(158 gr.) 38 +P or 357 (home def. for K frame) ?


February 20, 2011, 09:43 AM
Since I have to be careful on what I shoot out of my S&W model 65 (no 125 grain's, based on other threads I've read); I was wondering what a better home defense round is:
.38 special +P (158 gr. LSWC-HP)
.357 Mag. (158 gr. JHP)

And, are either of these too hot?

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February 20, 2011, 09:55 AM
I have never heard of any stainless K frame being damaged by 357 ammo. All of the damaged guns I have heard of were Model 19s (not even the 13s have problems from what I see) with the vast majority being 19-5s. This leads me to suspect that a small number of guns were defective and this is the main cause of barrel failure. This notion is supported by the fact that some 19s have failed with 38 Special ammo while most roll on for hundreds and thousands of full-power rounds without a hitch. I think you can confidently shoot any ammo you wish in your 65.

Having said that, I prefer a warm 38 Special load in my home defense revolver. I think Magnum ammo inside a closed room would be deafening and I do worry about over penetration with neighbors as close as two layers of sheetrock.

February 20, 2011, 02:23 PM
I've put hundreds of 125 gr .357s through a Model 65. No worries. The round is stiff to shoot, generating a fair amount of recoil.

There is no functional design difference between the various classic S&W .357 K-Frames (13, 19, 65, 66) except for barrel contour and sights. They can all handle any commercially available .357 load. To reach the level of flame cutting or forcing cone damage you are worried about, you'd need to be shooting several thousand 125s through your revolver.

All three of the rounds under discussion are viable for use in your 65 and of proven lethality.

I recommend (and use) the .38 Special +P 158 gr LSWCHP (known as the "FBI Load").

Among the all time top performing .38 Special loads, this round has delivered the mail for decades. It offers a sweet spot blend of controllability, adequate penetration, reliable expansion, and combat accuracy

I use the same load in my HD .357 service revolvers because the heavier .357 frames tame +P .38 recoil to pussycat levels, enabling rapid and accurate followup shots. The bullet itself is one of the better anti-personnel designs ever offered.

Additionally, I don't want a lesser trained family member to have to deal with distracting noise, muzzle fireball, and recoil management problems generated by full-house .357 loads in the house.

Remington's version, travelling at ~890 fps, uses the softest lead (possibly enhancing deformation/expansion in flesh), but Federal and Winchester sell the same load. Buffalo Bore also makes a 1000 fps version with a good reputation.


Hope this helps...

February 20, 2011, 06:10 PM
It was the Buffalo Bore (.38 +P) I was looking at. So I guess that's not too hot for the Model 65 based on your comments. Thanks,

February 20, 2011, 06:38 PM
Just got back from the range and shot a few of the Buffalo Bore 158gr +p rounds from my Ruger LCR. They chrono'd right at 1000 fps out of the 2" barrel. All I can say is WOW!

February 20, 2011, 06:51 PM
For self defense I have the Buffalo LSWCHP 38+P. I load both of these two revolvers below with this round for self defense. I also shoot 357s in both but for self defense I prefer the proven "FBI" round.

S&W model 13 4 inch
S&W model 66 4 inch

February 20, 2011, 07:05 PM
plain lead semi wadcutter hollow point.

You can't hurt a 65 with standard store bought ammo in normal quantities. It's the guys who like super duper hot handloads and are addicted to shooting that have problems with failures and excessive wear and tear. Those guys should buy a dan wesson though, and most of them already know that.

or a ruger

February 20, 2011, 07:25 PM
I agree about not wanting to shoot any magnums inside the house ( hell, I don't want to shoot ANYTHING inside the house LOL !! ). I keep a Model 28 beside the bed, but only load it with +P .38 Gold Dots.

February 20, 2011, 07:59 PM
Whats the L stand for in LSWC-HP, (lead?). So, is it Lead Semi Wad Cutter - Hollow Point? And - what is a semi wad cutter?

Steve C
February 20, 2011, 08:05 PM
I have shot a few boxes of 125gr JHP's through my S&W 66 and don't have a cracked forcing cone "yet". I seldom shoot factory loads but my 125gr .357 hand loads equal factory published ballistics choreographing at 1,450+ fps from the 4" barrel. Generally I reserve the 125's for my Colt Troopers, M27's and Ruger BH where there is no forcing cone issue and shoot 158gr Lead or jacketed bullets in the 66. For self defense though I currently keep it loaded with 125gr factory Speer Gold dots. If its needed to save my life the durability of the firearm past the event isn't a worry and I want the most potent load there is.

For self defense use I load .38 spl in .38 revolvers. If I want a lower powered round for the .357 mag the 125gr Remington Golden Sabers that the factory loads to a mid range of around 1,250 fps are it.

February 20, 2011, 08:21 PM
I reload for my model 19 and Python. Most of my loads are "mid-range" magnum -- not full house, but hotter than 38 +P. Accurate and trouble free.

February 20, 2011, 08:40 PM
I handload a 200 gr. LRN that about duplicares the old .38-44 or .38 HV. I've been playing with the Hornady Crirical Defense in standard and +P loading. The expansion looks promisingly consistent.

I don't disagree with any of the above comments either.

February 20, 2011, 08:48 PM
In my opinion, use the well-proven FBI load: 158 grain LSWCHP +P.
Whats the L stand for in LSWC-HP, (lead?). So, is it Lead Semi Wad Cutter - Hollow Point? And - what is a semi wad cutter?

