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Old June 29, 2012, 06:30 PM   #1
kcub
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What can and what can't a .38 special do?

It rode in the majority of police officers holsters for better than half a century in tough, crime ridden cities like Los Angeles and New York. Though out of fashion, at least as a primary weapon for police, it must have had something going for it.
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Old June 29, 2012, 06:34 PM   #2
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Good compromise cartidge, good accuracy, good recoil, good penetration, good performance on 2 legged threats. It had alot going for it and does even still. It used to be the cats meow compared to others. The .38 Special is just that "Special"
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Old June 29, 2012, 06:42 PM   #3
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Perfect level of power for the light-weight J frames and LCR five-shot revolvers.
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Old June 29, 2012, 06:49 PM   #4
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It's where you put the bullet not what the bullet is. A .22 that hits is better than a .44 that misses. I stole that from somewhere.
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Old June 29, 2012, 06:57 PM   #5
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When it comes to carry revolvers at least, a lot more people are carrying .38 Special than the competitors.
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Old June 29, 2012, 07:25 PM   #6
darkroommike
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The .38 Special was actually something special when first introduced, it was actually a pretty hot load in it's day, that day was a long time ago. But bureaucracy then was like bureaucracy now and the powers that be did not trust the new fangled auto loaders so they stuck with the .38. Stuck with it way too long, but back in the day a beat cop rarely drew his weapon.
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Old June 29, 2012, 08:30 PM   #7
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Quote:
It rode in the majority of police officers holsters for better than half a century in tough, crime ridden cities like Los Angeles and New York. Though out of fashion, at least as a primary weapon for police, it must have had something going for it.
It was politically acceptable. It also got a lot of cops killed because the bullets of the day (round nose lead) were dismal failures.
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Old June 29, 2012, 08:48 PM   #8
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With modern bullets and goods loads, not just +P, it'll give plenty of protection for the average person.
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Old June 29, 2012, 09:26 PM   #9
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Realistiicly power wiseit'll do bout anything you really need a handgun for. I still think it's fine for rural duty in most cases.
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Old June 29, 2012, 10:12 PM   #10
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I carry 38 Spl. 158 gr. LSWCHP often.....proven


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Old June 29, 2012, 10:16 PM   #11
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My apologies for my question (ignorance ) but why does this load makes a difference to common LRN 158 gr. if it has no +P added?
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Old June 29, 2012, 10:19 PM   #12
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Bill Jordan said it was the most powerful cartridge an average man could achieve any real proficiency with. IMHO it started to lose effectiveness with old 158gr RNL when controlled substances became more popular.

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Old June 29, 2012, 10:27 PM   #13
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I meant 38 Spl. 158 gr. LSWCHP...
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Old June 29, 2012, 10:51 PM   #14
CarbineCaleb
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@melcob: Not sure if I understand your question, but .38+P is a little more powerful than standard .38 Special, because it has a higher pressure (the +P designation).

.38+P isn't that much more powerful, but at least for hollow point rounds, which achieve greater effects by expanding, every bit helps.

Here's an example of the difference: from Remington, their standard .38 Special round of 125 grains bullet weight makes 800 feet per second, while their .38+P round of 125 grains bullet weight makes 945 feet per second.
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Old June 29, 2012, 11:11 PM   #15
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I shoot more 38Spl. than any other centerfire handgun ammunition. It's just a great plinking round and loaded with one of the many self defense +P rounds it is a very capable weapon to contend with. I have never felt that the 38Spl. has fell behind in bullet technology as new bullets were being developed they have always been included in the 38Spl. line up. Many advanced loads have been requested and developed for major city police departments and federal law enforcement agencies. From the onset of the cartridge there has always been larger and more powerful handgun cartridges available that have never reached the popularity of the 38Spl. With it's popular to despise soft 158gr. LRN loading it makes for a great meat and hide saving small game load.
Change the bullet to a soft 158gr. LSWC or LSWC HP bullet and it can move into a capable self defense load that only gets better with advanced bullet and +P loading. In the book on handgun hunting written by Lee Juras (of Super Vel fame) and Nick Nonte Jr. There is a chapter on hunting with the 38Spl. which includes the hunting of small Whitetail deer using advanced loads of the times. Even with a hard cast SWC +P load you can cut a clean wound chanel and penitrate at the same time. 38Spl. a great load when it was developed and a greater load as time advanced it, just ask all those who shoot more 38Spl's in thier 357's than what thier guns were designed for.
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Old June 29, 2012, 11:35 PM   #16
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Quote:
why does this load makes a difference to common LRN 158 gr. if it has no +P added?
The old LRN (Lead Round Nose) tended to penetrate well but didn't expand. In addition, the bullet profile seemed to push the tissue aside leaving small sub-caliber wound channels and not much bleeding. It was an impressively poor self-defense round.

The 38 Spl. 158 gr. LSWCHP (Lead Semi-WadCutter HollowPoint) has a few things going for it. It's a heavy bullet so penetration is good even if it expands. It's got a shouldered bullet profile that tends to cut a wound channel even if the bullet doesn't expand--so no sub-caliber "ice-pick" wounds and reasonable amounts of tissue damage. And the hollowpoint is made from exposed and relatively soft lead so it doesn't take much to get it to expand to cut an even larger wound channel.

Back before the highly engineered high-tech expanding ammo came along, it was a great low-tech solution to self-defense in .38spl. Still not a bad choice by any means, but you may be able to improve on its performance with some of the new premium stuff from the better companies.
Quote:
Bill Jordan said it was the most powerful cartridge an average man could achieve any real proficiency with.
He's not the only gunwriter to voice that opinion.

