Best Defense Ammo Choice for Older J-Frame 38 Spl


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Sharpie1
August 6, 2003, 12:55 AM
To begin, thanks to everyone for their advice about my questions regarding my newly acquired J-Frame Model 38 shrouded-hammer revolver.

I am having some accuracy problems with this gun - it is shooting about three inches low and four inches left of POA at about 7-8 yards, with groups at about 4 to 5 inches. This is from sandbags - I have a Model 36 J-Frame that is MUCH more accurate than this - the POA/POI is pretty much dead on, with about 2" groups at 10 yards - which is very acceptable to me. So, it is definately the gun - not something else (read:me). I mean, I know this isn't a target gun by any stretch, but this accuracy is NOT acceptable.

Some people on this forum recommended I try 158gr exposed lead loads, because that is what this revolver was sighted-in for - and that was what was used most commonly when this revolver was manufactured.

I contacted Smith and Wesson regarding this accuracy problem. After giving them the serial number, I was told this gun was manufactured in 1969. They, too recommended I try out the 158gr ammo and see what happens. I had been using Winchester Silvertips. The guy at S&W pointed out that what I was using was a light and fast load, and that I should switch to a heavy and slow load (e.g. 158gr lead)...which sort of makes sense to me especially because of the 2" bbl.

If the 158gr loads prove to be more accurate, I suppose I will carry them in the revolver instead of the hollow-points.

Here is my question. If these 158gr loads are significantly more accurate, would it be more appropriate to carry a cartridge with a jacketed bullet, or one of the old round-nose exposed lead bullet cartridges? What are the drawbacks of each? I don't want to spend an arm and a leg to make this gun shoot hollow-point bullets perfectly.

I will settle for 3" groups at 7 yards - even a little bit low of POA, but I just can't deal with this left of POA stuff.

HELPFUL suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

--tadyson

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C.R.Sam
August 6, 2003, 02:04 AM
Years ago I fed Sierra 158gr Jacketed Hollow Cavitys through a 2" Model 36. They shot to point of aim at 25yds and expanded reliably.

Sam

tbeb
August 6, 2003, 02:34 AM
I'd practice with standard pressure 158 gr. lead semi-wadcutters or standard pressure 148 gr. lead wadcutters. For self defense you could use the one you shoot the best, but I feel there's better rounds for that purpose.

I use the 158 gr. for practice, and +p (higher pressure) Federal Classic 125 gr. Hi-Shok JHP or +P (higher pressure) Safestop 148 gr. for self defense. (The Safestop is a copper coated wadcutter with a "knife slit" in it. Bullet is not flush with the case; it's seated out of the case the depth of the slit. It is kind of expensive.) I think my self defense shots will be up close, so I don't worry if one's a little more accurate than the other. I shoot +P's sparingly. My 30-year old snubby isn't specifically rated for them but I know it can handle a limited number.

I personally would not be afraid to fire a few plus P's in your model 38. It's not going to blow up.

38Mike
August 6, 2003, 06:36 AM
What about Winchester 158 gr. lswc hp? It's +P but shouldn't hurt your gun. If you reload, for practice, you can use 158gr lswc bullets and work up a load that has the same point of impact (?) of factory round.

This is what I ended up with for my 442, as the lighter weight bullets went all over the place....

Mike M.

sm
August 6, 2003, 06:55 AM
Model 36
I carried 158 gr LSWC HP ( standard pressure)
as usual the homemade bested the factory.
POA/POI was spot on

Dryfire that thing with a dime atop front sight ( yeah I know, the idea is to walk the dime down with good trigger, not jerking the darn thing) , little feller(36) will show faults quicker then big fella (say N frame with 6" bbl)

RandyB
August 6, 2003, 11:39 AM
Personally I carry 158 LHP +P in my .38's, but a good deal of research is showing that in the small 2" (not 3-4") a standard 148 wadcutter does just about as good.

http://www.tacticalforums.com/cgi-bin/tacticalubb/Ultimate.cgi?action=intro

Look in the performance stuff and do a search on BUG .38

If the Nycad (hope I spelled that right) was still available they had a load that would be worth looking into.

Hutch
August 6, 2003, 01:15 PM
I'm not sure of your purposes for this gun, but if it's purely for self-defense, I think it's plenty accurate enough as is. I can understand why you'd like it to shoot as well as your other J-frame, but IMHO, it is adequate now. Ditto the information others have supplied regarding ammo. The 158gr LSWCHP in +P has a good reputation. That's what I carry.

Dr.Rob
August 6, 2003, 01:18 PM
The lead bullets will grip the rifling tighter than the jacketed bullets will, this could be the cause of your accuracy problem.

SW says shoot heavy, slow bullets then shoot heavy, slow bullets.

Johnny Guest
August 6, 2003, 03:46 PM
tadyson asks: If these 158gr loads are significantly more accurate, would it be more appropriate to carry a cartridge with a jacketed bullet, or one of the old round-nose exposed lead bullet cartridges? What are the drawbacks of each? At the admittedly marginal velocities attained in a two-inch barrel, the heavier jacketed bullets are notoriously poor expanders. You’ve already covered the problems with point of impact with the lighter bullets. The 158 gr LRN bullets have nothing going for them except good accuracy, especially in the rather leisurely-moving “standard velocity” loads. But the 158 LSWCHP+P factory loads, either Winchester or Remington, are a far different story. Being dead-soft lead, unconfined by a jacket, their generous hollow point allows the bullet to indeed expand, albeit modestly, from a 2” barrel.

