Back in 1980, when the revolver reigned supreme in law enforcement, agencies favored four main controlled-expansion hollow-point loadings for the .38 Special. Ohio Highway Patrol used the Speer Lawman 125-grain +P jacketed hollow-point, while the Winchester 110-grain +P+ “Treasury Load” was designed for Federal Treasury agents. The FBI favored the Winchester 158-grain +P Lead Semi-Wadcutter (LSWCHP). Finally, smaller agencies, such as the Licking County (Ohio) Sheriff’s Office, preferred the Winchester 95-grain Silvertip JHP load.
Out of the aforementioned loads, only the Winchester 158-grain +P LSWCHP and the Winchester Silvertip are still available in pretty near their original forms. The others have long ago been replaced by more modern designs.
Minor Winchester Silvertip Design Changes
Today’s Winchester .38 Special Silvertip load weighs 110 grains, giving it a bit more effectiveness than the original 95-grain load, albeit with less velocity. It is NOT a +P load, which makes it safe for use in older revolvers or by people who carry lightweight guns.
The Winchester Silvertip bullet has had minor updates through the years but is still loaded under the venerable “Super-X” label. It is a very conventional JHP design, featuring a hollow-point lead core and an “engineered jacket profile.” The jacket is, of course, silver-colored alloy. While the Silvertip bullet is not bonded or considered high-tech by today’s standards (and probably wouldn’t pass all the FBI LE Ammunition Protocol tests), it is still a solid performer for most self-defense needs. After all, it’s been around now for 40 years, and I have never heard any bad reports about its terminal performance in actual shootings.
Putting Some Rounds Through My Cobra
With less than +P ballistics (muzzle velocity is listed at 945 feet per second from a 4-inch barrel), the 110-grain Winchester .38 Special Silvertip JHP seemed like it might be another fine load for my vintage Colt Cobra. My range time with a 50-round box of Winchester Silvertip handgun ammo proved this theory correct. The .38 Special cartridge cases are standard brass and are not nickel- or alloy-plated.
Recoil was mild, even with the Cobra’s lightweight aluminum frame. However, my middle finger got lightly rapped by the trigger guard, which is pretty much standard on old Colt D-frame snubbies. Recoil was less than I experienced with the 158-grain Lead Semi-Wadcutter Remington Target .38s.
|Winchester 110-Grain .38 Special Silvertip||Barrel Length||Velocity (Feet per Second)||Muzzle Energy (Foot-Pounds)||Hatcher RSP Index Tested|
|Factory||2 inches||945 FPS||218 FPE||>27|
|Tested||2 inches||828 FPS||167 FPE||–|
Accuracy and Stopping Power
Accuracy was excellent; the bullets landed just slightly below the point of aim at 20 feet, which is to be expected since the old Colt was sighted for 158-grain lead round-nose loads traveling about 650 feet per second from the 2-inch barrel. Palm-sized groups were easily attained, and measured velocity averaged 117 feet per second less than factory ballistics from the 2-inch barrel.
I fired a test round into a 25-pound clay block from 15 feet. The clay block measured 9 inches in overall length. Surprisingly, this “old school” defensive load blew a cavity that measured 4 inches in diameter at the widest point. It narrowed down to an inch at exit. The Silvertip bullet apparently held together and exited — pretty impressive.
The 110-grain Winchester Silvertip JHP is a fine defensive load for any snub-nosed or full-sized .38 Special revolver. Its mild manners make it easy to control, and its ballistic performance is more than effective enough for self-protection. The Winchester Silvertip bullet is also available in .32 ACP, .380 ACP, .38 Special 125-grain +P, .38 Super, 9mm Luger, 9×23, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, 10mm, .44 Special, .45 ACP, .45 Colt, .41 Magnum and .44 Magnum calibers.