From the July/August American Handgunner
From the .35s to the .40s – They Still Call ‘Em .38s! By Mike Venturino
...Most people in the know about such things consider the .38 Special is the minimum revolver cartridge that should be used for home/self defense. And I know for certain it is about the largest cartridge non-enthusiast people can be taught to shoot with any degree of proficiency.
From the July/August 2004 American Handgunner
Sixgunner Column By John Taffin
I consider the ... Model 10, as one of the best choices, perhaps the best for that person looking for a “house gun,” whatever that is, or a revolver for concealed carry.
...
The .38 Special is the upper-limit of comfort and easy handling for many shooters, especially senior citizens, younger shooter, and women with small hands; ...
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Old June 30, 2012, 12:03 AM   #17
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darkroommike

Quote:
Stuck with it way too long, but back in the day a beat cop rarely drew his weapon.
what 'back in the day' timeframe are you talking about


******also john, thx for the handgunner info in the previous post.
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Old June 30, 2012, 06:17 AM   #18
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A few weeks ago I helped a 65 year old lady buy a pristine pre lock model 60.
There were about 6 men in the store and every single one of us had a j frame Smith in our pockets. Various models but noteworthy nonetheless.
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Old June 30, 2012, 07:11 AM   #19
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Quote:
The old LRN (Lead Round Nose) tended to penetrate well but didn't expand. In addition, the bullet profile seemed to push the tissue aside leaving small sub-caliber wound channels and not much bleeding. It was an impressively poor self-defense round.
To expound on this I've found the old 158gr LRN load to be very good for small game (rabbits and squirrels) because they do so little tissue damage. The damage done to small game is less than that of some HV 22lr.
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Old June 30, 2012, 07:56 AM   #20
jason_iowa
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I prefer 357 but the 38 is a fun round to shoot and in a pinch is fine for self defense. I would have no qualms about carrying it as an leo.
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Old June 30, 2012, 04:29 PM   #21
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I just bought another .38 Special, a Model 36 Chief!
After a lot of thoughtI realised that I can't find fault with this cartrige as a personal defense round! Ir recoils little, has adequate power for a stop of hostilities and is relativelly inexpensive for pratice.
This has been a fact since it's inception and held true thru the current rash of Wonder-9's and other semi-auto rounds. Seems that no matter what the .38 Special goes up against, it comes out as being a really good preformer!
I shoot it in my Vaquero (about 95% of the time) and in my Cobra .48 Special Derringer, and next in the Chief.
Next to the .22 lr I have found it the most usefull cartrige of my lifetime!
Yes there are more powerfull and accurate rounds (like the .41 Mag) but as a do it all caliber, make mine a .38 Special.
You aren't making a bad choice!
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Old June 30, 2012, 04:33 PM   #22
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another point worth mentioning

anyone that doesn't think a 38 is powerful enough for SD/HD in a close proximity situation needs to back that up. I know I am one of those people who likes bigger and better and stronger but the 38 gets the job done period. I personally choose 357 as my primary but 38 is acceptable in my opinion and I wouldn't go lower than that for defense
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Old June 30, 2012, 05:45 PM   #23
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The .38 spl. is an obsolete cartridge.

The .38 Special won't or can't do much anymore.

Ha Ha. The very last time someone got my goat did so by telling me a .308 and 30.06 weren't any good any more. That 'ain't' happing again.

Does anyone but me remember the day when empty .38 spl. brass was used for balast? Hope I didn't distract anyone from the OP. Sorry for any inconvenience.
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Old June 30, 2012, 05:53 PM   #24
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It depends on what needs doing.

I prefer a .357 Magnum or .45 ACP chambered handgun for my own personal defense, but .38 Special with flat fronted bullets at 'normal' velocities do a pretty good job.

If one can hit properly.

One of the early posters mentioned many police departments carried .38 Special revolvers 'too long' when villains with other handguns showed up. What is not mentioned is the departments who didn't 'update' didn't do a whole lot to teach cops to shoot properly, either. A .38 Special revolver - either a K frame or J frame - can be shot with extreme accuracy if the shooter puts out the effort to learn to shoot.

Okay, I would not choose a .38 Special revolver as a primary hunting weapon for animals larger than white tail deer. (Frankly, they're on the bottom end for white tail.) Grizzly bear and other dangerous game are out. However, for general use, including self and home defense, a .38 Special revolver loaded with full charge or +p ammo and proper shaped bullets will do nicely.
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Old June 30, 2012, 08:02 PM   #25
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Just acquired a S+W 686 in .357, 4" barrel. I prefer my 1911 for most all things, but as a backup hunting boar or similar game, a .357 is really far better.

This arm will double as a carry weapon for camping or, if I ever do move to NM and get a little ranch, just one of the tools I would carry out and about, and I would load it with .38 Special.

I am shooting a lot more .38 for practice, and it is a great round to introduce new shooters to after they have some time with .22's.

I have a 1960's vintage K-frame S+W with a 6" barrel, very accurate. And there is a palpable snap in the air when I shoot 158 grain +P FMJ rounds from Speer. It is still very comfortable to shoot and accurate.

You have to shoot with something you can hit with. I think the .38 is more than enough, usually, better than most shooters. PCP and/or dementia can overcome about any round but a 12 gauge or .50 BMG. Not the most likely case for most of us, to encounter that.

I followed a blog for awhile a few years ago by a coroner assistant in Atlanta. By far the .38 was the most frequent removal from corpses they got.
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