Have you ever hunted deer with a .38 Special?


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Macchina
March 6, 2013, 05:48 PM
Note: I'm not going to hunt with a .38 Special, this is just about developing a "woods carry load" for a small .38

I'm looking to develop a .38 Special load that would put down deer sized game as fast as possible. I am mostly wondering about terminal performance from people with first-hand experience hunting with a .38 Special. What bullet was used? What Powder and how fast was it going? How did it work?

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PlaneJain
March 6, 2013, 06:16 PM
Nope. My state requires 500 ft pounds of energy at the muzzle to take down 'large' game.

J2FLAN
March 6, 2013, 06:42 PM
Maybe the 158gr lswc at about 900fps, it would hit hard and smash bone.
But, with a 38 spl. -- you may have to prove self defence. :)

USSR
March 6, 2013, 06:53 PM
Not a good idea, michaelmcgo. I've killed 2 deer with a .357 magnum, which is essentially a .38 Special on steroids, and I find it to be a marginal cartridge for deer. I have since moved on to a .45 Colt which kills deer cleanly and quickly.

Don

Macchina
March 6, 2013, 08:40 PM
As I stated in the first post, I'm not looking to actually hunt with this load, I'm looking to work up a woods carry load. I figure if a tested load has killed a deer, it'll be more likely to do for the critters Imay encounter in the woods where I fish in and don't want to carry my bigger guns. Many of the newer personal defense rounds (JHP) are designed to prevent over-penetration. In the woods I'm not very concerned about hitting a tree in the forest with a stray bullet.

Once again, I'm looking for input from anyone who has hunted with a .38 Special.

4895
March 6, 2013, 09:26 PM
Never hunted deer with a .38 special but I am sure a headshot with a .22lr will drop them in their tracks.

ArchAngelCD
March 6, 2013, 11:11 PM
I would use a high end .357 Magnum round fired in a Carbine for Deer but not a .38 Special. The animal deserves more respect than that, we have a duty to take game humanely and cleanly. I highly doubt a .38 Special will do that. A 140gr .357 Magnum @ 1976 fps w/1213 ft/lbs of energy or a 170gr load @1795 fps w/1216 ft/lbs of energy will. (I chronoed those loads myself)

A 158gr .38 Special @900 fps will generate only 284 ft/lbs of energy, unacceptable... Even @1100 fps you get only 424 ft/lbs of energy.

gamestalker
March 6, 2013, 11:45 PM
I load a 125 gr. XTP HP with Longshot that will definitely drop a deer with no problem. Even the 158 gr. chronographs at over 1200 fps with that powder, and from a SB revolver.

As for having ever shot a deer with the 38 spcl., I don't recall if I have or not, I don't think so. I know that myself and my Son's have taken a few mule deer with the .357 mag. loaded with 158 gr. Gold Dots, XTP's, and even a Sierra 110 gr. JHP head shot on a mule deer. That one with the 110 gr. JHP dropped like a rock, it was dead on impact. That little tiny bullet blew a large piece of the skull completely out. So I have absolutely no doubt that a 38 spcl. with the right bullet, and powder to push it, will drop a deer. But I have tested my loads / bullets on deer shoulders and pig shoulders, and they have all punched right through.
GS

ArchAngelCD
March 7, 2013, 12:17 AM
Even the 158 gr. chronographs at over 1200 fps with that powder, and from a SB revolver.

So I have absolutely no doubt that a 38 spcl. with the right bullet, and powder to push it, will drop a deer. But I have tested my loads / bullets on deer shoulders and pig shoulders, and they have all punched right through.
GS
Are you telling us you loaded a .38 Special with a 158gr XTP and Longshot to 1200 fps and it was still a .38 Special and not a .357 Magnum in pressure? I highly doubt you were still within SAAMI pressure limits for a .38 Special at those velocities with a 158gr bullet.

Just because you load the round in a .38 Special case doesn't make it a .38 Special.

Texan Scott
March 7, 2013, 04:49 AM
In Texas, deer may be legally taken with any centerfire round (doesn't make it a good idea).

