Brass Fetcher does amateur ballistic testing in ballistic gelatin. Check your favorite caliber and loads to see how they perform. If you ever wondered why people still use 12 gauge, here’s your answer. Brass Fetcher does the proper testing procedure of calibrating his gelatin using a BB fired into the medium, then correcting his final results based on the BB’s penetration.
The results for the .38 Special re-affirmed my faith in my favorite .38 Special load – a 158 grain semi-wadcutter lead hollowpoint nicknamed the “FBI load” since back in the days when the FBI still issued revolvers. It has the right amount of penetration, and expansion to 0.6 inches, even when test-fired from a 2″ snubnose. Brassfetcher also tested the newer Speer 135 grain GoldDot Short Barrel, which did almost as well from the same snubnose barrel.
More about the FBI test he refers to is here. As a result of that testing and the Miami-Dade shootout the FBI recommends a gun/cartridge combination that achieves 12 inches of penetration in ballistic gelatin.