Revisiting the Gold Dot 135gr in both 38+P and 357Mag


Jim March
July 5, 2006, 07:36 PM

Based on a query in private, I took the time to compare in detail recently purchased new Speer Gold Dot 135gr ammo in both 38+P and 357Magnum.

I can confirm that by every possible measurement, they are the same projectile. Shape and length and hollowpoint cavities are flat-out THE SAME.

The magnum flavor is marked on the box "short barrel". Per some Speer data I've seen the Magnum flavor is loaded around 250fps faster than the 38+P.

What does this mean?

Well all expanding ammo has a "velocity range" - go too fast OR slow outside of that window and you've got problems.

The ammo houses don't generally publish exact figures on the speed range because it really depends also on circumstances - the gun shooting it, the distance, the amount of clothes/armor/barriers at the target or just before, and probably more. They don't want to get specific enough to say "at 900fps this stuff WORKS", probably for legal liability reasons.

ALL ammo is a crapshoot in terms of it's net effects. That's just how it is, thank you for playing, please try again next life if it goes rodeo on ya.

That said, when we try and pick the right ammo we are minimizing risk.


We've seen test data from Speer and others that show this slug expanding well at around 850fps. In 38+P, assuming your 2" barrel snubbie is in good shape and the gap isn't too sloppy you SHOULD get that, unless you've ported it.

Don't port a 38 snubbie. M'Kay? Bad idea. 357, we'll get to that in a sec :).

The pics of the Gold Dot 135s expanded from snubbies that I've seen show that it hasn't "bottomed out". In other words it can be driven faster and isn't (yet) on the edge of coming unglued.

Gold Dots in general tend to resist damage from being "overdriven" because the jacket is bonded strongly to the lead core. It's a heavy plating process versus lead just being crammed into a copper or brass jacket.

If the same 135gr projectile is sold 250fps faster by Speer, that means shooting the 38+P version in up to a 6" or even more barrel should be no problem at all. At an average of 50fps per inch of barrel speed improvement, the 38+P version from a 6" should be doing almost what the 357 version is pulling from a 2" barrel. Got a 6" barrel 38Spl able to take at least some +P fodder? Great.

The other interesting combination is, what if you have one of those 2" barrel 357s with porting?

You might lose 50fps that way, 100 worst case but unlikely.

So run the Magnum version of the 135 and what happens? We're driving a load meant for 850fps floor at 1,000-1,050 or more. This is a problem how?

Other 357Mag loads may be set up to need at least 2" barrel velocity to work correctly, but not this sucker. I would argue that the 357Mag 135gr load is THE hot ticket in a ported 2" barrel because you know you're not going to shoot it under it's floor.

Finally, let's talk about it in my gun, a 4.5" barrel 357. The magnum version is shooting tighter groups than the 38+P version. Not by THAT much, 2" groups versus 3", but it's there and repeatable. Recoil was much less stiff than with the Gold Dot 125s loaded to 1,450+ by Doubletap I tried in the same session (and which did 5" groups).

Will the magnum variant be over-driven by that barrel length?

My guesstimate is "no" but...I'm not sure.

The risk is that the nose will expand all right, but then shred and drop the bullet width back down to 36cal or a bit above minus the bullet weight missing from the front. But this isn't THAT terrible a result because you've got lots of velocity still on tap and the profile of the remaining 105gr or so projectile is flat-nosed, which isn't too shabby. And during the time period when it WAS expanded it did damage on that basis. With a Gold Dot the jacket won't usually separate, although it HAS been documented in extreme cases.

Given the accuracy on tap and the results of an "overspeed failure", I'm going to live with the risk and load the magnum flavor in that Vaq. But that's my choice and I'm telling y'all now it's problematic.

In a ported 2" 357 I am much more comfortable saying that Speer probably has a good solution going in the magnum 135gr. In a ported SP101 I don't think I'd load anything else for street carry or home defense.

The Magnum 135 may also be mild enough for those with those silly Scandium/Riboflavin things :). Otherwise, as long as the barrel isn't ported run the 38+P version if you must.

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July 5, 2006, 07:57 PM
with those "silly Scandium Riboflavin things", which is the hot set-up? The 135 38+p or the 135 .357?

Inquiring minds, and all...

July 5, 2006, 08:33 PM
I have two scandium S&W 340PDs which do their best with the Gold Dot .38 Special+P "short barrel" 135gr JHPs as regards both accuracy and precision.

