Lightest Felt Recoil for a .38 Special


Animal Mother
May 5, 2009, 06:32 PM
I recently bought a used Rossi 461 snubby and a side effect is that my fiancée has taken an interest in it as a self defense weapon. The problem is that she is extremely recoil sensitive. The only firearms (handguns and rifles) that she has felt comfortable shooting have been .22 LR. Needless to say, I'd feel much better if she would accept the 461 with even the lightest .38 Special loads as opposed to a .22 LR. What factory loaded .38 Special cartridge has the lightest felt recoil? Of course the goal is to reduce her recoil sensitivity, and to move her onto a more potent loading, but to do that I need something that she will be willing to shoot at the range without giving up.

I think a snakeshot round would be almost useless from a training perspective, but may possibly be the lowest recoiling round. Are there cowboy action shooting loads that are super light?

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May 5, 2009, 06:52 PM
I recently bought some S&B 38 special wadcutters and there is very very little recoil. It is amazing how still my little Model 37 S&W stays in my wife's hand when she practices with this little gun.

May 5, 2009, 06:56 PM makes a 100gr DEWC is super light kicking. In my Ruger Security Six snub feels like a .22! The only problem is that they are 2 months behind in their orders:(

The Lone Haranguer
May 5, 2009, 07:00 PM
Agreed on the target wadcutters. :)

May 5, 2009, 10:24 PM
I shoot the Georgia Arms 38 Special 125 gr Cowboy loads from my Smith 637 Airweight.
The recoil is far less than the +P loads, and less than the standard 158gr round.

May 5, 2009, 10:39 PM
Load 148 grain wadcutters with 2.7 grains of Bullseye -- Presto --- No recoil

May 6, 2009, 12:23 AM
Work Hard, Play Harder.

Dirty Gun

May 6, 2009, 12:28 AM
Changing out the grips might helpful.

May 6, 2009, 01:35 AM
If you handload, Magtech makes a 95 gr copper bullet. I bet it would feel pretty tame.

I second the new grip suggestion. A grip that fits the user's hand and hopefully covers the backstrap can do a lot for recoil.

May 6, 2009, 02:59 AM
Hi DoubleAction,

Your Porting there makes me curious to try that on an old six inch Barrel S & W I have...It'd look like a Flute..!

Probably detract some from the fps though...

Anyway...very cool looking, and I imagine it works well too.

One possibility also, for the less felt recoil of the thread's a 4 inch Bull Barrel Model 10 S & W...

The Lady would probably find Standard Loads to be very well as very nice overall balance.

May 6, 2009, 03:20 AM
If you reload try hodgdon regular clays behind any lead bullet. Minimum charge. Incredibly low recoil, noticeably lower than titegroup and bullseye in my opinion.

May 6, 2009, 03:43 AM
I agree, target wadcutters will probably produce the lightest recoil. Also, that can double as her carry ammo since the lower velocity will not be important since the bullet is already at full diameter and expansion isn't an issue.

If you reload even better. You can make the rounds as light or heavy as you want.

May 6, 2009, 11:24 AM
125 grain Oregon Trail FN lead over 3 grains of Trail Boss is my favorite J-frame load. Even a light 642 is fun to play with.

I wouldn't use that for self-defense, though.:)

May 6, 2009, 11:27 AM
Have you thought about changing the revolver instead of the rounds? An N-frame with .38's is quite soft. Even a K-frame is going to be softer than most any snub-nose.

Sniper X
May 6, 2009, 11:30 AM
Hey DoubleAction, what tune does that snubbie play when you touch one off? :)

Like a middle C?

Larry Burchfield
May 6, 2009, 12:29 PM
I would try a set of Hogue rubber finger groove grips on that snubbie. It helpped my s&w 36.
Larry Burchfield

May 6, 2009, 08:59 PM
I'd go a different route other than loading down.

If you have, can borrow or can "rent" a .22 have her start on that and work on her grip and aiming. Correct the flinch and other oddities and work on having fun. For a "treat" have her fire off a cylinder the first time from the snubbie with regular .38Spl. That's all, just one cylinder worth. On the way home or over dinner listen to the stories about how it kicks so much and how she can't see ever shooting it with full power loads.

Next time out shoot the .22 some more and work on any general issues. Stick in a cylinder of .38Spl again and then go back to the .22 for a while. Finish off with a cylinder of .38Spl at the end of the session.

