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Old October 15, 2023, 10:18 PM   #1
Malcolm_Reynolds
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Best Defensive Ammo for .38 Snubby and Pocket .380

I’m looking for recommendations on the best carry ammo for a .38 special snubby and a Ruger LCP. I’m not overly concerned with recoil, just looking for the best ballistics I can get out of these short barrels in both .38 and .380. I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos but I’m looking for advice based on y’all’s experience. Thanks in advance!
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Old October 16, 2023, 01:40 PM   #2
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Welcome Malcolm. I don't know on the .380. But I've occasionally chronographed .38 Spcl. ammunition in the little 2" revolvers. Best ballistics I've ever encountered in these short barrels is the Underwood ammunition. I recently chronographed the Underwood 125 and 158 grain .38 +P in a 2" gun. The 125 grain averaged 1090 FPS, the 158 grain 1055 FPS. This is far better than any major manufacturer .38+P I'd tested in past. If you decide to use either of the Underwood loads I tested, especially the 158 grain, in a little revolver, it's good you're not overly concerned with recoil. Buffalo Bore advertises similar loadings. While I've chronographed other BB loads, I've not yet tested any of their .38+P offerings..
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Old October 16, 2023, 08:26 PM   #3
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Thanks! Much appreciated.
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Old October 17, 2023, 06:55 AM   #4
Mike Irwin
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I carry Speer Gold Dot 135-gr +Ps.
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Old October 17, 2023, 07:13 PM   #5
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In 38 special I like the gold dot 135 grain +p, or the winchester RA38B. In 380 I like hornady critical defense or any good factory loading of the XTP projectile.
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Old October 19, 2023, 08:49 AM   #6
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As I’ve posted before— and which is contrary to the forum’s orthodoxy— the best self defense round is the one you can consistently place several of into a paper plate mounted chest-high a few yards away.

Shot placement is far more important than the extra 73 FPS velocity, .03 inches of expansion and half-inch of penetration you might get from that X-Blaster Gold Tip Super-Zowee round at $47 the box of 20 (when you can find them in stock)...

Just one guy’s opinion :-)

Last edited by WmMunny; October 22, 2023 at 10:26 AM.
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Old October 19, 2023, 03:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WmMunny View Post

Shot placement is far more important than the extra 73 FPS velocity, .03 inches of expansion and half-inch of penetration you might get from that X-Blaster Gold Tip Super-Zowee round at $47 the box of 20 (when you can find them in stock)...

Jost one guy’s opinion :-)
Shot placement and those things aren’t mutually exclusive.
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Old October 19, 2023, 05:25 PM   #8
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Remington +P 158 SWCHP and CCI shot shells. We have lots of rattlesnakes and copperheads.
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Old October 20, 2023, 05:52 PM   #9
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This is what you need right here:

https://www.opticsplanet.com/remingt...s-20-roun.html

It is designed to open at lower velocities produced by shorter barrels. You will need to test it in your firearms first for accuracy, reliability and function; just like any ammo. It isn't cheap, but figure it is worth whatever you are worth.
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Old October 20, 2023, 06:20 PM   #10
Malcolm_Reynolds
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Thanks, everyone! Great info here.
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Old October 22, 2023, 01:45 PM   #11
Nick_C_S
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I carry Speer Gold Dot 135-gr +Ps.
Me too. My personal choice. They are crafted specifically for short barreled revolvers.

I have personally chronographed them at 909 f/s through my Smith M60 2" bbl (1 7/8", to be more accurate).

945 f/s through my 4" M67.
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Old October 22, 2023, 05:03 PM   #12
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My favorite .38 Special snubby load is the Federal HST but it's not currently available anywhere. I can't find the Speer Gold Dot 135 grain +p either.

The ammo I can find is Hornady Critical Defense 110 grain +p. Full wadcutters are an option; Either the hard cast specialty loads from companies like Buffalo Bore and Underwood or soft target loads from companies like Federal or Winchester.

