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Old October 22, 2012, 10:16 AM   #1
Southern Shooter
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4" Barreled .38 Special & Non +P Loads for Self-Defense

If a person has a 4" barreled .38 Special for self-defense, be it for around the house or for concealed carry usage, and, for whatever reason is set firmly on using ONLY non +P ammuntion...

What would you recommend that revolver be loaded with?

Thanks
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Old October 22, 2012, 12:05 PM   #2
Tom Servo
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Hornady does a 125gr Critical Defense load that's standard pressure, and Speer does a couple of standard pressure Gold Dot loads.
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Old October 22, 2012, 12:45 PM   #3
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Quote:
Hornady does a 125gr Critical Defense load that's standard pressure
The Critical Defense .38 Special loadings (both standard pressure and +P) are 110gr rather than 125gr (the .357 Magnum version is 125gr) but are still some of the better options available in a standard pressure .38 Spl.

Other good loadings would include the 110gr Barnes Tac-XP, 125gr JHP, and 158gr LSWCHP loadings from Buffalo Bore. The 125gr Federal NyClad isn't bad for a standard pressure .38, but I would rate it below the Critical Defense, Gold Dot, and Buffalo Bore offerings due to its relatively shallow penetration. If nothing else is available, there's still a lot to be said for a good, old-fashioned 148gr HBWC loading like Winchester Super-X or Federal Gold Match. While expansion is usually minimal, if not non-existant, penetration is quite good and, unlike round-nose bullets, wadcutters create a full-diameter hole due to their sharper shoulders. Also, wadcutters are usually loaded lightly so recoil is mild and most are quite accurate.
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Old October 22, 2012, 01:03 PM   #4
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I use these in my non +p rated J-frame.

https://www.buffalobore.com/index.ph...t_detail&p=110

They shoot great but are pretty pricey


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvVNtKicux4
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Old October 22, 2012, 01:06 PM   #5
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I have a supply of Nylclad .38 special ammunition, though I don't recall what weight bullets they are. Doesn't matter because I no longer have a .38 or .357 revolver. However, I seem to recall conflicting information as to whether or not they were or were not standard pressure.

Anyone ever recall when the pressure rating of a given load of commercial ammuntion was changed? Note that only 9mm, .38 special and .45 auto have such a thing as +P rated loads. Supposedly nothing else officially does (except for .38 Super, all of which is +P).
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Old October 22, 2012, 01:09 PM   #6
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There is no such thing as a magic bullet.

There is no substitute for marksmanship.

The sights on most 4" guns in .38 Special are regulated for a 158-grain bullet.

The semi-wadcutter design is widely favored for .38 Special.
Every major ammo manufacturer offers this design.
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Old October 22, 2012, 01:53 PM   #7
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Quote:
The sights on most 4" guns in .38 Special are regulated for a 158-grain bullet.
True, but in my experience, the POI of most full-power commercial .38Spl loads fired from a full-size 4" revolver will not vary enough at typical HD/SD ranges (i.e. inside 10yds) to affect the outcome of a typical HD/SD scenario- regardless of bullet weight. The change in POI is typically <1" and almost never >2".

If a shooter is able to maintain the proverbial "minute of pie plate" accuracy with one .38Spl load ~7-10yds, he/she should be able to do it with virtually any other load. If he/she can't, I've found that the problem is almost always between the shooter's ears, not in the gun or the ammo.
Quote:
...there's still a lot to be said for a good, old-fashioned 148gr HBWC loading like Winchester Super-X or Federal Gold Match.
+1, and FWIW I've found that inside 10yds, the difference in POI between a full-power standard-pressure 158gr LRN/LSWC load and a mid-range 148gr LHBWC load is... virtually zero. Although the heavier 158gr load should theoretically hit higher on the target, I think the longer dwell time in the barrel with the LHBWC target load erases the difference.
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Old October 22, 2012, 05:03 PM   #8
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Since HP's are problematic in 38 Spl loads.....and almost useless unless the load is in the +P range (at least with the heavier bullets)...... I settled on a good old standby load for all purposes (with my 38's).