I also have two Ruger SP101s, both with 2 1/8" barrels, both ported and otherwise overhauled by Marc Morganti.
IME, Buffalo Bore 158gr JHC is the more accurate and precise round in these by a small margin, though the Gold Dot "short barrel" .357 Magnum 135gr JHPs are a close second, shooting just a little lower than the Buffalo Bore 158gr stuff, but with equivalent precision.
The Gold Dots have less felt recoil than the Buffalo Bore rounds, too, for what it matters, since the porting reduces recoil considerably with any .357 round shot in these chunky little beasts.

Jim March
July 5, 2006, 09:48 PM
orionengnr: Whichever you can handle. Only once the barrel is ported do you "really need" to go to the 357 flavor.

The good news is the Scandiums so far aren't ported. If they were, they would have hosed useability with 38+Ps.

The Buffalo Bore 158gr +P monsters are NOT an option in the superlight guns as the bullets can yank out too easily under recoil (lead is very slick).

My understanding is that the magnum flavor of 135gr Gold Dot isn't going to yank loose in the 12oz class Scandium least that's what Speer says. I would still recommend testing it - load five, shoot four, see if the fifth has stretched any. Do that at least two or three times on ANY proposed carry load in a 10oz 38Spl, 12oz 357 or anything close to those featherweight specs. Running a gun that light CAN compromise reliability so test your carry loads, folks, this isn't something you should have to worry about with a wheelgun but nnoooooo...YOU had to have a featherweight :).

Jim March
July 5, 2006, 09:52 PM
Sawbones: you're absolutely right, in that the Buffalo Bore 158 38+P is one of the FEW 38Spl loads not on the "ragged lower edge of performance" from a snubbie!

So yeah, that's a damned viable load in a ported SP101.

It's rated 1,000fps from a 2" unported barrel. The Remington which is similar in shape, weight and lead formula is known to expand at 850fps. So if your porting drops the Buff to 950, hey, you're still 100fps above the floor. Kewl.

Not in a Scandium gun though.

July 5, 2006, 10:20 PM the 357 135 legitimately better? Will it be a reliable expander? Is it being "over-driven" at 357 velocities?

With regard to my choice...that is evolving. These days I prefer my Kahr PM9 with Ranger 127 +p+. I can shoot 50-100 rounds at a session, and hit what I aim at (15-25 feet).

My 340? Ten or fifteen rounds of 38+p, or one cylinder of .357, and I'm done. Not conducive to accuracy or confidence...

I have not "quite" given up on revolvers as carry guns but I have very little incentive these days to carry a revo. The light weight/reliability of the 340 were its major attractions.

My Kahr is 100% reliable with anything I can stuff in the mag, weighs 2.8 ounces more, but holds two more rounds; the 9mm +P+ is (arguably) as effective, I shoot it so much better, reload is quicker and slimmer...and no Stupid Lock.

Why is this 340 not for sale yet? :) I guess I like the theory (idea ) of the 340...but I like the execution (reality) of the PM-9.

Note to self: compose this ad: For Sale--one S&W 340 PD, less than one hundred total rounds, speed loader and Don Hume holster...:)

Gary A
July 5, 2006, 11:27 PM
Interesting take, Jim. I'm curious about one thing, though. I know the 38 version is reputed to run at 860 fps from a 1 7/8 inch barrel, but I thought the .357 was supposed to run at 990 fps from a 2 inch. That's only 130 fps more than the .38.

July 5, 2006, 11:48 PM
Mr. Camp gives a comparison ;

Jim March
July 6, 2006, 12:08 AM
Gary: I heard 1,100ish for the 135 Magnum from a 2" barrel. I may have remembered incorrectly however.

Even at 1,100, I'm quite sure the slug won't fall apart. The stuff says "short barrel" on it so if you fling it out of a 2" tube I think the odds are it'll be fine. Speer isn't likely to blow it to that degree, they've got some pretty damn good ammo designers in house and other Gold Dots have been noted as expanding and working over a 250-300fps range. Take a look at how some of the 40S&W Gold Dots have also been doing OK out of 10mm shells and speeds.

So it's not inconcievable that these will work from a floor of 850fps up through 1,100ish.

Past that it's iffy.

An example of how things can go wrong is the 32ACP 60gr Gold Dot driven out of 32Mag or 32NAA shells. Data I've seen says it comes unglued so you CAN overdrive at least that Gold Dot.

July 6, 2006, 12:08 AM
I fired a box of those 158gr SWCHP +P's through my .357 SP 101 and it was a STOUT experience!

I mean, I almost couldn't tell the difference between them and a mild .357 load like the Golden Sabre 125 gr.

