Which .38 special ammo for defense?


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ccsniper
March 10, 2010, 03:26 AM
I am going to be buying a 38 special for carry. I want to know what you carry and why. Thanks.

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stealth
March 10, 2010, 04:37 AM
From what I read the FBI load (158gr lead semi wadcutter hollow point +p) and both the 125gr and 135gr variety Speer Gold Dot +p are the best.

Oro
March 10, 2010, 05:08 AM
Nothing is "best." Period. I know it sounds like that should be the case, but it's not. All test are subjective, and performance of the top-of-the-line ammo across manufacturers' is so similar as to be indistinguishable when enough tests are done.

Hornady XTP or the newer generation of bonded core (can't recall at the moment - FTX?; don't think it's in .38 Special yet, though), Federal, etc., it's all going to be very, very similar. How much you practice and how well you shoot will matter much more than whether it's Hornady or Federal, Remington, Speer, etc.

Buy lots of practice ammo and as well as shooting it, dry-firing the same amount. Then carry the premium ammo after you've practiced with it a little to make sure you know the difference. The brand on the label is not as important as a systematic approach, practice and confidence. If you can shoot well, 148gr LSWC over some bullseye is much more deadly than someone who doesn't practice with the hottest, trendiest ammo.

Stainz
March 10, 2010, 05:31 AM
Oro, I believe you may have meant the 148gr lead full wad cutters - usually true target/paper punching loads. They don't have to 'open', they are .357" OD at the start. I suggest them for folks who are 'recoil shy' and tote a lite wight .38, such as a 642 or the new LCR. I prefer the Remington R38S12 version of the +P 158gr LHPSWC, as the lead is softer - should open better at the 840-860 fps speed achieved from my 642 or 2" 10. No problem from the 10, or my longer barrel .38/.357M SS revolvers, but a healthy 'Howdy!' from that 642.

"A man has to know his limitations!", as Harry Callahan said. There will be a day when my CTS/arthritis problems combine to make those 'FBI loads' in my 642 a memory - and I'll load 148gr WC's. Periodic practice with carry ammo helps identify that time. You don't want to need your protection - then, after that first round, have to look around on the ground for your revolver!

Stainz

RatDrall
March 10, 2010, 08:09 AM
From what I read the FBI load (158gr lead semi wadcutter hollow point +p)

I prefer the Remington R38S12 version of the +P 158gr LHPSWC, as the lead is softer - should open better at the 840-860 fps speed achieved from my 642 or 2" 10. No problem from the 10, or my longer barrel .38/.357M SS revolvers, but a healthy 'Howdy!' from that 642.

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/38%20Special%20158gr%20LSWCHP.htm

That one ^

angel1216
March 10, 2010, 12:48 PM
hands down speer gold dots!

Setzer77
March 10, 2010, 12:51 PM
My vote goes to Buffalo Bore's "FBI" load. They're a bit pricey, but they acheive much greater velocity than any factory +p load and they're still safe in anything +p rated.

41magsnub
March 10, 2010, 01:03 PM
If you are really recoil sensitive you might consider the 150gr Buffalo Bore wadcutters. It is a hard cast lead wadcutter in standard .38 pressure. I have those in my j frame right now to baby my hand for a while after an injury. Recoil is a little more than standard 148gr wadcutters (I was shooting the CCIs) but not by much. They get great penetration but of course zero expansion.

Otherwise, I'm back on the Speer 135gr short barrel gold dots.

check out this site for some comparisons of different loads:

http://www.brassfetcher.com/38%20Special.html

BossHogg
March 10, 2010, 01:05 PM
Anything you can get your hands on. I just stopped by a few shops and all was SD 20 rounds for $25 . No range ammo at all. I know this is just a small sample , but jesh.

M2 Carbine
March 10, 2010, 02:16 PM
I am going to be buying a 38 special for carry. I want to know what you carry and why. Thanks.
I favor the +P 158gr lead SWCHP and keep all my 38 revolvers loaded with this round. I have more confidence that the heavy bullet will preform better than the light bullets.



Much more important than what the gun is loaded with is that you can quickly make ALL 5-6 shots count, from arm's length to about 15 yards.

wlewisiii
March 10, 2010, 02:52 PM
Another vote for the Buffalo Bore 158gr LSWCHP +P.

