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Old February 17, 2011, 11:25 PM   #1
zxcvbob
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"Best" .38 Special bullets for HD

and I want them loaded subsonic. I have 4 contenders (bullets I have already):
  1. Remington 125 grain half-jacketed HP (will load to just under 1100 fps)
  2. Magnus Bullets 158 grain dead-soft lead SWCHP (900+ fps)
  3. Lee or Mastercast 148 grain hard lead DEWC (almost 1000 fps)
  4. Lee 158 grain RNFP, cast from medium-soft lead (900+ fps)
The Lee RNFP has a wide flat nose and fairly sharp corners. Much bigger meplat than any SWC.

I think the real choice is between the 125 JHP and the 158 SWCHP, at least until I run out. If I pick the Magnus 158's, I can use Lee 158's for practice.
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Old February 18, 2011, 07:40 AM   #2
griz
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My vote goes for #2, although I use the Hornady version the result is the same. Not high tech or modern, but it works very well.
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Old February 18, 2011, 09:18 AM   #3
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Quote:
My vote goes for #2, although I use the Hornady version the result is the same. Not high tech or modern, but it works very well.
Thanks, that is what I've been using. But I found the dusty box of #1's under my reloading bench thought it *might* be better...

And I have an endless supply of #3 and #4
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Old February 18, 2011, 09:24 AM   #4
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You cannot improve on the DEWC with the full profile meplat - it is most accurate, most destructive, and will give fantastic straight-line penetration if you are using hard cast bullets.
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Old February 19, 2011, 01:18 AM   #5
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Funny you should ask

I have aquired an older Colt "Official Police" with a 5" Bbl, and was thinking about how to load it for SD. I am with Griz on this, as I have a ton of Hornady 158gr. SWHP's and I think they will make a dandy round for this gun.
I am no expert by any means, but I think that a soft lead 158gr. SWHP doing about 950 to 1000fps. would be very effective for most SD scenarios.
In my humble opinion, that would be about the most effective combo there is for the .38sp. Which is still a very good SD round, I believe. I do not think it would have survived for 100 years if it did not work. Is it a .357, .45acp.,or .40 Smith?, no, but to my way of thinking, and from the opinion of countless others, given proper shot placement, and that is more imporrtant by far than the round you are using, the .38 can be a very effective round.
Of course there are many high tech loads out ther from Speer, Winchester, etc, which may be more effective, but the load I have described should do just fine, IMO.
Excuse my ignorance, but what is a "DEWC"? I am not familiar with the term.
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Old February 19, 2011, 01:41 AM   #6
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"Excuse my ignorance, but what is a "DEWC"? I am not familiar with the term"
It is "Double End Wadcutter" - This is an interesting article from Guns and Ammo Handguns http://www.handgunsmag.com/ammunitio...utters_200901/
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Old February 24, 2011, 02:09 AM   #7
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I took a handful of .38's loaded with Lee 358-158-RF ("round flat") bullets with me to the range Tuesday night for bullseye practice (loaded with 4.5 grains of Rex 3 powder -- about like Universal) and a box of full wadcutters. The RF bullet has a big flat nose; it's more like a truncated cone with hardly any taper to it. But I shot one target with 5 RF's and 5 wadcutters and there was a big difference in the size of the holes in the paper. The wadcutters made a perfect .36" hole (just like you would expect) and the RF's made approximately .30" holes with a little gray halo around them. That's a lot bigger difference in area than it sounds.

The 158 LSWCHP bullet might be better still, I don't know. But the wadcutter beats the pants off any other non-expanding bullet. (I knew it would, but I was shocked at how much difference it made) Of course, bad guys are not made out of construction paper...
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Old February 24, 2011, 02:13 AM   #8
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The DEWC will cause a lot of destruction not to mention accruacy, low recoil, and straight line penetration. Nice combination.
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Old February 24, 2011, 02:29 AM   #9
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They don't handle real well from a speedloader though.
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Old February 24, 2011, 07:27 AM   #10
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The other caution is that if you seat wadcutters flush with the case mouth, as is done for light target loads, there won't be room for much powder. You'll want to seat them out a little further for higher power levels without raising pressure too high.
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Old February 24, 2011, 08:12 AM   #11
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when the water goes down in the swamp we get to shoot at a muddy bank sometimes & the biggest holes are made with wadcutters runnin `bout 850-900 fps.

But as mentioned there not speed loader friendly.
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Old February 24, 2011, 09:00 AM   #12
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I'm roll-crimping them lightly into the crimp groove; about .10" of lead is sticking out. That helps a little with the speed loader too, but not much.

Sometimes when I load them really hot for a .357, I roll-crimp them a lot tighter, with about .25" sticking out (and a *lot* more powder. Don't worry, those won't chamber in a .38 Special) I want to try those out in my Marlin this spring.
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Old February 27, 2011, 03:35 PM   #13
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I have three loads for SD in the 38-
Fc brass, 6.0 of Unique or 6.1 of 4756, 125 grain JHP, CCI 500.
WW brass, 5.5 of Unique, 140 grain Speer JHP, CCI 500.
WW brass, 5.5 of 4756, 158 Speer swaged LHP, CCI 500.
All 3 loads will do the job at house ranges and under 21 feet on the street.
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Old February 27, 2011, 03:39 PM   #14
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Number 1. It is by far the best. High velocity and it is a JHP.
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Old February 27, 2011, 03:54 PM   #15
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I like #2 and #3. They would likely all do the trick. I'm carrying 135gr +P Gold Dots right now but the more I think about it, the more I think the 158gr LSWC loaded hot is the way to go for 38spl.
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Old February 27, 2011, 07:11 PM   #16
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135gr Gold Dot has much more robust expansion through clothing, an barriers in short barrels than the old 158gr LSWCHP. If you have a 4", 6" barrel or longer then you can expect the lead bullet do penetrate, and deform reasonably well.

Barnes bullets also work very well through heavy clothing. If you load warm, and have a long barrel you can probably use the 140 gr XPB with good results.
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Old February 27, 2011, 10:21 PM   #17
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Mastercast 148 grain hard lead DEWC ..............these will get the job done right. out of 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 inch barrels
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Old February 28, 2011, 12:18 AM   #18
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Since I have never shot anyone, nor have I seen anyone who has been shot with a .38 special, I will have to rely on what I have read from those who have studied such things.
The last articles I read on the topic (a few years back) seemed to be unanimous on choosing a 158gr lead SWC at normal 38 special velocities. The Federal Nyclad was chosen as the best.
Intuition, from reading what some of you have posted, seems to indicate that the wadcutter has more "smack", due to the full caliber meplat. I would also think that would be better... again, only intuitively.
If larger meplat area is "better", then it would stand to reason that the full wadcutter would be best, followed by Lee's 158gr round/flat nose (looks like an LBT boolit), then the 158gr SWC. I think the round nose offerings are probably next to worthless for SD, judging from stories I've read about the military using it.
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Old February 28, 2011, 01:12 AM   #19
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Big ++ on the DEWC over 4.8 to 5.0 of Unique.
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Old February 28, 2011, 07:38 PM   #20
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GP100

GP100Man, That is very interesting "ballistic test".
I have got a stretch of bank down by my creek that gets pretty soft after a rain, and no rocks. I am going to give that a try, Using the Hornady swaged,(soft) 158gr. SWHP's, Leadhead 158gr. hard Keiths', and 125gr. XTPs' loaded towards the higher end velocity wise for the given weights.
Good idea, thanks for the tip!
Willy
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