May 19, 2009

Buffalo Bore 158-Grain Roundnose Bullet

Courtesy Buffalo Bore

The Buffalo Bore bullet has a gas check to reduce leading to near zero. We had no leading whatsoever during our tests.

Buffalo Bore (, or 208-756-8085) offers a round that was designed to be similar to the old FBI-standard round that featured a soft-lead 158-grain bullet at very good velocity.

This round was standard issue for FBI personnel some years ago, and proved its worth in many gunfights. But it generally leaded the barrels severely. Buffalo Bore’s headman Tim Sundles custom-designed this new load to be an improved version of the FBI load. Wanting to avoid the leading problem while retaining a relatively soft projectile, he had the bullets custom made for him. The 158-grain semiwadcutter is Elmer Keith’s old hollowpoint design, with Keith’s sharp shoulder. Keith’s original bullet design, when cast without the hollow cavity, weighed 173 grains.

The Buffalo Bore bullet has a gas check to reduce leading to near zero. We had no leading whatsoever during our tests. The round is loaded with a powder selected to give very low flash, so the shooter is not blinded nor does a shot give away the shooter’s position in the dark, when most gunfights occur. In our testing we found that Sundles has succeeded mightily. His bullets exited the three short-barreled test guns at an average of 1000 fps. In an older S&W with a 1.875-inch barrel, we got 1030 fps. In a 4-inch Model 66, the velocity went up to 1105 fps. Muzzle flash in total darkness is extremely small.

We compared velocity with some highly touted older rounds, and they came out second best. Federal’s Hydra-Shok, Law-Enforcement-Only, fodder gave a 147-grain JHP bullet all of 850 fps out of our test snubby with its 2.1-inch barrel. Winchester’s 130-grain SXT, another well-known self-defense round, got 900 fps with its light bullet. Our test Winchester Super-X .357 Magnum load made tons of noise with lots of muzzle blast, and drove its 125-grain bullet all of 1180 fps on average from our three test guns. Was that massive power from a .357? We don’t think so. It was big noise, big flash, small bullet, and small performance, by comparison.

Some of us like heavy bullets at good velocity, and when a 158-grain bullet zips out of a snubnose revolver at over 1000 fps with relatively low pressure (despite the +P rating, pressure is low with this round), we figure the maker is on to something. Kudos to Tim Sundles and Buffalo Bore for what many of us consider to be the best self-defense .38 Special ammo on today’s market. At about a buck a round it ain’t cheap, but how much is your hide worth?

—Ray Ordorica