Round up of favorite ammo for .38 Plus P snubbies


November 25, 2006, 06:40 AM
I have been examining this.

I am interested in hearing peoples opinions on ammo in a .38 +p snubby. What you carry, and why.

I know there will likely be some disagreement. The only place I will be using this is in 2 inch guns and I want an eduction on what to feed it.

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November 25, 2006, 07:49 AM
Speer Gold Dot 135grn+P short barrel ammo. Rated at 860fps.
Remington 158grn+P Lead Semi Wad Cutter Hollow Point.
Georgia Arms 125grn+P Gold Dot. Rated at 1000fps..
Winchester 158grn+P Lead Semi Wad Cutter Hollow Point.

I currently carry the above Speer ammo in my S&W 642 cause all the high speed testing from a two inch barrel indicates it should work well on varmits with two legs.

The Lead Semi Wad Cutter Hollow Point is already proven to be a good self defense round.

125grn Gold Dots at 1000fps have got to be effective...

November 25, 2006, 08:02 AM
125gn gold dots
125gn starfires (discontinued)
125gn umc JHP

They all shoot real nice to point of aim.

Check out the

Really good practical info there.

November 25, 2006, 09:59 AM
I shoot factory +P when I want soft target loads. For defensive use I load my own with 125 JHPs at 1,100-1,200 FPS (measured from a 4" barrel, the 2" guns lose about 80-100 FPS). All of my steel-framed revolvers. including some 1950s era J frames and 1940s K frames, seem to handle this ammo just fine.

Here's ( a photo of a 1942 M&P posed with some of the factory +P and warm hand loads I have been shooting through it. No detectable wear or damage to date. IMO all S&W and Colts are "+P rated" since +P is not loaded to pressures higher than what is considered standard for the caliber.

November 25, 2006, 11:11 AM
I have two J frames and one fixed sight K frame. All shoot low with 125 grain bullets. About four inches low at 12 yards.
For my J frames I only use 158 grain now. I alternate between a Rem/Win 158 HPWC or a SWC handload.

November 25, 2006, 12:08 PM
Corbon DPX 110 +P because of how easily I can control them for repeat shots.
For me, much less recoil than Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel. They are lighter and faster than the Speer and the all copper bullet is supposed to penetrate better. They are in a 640 (pre 357) and a 442 (pre lock) and once in a while as the first 2 up in a 340 PD, followed by 3 Corbon DPX 357's.

November 25, 2006, 12:12 PM
Since 158gr loads shoot several inches high in my M37, I use Speer's 135gr Short Barrel load. It shoots to POA in at 10yds and has done well in tests.


Jim March
November 25, 2006, 12:57 PM
Winchester's 158+P lead hollowpoint doesn't work in snubbies. Neither do old-stock Federal in that weight, either plain lead or plastic-coated ("Nyclad") - the 125gr Nyclad does seem to do OK if you spot any.

The Remington 158+P is the mildest lead hollowpoint that works in snubs, and it works very well. Old-stock Cor-Bon of the same design is significantly hotter as is the Buffalo Bore variant. BuffBore added a "gas check" - a copper baseplate that acts as a heat shield: at these pressures the burning gasses could burn off the back of the bullet and plate the inside of the barrel with it, which is possibly why the Cor-Bon was discontinued. But the gas check raises the price on the BuffBores...worth it though in my opinion.

The Hornady XTP in 38spl or 38+P should be avoided at all costs.

The chart of water-jug tests isn't all that useful as they didn't do a denim-wrap over something soft first. Those tests will tend to show the bullets at their very best, when street results won't be that good. And the designs with really big hollowpoints will be at a comparative disadvantage because their clog-resistance won't be on display.

The Speer 135 is the current king of the big-hollowpoint 38+P loads. Highly recommended if your gun shoots it well, but if you need heavier to adjust elevation on fixed-sight guns consider the Remmie 158+P lead hollowpoint or the BuffBore if you can control them. I think the Remmie 158 might be a tie with the Speer 135 and the BuffBore a contender for "absolute best 38+P round sold today".

November 25, 2006, 01:07 PM
The Speer 125 and 135 grain +P GDHP loadings for me.

November 25, 2006, 01:34 PM
Remington 158grn+P Lead Semi Wad Cutter Hollow Point.

November 25, 2006, 03:06 PM
I have the Black hills loading of the 125gr
gold dot in my 642-2.It shoots to POA at
10-15 yards,recoil/muzzle blast is not
harsh.It's loaded a little warmer than
most mainstream 38+P's at 1050 fps in
a 4" test gun.At $22.50 for a box of 50
they don't break the bank.

November 25, 2006, 03:22 PM
Corbon 38spl. 125g. +p

November 25, 2006, 03:32 PM
Now that I'm back into .38 special snubs, I'm going to work up a heavy wadcutter "bulldog" load for my Model 36. Ideally a flat face bullet in the 180 grain range of soft lead.

