Best SD ammo for a .38 Special


miss lead
June 26, 2010, 05:01 PM
When I first got my S&W 60-4, I just went out and bought any old ammo I could get my hands on, basically because I had no idea what I was doing. And now I have four boxes of full metal jacket rounds sitting on the shelf that are probably not the best for what I need, which I know because now I'm an old pro. :rolleyes:

Specifically, I want good self defense ammo, and I don't know if it matters whether you're carrying, or whether it's at home, but it would be primarily for the latter. Advice?

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June 26, 2010, 05:14 PM
Some will recommend the Speer Short Barrel God Dot. They recommend this because in a short barrel revolver it has lower recoil, less flash, less boom etc...

I think that load is kinda weak. I'd go for a good 158gr hollow point. Preferably from a solidly reliable company (Speer's Gold Dot, Remington Golden Saber, anything from Corbon or Barnes, Federal HST or Hydra-shok, etc...)

June 26, 2010, 05:25 PM
Lead SWC Hollow Point.

June 26, 2010, 05:26 PM
In a barrel longer than 3", I'd go with Remington +P 158 gr lead hollowpoints. Less than 3", I'd go with Speer Short Barrel Gold Dots, "weak" or no. Right at 3", it's a tossup.

June 26, 2010, 05:41 PM
I load all six of my .38 revolvers with the remington 158gr +P LSWCHP (aka FBI) load whenever one is carried for serious purposes. Their barrel lengths range from 2-5" but the FBI load has a 40+ year history of being a decent stopper (if you do your job with shot placement) even in snubbies!

June 26, 2010, 07:21 PM
148 gr wadcutters

June 26, 2010, 07:25 PM
Some will recommend the Speer Short Barrel God Dot.

This would be me.

June 26, 2010, 08:00 PM
All my .38s are full of the pretty blue, old, Federal Nyclad 158gr.. How can you ever top a blue bullet looking back out of all them holes?

June 26, 2010, 08:11 PM
Anything that shoots to point-of-aim with fixed sights at five yards.

Ideally also a load that can be had in the same bullet weight and velocity at reasonable enough price to practice.

We know where that leads us.

158-grain lead.

Every time.

June 26, 2010, 08:14 PM
I use the new 125gr Nyclad HP in my 2" gun. It trumps 130gr FMJ and probably the 148gr wadcutter, but if I had my choce in ammo I would want a standard pressure 158gr SWC or SWCHP if I could get it.

Actually, what I would really like is a 200gr LFN that doesn't keyhole out of a short barrel, but I don't think I'll have that till I start reloading (if ever)!

June 26, 2010, 08:44 PM
Just to clarify my comment about the Speer Short barrel load being weak, I'm not insulting those who choose to use it. I certainly wouldn't want to be shot with it. But it's a 135gr load at 860fps (per Speer's website). Were it a 158gr load in that velocity range, I'd be ok with it because it would have a lot of weight to throw around and plow deep into a BG. But at 135gr, it's still a relatively light slug.

I realize this is extreme, but compare it to Double Tap's 125gr load. ( they get 1100fps out of that load. And even in the 158gr. load ( it gets 950fps. Now those are loads that give the .38spl some serious teeth.

Now of course that comes at the expense of recoil, noise, etc... I don't consider wear/tear to be a factor because let's face it, how many of these are you going to shoot in the lifetime of the revolver? And a model 60 is now a .357mag, I think it can handle real .38+p loads.

miss lead
June 26, 2010, 10:45 PM
The 60-4 has a 3" barrel, full underlug, adjustable sights, just to clarify.

I think I feel a headache coming on. I need to understand "grains" better, for one thing. I mean, I know what it is but I don't think I understand how that factor alone bears upon the ability of the ammo to do its job. I think I need to go look at the ammo you guys have just recommended to try to figure out what the differences are. I thought this would all be so much simpler than it is.

June 26, 2010, 10:51 PM
158 grain soft lead HP.
148 grain DEWC loaded kind-of hot should be good too.

June 26, 2010, 11:48 PM
Well, I am from the old school and all of my 38 specials for SD or HD have the 158g LSWCHP +P round ready in speed loaders near by. This round is proven over the years to be one of the most effective rounds in the 38 special revolver.

June 26, 2010, 11:50 PM
I think I feel a headache coming on. I need to understand "grains" better, for one thing. I mean, I know what it is but I don't think I understand how that factor alone bears upon the ability of the ammo to do its job. I think I need to go look at the ammo you guys have just recommended to try to figure out what the differences are. I thought this would all be so much simpler than it is.

