Review of Georgia Arms .38 Special 158-gr. LHP +P

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    Jul 14, 2008
    Hello. Just a short test on the GA LHP that they rate as +P and list velocity at 900 ft/sec.
    The first thing that I did was to apply the very informal "thumbnail test" on both the GA LHP and Remington's, since I have plenty of it on hand as a "carry load" in .38 Special revolvers.


    The lead alloy on the GA load (left) felt quite a bit harder than the Remington. You can easily see the thumbnail indentions on each bullet. I didn't shoot this into any test media on this range visit but I'll bet that if it expands, it will be from 3" and longer barrels.

    Ten shots fired over the chronograph approximately 10' from the screens yielded an average velocity of 871 ft/sec, not exactly 900 ft/sec as advertised but close from a 4" .38 Special S&W M64 revolver. Standard Deviation was 16 ft/sec. I am not sure what bbl lenght GA uses for their testing but even if a 4", it is common for two different barrels to yield two different velocities with the same load. This is close enough in my opinion and I see no trumphed up or "optimistic" advertising.


    Using a pre-owned-probably-a-police-turn-in S&W Model 64 set up for double-action-only shooting, the GA load provided plenty of accuracy, at least for my needs. The 6-shot group at the upper left of the target was fired standing (two-hand hold) at 7 yards. The "head shots" were fired the same way at 10 yards. The group in the torso was fired at both 15 and 25 yards.

    I am well satisfied that removing the human error (me) in any of these grops would have significantly shrunk them. While none of this was slow-fire, neither was it a maximum effort at speed. (The "fastest" shooting was at 15-yards and estimated at about 1 shot/sec.) I wanted to see how this warmer load handled and if it might make a somewhat reasonable practice load for folks who use the 158-gr. LHP +P from Remington or Winchester (think Federal may have discontinued it) and don't reload their own.

    In my opinion, it does with regard to felt recoil; feels like the Remington load to me, but felt recoil is subjective, too.
    It is not inexpensive, at least to me, but it does cost less than factory new LHP +P ammunition. The last box (50) Remington's cost me $37.00 and change! Fifty of the GA 158-gr. LHP +P cost $10.75, at least at this time. Handloaded ammunition for those already set up to load .38's would cost less but some folks simply don't reload.

    As mentioned earlier, I do not expect this stuff to expand from barrels less than 3" but don't know that for sure. Eventually I'll get around to running some informal expansion tests on it but does this mean that it is "useless" as a defense load? I think not. I suspect that it should work about as well as SWC in the 900 ft/sec range but I see it mainly as a practice load for those using 158-gr. +P ammunition for carry but don't reload.

    I am in no way affiliated with Georgia Arms and bought this ammunition at the going rate. If interested, their site is here:

    Georgia Arms

    As might be expected, they are flooded with orders since Nov. 5th.


    PS: I had forgotten that I actually had done some informal tests on this same load a couple of years ago. I am not sure if the LHP bullet used on that ammo is the same as on this latest report or not but the expansion in the super-saturated news print was about what I expected. Different revolvers were used in the old report but results were pretty consistent between the 4" Model 10 used then and Model 64 used with the newer report.

    If interested, here's the older report to compare:

    Hello. "Gomer," a gentleman who posts here at The High Road contacted me some weeks back concerning Georgia Arms' commercially reloaded .38 Special ammunition and asked if I'd ever tried it. I responded that I had not. He generously sent me 25 rounds of this ammunition for informal penetration & expansion testing as well as for chronograph checking from a J-frame's 1 7/8" barrel and a 4" if possible.
    He bought the ammunition at nominal cost compared to factory new ammunition and it was described as being +P and rated at 900 ft/sec and 284 ft-lbs. of kinetic energy.


    The two test guns for today's informal tests were an S&W Model 642 and a 4" heavy bbl Model 10.

    With a limited amount of ammunition, here is how I decided to use it.
    One 5-shot group with each revolver for a total of 10 shots fired.
    3 shots from each revolver into wetpack for a total of 6 shots fired.
    4 shots over the chronograph from the Model 642
    5 shots over the chronograph from the Model 10

    Certainly this is not an extensive scientific test, but it gives a general idea of what might be expected from similar revolvers.
    As is my usual protocol in making expansion test media, I soaked newsprint for 24 hours and then drained it 30 minutes before shooting.

    Shooting: One target was fired at 15 yards from a rest and in single-action with the Model 10. Another target was shot standing and with a two-hand hold using the Model 642 at 7 yards.

    At 7 yards, the Georgia Arms ammunition grouped nicely from the S&W snub.


