ammo for my "chief special" 1972


February 16, 2011, 10:42 AM
Hello friends, I´ve 1972 "chief special" S&W 36

I have two options for carry:

1) winchester bonded pdx 130 gr +p
2) winchester white box personal defense 125 gr +p.

Which of them has less recoil for this snubbie?

PD: This ammo is only for personal defense, for practice I used normal pressure 158 gr swc

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February 16, 2011, 10:46 AM
I would use what you practice with, the 158 gr swc.

February 16, 2011, 11:00 AM
Now I am using the 158 gr semiwadcutter non +p

The recoil is hard with the 158 sw, I imagine that with +p (125 gr/130gr) the recoil is more hardest, but is supposed they are better defensive loads...

February 16, 2011, 11:38 AM
hopefully we all live and learn

When I was a young-un I would make fun of my father, Chief of the city I grew up in. He would usually carry a 4 inch Diamondback with a 148-158 grain flat nose bullet.

Being a 45 guy I talked about how under-gunned he was.

Having read dozens and dozens of ballistics tests I now see the logic of a heavier bullet that "gets in there" to the vitals. A big wound channel is nice but not as important as getting a major organ.

So to your question, I would suggest a bullet that does not weigh under 148 grain and as hot of a round as you shoot well.

+Ps are medium pressure rounds but be read up on any +P+ before you buy them as there is no industry standard.

please remember that it is ALL about shot placement.

February 16, 2011, 12:31 PM
Then you recommend continue with my 158 gr semiwadcutter normal pressure?

February 16, 2011, 12:43 PM
Then you recommend continue with my 158 gr semiwadcutter normal pressure

If you shoot the gun well with a low pressure round...stick with it.

If you are just as good with a medium pressure round (+P) I would definitely step up.

Basically my opinion is summed up in the statement "shoot the most powerful gun/ammo combo that you can shoot well"

I won't carry a gun that I can't put 5 rounds into a pie place at 10 yards in about 3 seconds. Because of that I am carting a heavy 38 special "snub" it a 2.5 inch barrel. I would never carry a LCP 357. I just don't shoot a heavy, powerful snub well enough.


February 16, 2011, 03:04 PM
Which of them has less recoil for this snubbie?

The only way you'd be able to measure the recoil difference between these two loads is in a lab with precision instruments. I doubt it would be less than the 158 SWC (due to the +P).

Count me as another vote for the std pressure 158 SWC. I use the RP factory load in J frames and it one of the most accurate rounds I've ever fired.

You may want to try 148 factory wadcutters as a SD load. That's what I usually carry in the gun with the RP SWC for a reload. No difference in point of impact.

Old Fuff
February 16, 2011, 09:05 PM
Now I am using the 158 gr semiwadcutter non +p. The recoil is hard with the 158 sw, I imagine that with +p (125 gr/130gr) the recoil is more hardest, but is supposed they are better defensive loads


In the unlikely event you have to shoot someone, I doubt that they, an emergency room surgeon, or the medical examiner will know the difference.

This would be true in any case, but it’s especially so when your revolver has a barrel length slightly under 2 inches.

While you’re worried about the slight difference between several .38 Special loads, others are successfully defending themselves with smaller caliber handguns. The difference between success and failure mostly depends on hitting and disabling a vital organ. Forget about the ammunition and work to improve your marksmanship…

February 17, 2011, 02:25 AM
I carry the 158grSWCHP +P in my 1973 bodyguard . It was a effective load in the old days and still is today.

February 17, 2011, 06:49 AM
The Remington 38S12 is their 158-gr. LSWC-HP 'plus-P' round. However, given the adjustments to SAAMI 38 Special, that means that the current 'plus-P' is less pressure than what it was for the 1973 chief.

Georgia Arms makes an excellent reload clone of this round. Both the Rem factory round and the Georgia Arms clone run just at, or a hair under, 800 fps from the CS 2" barrel. So, shoot this one, IMO. If it feels a touch hard now, a bit of practice will get your hand conditioned and you'll be able to shoot it just fine.

Jim H.

February 17, 2011, 10:55 AM
Thank you very much for all his answers, where I live only find the ammunitions round nose 158 gr, semiwadcutter 158gr, and the two +p winchester 125 and 130... according to the comments I believe that it is better to continue with the 158 swc non +p... because I can´t find here 158 +p

February 17, 2011, 10:59 AM
absolutely. In that case, stay with the 158 SWC.

Jim H.