It is indeed a headache.
Just to get a rough idea, imagine being hit with a paintball shot from a paintball gun. It's a fast moving projectile, and when it hits, the energy quickly dissipates in the skin and it stings badly and leaves a nasty welt.

Now imagine someone tossing a 10lbs weight and it hits you. It is moving a lot more slowly than the paintball, and it doesn't sting. But, it has so more weight behind it and therefore it leaves a deeper bruise because it takes more flesh to slow down that impact and stop the projectile.

That's a VERY rough way to understand the light-weight/high velocity vs. slow/heavy argument.

Look up "caliber wars" and this stuff really gets hashed out (especially if you go to the semiauto subforum and look up 9mm vs. .45acp).

In the end, the thing to keep in mind is that all service calibers (.38spl and up) really work pretty much the same. the thing that matters most is that you hit what you aim for. The construction of the bullet and its velocity are important but come in far second to shot placement.

June 27, 2010, 12:58 AM
158 grain soft lead HP.
148 grain DEWC loaded kind-of hot should be good too.
Buffalo Bore LSWC-HP +P (
Buffalo Bore DEWC (

The +P load is basically the 'FBI' load, the DEWC load is standard pressure, but not wimpy like HBWC target loads.

June 27, 2010, 01:11 AM
Ditto on the cast Buffalo Bore loads. However, I tend to like the standard pressure loads over the +P stuff. BB's standard loads are plenty hot to do the trick without beating me to death. The 158g LSWCHP and the 150g WC loads are awesome. Tested some and posted the results here...
There are a lot of similar 158g LSWCHP loads from other makers that work just as well.
Good luck.


Steve C
June 27, 2010, 01:24 AM
Buy a box of any of the HP ammo labeled for self defense. Stick with the big 3 ammo makers for ammo that's tested and proven to work on the streets. Golden Sabers, Gold Dots, and Winchester PDX1's as well as the old 158gr LSWC HP's would be fine choices.

FMJ or lead solids will work too but generally not as well as any of the HP ammo.

Best thing about a revolver is that you don't have to worry about the feeding and functioning issues like you do in a semi auto. No need to run a couple hundred rounds to make sure they're reliable. Just load up a cylinder full and shoot em if you want to see where they print and what they're like. One box of self defense rounds could last a lifetime.

June 27, 2010, 01:27 AM
Here's another vote for the 158 gr LSWCHP +P (FBI load). Normally I wouldn't use +P loads in anything, but this particular .38 Special bullet seems to make good use of a little extra power.

June 27, 2010, 01:46 AM
FWIW, all the WC, DEWC, LSWCHP, JHP, SJHP, JSP, JSWC, LSWC, RNL, standard P, +P, +P+, bullet weight, and all the other macho ammo alphabet soup doesn't matter, except to hobbyists. So called 'SD' ammo is also wildly overpriced.

The odds are miniscule you'll ever shoot anyone. The gun is to help you survive, not necessarily to win gunfights. That's for the police.

In the most unlikely case you do have to shoot, if you shoot well type of ammunition you use won't matter. And if you miss it won't help.

Check before using any +P or hotter stuff - your gun may not be rated for it.

June 27, 2010, 02:51 AM
I believe some of speer's stuff is made specifically for a snub.

Special powders that burn quicker...

June 27, 2010, 03:44 AM
Here's another vote for the buffalo bore 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter hollow points.

The +p version does a full 1000 feet per second out of my 2" power ported 642, the softer lead hollowpoint gives very good expansion out of a short barrel, the flash is not intense and the round should shoot to point of aim with most S&W fixed sight .38's (which are sighted in for 158g rounds).

The plus p's are a handful though, if you're unable to shoot them accurately and quickly, the regular pressure ones are a considerable step down in recoil and noise.

While yes, the chances of you shooting someone IS minuscule, if you are in a situation where it's your life on the line, would you rather have saved 10 bucks on a box of cheaper ammo or would you rather have every edge you can get?

June 27, 2010, 08:26 AM
The Remington R38S12 158gr LHPSWC +P .38 Special is made of a softer alloy lead than other similar loads, making it's 840+ fps from my 1 7/8" 642 and 860+ fps from my 2" 10 (My measurements - with the range's chrono.) sufficient for opening that HP up. The FBI didn't abandon that round from their .38/.357 Magnum snubbies due to it's being ineffective - it just wouldn't fit in their new semi-auto's. I saw them well stocked at the local Bass Pro Shop for $31.95/50. I do shoot the Georgia Arms similar loads for practice - they are half the price or less. They use a harder alloy, so I would only use them in defense in my 4" 64 or 6" 66, not the snubbies.

