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Velocity Floor?

1547 Views 7 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  jimhigginbotham
Hello all,

I've not seen this subject addressed.

I've been doing a lot of research in the short barrel arena and I don't like some velocities I'm seeing- and especially gun rags which say "for some reason this load only got 675fps from the pistol, but it should be ok..." Bull like that.


.45acp- were I to carry one (and my next handgun may be a 1911 if it's not a HP) I wouldn't be comfortable with less than 800fps, preferable 830 or above.

.40S&W- again, don't own one but have shot several and have respect for it. I wouldn't want to go below around 1000fps with one of these.

9mm- While I prefer 1250-1350fps, depending on weight, I would not accept anything below 1100fps.


Josh <><
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A slug that is only moving 675 FPS would concern me, too. I'm assuming this is a .38 special? Not knowing the type of bullet or round I can't hazard a guess.
I like anything I carry to move as fast as possible, as long as it's conrollable and accurate.

I saw a .40 load today that pushed a 135 grainer at 1,500 fps. Smokin' ! Right out of the Hogdon Manual.

Light or heavy, it's your choice. I like my .45's to do 830 FPS plus for a 230 grainer. My .40's about 950 to 1400 depending on weight, and my 9mm's about 1300 fps for the 115 to 127 grain (+P+) stuff and 950+ for the 147 grain bullets.

I think we get way too involved in how much velocity we can squeeze out of a cartridge. That said, there is definitely a velocity floor, but it depends on your use of that particular load. Paco Kelly, among others, has written about the Keith 275 grain 45 caliber bullet at around 950 fps going through and through on a whitetail at 50 to 75 yards. Why do you need more? Dead is dead. Two bleeding holes are all you're going to get. The rest of that velocity just flings the bullet farther from its intended target.

Now, on self-defense loads, you want enough velocity to make the bullet expand. Well, how much is that for your particular cartridge? That depends on how the bullet company has designed it. Hornady xtp bullets seem to need more velocity, Speer Gold Dots less. You still need enough penetration to hit the vitals, and all of that is totally useless unless you place the shot where it can hit those vitals.

After all these years of experimenting, hunting, and pounding my hands and wrists with heavy revolver loads, here are the conclusions I've drawn:

45 ACP 230 can to as slow as 800 fps and get its job done.
44 Special 240/255 can do just about anything the world needs at 1000 fps and probably at 900.
44 Magnum 240/255 I'll load to 1200 just so I can tell the difference between it and the special when I shoot it.
45 Colt 255/275 will do anything necessary at 900 and probably at 800, but it's fun to make them go 1000.
357 Magnum will lose a whitetail doe for your daughter firing a 158 grain xtp from a carbine at 1150 fps at a mere 65 yards. With a 125 grain jhp at 1300 or better, it will light up a room, deafen you, and twist the revolver so violently, you'd better hit with the first shot.
9mm Parabellum 110jhp at 1200 to 1400 (HK-93) will scare the crap out of you when your best friend and two other officers pound a murder suspect who has just fired at them with a Ruger 44 mag carbine, hitting him 14 times in under 4 seconds. It'll take a center forehead shot to finally drop him. Your mind will understand that he still fell in 4 seconds, but you will never again feel confident with the 9.
38 special is a fine, all round revolver cartridge that's very accurate, and will do almost anything you need while hiking or backpacking. Since heavier bullets are available for it, you'll feel better with it than with a 9mm, then you'll carry a load that mimics the best of the 9's and feel okay with it. You'll understand intellectually that they are the same, but you just FEEL differently about them. ::) So the floor here is the 158 LHP at about 700 or the 110 from Corbon at 1125.
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Thank you for the responses thus far.

The quote above is made up but stereotypical of what I've seen.

I guess I should have been more specific:

What is the minimum velocity you are comfortable with in your prefered weight in your preferred caliber(s) for self-defense?

CAS and the like are exempt here.

Thank you again,

Josh <><
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My thoughts on Velocity are very much related to the design of the bullet.

In a 38 special, the 158 gr LSWCHP+P is a fine design. I also think that a design such as that (soft lead) which is made to reliably expand and relatively slow velocity would also be inappropriate for a higher velocity. I would not want a 158 GR LSWCHP 357 magnum I would have more of a cohesive and stronger bullet design (JHP)at the velocities achieved in 357 magnum so as to take advantage of the increased velocity of the load while maintaining some prenetration. (the earliest 357, a 158 gr LRN with an obscene velocity, was very much known as an overpentrating round, but so is 9mm nato ball)

Given that, I tend to suggest with middle of the spectrum loads on most types of handguns, except 357's (fast) and 45's(heavy). My personal choices are:

.38 Spl: Winchester 158 Gr LSWCHP+P
9mm: A +P JHP in the 124-127 ranger by winchester, speer or remington (STX, Gold dot or golden saber bonded)
.357 Magnum: 125 grain remington SJHP
.357 Sig: 125 Grain Remington golden saber bonded or 125 gr gold dots (I have also experimented with winchester rangers but our local supplier is out of business)
.40 S&W: 155 Grain Gold dots or Hydra shocks
.45 ACP: 200 Grain Gold dot +p or 230 Grain +P Winchester rangers.

This list will probably look similar to those on several other threads, and it probably should.
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I think we probably get in a rut...note I said "we" as I can be just as illogical on this as anyone.

While the numbers Josh mentioned are certainly right in the area I too am comfortable, I do have to remind myself from time to time that the .455 Webley did right well in thumping folks at a mere 600 fps...By coincidence my son just picked one up at the recent gun show.

It was proven long ago (through the experiment of shooting solid brass or bronze bullets at speeds nearing 5,000 fps) that velocity in and of itself has very little to do with effectiveness in soft tissue....but note....that experiment was made to seperate velocity out....the fact is that it is almost never a seperate issue but part of several interdependent factors which include bullet shape, design and construction.

Some bullets expand fine at 800 fps and are stressed too much at 1200. On the other hand some do not expand at 1000 and need about 1600 or so do do the job....it is a complex thing and we should not be cornered into accepting the genearalities without recognizing the exceptions.

That said, there are many bullets that fall into the exact range of peak performance that Josh has mentioned so, in the overall sense that works. I have to admit, normally my loads fall within those parameters.

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I agree with everyone that said its mainly about bullet design and use.

The only SD gun I own is a 9mm, and for it, I prefer 147 grain bullets. Although it would be nice to have a 147 grain bullet at 1100 FPS (which Buffalo Bore has already done at 1175 FPS but is expensive at $1 per round), I am just fine with them at 1000 FPS, since they were actually designed to expand at velocities much lower than that, and do just fine out of decent length barrels.

However, I do like velocity for the lighter loads. For 115 grain bullet, especially Gold Dots, I want at least 1350 FPS. For 124-127, I want at least 1250 FPS.

I agree that a 147 at 1100 plus would be a very intersting thing to contemplate.

Been too busy in the last few years to do all the experimenting I want but I finally got a 147 (Hornady XTP and Remington GS) to right at 1400 fps in my 9X23 - unfortunately I have not shot anything with it to see how it will perform...I suspect it should work great on thin skinned and light muscled targets...IOW, just what the Dr. ordered.

I do have a little experience with the .356 TSW shooting the 135 H-S at 1250 fps...that one works great... I like it much better than the .357 mag 125/1400 (which is not exactly inadequate).

Press on,
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