Wad-cutters as self-defense ammo?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by wiscoaster, Nov 19, 2021.

  1. Smokin Gator

    Smokin Gator Member

    Nov 18, 2006
    Northern Ca.
    Matts Bullets has a big lineup of bullets including wadcutters. These aren't the typical double ended wc with the edges rounded off. They have a sharp edge at the top of a flat bullet. I got some for my 44 special and 45 Colt. I use factory hollowpoints in my 9mm and 45acp but I think these work great in my 44 snubby.
  2. John Joseph

    John Joseph Member

    May 5, 2016
    Reversed hollow based wadcutters have been known to self destruct, which is why they never really caught on.
    I had some once and many expanded beautifully out of a 4" barrel, but I don't know how they'd behave out of a snubbie.
    Then there is the issue of .HB, now HP "skirt" separating. Accuracy went out the window then, and the notion that some of the debris might remain in the barrel to cause mischief is sobering. I never tested my reversed HBWCs for penetration so I can't comment on that, but the LSWC is reliable and does have excellent penetration. IMHO the standard velocity LSWC is very controllable when launched out of a snubbie.
  3. dickydalton

    dickydalton Member

    Oct 6, 2012
    New Mexico
    The prosecutor hammed on and on about Kyle using Full Metal Jacket ammunition.
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  4. holl

    holl Member

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brandon, SD
    When I cc my Uberti sa .45 colt I load it with wad cutters. I get these from Rim rock bullets(225 gr)and load them over 5.9 grains of titegroup.

  5. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

    Nov 4, 2006
    I didn't read all the comments. However, I will repeat what I've said about wadcutters in the past.

    I carry wadcutters in J frames because:

    1. The bullet is already in an efficient shape. A hollowpoint has to expand a bit to get where the wadcutter starts out. Jim Cirillo, who knew more about gunfighting than almost everyone on this forum, had a quest for the perfect bullet. Most of his designs were wadcutters. When he carried a 1911 on the NYPD Stakeout Squad, he had a full wadcutter in the chamber backed by Super Vel hollowpoints in the magazine.

    2. The lower velocity of factory target hbwc does not inhibit the penetration of the bullet. Why? Just about every other bullet design will tumble when it meets resistance in the target. That's because the base of the bullet is heavier and the bullet will tumble. The hbwc has most of its weight forward. It keeps on pushing through the target. It gives adequate penetration at target velocities.

    3. Factory target hbwcs are easy on you and easy on the revolver.

    4. Hard to reload? Statistics show most SD gunfights will be over before you fire your 5 shots. However, I believe you should always carry a reload. I have RP 158 swcs in a speedloader and a 2x2 pouch. The speedloader for complete reloads, the 2x2 for partial.

    The reversed hbwcs? They work well. When they work. I tested them long ago (1970s) in various media. You reverse that hbwc and you put the weight bias to the rear of the bullet and they can wind up tumbling. Often they will shear off half of the hollow base. Failure rate was about 50%. I don't consider them as a viable option.

  6. CajunBass

    CajunBass Member

    Jun 2, 2005
    North Chesterfield, Virginia
    Back when I first started with this stuff, I reloaded some reverse HBWC's with my Lee-Loader. I don't know what they'd have done on anything living, but they made an impressive cavity in a bank of damp, red Virginia Clay, when fired out of my 4" Model 19. I could have shoved my fist into it. It wasn't very deep, but I figured into solid earth, not much would have gone but so deep.

    l never carried them. I figured I had found a pretty good load if I was ever attacked by a bank of damp, red, Virginia clay though. I never loaded any more of them. They were difficult to load using a speed-loader. A lot of wiggling to get them to go in all at once time. A speed-strip would have been faster, maybe, loading one at a time, but I can't remember if I tried that or not.

    I ended up with factory 158 grain lead SWC in 38 special for my Model 19 sd my "serious ammo." There was no legal concealed carry, so that pretty much meant my nightstand.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2021
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  7. StrawHat

    StrawHat Member

    Jan 28, 2007
    NE Ohio
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  8. Ru4real

    Ru4real Member

    Apr 2, 2017
    Both in self defense, and in hunting, a cast bullet with a wide blunt nose and correct hardness is the best at punching both a hole in and a hole out. A wadcutter has the widest, bluntest nose for any given caliber.