RandyB
Personally I carry 158 LHP +P in my .38's, but a good deal of research is showing that in the small 2" (not 3-4") a standard 148 wadcutter does just about as good. . . .
Look in the performance stuff and do a search on BUG .38

http://64.177.53.248/ubb/Forum78/HTML/000282.html
The 16th post, by CaesarI, shows a good illustration. The point is well made: Testing in bare ballistic gelatin is probably best case scenario for expansion, whereas the “four layers of denim” is worst case. The “typical” situation is somewhere between the extremes.

It seems logical that if, in worst case, the 158 LSWCHP simply flattens to approximate dimensions of the WC load, with no real expansion of either, we are back to simple impact. With no advantage to either bullet shape, consider: The 158 gr, nominally about 1000 fps in a 6” barrel (about 800 in 2”) compared to the 148 gr at a nominal 770 in 6” (about 650 in 2”.) Which indicates more impact energy?

Another factor: The 148 WC fired in a 2” goes unstable sooner than the longer bullets. (Given, of course, that true self defense ranges seldom extend as far as 15 yards.)

I might advocate the light WC load for an extremely recoil sensitive shooter - -The aged and infirm, the arthritic, who cannot or will not practice much. A hit with anything is superior to a probable miss with a more powerful load.

tadyson, I believe the 158 LSWCHP+P will serve well both for accuracy and terminal effectiveness. The standard velocity RNL loads are good for frequent practice with minimum battering of the J frame revolvers.

Best,
Johnny

Deepdiver
August 6, 2003, 05:46 PM
I run Winchester 125gr JSP's thru my little Taurus 85, and they seem to perform real well. It easily does 3" groups at 15yds and could probably do better with a better shooter behind it.

Might not be the best PD round, but it works well otherwise.

Sharpie1
August 7, 2003, 01:17 AM
Thanks for all the great responses. I will definately pick up some 158gr Lead bullet cartridges.

TD

JERRY
August 9, 2003, 12:35 PM
i would most certainly carry a 158gr. standard pressure h.p. in my snubby, but all i can find is +p stuff.

who makes a 158gr standard pressure lswc h.p. or lhp.......?

for now, i use 125gr. +p's in my snubby but would switch quickly if i could find a source.

tbeb
August 9, 2003, 08:59 PM
Jerry,

I've never seen or heard of a standard pressure factory new 158 gr. lead hollowpoint. If there was, I don't know if it would it be fast enough to expand when fired from a 2" barrel.

JERRY
August 9, 2003, 10:36 PM
thanks. i'll try the 158gr. +p again. i used to have a non ported snubbie, did not like the recoil. i now have a ported snubbie, will try them again. maybe the porting will tame them enough to become my carry round.

BluesBear
August 10, 2003, 07:09 AM
Heavier bullet weights will raise your point of impact. If you have a good gunsmith in your area who knows his way around a revolver he can shift the point of impact by a very slight turning of the barrel in the frame.

I have seen quite a few older S&W I & J frame guns as well as Colt Dective Special and Cobra models where a slight nudge of the barrel brought the POI in line with the POA.

Hypnogator
August 11, 2003, 12:13 AM
I carry 158-gr LHP +P's in mine. Don't shoot a lot of them, just enough to keep in practice with my carry loads. I shoot 148-gr wadcutters for proficiency practice, and they shoot low.

Cosmoline
August 13, 2003, 08:26 PM
I took have taken to the 58gr. LHP's +P, and they seem to do just fine out of my Model 36. They rattle the frame a bit, but as long as you don't make a habbit of shooting a ton of them it should be fine.

But hey, this is still a little pea shooter no matter how you look at it. Aim is still the critical factor. Ain't nobody going to get ripped to pieces by a .38 Special bullet no matter how it's designed. These aren't .30'06 firing Barnes-X, after all.

Sharpie1
August 14, 2003, 06:13 PM
A pea-shooter? I don't think you're giving the .38 Spl enough credit.

While I normally carry a 1911, I feel more than adequately armed with a .38 snubbie.

TD

Johnny Guest
August 14, 2003, 06:47 PM
The caliber discussion will continue as long as there are firearms as we know them.

Where would the gunrags and the discussion boards be without the ".45 vs. 9 mm," the ".45 vs. 38," the "45 vs. .40," or the ".45 vs. .357" controversies?

(Hummmmmmmm - - - I am struck by the thought: Notice how the .45 is the benchmark against which the others are judged? Just a passing thought.;) )

In any case - - There are recent discussions on THR about how, circa 1901, NYCPD changed from the .32 revolver to the .38 S&W, for superior stopping power.
- -Also, how many unenlightened Europeans have relied on the 7.65 Browning (.32 ACP) for personal defense since the early 1900s.
- - Also, how the Europeans feel the 9mm Browning Short (.380 ACP) is such a huge step up from .32 ACP.
- - Also, how the 9x19 is fit only for the military, it being such a powerful cartridge. (Again, a widespread European feeling . . . .)
- - Also - - - Well, it goes on and on. We're not selling magazine articles here, we're talking about real llife.

I am one of the world's great fans of the .45 ACP. But a person with an accurate .38 Special is far from unarmed. I could easily make it to retirement - - - Heck, to my deathbed, I guess, - - armed with a good .38 revolver loaded with 158 LWSCHPs. Or with my handloads, for that matter. Maybe even with a 9 mm, but an alloy .38 snub is easier to pack than a BHP, THE 9mm. (Also not-really-a-peashooter. :D )

Best,
Johnny

Sharpie1
August 14, 2003, 08:31 PM
Your bulleted list of European "gun-culture-opinion" is true. They also (generally) feel the same way about V8 automobiles being "too much" for the average person - and that weed-eater sized engines are more than enough for the average Joe Six-Pack.

These are just a few more of the many reasons why I am glad I am an American.

Americans aren't (generally) that kind of people.

--tadyson

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