That said, a .38 might be used from a carbine... not that .38 spl gains much velocity in the longer barrel, but the longer sight radius could be crucial to a 20 yd head/ neck shot.

From a snubby revolver? Good luck.

Muddydogs
March 7, 2013, 09:53 AM
As I stated in the first post, I'm not looking to actually hunt with this load, I'm looking to work up a woods carry load. I figure if a tested load has killed a deer, it'll be more likely to do for the critters Imay encounter in the woods where I fish in and don't want to carry my bigger guns. Many of the newer personal defense rounds (JHP) are designed to prevent over-penetration. In the woods I'm not very concerned about hitting a tree in the forest with a stray bullet.

Once again, I'm looking for input from anyone who has hunted with a .38 Special.
About any .357 bullet loaded to the hotter end of 38 special or better yet 38+P if your revolver can shoot +p will work in an area where you are worried about something deer size attacking you. Since deer don't usually attack people I would guess you are worried about the occasional dog, bagger, or skunk. Now if you have bears in your area and are worried about them I would look at something more then a 38. I trust my 125 Speer Gold Dot +p rounds to defend my life against a human I sure would trust them against a deer at deer attack distances.

James2
March 7, 2013, 11:58 AM
I have hunted the wilds of Northern Utah for many years. I have seen every critter that roams these woods, except a bear, killed instantly with one shot from a 22lr. I have also seen many a deer hit with high-powered rifles run off to die in the next county. What makes the difference? The shooter. You gotta make a good hit with any gun to make a clean kill. My advice? Learn to shoot! (More important than what caliber gun you have in your hand.)

That aside, a 38 spl is a poor choice for deer sized critters. Not even legal in this state for deer. Load them up +p (if your piece is rated such) and you will do ok for a carry piece.

mavracer
March 7, 2013, 12:07 PM
For your application I'd use a 158 gr lead SWC at 900fps that'll give you the best chance for adequate penatration and enough damage.

Clark
March 7, 2013, 12:33 PM
I have killed 9 deer with a 270, 5 deer with a 7mmRM, and 4 deer with a 257 Roberts Ackley Improved.
Hunting deer with handguns, muzzle loaders, or archery is beyond my skill level.
I want every advantage I can get.

Bull Nutria
March 7, 2013, 12:40 PM
+1 Clark,

Bull

rogn
March 7, 2013, 02:48 PM
Nevr shot a deer w/ 38, butn used to hunt woodchucks with hot 1/2jacket hollow points. Frankly its marginal on groundhogs unless the POI is in the chest or head. Worse case was one shot in chest, blew off far leg and the varmit still made it to its burrow. Diedin the burrow but it went 50 feet. Shoot yer deer in the brain and it'll die, but the head moves around a lot. Use a real caliber. JMHO

Certaindeaf
March 7, 2013, 02:57 PM
I've killed many 250lb animals (deer and pig) and other smaller with 9mm. If you hit the animal well with a good load, it's pretty well done and in my experience, it was done well. I've only killed smaller animals.. 50lb or so with the .38 though. The ".38" can kill some "big" stuff if you want it to.

PO2Hammer
March 7, 2013, 03:13 PM
The RCMP used .38 spl's for decades. IIRC they used the 'FBI load' an gave it a good reputation for putting down wounded animals up to moose size. It's a 158 grain LSWC-HP at roughly 900 fps.
http://www.midwayusa.com/product/548921/remington-express-ammunition-38-special-p-158-grain-lead-hollow-point-box-of-50

I make a very similar load in .357 brass with either a Magnus or Speer swaged LSWC-HP and 5 grains of Universal. It's a load my wife can shoot in my GP100.

Certaindeaf
March 7, 2013, 03:28 PM
My prior post probably didn't really help you. I'd use a Keith type SWC loaded pretty warm. Bambi will bounce.