Yes, yes, and:


February 21, 2011, 08:18 PM
I carry the Federal .38 Special 158gr. LSWC-HP +P "FBI" load in all of my .38s and .357s.

February 21, 2011, 08:42 PM
SaxonPig is a VERY smart guy and his post, #2, is spot on.

But the question is not whether the gun can handle 357s...it can. The question is your shooting ability.

You should use the most powerful round that you can shoot fast and accurately.

February 21, 2011, 09:07 PM
If shooting full house magnums is supposed to excelerate wear my 66 would be done by now. I shoot XTP 125s loaded with H110 or 296 regularly through it. I've probably put at least a couple of thousand rounds of those loads through it and can't see any sign of barrel, or cylinder wear. I have a good visable pressure cut on the frame strap, but not anything that concerns me. My 66 is as tight as the day I bought it and seems to not care how much of this I shoot through it.
On the side of caution though is deffinitly hearing loss if shooting it without protection. Inside or out it will do damage. I forgot to put my ear plugs in a couple of years ago and now suffer with ringing in both ears every day of my life as a result of that one single incident. That was the most painful incident I've ever experienced to my ears. I've shot high powered rifle, .270 win and 7mm rem. mag. to name a couple and haven't experienced anything like the .357 mag. in this regard. I honestly don't know why I carry these full house magnums for my self defense load. I guess I just like to know I have a round that will get the job done, even if I have to shoot through a wall or door.

February 21, 2011, 09:56 PM
If there's a chance it will be used for social work, I'll stoke my Model 19 with Remington 158gr LSWCHP +P. But only because that's what I have for my Model 36.

For home defense (defense of folks in the home, really) my go-to gun is my 12ga Remington 870.

February 22, 2011, 01:16 AM
My very first handgun that I purchased was a 1984 S&W Model 65-3 with a 3" barrel . . . back "in the day."

Now back "in the day" means this was long before the internet came about where folks could repeat the same ol' crap-o-la on a new-thread basis forever about the weaknesses of the K frames due to 125 grain hollowpoints. Urban legends die slowly, if ever at all. In the case of the 125gn debate, it will never end due to handgun forums and people repeating what someone else said forever.

Now I won't debate that SOME (a small few) serious Bianchi Cup revolver competitors DID wear out their Model 19 K frames with massive practice using tons of full-power 125 grain ammo each week . . . but the GENERAL PUBLIC? NAAAAH.

Through the decades, including quite a few years as a handgun competitor, I've run quite a few 125 grain Hydrashocks through my M65-3 with zero apparent damage. If I ever wear out that original $235 investment . . . I'll buy another one! It is not likely to happen. (frankly, handguns are the CHEAP part of shooting . . . it is the thousands of rounds of ammo a true handgun enthusiast will run through that gun that is the expensive part!)

Now, the the debate at hand . . .

For home defense I do NOT load .357 ammo in my revolvers. I live in the city limits but more importantly, I have loved ones sleeping in adjacent rooms. I know the penetrating power of stout .357 ammo and my loved ones are too important to shoot that stuff in the house.

Thus, when the .357 comes indoors, it gets downloaded to .38 Special . . . specifically 158 LSWC-HP +P, or a 130gn. home defense hollow-point. As cops knew "back in the day," you can actually SEE again much faster in the dark after shooting the .38 stuff vs. a .357 round . . . and actually HEAR again much faster too inside a structure! Plus, there's less risk of over-penetration. I've shot so many hundreds of competitions now that I'm gonna hit what I point at too, and hit it well.


1. Push away from the ol' computer + turn off the Hollyweird "shoot 'em ups that are so ridiculous . . . and hit the woods! Start handgun hunting and learn the truth about handgun bullets AND your abilities on large game such as deer. You'll also learn there's no magic bullet . . . but that great marksmanship, experience and focus can bring about wonderful results if we do OUR part on an extremely consistent basis. This will come in quite handy if you ever need to defend your home against a sudden, moving target predator.

2. Quit just shooting paper in a casual manner! Compete in serious handgun matches with like-minded accomplished shooters. You'll learn to shoot well as speed, and you'll learn the tactical trade-offs and negatives about shooting hard-kicking/flame throwing ammo vs. the benefits of going a little tamer to control your speed and accuracy.

3. Shoot the snot out of your handguns and learn the truth about wear and tear . . . both on your gun AND on your body. Learn the importance of practicing with light ammo to benefit you in every way.

4. Shoot various frame/weight size handguns and learn the truth about what guns truly handle best at speed and no, they aren't the big, heavy and chunky revolvers at all! (Those are best at shooting paper and for still hunting).

I'll bet you'll start coming home and start downloading your ammo . . . to BEST protect your loved ones and neighbors . . . and still have ammo loaded that will help you best win a bad encounter. This means no .357 in the house unless you live alone, out in the country and don't value your hearing.

Food for thought . . .

February 22, 2011, 06:39 AM
Thanks, these were all great posts! I've been to a lot of sites over the years, mostly hound & now bird dog sites, but this one is #1 on good information & people wanting to help.

February 22, 2011, 03:59 PM
My home defense round of choice is the FBI .38spl SWCHP lead bullet. It is less likely to over penetrate and has a fine history of one shot stops.

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