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Best Standard Pressure 38 Special SD Ammo

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Mr.357Sig, Oct 11, 2012.

  1. Mr.357Sig

    Mr.357Sig Well-Known Member

    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?
  2. VA27

    VA27 Well-Known Member

    I use either Federal or Winchester factory wadcutter. Easy on the hand and the gun, good penetration and makes a nice round hole.
  3. Hapworth

    Hapworth Well-Known Member

    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.
  4. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member

    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.
  5. Hapworth

    Hapworth Well-Known Member

    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.
  6. JERRY

    JERRY Well-Known Member

    Any non +p lscw 158gr.
  7. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    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)
  8. Texan Scott

    Texan Scott Well-Known Member

    My find : Fiocchi 125 gr jsp. Standard pressure, fast even from a snubby. Cheap, a bit flashy, good brass. Check ammo2go.
  9. Mr.357Sig

    Mr.357Sig Well-Known Member

    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.
  10. mavracer

    mavracer Well-Known Member

    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.
  11. CoRoMo

    CoRoMo Well-Known Member

  12. springfield30-06

    springfield30-06 Well-Known Member

    Buffalo Bore: Standard Pressure Short Barrel Low Flash Heavy .38 Special Ammo - 158 gr. Soft Lead SWC-HC


    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.)
  13. Mr.357Sig

    Mr.357Sig Well-Known Member

    Liking that SWC from Buffalo. I'll have to order a box or five for sure.

    Thanks for all the sage advice guys.
  14. mavracer

    mavracer Well-Known Member

    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.
  15. Mr.357Sig

    Mr.357Sig Well-Known Member

    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?
  16. Guillermo

    Guillermo member


    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.

  17. mavracer

    mavracer Well-Known Member

    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.
  18. c1ogden

    c1ogden Well-Known Member

    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.
  19. Mac Attack

    Mac Attack Well-Known Member

    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?
  20. Steve C

    Steve C Well-Known Member

    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 has 50 round boxes in stock now. BTW it's a little more expensive than the .38 +P 125gr GD's.

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