38 Special wadcutters?

Joezilla

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Mesquite, TX
I bought a new box of ammo the other day for my 642. It is a box of 38 special wadcutters. Just glancing at the rounds, there is no bullet protrusion. I have not heard of these before and have not been to the range to shoot any of them yet either.

Are these just range quality rounds? Are they self defense type stuff? Looking for some guidance here.

Thanks,
Joe
 
They are age-old target rounds.

They will make nice clean holes in paper targets.

As for defense, they have proven both capable
(shot placement important) and ineffective.

Enjoy them. They are ideal as light recoil rounds
for light J frame type guns. They will build
confidence in your ability to shoot the gun well.

Hence, shot placement.
 
I know quite a few people that carry or carried snub nosed revolvers loaded with wadcutters for self defense. The majority of them started out shooting them for target practice or in bullseye competitions. Up until the 1990’s many people relied on wadcutters as defensive ammo. Some still do, though nowadays there are much better selections available.

One thing I like about wadcutter ammo is it typically isn’t hot ammo. Its lower velocities make it pleasant to shoot. Being pleasant to shoot means one will shoot more thus getting more practice and shooting more accurately. I am pretty sure this is why people carried it for defensive reasons. Easy to shoot and shoot accurately with quick accurate follow up shots beats loud, hot and heavy recoiling ammo every time, in some people’s opinions.
 
What they both 👆👆👆said about target shooting. I have loaded them forever for that purpose.
IMO, commercially loaded (as in your case) wadcutters would NOT be my choice for self defence. There are far superior commercially loaded 38 spl self defence loads.
Some of my older LEO shooters used to tout hollow based wadcutters loaded backward (the opening facing out) as self defence rounds.....although they all carried 1911's in 45ACP as their EDC.
 
I know quite a few people that carry or carried snub nosed revolvers loaded with wadcutters for self defense. The majority of them started out shooting them for target practice or in bullseye competitions. Up until the 1990’s many people relied on wadcutters as defensive ammo. Some still do, though nowadays there are much better selections available.
Just read an article on them there wc for self defense. The author thought they would be a very good projectile for self defense. The reason being they would penetrate very deep, with respect to his tests in ballistic gelatin compared to other more conventional projectiles. My problem is I can't find any commercial loads to try. Everything is FMJ in boxes of 50 or self defense rounds have HP or honey badger tips. If I can find the article again, I will post the source.
The first article I found is not the original because the original article didn't like using Speer's HBWC as a soft bullet. But https://gunsmagazine.com/gear/38-wadcutters/ article by John Taffin is specific to ladies snub nose .38s and the effective low recoil rounds. A nice read. Here's another decent article. Still not the one I saw but, it is decent: https://www.luckygunner.com/lounge/wadcutter-ammo-self-defense/.
 
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Just read an article on them there wc for self defense. The author thought they would be a very good projectile for self defense. The reason being they would penetrate very deep, with respect to his tests in ballistic gelatin compared to other more conventional projectiles. My problem is I can't find any commercial loads to try. Everything is FMJ in boxes of 50 or self defense rounds have HP or honey badger tips. If I can find the article again, I will post the source.
If you go onto Ammo Seek there are factory wadcutter rounds available, but I have no experience with these particular 148 grain wadcutter rounds from Magtech, Double Tap, Precision One and Fiocchi. I did not review the entire list. If you can find some Federal Gold Medal Match 148 grain Wadcutters give them a try. They are accurate and reliable.

 
IMHO, and that’s all it is, target wadcutters are great for paper punching, training, revolver familiarity, and self defense… IF the shooter can’t handle .38 rounds purposely designed for self defense. (I would rather have .38 target wadcutters than .22 LR as a defensive round for example.) I have had 148 gr DEWC bullets at target speeds fail to penetrate and bounce off of rubberized target backing materials out of 2 and 4 inch revolvers, material that even 12 ga shotgun wads often get stuck in. That personal observation does not give me much faith in the target wadcutter loads against human attackers or feral critters.

