The Firing Line Forums

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

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old August 26, 2013, 03:35 PM   #1
ZVP
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 20, 2009
Posts: 814
.38 special popularity

Todays trend towards "carry" guns has brought both the .380 and .38 Special into a new spotlight!
The .30 has it's following mainly becuse of the trim, slender semi-autos that shoot it but it falls behind in basic bullet weight.
Generally speaking the .38 Special launches a basic 158 gr RNlead bullet with 148 gr full wadcutters and some 30-ish weight FMJloads. This places it way ahead of the 380, .38 S&W and .38 Long Colt.
Most lightweight frame revolvers today are even +P rated! A huge advance.
The basic .38 Special loading fired from either a Snubbie or a 4" makes for an ideal self defense gun. The small dimensions of the "J" Frame S&W's make them ideal carry guns and a "K" or "L" framed revolver makes a dandy service revolver or HD, and trailmate. The meduim framed guns of many makes have hung on Police and Security belts for decades!
Why? Because the .38 Special simply works! It has proven it's worth inshootouts and given yeomans service with it's fight stopping capibilities.
For years I desired a Model 36 and somehow the money always got spent on something else and I ended up carrying a lesser caliber for self/Home Defense A deal came up about a year ago and the stars were in the right orbits and I bought it! I haven't looked back since and now have 4 guns in the caliber!
Reloading-wise the cartrige is economical as it uses the Small Pistol Primers and case volume needed is nearly minimal to maintain basic SAMMI Standards. Bullet-wise the reloader has a good variety of designs to choose from and the basic LRN and LSWC are accurate and lethal. Jacketed RN and JHP's in different weights allow the handloader to taylor custom ammo of his choice.
Factory .38 Special loads are quite varied and those owners of adjustable sight revolvers have a lot to play with.
All my .38 SSpecials are Fixed Sight guns and I have found favor with the Remington LRN 158 gr load and with handloads, a 158gr LSWC does the trick.
For a cartige dating back to the beginning of the last century, I cannot find fault with the .38 Special, and with the literal flood of renewed and new models from different manufacturers, it appears I am not alone!
ZVP
ZVP
ZVP is offline  
Old August 26, 2013, 03:50 PM   #2
Dragline45
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 30, 2010
Posts: 2,449
Quote:
This places it way ahead of the 380
I wouldn't say way ahead. Considering most people using the .38 special are firing them from a 1 7/8" barrel, you are certainly not gaining the full potential of the round. As far as 158gr .38 specials, they just don't reach high enough speeds out of a snub to reliably expand compared to 125gr offerings when using HP ammunition, especially when fired out of a 1 7/8" barrel.

I have come to the conclusion that the gap between the performance of the .38 special out of a snub and a .380 pocket pistol is small enough where the extra capacity, smaller size, and faster reloads with a .380 outweighs the slight advantage of the .38 special.

Considering small .38 snubs hold 5 rounds, and the average .380 pocket pistol carries 6+1 for a total of 7, the .380 has a round capacity 40% greater than the .38 snub. When you are talking about limited capacity pistols, that's a pretty big difference.

Now I think both are great choices. My EDC for around 3 years was a .38 special J frame, but lately I have switched over to the .380 mainly due to the smaller size and larger capacity.

Last edited by Dragline45; August 26, 2013 at 06:39 PM.
Dragline45 is offline  
Old August 26, 2013, 05:44 PM   #3
2damnold4this
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 12, 2009
Location: Athens, Georgia
Posts: 1,315
I like the .38 special. It's a little more powerful than the .380 if you need it to be and it's easy to reload.
2damnold4this is offline  
Old August 26, 2013, 09:01 PM   #4
DPris
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 19, 2004
Posts: 4,605
The old 158 LRN is one of the least efficient/effective bullets in the caliber, not to be recommended for defensive use, if you were considering them.
Would not go with the 148 wadcutters for that type of use, either.
Denis
DPris is offline  
Old August 26, 2013, 11:13 PM   #5
Bill56
Member
 