William

bikerbill
March 10, 2010, 03:03 PM
No such animal as "best." some folks recommend the +p 158gr lswhp, but I can't shoot it accurately from my Smith 637; 15 oz is just too light to control recoil, at least for me. I tried a number of JHPs, and I currently carry either Federal's 110gr Low Recoil JHP or the new Hornady Critical Defense round. Both are easy shooting, accurate and allow me to get back on target quickly, with no need for a cast on my hand after shooting a box or two ... don't take anybody's advice, shoot a bunch of different ammo and make up your own mind.

shockwave
March 10, 2010, 03:13 PM
For the .38s I went with Corbon DPX 110 gr, reviewed here (http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/Corbon%2038%20Special%20Ammo.htm). This is for a 4" barrel revolver, and you can see in the linked photos that they expand very nicely, and achieve 12" penetration.

Friendly, Don't Fire!
March 10, 2010, 03:14 PM
I have a 642 and I carry the short-barrel Speer Gold Dot HP's made especially for 1 7/8" barreled snubbies!

snooperman
March 10, 2010, 03:27 PM
for many years the old FBI load was always in my carry 38 special. It is an excellent round today by which many are measured. Since conceal carry is so much a part of many peoples daily lives today, there are many good choices including Hornady critical defense, gold dots, Remington golden sabre, Winchester PDX , Federal, hydrashok, Federal Nyclad and several others as well. They all seem to perform very well in the 2" snubby revolver. The ammo companies have responded well to our needs . However , that was not always the case years ago.

doc540
March 10, 2010, 03:38 PM
110gr Barnes Bullets in CorBon DPX

ymmv

wrs840
March 10, 2010, 03:41 PM
Depends on the length of the barrel.

Hornady FTX is available in 110gr .38 +P, Oro, and it's what I carry in my 442, because it's designed for being able to penetrate heavy clothing and then still predictably expand in tissue when fired out of SD snubs. Does it work? A friend of mine that is the handguns trainer for two local LE agencies and the local college CJ program is convinced it's great stuff for some reason, so that's what I use.

Out of a 4" bbl, I'll use whatever, but I don't CC a 4" .38.

Nomad
March 10, 2010, 03:42 PM
I don't carry the 38 Spl much but on the occasion I do, I carry with Cor-Bon 125 gr. HP +P

Bill B.
March 10, 2010, 04:23 PM
I have a 642 and I carry the short-barrel Speer Gold Dot HP's made especially for 1 7/8" barreled snubbies!

+1 ........38 Special ammo needs to be tailored to the barrel length it going to be shot from. What works in a 6 inch barrel can be very lacking in penetration from a snub.

Cactus Jack Arizona
March 10, 2010, 04:46 PM
I like bikerbill's advice. Don't take anyone's advice. Do your research, buy a box of this and a box of that and see what YOU like best. After all, when the shtf, its only going to be you pulling that trigger of your firearm. Besides, experimenting is all part of the joy of shooting, not to mention the excuse to go shooting. :neener:

May your gun always go bang and your bullet always hit your target. :D

skoro
March 10, 2010, 07:55 PM
If your carry weapon is a snubby: Speer +P 135gr Gold Dots

If it's a 4" service size revolver: FBI load, the +P 158gr LSWCHP from Remington or Buffalo Bore

RatDrall
March 10, 2010, 08:22 PM
For the .38s I went with Corbon DPX 110 gr, reviewed here. This is for a 4" barrel revolver, and you can see in the linked photos that they expand very nicely, and achieve 12" penetration.

Thank you SO MUCH for linking that, i've been looking for a lighter +P load that wasn't 900 fps out of a long barrel.

Blue Brick
March 10, 2010, 09:01 PM
+1 on the FBI load.

LouisianaMan
March 10, 2010, 09:23 PM
I agree with others that the "try it & see approach" is best, but that's sometimes hard to do. Especially with ammo availability issues these days!

I'm a heavy bullet, big meplat and/or sharp shoulder fan when it comes to snubs. With currently available factory ammo, I'd go with the "FBI Load" if you & your gun like it. 158g, sharp shoulder, may expand to boot. Personally, my next choice would be a 158g LSWC.

