Looking for a good, preferably jacketed, bullet for 38 Special.

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by mcb, Aug 8, 2022.

  1. mcb

    mcb Member

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    So I have mid 1990's model 10 heavy barrel that I frequently carry when out at the hunting property. It mostly gets used on Armadillos, rats, and the recently too frequent noisy nope-ropes. Initially I was using lead round noise simple cause I had them, I use a lot of 160gr lead coated round nose in my USPSA revolver so I just threw them in a 38 Special. Later I remember I had a partial box of Hornady 158gr XTP-HP from my aborted dalliance with 357 Mag for hunting. So for the past few years my woods load is 158gr XTP-HP pushed to about 860 fps from my 4-inch heavy barreled Model 10.

    PXL_20220807_164932973.jpg
    This XTP pass through the head of a medium size snake at about 6 ft, then a small piece of firewood and was found partial embedded in the 2x4 frame of the firewood stack. As you can see there is basically no expansion.

    PXL_20220807_164811944.jpg
    This XTP pass through the head of a much larger snake and at least one body diameter given the coiled nature of the snake at the time of shooting. This was at a distance of 10-12 ft. The bullet was recovered with a metal detector after going through about 6-8 inches of dry dirt. Not much expansion again.

    After last weekend shooting of the snake (he got three shots for good measure) and a big wood rat that jumped out from underneath of the brush hog I realize I am getting low on this ammunition. So this gives me an opportunity to work up a new load. I would like to find a new bullet that might expand more easily.

    Ideally it would be a jacketed, 158 gr bullet. I like jacketed bullets for cleanliness and no leading issues to worry about. Since the revolver is fixed sight and those sights seem well regulated to 158 gr bullets at these velocities I would like to stay close to 158 gr, though I am sure if the suggested bullet is a little heavier or lighter I can tweak a load to regulated it to the sights.

    I am not opposed to a coated bullet either though, I do shoot a lot of those in competition. I would rather not mess with a traditionally lubricated lead. All copper bullets are OK too.

    Any suggestions for a good expanding 38 Special bullet would be apricated. -Thanks!
     
  2. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    For snakes, I have always liked the Speer shot capsules. I prefer #12 shot but you can load them up with anything you have, can even rob shot from any shells you might have.

    I put one in the “next” hole, the rest of the cylinder with non shot loads. Any bullet that could expand on its way through a snake, would probably not be very useful on other targets. What would you use for testing, hot dogs? :)

    Your pinky finger has more in it to cause bullet expansion than a snake. That said, even the tiny poked hole from a .22 does the trick.

    1740C2F6-FFC7-4BE5-872B-B394BD980315.jpeg

    Or for that matter even the tiny #12 shot.

    BE829848-E35D-478A-9314-400F8657CBA0.jpeg

    They might be the most susceptible animal to gun fire but even if you sever the head from the body they won’t quit moving.
     
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  3. mcb

    mcb Member

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    I have use the CCI shot shell ammunition in my 38. I got into a nest one time and they worked well. I keep a speed-loader of them in my toolbox that goes in the UTV with me. That said when I am walking/working around the property I want bullets loaded cause I can shoot snakes with those and a lot of other things. The shot shells are only really good for snake and rats at real close range.
     
  4. Docendo Discimus

    Docendo Discimus Member

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    Do you cast and powdercoat? If so this one immediately came to mind. This would be devastating at 8-10 BHN.
    Screenshot_20220808-091007_Chrome.jpg
     
  5. AJC1

    AJC1 Member

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  6. mcb

    mcb Member

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    Unfortunately I have not yet got into casting and coating.

    Does anyone know a company making coated hollow-point semi-wad cutters?
     
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  7. Alaskamike

    Alaskamike Member

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    Matts bullets has softer hollow points intended for lower velocity expansion. I can't recall whether he does powder coating though.
     
  8. gila_dog1

    gila_dog1 Member

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    I've been thru your same process for quite a while. The luckygunner tests convinced me that it's hard to find bullets that will expand reliably at 38 special velocities. The Hornady XTP bullets don't open up until you get to .357 magnum velocities. There are some factory loads that work well, but I don't know how to buy just the bullets for reloading. And nowadays it's hard to find any .38 special ammo of any kind, especially the good stuff.

    https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/revolver-ballistics-test/

    What looks good to me are Hornady 140 gr FTX bullets. The problem with all hollow points is that the little cavity can get filled up with fabric or fur or something, then it works like a round nose bullet and won't open up unless it's going really fast. The FTX bullets have a plastic nose that gets pushed back into the hollow point cavity so they should open up no matter what they are hitting.These are easy to find out there on the internet and according to the luckygunner tests they seem to expand reliably. I bought some and will be trying them out.

