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Ammunition Bleg December 6, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Guns.

Allrighty then – enough with the art stuff.  Let’s get back to Serious Matters again and turn our attention to far more important things like these:


Bullets.  Cartridges.  Little Bangs o’ Death.  Whatever you want to call them, they’re what makes your gun come alive.  And there are so many flavors to choose from!  Those in the picture above are the ones I’ve picked up so far.  The two small boxes are the expensive rounds I bought when I picked up my gun.  Those cost well nigh a buck a bullet.  The box on the left is Speer GoldDot .38 Special +P 135 gr. jacketed hollow-points.  I haven’t shot any of those yet.  The one on the left is Federal’s Premium .357 Magnum 130 gr. jacketed hollow-points.  These are touted as being “low recoil” and have a special ingredient called “Hydra-Shok”.  I assume this special ingredient has something to do with “low recoil” feature of this round.  Perhaps I assume wrong?  I haven’t shot this ammunition yet either.  Moving on to the bigger blue box would be the Speer Law Man Training Ammunition .38 Special 158gr. TMJ CF (I don’t know what “TMJ CF” means but they were jacketed ball rounds).  I shot that whole box last Saturday and I liked them.  The two white boxes are the cheapest stuff I could get at the local Wallymart:  100 rounds of Winchester .38 Special 130 gr. full metal jacket blunt tipped bullets, and 50 rounds of .357 Magnum 110 gr. semi-jacketed hollow-points.  I didn’t fire all of that off, but a good portion of it anyway. 

No doubt some of you reading this already know what I’m gonna ask about:  WTF is the deal with the grain count on these things?  It was my understanding that the grain count relates to the amount of powder in the cartridge and thus the power of it when firing.  If this was true, then the .357 magnum rounds I shot should have been the weakest of the three that I’ve fired so far.  I assure you that was not the case last Sunday.  The kick and muzzle flash of those suckers was quite impressive (to me at any rate) and they were considerably more powerful than the .38 stuff.  So, what’s the deal? 

Another thing – the Winchester stuff left my gun extremely dirty.  The magnums I understand since they’re semi-jacketed, but the others were still dirty to fire – a lot more smoke and obvious powder residue.  The Speer Lawman touts itself as “Clean-Fire” and I must say they totally are compared to the Winchesters – even the shell casings.  So, what’s the deal with that?   Obviously, this sort of stuff is the trade-off you make with the cost, but I’m curious as to the reasons behind it.  I’ve googled around a bit, but I haven’t found a good, overall guide to handgun ammunition and the pros and cons of this type of round vs. that and what the heck that grain count thing is all about.  Any help or guidance any y’all can give on this matter is greatly appreciated!  I mentioned previously about attending an upcoming Gun Show the weekend after next and I’m hoping to get a good deal on some ammo.  I’d like to avoid any “noob” mistakes.  Oh, and tips on gun cleaning too – I’ve got some, uh “scorch-marks” on the cylinder that I couldn’t get off with my gun cleaning kit.  Or is this something normal with guns – they collect noticeable evidence of their use and whatnot?  Thanks!


1. Steamboat McGoo - December 6, 2007

Lets clear up a few things for you:

The grain weight on the ammo refer to the weight of the BULLET, not the powder charge.

The FMJ letters stand for Full Metal Jacket. I don’t have a reloading book here (all packed) but I can borrow my neighbors tomorrow and complete this list: (damned memory!):

FMJ = Full Metal jacket — this is usually your basic ball ammo
TMJ = Total Metal Jacket — even the back side is metal’ed.
RN = Round Nose — the usual shape for a bullet front.
WC = Wad Cutter
SWC = Semi-Wad Cutter
HP = Hollow Point
SP = Soft point

CF = (this is iffy) Cone Front. (I am having a Bald Moment on this one)

Like I said. I’ll borrow a R/L book tomorrow.

As for getting a dirty gun: they get that way. You usually have little or no control over what powder a mfgr uses, and they rarely specify. Only by reloading ammo yourself will you have the choice of using cleaner or dirtier powders – and, how you use them vs how dirty they are varies with several parameters. Short answer: deal with it.

Sometimes a powder loaded light (not much in the cartridge) burns filthy, and at a higher charge burns clean as snow. Different calibers burn powder differently.

Sometimes a powder that is dirty has other serious advantages that justify its use: low muzzle flash being one. Economics is another. It might take measurably less of one over another. Load volume is another factor. It is generaly not considered wise to load a cartridge with too little VOLUME (not talking weight) of powder because reliable ignition can be iffy.

BTW: when you mentioned your HIGH prices for the ammo from the gun store, you didn’t say you were buying super premium ammo. It does cost a lot more.

Hope this helps.

2. Enas Yorl - December 7, 2007

Ah, thankee McGoo! I am just an egg. The grain thing makes a hell of a lot more sense now.

3. Steamboat McGoo - December 7, 2007

Yep. One chooses ones load for the target or usage intended. There is no “one” round for all purposes. Kinda like golf clubs, I guess, hee hee.

