Button nose vs. Flat-Nose Wadcutter

© 2014 – Ed Harris


Q- I read your article in a Fouling Shot about the full power 38 wadcutter. I have two fine old Hensley and Gibbs button nose 148g molds and I love them. My question is how does the button nose stack up against the double end for terminal ballistics? I assume that penetration will be similar but I wonder about the compression damage as mentioned in your article. I have no reasonable way to test performance. I've shot quarts of them over 3.2g of bullseye and lately AA2. Accuracy is great and they only drop a foot at 100 yds. out of 4" and 6' barrels of course. The same 38's work very well in my 4" titanium .357 Taurus Tracker pack gun. Thanks.

A.     The purpose of the button nose is to provide ramp contact to enhance feeding reliability in semi-auto match pistols and to smooth flight aerodynamics at subsonic velocities; however, I doubt the presence of the button has much influence on the terminal performance of a cast bullet fired at subsonic velocity. 

In soft, swaged factory bullets, the ridge produced by forming the button will rivet and expand somewhat when fired at striking velocities over about 850 fps, whereas typical cast wadcutters do not upset at all until driven supersonic.

In my testing Remington factory Hollow Base WadCutter (HBWC) bullets expanded to about .40 in water when driven with 3.5 grains of Bullseye and shot into water jugs from barrels 6 inches or longer. Riveting was insignificant in shorter barrels or with lighter loads.  Expansion improves crush, but reduces penetration slightly.  The advantage of the HBWC is that it is most forgiving of poor bullet fit resulting mismatch of bullet to cylinder and barrel size.

Double Ended WadCutters (DEWC’s) can be driven to higher velocity without base deformation which may result in gun damage. Orienting the sprue cut forward provides a uniform base and places casting defects where they do the least harm.  I have never been able to prove to my satisfaction that one type of bullet was any more accurate than the other if loads were optimized for the particular pistol and bullet type.  Good cast bullets will equal or exceed the 50-yard grouping of all but the best Winchester or Remington factory match bullets.  The best cast bullets approach the 50-yard grouping of factory midrange loads closely enough that any difference is not important for any but the most severe competition.


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