Like others here, I keep the Remingtons in speedloaders and even x8 moonclips for all of my.38's & .357M's. A 60-4 was a target .38 version, dating from 1990. They weren't chambered for .357M until the slightly upgraded 'J-Magnum' frame of the 60-9 in 1996, according to the 3rd edition of the 'Standard Catalog of S&W' by Supica/Nahas. I am betting the 60-4 is +P .38 Special rated - as inherently are the K-frame .38 Specials. A call to S&W (1-800-331-0852) with your model & s/n will reveal whether it is +P rated. If it isn't, or those Remingtons are 'too much' for you, consider 148gr full wadcutters - target ammo - it starts at a full .357" diameter and is a milder shooting and decent stopper. Good luck!


June 27, 2010, 08:59 AM
Miss Lead, I fear you have opened the proverbial can of worms. You're going to hear from all manner of experts who will bend your ear with talk of FPS and expansion and so forth. This is close to the "revolver vs semi-auto" wars.

The short answer is to use your FMJ for inexpensive range practice, and use any quality hollowpoint for personal defense. Any quality ammunition from 110gr to 158gr in hollowpoint should make a profound impact on what it hits downrange. I carry Corbon DPX in .38 and Speer Gold Dot in .357.

Friendly, Don't Fire!
June 27, 2010, 09:08 AM
When I first got my S&W 60-4, I just went out and bought any old ammo I could get my hands on, basically because I had no idea what I was doing. And now I have four boxes of full metal jacket rounds sitting on the shelf that are probably not the best for what I need, which I know because now I'm an old pro. :rolleyes:

Specifically, I want good self defense ammo, and I don't know if it matters whether you're carrying, or whether it's at home, but it would be primarily for the latter. Advice?
If you hit someone in a bone located in front of a vital organ (rib, plexus, skull), the FMJ that you have will most likely shatter the bone and keep on going, not only resulting in damage from the bullet itself, but most likely damage from bone fragments moving away at high speed.

So, all is not wasted.

I carry FMJ or solid nose round lead bullets many times.

Dirty Bob
June 27, 2010, 02:47 PM
Much of the confusion stems not only from the variety of ammo available, but the vast array of handguns that can fire .38 Special. It ranges from heavy, long-barreled revolvers meant for .357 Magnum, down to the featherweight S&W Scandium revolvers and the Ruger LCR. These extremes mean that some ammo may be a great choice in one gun and potentially terrible in another. Example: the S&W Scandium "snubbies" come with a recommendation against certain ammo, out of concern that bullets may jump forward out of the case mouths (due to the increased recoil of these extremely light guns) and tie up the gun .

Barrel length affects velocity and performance, and gun size/weight affect how pleasant (or unpleasant) the experience of firing is. I think yours is a 3-inch, small frame, with an underlug, so you're sort of in the middle of the range of guns.

I'd recommend a standard velocity (not +P, at least at first) hollow point from one of the major companies (Remington, Winchester, Federal, Speer, etc.). I would further suggest choosing "premium" ammo that may be marked "self defense" or something similar. I suggest non +P for the lower recoil. Better to shoot something that you're quick, accurate and confident with, rather than ammo that is so unpleasant to shoot that it causes flinching or other bad habits.

Shoot at least one box of this premium ammo to make sure that it's accurate enough in your gun, and that you can shoot it without any problems. Now buy a second box of the same stuff for carry or home defense ammo. For practice, shoot whatever you find at a good price. You may want to fire a cylinder of the self-defense ammo at the end of each practice session, or at least every six months or so. The high price of the premium ammo isn't all that high if one box lasts you a year, and your practice is done with whatever's cheapest.

I hope this is helpful,
Dirty Bob

miss lead
June 27, 2010, 06:10 PM
I hope this is helpful
Very. I think the haze is starting to clear.

Thanks to you all for your thoughtful, intelligent responses. I have read every one. This forum is amazing.

June 28, 2010, 12:20 AM
Glaser Blues for .38SPL+P......

June 28, 2010, 12:21 AM
Corbon DPX +P. Superior penetration to standard hp rounds. 110gr cookin at 1000 fps. I think its what Evan Marshall recommends.