Join Date: February 14, 2013
Posts: 28
I believe the 3" barrel is where you get the most out of the +P rated .38 spl ammo as the felt recoil will be reduced. The longer barrel also gives you an increased sight length. It's still easily concealable IWB although not for pocket carry. I'd like to own a .38 with a 3" barrel for summer carry and will when funds permit.
Bill56 is offline  
Old August 27, 2013, 06:30 AM   #6
Bezoar
Junior member
 
Join Date: October 19, 2004
Location: michigan
Posts: 578
the 38 special truly is leaps and bounds ahead of the .380. the most easily found ammunition at the moment at wally mart in either caliber is hydrashok. Not exactly the most up todate bullet. but ive seen that when the 38 special versions open, they still have that important thing called penetration.
Bezoar is offline  
Old August 27, 2013, 06:51 AM   #7
Skadoosh
Senior Member
 
Join Date: December 13, 2010
Location: Virginia
Posts: 1,775
I carry 158gr LSWCHP ammo in a Colt snubby with no reservations ... and have done for over a decade.
__________________
NRA Life Member (2003)
USN Retired
I think that one of the notions common to the anti-gunner is the idea that being a victim is 'noble'; as if it is better to be noble in your suffering than disruptive in your own defense.
Skadoosh is offline  
Old August 27, 2013, 07:35 AM   #8
salvadore
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 1, 2007
Location: Idaho
Posts: 1,845



These are a couple of bullets I cast for my Colt Cobra 2", the hollow point was shot into gallon jugs of water with the Colt. I also like the wadcutter for SD.
salvadore is offline  
Old August 27, 2013, 08:28 AM   #9
Mike Irwin
Staff
 
Join Date: April 13, 2000
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 35,973
I shoot the Speer 135-gr. Gold Dot +P HP out of my S&W 042.

When shot into water at about 15 feet I found that bullets were expanding to almost .50 caliber and penetration was on the order of 16 or more inches.
__________________
"The gift which I am sending you is called a dog, and is in fact the most precious and valuable possession of mankind" -Theodorus Gaza

Baby Jesus cries when the fat redneck doesn't have military-grade firepower.
Mike Irwin is offline  
Old August 27, 2013, 09:01 AM   #10
Beretta686
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 11, 2005
Location: Texas
Posts: 731
.38 Special is like a Ford Taurus or other boring, yet very functional and pragmatic car. It's not sexy, nor will your friends be wowed by it. They're probably spanking it to the latest wiz-bang cartridge to come out (357 Sig, 5.7x28mm, 45GAP or whatever). But you're going to be just fine armed with a .38.
__________________
"Our contract called for 16 cases of rifles and ammunition for $10,000 dollars, not a machine gun...........That is our present to the General"-Pike Bishop

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”
Beretta686 is offline  
Old August 27, 2013, 09:14 AM   #11
skoro
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 30, 2008
Location: Texas
Posts: 1,712
Maybe it's just me...

... but I must be too old to grasp the allure of the new, Johnny-come-lately boutique calibers. Seems to me they're mostly marketing gimmicks. They don't do a single thing better than the established calibers like 38spl, 9mm or 45acp that I can see.

Same can be said for the nutty proliferation of rifle calibers.

Oh, yeah. While I'm at it, "Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!"
skoro is offline  
Old August 27, 2013, 09:47 AM   #12
ozo
Member
 
Join Date: July 9, 2013
Location: Nashville TN
Posts: 36
Most know Elmer Keith for the .44magnum.
He shot the .38 extensively also.
I believe what he said, and my own experience
reflects it.
ozo is offline  
Old August 27, 2013, 04:38 PM   #13
Webleymkv
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 20, 2005
Location: Indiana
Posts: 9,887
Quote:
I wouldn't say way ahead. Considering most people using the .38 special are firing them from a 1 7/8" barrel, you are certainly not gaining the full potential of the round.
You're not going to be getting the full potential from a .380 fired from the short barrels of guns like a Ruger LCP, Kel-Tec P3AT, Taurus TCP, or Sig P238 either. Most advertised .380 velocities are from 3.75-4" barrels but the subcompact .380's which seem to be so popular these days almost all use barrels under 3".

Quote:
As far as 158gr .38 specials, they just don't reach high enough speeds out of a snub to reliably expand compared to 125gr offerings when using HP ammunition, especially when fired out of a 1 7/8" barrel.
It depends on what type of bullet you're using. Something with a soft all-lead bullet like Remington's 158gr LSWCHP +P expands quite well even at the reduced velocities obtained from a snub.

