38Spl as a HD Weapon?


October 12, 2011, 04:44 PM
My wife is not a shooter. She probably never will be. Back when we first got married, she went to the range with me once or twice, but I doubt I'd ever get her back again any time soon. I am okay with that, but I do want to make sure that if the need ever arose, she could defend herself. She knows how to shoot and is actually a decent shot (Glock 19), she just prefers not to.

So all of that being said, I am leaning real hard towards picking up a service size 38Spl revolver and just making it our "home defense" handgun. It would be secured during the day, but when we are home, would move to the bedside table.

I've done some research on things like muzzle flash and decibel level of differing handgun calibers and it seems that as defensively acceptable calibers go, the 38Spl is almost ideal when it's fired from a 3 or 4" barrel.

I figure I can pick up a used Ruger Security Six or maybe a Rossi or something along those lines for real cheap, put a few hundred through it to make sure it's good to go and be done with it. I love the idea of the very low maintenance requirements of revolvers, too (we don't have a lot of rust issues in my neck of the woods).

Anyone have any thoughts on this as to why this would or would not be a good idea? Any ammo recommendations? I plan to start reloading soon so I could roll my own if needs be.


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October 12, 2011, 04:54 PM
That would be a perfectly acceptable plan.
Except for the Rossi part! :D

I'd get a 4" Ruger Security or Service Six, or GP100, or a used S&W Model 10.

Pick your ammo carefully and don't cheap out on Cowboy loads or Wallyworld bulk pack FMJ or something.

I like full power 158 grain lead SWC.
Or Speer 135 grain Gold-Dot hollow-points.


October 12, 2011, 04:59 PM
My wife hates guns but tolerates my affection.

She has me leave her the LCR when I am away.


October 12, 2011, 05:08 PM
.38 Special will work. Use 148 grain HBWCs for practice, and the aforementioned 135 Speer Gold Dot Hollow Point for household use. The 148 HBWCs are easy to shoot with low recoil and muzzle blast, and is the most accurate ammunition available for the .38 Special.

Don't buy a Rossi when good used Rugers and Smiths are available for the same price or less.

Just my .02,

October 12, 2011, 05:08 PM
You say she's good with a Glock 19, then get her one of her own. If it's a gun she isn't familure with, she may not even get the first shot off or know how to load it. Good luck..

October 12, 2011, 05:14 PM
Since you say she is not a shooter, I'm in the revolver camp but far prefer S&W over Ruger or Rossi for HD. Get a nice used S&W Model 10 or Model 64 (same thing, only blue vs. stainless) with a 4" barrel. Lots of ex-police or security guard guns out there for silly cheap. Put Buffalo Bore 158 gr LSWCHP standard pressure in it and forget about it. If she ever needs it, it's there: pick it up, point & pull through.

October 12, 2011, 05:19 PM
My wife is not a shooter.For a non-shooter, there is nothing safer or more foolproof then a revolver.

It is either loaded, or it isn't.
And a caveman could figure out the manual of arms to safely load it and unload it under pressure.

At the other end of the safety spectrum lies the Glock.
Or most any other auto pistol with a round in the chamber, more rounds in the magazine, and so on..


October 12, 2011, 05:32 PM
38 is great.

October 12, 2011, 06:42 PM
I have my 3" Taurus stoked with the old (discontinued) Remington Multi-ball load. Two 70gr 000Buck balls inside the .38 case at ~825fps. Dead-soft lead so they'll splat instead of ricochet, and two wound channels. No over-penetration worries, either.

There is a recipe for duplicating that load in the book Handloading for Handgunners.

October 12, 2011, 06:45 PM
For a non-shooter, there is nothing safer or more foolproof then a revolver.

It is either loaded, or it isn't.
And a caveman could figure out the manual of arms to safely load it and unload it under pressure.

At the other end of the safety spectrum lies the Glock.
Or most any other auto pistol with a round in the chamber, more rounds in the magazine, and so on..

I disagree. I don't believe a non shooter stands much of a chance of successfully reloading a pistol in a timely fashion in the extreme life or death stress of a home invasion or similar event. But even so a semi auto, provided a loaded spare mag is present, will be quicker and easier to reload than a revolver. Even for experienced shooters a semi auto is generally quicker/easier to reload.

