Best Standard Pressure 38 Special SD Ammo


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Mr.357Sig
October 11, 2012, 10:43 PM
I own a S&W Model 38 Airweight Bodyguard made in 1971. It serves as a BUG and a rare main carry - I prefer my 1911 and CZ Compact.

The M38 is not made for +P ammo.

I currently have the M38 stoked with 110 gr Critical Defense. I'm sure it will perform fine. But, I'll wager some of you wheelgun experts have some better SD ammo suggestions.

What say you?

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VA27
October 11, 2012, 11:07 PM
I use either Federal or Winchester factory wadcutter. Easy on the hand and the gun, good penetration and makes a nice round hole.

Hapworth
October 11, 2012, 11:23 PM
Today's standard pressure ammo is spec'ed weaker than its counterparts from when your revolver was made; today's +P ammo equates to standard pressure specs from back in the day.

In short, your '71 Airweight is safe shooting today's +P. Call S&W to confirm; they'll say the same. This gets brought up a lot over on the S&W forums.

CorBon DPX 110 grain +P .38 Special is probably the best round out of a J-frame snubby, with Speer Gold Dot 135 grain +P second.

The Hornady you're using has performed well in tests; it also has a +P sibling that tends to expand a little more coming out of a short barrel.

Lotta guys still place their faith in the old FBI load (+P 158 grain LSWHP) and with good reason -- it has an established history of success; the only caveat is some rumblings from users with their own chronos that the current crop from Winchester, Federal and Remington don't post the numbers the old stuff did.

Buffalo Bore has their version of the FBI load and it's no joke -- but I wouldn't want to use it in a 15 ounce gun.

If you insist on what today's SAAMI specs call standard pressure, Buffalo Bore also makes a standard pressure version of the FBI load specifically for snubbies.

Otherwise, stick with the round you're using.

Nomad
October 11, 2012, 11:34 PM
I had the same problem when I had an older Mod 37. I finally loaded my own with 125gr Golden Sabres. BTW I did call S&W about occassionally using +P ammo and they said under no circumstances to use +P in it. I think mine was built in 72 or 73. As a side note my local gun shop has an example of an older Mod 37 that someone use +P in. The only thing it is good for is a few parts.

Hapworth
October 12, 2012, 12:39 AM
And in three replies the controversy is established. :)

While acknowledging there are informed opinions on both sides of the issue, I'll respectfully reiterate: the Model 38 was designed for .38 Special; modern +P loads do not exceed the (SAAMI) maximum for .38 Special, and are actually well below it.

And there are many folks at S&W who have and will say that if the gun was made after the changeover to model number designations (late '50s), it's safe for +P. There are also some who'll say if it's not stamped on the barrel, you can't do it.

The exception would be if we're talking about an alloy cylinder, but we're not.

Good read: http://shootingwithhobie.blogspot.com/2009/01/p-phenomenon-by-saxonpig.html

And again, plenty of threads on this at the Smithy forums; research and make an informed decision -- the nice thing is, there's plenty of good ammo no matter what you decide.

JERRY
October 12, 2012, 12:45 AM
Any non +p lscw 158gr.

ArchAngelCD
October 12, 2012, 01:30 AM
I own a S&W Model 38 Airweight Bodyguard made in 1971. It serves as a BUG and a rare main carry - I prefer my 1911 and CZ Compact.

The M38 is not made for +P ammo.
How can a revolver which was manufactured in 1971 be marked for +P ammo when the .38 Special +P wasn't listed by SAAMI until 1973? (or was it 1972??) I'm just asking... :p

Many revolvers are quite capable of shooting .38 Special +P ammo but aren't marked +P on the barrel because they were manufacturer prior to anyone thinking of the moniker +P. Prior to SAAMI lowering the pressures for standard .38 Special ammo and adding a listing for the .38 Special +P, standard .38 Special ammo pressures were very close to the +P pressures of today.

I'm not telling you to shoot +P ammo in your revolver but you should know what I wrote above. Contact S&W and see what they tell you. (and then tell us in this thread)

Texan Scott
October 12, 2012, 02:49 AM
My find : Fiocchi 125 gr jsp. Standard pressure, fast even from a snubby. Cheap, a bit flashy, good brass. Check ammo2go.

Mr.357Sig
October 12, 2012, 08:45 AM
From S&W:

"We would not recommend shooting any +P ammunition through that (Model 38) revolver. Due to liability issues we do not give out specific ammunition recommendations by brand. I can tell you that traditionally (we) use 158 gr ammunition for testing purposes."

So, standard pressure it is. I would imagine Nyclads might be another good option.

mavracer
October 12, 2012, 09:40 AM
IMHO standard pressure 38s fall just short of the power to both reliably expand and still penetrate deep. You can get pretty close. I don't think you'll do much better than the critical defense load your using for a expanding bullet. I would be ok using it in a warm climate but would probably switch to a 158gr SWC when climate is such that coats are prevalent.

CoRoMo
October 12, 2012, 09:55 AM
https://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=111

springfield30-06
October 12, 2012, 10:40 AM
Buffalo Bore: Standard Pressure Short Barrel Low Flash Heavy .38 Special Ammo - 158 gr. Soft Lead SWC-HC

https://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=110

Buffalo Bore claims the velocities are:

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

Mr.357Sig
October 12, 2012, 10:41 AM
Liking that SWC from Buffalo. I'll have to order a box or five for sure.