There are some boutique makers with hot-loaded wadcutter ammo that is intended as a defensive load. I think these would be more effective than .38 Special 700 fps target stuff. But, I would prefer an HST/SXT/Critical Defense load myself. (Which is why I have the +P Critical Defense loads for my .38’s.)

IMG_2815.jpeg
15 yds, 2” Colt Cobra, 24 shots. Target wadcutters shoot about 3” high in this gun.

As for target wadcutter ammo, it is usually very accurate and pleasant to shoot. The only downside is it can be pricy to buy factory-loaded, but it is very economical if you reload. The mild manners of these loads can encourage people to shoot more often and hopefully improve their familiarity and marksmanship.

IMG_3115.jpeg

These are three wadcutter bullets, L to R a coated “button nose”, a plated “double end” and a lead double end. (I don’t have any “hollow base” wadcutters, those are flat on the point and have a cavity in the base).

IMG_3114.jpeg

I shoot wadcutter ammo all the time, just yesterday I loaded another 200 .38 Special 148 gr DEWC loads (over 3.0 gr bullseye) to replenish my stash.

Good luck out on the range, let us know how the gun-load combo shoots for you when you get a chance.

Stay safe.
 
Federal 148gr .38 Special Gold Medal Match wadcutter is the load of choice for snubs.

Wadcutters don't need velocity to expand because they aren't designed to expand.

Wadcutters cut - yes, CUT - a full caliber .357-inch hole in soft tissues just like it cuts nice clean holes in paper. The sharp shoulder of the cylindrical bullet is responsible for the cutting mechanism, making it the most efficient bullet shape compared to the rounded contours of an expanded JHP.

It cuts a full caliber diameter hole from beginning to end of the wound track, compared to expanded JHPs (where the wound track decreases in diameter as the bullet penetrates deeper and slows down allowing soft tissues to stretch and flow around the expanded JHP's smoother contours).

At 600 fps from a snub, it penetrates 20-inches.
 
The 148 gr. HBWC factory loads are the classic ammo for Target Shooters competing in NRA Bullseye Match , now called Precision Match . You are shooting for X-ring points in slow-timed-rapid fire legs .
The ammo must be accurate and accurate out to 50 yards for competition.
the 38 cal . 148 gr. wadcutter bullet usually has a velocity of about 750 fps , flat faced the bullet hits hard and cuts a full caliber hole . It is not a powder-puff load , it will penetrate and will most certianly kill , with accuracy and less recoil , hits and fast follow up shots are possible ... very important in a gunfight ...
Hits are a lot more important than anything else in a gunfight .
Gary
 
If you really want to turn the wadcutter into an excellent defensive round find someone who reloads. Get some swaged lead, hollow base wadcutters, either Speer, Hornady or Remington, and seat them upside down… hollow base up over 3.5 grains of Bullseye. Accuracy beyond 7 yards is poor. Those bullets will open up to better than 45 caliber. A hit center of mass will be like getting hit by a grenade.
 
If you really want to turn the wadcutter into an excellent defensive round find someone who reloads. Get some swaged lead, hollow base wadcutters, either Speer, Hornady or Remington, and seat them upside down… hollow base up over 3.5 grains of Bullseye.

 
If you really want to turn the wadcutter into an excellent defensive round find someone who reloads. Get some swaged lead, hollow base wadcutters, either Speer, Hornady or Remington, and seat them upside down… hollow base up over 3.5 grains of Bullseye. Accuracy beyond 7 yards is poor. Those bullets will open up to better than 45 caliber. A hit center of mass will be like getting hit by a grenade.
Will be trying this old school load! heard of really good stuff about it!

but is it better than modern bonded 38 HP? hummmm…
 
Bear Creek Supply makes a very nice moly coated lead 148 grain HBWC bullet. I load them flush with the case mouth over 2.8-3.0 grains of Bullseye powder or 2.6-2.8 grains of W244. The lesser powder loads are more accurate from 4-6” barrels. The higher powder loads are more accurate from my snub nosed revolvers.
 
