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Old January 29, 2012, 08:30 AM   #1
graysmoke
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.38spl Wadcutter Hollow Point Bullet for Self Defence

I have a S&W model 10 2" revolver. Is the .38spl +P Wadcutter Hollow Points, a recomended Self Defence load.?
I was told that the Wadcutter is more accurate, and makes a larger deeper entry. And the Wadcutter was once used by the FBI as their standard load.
What is your opinion.?
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Old January 29, 2012, 08:35 AM   #2
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If you mean the .38 Special +P 158 grain Lead Semi-Wadcutter Hollow Point, then yeah its a good defense load.
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Old January 29, 2012, 09:09 AM   #3
Hal
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My opinion is - no ammo manufacturer markets a wadcutter as a defensive round.

If they had any real merit as one, I'd think at least one company would.

Since none do, I doubt if they are anything special.
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Old January 29, 2012, 09:15 AM   #4
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The .38 Special +P 158 grain lead semiwadcutter load is called the FBI load or the Chicago Load. It was used for a long time as a standard cartridge by the FBI. As I recall, it was the load used to finally end the Miami shootout.

There is better ammunition these days by a variety of manufacturers. However, if the chips are down and it's what you've got, you could do a lot worse than the old FBI load.

If you're talking about the practice of loading a .38 hollowbased wadcutter backwards in the case to get a long, tubular hollowpoint, that's really not a great idea. Lots of folks have tried it with varying levels of success, but I don't think anyone considers it when thinking about a good defensive handload.

There are lots of folks making good defensive ammuntion.
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Old January 29, 2012, 09:15 AM   #5
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Hal,
As a new .38 special owner (but not new to pistols or reloading), I spent some time reading reports on bullets such as the Speer 158 LSWC HP and it seems to have a very good reputation. Why do you state "no ammo manufacturer markets a wadcutter as a defensive round" when there bullets available such as this? You state it is an opinion but based on what? I saw photos of these LSWC HP bullets and they have an excellent expansion with very good penetration. I have confidence that these Speers, and other similar ones will do a fine job.

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Old January 29, 2012, 09:17 AM   #6
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I think the key word here is "semi".

The true, full wadcutters are generally "target" loads, and pretty mild. I dont ever remember seeing any factory loaded wadcutters that were loaded to +P pressures.

Semi wadcutters on the other hand have historically been used in the hunting/defensive realm.
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Old January 29, 2012, 09:35 AM   #7
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As a person that shoots a LOT of 38 special, I can attest to the fact that a wadcutter (not to be confused with a semi-wadcutter) cannot be loaded past 800fps (give or take 50fps), and the skirt of the bullet not get blown off.

I have tried loading the HBWC backwards for testing purposes and although it works, the skirt of the bullet blows off much easier. At 25 yards, most of the shots look like a small guage shotgun. At self defense ranges (7 yards or less) the expansion would probably be pretty good, but penetration im sure would suck!!

I have not tested penetration of this load, so I cannot be certain.

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Old January 29, 2012, 09:41 AM   #8
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Buffalo Bore loads a full wadcutter for self defense if that what you were looking fore.
http://www.buffalobore.com/index.php...t_detail&p=111

brass fetcher tested it in ballistics gel at:
http://www.brassfetcher.com/Buffalo%...%20Cutter.html

Apparently you basically get what you would expect with full diameter, wide meplat bullet: no expansion, plenty of 'crush zone' due to its sharp shoulders, and deep penetration. Modern hollowpoints would be more predictable and expand reliably, but this doesn't appear to be a bad load for defense or small game.
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Old January 29, 2012, 10:17 AM   #9
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198ster, not all wadcutters are hollowbased, I load a wadcutter in .38 that is similar in design to these .44 spec. that I believe I could load past 900fps without getting into a +p pressure



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Old January 29, 2012, 11:00 AM   #10
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At my local gun shop, I pick up a box (50) Federal 'Nyclad' 38 Special +P Semi-Wadcutter HP 125 Gr.
The owner told me they were an old stock, and I got'em for $15
They all looked clean and brand new. I'll give a few a try at the range.
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Old January 29, 2012, 11:55 AM   #11
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These seem to be the only solid wadcutters I see these days, I think they actually call them button nosed. Salvadore, where do you get those cool little paint can lookin' bullets?

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Old January 29, 2012, 12:39 PM   #12
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^That raskal of a bullet above, looks like it could do a whoooole lotta opening damage.
I have priced Semi-Wadcutters on gunbroker.com...they are very expensive.
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Old January 29, 2012, 01:22 PM   #13
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Back when the handgun world "revolved" the wadcutter bullet was the premier target load. A wadcutter is a cylinder of lead, which cut nice clean holes in paper targets. They came in two basic styles, Bevel Based (BB) and Hollow Based (HB). Normal weight for .38 cal was 148gr.

