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Best snub 357/38 loads

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by defjon, Nov 18, 2022.

  1. defjon

    defjon Member

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    It seems many loads start to open up at three inches, but what would you choose for a 2 inch model 60 or 2.5 inch L frame? These steel frame models are hefty enough to handle hotter loads, especially an L frame!

    I'm not as up to date as some out there, just know that the fbi load 158 gr lswchp doesn't seem to get much expansion from the shorter barrel and neither does Remington 125 gr jhp 38 plus p.
     
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  2. nugi

    nugi Member

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    Hornady critical defense seems to be consistent out of a snub in other peoples tests.

    I’m really curious about Arx interceptor/lehigh/underwood and the other fluid dynamic disruption or whatever rounds how they do out of a short barrel but I haven’t seen much.

    You always know what a wadcutter is going to do
     
  3. nugi

    nugi Member

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    What about Underwood or Buffalo Bore’s hotter lswchp’s?
     
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  4. wcwhitey

    wcwhitey Member

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    Most of the good snubby .38 +P rounds are the lighter types in regular factory ammo. 135 Grain Speer Short Barrel, Hornady Critical Defense 110. There are others those are what I know work from the 1 7/8” barrels. If you have deep pockets there are companies like Buffalo Bore and Underwood they sell a more boutique FBI 158 Grain load that are warm enough to get to expansion threshold in the short barrels. As you say the regular FBI type load and short barrels was never a great match.
     
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  5. wcwhitey

    wcwhitey Member

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    Keep in mind that his is just gel testing but Lucky Gunner does a good job. Quite a bit of ammo testing in this video 2 and 4 inch barrels.
     
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  6. Stevel

    Stevel Member

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    Paul Harrell and his meat targets are always interesting.
     
  7. LeftyRed

    LeftyRed Member

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    WCs, of any flavor.
     
  8. Dave DeLaurant

    Dave DeLaurant Member

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    Ditto. I carry Polycase bullets in my .38 snubs, but I prefer WCs in my .44 Charter Bulldog.
     
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  9. nugi

    nugi Member

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    Id like to hear more about those polycase bullets performance esp going slower from snubs
     
  10. Dave DeLaurant

    Dave DeLaurant Member

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    Yeah, me too! I've come across basic material, but nothing specific for a 2-3" .38 Special revolver barrel -- I've just been seeing velocities from unstated barrel lengths so far.

    https://www.americanrifleman.org/content/tested-the-polycase-arx-bullet/
    https://www.shootingillustrated.com/content/polycase-38-spl-arx-ammunition/
     
  11. Zendude

    Zendude Member

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    Here’s a 2 part test for the 38 special ARX bullets


     
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  12. Buckeye63

    Buckeye63 Member

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    856UL 2 inch barrel 38+P 130gr HST

    Charter 357 mag 3 inch barrel, 357 mag 125gr FTX

    LCR357 Underwood 38spl +P 125gr XTP

    642 38Spl +P 130gr HST

    Security Six 4 inch barrel Rem 357mag 125gr SJHP

    Taurus NV 148gr LSWC

    36 3 inch barrel 158gr LSWC
     
  13. Pat Riot

    Pat Riot Member

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    This is a link I use for .38/.357 comparisons and testing from 2” and 4” revolvers. It’s also from Lucky Gunner.
    https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/revolver-ballistics-test/

    The table they have put together is very impressive. It also opened my eyes to not just relying on the best accuracy to pick an SD round. Out of 2 of my snubbies Hornady’s American Gunner load was really accurate at 10 yards, but it just doesn’t expand from a snubby. I switched to Federal HST or Hornady Critical Defense.
     
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  14. nugi

    nugi Member

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    Winchester also had some rounds that expanded consistently out of a snubby. But the limited expansion wasn’t the only eye-opener to me from their test, the other was how anemic the penetration is on most of these rounds (unless hitting the very minimum of the FBI standard, in a different type of gel, really is sufficient)

    In his 9mm test you see many rounds with great penetration and expansion. In a 38 snub are you limited to picking one or the other? Either penetration or expansion?
     
  15. Pat Riot

    Pat Riot Member

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    Sometimes one must compromise and go with “middle of the road” choices on both. I figure 14” of penetration with a doubling of diameter from the Federal HST ammo is pretty good. Hornady Critical Defense is okay at nearly 14” and .44” is okay, I guess, but this ammo seems to be easier to get than the Federal offerings or Rem. Golden Saber or any of the other better performing cartridges.
    One might say “Well that’s because no one wants it because it doesn’t do as well as others.”
    I say “So what!?” Out of my S&W 442 and my S&W 36 I shoot this load and the Federal HST accurately and to me that’s way more important than more penetration or more expansion.
    I was perfectly happy with Hornady American Gunner in my Snubbies until I saw their lack of expansion. That was the most accurate production cartridge out of my guns.
    If I have diminished confidence in a cartridge the last thing I need when a bad situation arises is doubt, I’m sure.

