The Ups & Downs of
Handgun Bullets


While we never master a handgun, there are some peculiarities we can use to improve our performance and understanding of handgun ballistics. One thing rarely covered is the effects of bullet weight and velocity from a handgun.

Heavy loads with lighter “cowboy type” loads using lighter bullets often have the same POI.

Rifle Opposition

Typically, the faster a handgun bullet is driven, the lower the Point Of Impact (POI) will be on your target with the same bullet. This is the opposite of rifle impact, where the faster the bullet, the higher the POI. Add weight to a projectile traveling the same speed as a lighter one, and POI rises in the handgun.

For example, zero your .44 Special revolver at 25 yards, shooting a 200-grain bullet, loaded over 7.5 grains of Unique, in a .44 Special case. Your group is dead smack in the middle of the Bullseye. Now, use your same 7.5 grains of Unique with a 250-grain bullet, with the same gun, sight setting and distance. Your POI will be higher than your original group using the 200-grain bullet by 2″ to 3″.

Why, you ask? The reason is simple. Barrel time. As the bullet travels down the barrel, the muzzle rises in recoil. The more recoil, the higher the POI. The faster the bullet is traveling, the shorter the barrel time, hence, a lower POI.

Yeah, Well …

“Okay, that’s all well and good, but how does this affect me,” you’re probably wondering? There are a few reasons it’s good to know this. Fixed sighted guns come to mind first. If you want to try to match your POI to your Point Of Aim (POA), try different bullet weights for that particular caliber.

Handloaders have more leeway, driving bullets faster or slower, synching-up POI with POA.

The faster the bullet, the lower the POI. The heavier (or slower) the bullet, POI rises. Usually.

Handloading allows pairing heavy bullets with lighter bullets and synching up
POI so you don’t always have to shoot heavy loads to practice without changing your sights.

Synch Up

One thing I like doing after developing a heavy hunting handload is matching a lighter handload with the same POI, for plinking. It’s great practice and easier on both the gun and me. I have a favorite heavy .45 Colt handload using a 330-grain bullet traveling over 1,200 FPS. It’s a hammer for sure.

Matched with a 250- or 260-grain bullet, or even a 200-grain bullet gallery load, I can throttle these bullets down, matching POI with my fire-breathing heavy load. Even if you don’t handload, using different weight factory loads, especially Cowboy Action type loads, just might be the ticket to synching up your loads for some fun, relaxing shooting with the same sight picture. It’s something to think about and play with while on the range.

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