November 25, 2006, 03:44 PM
Smith & Wesson 642 w/ occasional other older Smith snubbies & Rossi snubbies

Hornady XTP 125 grain JHP (non +p)...(since the original Nyclad 125 grain lswchp (non +p) is out of production and rare to find)

I'm not a big fan of +p out of light revolvers due to recoil, lack of ease of followup shots, and too much muzzleflash to deal with in the dark

November 25, 2006, 10:46 PM
I was shooting Speer Gold Dot 125 grain +P rounds until I found out Speer had a 135 grain +P load made for Short barrel .38's. Before that I was shooting Federal Hydra Shok rounds but I didn't like the way they shot out of my J frame. I even carry Speer's Gold dot 158 grain .357 Mag rounds in my 4" S&W M-619 now. Remington Golden Saber HPJ rounds are good in the 4" gun but reports say they don't expand well in a snubbie, they shoot well out of the snubbie though.

Ops Officer
November 25, 2006, 11:53 PM
Interesting thread. Appreciate the opinions. Oh, the boxotruth website is actually Good info there.

November 26, 2006, 01:27 AM
Mine are loaded with 158 grains- not +P. I feel comfortable with them at any range I would use a snubbie.

Jim March
November 26, 2006, 01:57 AM
If you're not going to go for an expanding load, the 158gr "Keith profile" semi wadcutter makes sense. I would FAR rather have those than a 125gr load of a type that won't expand...such as the Hornady XTP 38 standard pressure or the Winchester 125gr "silvertip" in either +P or standard pressure.

However: the Winchester and Remington "+P" 158gr lead semi wadcutter hollowpoints aren't that much hotter, and don't seem to kick much more than standard pressure 158s. They start with exactly the same profile as a "Keith type" slug. Even when expansion isn't that good (fairly common in snubs with the Winchester's harder lead formula) they form a big wide nose back out to about caliber width with pretty nasty effects on tissue.

There's no reason not to use the Remmie or even Winchester versions of the 158+P lead hollowpoint thinking "they won't expand".

What the world really needs is a 148gr full wadcutter flatnose loaded fairly heavy, at least out to the outer edge of "standard pressure" which should be...well, I'd guess around 825fps in a snub with modern powder. That would be as good as it gets in a known non-expanding round. Most of these currently run about 700fps from a snub, sometimes less...just a small step past worthless.

November 26, 2006, 02:09 AM
Jim March,
I agree with you about the current loads being too slow out of a short barrel that's why I'm using Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel loads. Their Short Barrel 135 gr .38 +P load is rated @ 860 fps w/222 ft. lbs. That is very close to their non-short barrel 125 gr .38 +P load out of a 4" barrel which is 945 fps w/248 ft. lbs. of energy. I am very impressed with their numbers.

November 26, 2006, 02:34 AM
Thanks guys.

I probably will never know what is the very very best to use as I know how ammo conversations go, this one was actually quite civil, but this forum seems very civil as well.

I think I will give the speer 135 grainers a try. The gun they will go in is what I carry as my weak hand gun.

One other question. Is the 135 grain short barrel ammo marked "short barrel" on the package anyplace???

Thanks again.

November 26, 2006, 09:24 AM
One other question. Is the 135 grain short barrel ammo marked "short barrel" on the package anyplace???
I don't remember it being marked "Short Barrel", but it's the only 135gr 38spec load offered by Speer, so you don't have a chance of getting the "wrong 135gr load".


Jim March
November 26, 2006, 12:06 PM
I think it depends on when it was released. Early boxes of Speer 38+P 135s weren't marked "short barrel", later ones were as more loads in different calibers were added to what they hope people view as a series.

The round itself is the same all the way through.

Once that projectile was loaded in 357 cases with a mild powder charge, the "short barrel" was added to those and retrofitted to the 38+P. There are now also 9mm, 40S&W and I think other variants.

When Speer first shipped the 135 38+P they shipped a 250gr 45LC critter that might as well be called part of the series. It's the same "very large hollowpoint" concept scaled WAY up. Awesome street defense load in that caliber.

November 26, 2006, 04:55 PM
Jim.....thats good to hear. i have the Gold Dots in my 45 colt Vaquero.

November 26, 2006, 05:25 PM
The number on the box that identifies the short barrel Speer 38 spl 135grn+P GDHP ammo is 23921..

November 26, 2006, 06:09 PM
See if your gun dealer will order you a 50 round box of 135 gr 38+P rounds because the 20 round box will cost you ~ $16.50 and I got the 50 round box for $17.95. The part # for the 50 round box is 53921. (note the 20 round part # is 23921, the 50 round part # is 53921, first # for number of rounds)

November 26, 2006, 08:04 PM
ArchAngleCD, thanks for the info..Will give it a try...

November 26, 2006, 08:35 PM
Semi wad cutters have always been a favorite loading of mine.

158 gr LSWC in a standard pressure is what I am currently using.

November 28, 2006, 01:37 PM
Here is a link to an article that parallels your inquiry:

this is the only article that I have ever been able to find that puts selected loads side-by-side thru gelatin and chronograph tests for snubby revolvers; some of the captions under the pictures are reversed and you have to scroll down to mix/match the pics to the captions (this was also present when the article was printed & I bought the magazine way back when)

this article predates the advent of the Speer Gold Dot .38 +p snubby load, yet includes some of its competitors...

I hope this helps you!

November 29, 2006, 03:07 AM
ArchAngleCD, thanks for the info..Will give it a try...
You're welcome TOADMAN, I don't know a lot but I try to pass on what I do know. I've been on this forum about a week and have learned a lot in a short time.

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