June 28, 2010, 07:47 PM
Hello Miss Lead, first congratulations on your purchase, the 3" S&W M60 is a great revolver and one that is on the top of my "must have" list. As for best ammo this really is going to be based on your personal likes/dislikes, and your guns likes/dislikes. You have received a lot of good feedback on some very worthy SD .38 SPL ammunition. I can sit here and tell you what works for me and that it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. However it may not shoot worth a darn from your particular gun. IMHO I would stick with SD ammo that uses 125gr - 158gr bullets. Then stick with what you and your gun shoots the best.

I'm more of a traditionalist so I stick with the Remington 158gr SWCHP +P loading. But of course there are other great choices out there today. With bullet technology being what it is today we have a much better selection of SD ammo for the .38 SPL then was ever available say 30 years ago.

Here is a great read on the .38 SPL from someone (not me) that has spent over 30 years using it. Some here may/will recognize the author, he offers a lot of great insight as to what has or has not worked for him. Forget that he is writing about his experience with a S&W M10, just read on to learn what he has learned in 30 plus years using different .38 SPl ammunition and how it worked for him. Hope you all enjoy this great read.

I’ve always had the good fortune to have both firearms and unlimited shooting opportunities available to me. Growing up, I lived in a rural setting from the time I was old enough to handle a gun. I spent many happy hours with a Benjamin Model 347 air rifle, Winchester Model 190 .22 rifle, and an old Savage 755 auto loading 12-gauge shotgun. Through trial and error I learned most basic principals of shooting such as trajectory, wind drift, lead etc. By the time I graduated high school I had accumulated several good rifles and that Savage shotgun. My huntin’ uncle, who’d had a large collection of firearms, had died a few years before and my cousins all had access to his arsenal. This included handguns, some of which are now tremendous collector’s items. I hung out with these cousins and was able to sample most all of my uncle’s menagerie of weapons. I determined that I required a handgun of my own.

I became employed with a large Fort Worth bank at 18, just out of high school and was making more money than I’d ever had before. $385 per month, which worked out to $161 every two weeks take-home! Why I had money to burn so burned up a goodly sum on firearms. I became acquainted with some of the armored motor transport guards who made their daily deliveries armed with Colt or Smith and Wesson .38 Special revolvers. One of the guards mentioned that he intended to trade off his blued revolver for a flashier nickel-plated revolver. I was all ears as I couldn’t just walk into a shop and purchase a handgun at eighteen. I offered to buy his revolver and he told me he’d sell it for $75. I happily paid him and spirited my new purchase out of the bank and home. It was a slightly used Smith & Wesson Model 10 with four-inch heavy barrel. The right grip was worn from dragging against the brick wall in the close confines of the bank’s armored motor dock while on the guard’s hip. Only later did I learn that the list price of a new Model 10 was $78.50.

Still… I had a handgun. I replaced the scuffed grip and wrote the date I acquired the Model 10 on the inside of the left grip panel, December 16, 1975. Later a factory letter indicated that my gun was shipped in June of 1971.

My favorite huntin’ cousin who was only five days younger than I, and with whom I’d grown up, had his dad’s Smith & Wesson Model 15 four inch and also had available to him all his dad’s handloading equipment and supplies. We went into the ammo makin’ business. We had no business makin’ ammo without adult supervision. We wanted “hot” loads so we made ‘em up as we went along. If the old Hornady and Pacific manuals we were using stated a maximum charge of Unique, we started there and added a grain. Seemed like a good place to begin. Only the goodness of the basic S&W K-frame design saved us from ourselves. We happily fired several thousand of these loads. We’d even take the loading equipment with us to the family lake cabin, which was situated on large acreage. There we’d shoot up 500 rounds of the hot .38 Special ammo one day, clamp the old Lyman Spar-T press to the kitchen table and reload the cases that night for the next day’s fun. Back then we’d never heard of hearing protection so I am somewhat deaf to this day from the pounding my ears took so long ago. After the first year or so we toned done the loads to more reasonable levels to the everlasting gratitude of our revolvers, which we both still have and which are none the worse for wear.

Roaming the wilds of the family property at the lake, various deer leases, or my parents’ home place I always found varmints and critters galore to shoot. My old Model 10 has taken most every thing that may be found in these parts of Texas including but not necessarily limited to: mice, rats, gophers, ground squirrels, snakes, lizards, turtles, birds, rabbits, jackrabbits, squirrels, armadillos, skunks ‘possums, ‘coons, ringtailed cats, a coyote, carp, gar, nutria, a few black bass, crow, duck, turkey, guinea fowl, feral dogs and cats, and deer. My favorite field load for the .38 Special, a 158 grain lead SWC over 4.8 grains of Unique, is generally what I use. The .38 Special has always performed well for me with good hits and that is all one can ask of a cartridge. Even with the deer or the largest of dogs that I tackled, it offered effective killing power. I can’t recall anything that ran off after I turned my .38 Special on it.