I wouldn't be unhappy at all with Speer 135s. If that's what you like & can get & can afford, go for it! Fed/Winch 129-130g JHPs are fine ammo, but at that weight range I get increasingly concerned about possible lack of penetration at many angles, although clearly they do fine for the frontal shots that many consider most likely. (I'm a bit more pessimistic about that, personally.) For that reason, I don't prefer 110g bullets. Would they suffice in a large proportion of cases? No doubt they would. Heck, on a frontal shot at close range against light clothing and medium or smaller build BG, they may well be a better choice than my heavy bullets. On a side shot against a big, heavily clothed, fast-moving BG, the lighter bullets may not do as well. Unfortunately, there's no crystal ball, and any choice has strengths & weaknesses.

So. . .practice for speed & functional accuracy & plan to shoot in bursts of 2-3, or more! And mentally prepare yourself that the BG may not drop, quit, or even run away immediately. (I realize the run away concept isn't as satisfactory as a true "stop," but if he's running away you are probably going to survive the incident. So, mission accomplished.)

ccsniper
March 10, 2010, 09:32 PM
If your carry weapon is a snubby: Speer +P 135gr Gold Dots

If it's a 4" service size revolver: FBI load, the +P 158gr LSWCHP from Remington or Buffalo Bore

It will be the 3" barreled rossi that academy sells for 229 + tax. I have made up my mind on what the round must be able to do

Must get at least 11" of penetration
Must be moving at or above 950 fps
Must expand to more than .50"
It seems the corbon 110 grain all copper bullet linked earlier is the ticket for me.

MedWheeler
March 10, 2010, 09:44 PM
My 4-inch Magnum is loaded with Remington 125-grain SJHP +P rounds, and my snubby, which is not +P-rated, is loaded with either 125-grain Remington FNEB rounds, or (in cold weather (when BG clothing likely heavier), 140-grain Winchester "target" rounds, which look like fully-jacketed semi-jacketed wadcutters.
I'm just kind of old-school, and these have kept me happy by shooting well for their guns, and I'm confident enough in them to do what I need them to do.

W.E.G.
March 10, 2010, 10:18 PM
The sights on fixed-sight .38's are usually regulated for the 158-grain bullet.

Modern 125's expand better when fired through fabric.
(If expansion compensates for shaky marksmanship)

Land 'em between the shirt-pockets, and the result is predictable.

Steve C
March 11, 2010, 02:21 AM
Any of the +P hollow points in 125 to 158 gr that are manufactured by Federal, Remington, Speer, or Winchester is good defensive ammo Ammo that has a good solid track record in police shootings IMO is a better choice than an ammo that has no real life track record. Solids are best left for practice shooing paper. Not that they won't work or kill, they just don't do as good a job on the average compared to HP ammo. While a hollow point is not guaranteed to expand it is certainly no worse than a solid.

Get a gun capable of handling +P ammo or better yet, .357 mag ammo even if you only shoot .38 spl. The magnum will stand up to any heavy .38 spl ammo and is a more versatile and durable pistol.

Gunteach2010
March 11, 2010, 04:24 AM
When I am on my own time, I tend to carry a couple of J-Frame Smiths, one a 2" Airweight in my trouser pocket, and the other an old 3" Model 36 on my ankle. So the question of what to put in them is important to me. Back in the old revolver days of police work, the department that I worked for used the Winchester 158gr LSWC +P load in everything, 4-inch guns for the uniform guys and 2-inch snubs for the boys in plain clothes. There were a few shootings in my city each year, and I was able to attend about a dozen autopsies over the years there. In each case, this old load seemed to work just fine, being found with pretty deep penetration and "deformation" rather than classic expansion when removed. The recovered slugs usually looked like gray pieces of gravel from your driveway, they were that mis-shaped, and never looked anything like the bullets shot in to gelatin or water. It didn't seem to matter much whether they came from a snub or a full length gun.

I'm pretty sure the Remington load, with its even softer lead, would have done better, but the Winchester was soft enough. In fact, there has been many a time when I have used a bullet tip to write a note in my memo book when my pen broke or ran out of ink. Try that with a jacketed load, lol.

I've shot the newer Gold Dot load, and it may in fact be better. I don't particularly care for the recoil in my Airweight, which seems a bit snappier than what I am used to. But time marches on, and when I finally run out of my stash of W-W "FBI Load", I might switch up. I guess I'm just a dinosaur.

I do have some friends who are more recoil shy, or don't want to shoot +P in their Airweights, and they seem to like the Federal 125 grain standard pressure Nyclad hollow point. That's being sold in 50 round boxes and is supposed to be LE only now, but I see it all over the place.

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