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Hornady Critical Defense Lite 38 Special 90 Grain FTX Denim and Clear Gel Test

The Hornady Critical Defense Lite 38 Special loading was created for the recoil sensitive shooter.  The light 90 grain bullet and standard pressure powder charge make this load feel much lighter than the Critical Defense 110 grain 38 Special load.  Hornady gives this load very distinctive pink flex tip inserts, pink packaging, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Lite loading go to fund breast cancer research.  While this load may appear to be targeted to the female shooter, it’s a viable ammunition choice for anyone that suffers from recoil sensitivity.

Test Pistol:

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 5 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 10 feet.
Step 3)  Run test shot through 2 layers of medium weight 100% cotton tee shirt material into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.

Test Results:

My Thoughts on This Load:

I really didn’t expect much from this load other than very light recoil.  I ran this test in conjunction with a similar test of Critical Defense 110 grain 38 Special and the recoil difference between the two loads was notable.  That’s hardly a scientific result, but by “feel of hand” the Lite is indeed lighter in recoil.

Terminal performance through the tee shirt barrier was very similar to what you would expect from the Critical Defense 380 Auto load when fired from a short barrel 380.  The bullet does expand and penetration of about 10″ is the typical result.

Expansion through 4 layers of denim is a 50/50 proposition with the 380 Auto Critical Defense.  When the 380 doesn’t expand, it will tumble as it goes down through the gel block.  Our 38 Lite results matched those results exactly with no expansion and a visible bullet tumble.

Pick or Pan:
If you are looking for a very mild and low recoil load for your light-weight snubbie, then this one may be for you.  The unfortunate trade off will be less than optimal terminal performance when fired from a barrel length of less than 4 inches.  Depending on your specific barrel length, this may be a pick or a pan.

For me personally, with my 1.875″ barrel length and normal recoil tolerance, I would opt for another ammunition choice.

Disclaimer….This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on which specific ammunition to use for their needs.  It’s also critically important to test any ammo in YOUR SPECIFIC FIREARM before relying on it for any purpose.

Ammunition labeled as +P or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.

Video Documentation of the Entire Test from Range to Bullet Recovery: