Best .38 for a Chief's Speical (Model 36)


September 12, 2008, 04:31 PM
What is the best Self defense .38 special out of a Model 36 snubby? I know you can't use +p loads.

Also has to be bought at least by Midway or some other type of online location, not hunting down a no longer in production ammo. :)

Assume Silvertips and Hydroshocks are some of the recommended types?

(Just wondering as I traded in my Pa-63 which didn't work for me as a down payment for a Model 36 that I will pair up with my Model 15 :evil:)

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September 12, 2008, 04:40 PM
Who says that you can't use +P ammo in a Model 36?

The 135 Gold Dot +P would be one of the best SD rounds for this all steel revolver.

September 12, 2008, 05:15 PM
I'm a recoil wuss, at least in .38 snubbies. (I don't mind a .44 mag in a long barreled Model 29 and enjoy Colt Combat Commanders.) In my non-+P rated Model 36 I carry factory 158 gr. lead semi-wadcutters. Choose the brand; they're all about the same. In my 642 Airweight, I shoot the standard target load, 148 gr. wadcutters. Once again, the factory loads are the same, although some may be dirtier than others. In either loading, I shoot whatever I find at the local gunshop or show.

September 12, 2008, 05:46 PM
I use doubletaps 125gr +P gold dot in my snubs. I have a 1964 vintage M36. I shoot ~ 1 box/year (1 cylinder/month) of +P out of it, just to get the "feel" of my carry ammo. Some guys shoot LOTS of +P out of their 36's w/o any problems. Are their revolvers gonna go, but I bet the extra pressure is accelerating the normal wear and tear on their revolvers!

September 12, 2008, 07:39 PM
148gr wadcutters. ;)

September 12, 2008, 09:20 PM
Smith and Wesson had a load developed just for that gun. It was called the Chief's Special load. It was a 125 grain standard pressure load with a Nyclad jacketed SWC-HP bullet.

Smith sold the Nyclad line to Federal when they got out of the ammo business. I believe Federal still makes it.

Gary A
September 12, 2008, 09:21 PM
I'll second the votes for any major brand 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter first and any good brand of 148 grain lead wadcutters second. Nothing wrong at all with the Federal 110 grain Hydrashoks or the Winchester 110 grain Silvertips, especially for warm weather, but they are a little light for my liking. Some people like the various Hornady loadings in standard pressure. I think they make a 125, a 140 and a 158 grain JHP. Speer also makes a standard pressure 125 grain loading in their law enforcement Gold Dot line that is standard pressure.

September 12, 2008, 09:33 PM
c1ogden: Those Federal Nyclads are no longer in production. It's a shame, as I understand they were the best choice in standard pressure .38 loads for self defense.

Gary A
September 12, 2008, 11:25 PM
For a while people hoped Federal might bring it back but the consensus seemed to be that it was gone for good. It appears to me that Federal's offering in standard pressure .38 defense loads will continue to be the 110 grain Hydrashok. (I've got quite a few Nyclads so I'm OK for...quite a while.)

September 12, 2008, 11:46 PM
If I could find some Nyclads, even enough to carry, I'd be a happy man. Seems to be a fruitless search, though.

Cocked & Locked
September 13, 2008, 06:40 AM
If I could find some Nyclads, even enough to carry, I'd be a happy man. Seems to be a fruitless search, though.


September 13, 2008, 07:35 AM you have a stash of Nyclads...just need 15 or so...Help me out man... :neener:;)

(Me doing best impression of druggie)

September 13, 2008, 09:18 AM
There is a box of 50 for sale at right now. About 13 hours left in the sale. It's listed under ammunition for "collecting" .

September 13, 2008, 11:36 AM
Hmm, that box of Federal says +P. I thought those were standard pressure?

September 13, 2008, 01:06 PM
Since the M36 is an up close and personal range revolver, I load mine with Federal PERSONAL DEFENSE 'low recoil' 110 grain JHP Hydra-Shok ammo. It's designed for that small, short barrel model handgun.

