The awesome .38 SPL


December 29, 2012, 05:17 PM
As I was reloading some .38 SPL I kept thinking what a great cartridge the .38 SPL is. Even today in this day and age of Hi cap polymer tacticool pistols, j frame magnums, and larger cartridges the .38 SPL still hangs on. It is easily in the top 5 most popular hadgun cartridges sold today.

Anything .38 SPL sells like hot cakes, from ammo, components, to the ever popular j frame sized guns. Whether it is just leaving the house to go run errands or going for a hike the .38 SPL is up to the job. With CCW permits at their all time high so are the sales of j frame size revolvers. You can slip them in a pocket and step out and no one is any the wiser.

Then there are the various K frame revolvers for which it is chambered. These are really the true home for this awesome cartridge. They possess some of the smoothest triggers of any handgun made. Another positive is that they are very accurate for what they are, and point like the proverbial finger. Most times it will take a autoloader that costs many times more and be built specifically as a target gun to match or exceed it's accuracy.

The ubiquitous S&W M10's are more robust than many would think, it's fixed sights are regulated for 158gr bullets. It would take a great deal of shooting to wear one out, you will probably wear out long before the gun unless you abuse it. The M15 makes a perfect trail gun, with it's adjustable sights it's easy to zero for hat ever the user wants. Folks will of course chime in and quote ballistics tables of they're favorite cartridge in an attempt to show the .38 SPL to be a little weakling. The fact is however that the .38 SPL can more than hold it's own.

It is not dependent on nose shape of the bullet or amount of powder to ensure the gun operates properly. I've never been into the whole light for caliber bullet theroy and like 158gr bullets for the .38 SPL, which is what it was intended for anyway. Handloading only makes the .38 SPL even more versatile. With good loading data and a modocum of due prudence the .38 SPL can really shine.

Some are probably thinking to themselves right now "yeah sure". In response read and explore for yourself just how versatile the mighty .38 SPL can be.

With the 158gr loadings now available from Buffalo Bore I'm not sure that I'd want to subject my M10 to some of those last loads. I have and do load the classic 5.4gr of Unique with a 158gr bullet though and it is a goodie:) For SD purposes it is very hard to beat the old Remington +P 158gr SWC-HP. As can be seen from the tests above it still offers up a good thump on the recieving end.
to Sum it all up the .38 SPL is a working mans cartridge capable of doing 95% of what needs doing with a handgun cartridge. I have no use for the .357 magnum, if I need more than what I can do with the .38 SPL then I reach for the .41 magnum. Putting on the flame suit now.

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December 29, 2012, 06:04 PM
No flame from me. I have access to 9mm, .357, 45APC, and 44 mag, but when I go out, 95% of the time it is my j frame .38 that I carry.

December 29, 2012, 06:09 PM
I love the 38 special.

In my never-so-humble-opinion the K-Frame Smith and D-Frame Colt are the perfect platform for it.

It can be loaded up hot (a lot hotter than the current manuals suggest), is very controllable and is quite versatile.

Here is a pic of my daughter shredding a "swinger" at an IDPA match this morning.

Note how the recoil (admittedly downloaded) is easily handled in her Smith 19.

December 29, 2012, 06:14 PM
I agree I love the 38 special I think it is very versatile and a great round the first I ever reloaded on. :D no flames here

December 29, 2012, 06:14 PM
I have one on my hip right now. I agree 100%.

December 29, 2012, 06:25 PM
Agreed, .38 special is pretty sweet. Its also the cartridge that I learned how to reload with.

Crunchy Frog
December 29, 2012, 06:42 PM
Economical to shoot, accurate, a good balance of power and controllability but its greatest virtue is its versatility. Especially so if the revolver is chambered in .357 Magnum.

Mauser lover
December 29, 2012, 06:48 PM
I love the .38 Special, but I like .357 even better. However, don't flame me, I like the .357 because I can load all the overpressure .38 Special I want without fear of my gun exploding.

Haven't ever needed something bigger than a .38 Special.

