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Best SD ammo for a .38 Special

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by miss lead, Jun 26, 2010.

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  1. miss lead

    miss lead Member

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    When I first got my S&W 60-4, I just went out and bought any old ammo I could get my hands on, basically because I had no idea what I was doing. And now I have four boxes of full metal jacket rounds sitting on the shelf that are probably not the best for what I need, which I know because now I'm an old pro. :rolleyes:

    Specifically, I want good self defense ammo, and I don't know if it matters whether you're carrying, or whether it's at home, but it would be primarily for the latter. Advice?
     
  2. 19-3Ben

    19-3Ben Member

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    Some will recommend the Speer Short Barrel God Dot. They recommend this because in a short barrel revolver it has lower recoil, less flash, less boom etc...

    I think that load is kinda weak. I'd go for a good 158gr hollow point. Preferably from a solidly reliable company (Speer's Gold Dot, Remington Golden Saber, anything from Corbon or Barnes, Federal HST or Hydra-shok, etc...)
     
  3. CTGunner

    CTGunner Member

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    Lead SWC Hollow Point.
     
  4. RyanM

    RyanM Member

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    In a barrel longer than 3", I'd go with Remington +P 158 gr lead hollowpoints. Less than 3", I'd go with Speer Short Barrel Gold Dots, "weak" or no. Right at 3", it's a tossup.
     
  5. wnycollector

    wnycollector Member

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    I load all six of my .38 revolvers with the remington 158gr +P LSWCHP (aka FBI) load whenever one is carried for serious purposes. Their barrel lengths range from 2-5" but the FBI load has a 40+ year history of being a decent stopper (if you do your job with shot placement) even in snubbies!
     
  6. wep45

    wep45 Member

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    148 gr wadcutters
     
  7. DeepSouth

    DeepSouth Member

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    This would be me.
     
  8. yeti

    yeti Member

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    All my .38s are full of the pretty blue, old, Federal Nyclad 158gr.. How can you ever top a blue bullet looking back out of all them holes?
     
  9. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Member

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    Anything that shoots to point-of-aim with fixed sights at five yards.

    Ideally also a load that can be had in the same bullet weight and velocity at reasonable enough price to practice.

    We know where that leads us.

    158-grain lead.

    Every time.
     
  10. RevolvingGarbage

    RevolvingGarbage Member

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    I use the new 125gr Nyclad HP in my 2" gun. It trumps 130gr FMJ and probably the 148gr wadcutter, but if I had my choce in ammo I would want a standard pressure 158gr SWC or SWCHP if I could get it.

    Actually, what I would really like is a 200gr LFN that doesn't keyhole out of a short barrel, but I don't think I'll have that till I start reloading (if ever)!
     
  11. 19-3Ben

    19-3Ben Member

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    Just to clarify my comment about the Speer Short barrel load being weak, I'm not insulting those who choose to use it. I certainly wouldn't want to be shot with it. But it's a 135gr load at 860fps (per Speer's website). Were it a 158gr load in that velocity range, I'd be ok with it because it would have a lot of weight to throw around and plow deep into a BG. But at 135gr, it's still a relatively light slug.

    I realize this is extreme, but compare it to Double Tap's 125gr load. they get 1100fps out of that load. And even in the 158gr. load it gets 950fps. Now those are loads that give the .38spl some serious teeth.

    Now of course that comes at the expense of recoil, noise, etc... I don't consider wear/tear to be a factor because let's face it, how many of these are you going to shoot in the lifetime of the revolver? And a model 60 is now a .357mag, I think it can handle real .38+p loads.
     
  12. miss lead

    miss lead Member

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    The 60-4 has a 3" barrel, full underlug, adjustable sights, just to clarify.

    I think I feel a headache coming on. I need to understand "grains" better, for one thing. I mean, I know what it is but I don't think I understand how that factor alone bears upon the ability of the ammo to do its job. I think I need to go look at the ammo you guys have just recommended to try to figure out what the differences are. I thought this would all be so much simpler than it is.
     
  13. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Member

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    158 grain soft lead HP.
    148 grain DEWC loaded kind-of hot should be good too.
     
  14. roaddog28

    roaddog28 Member

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    Hi,
    Well, I am from the old school and all of my 38 specials for SD or HD have the 158g LSWCHP +P round ready in speed loaders near by. This round is proven over the years to be one of the most effective rounds in the 38 special revolver.
    Regards,
    roaddog28
     
  15. 19-3Ben

    19-3Ben Member

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    It is indeed a headache.
    Just to get a rough idea, imagine being hit with a paintball shot from a paintball gun. It's a fast moving projectile, and when it hits, the energy quickly dissipates in the skin and it stings badly and leaves a nasty welt.

    Now imagine someone tossing a 10lbs weight and it hits you. It is moving a lot more slowly than the paintball, and it doesn't sting. But, it has so more weight behind it and therefore it leaves a deeper bruise because it takes more flesh to slow down that impact and stop the projectile.

    That's a VERY rough way to understand the light-weight/high velocity vs. slow/heavy argument.

    Look up "caliber wars" and this stuff really gets hashed out (especially if you go to the semiauto subforum and look up 9mm vs. .45acp).

    In the end, the thing to keep in mind is that all service calibers (.38spl and up) really work pretty much the same. the thing that matters most is that you hit what you aim for. The construction of the bullet and its velocity are important but come in far second to shot placement.
     
