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Best load for 2" barreled .38special

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Moonclip, Apr 17, 2008.


Best load for 2" barrel .38spl snubs

  1. 158gr lead semi waddcutter hollowpoint +P

  2. 135gr Speer Gold Dot hollowpoint +P

  3. other(please explain)

  1. Moonclip

    Moonclip Senior Member

    Apr 27, 2005
    I'm torn between what loads are best for these guns. In guns that can take +P pressures I'm partial to the Remington version of the FBI load since it has softer lead than the other makers it seems. More likely to expand I'd think. I'm thinking of the Gold Dots for shorter barrels though.

    In guns that are airweights or older or for controlability I use Winchester 110gr non plus P silvertips though I'd use the Federal non plus p hp's in this claiber if I had some. What do you think?
  2. REB

    REB Member

    Jan 19, 2008
    My vote would be for the Corbon DPX because it has decent expansion and still has good penetration. It also performs decent though had targets such as car windows or doors.
  3. Moonclip

    Moonclip Senior Member

    Apr 27, 2005
    I'll have to look in to it. Does it shoot kind of low though with fixed sights? I've not used much CorBon ammo.
  4. Huddog

    Huddog Active Member

    Aug 14, 2006
    I carry Gold Dot 125 in my S&W 642. It penetrates well and is very accurate from this gun.
  5. jaydubya

    jaydubya Active Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    Sandy Eggo
    My 637 snubby contains that exact same load: the Remington FBI load. And I don't shoot much of it because it beats my hand up -- twenty rounds max. I practice with www.mastercast.net's 148gr DEWC, which is a bit easier on my poor old body. They also have a 100gr WC that lopes along at less than 700fps, and feels like a .22. Unfortunately, from my 637 into my target of choice, that load tends to tear strips rather than nice, round, clean holes. Works just fine from my 4" 686+, but the puny pop from that great big revolving pistol shames me at the range.
    Cordially, Jack
  6. Camjr

    Camjr Member

    Jul 30, 2005
    Lone Star State--North of DFW, South of Denton
    My 642 is loaded with the Speer GD 135+p as I type this.
  7. Texas Colt

    Texas Colt Active Member

    May 30, 2005
    Central Texas
    My Colts are loaded with the Speer 135 grain Gold Dot. They are accurate and are going 890 fps out of a 2" barrel. Not bad for a 38 Special.
  8. Jim March

    Jim March Mentor

    Dec 24, 2002
    SF Bay Area
    They're both great rounds.

    I think the 158s have a slight edge, unless the gun is very light...15oz or less, run the 135 as it's set up to resist being yanked out under recoil.

    If the gun can take it, Buffalo Bore's 158+P is in a whole 'nuther class. Otherwise run the standard-pressure Buffalo Bore 158 or the Remington 158+P...they'll do near identical damage, you'll pay extra for the BB158 but if your gun is very old and/or weak pay that extra.

    Winchester's 158+P isn't bad but the lead is too hard for reliable expansion in a 2" - works OK in a 4" or more barrel.

    Avoid old-stock Federal 158s, plain or nyclad. They ain't loaded hot enough even in what Federal laughingly calls "+P".

    Old-stock Cor-Bon 158+P was crazy-hot, as fast as the Buffalo Bore 158+P, but the latter has a gas-check copper bottom plate to reduce leading. Cor-Bon didn't bother and leading was horrendous.
  9. spwenger

    spwenger Member

    Nov 24, 2006
    Show Low AZ

    ...on Cor-Bon DPX.

    Why? Best expansion (in gelatin testing) after penetrrating four layers of denim and, reportedly, virtually no deviation from point of aim when fired through auto glas at compound angles.

    Second choice? Speer's 135 short-barrel loads.

    I assume the poll was intended for .38 Special but I think I'd still go the same way in .357 Magnum, if I chose to take on the greater blast and flash. I've had students who used the 135 gr. Speer Magnum load and it seemed well suited for their short-barrel revolvers.
  10. ARTiger

    ARTiger Active Member

    Mar 6, 2006
    +1 to Mr. March. Lots of stuff out there that'll work, but the Speer 135SB, Rem FBI Load and Buff Bore Gas Checked 158 LHP are clearly at the top of most lists.
  11. Dismantler

    Dismantler Member

    Apr 3, 2008
    New Hampshire
    I carry wadcutters. I am not a real big fan of recoil in a snubby. I can hit accurately with them, and I do not worry about overpenetration. I carry a Model 442 Airweight.
  12. 71Commander

    71Commander Senior Member

    Sep 21, 2003
    Headin back to Johnson City
    135gr Speer Gold Dot hollowpoint +P. This round was developed for the LW, 2" snubbies.
  13. AKCOP

    AKCOP New Member

    Apr 10, 2007
    Regardless of which round you decide upon one test I always added was shooting a few rounds at night. Amazing how an exceptionally large muzzle flash can knock out any night vision you had.
  14. rgs1975

    rgs1975 Member

    Jul 22, 2005
    the belly of the beast
    I'm using 130gr Federal HydraShok because that's what I've got. Anyone have an opinion on that round out of a 2" 38?
  15. coach22

    coach22 New Member

    Aug 4, 2006
    My 2 inch J's are loaded like this:
    340 PD:
    First 2 up Corbon DPX 38+P,
    last 3 up Double Tap 38+P 125's.
    442 (pre lock nickel) and 49 (pre lock nickel):
    Buffalo Bore Standard Pressure 158's.
    640 (38):
    First 2 up Buffalo Bore Standard Pressure 158's,
    last 3 up Buffalo Bore 158 +P's.
    In the 340 and 640, loading it that way
    gives me 2 quick shots and more power, if needed,
    with the last 3. The first 2 also kind of warm you up.