Years ago I spine shot a small buck with a .30-40 Krag, paralyzing him but not immediately killing him. I was packing my Model 10 on my belt, filled with SuperVel 110 grain +P loads. I carefully lined up a shot, which I though would pierce his heart and fired. He stopped struggling and his eyes glazed over and he was dead. Upon field dressing him I found that the hot hollowpoint load did indeed poke a .38 hole through his heart and then the bullet ranged far down his left foreleg stopping just before the knee joint. I extracted it to find that it hadn’t opened up and was scarcely damaged at all. This shot was taken at pointblank range, and the ammo had chronographed at over 1200 fps from the 4-inch barrel of the Model 10. This was the first revelation to me that expanding bullets didn’t always perform as well as their reputation suggested.

Twenty something years ago I set out to kill my first deer with a handgun and I determined that I wanted it to be a .38 Special. I had a quantity of 200 grain Remington lead round nose factory component bullets on hand, so selected this heavy slug to use. I worked up, and chronographed loads with several powders, finally settling on a charge of 2400 which gave this long heavy bullet a muzzle velocity of 935 fps from the 8 3/8-inch barrel of my S&W Model 14. This bullet was of very soft lead and gave good expansion in some materials I used in my non-tests. In actual use, one of these slugs slammed through the boiler room of a Texas whitetail buck and effectively settled his hash. The bullet lodged in a rib on the off side of the deer, flattened out with a big smear of lead on one side about the size of a quarter. It had apparently turned sideways in its track through the vitals. This shot was taken at all of 17 yards.

Many years later I sent a factory Winchester +P 158 grain SWC-HP from my Model 10 through a small Texas whitetail doe from about 30 yards away. She ran about 40 yards in a semi-circle, fell on her back, kicked weakly at the sky and expired. This bullet exited, leaving only a ľ-inch exit hole.

While scouting out a locale on a deer lease one fall I came upon a spike buck entangled in a barbed wire fence. He was very lively but his forelegs were ribbons and one was broken from his struggles. One of my 4.8 grain/158 grain SWC handloads from my favorite old Model 10 through the heart killed him instantly. Of course this was at point blank range.

I commuted to a bank in a different town for 11 years, which took me through some deer country. I frequently saw deer lying dead on the roadside, killed by automobiles. One morning I passed a nice buck lying injured in a ditch beside the highway. A customer of mine drove up about the same time I did and we shook our heads regretfully about the waste of a good buck and a nice rack. I returned to my pickup and retrieved my Model 10, putting the poor buck out of his misery with a single shot to the front of the chest with the Winchester 158 grain +P load. The life went out of his eyes and his head sagged to the ground upon receiving the shot.

From 1980 to 1983 I was a silhouette shooting fiend, attending local matches in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and practicing several times a week at our local range. I primarily used an 8 3/8-inch Smith & Wesson Model 29 for the four seasons I was involved in the sport, but played with several other revolvers to some extent, mostly on the practice range. I never got to be any great shakes at hunter pistol silhouette. At my practiced best I hovered around 30 out of 40 possible. While practicing, I unlimbered the Model 10 on a number of occasions and was generally good for 18 to 22 with the 4-inch fixed sight revolver, using the “Kentucky windage” method of lofting the 158 grain/4.8 grains Unique load into the turkeys and rams. It was pretty easy to accomplish once one familiarized himself with the trajectory. My Model 10 needs no allowance for proper horizontal hold on target with most of my loads.

I had some long-range practice under my belt when I took up hunter pistol silhouette competition, as I’d previously spend several years shooting at ranges out to 200 yards with handguns at a range we have set up at our lake cabin. It’s fun to wile away the afternoon, pretending to be a howitzer, and flinging lead at distant targets with a .38 Special. Instructive too. Cousins, brothers-in-law, assorted friends, and I have set up cans, rocks, gallon milk jugs full of water, old real estate signs, and other assorted targets including a few computers/monitors on the side of the hill of our range and then assaulted them with all kinds of ordnance. My Model 10 has always been at the forefront of such goofin’ off. There’s a oval shaped rock 2 ˝ feet by 1 1/2 feet at about 140 yards that I still can hit with regularity with the Model 10 by holding what appears to be a foot over it with the moderate Unique load. That rock is smaller than it’s original dimensions due to all the long range pounding it’s endured for the past 30 years.