Thanks for all the sage advice guys.

mavracer
October 12, 2012, 12:18 PM
Liking that SWC from Buffalo. I'll have to order a box or five for sure.
If i makes you feel better go ahead, but the BB std pressure won"t be any easier on your gun than Remington +P since it's not really the pressure so much as the force of recoil that stretches the frames and beats up the lockwork.
Either way the gun will handle a few boxes of either.

Mr.357Sig
October 12, 2012, 06:27 PM
If i makes you feel better go ahead, but the BB std pressure won"t be any easier on your gun than Remington +P since it's not really the pressure so much as the force of recoil that stretches the frames and beats up the lockwork.
Either way the gun will handle a few boxes of either.

So, standard pressure BB is NOT standard pressure? How am I supposed to know what "standard pressure" ammo is going to beat up my frame and which is safe?

Guillermo
October 12, 2012, 06:42 PM
.357sig

The deal is that SAAMI changed the pressures in 1971.

After that, the manufacturers added "+P" to the box. They lowered the pressure on the new "regular" ammo.

S&W says "no +P" but they also say your gun is fine w 20,000 PSI, well below +P pressures.

Of course the hotter the ammo, the more wear. Dry firing causes less wear than wax bullet, which causes less than simunition which is less than modern "regular" pressure, which is less than "+P" which is less than "+P+".

As the incomparable SaxonPig wrote (in the article Hapworth referenced in post #5), "+P" is pretty wimpy.

It is your gun...your hand and your pocketbook and this is (or recently was) America, so you are free to do what you want.

As for me...I have +P in the Colt Diamondback that is on my hip.

YMMV

mavracer
October 12, 2012, 08:20 PM
Of course BB's standard pressure is within SAAMI spec for standard 38. The thing is your cylinder is capable of handeling proof load which are much higher than +P. +p Pressure really isn't the enemy here. There is a lot of information on the net as to forces at work here. Your realisticly in no danger of +P blowing up your cylinder. What it will do is put more rearward force on the backing plate and put more stress on the bolt and notches in the cylinder. Eventually with enough repeted use you will stretch the frame and cause end shake (movement of cylinder front to rear). Like I said a few boxes of +p or BB won't cause much accelerated wear. Hope this helps.

c1ogden
October 13, 2012, 12:30 AM
Back in the 70s or early 80s S&W came up with a 125 grain load that was optimized for snubby barrels. It used very soft lead bullets encased in a nylon jacket and expanded very well. It was sold under the trade name of "Nyclad". The Nyclad line was sold to Federal when S&W got out of the ammo business. Federal still makes it today, both in standard and +P loads. It was very accurate in my M36 and recoil was pretty light.

Mac Attack
October 13, 2012, 04:58 PM
I have heard a lot about the Nyclads but have never seen them for sale anywhere. How do the compare to the BB 158 gr LSWCHP?

Steve C
October 13, 2012, 06:28 PM
Hornady produces a standard pressure FXT 110gr in .38 spl. that would serve the purpose well.

Speer produces a standard pressure 125gr Gold Dot for law enforcement, Ammunition to Go (http://www.ammunitiontogo.com/index.php?cPath=23_66_113&sort=&filter_id=180) has 50 round boxes in stock now. BTW it's a little more expensive than the .38 +P 125gr GD's.

snooperman
October 13, 2012, 07:19 PM
I use Federal 125gr Nyclad in my Colt Cobra and Agent. It has good results in snubby revolvers that needs low velocity and pressure with very good expansion. It is available now.

Frank V
October 13, 2012, 07:25 PM
I'm going to say my favorite NON +P 158gr load is the Buffalo Bore 158 lead SWC HP Non +P. It says non +P right on the box. I have tested this load & like it really well. I've chronographed it at 867fps from a 2". Buffalo Bore claims 850fps. It's not the cheapest ammo out there, but I'm not shooting 100s of rounds of it, & what is your life worth? I do carry it though & it equals the OLD FBI load that is a +P load & still loaded by Remington.
Frank

amd6547
October 13, 2012, 07:44 PM
I also have an older Model 38 Airweight. I keep it loaded with Remington +P SWCHP's.
It will never be shot with enough +P to cause damage.
One time, put a couple cylinders through it at the range, then switched over to Aguila 158gn JHP, a standard pressure load...recoil was noticeably greater with the Aguila.
In any case, I practice with standard 38 special, and carry +P, only shooting the latter once in a while, and then, only a cylinder of ammo that has been carried for a while to put fresh stuff in.

snooperman
October 13, 2012, 10:11 PM
I do not believe there is a "best" 38 special ammo . Each gun is different and ammo "A" can perform different than ammo "B" in the same gun. The best that we can hope for is to find a type of ammo that performs well in our gun and make the best placement shot we can with it.

snooperman
October 14, 2012, 07:25 AM
In my Colt Cobra the Nyclad bullet works very well with great expansion, but when I tested it in my wife's Ruger LCR, expansion did not occur in the same "wet pack" medium used. Hence, she uses the 148 gr wadcutter. I can not explain why, but I do know that I get different results with the same bullet in different guns. I think that one has to test the intended bullet for the gun before making a decision about what works "best". My 2 cents.

Frank V
October 14, 2012, 04:45 PM
Most ammo will perform differently in different guns. It will often shoot differently even in the same brand of gun & same bbl length.
Frank

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