September 13, 2008, 02:04 PM
Wetpack tests i personally conducted using a Colt Detective Special with 2" barrel:

My snubby ammo recommendation is to avoid Hydra-Shok and use a proven design like 158gr lead hollowpoint, DPX, Speer Short Barrel Gold Dot, or Golden Saber. Standard-pressure Silvertips worked nicely in my wetpack tests-- so it stands to reason that +P versions would work even better.

The 125gr +P .38 Special Gold Dot is designed for use in 4" service revolvers, and may not reliably expand from a 2" barrel when heavy clothing or obstacles are encountered

Dear Federal Cartridge Company/ATK,


my vote still goes to the 158gr lead hollowpoint for a 2" snubby

September 13, 2008, 02:26 PM
Start with the new generation, standard pressure Winchester 110gr Silvertip. If that's too much recoil, then try the Federal Gold Match 148gr wadcutter.

Blue .45
September 13, 2008, 06:43 PM
I have a 1968 vintage M36. I usually load it with 135gr. +P Gold Dots, or 158gr. LSWHP. Can't really say which is better.

September 14, 2008, 02:30 AM
Hmm, that box of Federal says +P. I thought those were standard pressure?

As I understand it, +P loads were intended for 4" guns. They made both.

September 14, 2008, 02:37 AM
Nyclads are the best ammo IMO for those older revolvers but as we all know, they have been out of production for a good while now. I was luck enough to find 3 boxes of their standard pressure ammo a few years back. I shot 20 rounds and stashed away the other 130 rounds for when I carry my M36 no-dash.

Look around the gun shows and you can still find them. Federal made both 125gr and 158gr standard pressure .38 Special Nyclad ammo.

September 14, 2008, 04:31 PM
Buffalo Bore offers some great standard pressure ammo for these old J's.

September 14, 2008, 04:34 PM
If you decide to shoot +Ps, here is a vote for Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 135gr. Expensive, sometimes hard to find, both for good reason. A great round for snubbies.

September 14, 2008, 06:39 PM
I've got a box of 158 gr. non H.P. Nyclads I've had a long time. Are they jacketed or just coated lead?

September 14, 2008, 11:17 PM
For carry I load my no-dash with Remington 158gr LSWCHP +P. For practice I shoot my 158gr SWC reloads.

September 17, 2008, 10:45 PM

Those wonderful old M36 J-frames were generally regulated to shoot point-of-aim with the good old 158 grain stuff, back "in the day." They also shot P.O.A. with 148 grain wadcutters.

Generally, lighter bullets shoot LOWER from revolvers and heavier version bullets (since they are slower in speed) shoot higher P.O.A. due to slightly more barrel rise before the bullet leaves the barrel.

Thus, go first with 158 and then you can go lighter if you need to lower the point of aim.

Here's what my 1964 Model 36 did with the first cylinder of 148 wadcutters last fall when I got it . . . truly "dead on" at ten yards (standing/unsupported) into a 1" black square:

It likes 158 grain too. For self defense I use Remington 158 grain Lead Semi-Wadcutter +P (158 gn. LSWC +P) that's stocked at any Bass Pro Shop and other places. As seen above in the expansion test, it doesn't get any better than this!

However, I suffered an avulsion fracture of my wrist a few weeks ago (with a 12 week recovery time). During this time, I've downloaded my defense loads to the soft-kicking 148 grain Wadcutters I load . . . and if I HAVE to endure shooting the gun in a life or death confrontation, I still feel well armed with the wadcutters. No, they won't expand, but the totally flat bullet cuts a clean, sharp, .357 diameter hole in flesh and bone. It is actually a great SD round!


September 17, 2008, 11:26 PM
Get the Speer 135 GDHP +P, practice with WWB or UMC 130 grain FMJ.

Recoil will be less, muzzle flip about the same and point of aim close enough for snubby ranges.

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