The crow I took was the unfortunate recipient of all this long-range pistol practice. I was fishing in a secret hole when a heavy rainstorm came along. I retreated to the car to sit it out. Along came a forlorn crow and lit in a cottonwood tree at water’s edge about 100 yards away. I looked at the crow a long time, speculating on whether or not I could employ the Model 10 to trim him off the limb on which he was perched. Finally I determined to try. Opening the car door against the torrent, I braced my elbows on the window frame, held about a crow-length over him, and carefully pressed the trigger. The Model 10 barked and, after a short interval, the bullet struck the crow with an audible thud and down he plummeted with a splash, into the pond. Don’t know whether he or I was the more surprised. Of course both the Model 10 and I got a thorough wetting.

Speaking of wettings, the Model 10 and not some stainless handgun, has always accompanied me duck hunting or fishing. It’s been rained on, snowed on, bled on, muddy, and has been swimming in our slough on Lake Leon on a few occasions. Sometimes it rides in a belt holster and sometimes it is toted in the pocket on the inside of the chest waders. That pocket gets kinda sandy and gritty during the season too. No matter, the revolver is always available and always works perfectly. I always keep it wiped off best as possible, and it receives a thorough cleaning and re-oiling after living in such an environment. Never any rust problems. Early on in its career and in my own crass ignorance, it was subjected to underwater firing tests in Lake Leon. The volume of gas released makes for a huge bubble but I couldn’t even connect with a submerged stump at 10 feet. I was unwilling to get any closer in fear that I might be struck with a bullet that bounced back at me. In the interest of prudence I must caution against this idiotic practice of firing underwater. I’d seen an episode of “Sea Hunt” where the bad guy fired a snub nosed revolver at Lloyd Bridges as they grappled in an underwater fight scene, so just had to try it.

Ed McGivern’s famous tome “Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting” inspired me to attempt to learn the stunt of aerial shooting. This is an activity that is difficult to safely pursue in this day and age. One must be in control of a lot of wide, open space to insure complete safety when the bullets fall. I have had the space available to safely practice aerial target shooting. After expenditure of much ammunition I became capable of hitting self-thrown targets about 50% of the time. Most of my aerial shooting was accomplished with the Model 10, though a good deal was done with two other Smith & Wesson revolvers, an 8 3/8-inch Model 17 .22, and an 8 3/8-inch Model 29 .44 Magnum (with light loads). I always felt that I actually did better work on this type of shooting with the Model 10 than with the long barreled revolvers. I’ve had opportunities to surprise a few buddies with my shooting antics on the aerial targets.

When the going gets tough I reach for my old Model 10. I am scarcely ever farther than three feet from a handgun whether I am toting on my person or the handgun is nearby. This has been so for 30 years now and that handgun is generally a .38 Special, usually my Model 10 HB. I’m grateful for the measure of security and reassurance it provides. I spent a couple of years as a bank collection manager, and as a long time loan officer, I have always made efforts to effect payment or repossession on my own delinquent loans through the personal visit. Over the past 25 years or so, field collection activities have taken me to some locales both unsavory and remote, and at some odd hours. The Model 10 is not a collection technique but a comfort. On two occasions its heft was reassuring as I balanced it in my hand to forestall the possible deterioration of a situation. On both occasions the desired effect was achieved without a shot being fired. Neither of these had to do with past due note collections. Never once in 26 years have I been assailed with anything but verbal threats while collecting.

It’s been my experience that the Smith & Wesson revolver of traditional manufacture at least, wears in instead of wearing out. I don’t know about the new ones with the MIM parts, barrel shrouds, and locks. After many years of heavy use my Model 10 has the finest single action trigger pull that a mechanical trigger can provide, and its double action pull is smooth as butter. My Model 10 hasn’t had an action job. It’s never been to a gunsmith either. The $25 “action job” was once de rigueur for the gunsmiths of the ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, both the good ‘uns and the not-so-good ‘uns. Not long after I bought it, I subjected my Model 14 K-38 to the butchery of a reputed action job “whiz” who proceeded to ruin it, rendering the revolver unsafe. A new hammer and trigger were required to remedy the mess he made. My Model 10 has always remained in time despite the volume of ammunition it has digested. Also, despite being dropped on a few occasions, I’ve been fortunate that it scarcely suffered much cosmetic marring, much less mechanical damage. It has always been scrupulously cleaned and lubricated which has to contribute to long service life in any weapon. I’m convinced that most revolvers that have mechanical wear and timing problems were not cleaned and lubricated properly.