I use.fa factory target hbwcs in j frames as a SD load. Why?

1. Bullet is already in an efficient shape. A hollowpoint has to expand a bit to get to.that shape

2. Adequate penetration.

3. Easy on you and your gun.
 
Bear Creek Supply makes a very nice moly coated lead 148 grain HBWC bullet. I load them flush with the case mouth over 2.8-3.0 grains of Bullseye powder or 2.6-2.8 grains of W244. The lesser powder loads are more accurate from 4-6” barrels. The higher powder loads are more accurate from my snub nosed revolvers.
I use Berry HBWC ! Love these old school hacks
 
I've been loading and shooting 38 wadcutters since the late 70's or so. They were cheap to shoot back then, when ammo cost me more relative to what I made than it does now. I still like shooting them. Virtually no recoil and nice clean holes in the target. Brass lasts a long time.

I tried that reverse the HBWC bullet back then. I don't know what they'd do against flesh and blood, but let me tell you boys and girls, they made a hole in a bank of Virginia red clay (redneck ballistic gel) that you could shove your fist into from 5-7 yards or so. I wouldn't have carried them, but just wanted to try a few for grins and giggles.
 
IIRC flush loaded wadcutters are meant for semiauto pistols-the S&W M-52, e.g. Feed better. They must be single loaded in lever action rifles.
The main argumenty for WCs for self defense is their light recoil allows for more accurate shot placement which comes from more practice which their light recoil makes more comfortable. Also they are a good choice for someone with hand strength and mobility problems-arthritisi, e.g.
 
Bear Creek Supply makes a very nice moly coated lead 148 grain HBWC bullet. I load them flush with the case mouth over 2.8-3.0 grains of Bullseye powder or 2.6-2.8 grains of W244. The lesser powder loads are more accurate from 4-6” barrels. The higher powder loads are more accurate from my snub nosed revolvers.
I use Berry HBWC ! Love these old school hack
I've been loading and shooting 38 wadcutters since the late 70's or so. They were cheap to shoot back then, when ammo cost me more relative to what I made than it does now. I still like shooting them. Virtually no recoil and nice clean holes in the target. Brass lasts a long time.

I tried that reverse the HBWC bullet back then. I don't know what they'd do against flesh and blood, but let me tell you boys and girls, they made a hole in a bank of Virginia red clay (redneck ballistic gel) that you could shove your fist into from 5-7 yards or so. I wouldn't have carried them, but just wanted to try a few for grins and giggles.
North Carolina Red Clay! dang do I miss the South!

I carry .38’s lead in my Colt & 36, I should try the backwards HBWC!
 
If you examine HBWC bullet designs, you'll find that most lack a crimping groove. That's part of the reason they are fully seated into the case and the crimp applied over the entire bullet.

The very first box of factory centerfire ammo I ever purchased was Federal .38 HBWC target ammo. I was amazed how well it shot from a Dan Wesson M15's 6" barrel.

I shoot a lot of .32 H&R full wadcutter handloads, using both hollow base and double-end designs. Some plated and some hard-cast, but mostly soft swaged lead. The best shooters for me have been Lapua target HBWCs, sized down from .314"-ish to .309" so I can seat them without risking damage to the thin skirt around the base.


This practice would probably be pretty stupid with a jacketed or hard-cast bullet, but these soft lead jobs expand to shoot accurately from .311" bores for 7.62x54R Russian, .303 British, 7.7 Japanese, etc. using a chamber converter. They've even grouped nicely for me through .329" 8mm bores.


I've experimented with plated wadcutters seated slightly forward of the case mouth, but my best results came from a consistent crimp applied over a fully seated bullet.
 
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