Harley Quinn
February 17, 2011, 12:27 PM
Bullet design helps with that caliber...Jim Cirillo book about it is a must if you want to carry 38 spl...

Shooting what you are use to is best... That revolver is almost 40 years old:what: and was not made for the +p imho...


February 17, 2011, 12:40 PM
was not made for the +p

the regular pressure ammo back then was about the same pressure as the +P of today.

Do NOT fall for the marketing hype.

Harley Quinn
February 18, 2011, 12:19 PM
I have to think the "pressures" of 38 spl in days of old, and now, compared to +P of now are different :confused: one is 17,000 the other is 20,000...

The manufactures may have dropped some under it, to save for various reasons, less powder per shell adds up to money saved :)...

But specs are still the same:scrutiny: Which were established long ago...

Granted it is very low and why reloading can be useful, but:uhoh: It is not the gun to be shooting a lot of higher pressure loads, is it acceptable to jack them up even further??? Well, if you are into handling them and coming up with good groups and are use to it...:) Check to see how the revolver is handling it, maybe it will handle it better than the shooter;)

Due to its black powder heritage, the .38 Special is a low pressure cartridge, one of the lowest in common use today at 17,000 PSI. By modern standards, the .38 Special fires a medium-sized bullet at rather low speeds. The closest comparisons are the .380 ACP, which fires much lighter bullets slightly faster than most .38 Special loads; the 9x19mm Parabellum, which fires a somewhat lighter bullet significantly faster; and the .38 Colt Super, which fires a comparable bullet significantly faster. All three of these are usually found in semi-automatic pistols.

The higher-pressure .38 +P loads at 20,000 PSI offer about 20% more muzzle energy than standard-pressure loads and places between .380 ACP and 9 mm Parabellum, similar to that of 9x18mm Makarov.

February 18, 2011, 01:37 PM
Saxonpig explains it extremely well

Harley Quinn
February 18, 2011, 03:06 PM
This is a good read also...

The question of using modern +p ammunition in these old revolvers often comes up. While the all steel early models will probably stand up to a limited amount of +p, they were not designed to handle it. Loads like Speer 135g +p and Cor-Bon DPX did not exist when these guns were built. The safest course with the Model 36 is to stick with standard pressure loads if you choose to shoot it. +P absolutely should not be used in the early Airweights, the Model 37, 38 and 42. And, of course, the all aluminum "Aircrewman" revolvers should not be fired at all, even with standard pressure loads. The new Airweights, the Model 637-1, 638-2 and 642 are rated for +p and will handle it without damage to the gun.

February 18, 2011, 08:42 PM
The article mentioned in post #17 is filled with falsehoods and misrepresentations. It is only to be read for entertainment value.

Here are some examples

While the all steel early models will probably stand up to a limited amount of +p, they were not designed to handle it.
this is total bullsqueeze. +P is the same as standard ammo when it was made.

Loads like Speer 135g +p and Cor-Bon DPX did not exist when these guns were built.
While technically true...those rounds didn't exist. MUCH HOTTER rounds did. (example 38-44 or Super Vel)

+P absolutely should not be used in the early Airweights, the Model 37, 38 and 42.
If this were true it would mean that those guns were not safe to shoot with the standard rounds of the day. Of course this is totally ridiculous.

To some people, facts don't matter. You will notice that the numbskull that wrote that article has no facts whatsoever. Just refeeding pablum to the victims of marketing that are under the false impression that +P is a high pressure round. It is not.

February 18, 2011, 09:22 PM
With a 2" barrel you will get better terminal ballistic results with standard 148gr target wadcutters. Winchester is the brand I prefer. Your gun, ears and hand will thank you. AND, you might actually shoot them often enough to hit your intended target.

Contrary to popular belief the shoulder on a semi-wadcutter doesn't touch anything in flesh or jello. The front of the bullet makes a "bow wave" that directs the material away from the shoulder. This is not my opinion. It has been demonstrated.

February 18, 2011, 11:38 PM
I use either Buffalo Bore 158gr LSWCHP Non +P or Federal Nyclad 125gr HP. Whatever shoots best in the individual weapon.

February 19, 2011, 09:41 AM
I have one myself (1974) and the 158 gr. swc work just fine.

February 19, 2011, 10:56 AM
I carry the Federal 158gr. LSWC-HP +P "FBI" load in my Model 36. It's accurate and easy to control with decent grips.

Harley Quinn
February 19, 2011, 11:22 AM
Standard ammo for the 38 has a rating of 17,000 the + P 20,000...So even in days of old 17,000 was the limit (safety wise) for those who did produce it...:confused:

Here is another thread about the 38 special ammo some use...

