The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > Hogan's Alley > Handguns: General Handgun Forum

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old July 6, 2009, 11:39 PM   #1
cbuchanan87
Member
 
Join Date: February 2, 2009
Posts: 58
38 special vs .40 S&W?

I have been trying to decide between a Stoeger Cougar in .40 S&W and a Ruger GP-100 .357.

The question came up when I considered my wife using the gin for SD in the home (we do not carry).

I like the idea of a versatile .357 which can shoot magnums and also 38 special rounds, since my wife does not like the recoil of the .357's

I know how these threads go, and I guess I'm hoping for some direction.

I have found a lot of info comparing the 38 special to the 9mm rounds, but none comparing it to the .40 (talking standard loads not +P or anything special)

If I get the Ruger, it will likely be loaded with 38 specials for my wife to use in an emergency.

So, if you were going to reach for either the Stoeger loaded with .40 or the Ruger with 38 special to stop an intruder, which would you go for and why?

Thanks
cbuchanan87 is offline  
Old July 6, 2009, 11:48 PM   #2
Doc Intrepid
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 22, 2009
Location: Washington State
Posts: 835
.38 Spl ballistics:

http://www.handgunsmag.com/ballistics/38_special.html

.40 S&W ballistics:

http://www.handgunsmag.com/ballistics/40_s_w.html

Print these tables and take a look at them.

Generally speaking (and you know about generalities,) .40 S&W offers higher velocities, higher energy levels, using heavier projectiles (in grains), than .38 Spl.

There is a reason why the FBI studies in the wake of the April 1986 shootout between Platt and Matix and eight FBI agents resulted in the Bureau selecting initially the 10mm cartridge, and then the .40 S&W - rather than the .38 Spl.

All of which says exactly nothing about which round your wife would better be able to handle, and whether or not you want to provide her with a revolver rather than a semi-automatic pistol.

Many authorities, however, generally agree that when discussing "stopping intruders", variables such as bullet weight, velocity, and energy (and energy transferrence) play key roles.

FWIW. YMMV.
Doc Intrepid is offline  
Old July 6, 2009, 11:54 PM   #3
MLeake
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 15, 2007
Location: Outside KC, MO
Posts: 10,128
The .40 has a heavier projectile (155gr-200gr in standard loadings) with more frontal area, moving at higher speed than the .38 special. Ballistically, it is better in all ways.

The .357 outperforms the .40, but you asked about .38 special.

I would reach for a GP100 loaded with .357 before I would reach for a Cougar .40, but that has more to do with the fact that I like GP100's and shoot them well, and I don't have adequate background with the Cougar (I tried a rental .40 once, when it was still a Beretta - I don't consider 2 boxes of ammo at the range to be a valid point of reference).

For the same reason, I'd be torn between the GP100 with .38s as opposed to the Cougar .40 - I'm instinctive with the GP, and would have to think about the Cougar. OTOH, the Cougar would offer a lot more rounds, and each round would have better stopping power than the .38's in the GP.

Ah, looks like Doc Intrepid beat me to the punch.

My ultimate answer was going to be to let your wife shoot each, and see which one feels better to her.
MLeake is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 01:55 AM   #4
LoneStarWings
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 15, 2009
Location: TX
Posts: 213
.40 S&W

The only thing the .38 really has going for it over the .40 is concealability in snub nosed j-frames.
LoneStarWings is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 04:02 AM   #5
Sport45
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 25, 1999
Location: Too close to Houston
Posts: 4,081
Quote:
So, if you were going to reach for either the Stoeger loaded with .40 or the Ruger with 38 special to stop an intruder, which would you go for and why?
I'd reach for the one that was closest because it is most convienent.

IMHO .38 special 158gr LSWCHP is "good enough". Is better than "good enough" really better?
__________________
Proud member of the NRA and Texas State Rifle Association. Registered and active voter.
Sport45 is online now  
Old July 7, 2009, 05:53 AM   #6
jmr40
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 15, 2008
Location: Georgia
Posts: 6,152
I really think your wife could handle the 40. It may take a little longer for her to master it than a 38, but the 40 is not bad. It has also been my observation that women seem to prefer revolvers. There are some reduced power 357 loads out there that split the difference petween 38+P and full power 357 loads that are not bad recoil and muzzle blast wise.