Load either one (revolver or Glock) and put it in a holster on the nightstand. Their operations are now the same. Unholster, aim, pull the trigger, repeat last step as necessary. When finished set it down.

A semi auto that has a round in the chamber and more in the mag is no different than a loaded double action revolver. Trigger pulled = a round is fired. No trigger pulled = no round is fired. The semi's trigger will likely be a little shorter and lighter, but for a non shooting female that might be a good thing.

The opposite end of the spectrum would be, say, a single action revolver or a semi auto with a manual safety or a semi auto with no manual safety that fires DA/SA and requires that you decock it after firing in order to make it safe. These require more manipulation to safely fire than simply pulling the trigger.

Frank V
October 12, 2011, 07:13 PM
I think the .38 Special is under rated today. It will work for your home defense gun. The Speer 135gr Gold Dot +P is Massad Ayoob's choice. There are a couple others that deserve recognition. One is the RP 158gr lead SWC HP +P these have also proven themselves on the street. I think the FBI used to use them.
Another, & I favor this one, is the Buffalo Bore .38 Special 158gr lead SWC HP, Buffalo Bore makes this in both +P & non +P. I've chronographed the non +P at 876fps from a Colt DS 2". Buffalo Bore says it's 850fps. Nice to get more than they claimed! The +P would be a bit faster. The HP on the Buffalo Bore is huge! That's what I carry in a .38 Special when I carry a .38.
I'd go for a mid size, something like a Combat masterpiece, a nice model 10 "K" frame or Ruger mid frame, or if you can find one, a nice Colt. This size gun is usually easy to shoot well & large enough to be easy to control. The .38 Special is a lot of fun to shoot & can be loaded about as cheaply as any center fire cartridge. Loaded with a good wadcutter it's a great small game gun too! Good luck with your search. Let us know what you decide.

October 12, 2011, 07:19 PM
Thanks Frank, and others, for the great info. I sure will keep the community involved!

October 13, 2011, 03:38 AM
I keep an Armscor .38sp in my sock drawer for my other half to use in case of a home invasion. The .38sp round will do the trick, as somebody said above me just make sure to use a good load that has been designed for defense even if it costs a bit more.

If you're looking, the Armscor revolver is a steel .38 special revolver that sells for about $200 new with a lifetime warranty. They're decent revolvers and will serve your purpose well.

Whatever you choose, you should focus on making your woman understand that IF somebody does break in that she needs to be in the mindset that the person is dangerous and wouldn't have come in without the intent to harm the resident of the home. Basically the ability to shoot is nothing if the person defending themselves doesn't have the will to do so. This advice is the best I can give you and I hope that it will influence you to train and inform your wife that home invasions can be violent and that she shouldn't feel remorseful for defending herself if the need arises. Make sure that she will NOT hesitate if the situation arises.

October 13, 2011, 04:45 AM
Nothing wrong at all with a .38 Special for HD. I carry an Airweight all day long and my HD revolver is a 4" S&W M10. Load it up with the FBI Load and you are well armed. (or the Speer 135gr load)

evan price
October 13, 2011, 05:05 AM
The supply of good used police trade in service revolvers is dwindling!

there are still good deals to be found in Smith & Wesson 10s and 64s for under $300 and under $250 in some cases. Get them while you still can.

There is nothing wrong with a good old 38 special revolver as a house gun. Modern ammo and powders makes the 38 special even better as a stopper than it was, and lots of men got put in the ground with a 38 slug. Plus the lower felt recoil makes for better follow up shots, and less flash than a Magnum.

The old Ruger Something-Sixes, the old Colts, the S&Ws, can't go wrong there.

My camping gun is a Smith & Wesson 10-6 4" heavy barrel with Pachmayr grips kept in an old S&W duty holster with thumb break. Paid maybe $159 plus tax for it, cosmetically challenged with a sloppy reblue from a previous owner but mechanically great. 158-grain SWC-HPs over 4.0gr of Titegroup. Perfect for agressive animals, with four or two legs.

October 13, 2011, 07:02 AM
A security guard trade-in 4" 64, as several websites sell, would be ideal. Most are 'DAO' (Double Action Only - bobbed hammer/internal mods for pull-the-trigger-only use - great for HD.). It is the SS +P-rated version of the venerable Model 10.

I found mine as a new trade-in from a local store three plus years ago for $309 NIB OTD. It pays to check local gunstores regularly for used deals!


