> TEOTWAWKI Blog: J Frame Ammo Notes & Thoughts



J Frame Ammo Notes & Thoughts

Went to the old range the other day for some trigger time with my S&W 642. Brought along a variety of ammunition to do informal testing on for carry purposes. Totally subjective and definitely not scientific. I brought along:
  • Speer Gold Dot 135 grain +P short barrel JHP load
  • Wal-Mart Winchester 125 grain +P JHP
  • Buffalo Bore 158 grain Heavy standard pressure SWC-HP
Recoil is a big factor when shooting the airweight J-frame, and I went in expecting the Buffalo Bore to be the lightest, then the Winchester, then the Speer. With the snub, accuracy can also be an issue, though I have had pretty good groups with standard pressure FMJs and lead round nose rounds, at my club's minimum 11-yard distance.

I started up the range session running a few cylinders of standard pressure FMJs through the snubby. I've got VZ's new G10 boot grips on the gun. They're a better hand-fit than the factory Hogue grips, but they still leave the backstrap exposed and aren't exactly gentle on the hands. I the standard pressure rounds weren't gentle, but not so bad. Accuracy was as expected...pretty good. The gun was grouping about 1.5 inches to the left, so a little correction in my aim and I was hitting dead-center.

Satisfied, I progressed up into the defense ammo, shooting the Winchester, Gold Dots and Buffalo Bore ammo. Recoil was stout, to say the least. Surprisingly (to me), I think the Buffalo Bore load recoiled the most. The Winchester +P load probably recoiled the least of the three, with the Gold Dots coming in at the middle. I'm still surprised that the Heavy .38s kicked more than the +P loads, and will test this out on my next range trip and after my hand stops aching.

Of the three, accuracy between with Winchester and Gold Dots was interchangeable, at least for my informal testing. Accuracy was terrible with the Buffalo Bore, to the point where I had to load up some standard pressure rounds and check to make sure that it wasn't user error. I wasn't shooting for groups, just blasting away at a couple of targets, so I don't have group sizes to compare with. The Buffalo Bore was definitely the poorest performer of the group, which was again surprising, as I've heard only great things about BB accuracy wise.

At the end of the day, I was pretty surprised and a bit uncertain about my informal results. The Gold Dots came out on top, Winchesters were good too, Buffalo Bore not so good. My hand was too sore and beaten up from firing the +P loads through an airweight snub to spend much more time shooting and do any more verification of my impressions. I think this hand fatigue/soreness may have increased the perceived recoil of the Buffalo Bore load, so I will need to hit the range again to verify. If others have found it to be gentle in comparison to +P loads, then that's probably why. Perceived recoil definitely progressed throughout the range trip.

Anyways, shooting a boot-gripped airweight j-frame is an interesting experience. Recoil is definitely stiff, and even more so with +P ammo. I can see many class the gun as a "carry a lot, shoot a little" firearm.

I like the VZ Grip boot grips for carrying; they are very low-profile, and they feel pretty good in hand, but they're not so great for actually shooting. I have a pair of Pachmayrs that cover the backstrap and make shooting the J-frame a much more comfortable experience, but they are quite a bit chunkier to conceal. I'm not sure which way to go; in a defensive situation, recoil is less of an issue--your hand getting sore would be the least of your worries, and honestly, recoil is not so bad on a "fresh" hand. Controllability and follow-up shots are definitely still a consideration, though. And I like to be able to practice often and comfortably with my firearms, which is another issue. It's been two days since my range trip and my hand is still sore.

So I may get rid of the VZs in favor of the Pachmayrs or something else entirely, or I may skip the +P loads and go with a standard pressure load like Federal's Nyclad, or I may stay as-is. Not sure yet which direction to go, will post when I get it figured out.