Monday, August 13, 2012

.38 Special Ammunition Recoil Comparison :: Ruger LCR and S&W 637

When you begin carrying a firearm one of the most important decisions you will have to make is what type of defensive ammunition to use. There are many factors that come into play during this decision; manufacture, consistency, reliability, performance, cost and type are a few qualifiers. One aspect often over looked is controllability. Whenever we press the trigger and fire a round there will be recoil. There are actions we can take to mitigate this recoil including grip and stance but also includes your choice of ammunition.

The Guns
I wanted to see what kind of recoil was developed from a couple popular carry revolvers chambered in .38 Special. The Ruger LCR and Smith & Wesson 637 are both staples in the world of concealed carry. How would they perform firing some of the most popular defensive loads?

The Ammunition
I gathered five loads that were locally available. sent me a sixth load, MAGTECH First Defense; that was not available to me locally. The ammunition I fired was:
  1. Blazer Brass 125gr. .38 Special FMJ (Control)
  2. Winchester PDX1 130gr. .38 Special +P BJHP
  3. Remington HD 125gr. .38 Special +P BJHP
  4. MAGTECH First Defense 95gr. .38 Special +P SCHP
  5. Federal Hydra-Shok 129gr. .38 Special +P JHP
  6. Hornady Critical Defense 110gr. .38 Special FTX
The Test
I drew 1/2 Inch grid squares on a poster board to help find the exact point of muzzle rise after a shot was fired. I setup two tripods; one with a camera and the other functioned as a rest to ensure the pistol was placed in the same position after each shot. I fired the ammunition, in the order above, in hopes of being able to discern a difference in recoil once I slowed down the footage.

While firing I was not immediately able to descern a difference from load to load but the camera saw a difference.

The Results
Each load had a comparable amount of recoil in each revolver. The biggest surprise for me was that one load displayed a lower recoil than all of the others. It happened to be the MAGTECH First Defense load that sent me.

Was my test super-duper scientific? No. I wanted to see which personal defense load recoiled the least. Does this mean you should carry that particular load? Maybe. Remember I said there are many different qualifiers you should consider when choosing a defense load and this is just one aspect.
Being able to mitigate recoil and keeping rounds on target is important and how quickly you can recover from shot to shot matters.


  1. You're not using the proper grip for revolver shooting. Instead, it's more appropriate for a semi-auto pistol.

    When shooting revolvers a better grip is to keep your left thumb in this case wrapped over the top of your right one.

    The grip you used could result in burns or lacerations should escaping gases hit your left thumb. It's more of a possibility with large frame revolvers, so developing proper habits with a .38 Special is prudent.

  2. Bullet weight and velocity will affect the level of recoil.

    Not surprisingly the lightest bullet recoiled the least.

    We have been chronographing a lot of. 38 ammo and the results have been interesting and sometimes troubling. More ammo testing is coming after the weather here in CT finally gives us some consistent sun for the chronograph to work.

  3. I'm surprised you didn't burn the shit out of your thumb man.

  4. I like the idea of te test. Don't listen to the haters. Thanks for taking the time todo the post and video.

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