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the 38 special

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Nicodemus38, Sep 10, 2010.

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  1. Nicodemus38

    Nicodemus38 Member

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    over on the firingline is a long topic on why the 38 is still made when the 9mm is sooooo "better".

    it turned into a long caliber jocky war requiring hip waders to enter the room.
    i would like to start a real conversation on it to actually get a little bit of thought into it.

    to start with

    the 38 works the lowly ballistically inferior wadcutter at full velocity can still penetrate 20 inches of gelatin at 10 feet in a snubnose after guns and ammo magazine did a test.

    it can almost accomplish the same velocity using bkack powder with same bullet with almost the same bullet energu.

    its able to use any bullet shape you want.

    its considered a sign of a professional gun handler to have a small 38 as a bug. even if they got a 45 acp as a primary.

    i can use a 200 grain bullet if i want to.
     
  2. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Member

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    I would not disagree with any of those statements, except that I am a little skeptical of the one I bolded. The ability to use any weight or shape of bullet is more a function of the platform (revolver) than the cartridge itself.
     
  3. LibShooter

    LibShooter Member

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    IMHO .38 Special is the hottest round that can be fired from tiny, lightweight snubbies with anything like comfort and control. People love those little guns, so they'll keep making them.

    Nobody wants a 9mm Snubnose Revolver.
     
  4. BullRunBear

    BullRunBear Member

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    I'm surprised anyone would raise the question as to why the 38 special is still around.

    First, there's the platform. The revolver (and it's ammo) permits a huge variety of loads to fit many uses. Whether the shooter needs something as light as a WC target load or a full house defensive round, the 38 special can be loaded to that purpose. No need to worry about minimum power to cycle a slide. No need to worry about OAL of the case, at least not often. It offers cheap practice for 357 magnum guns and adds to their versatility. I have a Redhawk in 357 that can handle any magnum load that's safe to assemble. That gun also handles 38 special WC and squib loads very accurately.

    Then there's performance. I'm not saying the 38 special is more accurate than the 9mm but many decades of bullseye champions felt it served their purposes. I happen to shoot 9mm very well, for me, but it is no better than the 38 special.

    The cost of ammo is similar and the 9mm may be a tad less if you go with the white box deals at Wally World. But the edge goes to the 38 special when it comes to the cost of a gun, at least in my experience. A $250 Model 10, Model 15, or Service Six (and they are out there with a little shopping) can usually keep decent groups out to 50 yards. How many 9mm guns can do that at that price?

    For personal defense, I can't see where the faster and usually lighter 9mm bullet offers much of a benefit over the 38 special. Both rounds are deadly at combat ranges. Also, if it matters, I've found the 38 special to be quieter or at least less concussive and that could reduce flinching. Not everyone, especially in a dangerous situation, can reliably rack the slide on a 9mm semiauto or knows how to clear a jam. But they can always pull a trigger on a revolver and won't have to face a stove pipe or forget to disengage a safety. The 9mm is smaller and lighter so more ammo can be carried and the guns offer the chance to carry a LOT more rounds without having to reload. That's certainly an advantage for police or military. Not sure it makes much difference for personal protection.

    Fianally, on a personal note, I don't like policing brass all over hell's creation. That ground gets farther away every year and/or I get less limber. I reload all my centerfire ammo so I don't waste brass. It's a lot easier to dump the spent cases into a bag on the shooting bench. :D

    Just some thoughts.

    Jeff
     
  5. labhound

    labhound Member

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    I consider my S&W model 64 .38 special stainless 4" heavy barrel to be the perfect home defense gun. Always loaded with JHP's, always ready, always fires!
     
  6. bgeddes

    bgeddes Member

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    My wife has trouble racking the slides on most autos due to medical issues. What she can do is operate a revolver well. The recoil of the larger cals is a bit much for her, but .38sp +p, no problem for a few, .38 sp for practice, just fine. It is tough to find a good 9mm revolver.

    She carries a .38sp revolver. The ammo and firearm suit her well.
     
  7. bubbinator

    bubbinator Member

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    You can't load a 148gr. Hollowbase wadcutter backwards at almost a 1000 fps in a 9mm case! Those "old" defense loads penetrate a little less than some 9mm "super loads, but open X2 as much! Plus no feeding issues, no extraction issues and most guns can be found under $400.!
     
  8. Nushif

    Nushif Member

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    I love my snubbies in .38 special.

    I think most people who are so adamantly against them are the folks who claim they don't work in situations they're not meant for.
     
  9. herohog

    herohog Member

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    As long as THESE are around for less than $400 the .38SPL will be around!

    Model10L.jpg
     
  10. jad0110

    jad0110 Member

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    I've said it previously, but in a tacticool age when ft-lbs and energy transfer are all the rage, a cartridge like the .38 that looks weak on paper is passe with many folks. In spite of how it looks on paper, there are a lot of great loads out their that offer good to excellent penetration and expansion, even from a short barrel (if just). And full wadcutters are an excellent choice for recoil sensitive folks, while still offering more than enough penetration depth. And in a gun like herohog's steel Model 10 pictured above (nice stocks BTW!), recoil is very mild and controllable, even with +P loads IMO.
     
  11. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Member

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    When properly loaded the 38 Special and 9mm Parabellum are nearly identical in performance. My 9mm carry load is a 115 JHP at a clocked 1,150 FPS. My 38 Special carry load is a 125 JHP at a clocked 1,100 FPS. These are virtually the same. What we are choosing in deciding whether to go with the 9 or the 38 is the firing platform. Do you want an auto or a revolver?

