Monday, November 23, 2015

Ammo Review - Winchester Train and Defend

About a week ago, I got an email from Anthony Welsch from Lucky Gunner offering me free ammo in exchange for a review.  I wrote about it here: Free Beer!!. The long and short of it is that the ammo arrived in time for the irregular Toledo Talk shoot and social hour.  This is where a group of opinionated, erudite contributors and lurkers to the Toledo Talk message board gather up their guns, ammunition and whiskey, then head down to Shooters of Maumee to put some holes in the backstop.  Some of us even manage to hit the paper, and I'll cover that event in a separate post.  This one is about the review of Winchester Train and Defend .38 - Train versus Winchester Train and Defend .38 - Defend and Winchester Train and Defend 9mm - Train versus Winchester Train and Defend 9mm - Defend. Keep reading for the results.

But first a word from our sponsor, without whom this post would not be possible.  I've never ordered anything from Lucky Gunner, but my brother Big Mike has - several times, in fact.  His report is that the ammunition always arrived promptly and the service was cordial and helpful.  Mike was impressed with the web site - and Mike does not impress easily.  Items are easy to find, the browse function makes sense, and the site doesn't suck up a lot of band width by displaying a bunch of ads for things that someone would like you to buy.  The site shows you exactly what you're getting, and includes a price per round prominently displayed next to the product.  That's import to me, since my math skills are not what they should be.  The people at Lucky Gunner are straight shooters, and should be on your short list for ammo sales.

Here's what I started out with.  The FedEx driver did a packaging test for me by leaving my box of ammo out in the rain.  Note that it was packed well enough so that the ammo didn't get wet. 

Dry Ammo from a Wet Box
Here's the ammunition in question.

.38 Special Train and Defend
.38 Special Train and Defend
The difference is easy to see, the training ammunition is on the right side in the photo.  The defense ammunition is jacketed hollow point, and a slightly hotter round.

9mm Train and Defend
Train (left) and Defend (right) in 9mm
Typically, if you have a .38 Special for defense, and I am one such, you don't use the same ammo for target shooting that you use for self-defense.  I know that some people insist they do, and frankly that's their problem.  Home defense loads are expensive, and the money tree in my back yard is not shedding its crisp, green foliage just now.  The other consideration is that home defense rounds are generally a lot hotter than practice rounds.  People with a .38 might load +P rounds for home defense, which produce a nasty kick when you torch one off.  That means that if the pellets hit the windmill in the middle of the night, you, the homeowner, will have to contend with an unfamiliar amount of recoil in an already stressful situation.  Winchester claims they have a solution for that with their train and defend system.

.38 Ammo Test Revolvers
I used three different revolvers to test the .38 ammo:

Smith and Wesson Model 36
Caliber .38 Special +P; 5 Rounds; Weight: 19.5 oz
My father bought this revolver some years ago as a carry pistol.  It's not an easy gun to shoot as the grip is pretty small.  It's got an external hammer, so it can be shot single action, and the trigger pull is nice.

Smith and Wesson Model 642 (Airweight)
Caliber .38 Special +P; 5 Rounds; Weight: 15 oz
My thanks to Solleks who loaned me this revolver.  I gather that he carries it as needed and keeps it loaded with plus P ammo.  It's double action only with a shrouded hammer, but the trigger pull is nice, and with all that weight to soak up the recoil you'd better prepare yourself mentally before torching one off.

Smith and Wesson Model 586 4" barrel
Caliber .357 Magnum, .38 Special +P; 6 Rounds; Weight: 40.9 oz
I put Pachmayr grips on this hand cannon right after I tried shooting it with .357 ammo and my hand went numb.

I tried the 586 first.  The Winchester ammo performed well, which is expected.  I loaded a mixture of training and defense ammo, and put all six into the target, slow fire.  I could not detect any difference between one and the other; both seemed identical to me.

I shot the Model 36 next, and after running one cylinder of practice ammo through it just to get the feel of the small grip and the trigger, I loaded a mixture of practice and defense ammo.  The little gun has a nasty kick to it, but again I couldn't detect a difference between the defense and the practice ammo.

I saved the Airweight for last.  This revolver is so light I think they've figured out a way to give it neutral buoyancy.  I've never shot one of these before, so I fool around with it until I figure out just how I'm going to hold it.  Although I use a two-handed grip, it's impossible to get both hands on the revolver at the same time.  I compromise by resting my right hand on my left.  When I torch off the first round, the little cannon kicks so hard it's actually painful.  I resettle my grip and finish the cylinder, managing to keep all five shot on the target.  I let my hand recover, then try it again, but this time I load a mixture of defense and practice rounds.  Again, I can't tell a difference in recoil between the two.

I ask Solleks to try, and he loads up a combination of ammo and lets fly.  His report to me is that there is a small difference in recoil between the two; one is a little hotter than the other.  Well, if there is going to be a difference anywhere, you'll find it on the Airweight, which weights less than half of what the 586 weighs - plus it doesn't have Pachmayr grips on it.

I rested a little, then broke out my 9mm.

Smith and Wesson Model 59

Smith and Wesson Model 59

Caliber 9mm; 14 Rounds; Weight: 30 oz

I bought this pistol new back in the 1980s with the idea that a high capacity magazine would be nice to have for personal defense.  I'm right about the magazine, but it turned out that the pistol is hard to shoot and I usually don't do well with it.  Mind you, other people don't have this problem, just me.  I don't live right.

So I loaded up two mags with a mixture of practice ammo and defense ammo, and let fly, slow fire.  Wonder of wonders, I started drilling the target dead center.  I hope it's the ammo doing this, but I'm betting on the shooter and some idiosyncrasy - not closing my eyes when I pull the trigger?  Maybe.

I could not detect a difference between practice and defense rounds with the model 59, but in a way I'm not too surprised. It's twice as heavy as the Airweight and it's an automatic.


I tested both .38 and 9mm full metal jacket (FMJ) practice rounds against the same caliber jacketed hollow point (JHP) defense rounds, and found no difference in performance between the two.  Solleks found the JHP had a slightly higher recoil than the FMJ rounds while shooting the Airweight, which is no surprise.  If you're going to feel a difference, you'll feel it in a very light weight handgun.

I'm loading my .38 revolvers with Winchester JHP for self-defense.


Old NFO said...

Thanks for the review! Good to know!

Unknown said...

Interesting - thanks for the comparison. Makes sense that the smaller/lighter frames would be more sensitive in some ways. Hope you had a good time!