In our eternal search for the ideal defense round we will at one point or another be faced with the decision to go with the +P ammunition (+P=over pressure). There are pros and cons of course. Yes, the velocities go up, but that high pressure ammo pounds the gun.
+P Rated Handguns
The SAAMI specs for the .45 ACP round is 21,000 psi, but the +P bumps that up to 23,000 psi. The humble .38 special baseline pressure is 17,000 psi, but various loads bump that to 20,000 to 22,000 psi. The higher pressures are for lighter bullets. A steady diet of +P’s will eventually destroy the lightweight concealable revolvers. These guns are just too light for a steady diet of +P ammo. However, any gun chambered for .357 Magnum (35000 psi) could handle .38 Special +P with little concern. As far as the 357 SIG and 40 S&W the rounds are already high intensity rounds. The 40 S&W generates up to 35,000 psi while the 357 SIG boost operating pressures to 40,000 psi so these rounds a basically all +P compared to the older 45 ACP and the 9mm Parabellum. Naturally guns chambered in these rounds will also expect an accelerated wear rate, even though they are designed to handle the pressure.
The .44 Special only generates about 15,500 psi. The .44 Magnum jumps to 36,000 psi. The .38 Special and .357 Magnum share a heritage, in that the .357 Magnum has a bit longer case to prevent magnum ammo from chambering in older guns designed for the .38 Special. The 44 Special and 44 Magnum share the same relationship. Another paired rounds are the .45 Colt at 14,000 psi and the 454 Casull at 65,000 psi, that is rifle class pressures. The dilemma faced by the pistelero is that you must increase either or both cartridge capacity and pressure to obtain better performance. The 357 Mag and 44 Mag where developed using 38 and 44 Special cases, as was the 45 cases initially used for the 454 Casull.
Plus P Ammo for Self Defense
As with all other developments the +P rounds constitutes a compromise and an attempt to increase performance and effectiveness of your handgun. Sidearms are associated generally not as offensive weapons but defensive. But +P rounds, used judicially may fill a power niche between the lower intensity and higher intensity rounds. A S&W Model 642 is a short barreled 5 shot double action revolver and loaded with +P 38 Special makes for an effective self-defense solution.
+P Ammo Flash & Recoil
Another problem is flash. The flash from a short-barreled gun can be rather bright and blinding in low light conditions. Modern low flash powders are used but are low flash is relative to regular powders and can still make it difficult to maintain low light night sight vision. A single stack magazine in a compact 9mm firing +P will work as well. The two primary concerns of +P ammo for a defense round, not including wear and tear is flash and recoil. Muzzle flash can temporarily blind the shooter in low light conditions, while dealing with added recoil makes the small frame weapons harder to handle and control. But in a deadly force confrontation these are things to be considered but not to reject the use of +P ammo if available.
Bullet Weight & Design for Firearm Shooting
Bullet weight and design is part of the design compromise. Penetration is dependent on velocity. So, a 125 grain hollow point is probably a better solution in a short barreled revolver than a 158 grain usually associated in a 4 inch revolver. The decision in yours after thoughtful consideration but choose wisely and informed. Shooting Range Industries offers custom shooting ranges designed and manufactured in Las Vegas, Nevada for all your shooting practice and training. Contact us to learn more today!