's HS-6 powder, for about-standard velocities and good accuracy. This load will take small game as surely as the factory full wadcutter, and holds up much better at long range, penetrating more deeply on more massive animals. Why the larger factories failed to adopt it as standard a lifetime ago is mystifying.
One lone company loads a 38 Special round with this style of bullet: Super Vel of Shelbyville, Ind. Copper washed for a hard, clean-shooting surface, this 158 gr. semi-wadcutter is a great all-purpose 38 load. It is not, however, the showboat of the Super Vel lineup.
Lee Jurras, boss of Super Vel, wants everything in his loads that the company name implies. One way to get ultra high velocities from handgun loads is with a lighter-than-standard bullet, and most Super Vel slugs weigh up like a hungry jockey.
The first Super Vel ammunition that went through my guns was 38 Special stuff with 110 gr. jacketed softnosed and 110 gr. jacketed HP bullets. Both expanded extremely well in wet sand and on jackrabbits from a 4" revolver. One shot with the HP round completely severed the head of a four foot rattlesnake and threw it several feet from the body. These same light bullets, along with a small lot of 125 gr. JHP, have given excellent performance on varmints, fired from hot 357 loads.
Jurras has sent down a pre-production sample batch of 9mm Parabellum shells loaded with a 95 gr. JHP slug that is sharply ogived and looks like it will feed well through the many pistols of this caliber. This is hot ammunition, and the first of these bullets I let go expanded on 1" thick prickly pear leaves. This accurate load, by the time these remarks are printed, should be waiting at your dealer.
The boys at Super Vel are working nights, hoping that 1969 will see production of an 80 gr. 380 ACP, a 105 gr. 38 Super, and a 170 gr. 45 ACP
Handgun hunting gains new devotees every day, and most holdouts of the old, conservative school are unaware of the existence of these efficient new bullets and loads, or have stubbornly left them untried. If you equate handgun effectiveness with the horse-and-buggy era, load up with some these sizzling new hunting rounds. Your education is just beginning.
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