They are neither designed, nor intended for high velocity. Normally made of dead soft lead, often by swaging, they are intended as target bullets, moving at slower than full speeds (for reduced recoil), and tend to be very accurate.

You need to understand the difference between full wadcutter (WC) and semi-wadcutter (SWC) shapes. The full wadcutter is just a lead cylinder, flat on the ends, or nearly so. The semiwadcutter has a wadcutter shaped base section, but a tapered nose with a flat point.

The Keith style SWC, most common to day in one form or another has a sharp full diameter shoulder at the base of the nose section. This design has proven not only very accurate, but when cast of hard lead alloy is capable of being fired at high speeds, and excellent results in penetration. Hard case SWCs do not usually expand, but they do work well and are the preferred bullet for many hunters as well as for self defense. And the full diameter shoulder also cuts nice clean holes in paper targets.

Many people have tested wadcutters for defense loads, and the results are underwhelming...the factory target loads do not hit as hard as regular service ammo. Lower velocity, less ft/lbs energy and also less penetration.

You simply cannot load wadcutters to full velocity and get good results, the bullets are not constructed to take it. If you are casting your own, and use a hard alloy, you could, but mass market wadcutters are target slugs, only. (ok, they will do fine on small pest animals as well)

I (and many others) have also done a lot of shooting with hollow based wadcutters, seated upside down, so they have a HUGE hollow "point". Again, you cannot drive these bullets fast, but my experience is that loaded down, say 650-700fps they are excellent for small critters, have virtually no recoil, and very little penetration.

Many years ago testing on an old refridgerator showed that at about 10yds, many rounds did not penetrate the fridge wall, although some did. The ones that didn't were laying on the ground in front of the fridge, expanded to about the size of a quarter, after leaving a deep dent in the metal.

I would not recommend a load like this for self defense, because its low power and penetration would not guarantee the bullet would get in to the vitals, and reliably stop a determined attacker.

However, I think that at close range, 5 or 6 of these loads dumped rapidly into the middle of an attacker would give them serious injury, and might just change their minds, even if not physically stopping them.

Make no mistake, they can, and will kill. They are not less lethal, or less than lethal, wadcutters are deadly ammo, and have killed a number of people over the years. What they aren't, is reliable stoppers, and should not be chosen for self defense ammo, other than as a last resort.
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Old January 29, 2012, 02:54 PM   #14
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HM, that is the lyman 429352 that casts out at a nominal 245gr, its .38 cousin is a 358344 @150gr. I own the Modern Bond equivelant mold.

Quote:
Make no mistake, they can, and will kill. They are not less lethal, or less than lethal, wadcutters are deadly ammo, and have killed a number of people over the years. What they aren't, is reliable stoppers, and should not be chosen for self defense ammo, other than as a last resort.
While I don't get around to shooting a lot of people, I do believe these wadcutters are cracker jack self defence loads. They have a full calibre meplat that even LBT's WFN or semi wadcutters don't have. You don't have to hope they expand and cast with wheel weights they have great penetration. I'm told that the full wadcutter design does not lead to good accuracy beyond 50yds, but who cares. Of course that's just my two cents.
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Old January 29, 2012, 04:29 PM   #15
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I like the 135 gr. +P Speer Gold Dots (for short barreled pistols) for snubby carry. My second choice is "old" technology 158 gr. +P Lead Semi-Wadcutter Hollow Points from Remington. An article from Stephen A. Camp discusses some of these old technology loads at http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/3...r%20LSWCHP.htm. Velocities from his snubbies ran at 800 fps and up.

You'll notice that in the third picture down is a flattened bullet and one not so flattened. The flattened one is Remington and the one not flattened is Winchester. The Remingtons are made of softer lead and expand better.

I agree with those who think typical out-of-the-box full wadcutters are poor choices for self-defense. They are good for paper punching, teaching inexperienced shooters, and small game.
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Old January 29, 2012, 04:34 PM   #16
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Quote:
That raskal of a bullet above, looks like it could do a whoooole lotta opening damage.
I have priced Semi-Wadcutters on gunbroker.com...they are very expensive.
Gunbroker is great for a lot of things but ammo is not one of them. Try ammo to go they usually have a good selection of ammo and prices are decent. As for the cost of ammo, what is your life worth?
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Old January 29, 2012, 08:22 PM   #17
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As the replies suggest,the wadcutter round was primarily made as a target round to make clean cuts through paper.

The lead semi wadcutter rounds used in some specialty rounds for self defense are made stronger and heavier to not come apart as soon as they encounter the resistence of human flesh and bone.

You can buy such rounds from companies such as Buffalo Bore but jacketed hollow points are the norm in self defense rounds today.
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Old January 30, 2012, 12:52 AM   #18
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If I had to go to a gunfight with a 38 revolver, and I had to choose between a round nose bullet and a full wadcutter, I would choose the wadcutter.

