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Have you ever hunted deer with a .38 Special?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Macchina, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. Macchina

    Macchina Member

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    Note: I'm not going to hunt with a .38 Special, this is just about developing a "woods carry load" for a small .38

    I'm looking to develop a .38 Special load that would put down deer sized game as fast as possible. I am mostly wondering about terminal performance from people with first-hand experience hunting with a .38 Special. What bullet was used? What Powder and how fast was it going? How did it work?
     
  2. PlaneJain

    PlaneJain Member

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    Nope. My state requires 500 ft pounds of energy at the muzzle to take down 'large' game.
     
  3. J2FLAN

    J2FLAN Member

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    Maybe the 158gr lswc at about 900fps, it would hit hard and smash bone.
    But, with a 38 spl. -- you may have to prove self defence. :)
     
  4. USSR

    USSR Senior Member

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    Not a good idea, michaelmcgo. I've killed 2 deer with a .357 magnum, which is essentially a .38 Special on steroids, and I find it to be a marginal cartridge for deer. I have since moved on to a .45 Colt which kills deer cleanly and quickly.

    Don
     
  5. Macchina

    Macchina Member

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    As I stated in the first post, I'm not looking to actually hunt with this load, I'm looking to work up a woods carry load. I figure if a tested load has killed a deer, it'll be more likely to do for the critters Imay encounter in the woods where I fish in and don't want to carry my bigger guns. Many of the newer personal defense rounds (JHP) are designed to prevent over-penetration. In the woods I'm not very concerned about hitting a tree in the forest with a stray bullet.

    Once again, I'm looking for input from anyone who has hunted with a .38 Special.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2013
  6. 4895

    4895 Member

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    Never hunted deer with a .38 special but I am sure a headshot with a .22lr will drop them in their tracks.
     
  7. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Senior Member

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    I would use a high end .357 Magnum round fired in a Carbine for Deer but not a .38 Special. The animal deserves more respect than that, we have a duty to take game humanely and cleanly. I highly doubt a .38 Special will do that. A 140gr .357 Magnum @ 1976 fps w/1213 ft/lbs of energy or a 170gr load @1795 fps w/1216 ft/lbs of energy will. (I chronoed those loads myself)

    A 158gr .38 Special @900 fps will generate only 284 ft/lbs of energy, unacceptable... Even @1100 fps you get only 424 ft/lbs of energy.
     
  8. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

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    I load a 125 gr. XTP HP with Longshot that will definitely drop a deer with no problem. Even the 158 gr. chronographs at over 1200 fps with that powder, and from a SB revolver.

    As for having ever shot a deer with the 38 spcl., I don't recall if I have or not, I don't think so. I know that myself and my Son's have taken a few mule deer with the .357 mag. loaded with 158 gr. Gold Dots, XTP's, and even a Sierra 110 gr. JHP head shot on a mule deer. That one with the 110 gr. JHP dropped like a rock, it was dead on impact. That little tiny bullet blew a large piece of the skull completely out. So I have absolutely no doubt that a 38 spcl. with the right bullet, and powder to push it, will drop a deer. But I have tested my loads / bullets on deer shoulders and pig shoulders, and they have all punched right through.
    GS
     
  9. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Senior Member

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    Are you telling us you loaded a .38 Special with a 158gr XTP and Longshot to 1200 fps and it was still a .38 Special and not a .357 Magnum in pressure? I highly doubt you were still within SAAMI pressure limits for a .38 Special at those velocities with a 158gr bullet.

    Just because you load the round in a .38 Special case doesn't make it a .38 Special.
     
  10. Texan Scott

    Texan Scott Senior Member

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    In Texas, deer may be legally taken with any centerfire round (doesn't make it a good idea).

    That said, a .38 might be used from a carbine... not that .38 spl gains much velocity in the longer barrel, but the longer sight radius could be crucial to a 20 yd head/ neck shot.

    From a snubby revolver? Good luck.
     
  11. Muddydogs

    Muddydogs Member

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    About any .357 bullet loaded to the hotter end of 38 special or better yet 38+P if your revolver can shoot +p will work in an area where you are worried about something deer size attacking you. Since deer don't usually attack people I would guess you are worried about the occasional dog, bagger, or skunk. Now if you have bears in your area and are worried about them I would look at something more then a 38. I trust my 125 Speer Gold Dot +p rounds to defend my life against a human I sure would trust them against a deer at deer attack distances.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2013
  12. James2

    James2 Member

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    I have hunted the wilds of Northern Utah for many years. I have seen every critter that roams these woods, except a bear, killed instantly with one shot from a 22lr. I have also seen many a deer hit with high-powered rifles run off to die in the next county. What makes the difference? The shooter. You gotta make a good hit with any gun to make a clean kill. My advice? Learn to shoot! (More important than what caliber gun you have in your hand.)