3.7 grains of Bullseye, under a 158 grain cast SWC. This load is close to the top end for standard loads....and just at the bottom end for +P loads.
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Old October 22, 2012, 07:56 PM   #9
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For many years the old stand-by was the .38 Special Mid-Range Target load using the 148 gr. Wadcutter bullet.

I believe Skeeter Skelton advocated loading the bullet backwards, making the hollow base in effect a hollow point. These bullets were the old swaged lead, soft as butter alloys.

The old round ball from a .36 caliber Colt Navy was a pretty devastating round.

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Old October 22, 2012, 08:13 PM   #10
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158 grain wadcutter is about the best you can hope for at those velocities. I have seen enough people shot with 148 grn wadcutters to not recommend them for anything but their intended use - Paper targets.

Back in the early 80's I tried the backwards wadcutter thing. It was very disappointing, the soft lead separated and struck the target in two pieces that were very inconstantly grouped.

Quote:
The old round ball from a .36 caliber Colt Navy was a pretty devastating round.
Sorry Bob, I think it was more the lack of penicillin.
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Old October 22, 2012, 08:36 PM   #11
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I think using the HBWC loaded backwards would fall under the heading of "Don't use reloads for self defense." IMHO the old standby of a 158gr SWC
is hard to beat.
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Old October 23, 2012, 02:06 PM   #12
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Nanuk wrote:

Quote:
Sorry Bob, I think it was more the lack of penicillin.
Maybe so, but it sure took the immediate fight out of folks right away!

And, penicillin was of no help to a corpse.

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Old October 23, 2012, 02:08 PM   #13
Bob Wright
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Sigshr wrote:

Quote:
I think using the HBWC loaded backwards would fall under the heading of "Don't use reloads for self defense." IMHO the old standby of a 158gr SWC
is hard to beat.
I have more confidence in my reloads than in factory ammunition!

Bob Wright
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Old October 23, 2012, 02:26 PM   #14
wnycollector
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When my wife started shooting and carrying, she carried a 148gr WC in her S&W M36. The load was easy to shoot, accurate and had minimal recoil. After a year of regular practice, she has moved up to a Ruger security six 2 3/4" loaded with the Speer 135gr shot barreled .357 load.
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Old October 23, 2012, 02:29 PM   #15
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I'd load it with a .38 Spec. 148 gr WC.

It's gentle recoil makes for good "split times" and the .356" 148 gr WC can do serious damage while still penetrating deep enough to reach the vitals.
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Old October 23, 2012, 04:44 PM   #16
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The argument against using reloads for SD has to do with legal issues rather than effectiveness. Massad Ayoob cautions against using them, saying they make you look like a follower of the Marquis De Sade out to inflict grievous harm. He has recommended using whatever the local PD carries, if it is a +P or a +P+ load, then getting the closest standard pressure equivalent.

Last edited by SIGSHR; October 23, 2012 at 04:53 PM.
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Old October 23, 2012, 04:55 PM   #17
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Awwwww...the specter of the dreaded +P 38 Special.

If I had a 38 Special, of any manufacture, that didn't look to be falling apart, I'd worry almost as much about shooting +P ammo in it, as I would being abducted by little green men.

I'd buy whatever commercially loaded ammo I wanted to use, and use it. If I HAD to have a non +p for whatever reason, I'd pick a 158 gr SWC, or SWCHP. Brand wouldn't matter.
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Old October 23, 2012, 05:24 PM   #18
Bob Wright
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Sigshr said:

Quote:
The argument against using reloads for SD has to do with legal issues rather than effectiveness. Massad Ayoob cautions against using them, saying they make you look like a follower of the Marquis De Sade out to inflict grievous harm..

I think that's been pretty much debunked~no actual cases have ever been cited.