Another option would be to go 9mm. The better 9mm loads are right up there with the 40 and not that far behind 357 mag. A 125gr. 9mm +P is around 1200fps. A 125gr. 357 mag from a 3-4" revolver will struggle to get over 1300fps. Most ballistics charts show faster, but from 6" barrels. The 357 is much more versatile because it will shoot much heavier bullets than the 9mm.
jmr40 is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 06:24 AM   #7
gak
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 28, 2005
Location: Aridzona
Posts: 2,767
Familiarity is the key. I have and feel familiar with both; - feel more so with the .357/.38--having been around that format all my life. I would keep the .40 handy, but would and do choose the .357 loaded with +P .38s (or reduced load magnums as one suggested) as #1 go-to, because of the "going bang every time" factor,... with little thought needed in an adrenaline-packed, hectic situation-- coupled with the idea of near-complete (as possible) reliability.
gak is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 06:32 AM   #8
Kreyzhorse
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 12, 2006
Location: NKY
Posts: 11,514
A .40 certainly offers more than a .38 spcl round including a snappier recoil. All things being equal, I'd prefer using a .40 in a SD situation over a .38.

With that said, a Ruger GP offers a lot of options for your wife if she is recoil shy. Start shooting .38s. When she is comfortable with those, move up to .38+P. From there, you might be able to work her into .357 loads for SD.

Additionally, if she isn't willing to shoot a lot, a revolver is a simple point and click firearm.
__________________
"He who laughs last, laughs dead." Homer Simpson
Kreyzhorse is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 07:39 AM   #9
p99guy
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 4, 2004
Location: Haslet,Texas(DFW area)
Posts: 1,506
The FBI shootout was ended with a 3" S&W M13/ 158gr LSWCHP, its what was used to kill both Platt, and Maddox.
My own Brother has killed 2 people in on duty shootouts while armed with a lowly Model 10(all were one shot kills). The .38 special was the most used Police cartridge for over 70 years. And that is because it worked, and it was accurate.
If all one had to do was look at charts all day, there would be no reason not to go with a .500 S&W, as the charts show its clearly better than the .38,.40,.41,.45
__________________
Lighten up Francis!.....;Actor Warren Oats, in the movie "Stripes"
p99guy is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 10:23 AM   #10
Nite Ryder
Member
 
Join Date: June 29, 2009
Location: So. Oregon
Posts: 81
38 Spec vs 40 S&W

Neither of these calibers are any good if your wife doesn't practice shooting her weapon. If she does get a fair amount of practice she should be able to handle the 40 S&W just fine. That said, a revolver doesn't have all the safeties and buttons on it that most semi auto's have, so sometimes it is easier for a woman (or anyone that doesn't use a handgun) to use. Semi Auto's are sometines hard for a woman to 'rack the slide' on to load the first round. I don't care that much for Glocks, altho I have one in 10 MM. Glock is a semi auto that should be easy for a non-shooter to learn to use, like a revolver would be, but you still have the slide to rack to load the first round. No matter what you get, practice is neccesary to be even half way good with a handgun, it's use has got to be second nature if you are going to use it to defend your life.
__________________
"Except For Ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism, and Communism, WAR has never solved anything"
Nite Ryder is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 10:27 AM   #11
DOUGHBOY RACING
Member
 
Join Date: June 29, 2009
Location: Waterford,Mi.
Posts: 57
Practice Practice Practice, I thought I knew it all till I shot next to a firearms instructor, needless to say now I am relearning it all right down to the grip on the gun LOL
DOUGHBOY RACING is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 10:42 AM   #12
wnycollector
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 22, 2007
Posts: 1,834
Quote:
The .38 special was the most used Police cartridge for over 70 years. And that is because it worked, and it was accurate.
I couldnt have put it better.

I have several .38's and one .40. Every .38 I carry is loaded with the Remington +P 158gr LSWCHP. I carry it because it has adequate horsepower, acceptable recoil and is spot on accurate in ALL of my .38's. That said, when I carry my CZ40b, I dont feel undergunned in the least

I think this really boils down to a revolver vs pistol debate. If you do your job and put the bullets into the bad guys COM, they will do their job!