In this current age of the concealed carry craze, the atomic powered yet teeny-weeny revolvers and auto loaders reign supreme. Though I have small J-frame snubs in .38 Special, it is a waste of a fine cartridge to relegate the .38 Special only to such products. The steel K-frame .38 Special should be the hottest selling product in the Smith & Wesson line. The cartridge is very capable in its own right, .357 Magnum aside. The fixed sight models are nigh on to indestructible and their sights are far more useful than most suppose. The adjustable sighted Models 14 and 15 give an elegant performance on the range and in the field, and the sights are more durable than most suppose. They are all very easy to get to know and love. They are dependable, very accurate and pleasant to fire. Much more so than the average shrunken concealed carry piece. They may be cleverly and comfortably concealed if some thought is put into the task.

Alas, it’s not meant to be, at least not in the beginning of the 21st century. That’s OK by me. I’m out of style. I’m also sentimental. My Model 10 was my first handgun and we’ve been many a mile together. If circumstances forced me to sell off the firearms collection, I’d keep a rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun. That rifle would be an M1 Garand, the shotgun would be a Winchester Model 12 12 guage, and the handgun would be the Model 10 HB.

June 28, 2010, 08:44 PM
Buffalo Bore 158 gr LSWCHP +P as others have recommended.

This is the gold standard in .38 special.


June 28, 2010, 10:05 PM
I'll also encourage you towards the Remington 158 grain LSWCHP.

And the alphabet soup = Lead, Semi-Wadcutter, Hollow Point.

It's well-proven by others, and it'll work for you, too. Get a hundred or so, practice with half, and set the other half aside for carry use and rotate it out every few months - meaning shoot it and load up a fresh new six.

Shoot whatever you can acquire at reasonable prices for practice in the meantime. Eventually you'll sort it out for yourself the way we all did. If you find you like shooting an awful lot, then someday you'll be asking reloading questions, too.

Until you get better educated about the complexities in ammunition construction; the theories behind them; and which theory you personally want to buy into . . . the 158 gr LSWCHP's will do just fine.

June 28, 2010, 10:15 PM
I like the Buffalo Bore 158 gr LSWCHP +P. If recoil is an issue the standard pressure is also a good round. Buffalo Bore is a little pricey, But what good defensive ammo isn't.

June 28, 2010, 11:02 PM
I stick with standard pressure loads in my normal carry guns. One is an older Colt Detective Special, the other a fairly new (but finish worn) S&W 642-2. I do this out of respect to the Detective Special's age and lack of ready replacement parts, and on the other hand, out of respect to my arthritic wrist's protests at being subjected to +p recoil out of the Airweight S&W.

Right now, they are loaded with Speer 125gr Gold Dots. I am perfectly happy with that load. It is accurate and easy to shoot. But I like standard pressure 158gr LSWC as well.

My advice is to shoot your gun a lot. One of the best handgun shooters I ever met was a little lady in her mid-fifties who was a Brinks armored truck crew member. She had a slick S&W .38 that she shot the snot out of for 3 or so hours every Saturday morning. She could make that thing do anything any handgun can do, and most of her shooting was done with 158gr LSWC reloads. Standard pressure.

Your gun will do it's job, if you do yours and learn to shoot it, so get out there and have some fun!

June 29, 2010, 12:40 AM
In the 5 shot S&W, CHARTER ARMS and TAURUS revolvers that I have owned, I have settled on the FEDERAL NYCLAD 125 grain hollow point. This load will expand as it is a soft lead bullet coated with nylon to control leading.
It also has a controllable recoil which is very important in a light gun.

I also use this load in my a COLT AGENT, for the same reason.

In larger guns like the S&W model 10, I use the REMINGTON +P 125 grain semi-jacket hollow point load. It kicks less than the 158 +P lead hollow points and seems to shoot cleaner.

I have also used the 110 grain +P+ jacketed hollow point. This load equals most 9m.m. loads, but does not shoot to the point of aim on a fixed sight gun.


June 29, 2010, 07:16 AM
Don't adhere to "magic bullets," especially out of a hand gun. Accuracy and multiple shots as long as the threat exist is a time tested plan of action.

June 29, 2010, 08:19 AM
with the way that Miss Lead shoots it really doesn't matter.
Her shot placement outstanding.

Unlike Miss Lead, who studies everything, I usually buy whatever good defense ammo that is handy.