Which of course begs the question - why bother using a "light" .357 load like the BB when you can have the real thing? :evil:

Jim March
July 6, 2006, 12:35 AM
Well they're claiming that you can shoot the BB 158+P in 38Spl guns.


I'm not lighting them off in my vintage Charter Undercover, that's for dangsure.

July 6, 2006, 02:55 AM
This is another reason why itís good to reload. You can taylor your loads to your gun. Iíve got some Gold Dots 135gr and will load them for 38ís and 357ís with different barrel lengths at the speeds I want.

July 6, 2006, 03:36 PM
Jim March said: "Sawbones: you're absolutely right, in that the Buffalo Bore 158 38+P is one of the FEW 38Spl loads not on the 'ragged lower edge of performance' from a snubbie!"

Hi Jim.
Actually it was the Buffalo Bore .357 Magnum 158gr HC rounds that I've shot in my SP101s, not the Buffalo Bore .38 Special 158gr.

(I do own some of the Buffalo Bore .38 Special 158gr LSWCHP stuff, but haven't shot it yet!
I bought it as a potential substitute for the Remington 158gr+P LSWCHP, to shoot in my S&W steel J-frame Model 60s and 649s, but I haven't run out of the Remington stuff yet.)

The Sp101s are such chunky little beasts that they really handle .357 Magnum rounds with aplomb, so that's all I shoot in them.

Pistol Toter
July 6, 2006, 04:24 PM
Jim, forgive my ignorance. I sometimes carry a 2 1/4" stock SP101 and other than a little reduction in recoil I don't see any benefit it the short barrel Speer 135 gr. munitions. I bought a box of the +p to load in a 2 1/2" model 19 so as to keep the velocity up without hammering / peening the forcing cone; but in the Ruger I load the medium velocity .357, 125gr. Remington Gold Sabre and carry a reload of .357, 125gr Gold Dots. God forbide I ever am forced to use it but it won't be like I'm standing on a range and blasting away for an extended time, which obviously won't be with only ten rounds. Anyway back to where I was going; from what I've been able to read, the free recoil data and velocity data / energy data is not that impressive. I mean it's OK but seems to me to lack the umph that marketing indicates. Maybe I'm missing something but I tend to use the "full" house loadings in a gun that by all indications will more than adaquately handle the pounding (Ruger SP101, my choice - there are others). If I err in my thinking, I beg, please, correct my miss givings and incorrect interptations. I have the highest regards and throughly enjoy your posts and opinions.
Regards Pistol Toter

Oh, my little "Miss Piggy" tends to be more accurate with the 125 gr and less so with the 158gr regardless of manufacturer. That's interesting ain't it......

Gary A
July 6, 2006, 10:47 PM
Pistol Toter, forgive me for chiming in, but I don't think Speer was trying for energy or speed, but merely an "ideal" combination of shootability, performance from short barrels, expansion, and penetration. Reasonable power, reasonable weight, fair velocity, good expansion and penetration without excessive recoil. I think they've done pretty well at achieving those things. A nice balance.

Jim March
July 6, 2006, 11:45 PM
Just as a comparison, the Speer 125gr that Doubletap loads has a downright miniscule JHP cavity. It's dead obviously NOT meant for low speeds.

Will a 2" barrel punch it fast enough? Probably as Doubletap loads it, sure, suckers are HOT. But other ammo houses are loading that projectile too...are they getting up enough heat from a 2"?


There's a variant of the 125 projectile that has a bigger cavity for lower-speed use. In the 38+P, it does OK at 850fps...but what's it's max? We don't know. advantage to running a big JHP cavity like the 135 has is that you end up with more outside bullet surface scraping the barrel. Accuracy goes up. Run a small cavity as needed for higher-speed applications and accuracy goes down, which is exactly what I saw happen with the Doubletaps in my gun - the 135s were doing 2" groups, the Doubletaps 5".

It's all a very interesting set of tradeoffs. I suspect the 135gr 357 load is a very sweet combination of useability, accuracy and "hurts 'em enough".

July 22, 2008, 11:13 AM
I'd missed seeing this thread earlier, I guess. I'd also missed (or forgotten) the link to Stephen Camp's 38 /357 comparison.

At any rate, for the last year I've been shooting lots and lots of reloads built around three general criteria

1. The GDSB 38+P 135-gr round--defined as a 140LTC running 860-900 fps.

2. The GDSB 357 135-gr. round--defined as a 140 LTC running 970-1000 fps.

3. An "FBI" load, in two flavors--
a. for 38+P 158LSWC(-HP) at 800-820 fps.
b. for 357, the same bullet running at 900 fps.