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Old October 23, 2012, 07:18 PM   #19
Nanuk
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Quote:
I'd load it with a .38 Spec. 148 gr WC.

It's gentle recoil makes for good "split times" and the .356" 148 gr WC can do serious damage while still penetrating deep enough to reach the vitals.
I don't think so. That is absolutely the worst SD load to use.
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Last edited by Nanuk; October 23, 2012 at 07:41 PM.
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Old October 23, 2012, 08:04 PM   #20
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Another vote for 158gr semi wad cutters, or hollow point semi wad cutters.
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Old October 23, 2012, 08:21 PM   #21
Jim Watson
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I'm with Cajun.

What, you are getting in so many gunfights as to wear out a gun with top loads?

I prefer the 158 gr lead hollowpoint, the old FBI load. Even in my Airweights which will see maybe a box a decade for familiarization, tops.
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Old October 23, 2012, 08:58 PM   #22
Deaf Smith
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Quote:
If a person has a 4" barreled .38 Special for self-defense, be it for around the house or for concealed carry usage, and, for whatever reason is set firmly on using ONLY non +P ammuntion...

What would you recommend that revolver be loaded with?
Buffalo Bore!!

https://www.buffalobore.com/index.ph...t_detail&p=110

Standard Pressure Short Barrel Low Flash Heavy .38 Special Ammo - 158 gr. Soft Lead SWC-HC (850fps/M.E. 253 ft. lbs.) - 20 Round Box

1. S&W mod. 60, 2 inch barrel - 854 fps (256 ft. lbs.)
2. S&W mod. 66, 2.5 inch barrel - 871 fps (266 ft. lbs.)
3. Ruger SP101, 3 inch barrel - 930 fps (303 ft. lbs.)
4. S&W Mt. Gun, 4 inch barrel - 979 fps (336 ft. lbs.

Due to customer demand, we've developed this defensive 38SPL ammo. Our customers wanted some devastating 38SPL loads that would fill the following criteria.

1. It won't hurt older/fragile/alloy revolvers. (Non +P)
2. Is effective as a "fight stopper" through the use of proper bullets.
3. Is more powerful than typical/standard, weak 38SPL ammo.
4. Generate much less recoil than our +P 38SPL ammo.
5. Is flash suppressed.


Yes over 950+ fps from a 4 inch barrel! Not bad at all! Beats the old FBI load!

Deaf
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Old October 23, 2012, 09:01 PM   #23
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"...but I would rate it below the Critical Defense, Gold Dot, and Buffalo Bore offerings due to its relatively shallow penetration."
Nothing in standard pressure will out-perform the Buffalo Bore 150 grain hard cast WC. It will blow through two feet of ballistic gelatin in a straight line. The Buffalo Bore 158 grain SWC is soft cast and has a much smaller meplat and is nowhere close to the better choice, the 150 WC
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Old October 23, 2012, 10:14 PM   #24
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Quote:
Nothing in standard pressure will out-perform the Buffalo Bore 150 grain hard cast WC. It will blow through two feet of ballistic gelatin in a straight line. The Buffalo Bore 158 grain SWC is soft cast and has a much smaller meplat and is nowhere close to the better choice, the 150 WC
I agree.
Howard
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Old October 24, 2012, 10:14 AM   #25
Nanuk
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Quote:
It will blow through two feet of ballistic gelatin in a straight line.

I would like to see that. I would also ask what does that do for SD? I saw lots of people shot with 148 grain lead wadcutters from all manner of guns probably in the 750 fps area and they were generally unimpressed. The wounds that I saw on real people were shallow and the soft lead did not deform.

One was a fellow cop who was shot 2" bellow the belt on his left pelvis, he still killed the BG, reloaded his 357, and waited for us to get there.

My question is this; If the 148 grain LSWC is anemic and a very poor performer at 750 fps, what is 100 FPS gonna do to make it a "Manstopper"?

If you were to add 400-500 fps and a hardcast you may have something.
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