The Federal HST +p, Speer 135 grain +p, and Hornady CD were designed to expand in short barrels. Other .38 Special loads like the Speer 125 grain +p were designed for 4" barrels and might not work well in a snubby. A hollow point that doesn't expand acts like an FMJ and performs worse than a wadcutter.

If your firearm has fixed sights, like most snubbies, finding a load that hits to the sights is more important than other factors. Hornady CD 110 grain +p hits to point of aim in one of my snubbies but the federal hst was better in the S&W 342 I prefer to carry. Unfortunately, I am down to four rounds of HST after putting down an injured animal and can't find any more.
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Old October 23, 2023, 07:53 PM   #13
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My favorite .38 Special snubby load is the Federal HST but it's not currently available anywhere.
That is because it has been discontinued.
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Old October 24, 2023, 12:38 PM   #14
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For the .380 ACP option, JHP XTP Underwood 90 grain, in my Beretta 85FS Cheetah 85S.
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Old October 24, 2023, 01:10 PM   #15
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For 380 the Hornady FTX Critical Defense or Sig V Crown:
https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/sel...llistic-tests/
38 snub (omitting HST citing prior post) Winchester PDX Defender & Ranger Bonded
https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/rev...llistics-test/
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Old October 25, 2023, 11:54 AM   #16
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My 380’s are stoked with Remington Golden Saber, just because that was readily available at the time. My daughter’s 38 snub uses Hornady Critical Defense, not sure about the bullet weight but I would guess 130 range. If I was carrying one I’d use my handload of a hollow base wadcutter loaded backwards and AA#5 for about 850 fps.
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Old October 25, 2023, 04:03 PM   #17
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"Best" is a discussion that typically evokes a lot of personal opinions.

Most average folks find the smallest .380's and the 5-shot snub .38's to be difficult to shoot, meaning accurately and controllably. Especially the lightest weight 5-shot snubs, since they produce more felt recoil.

I spoke with an established trainer who was assisting a large PD develop a pilot program for issuing 5-shot snubs for secondary and off-duty roles. During the development phase, testing of assorted officers revealed that the use of the modern +P loads produced some accuracy issues for the officers, especially when some demanding conditions were being used. Then they tried some old-fashioned 148gr target wadcutters. Shooter accuracy & controllability greatly increased ... as did shooter confidence. Last I'd heard, they were looking at adopting the mild TWC loads, although I lost touch with the guy running the program.

Sol, what's 'best'? Choosing the snub (all-steel or lightweight) and ammunition that enhances shooter accuracy and controllability, or choosing ammunition which makes it harder for the shooter to get accurate, effective hits ... even under normal range conditions?

Me? I tend to use one of 2-3 different +P loads in my +P capable snubs, and some various standard pressure JHP's in a snub built on the older Airweight frame (before being rated for a diet of +P). I've found my own balance of accuracy and controllability using the ammunition choices that have been available to me.

Would I still carry one of my snubs if the only ammunition I could find was a 158gr LSWC or 148gr TWC? Well, it's better than 158gr RNL or 130gr Jacketed Ball, I'd think.

Accurate hits matter, and being able to better place accurate hits in anatomically effective areas are arguably easier if the shooter doesn't have controllability and excessive recoil problems. You'd hope, anyway.

My pair of LCP's have typically seen Speer GDHP, Rem GS or W-W T-Series. Why? Because those were the loads available to me. Sure, I've tried some other loads, and while they all feed/fire in my LCP's, in my hands, I prefer using the 3 loads first listed. I'm almost out of the T-Series, though, and won't pay the cost of even the individual officer pricing, so it's the Speer and Rem loads I commonly use. (Whichever box is handiest when loading a magazine.) Now, the .380 is what I consider to be on the lowest rung of 'marginally adequate', and IF a JHP expands, it can come at the cost of penetration.

I tend to choose a 5-shot snub for the bullet weight advantage of the .38 SPL loads I prefer. The LCP .380 is a second choice, for when a jeans pocket might be a bit too short and small to accommodate one of my snubs.

That's me. Everyone has to determine such things for themselves. I arrived at my own choices over the course of many years serving as a LE firearms instructor an armorer, and having followed OIS and other shooting incidents.

