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Which .38 special ammo for defense?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by ccsniper, Mar 10, 2010.

  1. ccsniper

    ccsniper member

    I am going to be buying a 38 special for carry. I want to know what you carry and why. Thanks.
  2. stealth

    stealth Well-Known Member

    From what I read the FBI load (158gr lead semi wadcutter hollow point +p) and both the 125gr and 135gr variety Speer Gold Dot +p are the best.
  3. Oro

    Oro Well-Known Member

    Nothing is "best." Period. I know it sounds like that should be the case, but it's not. All test are subjective, and performance of the top-of-the-line ammo across manufacturers' is so similar as to be indistinguishable when enough tests are done.

    Hornady XTP or the newer generation of bonded core (can't recall at the moment - FTX?; don't think it's in .38 Special yet, though), Federal, etc., it's all going to be very, very similar. How much you practice and how well you shoot will matter much more than whether it's Hornady or Federal, Remington, Speer, etc.

    Buy lots of practice ammo and as well as shooting it, dry-firing the same amount. Then carry the premium ammo after you've practiced with it a little to make sure you know the difference. The brand on the label is not as important as a systematic approach, practice and confidence. If you can shoot well, 148gr LSWC over some bullseye is much more deadly than someone who doesn't practice with the hottest, trendiest ammo.
  4. Stainz

    Stainz Well-Known Member

    Oro, I believe you may have meant the 148gr lead full wad cutters - usually true target/paper punching loads. They don't have to 'open', they are .357" OD at the start. I suggest them for folks who are 'recoil shy' and tote a lite wight .38, such as a 642 or the new LCR. I prefer the Remington R38S12 version of the +P 158gr LHPSWC, as the lead is softer - should open better at the 840-860 fps speed achieved from my 642 or 2" 10. No problem from the 10, or my longer barrel .38/.357M SS revolvers, but a healthy 'Howdy!' from that 642.

    "A man has to know his limitations!", as Harry Callahan said. There will be a day when my CTS/arthritis problems combine to make those 'FBI loads' in my 642 a memory - and I'll load 148gr WC's. Periodic practice with carry ammo helps identify that time. You don't want to need your protection - then, after that first round, have to look around on the ground for your revolver!

  5. RatDrall

    RatDrall Well-Known Member

    http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/38 Special 158gr LSWCHP.htm

    That one ^
  6. angel1216

    angel1216 Well-Known Member

    hands down speer gold dots!
  7. Setzer77

    Setzer77 Well-Known Member

    My vote goes to Buffalo Bore's "FBI" load. They're a bit pricey, but they acheive much greater velocity than any factory +p load and they're still safe in anything +p rated.
  8. 41magsnub

    41magsnub Well-Known Member

    If you are really recoil sensitive you might consider the 150gr Buffalo Bore wadcutters. It is a hard cast lead wadcutter in standard .38 pressure. I have those in my j frame right now to baby my hand for a while after an injury. Recoil is a little more than standard 148gr wadcutters (I was shooting the CCIs) but not by much. They get great penetration but of course zero expansion.

    Otherwise, I'm back on the Speer 135gr short barrel gold dots.

    check out this site for some comparisons of different loads:

    http://www.brassfetcher.com/38 Special.html
  9. BossHogg

    BossHogg Well-Known Member

    Anything you can get your hands on. I just stopped by a few shops and all was SD 20 rounds for $25 . No range ammo at all. I know this is just a small sample , but jesh.
  10. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine Well-Known Member

    I favor the +P 158gr lead SWCHP and keep all my 38 revolvers loaded with this round. I have more confidence that the heavy bullet will preform better than the light bullets.

    Much more important than what the gun is loaded with is that you can quickly make ALL 5-6 shots count, from arm's length to about 15 yards.
  11. wlewisiii

    wlewisiii Well-Known Member

    Another vote for the Buffalo Bore 158gr LSWCHP +P.

  12. bikerbill

    bikerbill Well-Known Member

    No such animal as "best." some folks recommend the +p 158gr lswhp, but I can't shoot it accurately from my Smith 637; 15 oz is just too light to control recoil, at least for me. I tried a number of JHPs, and I currently carry either Federal's 110gr Low Recoil JHP or the new Hornady Critical Defense round. Both are easy shooting, accurate and allow me to get back on target quickly, with no need for a cast on my hand after shooting a box or two ... don't take anybody's advice, shoot a bunch of different ammo and make up your own mind.
  13. shockwave

    shockwave Well-Known Member

    For the .38s I went with Corbon DPX 110 gr, reviewed here. This is for a 4" barrel revolver, and you can see in the linked photos that they expand very nicely, and achieve 12" penetration.
  14. BADUNAME37

    BADUNAME37 Well-Known Member

    I have a 642 and I carry the short-barrel Speer Gold Dot HP's made especially for 1 7/8" barreled snubbies!
  15. snooperman

    snooperman Well-Known Member

    I like the Speer gold dots and..

    for many years the old FBI load was always in my carry 38 special. It is an excellent round today by which many are measured. Since conceal carry is so much a part of many peoples daily lives today, there are many good choices including Hornady critical defense, gold dots, Remington golden sabre, Winchester PDX , Federal, hydrashok, Federal Nyclad and several others as well. They all seem to perform very well in the 2" snubby revolver. The ammo companies have responded well to our needs . However , that was not always the case years ago.
  16. doc540

    doc540 Well-Known Member

    110gr Barnes Bullets in CorBon DPX

  17. wrs840

    wrs840 Well-Known Member

    Depends on the length of the barrel.

    Hornady FTX is available in 110gr .38 +P, Oro, and it's what I carry in my 442, because it's designed for being able to penetrate heavy clothing and then still predictably expand in tissue when fired out of SD snubs. Does it work? A friend of mine that is the handguns trainer for two local LE agencies and the local college CJ program is convinced it's great stuff for some reason, so that's what I use.

    Out of a 4" bbl, I'll use whatever, but I don't CC a 4" .38.
  18. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member

    I don't carry the 38 Spl much but on the occasion I do, I carry with Cor-Bon 125 gr. HP +P
  19. Bill B.

    Bill B. Well-Known Member

    +1 ........38 Special ammo needs to be tailored to the barrel length it going to be shot from. What works in a 6 inch barrel can be very lacking in penetration from a snub.
  20. Cactus Jack Arizona

    Cactus Jack Arizona Well-Known Member

    I like bikerbill's advice. Don't take anyone's advice. Do your research, buy a box of this and a box of that and see what YOU like best. After all, when the shtf, its only going to be you pulling that trigger of your firearm. Besides, experimenting is all part of the joy of shooting, not to mention the excuse to go shooting. :neener:

    May your gun always go bang and your bullet always hit your target. :D

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