During the after session discussions focus on "yeah, it kicks a bit but don't you think it's a bit of a giggle to shoot something that strong?".

A few more sessions with .22 mixed in with .38Spl and I'll bet she starts asking to shoot more .38 and less .22.

Having a "better" .38/357 with a longer barrel to make accurate shooting a bit easier would also help. At least it would sure help with getting some encouraging groups until she learns a bit more about how best to aim the snubbie.

Let's face it. .38Spl is a pretty soft recoil round. I would say that if she has a problem with it this is only due to unfamiliarity with the recoil and shooting in general. Or at least with HANDGUN shooting in general depending on her situation. With a bit of exposure on her terms I'll bet she comes to enjoy the feel of the .38 and might even start asking about what the difference is between the .38 and .357.

May 6, 2009, 09:33 PM
" makes a 100gr DEWC is super light kicking. In my Ruger Security Six snub feels like a .22!"


And you'll get your order filled faster if you send them brass to reload.

May 6, 2009, 10:20 PM
For house defense? Not to carry? Then let her try a 4" barreled K-frame or a big, ol' Ruger. The bigger and heavier the gun, the less recoil felt. It's easier to hit one's target, too. Snubbies aren't easy. My Model 10 w/4grW-231 & HBWCs is downright pleasant to shoot and that load is on the +P cusp. It'll make a good hole if necessary.

May 6, 2009, 10:38 PM
There are three ways to reduce recoil.

Reduce bullet mass. Reduce bullet velocity. Increase gun mass.

That's it.

Porting doesn't reduce recoil. It only reduces muzzle flip by redirecting the exiting gasses. Actual recoil energy is unchanged because most of it has occurred before the ports come into play.

Jim Watson
May 6, 2009, 11:28 PM
I am going through that with a student whose well meaning husband armed her with an Airweight .38. 130 grain econo-ball bruised her hand. Next time out I will start her with my .22, then some rubber bullets in her .38, then wadcutters. Maybe we can find a comfort zone, at least enough for short practice sessions that will let her defend herself. But it will never be a fun gun to shoot.

Hostile Amish
May 6, 2009, 11:52 PM
Buy Hogue grips.

May 7, 2009, 01:17 AM
As mentioned, recoil is all about bullet weight, gun weight, and the speed the bullet is moving. Move up power levels step by step.

My recipe for teaching women to shoot has been to start with .22s, then progress to Medium frame or heavier 4" revolvers with light target .48 rounds - I think my load is like a 158gr swc over 2.7 or 2.8gr. of WST. In a medium frame revolver, it is a small step up from a .22LR. Full power .38s to start out in a light snubby can feel like a .357 in a larger gun.

May 7, 2009, 02:24 AM
My wife tried my Model 60 (2-1/8") with S&B 148gr and didn't find it horrible. Unfortunately, the FMJ is probably a rotten choice. The only reason I bought the stuff was because it was the only standard pressure available at the time and she wanted to try the gun. (I usually use +P, but arthritis is catching up ...)

To put it in perspective, my wife is very petite. She can't even manage to reach the DA pull on a Sig 229, so that gives you an idea.

She thought the PPK/S was horrible. (A whole separate issue ...)

ANYWAY ... (sorry to take so long) ... I just got hold of a few boxes of Federal Hydro "Low Recoil" 110gr JHP in std pressure. I haven't tried them yet, but I can't imagine anything that would be milder and still be really practical. Not range ammo, but it has potential.

May 7, 2009, 05:45 AM
But it will never be a fun gun to shoot.
I'm not at all sensitive to recoil but I have to totally agree with that statement. My M36 is fun to shoot but the M638 and M642 are not. They are fine to practice with but are not plinkers.

May 7, 2009, 10:51 AM
with the current price of ammo, you could find a nice and heavier 357/38 for her to use for the same price of trying out all the ammo choices that have been given. my wife hates a heavy gun and has yet to complain about recoil:D

May 7, 2009, 08:18 PM
Tried the Federal 110gr stuff today. It is very easy on the hands.

May 9, 2009, 02:26 AM

Tried the Federal 110gr stuff today. It is very easy on the hands.

Yes, Federal makes a 110g HP Hydra-Shok low recoil round in box's of 20.

But I think the Wadcutter's would be a good choice too, and they are not a buck a round like the Hydra-shoks.

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