Even the recoil-shy should have little trouble shooting the +P 158gr LHPSWCs, like the Remington R38S12's pictured above, or the GA Arms reloads from a 4" 64. If she does, the 148gr LWC's, like the Zero ammo I found locally for $8/50, is hard to beat for both skill development and HD. It will leave a constant .357" wound channel, unlike the usual 158gr LSWC or LRN ammo. Good luck!


PS My wife still prefers the 2" 10-11 I bought 8+ years ago new from CDNN - $279 - a bargain. I reprofiled some goncalo alves rounded fg Hogues to fit her hand - she prefers it - her choice. That's important!

October 13, 2011, 08:20 AM
everything rc and evan said, yes
38sp for HD not only adequate, but ideal IMO

"the 38Spl is almost ideal when it's fired from a 3 or 4" barrel."
better still in 5" or 6", but will do fine in anything "not snubbie" (unless a CCW snubbie is the only one you own or shoot well)
no reason not to go with a 38+P rated gun, and almost all of them are

October 13, 2011, 08:28 AM
Ask her what she would prefer with regards to a HD gun and see what she says.

My mother has a .38 Stainless Rossi from 20 years ago and its a fine shooter btw. I wouldn't purchase a new S&W revolver right now anyway...used and with 15-20 plus years of age would be fine though. New Taurus' I would stay away from as well. Ruger, new or used would be the best bet, if going the revolver route. A semiauto that the little lady feels comfy shooting would be a great choice.

October 13, 2011, 09:39 AM
If I asked her she'd say nothing. The chances of her even using it are slim, at best. But you know, it's a game of odds. If I slant the odds in her favor, then, heaven forbid, the opportunity arose that she may need it, it's there.

As for loads, I am leaning more towards the standard pressure loads for two reasons. One is recoil. I know the difference is negligible, but it might make enough difference for my 100lb wife who doesn't have a lot of arm strength to begin with, to get off a second, and possibly crucial shot. And two, the muzzle blast and noise level. I've been doing some reading lately and the standard pressure 38Spl from a 4" barrel is among the very lowest decibel rated handguns available. The 380ACP is also low, but I'd rather stick with a revolver and I trust the 38Spl. I carried a snubby for years, also.

So I am thinking the FBI load or something similar may be ideal. The BB load looks good other than the price. Wow, they sure are proud of those things! I may have to pickup a hand loader and a set of dies instead!

Thanks again, I am sure this is good info for others in similar situations as well.

October 13, 2011, 10:54 AM
See if she likes revolvers before you buy it. The DA trigger can be difficult for some people to pull. Another option could be a shotgun if she can handle the recoil.

harmon rabb
October 13, 2011, 01:00 PM
You say she's good with a Glock 19, then get her one of her own. If it's a gun she isn't familure with, she may not even get the first shot off or know how to load it. Good luck..

I'm sort of in the same boat as you. The only purpose my wife sees in guns is for self defense, and isn't really that interested in shooting. She'll go with me here and there, but that's it. If I can get her to the range 3x in a year, I'm going good.

She's comfortable with revolvers and shoots decently enough with them, so I don't mess with success. She carries a LCR, leaves a SP101 on her nightstand at night.

October 13, 2011, 01:56 PM
I often have my S&W 642 at the ready.

October 13, 2011, 02:13 PM
I've been shooting .38 and .357 revolvers for 12 years now and I've only BEGUN to get good with them. And whether I could actually hit someone with my revolver while they're shooting at me is an open question. In those circumstances I'd give myself even odds of hitting at ten feet, maybe. The idea that a newbie shooter is going to be able to do much with such a firearm in a pinch is popular, but baseless. True it has no external safety switch, but it's not particularly easy to reload or more importantly hit things with. Neither is a semi, or any handgun.

If she were a shooter, I'd suggest a shotgun, probably a 20 ga. with plenty of practice and a good light mounted on it. BUT you indicated this:

My wife is not a shooter. She probably never will be.

So I'd say her appropriate firearm is no firearm. It's her choice and has to be her choice. I'd say try to get her to at least become familiar with spray or a zapper of some kind. Forcing a firearm on her, particularly a short gun, is a recipe for an ND.

For yourself, I'd say get whatever you want without concession to her. She's opted not to be involved or practice, so that's fine. To my mind, no practice = no firearm. At least when it comes to actual life and limb defense. Plinking is another matter.