There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (TANSTAAFL), though, and not everyone will agree on what may be an acceptable compromise.
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Old December 1, 2023, 04:37 PM   #18
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If you can find them, Federal's Hydra Shok .380 DEEP work very well.

I use them in a Glock 42 which has a longer barrel than the LCP variants.
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Old January 15, 2024, 02:17 AM   #19
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In .380, I prioritize deep penetration over expansion. There are two loads that I particularly like.

For absolute max horsepower, I like the Underwood +p extreme defender load. Expensive self-defense ammo, so I don't shoot too much of it. Plenty of youtube video tests of the stuff.

For a combination of low cost, high velocity, and low recoil, I like the Sinterfire 75gr copper NXG load. I use it for general practice (it's cheaper than most FMJ), and in some guns the recoil reduction is noticeable enough to confer an advantage in shootability/speed, while retaining equal kinetic energy. Thus, I also prefer it for self defense over the typical FMJ. There's nothing fancy about the bullet -- it's just going to poke a FMJ-style hole. Sinterfire also has a fragmenting bullet load that I haven't shot, but that's not the one I'm referring to.
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Old January 15, 2024, 07:26 AM   #20
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For pocket carry, I like -

Airweight 637-2 J-frames.
I lighten them up with titanium .357 mag cylinders and center pins and ream them for 9mm.
147 gr 9x19 gives an average 952 fps and about 293 ft-lbs which I consider to be adequate.
Recoil is painful, and at age 81, I'm no longer a good shot.
But it is still easy to consistently hit a paper plate at 75 feet, which I also consider to be adequate.

For .380, I have two Browning 1911-380/22 convertibles that I also like a lot.
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Old January 15, 2024, 07:37 AM   #21
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My go to 380 ammo is the 380 ACP Federal Hydra-Shok Deep 99Gr (P380HSD1). It has great reviews and cycles well in my Ruger LCP Max.
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Old January 16, 2024, 03:04 PM   #22
lee n. field
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malcolm_Reynolds View Post
I’m looking for recommendations on the best carry ammo for a .38 special snubby and a Ruger LCP. I’m not overly concerned with recoil, just looking for the best ballistics I can get out of these short barrels in both .38 and .380. I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos but I’m looking for advice based on y’all’s experience. Thanks in advance!
"Best ballistics" -- well.

LCP -- whatever will reliably cycle in the gun. I'm not a great lover of the LCP, though it has a (very specialized) niche.

.38 snub -- I see lots of argument on the Interwebz about this. What can you shoot well out of this gun? I see folks advocating for .38 wadcutters, because you're not going to get expansion out of a hollow point. (158 grain LSWC, 3.8gr Bullseye.)
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Old January 16, 2024, 08:50 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimCunn View Post
For pocket carry, I like -

Airweight 637-2 J-frames.
I lighten them up with titanium .357 mag cylinders and center pins and ream them for 9mm.
147 gr 9x19 gives an average 952 fps and about 293 ft-lbs which I consider to be adequate.
Recoil is painful, and at age 81, I'm no longer a good shot.
But it is still easy to consistently hit a paper plate at 75 feet, which I also consider to be adequate.

For .380, I have two Browning 1911-380/22 convertibles that I also like a lot.
I love my little Browning 1911-380!

For those who may not be familiar with them, here's a photo showing mine, next to my full size Nighthawk 1911:




Frank
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Old January 19, 2024, 09:41 AM   #24
BJung
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Speer Gold Dot tests

The Lucky Gunner tests might worth your time to read:
https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/sel...llistic-tests/

If you reload, Speer makes bullet that are specifically designed for short barrels.
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Old January 28, 2024, 09:11 AM   #25
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A fairly constant comment is that a favorite factory load has been discontinued, or is hard to source. Long ago, I decided to load my own. Currently, depending on which J Frame I am carrying, I use a Speer 158 gr LSWC over SR4756 powder or a Hornady XTP 140 gr JHP over Unique. Accurate, reliable, and from my own tests on wild hogs, pretty dang effective.
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