December 29, 2012, 06:52 PM
Nary a flicker of flame from this corner. The 38 special, in all its variations, is my favorite centerfire cartridge. It approaches perfection in a K-38 or Model 10. My 357s (half a dozen at the moment) see more 38 specials than magnum rounds and they do a great job. It's worth reloading just to get the best out of the caliber as well as save money.

I happen to think it is better for SD in most cases: more control and allows for lighter guns if needed. And the idea of firing a full house 357 cartridge inside four walls without hearing protection is painful to even think about. My hearing is about 50% of average (heredity, not trauma) and I see no need to make it worse unneccesarily.

Isn't there a LONG thread in the THR archives extolling the Model 10 and the 38 special?


December 29, 2012, 06:54 PM
I recently picked up 2 of the Taurus 82's that Century imported a few years ago. Inexpensive, not too pretty, but mechanically very good pistols. I do load the .38 and .357 Magnum, so ammo is plentiful. And two Ruger -Six revolvers are the primary HD weapons around here.

December 29, 2012, 07:12 PM
With expensive auto loaders and several revolvers to pick from, my 66-2 or 66-5 are the one's that get to go just about every where with me. And although I usually carry full tilt .357's in it, I do love to carry my 125 gr. Longshot +P loads too. And I think that's one of the particulars about a nice K frame that inspires me, is the option to choose the power range I prefer to carry on a given day.


December 29, 2012, 07:17 PM
The .38 special is really nice and it holds a nice place in my heart. I remember as a kid taking my dads old J-frame model 37 to the woods and popping natural light cans with it. Boy they sure would jump around a lot when hit.

December 29, 2012, 07:35 PM
I carry bigger guns at work, but my 642 in 38 Special is what comes home with me at the end of my watch.

Ky Larry
December 29, 2012, 08:53 PM
I never feel undergunned with a .38 Spl.

December 29, 2012, 08:55 PM
A sweet feelin' .38 with a nicely worn action blastin' home brewed wadcutters... some of the best therapy I know of.

The .38 - it'll feed you, keep you safe, provide recreation, dispatch pests and never break the bank.

December 29, 2012, 09:02 PM
I agree with Mauserloader

I love the .38 Special, but I like .357 even better. However, don't flame me, I like the .357 because I can load all the overpressure .38 Special I want without fear of my gun exploding.

I use a lot of ol Elmer's hot .38s in 38/44s and .357s

December 29, 2012, 09:48 PM
Though my EDC is a nine with eight rounds, I do enjoy having the option of grabbing one of my two already-loaded .38 snubs, or one of my two already-loaded service revolvers (both chambered in .357 Magnum, but stoked with .38 Special ammo.)

December 29, 2012, 10:53 PM
I shot a cool, area steel match (5 stages) that was revolver-friendly (max of FIVE steel targets per stage). Maximum ammo? Eight rounds max in the gun, reloads OK

There were all sorts of classes: Production CF pistol, open CF pistol, even a CF revolver class!

The absolute fastest aggregate times for the day, in ANY class?
Hands down it was with my 1950-made S&W M&P .38 Special revolver (later called the Model 10)! I'd taken it there just for conversations sake, and it was fun whipping the bottom feeders with such an "ancient" wheel gun! LOL All I did differently to the gun was add a Tyler T-grip for the match. Heck, I didn't even take a speedloader!

Second place? A new S&W 686 SSR. In a distant third was the top 1911 shooter.

No speedloader? Frankly, at ultimate speed one still needs to hit every target without the need for extra rounds to win this type of match. Ya just can't miss FAST enough, but if I DID miss I still had that sixth cylinder! Only needed it once.

IN MY POCKET ALWAYS? Another .38 Special, my Model 37 Airweight from '71

.357 Magnum is nice, but .38 Special is generally better to load in one's .357 if it is for home self-defense use.

December 29, 2012, 11:27 PM
I am 100% with you. I always carry a M442 loaded with Speer GD SB ammo and there's a S&W M&P on my night stand loaded with the FBI Load for HD. I'm a huge fan of the .38 Special cartridge and the guns they are shot from...

December 29, 2012, 11:27 PM
It took me a long tim to find my way to .38/.357 but Now that I found them I've become a huge fan. Plus P .38's are my preference for the best balance of power and controlability. My prefered platform is a Ruger SP101 2.25" barrel, but I hope to get the new 4" with adjustable sights which strikes me as an incredible all purpose gun.