October 13, 2011, 02:24 PM
My wife is a new shooter and going through range work permitting and more range work. She failed the target portion of the CHP.

She has some mild arthritis in her hands and weak grip she hasn't had good luck with my 642 or 686. One is too heavy and the other takes a great deal of patience and experience to get good with despite having laser grips (642). One thing they both have in common are heavy and long triggers.
We also learned she is challenged with being right handed and left eye dominant.

We are going to get some additional range time in and some hand strengthening excercises going. I think due to the eye hand coordination, the laser will be a good thing for point shooting. We can also run the test with my Buckmark .22.

Next attempts will be with a BERSA .380 or a Kahr PM9, my PM9 has a laser and the trigger is long yet light and smooth. We will see if the chambering a round is a problem. For bed side purposes, that may not be an issue as long as 7 rounds is sufficient.

I think I will be saying good-bye to my Kahr. I suspect it will work the best for her.

October 13, 2011, 04:15 PM
Some people make this so hard. Just get her a 38/357 in 4inch. Load it with either 158"FBI" load or a good 125 jhp both in 38 special!!!
Foget trying to reload in a stress situation and all that nonsense. She will have 6 shots. If she has a speed loader fine. But 99.99999999% she will not need to reload, or wont have the time. Ruger / S&W or Taurus would be my choice.

October 13, 2011, 07:52 PM
Funny you should start this topic. I just bought a used S&W model 10 4 inch for my wife. The K frame is a great home defense weapon with the heavier frame and 6 shot capability. Your option of the Ruger is a good choice also, ditch the Rossi though.;)


October 13, 2011, 08:09 PM
Use factory ammo for self defense.

Use what your local pd or the FBI has used.

Nothing weird.

If you get a agressive DA he will use the reloads against you. :what:

October 13, 2011, 08:10 PM
I just bought a 4" S&W Model 64-3 for this exact reason. Well, that and it was 200 bucks.

October 14, 2011, 03:41 PM
As others have mentioned a model 10 38 special 4 inch heavy barrel is a great choice as well as the model 64. But I also agree your wife needs to try one before making a decision. Just about any range I have ever been at will have a model 10 that you can rent and then let her try it. I have a model 10 4 inch heavy barrel that is my home defense weapon. I load it with Buffalos Bores LSWCHP 158 gr 38 +P. The Remington round is also a good one. This is the famous "FBI" that has a good record on the "street" and with law enforcement.
Good luck,

October 14, 2011, 04:00 PM
Yeah I appreciate all of the useful info and the opinions, but really, my wife may not be a shooter in the sense that she lives and breathes firearms the way we do, but she knows which end goes boom. I am confident that if she decided to, she could use it to defend herself. Otherwise I wouldn't waste my time and money.

Seems like lots of people have the same idea as me! Good to see!

October 14, 2011, 07:48 PM
Went shooting with my oldest daughter & son-in-law today. My oldest daughter likes shooting 22s. She tried my Model 60LS with Pachmayr Compact rubber grip (357 & 38), and my son-in-law's SP101 & 686+ (38 ammo).

Her shooting was OK with any combo. However, she didn't like the 60LS even with regular 38 ammo - more kick than she wanted. The SP101 felt good for recoil, but she didn't like the weight of the trigger pull. She enjoyed shooting the 686+ (3") with 38 or 38+P, and was surprised at how much the weight reduced the recoil.

She now is trying to decide if she is willing to carry the weight of the 686+ (37 oz) or not. If not, she'll carry a 22. The 38+P is obviously way better than .22 as a defensive round, but I don't believe in carrying any gun you aren't willing to first go shoot 200+ times. And since she enjoys shooting 22s out of a semiauto, that may end up being her decision. From my perspective, 10 rounds of 22 that you KNOW how to shoot are better than her having my 6-shot 44 mag Ruger Alaskan. The only time I pulled a gun, it was a 22 revolver, and the other guys didn't laugh at it for being a 22. I left without firing a shot, and joined the ranks that day of those who had deterred a crime without actually shooting anyone.

I'll add that my carry gun is a 686+, 3" barrel using .357 ammo. It is the biggest gun I'm willing to carry, and it is very comfortable for me to shoot with 357. It is the kind of gun that makes my wife shake her head at the cost of ammo...because that is what limits how much I shoot it!

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