My wife DOES NOT like any pistols. When she carries, it is either a .38 S&W J frame or a .357 Ruger Security Six snub. She like the simple manuel of arms that a revolver has. Revolvers are in her comfort zone, pistols are not.
wnycollector is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 10:49 AM   #13
skoro
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 30, 2008
Location: Texas
Posts: 1,790
38 special vs .40 S&W?

This is the KEY point to consider in your situation: have your wife fire both guns and let HER decide which she'd prefer to have if the occasion ever arises.

In my own experience, I've found that female shooters who balk at a 1911 in 45 acp almost feel warm and cuddly with a 30spl revolver. I'm not familiar with the Stoeger .40, but I'd imagine it recoils somewhat like a 1911.
skoro is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 10:50 AM   #14
Russ5924
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 18, 2005
Posts: 1,874
I don't think there is any way you can compare .38 and .40. Just like you can't compare the GP100 to the Stoeger Cougar two completely different firearms. The GP100 is heavy and bulky the Cougar is lighter the thing is can the wife handle any of the two I own both if I had to chose for my wife it would be S&W K frame shooting .38
__________________
Russ5924
Russ5924 is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 10:51 AM   #15
Doc Intrepid
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 22, 2009
Location: Washington State
Posts: 835
P99guy,

It was an "either/or" question.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cbuchanan87
"if you were going to reach for either the Stoeger loaded with .40 or the Ruger with 38 special to stop an intruder, which would you go for and why?"
Your response appears to be "...the .38 because it has historically worked".

Empirical data certainly isn't everything.

But handgun ammunition performance on humans is inconsistent at best.

Often, assuming you can hit what you aim at, a more effective round may be a better choice.

The OP titled his thread ".38 Spl versus .40 S&W".

Setting aside for the moment the revolver versus auto issue, and the 'capacity of rounds' issue, (and the 'which gun my wife finds preferable' issue,) the charts provide useful data regarding the rounds themselves.

Thats why, if you're looking to determine 'which of those two rounds may be a more effective round', looking at the charts can influence your selection.

By the way, congrats to your brother.

Doc
Doc Intrepid is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 10:57 AM   #16
Big Ugly Tall Texan
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 25, 2009
Location: El Paso, Texas
Posts: 174
This boils down to choice of actions...

Round for round, the 40 S&W outperforms the .38 Special, although both are fine for SD.

To me, this decision boils down to whether you want a self-shucker or a wheelgun.
__________________
Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you! - Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita K. made the prediction. Barry O. will make it come true. - Big Ugly Tall Texan
"The 9mm Luger cartridge will simply not do for serious work." - Jeff Cooper
"Do not throw rocks at people with guns." - Hastings' Third Law
Big Ugly Tall Texan is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 04:45 PM   #17
LouisianaMan
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 21, 2009
Location: St. Francisville, LA
Posts: 151
Is it really your gun, but you just want her to be able to fire it if she has to? Do you both plan to practice a lot? Not really? Do both guns fit her hand? Yours, also? Is hand strength an issue for racking the slide?

Both are credible calibers, and I know Rugers are credible firearms (I'm not personally aware of the Cougar), so you'll find your real answer may lie in the questions I asked above. If one fits and the other doesn't, there's your answer. But if she can't rack the slide, there's your answer. If practice time will be minimal, it's probably revolver over auto.

My wife lacks hand strength and hand size, and shoots well but rarely, so autos and K-frame revolvers are out. Solution: she can handle J-frame Smiths, D-frame Colts, or Ruger SP-101s. We own all because I like them; the D-frame .38 Police Positive Special with standard-pressure .38s is by her bedside.
LouisianaMan is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 04:52 PM   #18
pacerdude
Senior Member
 
Join Date: December 23, 2008
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 586
The Stoger Cougar is a solid pistol (designed by Beretta originally, so it is the same gun as a Beretta Cougar). The 40 will have snappier recoil, but your wife may prefer the extra capacity or the feel of the Cougar. Let her hold each gun (shoot them if possible) and let her choose if she will be the primary user of said gun. Both are fine weapons, go with whichever one makes your wife more comfortable.
pacerdude is offline  
Old July 7, 2009, 04:57 PM   #19
BaDgErFaN
Member
 
