Super Match rounds shot X ring–size groups in one gun, while Black Hills’ product led the field in two other guns.
Many local and regional NRA Pistol Bullseye matches, competed at 25 and 50 yards, are won by .38 Special shooters who haven’t yet taken the plunge and begun reloading pet rounds that function best in their competition handguns. The standard in .38 Special factory ammo for the slow- and rapid-fire Pistol Bullseye matches is the wadcutter round. Its flat-nose design makes a nice, clean hole which helps in scoring, and it’s probably the most accurate bullet style on a brand-by-brand basis. Also, the wadcutter is offered by a number of companies, which gives the factory-ammo shooter a number of choices for lot testing. The only trick is finding the right factory load by matching available ammo to a gun.
To save you time and money when lot testing, we recently purchased and tested ammunition lots from seven companies that offer the .38 Special round in their inventories. We tested 148-grain target wadcutter rounds that included factory-fresh ammo from CCI-Blount, Federal, Remington, Winchester, and Hornady and remanufactured rounds from 3-D and Black Hills. The catalog numbers for the ammunitions were Remington R38S3, Winchester X38MRP, Federal GM38A, Hornady H09044, CCI 3517, Black Hills 38R2, and 3-D’s 38WMD. The wadcutter bullet types loaded into these products bevel based (BBWC), hollow based (HBWC), and double-ended wadcutter (DEWC) shapes. The last bullet style can be loaded into the case either end first, which works very well in mass-production reloading machines.
At 25 yards, plinkers can expect most .38 Special rounds to shoot 2- to 4-inch groups in a revolver with a 6-inch barrel. In our tests, we demanded much better performance. The NRA 50-yard B-6 bullseye target has a 1.6-inch X ring, a 3.3-inch 10 ring, and a 5.5-inch 9 ring. To be in the running for our recommendation, an ammo had to shoot at least 10-ring-size groups, and on the whole, we weren’t disappointed. Shooting the seven rounds through three guns, we found that 16 out of 21 test-ammunition sets produced 10-ring accuracy. Winchester’s Super Match produced the tightest groups in the test, but Black Hill’s remanufactured product shot the best in two of the three test guns. 3-D’s remanufactured ammo also did well, shooting near the top of each gun’s accuracy rankings while coming in at the lowest cost per round.
How We Tested
Our test equipment included a Smith & Wesson Model 52-2 .38 Special Wad Cutter model with a 5-inch barrel, a Smith & Wesson Model 686 .357 Magnum with a 6-inch barrel, and a Colt Python Target .38 Special with an 8-inch barrel.
We used a Ransom Pistol Rest with windage base mounted on a 24-inch-square plywood base that was 1.4 inches thick. This platform was C-clamped to a 1-inch-thick steel sheet attached to a steel pipe concreted in the ground. We shot all our test groups outdoors at 50 yards. We fired 10 five-shot groups to collect our accuracy data, spotting the rounds with a Nikon 20- to 60-power Field Spotting Scope. Using a Parker-Hale cleaning rod and jag, we cleaned the guns with Pro-Shot Lead and Powder solvent between lots and then fouled each gun before shooting the next test lot. We measured all the groups to the nearest tenth of an inch using a Neal Jones benchrest-scoring device. To collect the 10-shot chronograph data, we used an Oehler Research 35P chronograph.
How They Fared: We Pick Winchester And Black Hills
Winchester Super Match 148-grain Lead Mid-Range Wadcutter X38SMRP Lot No. 57KG7165043 shot the smallest groups in our test: 1.59-inch-average clusters out of the Colt Python. It was the only ammunition to give us an X-ring group average. The Colt also shot a best group of 1.09 inches with this ammo. It also shot the second-best groups in the S&W; 52—2.85 inches, with a best group of 1.57 inches. In the 686 revolver it shot better, 2.59 inches on average, with a best group of 1.55 inches, but placed in the middle of the pack in terms of that gun’s accuracy. Our test lot measured 1.16 inches in overall length with a flush-mounted hollow-based bullet. Performance Shooter Recommends: At $11.50 for a box of 50 rounds, the Winchester .38 Special Super Match 148-grain Mid-Range Wadcutter was one of the most expensive brands we tested, but it brought a lot to the party. We would buy it.
Black Hills Ammunition .38 Special 148-grain Match Wadcutter 38R2 Lot No. 0320131366. Like 3-D, Black Hills Ammunition of Rapid City, South Dakota, makes remanufactured ammunition. Unlike 3-D, it sells ammo with brass sorted by headstamp. Our Black Hills ammo, which cost $12 per 50 rounds, was all Federal brass; it produced a like-new ammunition that gave us the best average groups in our Smith & Wesson 52 (2.56 inches) and 2.04 inches in the S&W; 686. Black Hills uses a hollow-based bullet with an overall length of 1.16 inches with a slight roll crimp. We had no feeding problems or misfires with this ammo. The best group we shot with the Black Hills rounds was 1.19 inches in the S&W; 52. Black Hills’ product came in third and fourth out of 21 when we sorted and ranked all lots by average.