These criteria are all for nominal 2" barrels, BTW. These reloads have been shot in an M&P 340, a 640, an M60-3" and a 686-4". A week ago, I added a Night Guard 386 (2.5" barrel) to the mix, and I have a 442 on hand as well.

When setting up to build "replica reloads," I shot a fair amount of the GDSB factory ammo. The 38+P variety runs an honest 880-900 fps from my 2" barrels, and the 357 variety runs a consistent 970 fps. FWIW, the latest factory ammo--under the CCI brand, in LE 50-round boxes--showed much greater ESs and SDs, but still shoot the same average velocity.

When I started shooting the j-frames, I found the best I could manage--and that was after a real effort to get my hand in condition--in the lightweight frames was the GDSB 38+P round.

Recently, there's been discussion again about the 357 velocities and the GDSB 135-gr. bullet breaking up. It's also been noted that the 135-gr. 357 factory round seems to be off the market or minimally available.

As I work on my reloading database--eleven powders, so far--I've reached a point where I would probably prefer to carry a 158LSWC-HP at 900 fps in the lightweight guns. At that performance level, I can readily do "quad fives" (thank you, Old Fuff) back-to-back, and given my general threat environment, that should do just fine for personal defense.

Meanwhile, I am hoping that Speer is working on new short barrel bullets--a 357 / 135-gr. bullet capable of good retention, etc., at 970-1100 fps, and a GDSB 158-gr. optimized for 900 fps.

Jim H.

July 22, 2008, 12:50 PM
In 38+P, assuming your 2" barrel snubbie is in good shape and the gap isn't too sloppy you SHOULD get that, unless you've ported it.

Don't port a 38 snubbie. M'Kay? Bad idea. 357, we'll get to that in a secWhy? From looking at Jack Weigand's reported test data, velocities with a ported gun dropped by about 5% or 45 to 50 fps. What am I missing?

July 25, 2008, 09:15 PM
Hello Jim.

There might be one variable between the .38 and the .357 and that's core hardness.

I have no clue if Speer has done this, but I was involved for several years in bid spec writing and bid submission testing of ammunition and firearms for a federal agency and core hardness was part of the equation.


July 25, 2008, 10:40 PM
Interesting stuff. Jim,thanks for the info and starting this thread - Tom

Jim March
July 26, 2008, 01:16 AM
Why? From looking at Jack Weigand's reported test data, velocities with a ported gun dropped by about 5% or 45 to 50 fps. What am I missing?

Well in 38+P from a snubbie, there's a number of loads that will work (read: expand) WITH that extra 45-50fps but may fail without it.

The Gold Dot 135gr 38+P is one such. If I can drive that at 860fps with a 2" tube, but then port it and my speed drops to 820ish, I'm not happy. And there's a fair chance that load won't be happy anymore either.

Now, some loads will indeed still work in a 2" even with a 50fps loss. The Buffalo Bore 38+P loads are top examples! If they'll do 1,000fps, but then you drop then to 950 with porting, they're still going fast enough to expand.

But the unported 2" barrel 38 snubbie is a more flexible gun than ported, and won't be as "ammo picky".


I should have gone back and corrected this thread. Speer is indeed claiming a difference between the 38+P and 357 135gr slugs. Damned if I know what the difference is, it's either a cavity shape variance small enough that I can't see it, or as mentioned it may be a hardness difference. Or jacket plating difference. I dunno. The info I posted about Gold Dots in general being able to survive being "overdriven" is valid although as the 60gr 32cal slug proves in 32Mag cases, you CAN drive a Gold Dot so fast it comes unglued.

July 26, 2008, 10:20 AM
Just curious, have you tried pulling and sectioning one of each type to see if any difference shows up there?

July 26, 2008, 11:35 AM
Speer is indeed claiming a difference between the 38+P and 357 135gr slugs.

I'd be interested to know where did Speer make this claim.

Recently I had informative email exchange with Speer support about expansion velocities of their bullets. They told me that 135 gr bullet is made to expand in the range between 750 and 1000 fps. Above 1000 fps the bullet will overexpand (fold back - not fragment) and overpenetrate. They never mentioned there were different types of 135 gr. bullets.


July 26, 2008, 02:04 PM
Boy, I can't tell any difference between the 135gr Gold Dot JHP bullet used in the Speer "short barrel" .357 vs. in the "short barrel" .38 Special+P cartridge.

Obviously the cartridge case is a tenth-inch longer in the .357 version, and the .357 load shoots "hotter" than the .38 Special+P, but the bullet really looks to be the same.