Join Date: December 28, 2008
Location: Southern Wisconsin
Posts: 40
better to have a .38 you are confident and accurate with than a .40 that you cant shoot as well. However, for me personally, I would take the cougar over the GP any day!
BaDgErFaN is offline  
Old July 9, 2009, 01:01 AM   #20
Hagar the Republican
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 25, 2006
Location: In the hot yucky South.
Posts: 244
When selling guns for a living I saw a lot of frustration on both sides when men were trying to buy their wives a gun. The men "knew" which were the better guns (usually high-cap semi-autos), but the women just didn't have the arm strength to operate the slide. (Very frustrating to most males.) Some women hated the idea of loading magazines (couldn't figure out which was the front, for example--which way the bullets go), inserting magazines, and you could forget clearing a jam. So don't buy what you think she needs, but rather what she thinks is the best for her.

Some women have no problem with automatics at all. My wife loves shooting my Glock 21 (.45 ACP), however, she likes the feel and carries a Ruger SP101. (There is no magazine running through the grip making it bigger than it has to be.) She has dropped down to 110-gr Winchester .357 loads in her old age, which I like in my S&W K-frame snubbies as well.

The point: as several folks have pointed out, let your wife decide.

1. Let her handle different guns at your favorite dealer, and see what is comfortable in her hand.
2. Let her shoot different guns at the range. Find a place that will rent guns and let her shoot them. Again, find out what is comfortable to her. (And what she can easily operate.)
Anyone who has been married for any length of time knows his wife will not do anything, including practice with a gun, if it is uncomfortable, hurts her, or just plain doesn't like it. (Do i hear an Amen there?!?)

3. Don't worry about recoil. That is a guy thing. Most women know nothing about it and it usually isn't a factor. My wife's training instructor told her to focus on the front sight, and that's what she did. She didn't focus on recoil.
Paxton Quigley has/had a firearms training school for women, and the two guns her students liked the best were the Ruger GP100 (a .357 with plenty of recoil), and the 1911 (.45 ACP), not exactly "something small for the little lady."

A .357 (GP100 or SP101) will give you/her the versatility of 3-4 different load levels: .38 Special, .38+P, light .357 loads, and knock-em-on-their-ass .357 loads. The .40 is an excellent man-stopping round. Any of these will do the job. However, the key to any round you choose is bullet placement. And that takes practice. She can't go to the range two or three times and quit. Make it an enjoyable time so she will keep going and practice, practice, practice. Again, she will practice more if the gun is comfortable in her hand. Don't limit the selection to just two guns yet.

I hope I haven't rambled too much. Let us know what you, . . . ah, I mean she decides on.
Hagar the Republican is offline  
Old July 11, 2009, 05:24 PM   #21
seeker_two
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 31, 2002
Location: Deep in the Heart of the Lone Star State (TX)
Posts: 1,730
Which gun does she have more experience shooting?....that should be the main determination.....

...and, if she hasn't shot either, you need to correct that immediately....
__________________
Proud member of Gun Culture 2.0......
seeker_two is offline  
Old July 11, 2009, 06:51 PM   #22
L_Killkenny
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 2, 2007
Location: Iowa
Posts: 2,676
I'll pitch in what I know....

Can your wife work the slide? Can she clear a jam? If the answer to either of those is no than the .38/.357 is an easy choice.

Want even better....Good doors and locks, an alarm and a dog.

I've never shot a .40. But looking at the data.... the .40 won't have any less recoil than the .357. Both are comparbale in powder charge given similer bullet weights and the .40 normally uses heavier bullet which will increase recoil. Also the GP100 will more than likely be heavier and lesson recoil. I will say this, the recoil in my .357 Security Six is no worse than, and in many cases better than, the recoil of the .45 acps I've owned/shot. 125gr. standard pressure .357's are a pu$$y cat (very mild). I'm sure standard pressure 158's will be tame too.

Bottom line, IMO if she can't handle .357 in a GP100 she can't handle the .40.
L_Killkenny is offline  
Old July 11, 2009, 07:30 PM   #23
Mello2u
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 21, 2009
Location: Georgia
Posts: 1,424
Comparing the cartridges and comparing the two guns are separate exercises.