That’s one of the primary advantages of reloading your own: you can tailor several loads to a specific weapon and usage, near-perfectly, and with exquisite repeatability.

4. kevlarchick - December 7, 2007

Holy shite dude. This looks like an expensive hobby.

5. Enas Yorl - December 7, 2007

KC, if I only shot the super premium stuff, then yeah it’s pretty expensive. The dirty Winchester .38 rounds go for 12 or 13 bucks per hundred so it’s not bad. I can get even better prices if I buy in bulk I think. The range for the day is 8 bucks and another dollar for hearing protection rental. I’m gonna look for those and the ammo too at the Gun Show soon.

You can also buy yearly memberships at the American Shooters’ gun range for $350, which is slightly less than what you would pay if you drop by one day every weekend. I think I’ll hold off on that one for a bit though.

6. Dave in Texas - December 8, 2007

Not so bad really, you can practice with the cheap .38 jacketed rounds (those are nice cause you don’t get lead all over your fingers. Box of 50 is about 12 bucks.

I’ve kinda cycled in on Fiocchi ammo… by and large a cleaner powder in the .38, .380 and .45 that I shoot. Federal and Winchester are all over the board with powder, in my experience.

For defense people seem to like hollow points but shit man, it’s a .357. My personal preference is to carry with ‘frangible’ rounds like Glasers because they don’t overpenetrate (go through your targeted person and hit a person behind), and they sure as hell can get the job done.


Just did a quick inventory of my practice ammo… I’ve got about 1000 rounds of .45, bout 600 of .380 and 750 of .38. Also got 800 rounds of 7.62x39mm for the commie rifle.

7. Enas Yorl - December 8, 2007

Well, it looks like you’re all set then Dave! As for the hollowpoints – I thought that was kinda the point (so to speak) to spread out and avoid over-penetration? I’m gonna pop down to the range now and try out a few of the pricey rounds. I’ll also see what else wallymart has around.

8. David - December 29, 2007

CF = Clean Fire – different primers and a Low-flash clean-burning propellant.
A normal cartridge when fired off gasses heavy metals; bad for you and bad for the environment. More and more indoor ranges are requiring it like they are starting to require TMJ (Total Metal Jacket Speer and Federal’s American Eagle line) or an equivalent round like BEB (Brass Enclosed Base by Winchester) or C3 (Complete Copper Coated by American ammo) to eliminate airborne lead at the firing point. Gun powder gets hot enough to vaporize the lead at the base of the bullet. This is again “bad for you and bad for the environment”; and it also adds lead fowling to your barrel. That’s really bad for you; now you have to spend more time cleaning nay SCRUBBING your barrel.

Hope this helped

9. Steamboat McGoo - December 29, 2007

Ah-ha! Clean Fire. That’s a new one on me. I’ve been out of the sport way too long. When I said Cone Front I must have been thinking of Truncated Cone style.

10. Enas Yorl - December 29, 2007

Ah, thankee David for dropping by. Well I must say that now that I’ve fired some different stuff through this gun that Speer stuff certainly earns its “Clean Fire” rating. I bought 500 rounds of reloaded .38 special and man is that stuff filthy! Still, at 15 cents a round they’re a hell of a lot more affordable than the Speers.

11. Steamboat McGoo - December 29, 2007

Bet they used Unique or Bullseye powder in your reloads.

Filthy powder, but inexpensive and fairly consistent.

BTW reloading your own would cut that price roughly by one third to one half – depending.

12. Enas Yorl - December 29, 2007

I couldn’t say McGoo – I didn’t think to ask about their powder.

You’ve mentioned reloading my own before. I expect that’s a few hundred bucks at least just to get started. Hell, I’d likely blow myself up in my garage trying it. Even if I did manage to make some I’d be afraid to use it on the range. I’d have to say a prayer everytime I pulled the trigger:
Now I put my ammo to the test,
I pray it doesn’t lay my soul to rest…

13. Steamboat McGoo - December 29, 2007

I’ve rarely gotten a straight answer from gun show reloaders about what they’re using in the reloads.

Yeah – reloading takes a few hundred bucks to get started – and a few hundred more to get the rest of the gadgets after the bug bites you.

But if you can follow instructions you won’t blow yourself up. I don’t know anyone who has yet.

Just an idea to plant in the back of your head.

14. David - December 30, 2007

If you like the Speer CF try going to http://www.ammoman.com/index.htm
Deals mostly in bulk buys; for Speer .38+P CF TMJ 158 Grain
$139 for 500 rounds that’s 0.278 cents a round
$239 for 1000 rounds that’s 0.239 cents a round
Free shipping and I’m in California (he’s in NJ) so no sales tax; so the above was the out the door price. My 10 boxes all had the same batch number; and I’ve fired off three with out a hitch in my new m686+.
I my opinion, at these prices it’s not worth trying to reload.

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