I also now wonder if the "short barrel" .357 loads vary from lot to lot; I've compared my favored Buffalo Bore 158gr .357 JHC load in my 2.25" ported Ruger SP101 before, and found the Gold Dot "short barrel" 135gr .357 load to hit just a tad lower, but I recently shot a different box of the stuff and it hit MUCH lower than before (6" low at 7 yards!), very disappointing!
The "short barrel" .38 Special+P loads, OTOH, have been very consistent from lot to lot, in different snubbies, IME over the past 5 years.

July 26, 2008, 07:27 PM
soo,I presntllly carry the 135 gr +p's in my 642..but I just found a box of NYCLAD 158 gr...are these a waste of time in my 642?Will they be fast enough to open up?

July 26, 2008, 08:46 PM
FYI: I've also loaded several boxes of the Speer GDSB135JHP 135-gr. bullet over the past year as well as the 140-gr. LTCs. AFAIK, there is only one p/n for this bullet--4014.

Jim H.

July 26, 2008, 09:14 PM
TonyB, Though I carry a 36 I suffer from the very same dilemma. Tom

July 26, 2008, 09:58 PM
Does anyone know where I can order some Speer GDSB135JHP .375?
Everyone I know of is out.


Marvin KNox
January 14, 2009, 02:04 PM
I know this is an old thread. But I'll add on anyway.

I became disallusioned with the .357 SB a while back and looked for another alternative. I probably didn't really have to do that - I just lost confidence after all the talk about the round.

I'm betting that I probably would have a round that would do the self defense duty just fine if I had stayed put. But I ended up with the DPX .357 ammo.

Great performance over a proven wide range of velocities. Almost guarenteed to open up at the 1100fps or a little less that I get with my 340 M&P. Also has GREAT penetration performance to go with it.

Very expensive - yes! But it only takes a box or less to sight in with. I've found a 125 gr. hollowpoint from Mastercast that mimics it's recoil and POI just fine. Very inexpensive to practice with. I carry the DPX always and throw one downrange every now and then just to be sure things are the way I remember them.

I'll bet the Speer stuff in .357 would be OK if someone needed a little more than the .38+p ammo that the 135 gr. was developed for. But I wont take a chance for just the few bucks it took to sight in the DPX stuff.

I'm happy - but to each his own!

January 14, 2009, 08:58 PM
Is the felt recoil from the DPX less than the Speer 135 GDSB in your 340?

January 14, 2009, 09:58 PM
In my 340 PD, the DPX +P has less recoil
than the GDSB +P. It was loaded with DPX +P
until I switched to Buffalo Bore 125 +P's.
My other 3 J Frames are loaded with Buffalo Bore too.
Model 49 and 442 with Standard Pressure 158's.
Model 640 (38) First 2 Standard Pressure 158's
followed by 3 158 +P's.
If I couldn't get Buffalo Bore,
all would be loaded with DPX +P's.

January 15, 2009, 03:54 PM
I have read elsewhere that others feel the DPX 110s felt less harsh. How is the recoil on the Buffalo Bores? Have you tried any light weight bullets in a 357 loading that are tolerable?

January 15, 2009, 04:11 PM
I'm glad to see this post again.

Bad me, I forgot to thank Mr. March earlier.

Thank you sir. Its a bit late but no less sincere.


Marvin KNox
January 15, 2009, 05:39 PM

The DPX has less recoil than the Speer .357 Gold Dot Short Barrels to my feeling anyway.

The .357 DPX is the 125gr.bullet. The .38 DPX is the 110gr.bullet. That one has way less recoil than the either the .357 DPX or the Speer .357 GDSB IMO.

The DPX gives almost 1100fps for 330ish ft. pounds of energy. The Speer give about 300ish - in .357 magnum.

If I dropped back to .38+p I'd stay with the Speer for less money and great performance.

(Plugs for my favorite gun writer!)

To match the .357 DPX POI and recoil wise - look for something clocking around the 1290fps (6" barrel) given by the reloaded hollow points I get from Mastercast.

(Price is right -but around one misfire per box of 50. They always fire after another strike or two. Small price to pay for cheap ammo.)

January 15, 2009, 08:55 PM
Thanks for the links! Good reading.

January 17, 2009, 03:15 PM
The difference between the .357 Mag and .38 Special 135gr Gold Dot bullets are in its alloy and copper-plating thickness.

It's my guess that they use harder lead and thicker copper plating on the .357 Magnum Gold Dot.

January 18, 2009, 04:26 PM

What is the source of this information, if you don't mind my asking?


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