I'd say the .357 magnum and the .40 S&W are comparable in effectiveness in stopping human threats. One might have some advantages over the other in some areas and the reverse is true of the other in some other areas. So on balance I'd not decide based on the cartridge; but the platform which launches the bullet. [However, both the .357 magnum and the .40 S&W are significantly more effective than the .38 Special.]

Generally speaking, it takes more training to reach the same level of competence with an auto as compared to a revolver. You must practice manipulating more things to be sufficiently skilled with an auto as compared with a revolver.

The basic failure drill on a revolver is to pull the trigger again (unless you suspect a squib load discharged).
The basic failure drill on a auto is "tap, rack, bang". A double feed or failure to eject is a bit different. So you can see the auto is more complex.

On the revolver you must manipulate the trigger, the thumbpiece (cylinder latch), the extractor rod, and possibly the hammer.

With the auto you must manipulate the trigger, the slide release, the magazine release, the magazine, the slide, the safety, the decocking lever and possibly the hammer. The auto is more complex and takes more training.

So actually shoot both and see how you like them. Consider how much training you are willing to invest for both you and your wife.
__________________
NRA Life Member - Orange Gunsite Member - NRA Certified Pistol Instructor
"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society,
they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it.
" Frederic Bastiat

Last edited by Mello2u; July 11, 2009 at 07:37 PM.
Mello2u is offline  
Old July 11, 2009, 09:32 PM   #24
Jim March
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 14, 1999
Location: Pittsburg, CA, USA
Posts: 7,328
The .40 is a damned good round, period. But smaller and/or female cops have been having problems with it on occasion.

The 38 and 357 together in the same gun offer a very flexible package, with the ability to run "enough power but not huge recoil" early on even for the smallest shooter, up through stomper-loads that leave the .40 for dead.

One point to consider: there are now some very good milder-end-of-the-357-spectrum loads that work well, almost match the best .40s for effectiveness and are very controllable in a gun the size of a GP100, S&W 686 or the like. The Cor-Bon 125gr DPX is among the very best of this class, pulling around 1,250fps from a 4" barrel and has proven to be a very reliable expander.

In regards to:

Quote:
A 125gr. 357 mag from a 3-4" revolver will struggle to get over 1300fps.
I suggest you look at what DoubleTap Ammo and Buffalo Bore are doing. Buffalo Bore's 125gr Gold Dot-based high-end slug has been clocked at over 1,600fps (independently!) from a 4" barrel Ruger. That leaves the .40 for dead, it even spanks most 10mm rounds and sends 'em running home to mama. Doubletap is almost as hot and I used one of those with the same Gold Dot projectile to blow a bowling ball clean in half at 20 paces, sending fist-size pieces of the concrete core back past my feet. That stuff is NO JOKE whatsoever and it's controllable (barely!) from a GP100-class gun.

What people forget about autoloader pistols is that they have to have a minimum energy level to operate the gun mechanically. So you can't go all that light on the ammo or it'll jam up. With a 357 revolver you can use energy levels from about 150ft/lbs energy (148gr target wadcutter at 700fps) up through 180gr "stompers" doing more than 1,200fps and some hitting almost 800ft/lbs energy from a 4" tube. You get all that flexibility with no changes to the gun, it won't jam if you limp-wrist it or fire while injured, and it can't go out of battery on a close-range muzzle press.

And it's got six shots, when most gunfights end in less than two...
__________________
Jim March
Jim March is offline  
Old July 11, 2009, 10:07 PM   #25
3 gun
Senior Member
 
Join Date: December 23, 1999
Location: N41 24.283 W81 43.370 N.E.Ohio
Posts: 557
The much more important question is which pistol can your wife handle better?

Both calibers will do the job but can she? Does she have the hand strength to clear a jam? Does the flash from the cylinder gap cause her to flinch?

Caliber is seldom the deciding factor in a SD use. Having the gun and the confidence and skills to use it are much more important.

Take her to the range, let her shoot both and let her pick.
__________________
Change you can believe in... Pre-65 US silver coins
NRA RSO & Certified Instructor in rifle, pistol, shotgun.
An unloaded pistol is a paperweight.
Opportunity knocks..Trouble kicks down the door.
3 gun is offline  
Reply

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:00 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2014 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.13931 seconds with 7 queries