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Stopping power of a 2-inch barrel 38spl?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by vito, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. vito

    vito Well-Known Member

    I certainly don't look to Hollywood or TV for accurate information about guns, but something on a recent police TV show made me wonder. The suspect had been shot in the shoulder and seriously wounded by the off-duty cop with his snubbie 38. The suspect claimed that he had been across the street from the dying cop when he was shot, but the detectives claimed he had to be lying. They stated that the power of the 2 inch barrel 38 was so poor that the suspect had to have been right next to the shooting cop for the wound to have been as severe as it was, and that had he actually been across the street (20 to 30 feet away) the round would not have done any serious damage. Having only fired my 2-inch j-frame at paper targets, I really don't know how effective this gun is if I had to use it for self defense at more than arms length distance, even with +p ammo in the gun. Anyone have good info on this subject?
  2. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Well-Known Member

    Depends on who you ask. Some dismiss a 38 as a "mouse gun" while others feel comfortable with one. I have often packed a 2" 38 but I do rely on my own loads using a 125 JHP at a clocked 1,100 FPS. Factory +P is not a hot load (same 125 JHP @ 925 from a 4" barrel and about 900 in my 2" guns) and I do not wish to trust my life to it.

    The difference between a 4" and 2" in 38 Special is not all that much. Maybe 25-50 FPS in most cases. Also, the drop in velocity after 100' (across the street) would not be all that noticeable, either.

    It's Hollywood.
  3. premier1

    premier1 Well-Known Member

    Let's put it this wat whenever people discuss stopping power all I ever say is would you like to get hit by one? Weather it's a .380,.22,or a .38 sp. In a snubnose. For me I really don't want to be hit by any. I carry a Taures moder 85S everyday in my job where I guard courthouses. I do carry my own loads of 125gr Hornady hollow points. I do trust that load for accuracy and stopping power,especially in the distance of a court room. I also like the fact that I can draw it and get a shot off in about 1 second.
  4. Loc n Load

    Loc n Load Well-Known Member

    Stopping power

    My first duty gun was a 38 spl and was issued to me in 75.....our dept. required us to carry LRN loads.....they were poor performers.....we then were allowed to carry JHP's......they were better....but one critical factor remains.
    Bullet placement, this is the critical factor....I carried a sidearm as part of my job until 2008.....carried +p 38's, +P+ 38's, 357 magnums, 9mm's, 40's, 45's and finally a 357 sig. Regardless of what caliber or load we were issued, I have seen one shot stops with all of them when the bullet placement was good. And I have seen "bullet sponges" soak up multiple rounds when shot placement was poor. I am retired, and carry a j frame Smith daily with Speer 135 JHP's, I have guns chambered for more powerful rounds. But I know that my 2" model 49 will get the job done, if I do my part. And the most important part is, if I need it, I will have it.
  5. mooner

    mooner Well-Known Member

    I have clocked Buffalo Bore non +p 158 gr swchp at a solid 850+ fps out of my 442. That is certainly not a huge amount of power, but it isn't too bad either. It certainly stings a bit when you are the one sending them - I don't think I want to be on the receiving end.
  6. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Well-Known Member

    I think a .38 will stop a bad guy or human sized animal. The thing to remember is are you using a load that will obtain enough speed to expand? If animals are a worry, will it penetrate deep enough? Could your attacker be on drugs that will make them a harder target to stop?

    As others have stated, shot placement is king.

    I hike in remote areas with lots of mountain lions. Also, the city I venture into to do my shopping is getting worse and worse. I pocket carried a J frame loaded with Cor-Bon 110 gr. +P's. I was concerned that It would not be enough gun. I have since picked up a Springfield XDs. You get 6 shots total in the standard magazine with one in the chamber, 7+1 with the extended mag, a 3.3 inch bbl that will still give +P .45 ammo over 300 ft lbs of impact energy, and it is about the same size as a j frame. It is actually thinner. The back end that houses the striker mechanism may make it a bit harder to pocket carry, but an IWB holster works great. I'm going to try pocket carrying it this summer and see how it works.

  7. tipoc

    tipoc Well-Known Member

    First off it's a TV show as you know, so the facts are distorted some in order to move the plot along. This is why bad guys with fully auto Uzis miss while the good guy with a Walther PPK hit all day long.

    It would be very hard for anyone to tell the difference in whether a fella was shot from 2 feet away or 30 ft away based on the severity of the wound. The close range shot would have powder burns around it in a freckling pattern while the long range would not. The damage done by the bullet would be about the same at 1 yard or 10. This is because neither the drop in velocity or energy is that great at 10 yards.

    For example: Remington's 158 gr. LHP +P leaves the barrel of a 4" gun at 890 fps at the muzzle and 278 ft pds. of energy. At 25 yards it's moving 872 fps. and has 267 ft. pds. of energy. So the difference in the damage done to a person at 3 ft. vs. 75 ft. would be un-measureable by any useful techniques in use today. It would make no difference in the actual world. Except that in the 2 foot shot there may be a pattern of burn in the flesh around the wound from the muzzle blast.