    The advantages/disadvantages of the two systems have been discussed and debated since the auto pistol was invented but I'll summarize.

    Auto advantages:

    1. Higher ammo capacity.
    2. Faster reloading.
    3. Thinner profile for concealment.
    4. After first shot the SA trigger (unless DA only, of course) is more accurate.

    Revolver advantages:

    1. Simpler to use.
    2. Smoother with less to catch or hang when drawn.
    3. Any type of bullet will function and misfires are cleared by simply pulling the trigger again.

    IMO anyone deliberately going in harm's way who may find himself in a real GUNFIGHT is best served with a high capacity auto pistol with fast reloading magazines. For the vast majority of situations in which a citizen must defend himself against criminal attack a revolver will do just fine.

    My two primary carry guns are a S&W 659 and a 2" S&W Model 64. I feel fairly confident with either.
     
  12. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    The added bullet weight of the .38 (158 grain HP), I think, gives it its effectiveness, penetration. I'm perfectly happy armed with the "lowly" .38, personally. I have a couple of 9s, too, and carry my Kel Tec a lot. I have nothing against either caliber in the self defense role.
     
  13. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    As Saxon pointed out, the 38 Special and 9mm are nearly identical when it comes to energy transfered into the target.

    He also quite succinctly pointed out the advantages to either platform.

    Width difference is exactly why I sometimes carry a Kahr PM9 as it is .91 inches thick. Other times I carry one of my D Frames which I shoot better (probably because I like them better and practice more)

    If it were practical to use 38 Special in a bottom-feeding, brass-chunker I would not own a 9mm.

    BTW
    I totally agree that while a 38 revolver is a great weapon for civilians, I concur that a high capacity auto is the ideal sidearm for one with a greater possibility to need it.

    (In retrospect I guess I should have just said "Ditto to what Saxon posted" because he nailed it)
     
  14. mesinge2

    mesinge2 Member

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    I agree to the 38 SPL being a great home defense gun. No need to worry about how long the mag has been loaded, or a jam due to lip-wristing during a scuffle. However it also makes a great carry gun. A S&W model 64 3" heavy barrel is in my regular rotation, loaded with 158gr +P JHPs. As you can see from the marks in the steel, this gets carried and shot a lot. In this advanced age what more can you ask for besides the "point-and-click" technology I am presenting here:

    View attachment 127506


    Click Image to Enlarge
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2010
  15. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    With over 400 ft lbs in a 3" barrel, the +P version of the 9x19 has the paper advantage. I don't know if there is an accurate measure of "energy transfer", but just paper energy. I don't think the 9 is THAT much more effective as a self defense tool concerning energy and such, but it does hold more ammo in a tighter package. :D

    Me, six of one, half dozen of the other, though. In my feeble mind, 5 shots is plenty. There might be times with the P11's magazine capacity might be advantageous, but I hope I never run into 'em, certainly don't expect to.
     
  16. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

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    Well, I would....just because I hate chasing brass. Until I can find or afford one though, the 38 does just fine
     
  17. Wolfeye

    Wolfeye Member

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    I don't think it's so much .38 spl vs. 9mm that matters; it's how people feel about revolvers vs. automatics. For example:

    My wife prefers revolvers because they're more romantic - cowboys & detectives from classic movies usually carried them. She thinks revolvers look neat, but autos do nothing for her. I also can't picture my wife shooting enough that she'd be able to operate an auto with the same smoothness as a revolver. Stovepipe? She'd probably yell "gross!" and hand it to me.

    I think 9mm automatics are better as self-defense guns for people who might need lots of firepower, but that's all the cartridge can do. I can do my self defense practice with .38 spl, then switch to .357 magnums to prep myself for a deer hunt. .38 spl is a good meat & potatoes cartridge, but the dessert is the .357 magnum.
     
  18. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    The world would be full of far better pistol shots if everyone had to start out learning to shoot with a .38 Spl 4" or 6" revolver.

    rc
     
  19. mesinge2

    mesinge2 Member

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    I agree. Its a great caliber to start out a new shooter with, preferably in a "K" frame or larger. One of the first gun I ever fired was my father's old 5" model 10. He still shoots it to this day, and it was easy to grasp the basics of trigger control and sight alignment with it.
     
  20. Nushif

    Nushif Member

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    I'd actually say a sub 2-ich barrel would be even better. It's what I learned on and frankly I do think I'm a better shot for my trigger time for it.
     
  21. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    Wolfeye is right. The cartridges are similar. The real difference is the platform.

    As to McGunners point that on paper, the 9mm has some advantages. Let us remember that the current 38 specials are loaded pretty light.
     
  22. oldbanjo

    oldbanjo Member

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    I've seen many things that have been shot with a 38 snub nose pistol. Never under estimate one. The only reason I carry a 357 today, is that I will most likely need to shoot through a truck door today. Other wise I would be carrying my S&W MD36, I've shot this pistol more than any gun that I have ever owned, including my Browning Hi Power which I sold.
     
  23. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    are you being staked by someone who drives a truck?
     
  24. evan price

    evan price Member

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    @herohog: Sho 'nuff! S&W Mod 10's are worth keeping 38 spl around forever.
     
  25. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    The lowly 38 Special, how so many like to beat it up...

    A 158gr LSWC/HP at +P pressures (The FBI Load) fired from a revolver, what's not to like???
     
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