1858
March 7, 2013, 05:25 PM
That said, a .38 might be used from a carbine... not that .38 spl gains much velocity in the longer barrel, but the longer sight radius could be crucial to a 20 yd head/ neck shot.


I shot some .357 Mag, .38 Spl and .38 Super out of my Marlin 1894CSS a few days ago. The .38 Spl had a 35% increase in velocity over the published MV for a 4" barrel and the .357 Mag had a 43% increase. Regardless, I wouldn't shoot a Whitetail with a .38 Spl load and probably wouldn't with a .357 Mag load either.

http://thr.mcmxi.org/rifles/marlin/1894css/photos/357mag_38spl_38super_data.jpg

varodd
March 7, 2013, 05:37 PM
I would not use a 38spl to take a deer personally. It's just not enough at any kind of range. If you using it for small cridder protection or to put down a wounded dear that is down but still kicking you should be ok. If I were building a load for that I would look at a med weight hard cast, that way you should get penetration on a wounded deer and would definitely detour any smaller cridders.

gamestalker
March 7, 2013, 06:02 PM
ArchAngelCD, the load data for the 125 gr. JHP / Longshot is published as +P and chronographs in the 1200's fps, and is not into typical .357 mag. pressures. As for the 158 gr. JHP, I was mistaken, after going through my chrono log I see I was only getting a bit under 1100 fps.. I've shot those loads mostly through .357 mag. pistols, mostly, but I have put a few through my 10-5 without problems.
GS

336A
March 7, 2013, 07:53 PM
Never hunted nor shot a deer with the .38 SPL myself. Maybe these threads will answer your questions. http://www.defensivecarry.com/forum/defensive-ammunition-ballistics/107972-some-38-special-velocity-tests.html

http://www.defensivecarry.com/forum/reloading/125541-four-high-performance-38-special-handloads.html

I would not use either the 2400 load or the 4756 load or even think of it. Those may have been ok by the 1960's standards but I wouldn't even think about putting them in a .38 SPL unless it was a old S&W .38-44.

The load containing 5.4gr of Unique and a 158gr SWC is still lised in Lyman's current cast bullet manual, and it's a good load. It is a MAX load so work up to it carefully. Another bullet worth considering is the ol' Lyman 358429 Keith bullet that weighs around 170gr depending on alloy.

john wall
March 7, 2013, 08:22 PM
When I had my farm I harvested a bunch of them. Took the shot just under the ear at around 20-30 yds with a Target 38 wheelgun, 158 gr SWC at allowable speed.

The 200 gr bullet at near 900 fps will do a through-and-through if shot behind the shoulders up close. This speed is obtainable in a 6" gun with acceptable pressures. The 38 handles heavy bullets very well.

Depends on the shooter, keep range at 30 yds and under. I am a good shot, and pick my shots. YMMV

Elkins45
March 8, 2013, 11:16 AM
If I were loading 38 special rounds for maximum effectiveness against deer sized game I would use the ammo that has been shown to be most effective similarly sized people.

If Massad Ayoob is to be believed that would be a 158 grain hollow point lead SWC driven at +P velocity.

Madcap_Magician
March 8, 2013, 12:07 PM
Buffalo Bore has their Outdoorsman SWC hardcast load that is a 158-gr. SWC at 1100 fps, IIRC. That would do it, but even then, close range and shot placement...

tnelson31
March 8, 2013, 12:14 PM
As I stated in the first post, I'm not looking to actually hunt with this load, I'm looking to work up a woods carry load. I figure if a tested load has killed a deer, it'll be more likely to do for the critters Imay encounter in the woods where I fish in and don't want to carry my bigger guns.
Develop a load close to the pressure limit of your caliber/firearm and choose a bullet and go for it?



Once again, I'm looking for input from anyone who has hunted with a .38 Special.

Sounds like no one has hunted (large critters) with 38 special, nor would they. And neither are you.

JerryND
March 8, 2013, 12:48 PM
My first pistol deer was with a 357. Neck shot, actually broke bone, but he got up on his back legs and tried to get away. Next 3 with 41 mag were all one shot kills. Even the 357 is not adequate for deer. My choice for a "woods carry" would be "The Judge" or S&W equiv. Covers all bases.