December 29, 2012, 11:38 PM
My S&W 642 rides around in my pocket most days. No complaints here on 38 special.

Sent from my DROID RAZR using Tapatalk 2

December 30, 2012, 08:17 AM
The 38 Special is the top round for that bore size. I used one in competition for nearly a decade with great results. Carried one on duty, and also off duty. Used one for hunting and also for plinking. The 38 Special can cover a lot of territory and rarely is a mistake.

Brian Williams
December 30, 2012, 08:41 AM
I really like the 38 spec, that nickel one above ^ could only be better if it were a round butt and had a Tyler T grip.
A 6" M&P pre-57 round butt and a 3" Mod 10-5 or -7 round butt are 2 on my Grail list along with a 3" model 12.

December 30, 2012, 08:45 AM
Good morning
Just latched on to a 38 Special cylinder to mount on a DW 15-2 to finally have a dedicated DW 38 Special. Those long DW cylinders make loading the heavy .360 cast pills easy. Plus the strong DW revolvers give alot of steel to really make +P loads sing.
Mike in ILL

December 30, 2012, 11:22 AM
I love the .38 special, i carry a 1958 Colt Cobra with a hammer shroud in my front pocket every day of the week.....

December 30, 2012, 11:33 AM
My oldest (1909) 38 Special...

My newest (1979, a 3-way tie)...

December 30, 2012, 11:34 AM
I have introduced many a new handgun shooter to handgun shooting with a 38 special. 5 years ago, police positive specials, official polices and plain Smith K frames were obtainable for $200, now add 100 to 150 to that fugure. Brass was almost give away. With a cast bullet reload, ammo costs about .05 per round. At least one 38 goes to the range when I am shooting pistols no matter what the flavor is that day.

December 30, 2012, 03:02 PM
I like the 38 also. Easy and cheap to load I generally shoot 148 gr wadcutters, or 158 gr RNFP.

One of my favorites. 1955, 5 screw, M&P.

December 30, 2012, 03:37 PM
In my never-so-humble-opinion the K-Frame Smith and D-Frame Colt are the perfect platform for it.


Detective Special has become my best friend, 13-2 is the second night stand gun

December 30, 2012, 03:57 PM
My favorite 38 special. 81' Service Six.

December 30, 2012, 10:20 PM
I sold my last model 10 for a Mauser C96. That was a mistake. That M&P was a 1000 times the firearm that broom-handle was. I will get another nice blue steel, preferably pencil barrel, Model 10 and I will never let go of it.

Arkansas Paul
December 30, 2012, 10:56 PM
I'm a new convert, but the .38 Spl is becoming a fast favorite. It's easy to load for. I cast for it to, so I'm shooting it for darn near free. Got a Taurus 82 and like it a lot. The double action trigger is so-so but the single action is very very sweet.

December 31, 2012, 02:45 AM
I have a S&W M37 airweight and let me tell you it is sweet as cherry pie. I love classic snub nose revolvers, and have my eyes peeled for a later model Colt detective special.

December 31, 2012, 08:45 AM
Nothing but love for the .38 special here. I own more guns in this caliber than any other and more often than not it is what I take to the range while my high capacity bottom feeders stay home. I reload .38 special throughout the year and agree with an earlier post that the caliber is capable of 95% of what I use a handgun for. My own EDC is a S&W 642 and my spouse has a 442.

December 31, 2012, 09:34 AM
The .38 is also quickly becoming my favorite. Such a versatile round. I shoot it it seems almost exclusively in my .357 single actions and absolutely love my old Colt Police Positive. Find myself now always searching for my next one and my wife even wants her own to learn with and carry. Gotta love that!

Here's my '21 PP:

December 31, 2012, 09:58 AM
You cant beat a .38 spl. I learned on wheel guns first,I'm glad I did.Trying to properly control a DA trigger pull can be daunting for most. I love using my vintage Austin Behlert customized PPC/Bianchi Model 10 to smoke some of the semi-auto pistoleros on local matches. A very versatile reloaders cartridge and extremely accurate,it can do so much.