Right now the Diamondback is loaded with 158 grain Gold Dots. In the past the D-frame on my hip (Detective Special) has had Cor-Bons or Winchester XST (or is it PDX?)

Basically any good round, in the right place, will do the job.

June 29, 2010, 08:50 AM
I like the Buffalo Bore 158 gr LSWCHP +P. If recoil is an issue the standard pressure is also a good round. Buffalo Bore is a little pricey, But what good defensive ammo isn't.

I agree with the Buffalo Bore. A little expensive, but get a box or two and shoot some to be familiar with the recoil and point of aim and periodically put a cylinder or two through it. If the +P is a bit much for you the standard pressure should work very well too.

Link to Standard Pressure rounds:

1. S&W mod. 60, 2 inch barrel - 854 fps (256 ft. lbs.)
2. S&W mod. 66, 2.5 inch barrel - 871 fps (266 ft. lbs.)
3. Ruger SP101, 3 inch barrel - 930 fps (303 ft. lbs.)
4. S&W Mt. Gun, 4 inch barrel - 979 fps (336 ft. lbs.)

That's pretty decent speeds for a standard pressure 158 grain round if you ask me.

June 30, 2010, 12:03 AM
336A, that's about as good as gun writing has to be, thank you.
Also a testament to fluid familiarity with the iron making ballistics almost a secondary science.

Long Tom Coffin
June 30, 2010, 10:00 AM
I'm also putting in my vote for the buffalo bore .38 loadings, both in the +p and non+ loadings. Brassfetcher did a ballistic gelatin test on the non+ standard pressure .38 from bb and found it had good expansion, penetration, and caused excellent wound channels. That test was actually funded by Tim Sundles from Buffalo Bore himself. Says a lot for a company in my opinion if they are willing to hand out money to fund an independent test of their products.

I use almost exclusively BB loadings in my 3" sp101, the exception being a box of .357 DPX. The 158 .357 is what i normally carry, but I've got some .38+p 158 gr as well. A few 10% gelatin tests that were conducted over at Stopping Power showed it had 15" of penetration. It's my "indoor" round.

July 1, 2010, 07:44 AM
Remington +P lead semi wadcutter hollowpoints is what I use. That said , there are so many great loads out today that are just as good such as the Corbon DPX etc , far better than we have ever had in the long history of this great cartridge.

July 1, 2010, 08:05 AM
Don't adhere to "magic bullets," especially out of a hand gun. Accuracy and multiple shots as long as the threat exist is a time tested plan of action.

True that. Mindset , skill set, equipment, in that order.

July 1, 2010, 12:41 PM
CorBon DPX with "Barnes Bullets" = great .38 Special combo

plus, they help with that all-important "bling factor";)

Old Ranger
July 1, 2010, 01:38 PM
Wadcutters and lead hollow point semi-wadcutters are good for standard velocity. Many of the factory 'personal defense' loads use bullets developed for law enforcement. They are tough enough to go through walls, doors or windshields and still get the job done. They are slow to expand at low velocities, and I think, for the most part, not so good for 'personal' defense. We will never have to shoot through things to defend ourselves - - - and if we are doing that; it probably isn't self defense anymore.

The Remington .38 Special 'home defense' + P (Golden Sabre bullet) load is the best I've found for 'personal defense'. They perform perfectly in wet pack and deliver more than enough energy and shock to stop an attacker.

July 1, 2010, 03:58 PM
Just stay away from the "low penetration" rounds like glaser safety slugs. They have a proven track record of shallow, non-lethal, non incapacitating wounds.

July 1, 2010, 04:59 PM
I am not a big fan of the idea that one bullet or one load is best. In certain conditions, one may want more penetration and in other conditions, one may value more expansion. For vehicle use, I tend towards wanting more penetration. For use at home, I value expansion and do not want much penetration.

That being said, we are talking about handguns, and the reality is that bullets and calibers really do not make much difference in performance unless one goes to an extreme, like the Glaser Safety Slug. Muzzle blast though appears worse to me as the bullet weight drops, and blast in an enclosed space bothers me. So I just buy the heaviest hollow-point for caliber ammo from Federal, Hornady, Remington, Speer, or Winchester for myself.

July 2, 2010, 04:44 PM
Well, let me chime in here. I am currently loading my LCR with Hornady Critical Defense 110gr FTX. I received good results from the 9mm CDs that I decided to use it in my .38 SPL. I am thinking about going with the Winchester PDX1 130gr +P for a little more power. You should see how big the 9mm expands!!!! And those little talons, nasty!

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