    I tried quite a few of the cartridges on lucky Gunner’s list. Some were terrible for accuracy out of my guns.
    I forgot to mention that in my testing I also used my S&W 327 Night Guard and my former model 60 Pro, 2.5” and 3” barrel’s respectively.
    The very worst accuracy I have ever gotten from my Snubbies? That Underwood ammo that is all the rage. What a waste of money that was. That ammo is not cheap, especially during “the silliness”.
     
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  16. wcwhitey

    wcwhitey Member

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    I carry primarily the Speer Gold Dot 135+P Short Barrel. It was my Departments standard round for decades. It was in fact created for my department for the 1 7/8” revolvers in use as they were becoming the majority of revolvers in service during the 9mm transition. Other than the Lucky Gunner test all the demonstrations and reports that I have seen are very positive. In the field it has a good reputation. Add the fact that I still have 500+ factory fresh rounds it will likely be my choice for a while. I do on occasion load and use the Standard Velocity Hornady Critical Defense. The ballistic tip solves the hollow point prohibition in New Jersey while traveling or doing business there. I have a few boxes of this product for every handgun that may be used in a carry capacity. It has also become my full time .380 carry ammo.
    .38 from snubbies has and in my opinion has been an expansion iffy situation. It just does not provide enough velocity to reliably expand and penetrate at the same time. I carried a J frame when the round was 158 SWC Lead +P then 158 SWC-HP Nyclad +P knowing that neither would expand. Truth is nobody other than myself really cared, not gun people. But I knew that the SWC bullet design of either was better than a RNL. From all the shootings I have witnessed and investigated a SWC is a good choice. They work! I cannot give scientific wound channel specifics or penetration depths but from my field observations they are a good choice. I have seen videos and tests that bear this out as well. All my .38 handloads use lead SWC bullets, some Speer soft lead SWC-HP for that reason. Soft lead, aggressive shoulders and a flat nose adds to bullet performance in the absence of expansion.
     
  17. Tall

    Tall Member

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  18. Pat Riot

    Pat Riot Member

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    Sadly a lot of premium .38 SD ammo is still not available or if it is the prices are stupidly high.

    But, rest assured, there’s plenty of .30 Super Carry available. :p:D:rofl:
     
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  19. Throwbackguy

    Throwbackguy Member

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    Like Pat Riot said: Difficult (for me, my area) to find consistent SD ammo. With only The Yoohoo Tube to show gel tests, I settled on LSWC in .38+p from Buffalo Bore. Powerful enough from my 640, more controllable and less fireball than available .357 I have access to.
     
  20. Jonesy814

    Jonesy814 Member

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    For 357, a full power load with a 125 grain bullet will go fast enough to expand, but you have a lot of flash to deal with. 125gr XTP with 21gr of win296 at dusk
    7AAF6E74-2211-4BE4-A3F1-1425B0E40C2C.jpeg 153AFCB0-62CF-4BF4-AFC1-C87188E17ECA.jpeg 0E729E8A-3BDC-4ABF-8402-E8009F099313.jpeg
     
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  21. KyJim

    KyJim Member

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    I’ve gone to Remington Golden Sabers .38 +P for use in my revolvers I carry or for home defense ( not counting my Ruger 9mm). That way I can keep some speed loaders ready and interchangeable in my SW 637 snubby, 3 inch King Cobra and 4 inch Model 65 (a house gun).
     
  22. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

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    I didn't read all the posts.

    I carry factory wadcutters in a 2" J frame. Have done it for 30 years. Adequate penetration, bullet is already in an efficient shape, easy on the gun and you.

    JMO
     
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  23. Old Hobo

    Old Hobo Member

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    Spoiler for the above videos:

    When this fellow tried the Inceptor ARX .38 Spec. out on 2"x4"s, a bullet fragment came back and popped him on the forehead between the eyes. It did not break the skin, but he said that it really hurt. His wool cap may have prevented him from bleeding.
     
  24. golden

    golden Member

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    In a steel framed gun, like the S&W model 36, I would use FEDERAL 130 grain jhp +P HST. For the recoil, it is probably the best ammo to use. I also use it in my RUGER Security Six and S&W model 15's. The RUGER is a .357 magnum, and I could go hotter, but I do not think I would get a much more effective load. Just more recoil, muzzle blast and flash.

    Jim
     
  25. Shivahasagun

    Shivahasagun Member

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    Soft-ish 145-158 gr LHP or LSWCHP at 850+. (I load the GT 160 gr LHP to @925 from my 3 inch King Cobra)

    Hornady Critical Duty .357 135 gr is an excellent, recoil & flash reduced load, too.
     
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