View Full Version : Hunting with the 38 special

September 15, 2007, 11:57 PM
I know that the 38 special is deemed inadequate for big game.. But I'm curious how many people have hunted with a 38 special revolver.. Whether it be rabbits or rhinos lets hear your tale.. Ps include gun and ammo info please..

September 15, 2007, 11:59 PM
I use 38 Wadcutters in a revolver to shoot grouse while I'm hunting Deer or Elk. Food for the pot & a lot easier to get out of the woods!

September 16, 2007, 12:16 AM
When I was a kid I used to hunt rabbits with a 4" Model 10 using .38 wadcutters. I haven't done it in years. HHHmmmmm........that gives me an idea for this year.

Peter M. Eick
September 16, 2007, 06:58 AM
I also used to hunt grouse and rabbit with my 38. I always shot 158 SWC's and never had a problem. The key is to try and see them before the run/fly otherwise the "on the move" shot is quite difficult and truly random luck.

Many a dinner was provided by my little 38 Diamondback.

September 16, 2007, 07:34 AM
Inhimwelive: Sir; Yes. Caution you; know your State Game Laws before proceeding.


September 16, 2007, 10:50 AM
Rabbits and squirrels are taken easily with wadcutters and semi wadcutters. In the one or two times I used the 158 RNL it was disappointing. I've taken one deer with a 158 grain SWC (neck shot) that was an instant kill. The .38 is legal in my state for deer because the law for handgunning them only requires the gun to be centerfire with an exposed lead bullet (no FMJ) and a minimum of a 4" barrel. A centerfire handgun can only be used for rabbit and squirrel when there is a centerfire season (such as modern gun for deer), otherwise you're restricted to rimfire for small game.

September 16, 2007, 11:28 AM
I loaded some 148g hollow base wadcutters backwards (like a HUGE hollow point) and it shure made a mess of sagerats!!!!!!! also some snakes with home loaded .38 snake shot. all were out of a S&W 65, 4"

September 16, 2007, 04:13 PM
I haven't tried it, but the .38Spl is sort of a "tweener" for hunting. I'ts a bit much for the little critters like squirrels and rabbits (unless you don't plan on eating them). For the little guys a .22LR is far better. Even a .22Mag might be too much for them.

It's not enough for white-tails, and not legal for them in many places. It probably would work with the right loads, but since some yobatz would probably go after them with an old S&W M10 with LRN rounds, they've disallowed them altogether.

For fox, 'yotes, raccoons, whistlepigs, skunks, and the like, the .38 should be just fine.

Every caliber has its place. That's why you own more than one of them, don't you?

September 16, 2007, 09:54 PM
I used to pack a M10 S&W in a Safariland shoulder holster for treerats and the odd grouse. I used a Lyman #358429 over 3.5 of Bullseye, and the load shot right on POA. I used it for practice and could make splinters out of a broken broom handle standing up at 10 yds. I took countless reds with it when they started broadcasting my position to the world. I never got to try for a deer with it only because it was underpowered for the job. Sure got the squirrels attention though. Enjoy. CB.

September 17, 2007, 07:20 AM
"For the little guys a .22LR is far better"

Not so true in my experience.

I say it all has to do with bullet choice.

I stopped using the CCI Stingers yrs. Ago.

There alright if you make a head shoot. (But what a mess if you don’t.)
I got Rabbits and squirrels a few times that looked like they were hit with a
.300 Mag. :eek:

I switched to the standard velocity .22 cal target ammo.
With much better results. :)

From what I understand a wad cutter makes about the same size hole going out as it does on entry.


September 17, 2007, 08:41 AM
In my state 38's are illegal for small game you have to use 22's. But I can legally use any centerfire on deer and bear... Think I will take out the 25 auto for bear this fall.. :D

September 17, 2007, 11:26 AM
You can hunt with them here in wa state. I have a .38 special but have not hunted with it. Mostly because it makes more sense to carry my .44 mag in the woods. A guy I met hunts rabbits with his.38 special. And there is a guide who says they got a black bear with a .38 special. Though im not sure why you would choose that caliber for hunting a black bear. Im sure it would work fine for small game though.

September 18, 2007, 04:14 PM
InHimWeLive: Sir; Based on your latest post; I'm going to guess that maybe you are from NC. If so; handgun minimum is .28 caliber.
Sir; check your state hunting regulations before you visit the "iron bar hotel"
We can send you a card if needed.:)

good luck; Craig

September 19, 2007, 12:09 AM
Craig ya guessed wrong .. I am from PA and in Pa you can hunt deer and bear with any centerfire caliber... However you have to use guns of less than 23 caliber to hunt small game.. My examples were only to point out the stupidity in the law..

September 19, 2007, 08:06 AM
Anyone know if they make 38/357 ammo.
sabot'ed down to .22 cal. for us PA. guys
who want to use our revolvers for small game?

