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It's been my personal experience that most lead bullets, unless soft and hollowpoint, don't expand much at sub-sonic speeds. I load for 38/357, 44special/44mag, 45LC/45ACP. Just my two cents.
Concur with BobG.
I load lead exclusively in .357mag/.38spcl and have loaded it for a friend in .44mag.
Most unjacketed lead bullets are too hard to expand unless driven pretty fast.
As an interesting aside, I was given something like 35lbs of assorted .357 bullets for reloading. The bullets ranged from wadcutter and semi-wadcutter lead bullets stacked in wooden boxes to high-end semi-jacketed hollow point hunting loads. All of them were ~20 years old. The lead of the solid lead bullets was merely discolored. The dead-soft lead on the semi-jacketed hollow points developed a fuzzy white oxidation that sort of puffed out of the tip.
May have been due to an electrolysis reaction; I have seen that before when two metals are closely linked under certain conditions.
So a soft-cast bullet gives no real advantages over a hard-cast bullet? I'd be better off with a harder bullet I can push faster? (Or a jacketed bullet that will actually expand?)
Any bullet, no matter how hard, will expand if driven fast enough. The problem is that the really hard ones need to be driven very fast.
Your bullet will not expand, though it may distort a little depending on its shape and the angle it hits the gel at.
Read this nice little synopsis. It shows that even pure lead won't expand at those velocities. Which is why you want a nice big caliber so it will still punch a large hole in your target.
Thank you, Drew, that was precisely what I was looking for.
What I've seen says that in order for a slow bullet to expand, it must be pretty much pure soft lead in a hollow-point configuration with a gilding metal jacket. The lead will do the expanding, the jacket is to hold the projectile together. Without a jacket, it will just come apart. If the lead is not in a hollow-point form, it won't expand - not enough pressure. If it's not jacketed, it just disintegrates (if a hollowpoint) or maintains its shape (if it's not a hollowpoint.)
Perhaps I'll take a look at Hornady's 300 grain XTP.
You may get some expansion with a hydroshock design, or some reloaders I know have had a bit of luck by placing a BB in the hollow point; it sometimes (depending on a number of factors) will cause a little more expansion by the fact that it may be forced back into the lead bullet and help deform it a small amount, but not enough to be worth it, IMHO.
Another point here, is why do you want it to expand at all? Ross Seifried (sp?) makes an good case for hard, flat-pointed .45 cast bullets as an excellent hunting load. You get deep, straight penetration, and the bullet is already plenty wide enough.
I'd ask the same question as Mike - tell us more about your reasons for wanting expansion.
If you just want to put a big hole in something, and are going the low velocity route to avoid excess penetration, then consider a double ended solid wadcutter or a Keith-style semi-wadcutter. Both will make nice big holes.
If you're thinking that expansion equates to stopping power, and your target might be two legged vermin, then take a look at that Glaser ammo, or perhaps frangible ammo. Neither will over penetrate.
Your idea about the hollowpoint isn't quite right. Even a pure lead hollowpoint will stay together at those low velocities. You don't need the guilding metal jacket at all. And you won't get much of any expansion, no matter what the bullet design is or how soft the lead is, at these very low velocities.
About the only kind of hollowpoint that would probably tear apart would be a hollow base wadcutter loaded backwards. OTOH, HBWC bullets are so thin and weak they often blow apart when fired at more than 700fps, even when loaded in their regular direction. They really are just for target shooting at close ranges.
I agree with Drew458 on the HBWC bullets. There used to be some people who loaded them backwards in the 357; they didn't have accuracy at very long range, but they made a hell of a mess to anything you hit up close, at the range most self-defense shooting are done. I usually just use lead SW in my 45LC loads. They punch a good hole, and if they hit a bone, there is some major damage done.
Well, the deal with defensive handgun rounds is that you don't want them to overpenetrate.
Now, the thing I find interesting is that the Speer .451" Gold Dot bullet, whether it's 185 grain, 200 grain, or 230 grain is supposed to expand at .45ACP velocities. My 200 grain Gold Dot load only runs at about 975fps, and it's a mild +P. According to the chart Drew provided, that's supposedly too slow for expansion even with pure lead!
I had hoped that a soft-cast (BH of 11-12) unjacketed bullet would expand at approximately 900fps, thus reducing the likelihood of overpenetration in a self-defense situation. It seems this is not the case. The question then seems to be, how does Speer (or Hornady, or Sierra) build a bullet that will?
The only ones that are good for expanding at subsonic speeds are ones that are precut to enable them to curl back like the petals on a flower, but they aren't really mushrooming as much as just unfolding (Black Talons used that principle).
Ah, I see the question better now Kevin. Those bullets that you mention could be called, maybe, semi-frangible. They are built to nearly fall apart! During part of the forming process the nose is opened up into petals by shallow cuts made on the inside, then the nose is brought together and closed. Picture a flower blooming in reverse. They're kind of pre-expanded, then closed up. Pre-cut as BobG says. So it isn't the lead itself doing the expansion, its the pre-fractured lips of the nose of the bullet. At higher speeds I guarantee those petals would tear off - which is exactly how the Barnes all copper X bullet for rifles is made, and exactly how it works. One of those pistol bullet designs - the Federal Hydroshock I think - uses a little inverted T post. On impact this gets driven back into the base of the petals and pushes them apart. I guess you could say that this kind of bullet expands, but doesn't mushroom in the classic sense? Don't ask me how these designs are any different from the old style "dum-dum" bullet thats illegal everywhere, cuz it seems nearly the same to me.
Well, "dum-dum" bullets aren't illegal except in war between nations that have agreed to abide by the Hague Accords.
And, apparently, New Jersey.
As I said above, it's the jacket that keeps the bullet together upon impact. It's just that the metal isn't literally "mushrooming" like a high-velocity rifle bullet, it's deforming in a pre-engineered manner that requires support from the jacket.
OK, mystery solved.
So, for what 45LC gun are you reloading?
A M25 Mountain Gun, 4" N-Frame S&W, and a Winchester 94. I get about 1200fps out of the Winchester.
I think I just saw a market go by, although it wouldn't surprise me if it already had been addressed. Sounds like some folks who mold their own might want a mold which creates the petals, followed by a press to deform them back to bullet shape, followed by a second mold - with a lower temperature metal - to add a jacket.
Well, Wince, the way they're doing it now, as I understand it, is they start with a slug of pretty much pure lead, and either punch it into a jacket, or plate copper over it, then they take a special punch and force it down into the slug, forming the petals and scoring the jacket. Then they size the bullet one final time, and it's ready to be loaded.
I imagine that doing that at home would be tedious at best.