  16. PO2Hammer

    PO2Hammer Member

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    +1
    Buffalo Bore LSWC-HP +P
    Buffalo Bore DEWC

    The +P load is basically the 'FBI' load, the DEWC load is standard pressure, but not wimpy like HBWC target loads.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2010
  17. KBintheSLC

    KBintheSLC Member

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    Ditto on the cast Buffalo Bore loads. However, I tend to like the standard pressure loads over the +P stuff. BB's standard loads are plenty hot to do the trick without beating me to death. The 158g LSWCHP and the 150g WC loads are awesome. Tested some and posted the results here...
    http://brasstard.com/?p=140
    There are a lot of similar 158g LSWCHP loads from other makers that work just as well.
    Good luck.

    ...
     
  18. Steve C

    Steve C Member

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    Buy a box of any of the HP ammo labeled for self defense. Stick with the big 3 ammo makers for ammo that's tested and proven to work on the streets. Golden Sabers, Gold Dots, and Winchester PDX1's as well as the old 158gr LSWC HP's would be fine choices.

    FMJ or lead solids will work too but generally not as well as any of the HP ammo.

    Best thing about a revolver is that you don't have to worry about the feeding and functioning issues like you do in a semi auto. No need to run a couple hundred rounds to make sure they're reliable. Just load up a cylinder full and shoot em if you want to see where they print and what they're like. One box of self defense rounds could last a lifetime.
     
  19. Manco

    Manco Member

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    Here's another vote for the 158 gr LSWCHP +P (FBI load). Normally I wouldn't use +P loads in anything, but this particular .38 Special bullet seems to make good use of a little extra power.
     
  20. gbw

    gbw Member

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    FWIW, all the WC, DEWC, LSWCHP, JHP, SJHP, JSP, JSWC, LSWC, RNL, standard P, +P, +P+, bullet weight, and all the other macho ammo alphabet soup doesn't matter, except to hobbyists. So called 'SD' ammo is also wildly overpriced.

    The odds are miniscule you'll ever shoot anyone. The gun is to help you survive, not necessarily to win gunfights. That's for the police.

    In the most unlikely case you do have to shoot, if you shoot well type of ammunition you use won't matter. And if you miss it won't help.

    Check before using any +P or hotter stuff - your gun may not be rated for it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2010
  21. mbt2001

    mbt2001 Member

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    I believe some of speer's stuff is made specifically for a snub.

    Special powders that burn quicker...
     
  22. LawofThirds

    LawofThirds Member

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    Here's another vote for the buffalo bore 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter hollow points.

    The +p version does a full 1000 feet per second out of my 2" power ported 642, the softer lead hollowpoint gives very good expansion out of a short barrel, the flash is not intense and the round should shoot to point of aim with most S&W fixed sight .38's (which are sighted in for 158g rounds).

    The plus p's are a handful though, if you're unable to shoot them accurately and quickly, the regular pressure ones are a considerable step down in recoil and noise.

    While yes, the chances of you shooting someone IS minuscule, if you are in a situation where it's your life on the line, would you rather have saved 10 bucks on a box of cheaper ammo or would you rather have every edge you can get?
     
  23. Stainz

    Stainz Member

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    The Remington R38S12 158gr LHPSWC +P .38 Special is made of a softer alloy lead than other similar loads, making it's 840+ fps from my 1 7/8" 642 and 860+ fps from my 2" 10 (My measurements - with the range's chrono.) sufficient for opening that HP up. The FBI didn't abandon that round from their .38/.357 Magnum snubbies due to it's being ineffective - it just wouldn't fit in their new semi-auto's. I saw them well stocked at the local Bass Pro Shop for $31.95/50. I do shoot the Georgia Arms similar loads for practice - they are half the price or less. They use a harder alloy, so I would only use them in defense in my 4" 64 or 6" 66, not the snubbies.

    Like others here, I keep the Remingtons in speedloaders and even x8 moonclips for all of my.38's & .357M's. A 60-4 was a target .38 version, dating from 1990. They weren't chambered for .357M until the slightly upgraded 'J-Magnum' frame of the 60-9 in 1996, according to the 3rd edition of the 'Standard Catalog of S&W' by Supica/Nahas. I am betting the 60-4 is +P .38 Special rated - as inherently are the K-frame .38 Specials. A call to S&W (1-800-331-0852) with your model & s/n will reveal whether it is +P rated. If it isn't, or those Remingtons are 'too much' for you, consider 148gr full wadcutters - target ammo - it starts at a full .357" diameter and is a milder shooting and decent stopper. Good luck!

    Stainz
     
  24. shockwave

    shockwave Member

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    Miss Lead, I fear you have opened the proverbial can of worms. You're going to hear from all manner of experts who will bend your ear with talk of FPS and expansion and so forth. This is close to the "revolver vs semi-auto" wars.

    The short answer is to use your FMJ for inexpensive range practice, and use any quality hollowpoint for personal defense. Any quality ammunition from 110gr to 158gr in hollowpoint should make a profound impact on what it hits downrange. I carry Corbon DPX in .38 and Speer Gold Dot in .357.
     
  25. BADUNAME37

    BADUNAME37 Member

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    If you hit someone in a bone located in front of a vital organ (rib, plexus, skull), the FMJ that you have will most likely shatter the bone and keep on going, not only resulting in damage from the bullet itself, but most likely damage from bone fragments moving away at high speed.

    So, all is not wasted.

    I carry FMJ or solid nose round lead bullets many times.
     
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