  16. foghornl

    foghornl Mentor

    Dec 27, 2002
    MY 2" snubby .38Spl is a {Gasp!} RG...so I don't use any of the hotter stuff in it. I use the Federal 110-Gr JHP "Personal Protection Load" [NON +P] when I choose to use my snubby.
  17. guninthewater

    guninthewater New Member

    Feb 21, 2008
    I like the Gold Dot "Short Barrel" load.
  18. DawgFvr

    DawgFvr Participating Member

    Jan 16, 2006
    Olympia, WA
    I use 110 grain Corbon DPX + P. If those hurt the BG half as much as my hand after lauching a few of those out of the 642, I'll be satisfied. To be honest...I'm actually considering a mix load in the future. Those 150 grain Buf Bor wad cutters give over 16 inches consistent penetration.
  19. jfh

    jfh Senior Member

    Aug 28, 2003
    Maple Plain, MN
    Here's some general observations on PD rounds for 2" barrels.

    I started carrying an M&P 340 (13.3 oz) last summer, and I wanted to become proficient with it. To do that, I've been working with both the Rem 38S12 (and the Georgia Arms 38E reload) and the Speer 38+P GDSB 135-gr. rounds as models in building "replica reloads" so that I could afford the practice and training I wanted to do. Ten months later, I've shot about 9,000 rounds through a 640 (23 oz), 1100 rounds or so through the 340, another 300 rounds through a 442, and 500 rounds through an M60-3". Many of the reload recipes and the factory rounds have been chronographed.

    For novice 2" shooters, particularly with lightweights, it is more important to replicate the "feel" of the round, not the ballistics performance.


    1. The Speer GDSB 38+P 135-gr. round runs about 860-900 fps from my 2" revolvers.

    2. The FBI loads run about 800+to 820, based on Stephen Camp's tests. Keep in mind that this round was originally developed for 2.5" to 3" barrel guns, and the fabled "LEO-only" loads from the 1970s ran about 870 fps.

    3. The FC 130-gr (129gr?) 38+P load ran about 860 fps.

    As you may know, brassfetcher has run numerous tests on PD ammo; see his gelatin tests. The Speer GDSB bullets were, AFAIK, the first bullets to be tuned to operate well at low-to-moderate velocities. The FBI-load bullets--a lead SWC, with an HP to possibly provide expansion, really do operate differently, as Jim March points out.

    4. Because of one's "muscle memory" once you're proficient, the two rounds will shoot to a different POA. I started developing 'replica reloads' for the FBI round this winter--and I do shoot about 1"-2" higher at 10 yards with this round.

    Shooting proficiency:

    1. If you're shooting a lightweight, there is no way around needing to get your hand conditioned for shooting either round well. Although I've been a tool-user, I was out of shape last year. To begin with, I carried the FC non-plus-P 110-gr. round--and I could barely shoot a cylinderfull from the 340.

    2. A lot of practice will develop the "muscle memory" you need to shoot accurately with either type of round, but that is different for each bullet weight. I carried the Speer round until the weather got cold; then I started carrying the the Buffalo Bore 20A(?) round-- the 158-gr LSWC-HP round that runs 1000 fps from a 2" barrel. (They actually do; I chrono'd them.)

    3. Unless you are a very experienced shooter to begin with, you need to practice with the round you carry. Since I am a reloader, I was able to use Speer's data for reloading to develop a replica in subjective recoil (and in similar ballistics, but that is coincidental). Once that was sorted out, it was easy to "back up" the charge weight to produce less recoil, but still felt the same. I then used the ed. psy. concept of "successive approximations" to build my proficiency.

    4. A good basic drill is Old Fuff's "quad five:"

    5 yards
    5 shots
    5" circle
    5 seconds.

    FYI, one can build "replica reloads" with lead cast bullets of

    1. the Speer round for about 10 cents each, and of
    2. the FBI load for about 11 cents each.

    If you choose to use the actual factory bullet, (the Speer 135-gr GDSB, or a Speer 158LSWC-HP), your costs will be about 26 cents each or 15 cents each.

    So, whichever round you choose, Moonclip, stay with it, and practice--a lot.

    Jim H.
  20. Wolfeye

    Wolfeye Member

    Apr 13, 2008
    I have my fiance interested in .38+p, but she said she wants non-toxic ammo. The only lead-free, non-toxic ammo I've found is a new clean-firing 110 gr DPX from Corbon. It looks like it's not listed on their main webpage yet, but it shows up in their online store. It's expensive. :cuss:

    Money aside, I hear DPX is a good performer...? Edit: Never mind the question, I just read up. She'll be shooting it from an SP101, so recoil shouldn't be too horrible.

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