On the other hand, due to it's light weight, even premium JHP loadings in .380 such as Winchester Ranger and PDX1, Speer Gold Dot, or Hornady Critical Defense often have trouble penetrating to 12" or more in ballistic gel. On the other hand, going with a heavier bullet like Remington's 102gr Golden Saber usually gives good penetration but unreliable expansion. It is because of this that many knowledgeable people recommend FMJ ammunition in .380 so that at least penetration is guaranteed.
__________________
Smith, and Wesson, and Me. -H. Callahan
Well waddaya know, one buwwet weft! -E. Fudd
All bad precedents begin as justifiable measures. -J. Caesar
Webleymkv is offline  
Old August 27, 2013, 04:53 PM   #14
PawPaw
Senior Member
 
Join Date: December 24, 2010
Location: Central Louisiana
Posts: 3,112
A .38 special is what's in my pocket right now. It's what's in my pocket most of the time.
__________________
Dennis Dezendorf

http://pawpawshouse.blogspot.com
PawPaw is offline  
Old August 28, 2013, 06:39 AM   #15
Leejack
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 15, 2007
Location: The Alamo!
Posts: 2,024
I've always been a fan of the .38 Special, been shooting them for a long time and have no reservations about their capability.
Leejack is offline  
Old August 28, 2013, 06:14 PM   #16
Pezo
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 15, 2005
Location: Macomb, Mich
Posts: 632
It's darn popular were I'm at. S/E mich! I can barely find it on the shelves anywhere but .357, 9mm,380,40 etc up the whazoi
Pezo is offline  
Old August 28, 2013, 06:32 PM   #17
ZVP
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 20, 2009
Posts: 814
Thanks for all the posts guys!
There's a good deal of ideas to ponder in this thread mainly penetration. There is no doubt that a relatively heavy bullet moving at medium speed , will outpenetrate lighter JHPammo fired from a short barreled Semi-Auto. Even a 1 7/8" J frame shooting a 158 gr bullet has more penetration potential thanthe aforementioned light bullet short barrel .380.
I am sold on the heavier bullet theroy.
My favorite .38 revolver is a HB Model 10 but it is rather a large gun and normally requires an outside the pants belt holster. It's 4" barrel DOES make use of the additional barrel length to burn the powder and get the velocities up though!Fired from this venerable 4", todays High Preformance.38 Special ammo actually gets up to speeds where reliable expansion can be counted upon.
The trouble is most of us don't or can't always carry a 4" belt holster and opt for a "J" Frame. I am guilty as anyone else and carry a Model 36 Chiefs Special stoked with Speers XTP bulleted .38 Special ammo. With it, recoil is low as is Muzzle Flash and the high preformance Speer bullet is designed to preform from short barrels.
Noone can discount the advantage of the Semi-Auto .380's 6+1 capacity over a "J" frame's 5 shots that's for sure! Ya never know when those extra shots might be needed!
I'm still going to stick with my .38 Specials though, I just feel more comfortable with their bullet weights and penetration.
BPDave
ZVP is offline  
Old August 29, 2013, 06:30 AM   #18
Kreyzhorse
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 12, 2006
Location: NKY
Posts: 11,481
I'd also suggest that part of the popularity is that it can be chambered in .357s.

A .357 snub can be a bear to shoot so the .38 becomes a cheaper, easier option at the range. That fact alone certainly helps the .38s popularity.

Besides that, it is simply a proven cartridge that works.
__________________
"He who laughs last, laughs dead." Homer Simpson
Kreyzhorse is offline  
Old August 29, 2013, 08:12 AM   #19
Noreaster
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 30, 2011
Location: New England
Posts: 1,324
Something that has always been in the back of my mind with pocket carry is the lint and other crud getting into the gun, couple that with some 380s not being the most reliable feeding firearm. I feel more secure with a 38spl snubby.
Noreaster is offline  
Old August 29, 2013, 08:37 AM   #20
dahermit
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 28, 2006
Location: South Central Michigan...near Ohio, Indiana.
Posts: 3,505
One of the reasons it is popular with me is that with my cast bullets and hand loads, it is so much fun to plink, plink, plink (I have steel bowling pin targets at my home range), with. 125 grain cast, 3.0 Bullseye, fun inexpensive, unpretentious.
__________________
Sometimes you get what you pay for, sometimes you only pay more for what you get.
Three shots are not a "group"...they are a "few".

