Sunday, November 12, 2006

Smith and Wesson 340PD Range Report and Review

This is the first new revolver I’ve ever bought. All of my other ones were bought used, and were built in the 1970s, 80s or early 90s. I had never bought a revolver with an internal lock, but I wanted this gun so much that the lock became a non-factor.

Picking it up out of the box, it is light as hell. I remember the first time I ever picked up a 340pd a year or so ago, it felt like it was made out of plastic. It practically jumped up from the table… of course I had been carrying an old Model 60 snubby, an all stainless gun that weighed in at around sixty pounds. Felt like the hard rubber Hogue type stocks were at least half the weight of the gun, so I replaced them with my much more handsome and carryable Ahrends Cocobolo stocks.

Hearing some negative things about new guns from S&W, I carefully inspected it from all angles, looking for scratches, nicks, dents or anything of the like. It appeared to be in very good shape, except for the white lettering stamped into the barrel. The “357 S&W Mag” marking was stamped well into the barrel, but the white anodizing was very faint, where it was bright and clear on both the “No less than 120 gr bullet” and the funky S&W atom logo thingy.

Dry firing the 340pd was not comforting exactly, and the trigger pull was considerably stiffer than the model that I had tried in the store. You have to overcome serious initial resistance before the trigger moves back in one swift movement and the hammer releases. It is difficult to pull the trigger slowly and in a controlled way due to the stiff initial pull- once you put that much pressure on it, when it gives, it goes back all the way. After dry firing it a few hundred times, the trigger becomes much smoother, with a more controllable pull back. Later on at the range I was able to smoothly pull the trigger back with no drama.

When the hammer falls it makes a non-confidence-inspiring “tinngggg” sound that resonates a little bit, very different from the solid bank-vault like CLICK that an old steel gun makes. In addition, it seemed to me to be too easy to release the trigger just short of the stop so when you pull it again it rotates the cylinder, but does not actually engage the internal hammer.

I can’t have a new gun in my possession for more than a few hours before firing it, so despite having a cold, and being pressed for time, on the way home I found an old dirt road, went a ways down and opened up the trunk to see what kind of ammo I could find. I found a bag of handloaded .38spl rounds that I knew to be pretty gentle- plinking rounds. The lighter powered rounds fired as expected, slight recoil, no big deal. A couple of Winchester White Box .38 +p Personal Protection rounds later proved that it was a good, controllable gun that I could put multiple shots on target, quickly.

When I finally got to the range a couple of weeks later I was ready with the WWB +p 125 grain, Speer 125 Grain .38spl +p, and Speer 125 Grain 357 magnum HP rounds, several water jugs, a chronograph, some targets and a shooting glove.

The first order of business was to chrono the three types of rounds and see if .357 was significantly better. At the same time I’d test the grouping and accuracy from a two handed, kneeling position. Based on strings of ten shots, the average velocity of all 125 grain bullets were as follows:

Winchester: 749.6 feet per second
Speer 38 +p: 826.1 feet per second
Speer .357: 1090.3 feet per second

Which means as far as energy delivered to target:

Winchester +p: 155.92 ft-lbs
Speer +p: 189.37 ft-lbs
Speer .357: 329.87 ft-lbs!!

Looks like .357 out of a snubby delivers TWICE as much energy to the target than .38+p! Clearly .357 out of a snubby is considerably more potent than .38+p, so so much for the myth of there being no difference between .38 and .357 out of a 2" barrel! I noted as well that the Speer was loaded a bit hotter than the Winchester. Now let’s look at the targets.

Winchester .38 +p Personal protection

Speer Gold Dot .38+p (Ignore the Winchester box, I put it there by mistake.)

Speer Gold Dot .357

Seems that the Speer gold dots grouped significantly better than the Winnies, but didja notice what happened to the accuracy with the .357? :D

Yeah I saw it and I felt it. .38 +p out or this gun is a piece of cake, and I wasn’t expecting .357 to be too much worse… but it was.

I noticed that when I shot the .357, the trigger guard would come up and hit my index finger right at the first knuckle. Didn’t dent it or make it bleed, but it was noticeable. Also noticeable was the kick on the pinkie finger as the grip flicked it out of the way during recoil. The gun otherwise seems to push right back instead of flip up. The first shot was surprisingly powerful, and stung my hand. The second shot stung more. The third shot actually hurt my wrist! And this was with a padded shooting glove on! No wonder my accuracy went to hell. 

So it seems that the best grouping and accuracy comes from the Speer GD .38+p, which is probably what I’ll run in it. I noted a small amount of bullet pull in the Speers, but not too much.

Let’s do a penetration test! I lined up some water jugs, Box-o-truth style.

The first shot skimmed the bottom, holed the first and third jugs, and disappeared, missing the second and fourth jugs. What the heck?
Lining them up again, a better shot penetrated two jugs just barely, leaving the fully expanded JHP nestled there.

I couldn’t leave without firing barehanded with the .357 rounds.
Eyyouch. I’m a righty, and shoot right handed. The gun slapped back with the first and second stunning rounds, and I became afraid of the third. By the fourth and fifth rounds I was actually pulling the gun back in anticipation of the recoil. Terrible, and I’m not at all recoil shy.

There was no actual blood, but there was considerable pain in the base knuckle in the index finger and the web of the hand. It actually made the index finger and pinkie pains go away in comparison. :p It took me a minute to recover to try another 5 rounds. I really could not do five rounds accurately, really no more than two before my sense of limb self-preservation made me undergo silly gymnastics to compensate for the recoil.

I took exactly one left handed shot- you can never tell if you will have to use your non-dominant hand. It was so bad, I couldn’t do another…unless my life depended on it I suppose. It is a few hours after I shot it and my left thumb still hurts as if I overextended it backwards, which I probably did. Just for fun with one of these shots I fired at a still full water jug that was coming right at me with a knife. It was entirely destroyed.

In conclusion, I think it’s a great gun, and easily controllable with .38 +P, but not controllable for me at any range with .357. Use with that round would be limited to card table distance, and no further- at least not for more than two shots. I am considering carrying it with 3 .38+p and two .357, in that order. The two .357 rounds are all I could fire accurately anyway, and the three .38+P would hopefully get any social work job done with maximum controllability nad speed in followup shots. I’d just have to remember that the last two are real kickers.

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