Non +P for older S&W M-38 Airweight


June 1, 2006, 09:16 PM
I've been trying to reaseach some good rounds for my mom's carry gun. She's had this Smith for years as a nightstand gun and now wants to give it some field experience. I don't think it's up to the +p regimen. For years I've just given her extra LRN and FMJ non +p to keep around and practice with. I never put any +p in it because in my ignorant younger days I thought +p could only go in all steel.

Does anyone have any oppinion on the Magtech offerings. I was thinking maybe this 158gr SJHP

It's either that or Winchester Silvertips 110gr (seem to be popular when I was reading).

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Gary A
June 1, 2006, 11:13 PM
Hopefully, you will get a range of suggestions. I've been considering the same thing for a bit and here are a couple of suggestions. The old Federal Nyclad 125 non Plus P hollow point is discontinued but a nice load if you can find some. The Silvertip you mentioned seems a bit slow (around 800 fps from a 2 inch) from the data I've found on it but seems to have a good reputation for opening up (and therefore not penetrating deeply). The Federal 110 grain Personal Defense seems to have a pretty good reputation. It is standard pressure, low recoil, and seems to usually run in the mid 800's fps give or take. Hornady makes a 125, a 140, and a 158 grain JHP at standard pressure. They seem very scarce around here and I get the idea that they don't open very well, or so I gather. Honestly, so many tests seem to show the rarity of HPs opening up from snubbies, that I begin to think a 158 grain LSW at between 670-700 fps might be as good as anything. It will penetrate and maybe deform.

Jim Watson
June 1, 2006, 11:42 PM
For practice, shoot what's cheap. Bullet type doesn't matter.

For defense, +P isn't going to blow up an Airweight and she is not likely to shoot enough to wear it out.

MY M38 gets 158 gr lead hollowpoint +P for business, though I will try the 135 gr Speer snubnose load my next purchase.
158 gr roundnose is close enough for practice.

June 1, 2006, 11:48 PM
Looking at the difference in frame width between my recent vintage 642 and 1980 vintage 37, I stoke the 37 with the 110 Silvertip for carry. The 642 is certainly a much "beefier" weapon, and is carried with the 135 +P Gold Dot.

Both pistols digest either 148 HBWC or 122 Cowboy bullets for general range use.

June 3, 2006, 09:48 AM
i would second the 110gr. silver tips, or at least the 158gr. swc.

but as said before, if the gun hasnt been shot all to hell with +p in the will suffer little wear with a modest amount of +p now.

for a novice woman, using a light weight snubby, id opt for the lightest +p i could find or the heaviest non +p h.p. i could find.

wwb isnt a bad choice.

June 3, 2006, 12:04 PM
I keep my 1951 vintage S&W Military & Police loaded with Federal personal defense 110 grain Hydra Shok JHP's.

Gary A
June 11, 2006, 12:28 AM
Although I made some suggestions earlier, your question about Magtech got me too looking and your right...that Magtech 158 grain SJHP in standard pressure (38E) looks pretty good. MT lists it at 807 fps from a 4 inch barrel so it should get 700-725 from a 1 7/8 inch barrel which is better than the standard LSWCs (nominal 755 fps from 4 inch). It might not expand but it would hit harder. I check at the shop I frequent and his distributor was out at the moment but I'm going to try some as soon as I find them. Thanks. In a pinch, their cowboy load (38L) a lead roundnose at 800 fps from 4 inch might not be too bad also but being "cowboy" it is pricey. They were out of those also.

R. W. Simms
June 11, 2006, 07:24 AM
I have alloy carry revolvers (Colt Agent & S&W 638) and the MagTech 158 grain JHP is the best standard-pressure JHP ammo I've found. It's accurate, reliable, and in my primitive testing it expands pretty well. I get it from Midway since nobody near me seems to stock it. Might be a better round out there but you could also do a lot worse than the Magtech. I like it.


June 11, 2006, 10:11 AM
I emailed S&W about my model 37 Airweight and +P ammo. They told me occasional practice use and carry use was fine. I think these guns are stronger than many people suspect, and the small difference in pressure won't harm them.


June 11, 2006, 12:29 PM
I have what is probably a contrary opinion about this, and that opinion is bound to be jumped on here, but what the heck, I'll tell you my thoughts. Correct any erroneous assumptions I present here, please.