  8. MedWheeler

    MedWheeler Well-Known Member

    Depends on the load, but, at "across the street" distances, a .38 Special load, even from a snub, is extremely potentially-lethal. I'm sure your TV example didn't get into whether or not it was a low-power 148-grain target wadcutter or a 135-grain Speer Gold Dot +P Short Barrel round (of the two, I'm sure a modern-day off-duty cop would probably load his gun with the latter.)
  9. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    That's unrefined, absolute nonsense. The .38 Special, particularly with a good +p loading, is deadly across a street or across a block. It's deadly across several blocks but tough to aim out of a snub.

    There were some early experimental rounds and rimfires which might have been as weak as the dialog suggests, but they've been moribund for 150 years.

    Screenwriters rarely know anything about firearms.
  10. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    It would make absolutely no difference.

    Except as tipoc mentioned, a very close range shot would have powder burn freckling around the wound, and a longer range shot wouldn't.

    A 158 grain .38 Spl bullet that has 800 FPS velocity & 224 ft/lb energy at the muzzle still has 727 FPS velocity & 186 ft/lb energy at 150 yards, or 450 feet.

  11. royal barnes

    royal barnes Well-Known Member

    It's Hollywierd!!!!!!:)
  12. powder

    powder member

    TV and Hollyweird do more to the detriment of firearms misnomers than any mall ninja can.

    A shot to the shoulder from a 38 sp at 10 yds is going to do damage.
  13. Thaddeus Jones

    Thaddeus Jones Well-Known Member

    If you are using the Speer Gold Dot 135 grain 38+P short barrel, I think you are good to go.

    Thats what I use in my 640-1 J-frame.
  14. s4s4u

    s4s4u Well-Known Member

    Please do not cunfuse TV with reality!
  15. Deltaboy

    Deltaboy Well-Known Member

    38 Will get the job done.
  16. roaddog28

    roaddog28 Well-Known Member

    If I were carrying a 2 inch snubbie I would use Buffalo Bores 150 gr cast wadcutters. Cuts a nice hole and does not depend on expansion to do its job. Buffalo Bore claims 800 to 850 fps and a wadcutter penetrates better than most rounds.
    Opinion only,
  17. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    Do you seriously think the .38 Special would have lasted over 100 years if it would do no harm to someone standing 20 to 30 feet away, even from a short barrel revolver? Really?

    Like said above, it's not reality... Have you ever seen the would made by a .38 Special? It's not pretty!
  18. Confederate

    Confederate Well-Known Member

    The .38 Spc is one of my favorite calibers, but out of a 2-inch barrel it could use some help. Thanks to modern bullet designs, new powder formulations and stronger guns, Junior G-Man models are much more efficient than ever. It doesn't help that Ruger is putting out its excellent LCDs with 1.82-inch barrels. What's wrong with them? A barrel should be at least two inches, preferably more. Why Ruger would screw up a gun by making it with such a short barrel is beyond me.

    A couple of years ago, I got an LCD .357 that needed replacing. Alas, Ruger informed me that the LCD would not be in production again for six months or so it offered me a current production gun of similar cost. I paid $400 for the LCD (on sale) and I chose an SP-101 with a 2.5-inch barrel. They paid the transfer fee and made it an across the board swap. Looking back, I made out quite well. I chose the shorter barrel because I already had a 3-inch stainless Speed-Six.

    Decades ago, however, the .38 2-inchers with heavy, slow bullets wouldn't even flatten a tire or pierce the bodies of many cars. Even from a 4-inch barrel, performance was so-so. The .357 fixed these problems and today I'd choose a magnum even if I intended to shoot .38s out of it. Why? Because the .357 so far outclasses anything available in .38, especially on the road or in the field.

    It pokes through tires with ease, penetrates car bodies and then often will go through a back seat and incapacitate the driver. If Dennis Weaver had had a short-barreled .357, he probably could have taken out that truck driver in Duel. A .357 also would work against black bears better than a .38. (I recall reading the story of a couple on a honeymoon outing. After a while, they realized they were being tracked by a black bear. Nothing they did would shake it and for some lame reason the husband decided he could go get help. So they split up and when he returned with help, they found the partially eaten remains of the bear...just kidding...it was the woman...which proves that a good woman these days is hard to EAT.

    Anyway, awful jokes aside, the .357 is worth having the extra horsepower over a .38, and modern .38 ammo makes both calibers absolutely superb. For EDC, I'd love to have a S&W 13/65 or 19/66 in a 2.5-inch pinned barrel, counterbored chambers, and stamped side plate. For home use and regular carry, I'd use .38 +P FBI, and for camping, hiking and cross country car trips, I'd use a Federal 125gr JHP or a 140gr JHP Speer load.
  19. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Well-Known Member

    You mean the LCR right? If not, what the heck is an LCD?
  20. Nasty

    Nasty Well-Known Member

    LCD = A television gun

    (I crack myself up)

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