As I have mentioned it is a low pressure round and can be souped up some by reloading... But most makers of it have stuck with the pressure rating set up by those who make the regulations...

The work at SAAMI is accomplished by its committees. Technical excellence is always our goal and safety is always the prerequisite. SAAMI supports science-based solutions to the many issues related to firearms, ammunition and components.

I'll add 20,000 is only 3000 more than 17000, but if you look at it correct that is almost, not quite... 20% more:what: In reloading 10% can be KABOOM;)

I doubt that will happen in a low pressure round with the weapon mentioned...
Wanting to add this link information to loading the 38 spl below...

Super Vel was a 110 grain bullet, similar to 9mm loading, but at a low pressure compared to 9mm...38 std is 17000, 9mm is 35000 (that is twice times) :uhoh:

List of Saami info...

Hope this clears up an misunderstanding about specs and pressure manufactures stick with...

The Chief can handle it some, but not as an every shoot situation...:evil:

February 19, 2011, 10:39 PM
Maybe the new release of the Nyclad?

February 19, 2011, 11:57 PM
a few facts

Some .38 Special velocities actually measured (not claimed by the manufacturer) from a 4" Colt Official Police:

Remington 158 grain lead made in the late 1960s-early 70s...840 fps
Peters 158 grain lead made in the 1950s...800 fps
Western Super-X 158 grain lead made in the mid-late1960s...810 fps
Western 150 grain metal-piercing made in the mid-late 1960s...1000 fps
Remington 158 grain lead "Hi-Speed" made in the 1950s...920 fps

The 158 loads from the 1950s-1970s are clearly more potent than the current offerings that achieve a claimed 730-755 FPS velocity. The observed 800-840 FPS is consistent with the manufacturer claims at the time of 870-910 FPS since they used a 6" "pressure barrel" to achieve the claimed velocities and actual velocities from 4" revolvers ran somewhat lower. But clearly not the huge difference some people claim in their assertions that factory .38 Special ammo has not been reduced in power. Also, bear in mind that the ammo being tested was all 30-50 years old and may have exhibited some deterioration in the powder which may have caused lower velocities than the ammo developed when new.

February 19, 2011, 11:59 PM
I tote the 135 Grain Speer short barrel in my 65 Model 49, but use the Rem 158grSWCHP +P in my 4" Model 10.

February 20, 2011, 01:06 AM
I think Harly Quinn clears things up nicely, but I must say I'm still kind of jellous about the fact that he is a "Golden Shellback" I'm just a regular "Shellback" Thank you for ur service Mr. Quinn. :)

February 20, 2011, 08:23 AM
Wadcutter 148 gr is best defensive load than 158 gr Semi Wadcutter ??????

Harley Quinn
February 20, 2011, 11:55 AM

:) Yes it was pretty nice sailing back then...The initiation was very rough, but worth it...:)

The 38 is what I carried when LEO in a revolver Colt 6" for a few years then the 15-3 S&W... When issue was Beretta 9mm it was a real upgrade, the biggie, being so many rounds in the mag:)

Take care...

February 20, 2011, 02:13 PM
Alliant has published data for the 38 using their 2400 powder (they call it +p but it only lists at 17,400 psi) 158 g LSWC at 1035fps, starting load 7g.

It has always been my understanding, if you start to see problems with the primers, (cratering etc) it really doesn't matter what the published pressures are, your load is too hot.

After everything I have read, sorry Harley, I am of the present understanding that when my .38 Colt was manufactured in 1926, (there was no +p) .38 Special pressure was 21,500 CUP max. (based on old published, that is, pre "+p" handload data)

Example: Top load, 1974 Hodgons: 150 grain JHP, 10.5 g H4227 "small pistol primer" 959 fps 15,500 CUP (6" barrel)

1971 Sierra: Starting load: 150 g JHP, 12.0 grains Hogdon H4227, CCI-500 primer, (no pressure listed) Top load 14.2 g H4227 @ 1100 fps (6' Barrel)

The fastest 150g/158g Sierra loads were all AL-7, most velocity, least muzzle flash etc. Too bad it is no longer available, or maybe it is,,,,maybe AL-7 (or it's equivilent) is Buffalo Bore's "low flash" non-canister powder they use with their "standard pressure" 38 at 1100 fps from my 6" Colt barrel?

I know, CUP and PSI are not directly convertable, but primer deformation is a function of CUP and primer deformation is what I watch for when I think I am on the edge.

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