If the Bible is the literal, infallible, unerring word of God...where are all those witches I am supposed to kill?
dahermit is offline  
Old August 29, 2013, 08:37 AM   #21
CajunBass
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 6, 2005
Location: North Chesterfield, Virginia
Posts: 3,421
Quote:
I'd also suggest that part of the popularity is that it can be chambered in .357s.

A .357 snub can be a bear to shoot so the .38 becomes a cheaper, easier option at the range. That fact alone certainly helps the .38s popularity.

Besides that, it is simply a proven cartridge that works.
That's probably a big part of it. I've owned dozens of 357's and almost never shoot 357 ammo in them. It doesn't matter if I'm shooting a Model 15 or a Model 19, I can pick up the same ammo for them. I'm just punching holes in paper or making a can jump around 99.999% of the time anyway.
__________________
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16 (NKJV)
CajunBass is offline  
Old August 29, 2013, 11:54 AM   #22
amd6547
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 27, 2006
Posts: 1,406
Not me...I love shooting the 357...
Spent an enjoyable day yesterday shooting magnums through my GP100. It will probably not see much 38 at all.
I have 38's for that.
__________________
The past is gone...the future may never happen.
Be Here Now.
amd6547 is offline  
Old August 29, 2013, 02:22 PM   #23
ZVP
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 20, 2009
Posts: 814
I'm doing amo trsting and general shootability tests with my .357, 4 5/8" Ruger Vaquero
I bought the revolver because Ihave always been a fan of the SA and to tell the truth all but 4 of my handguns are SA's and always have been. It just worked out that way and even as entrenched as I am in this and the last century, my guns have been Single Actions. They feel "natural" to me!
Back to the ammo tests. I bought the Vaquero with intentions of shooting the potent .357 for defense and mainly shooting the .38 Special for fun and the economy of it.
One day I got to wondering about the difference between the +P and a regular .38 Special? I had never shot a +P so I decided to try a couple boxes through the Ruger and compare them to the .357 for accuracy and felt recoil. The Ruger is heavy enough that even potent .357's don't recoil heavilly and the revolver is quite controlable.
\ Last week I ran inital tests and was suprised by the recoil of the hot 125 gr bullets! They kicked much harder than standard .38 Specials in the Vaquero. Somewhere around 45% as much as a full house .357 does1
I couldn't truely evaluate the accuracy because I was firing my newly aquired Model 10S&W previously and still had the "New Gun Shakes" from it. However my groups were larger with the +P ammo but who can say it was a fair test?
I did decide thatthe +P would make a fine subistitute for the .357 as a "Trail Load" carried afield instead of the ultra loud, full magnums. In all but dangerous game areas, it would make a fine load to use!
I plan further testing to justify my hunch about the +p.
I am shooting both the Magtech+P Guardian ammo and the Remington Golden Sabers (not yet accuracy tested).
I have been advised that both my steel framed Model 36 and Model 10 will handle +P ammo but to prevent any chance of harm to either, I will only shoot standard .38's through them.
BPDave
ZVP is offline  
Old August 29, 2013, 08:09 PM   #24
Crankgrinder
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 24, 2011
Location: Texas
Posts: 676
"As far as 158gr .38 specials, they just don't reach high enough speeds out of a snub to reliably expand compared to 125gr offerings when using HP ammunition, especially when fired out of a 1 7/8" barrel."

those 158 lswchp have been killing people for an awfully long time and they arent about to quit anytime soon. They have been shown to reliably expand in such situations due to the fact that theres no copper jacket to peel back. Have you looked at offerings by buffalo bore?
Crankgrinder is offline  
Old August 29, 2013, 10:12 PM   #25
5thShock
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 28, 2006
Posts: 255
That full wadcutter doesn't look like it needs any jug or jello testing. Just seeing it convinces. Brutal.
5thShock 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 04:59 AM.


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 0.13855 seconds with 7 queries