As has been discussed in great detail above, the wadcutter is not a good defensive load. But compared to a lead round nose, it had advantages. The round nose is probably the worst possible bullet shape for 38 special.

If you were a city cop back in 1958, this might have been your choice... round nose or wadcutter. I am glad that times have changed.
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Old January 30, 2012, 01:28 AM   #19
Bill DeShivs
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Wadcutters work well for defense in short barreled .38 Spls.
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Old January 30, 2012, 01:42 AM   #20
Biff Tannen
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Thank you

I just wanted to thank you for starting this thread...
38, especially out of a self defense snubbie is a topic which always needs updated advice! I learn more every time someone starts one!
God bless the US!
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Old January 30, 2012, 03:58 AM   #21
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I'm sure it would do fine, sure as hell beats nothing. I did see someone mention the FBI shootout and now I feel obligated to say that I heard one of the perps took one of those to the face, it split in half and didn't do anything. I would definitely recommend getting Gold Dots or some other well known, and unfortunately expensive, hollow points. A .38 is a little on the lighter side so I would try to get as much expansion and power out of it as I could. Something bonded and something +P. Check out hollow point expansion on youtube. It's really cool and informative. They test all different calibers and all different ammo.
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Old January 30, 2012, 06:49 AM   #22
Hal
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Quote:
I spent some time reading reports on bullets such as the Speer 158 LSWC HP and it seems to have a very good reputation. Why do you state "no ammo manufacturer markets a wadcutter as a defensive round" when there bullets available such as this
L(lead) S (semi) W (wadcutter) HP...
Not LWC - lead wadcutter.
As mentioned above, they're two different things.

It does appear though that BB does market a wadcutter as a defensive round.
The actual wording of their advertising leaves a lot open to speculation however.
Due to customer demand..sounds like people wanted it so they just gave it to them.
That flat nose, literally hammers living things...then goes on to say how many small critters it's done in.
They are also -"hard and properly lubed" - read that as they go in @ .357" go through @ .357" and come out @ .357".
Not a bad deal for a hunting round where a good blood trail and minimal meat damage is desired.
Not a great deal for a defensive round - especially in a crowded place..

There's also the matter of trying to fumble them into the chambers under high stress...
You're only kidding yourself if you even begin to think charging the cylinders with a speed loader filled with wadcutters during a high stress situation is going to fly.

It's blanket statements like this:
Quote:
Wadcutters work well for defense in short barreled .38 Spls.
That irk me the most though.

If that's true, that they work well, then please provide some data to back that claim up.
Who tested and documented their effectivness?
Joe Schome and his kitchen table R&D lab?

Please provide some communication with Federal, Speer, Remington, etc. where they support that claim and say they are going to offer a wadcutter - not a semi wadcutter as a defensive round.
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Old January 30, 2012, 08:27 AM   #23
grumpa72
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Hal,
Other than hollow base wadcutters turned upside down and loaded that way, a self-made hollow point, I believe you are right that there aren't any wadcutters designed for that. The OP wrote "wadcutter" and I read SEMI-wadcutter. So, "never mind". I DO like the lead semi-wadcutter hollow point, though.
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Old January 30, 2012, 09:59 AM   #24
Hal
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Quote:
I DO like the lead semi-wadcutter hollow point, though.
As do I.
IMHO - the SWC, has all the advantages of a WC but avoids, to a large extenet, the feed issues.
SWC's feed out of a speed loader very well.

As far as reversing a HBWC and trying to make some "super hollow point" out if it goes....
I know how badly that idea plays out.

Been there/tried that on a smaller scale.
I got the bright idea that if I turned the pellets around in my Sheridan pellet gun, I could make some wild ass hollow points out of them.
The results were - interesting.
Sometimes they would mushroom real nice. Sometimes the solid base would just blow through. Sometimes they would deform and "slide" sideways and come out of a stack of papers not in tthe back, but on the sides.
I beaned a good sized rat in the head with one and aside from what had to be a nasty headache, it was otherwise unhurt.

I know it's not apples to apples - but - it did show me the errors of my ways.
A few years later, when I found out what controlled expansion is all about, I understood why just having a big cavity on the front of a bullet doesn't amount to a hill of beans.
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Old January 30, 2012, 10:13 AM   #25
Jim Watson
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Two or three lifetimes ago, one could get the wadcutter loaded to full power. This would be preferable to a roundnose in the days before handgun hollowpoints. The last of the breed seems to have been the 1939 Peters "Service Wad Cutter" at the same 158 gr weight and 860 fps velocity as the standard roundnose.

The question THEN might be, would you rather have a full wadcutter at 860 or the .38-44 High Velocity roundnose at 1125?
The answer might depend on whether you had a Detective Special or a Heavy Duty.
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