    That aside, a 38 spl is a poor choice for deer sized critters. Not even legal in this state for deer. Load them up +p (if your piece is rated such) and you will do ok for a carry piece.
     
  13. mavracer

    mavracer Senior Member

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    For your application I'd use a 158 gr lead SWC at 900fps that'll give you the best chance for adequate penatration and enough damage.
     
  14. Clark

    Clark Senior Member

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    I have killed 9 deer with a 270, 5 deer with a 7mmRM, and 4 deer with a 257 Roberts Ackley Improved.
    Hunting deer with handguns, muzzle loaders, or archery is beyond my skill level.
    I want every advantage I can get.
     
  15. Bull Nutria

    Bull Nutria Member

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    +1 Clark,

    Bull
     
  16. rogn

    rogn Member

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    Nevr shot a deer w/ 38, butn used to hunt woodchucks with hot 1/2jacket hollow points. Frankly its marginal on groundhogs unless the POI is in the chest or head. Worse case was one shot in chest, blew off far leg and the varmit still made it to its burrow. Diedin the burrow but it went 50 feet. Shoot yer deer in the brain and it'll die, but the head moves around a lot. Use a real caliber. JMHO
     
  17. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf member

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    I've killed many 250lb animals (deer and pig) and other smaller with 9mm. If you hit the animal well with a good load, it's pretty well done and in my experience, it was done well. I've only killed smaller animals.. 50lb or so with the .38 though. The ".38" can kill some "big" stuff if you want it to.
     
  18. PO2Hammer

    PO2Hammer Senior Member

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  19. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf member

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    My prior post probably didn't really help you. I'd use a Keith type SWC loaded pretty warm. Bambi will bounce.
     
  20. MCMXI

    MCMXI Senior Member

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    I shot some .357 Mag, .38 Spl and .38 Super out of my Marlin 1894CSS a few days ago. The .38 Spl had a 35% increase in velocity over the published MV for a 4" barrel and the .357 Mag had a 43% increase. Regardless, I wouldn't shoot a Whitetail with a .38 Spl load and probably wouldn't with a .357 Mag load either.

    [​IMG]
     
  21. varodd

    varodd New Member

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    I would not use a 38spl to take a deer personally. It's just not enough at any kind of range. If you using it for small cridder protection or to put down a wounded dear that is down but still kicking you should be ok. If I were building a load for that I would look at a med weight hard cast, that way you should get penetration on a wounded deer and would definitely detour any smaller cridders.
     
  22. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

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    ArchAngelCD, the load data for the 125 gr. JHP / Longshot is published as +P and chronographs in the 1200's fps, and is not into typical .357 mag. pressures. As for the 158 gr. JHP, I was mistaken, after going through my chrono log I see I was only getting a bit under 1100 fps.. I've shot those loads mostly through .357 mag. pistols, mostly, but I have put a few through my 10-5 without problems.
    GS
     
  23. 336A

    336A Senior Member

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    Never hunted nor shot a deer with the .38 SPL myself. Maybe these threads will answer your questions. http://www.defensivecarry.com/forum...cs/107972-some-38-special-velocity-tests.html

    http://www.defensivecarry.com/forum/reloading/125541-four-high-performance-38-special-handloads.html

    I would not use either the 2400 load or the 4756 load or even think of it. Those may have been ok by the 1960's standards but I wouldn't even think about putting them in a .38 SPL unless it was a old S&W .38-44.

    The load containing 5.4gr of Unique and a 158gr SWC is still lised in Lyman's current cast bullet manual, and it's a good load. It is a MAX load so work up to it carefully. Another bullet worth considering is the ol' Lyman 358429 Keith bullet that weighs around 170gr depending on alloy.
     
  24. john wall

    john wall Member

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    When I had my farm I harvested a bunch of them. Took the shot just under the ear at around 20-30 yds with a Target 38 wheelgun, 158 gr SWC at allowable speed.

    The 200 gr bullet at near 900 fps will do a through-and-through if shot behind the shoulders up close. This speed is obtainable in a 6" gun with acceptable pressures. The 38 handles heavy bullets very well.

    Depends on the shooter, keep range at 30 yds and under. I am a good shot, and pick my shots. YMMV
     
  25. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Senior Member

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    If I were loading 38 special rounds for maximum effectiveness against deer sized game I would use the ammo that has been shown to be most effective similarly sized people.

    If Massad Ayoob is to be believed that would be a 158 grain hollow point lead SWC driven at +P velocity.
     

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