I agree Inhimwelive that is a jacked up law we have. :mad:

September 21, 2007, 08:06 PM
I don't think it would matter. In PA a 50 caliber flintlock with a saboted 40 caliber bullet is not legal for small game either. In the same 50 caliber flintlock the 40 caliber bullet is not legal for deer. It must be .44 or larger. For small game a muzzleloader must be .40 or less. Small game handguns must be .223 caliber. Kind of makes you wonder because the 22 mag bullet is .224 but it is a rimfire? I use a Ruger single six 22 for small game and it works great. I only shoot a sitting game on the ground with max range about 30 yards. I carry it in a hip hoster along with my 20 gauge. I once took it out with a buddy hunting rabbit I got two sitters and he didn't get anything with his shotgun.

September 21, 2007, 10:39 PM
One time, I got invited to a hunt just a night before the hunt. I had my S&W 686, and I decided to stick with it for the hunt. The gun didn't have a scope, but the orange front blade makes it pretty easy to hit large targets, even up to 100 yards or so. I had it loaded with .38 Special 158 grain LRN rounds.

I woke up in the morning at 4:30 a.m., drove out to the country, and I was settled into a tree stand (in the timber) by 6:30 a.m. It was a really quiet morning, where everything very still with hardly any wind.

Just when the sun started coming up, I heard a huge crash of what sounded like tree branches. It was so loud that I was sure it was another hunter. Just to my right, about 80 yards away, I saw a small sapling tree crash to the gound. And out of nowhere, an enormous bull moose stepped out into a clearing.

It was huge. It was 80 yards away, and it still looked huge! :eek: I knew right away that it had to be at close to 1600 pounds. It had huge, thick antlers. I slowly raised the revolver and waited for the moose to turn broadside.

After what seemed an eternity, the moose took three steps to the right and presented a perfect broadside shot. The Smith's sights were zeroed at 100 yards, so I pulled back the hammer, put the front sight right on top of the moose's shoulder, and slowly pulled the trigger.

The .38 Special round went right where I'd aimed on the shoulder. It broke the scapula in half, continued to travel through the moose, and totally ripped up both lungs. The exit wound was at least a 4" hole, and that LRN drilled right throuh a huge rib on exit. The moose simply flopped; I think it was dead before it hit the ground. I was able to tag it right away.

I was really lucky to have drawn one of only a few bull moose tags that were issued for only 10 years or so back in the 80's; Nebraska only used to allow you to draw for a moose tag once every 5 years!
The .38 Special was an excellent round for moose. Just about everyone in Nebraska uses it for moose.

September 22, 2007, 12:16 AM
Thats great Fremmer now I feel confident that I can take down bigfoot with my 38......

September 22, 2007, 06:17 PM
Whether it be rabbits or rhinos lets hear your tale


September 22, 2007, 08:05 PM
Inhimwelive; Fremmer; and I thought NC had some strange hunting laws.
We don't have Moose; and if we did I'm not sure me and mine would go to the attack:)
Folks; be good and safe:)

September 24, 2007, 01:44 PM
The .38 Special round went right where I'd aimed on the shoulder. It broke the scapula in half, continued to travel through the moose, and totally ripped up both lungs. The exit wound was at least a 4" hole, and that LRN drilled right throuh a huge rib on exit. The moose simply flopped; I think it was dead before it hit the ground. I was able to tag it right away.

From all bad press the 38 Special has received as a self defense round, I would have never expected this sort of result. I am very surprised.

September 24, 2007, 09:35 PM
Nope, I go from .22 straight to .357 magnum and up to .454 Casull.

September 24, 2007, 10:02 PM
I am very surprised.

Oh, you shouldn't be. The LRN .38 standard-pressure round is somethin' fierce on large, dangerous game (like moose). Ask anyone in Nebraska. It actually makes the 300 Weatherby mag look pretty weak.

We have big herds of moose spread out across thousands of acres of Nebraska. Nebraska is known as the moose-capital of the world! Nebraska's governor once proclaimed that "Nebraska's moose steak is the best in the state."

.38SPL enthusiast
September 24, 2007, 10:36 PM
I carry an old model 10, loaded with 148 grain wadcutters, in a flap holster on my hip when I'm out working around on the farm. It's seen a lot of impromptu varmint hunting over the years when I've wandered across a destructive pest. I've always found the wadcutters seem to work great on everything from groundhog to fair size coyote at pistol ranges. I've never attempted farther than about fifty yards out in the field. I love the cartidge's fairly low sound level for these hunts. Minimal hearing protection is sufficient.

September 25, 2007, 02:06 PM
I've got three friends who've taken whitetails with them. All used 158-grain LSWCs. At least one revolver was a 4" Model 10. I don't believe this would be legal in my state (which uses the cartridge case length to define what's legal for deer :rolleyes: ), but I presume it was in theirs. If I recall correctly, two of the three deer dropped immediately and one required a second round. I believe all three deer were taken at under 25 yards.

I know a fellow who's a guide here in NM who's killed several (don't know the exact count) cougars with .38s. A 4" Model 15. (Big cats turn out not to be that difficult to kill.)

There certainly is a lot of blather about how the .38 Special is a barely adequate personal defense round. In the handgun killings I've seen, it works every bit as well as any other handgun caliber that might be used. I'd expect it would do a fine job on a lot of smaller game.