From a 2" barreled snubbie, can one be guaranteed a HP will have enough velocity to expand? If so, won't there then be a heck of a muzzle-flash and a corresponding large amount of recoil? This thread was started in the desire to suggest defense ammo for the poster's mother. It would seem recoil and muzzle-flash would be detrimental to the purposes of this usage.

Here comes the contrarian suggestion: In my airweight S&W 638, I load the cylinder with S&B 148gr wadcutters. Yes, target wadcutters! Here's why. It does much to alleviate the negatives I mentioned in paragraph two. The recoil is minimal, and the muzzle-flash is the least of any ammo choice. The bullet design, and the fact that it's soft lead imparts necessary blunt force to the intended target, and I can place five quick shots into a torso-sized target with great rapidity. Muzzle rise is minimal, and double taps are simple.

It would seem to me to be a great choice for the first cylinder full. This bullet design is a poor choice to use in speed loaders, since there's no external bullet to help guide the rounds into the cylinders. OK, let me have it, and correct my misguided belief! :)

June 11, 2006, 03:51 PM
no flames from me Husker.
if thats the best round you can shoot, then so be it. if you can handle a more potent round then do so.

i do not condone the blanketed use of +p anything for anybody.

i say start with a light load and work you way up to the best one you can handle. whether thats a 148gr. target wadcutter or a 158gr. lswchp +p, so be it.

Seven High
June 12, 2006, 08:20 PM
Are the sights on S & W j frames set up for any particular weight of bullet?

June 12, 2006, 08:32 PM
Don't quote me on this but I belive they are set for 158 gr. I don't know where I read/heard that but that is what I was told. I've shot plenty of standard lead and FMJ 158 gr out of this revolver in question and been pretty accurate with it.

That being said I'm pretty accurate with lower weight +p's out of my Taurus 85.

When the J-Frame came out there was no +p and there weren't all of these different bullet weights/designs. Lead was what was available.

June 14, 2006, 05:11 PM
I whole heartedly concur with RW SIMS' selection of MagTech® load 38E; 158gr JHP. It's what I carry in my S&W® Mdl 37 Airweight®. My security company has had 3 shootings in the last decade with this load; all three were one-shot-stops (2=COM, 1=NECK). SevenHigh, ALL (Ruger®, S&W®, Taurus®, etc) fixed sight 38 Special & 357 Magnum revolvers are sighted in at the factory with 158gr bullets. My S&W® Airweight® is DEAD ON 0-15yds with standard pressure 158gr bullets regardless of manufacturer. My S&W® Mdl 686 & Taurus® Mdl 617 are also DEAD ON 0-25yds with any factory 357 Magnum 158gr bullet. They are futher DEAD ON 0-10,12yds with any factory 158gr 38 Special loading, Std Pressure or +P.

Tequila jake
September 5, 2006, 03:25 PM
I shot the following loads from a new S&W 638 and a new S&W 340PD a couple of weekends ago and only the 158 gr loads shot to point of aim:

110 gr Feder Low-Recoil Personal Defense
148 gr Remington Target Wadcutters
Winchester "White Box" 125 gr JSW
Winchester "White Box" 158 gr LSW
Winchester 158 gr LSWHP ("FBI Load")

Recoil was stiffer with the 158 gr loads, but not unmanageable. The recoil from the FBI load was somewhat greater than that of the standard pressure 158 gr, but not greatly so. It seemed to have more of a torquing or twisting effect than the standard pressure load.

Tequila Jake

September 5, 2006, 08:58 PM
Right on Husker1911!! The 148 wad is the best round for non plus P alloy snubbies--bar none. Even at 700 fps, the wad will penetrate 12-14 inches of ballistic gel, and that's the same as a 158 gr. semiwad HP. The difference is that the full wadcutter is ALREADY expanded when it leaves the muzzle. The 158 may or may not expand.:rolleyes:

September 7, 2006, 08:57 PM
Husker I agree with you also - I have the exact same S&W model 38 airweight earlier non +P model.

I have shot some 158 +P's thru it and they are a BEAR! I would never load that for my wife...she gets the 148 gr target load and follow up shots are 1000 times better (for me).

added: it helps to replace the 2 finger boot grip with a 3 finger model

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