    Likewise, at 15 yards, this ammunition proved itself capable of very nice grouping.

    Three shots of the Georgia Arms 158-gr. LSWCHP +P was fired into the super-saturated newsprint from both a snub 1 7/8" bbl and the common 4" service bbl of the larger Model 10. Shooting was done approximately 5' from the target. I thought it might be of interest to see how some of the other often-recommended snub 38 loads compared so I fired my stand-by, Remington 158-gr. LSWCHP +P, as well as Speer's 135-gr. Gold Dot +P and Corbon 110-gr. DPX +P. Three rounds of these were also fired.

    Here are the average penetration depths measured for rounds fired from the Model 642:

    GA 158-gr. LSWCHP +P: 9 1/2"
    R-P 158-gr. LSWCHP +P: 8 1/2"
    Speer 135-gr. GD +P: 7 1/2"
    Corbon 110-gr. DPX +P: 8"

    From the 4" Model 10 I only used the two LSWCHP +P loads because the DPX and GD were engineered for short bbl's and my supply is extremely limited on each.

    GA 158-gr. LSWCHP +P: 7 1/2"
    R-P 158-gr. LSWCHP +P: 7 1/2"


    From the snub the average expanded diameters were:

    GA 158-gr. LSWCHP +P: 0.36" (No expansion from any of the shots fired.)
    R-P 158-gr. LSWCHP +P: 0.589" x 0.568" x 0.495" tall
    Speer 135-gr. GD +P: 0.545" x 0.543" x 0.432" tall
    Corbon 110-gr. DPX +P: 0.567" x 0.582" x 0.504" tall


    Not surprisingly, the Georgia Arms' unexpanded bullet penetrated deeper than the other loads which did expand from the snub. From left to right: GA, R-P, Corbon, and Speer.

    None of these bullets lost any significant weight after expansion.
    From the 4" S&W Model 10:

    GA 158-gr. LSWCHP +P: 0.568" x 0.540" x 0.503" tall
    R-P 158-gr. LSWCHP +P: 0.606" x 0.577" x 0.446" tall


    These are from left to right: Remington 158-gr. LSWCHP +P and two of GA's bullets. All expanded when fired from a 4" revolver.

    Chronograph Results:

    Fired from the 1 7/8" bbl Model 642 the GA averaged 802 ft/sec and had a standard deviation of 17 ft/sec.
    This is almost exactly what I get from the Remington load in most lots. My current lot of Remington is a little hotter and averaged 837 ft/sec from this same gun.

    From the 4", Georgia Arms' 158-gr. LSWCHP +P averaged 897 ft/sec with a standard deviation of 18 ft/sec.

    I think that this is close enough to their advertised 900 ft/sec to say that they are truthfully advertising their listed velocities and it becomes clear that their claim is based on a 4" barrel.

    Observations: None of the 25 shots fired today were difficult to extract nor exhibited any "sticking." Cases were obviously reloaded and from different makers, but the ammunition was both consistent over the chronograph and accurate enough for 99.99% of our needs.

    Its velocity from both the snub and the service-length revolver barrels closely approximated Remington's +P version of this load. I believe that the GA ammunition is in fact +P. Felt recoil is subjective to be sure, but I noted no differences between the Georgia Arms ammunition and the Remington when fired. (Perhaps my hands are not calibrated finely enough?)


    Both the Remington (left) and GA (right) 158-gr. LSWCHP +P bullets were fired into the same test media from the same snub revolver.

    I would not consider this for defensive use from a snub unless I simply wanted inexpensive ammo that mimics the traditional SWC in this bullet weight. From the 4" gun, it does expand…at least for the three shots I fired into wetpack, but I personally think that I'll stick with the Remington in this style bullet from the snub and probably in the 4" as well. The DPX and Gold Dots continue to show promise as new loads for the snub 38's, but I still do not count out the Remington 158-gr. LSWCHP +P for the snub-nose. These are all choices for the individual user to make.

    Does this mean that I believe that this Georgia Arms' reloaded .38 Special round is useless? No, far from it! I think it would make a peach of a practice load for non-reloaders to use when wanting to practice with something that duplicates POA vs. POI and felt recoil of their carry load…if that happens to be a 158-gr. bullet loaded to +P velocities.

    I want to thank "Gomer" again for his kind gesture in sending me this ammunition and hope that the information here is of interest.
    For folks interested in more information, below is the link for Georgia

    PS: If interested, here are results from similar informal tests that might be of interest: Special Expansion Tests.htm Snub Ammo Test.htm
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    Every Day Man

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