    I keep a CCI snake shot round handy in my .38/.357 speed strip just for the rattlesnake by the back porch scenario. Those things really work well. But for me the best anti snake weapon is a .22 rifle with a CCI snake shot round. Stand way back, hold the rifle like a pistol, put the muzzle right in his face, and pop him.

    snake foot.jpg
     
  9. earplug

    earplug Member

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    I think your only hope for expansion at 850 FPS it to find a old swaged lead bullet. Swaged lead is very soft.
    I'd bet the old FBI 150 grain LSWC HP was swaged.
    ZERO bullets sold as Roze might have what you need. Cast.
     
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  10. Docendo Discimus

    Docendo Discimus Member

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    A soft powdercoated hollowbase wadcutter loaded backwards would be another option... I don't know if anyone sells that or not. I looked at the MBC site and they don't have any hollowpoint bullets and they would probably be too hard for what you want to do anyway.
     
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  11. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    Thus the “just first round” concept I use.

    If you are looking for a bullet that would have a chance to frag inside a snake, I have had explosive results with the 35 grain v-max at about 3200 fps. It’s fragmented on the back side of a beer can full of water. Not the best bullet for larger animals though, like the shot rounds.

    What about duplex loads? Two little wadcutters stacked on top of one another.

    upload_2022-8-8_11-53-22.jpeg

    Twice the number of holes per cylinder. With better prospects of penetration than something that will expand “in” a snake.

    upload_2022-8-8_11-54-16.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2022
  12. Ethan Verity

    Ethan Verity Member

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    Probably the best of the best is the 130gr Federal HST bullet, however I don't think they are available for reloading. You would need to get the factory loaded Federal 38Spl +P.
     
  13. mcb

    mcb Member

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    148hp.jpg

    Some one else mentioned Matt's bullets up thread. I have used Matt's bullets in both of my Webley's (Mark IV in 38/200 and Mark VI in 455 Webley) with good results. The above bullet is a 148 gr 38 cal bullet with a nice large HP and in a soft alloy that Matt uses I suspect would be perfect for my use. I can certainly use Matt's bullet I have had good service from him inthe past but I would love to find this bullet in a coated version if it exists.
     
  14. tightgroup tiger

    tightgroup tiger Member

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    This is what I would be thinking about using in a 38 Spl if you don't want to use snake shot.
    https://www.mattsbullets.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=65&products_id=325
    These are really soft bullets and are the only bullet I would think would come close to what you are trying to do with a solid bullet.
    I used to put two #9 filled Speer shot capsules in my Model 28 first, then two shot capsules with 3) double oo buckshot pellets pounded out to fit the capsule, then two JSP loads.
    Three 00 buck shot pellets would just about equal 150 gr so I used 150gr Unique load for SWC for the load.
    Never had to use them so don't know how they would have worked.
     
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  15. tightgroup tiger

    tightgroup tiger Member

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    Unless it's a recent thing, he does not powder coat them.
     
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  16. Rule3

    Rule3 Member

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    I do not know why you need expensive bullets to kill a snake or rat. Not much there for expansion which isn't needed.

    MBC 158 grain coated (soft 12bhn) Splat!

    https://missouribullet.com/details.php?prodId=415&category=20&secondary=9&keywords=
    or
    https://missouribullet.com/details.php?prodId=267&category=20&secondary=9&keywords=

    https://www.acmebullet.com/Bullets/38-CAL/38-158-SWC-NLG

    Berrys has plated HP

    https://www.berrysmfg.com/product/bp-38-357-158gr-thp
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2022
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  17. mdi

    mdi Member

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    Hornady XTP bullets are kinda tough and need about 1,000 fps+ for good expansion. I don't depend on my 38 Specials for home/self defense applications but do reload some XTPs up to 357 velocities for my 357 Magnum revolvers, and IIRC, some Remington 124 gr jacketed hollow point soft point I purchased long ago and some JHP/SP clones. Many of my 38 Special loads are a Lee 125 gr RNFP, powder coated and loaded to +P levels and a 158 gr. SWC PCed, from Acme. I have reloaded a lot of my cast bullets for my 38/357 needs and often they are 150 gr DEWC, 125 gr. RNFP and 158/160 gr SWC, mostly from BHN 12-13 alloy, both lubed and PCed. I haven't reloaded many JHPs in m 38 Specials and a few for my 357s so it would entail a lot of research and testing for me to give a good opinion of a "good 38 Special jacketed bullet".