December 31, 2012, 11:00 AM
I am so happy to see this posting. I have an early 92F Beretta 9mm that takes care of any high capacity needs I might have but as far as I am concerned, you can forget it as a carry gun. When I first got it years ago an old guy who was about my current age looked at the Beretta and said this must be for people who miss a lot. Right he was.

I have a S&W model 64-2 and a 686-4 in 357 and normally shoot 38spl out of both. The trigger isn't nearly as smooth on the 686 so I usually shoot single action but the 64 goes both ways.

Every time I open up the safe, I pick up the 64. It just seems so right in my hand. Simple to operate, well balanced and will still be functioning long after I am gone. I put it back and take the Beretta to the range.

I have been really thinking about a new auto loader with the double action triggers in 9mm but cannot decide between the Glock 26 or Springfield Armory XD sub compact. Why these two guns? I am really trying to get as close to the simplicity and size of the model 64 but with more rounds in the gun.

I think I am going to pick up a couple of speed loaders for the 64 and maybe change the factory wood grips and then practice loading with the speed loader just in case. Then I am going to go to the range and probably fall in love with the 64 all over again.

The only downside I can see besides less capacity is possible lead discharge from where the cylinder meets the barrel. I think this area is called the cone. I guess if you shot enough on an inside range, lead could be an issue.

I sure am glad I saw this thread. Now I don't have to fork over $600-700 for a new gun.

December 31, 2012, 02:21 PM
For me, most of the downside regarding the old .38 Special are rooted in its popularity and long history.

The round is so successful and popular that it is among the first to get scarce when ammo starts drying up. Also, with all the old guns out there, many factory loads are on the light side.

That's about it...

To me, that's a testament to the round's high regard. It is a victim of its own success.

December 31, 2012, 04:05 PM
Im a huge fan of the .38! One of the best all purpose rounds ever along with 9mm and .45.
Ive carried a .38 Ruger and Colt Diamondback for years.
Summer is LCR and winter is Colt time.
The Colt is getting so valuable I really dont want to carry anymore and look for a Smith Model 19 2.5 or Browning BDA

December 31, 2012, 04:13 PM
Yep!!! the .38 is a fantastic round! Love shooting it, and I carry it regularly.

December 31, 2012, 06:58 PM
Carry a .38 daily. Also find it an enjoyable round generally to shoot. I've fired this caliber outdoors without hearing protection on an occasion just once and found the noise "tolerable". with its moderate recoil and with today's loadings it's a fine choice for a civilian a conceal carry round. Most of my revolvers are 357 magnum chambered but most rounds fired are .38's.

December 31, 2012, 08:16 PM
I was always a .357 Mag. fan until I picked up a couple revolvers in 38spl. the other year.

I started all this with the idea to get a self defense pistol for my Mom, found these guys for $230 a pop and figured "Well, if Mom doesn't like it she can let the GrandKids shoot it when they get a little older. Ya know what, Sis. could use one too and Wife doesn't like shooting the GP100 soo much.... awe heck, give me three of 'em!"

One went to my Mom, one to my Sister, and my Wife got the last one.

It took me just one afternoon to fall in love with the S&W Model 64.

Just as a little FYI; Speer Gold Dot 135 grain Short Barrel 38spl+P averaged 1002 fps over 6 shots out of one of these revolvers.

December 31, 2012, 08:34 PM
Well, I'll be the first to disagree. :) I have 17 revolvers and not a single one is a 38 Special. I do shoot 38s out of some of my 357s. Especially when I take new shooters to the range. The model 66 shooting 38s is a great gun to start people out with. Guess I never saw the point of getting a 38 though since a 357 can do everything the 38 can plus a lot more.

loose noose
December 31, 2012, 08:56 PM
I do agree, nothing quite as versatile as .38 Special, as I've got 5 of them, 3 are 38 Special and 2 are 357 Magnum.;)

December 31, 2012, 09:18 PM
The gun I most frequently carry is a 642 in my front pocket. I own a .380, 9mm, .357, various .40's and a .45. I almost always reach for the .38 Special when I am heading out.

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