Certaindeaf
March 8, 2013, 01:31 PM
Buffalo Bore has their Outdoorsman SWC hardcast load that is a 158-gr. SWC at 1100 fps, IIRC. That would do it, but even then, close range and shot placement...
That's 1250 out of a 6".

silicosys4
March 8, 2013, 02:01 PM
.38 spcl is a trapline gun at best. I put wadcutters in them to hunt grouse as well. I would consider it inhumane to use a caliber that is marginal AT BEST on a deer. "responsible outdoorsman, humane kill" and all that. If you have bigger guns, use them. I tend to agree with state minimum caliber and energy regulations, since most people can't shoot well enough to be absolutely sure of a neck vertebrae or brain shot.

GooseGestapo
March 10, 2013, 12:31 AM
For many years I carried a state issued .357mag. I typically carried a speed strip with some .38spl +p SWC-HP's (reloads.... too cheap and poor to buy "factory"), for dispatching road-hit deer.
Due to lack of penetration on all the head-shot deer I dispatched, "hunting" with the .38spl ain't a great idea; even if it's legal. It'll do in a "pinch" or "subsistance" situation where it's all you've got. But they're quieter and less recoil than a full-loaded magnum, so made shooting an already incapacitated deer more practical where an over-penetrating .357 could cause a richochet hazard on pavement/asphalt. I never had a .38spl exit, regardless of shot placement though I ususally targeted heads.

I did arrest a subject one day that had taken a doe out of season, on a closed management area. (.38spl was also a specifically prohibited cartridge). I was checking fishing licenses in the area and heard the first shot. I went looking and heard the second shot 1-2min later. When I found the subject, he was dragging the doe under the fence/firebreak at the property line. He'd shot the deer with an S&W Mod14 6"bbl with Winchester 125gr +P JHP's. First shot broke deer's neck (approx 25yd shot from a portable ladder/deer stand on firebreak). Second shot was to dispatch the still writhing deer. That was a very expensive deer. Inmates got to eat it, too...

Funniest epsiode of .38spl shot deer was by my captain. He drove up one night on a car wreck/deer-scene. The Sheriffs deputy on the scene ascertained if it was "ok" to dispatch the deer that was in median of divided 4-lane that was "thashing and bleating" to the dismay of bystander/passerby's. 'Sup' said "go ahead". The deputy shot the deer in the neck with a 9mm S&W Mod 659 w/115gr JHP. Deer got up and ran into opposing lane of traffic and started kicking and bleating louder..... My 'sup' walked over to the deer and in disgust aimed his 2" S&W mod 60 w/158gr +P SWC and shot the deer between the eyes whereupon it layed down, let out a final gasp and gave up the ghost....

He was something of a celebrety for a while around the coffee pots. (it even made local news paper as a reporter was at scene). About 6mos later, the S.O. traded in their 9's and went to .40's..... also a dept. policy of NOT shooting injured wildlife.....
But in all honesty, it wasn't the 9mm's fault. It was poor shot placement... The 9's no better or worse than the .38spl....

Welding Rod
March 10, 2013, 01:15 AM
Many years ago I made the mistake of trying to help out a friend who needed his child biting Chow dog put down. We took him out into a isolated area and tied him to some brush. I shot him square in the chest at close range with a 38 special wadcutter - don't remember the exact load.

The dog instantly went birzirk in pain and agony, tumbling and rolling and howling and so forth. I put 5 more in his torso as quickly as I could do so accurately. He was moving way too much to make a head shot.

After, he was still alive, but barely, when I finished him off with the biggest rock I could find to the head.

I felt very badly about how things went that day, and still do. I would do things a lot differently now, but in no case would I shoot a living thing with a 38 special again if I had a choice in the matter.

bluetopper
March 10, 2013, 12:09 PM
I do know for a fact however that Chuck Norris goes bear hunting with a switch.

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