    I don't encounter many snakes in Oregon (the "legless" type) and my So. CA desert trips I'd normall just stepped around them. But I often carried a Ruger Single Six or a Ruger Standard Auto MkII. My 22 lr dispatched a few snakes on/near a sheep ranch quite well...

    One of my favorite "house gun" loads was a 150 gr DEWC (about 12 BHN) loaded over a standard velocity max. charge of W231. Good accuracy out to 7-10 yards, longest distance tested, and at 875 fps the .358" flat nose should do a goodly amount of tissue damage...
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2022
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  18. westernrover

    westernrover Member

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    Remington Golden Saber. These brass jacketed bullets came in a version for 38 and another for 357. Pity they were discontinued, but not that long ago so that they might still be found. The 38 version is awesome. Very accurate and very dependable expansion -- lovely bullet flowers every time.

    The XTP is designed for limited expansion so as to ensure deeper penetration. The Golden Saber, in contrast, might not penetrate very deeply, especially if driven to high velocities. I shoot the 38 version in 357 loads. It "blows up" very well.

    My suggestion doesn't pertain to snakes. I wouldn't shoot snakes, but if necessary, use a stick and bucket to move them instead.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2022
  19. Bfh_auto

    Bfh_auto Member

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    That's why I like the Hornady swaged 158 SWCHP. Or the 110 Sierra JHC.
     
  20. mcb

    mcb Member

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    I don't really need an expensive bullet for snakes or rats, my inexpensive coated round nose competition ammo would poke holes in them just fine. What I am looking for is a decent bullet that will expand rapidly for any target including a snake or rat but more so for bigger critters. The XTP is clearly too tough a bullet for the velocities I am shooting. The second bullet from my first post went through the snake's head and at least one body width of it coils and this was a 5+ foot long Timber Rattler with a body about as thick as my forearm (the biggest one of nearly two dozen I have dealt with on the property in the 7 or so years I have owned it) and there was still almost no expansion. I just though I would ask to see if there was such a bullet for 38 Special.

    As for shooting snakes I normally don't either, if they are non-venomous the get moved along, but if they are venomous and they are trying to make a home too close to were I frequent they must be dealt with. The one two years ago was in the wood pile 10 ft from the cabin door, along with 6 young ones (that was an exciting encounter). The one a week ago as was using one of our deer blinds.
     
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  21. westernrover

    westernrover Member

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    That's eatin' size.

    I still wouldn't shoot them. Makes too much noise, you won't always have a good backstop, there's potential for bullet splatter off the rocks where snakes hang out, and then you have to clean your gun just for one snake, when you could just hold them with a stick and cut them with a shovel. If you want something better than a shovel, get a harpoon. Here's a nice head for it:

    71IgMob+nSL._AC_SX679_.jpg 7147vKVaJNL._AC_SX679_.jpg

    But really, a garden rake or pitchfork does the same thing.

    810XslyoqTL._AC_SX466_.jpg
     
  22. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I really doubt any JHP will expand on a snake. Unless you get in a time machine and find one of these. The Titanoboa got to be 42 feet long. And would find you a tasty morsel!


    BTitanoboa%2Bdevouring%2Ba%2Bcrocodilian%252C%2Bfrom%2Bthe%2BSmithsonian%2Bexhibit%2B%25283%2529.jpg

    There is just not enough meat in a snake to provide the resistance for upsetting a JHP.
     

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  23. mcb

    mcb Member

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    There are bullets that will do it. I shot a big snake (wood pile again) with my 300 BO using an all copper Maker 220gr REX bullet and it nearly took his head off. That bullet will open in less than the width of a 16 oz Gatoraid bottle and is only move ~150 fps faster than my 38 Special. I was hopping to find something like that but that is probably a tall order.
     
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  24. .45Coltguy

    .45Coltguy Member

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    That Missouri Cowboy #15 ought to work. Use 'em in my .38. Good bullet with a hardness of 12. Coated.
     
  25. Bcwitt

    Bcwitt Member

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    Lighter bullet, perhaps? Mabey a 115gr 9mm or a 95gr. .380.
     
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