    I’ve done the math. Two holes leak twice as fast as one hole. :)
  9. Mr. Mosin

    Mr. Mosin Member

    Jun 26, 2019
    Perfectly acceptable. Low recoil, full caliber hole.
  10. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator Staff Member

    Aug 13, 2008
    I like wadcutters for target shooting.

    Decades ago, a few gun-writers touted them for for defensive use. Today, I use factory premium defensive ammunition

    You will not find me carrying hand loads.
    38riverrat likes this.
  11. Crosshair

    Crosshair Member

    Mar 25, 2005
    Grand Forks, North Dakota
    It's popular enough that Buffalo Bore makes EXACTLY what you want. Full pressure 38 Special with a 150 grain hard cast WC bullet for short barrels.


    I see that someone mentioned earlier the 44 Special version.
    wiscoaster likes this.
  12. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 20, 2006
    They make nice full caliber holes in things
    38 Spl DEWC in .30 Cal Ammo Can @54%.JPG
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  13. kevincallahan

    kevincallahan Member

    Feb 4, 2006
    I spent 33 years as a cop who worked my way from Patrol thru crimes against persons to administration. That said, I carried 38 caliber revolvers a lot of that time. Still have my model 36/bought new in 1980. That was my backup, off duty and for a short time my duty gun. I saw a number of shootings with all manner of calibers and types of guns.
    The story line here is about wadcutters. My experience was very few jhp or expanding ammo really worked well. Clothing can clog up the expansion and some just do not expand at low speeds generated by short barrels. For this very reason, my old 36 is loaded with the Buffalo bore, hard cast wadcutter. I know that if I have to use the thing, it will make a hole, and that I will probably need at least 3 accurate rounds to stop the threat. I have other weapons now that I normally carry concealed, but my 36 is still there and I do occasionally put it on
  14. jstert

    jstert Member

    Apr 25, 2013
    ne and sw
    i am recoil averse. my 38sp airweight revolvers only get wadcutters. why? because i can consistently put all 5 shots on an 8” paper paper at 12’, which is my defensive scenario.

    Attached Files:

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  15. wiscoaster

    wiscoaster Member

    Sep 19, 2019
    Received my order of Hornady Critical Defense .38 Special hollow-point ammo and tried them out against the wad-cutter ammo I already had. Shooting a couple cylinders of each, single-handed, I really don't think there's all that much difference in recoil, and no difference at all sighting in the next shot. Frankly, making an ammo decision like this on perceived recoil is a non-issue and making something out of nothing. I'm going with the Hornady CD hollow-points. I know they'll do the job they're intended to do.
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  16. forrest r

    forrest r member

    Oct 6, 2016
    The good, the bad & the ugly

    I've cast & swaged wc's and hbwc's for the 32cal's/35cal's/41cal's/44cal's/45cal's. It really didn't matter the caliber or firearm used, the same theme kept coming up.

    The good:
    Against soft tissue wc's/hbwc's/hbwc's turned backwards flat out work. They hit extremely hard and have excellent penetration. Typical results with a 8/9bhn cast hbwc turned backwards to make a huge hp, a 220gr hbwc/44spl doing 1000fps.

    The bad:
    For best results the wc's/hbwc's need to be harder then the soft target bullets sold by the major ammo/bullet mfg's. The harder wc's/hbwc's also tend to ricochet/glance off of angled surfaces.

    The ugly:
    The wc's/hbwc's don't do very well when hitting hard surfaces strait on. This is a 148gr cast hbwc, 8/9bhn shot out of a 38spl/800fps+ playing around with a ppc revolver on the bowling pin table 25ft.

    That bullet recovered out of the bowling pin.

    Just something to keep in mind. Soft objects are where a wc/hbwc really shines. Start getting into harder surfaces that are either angled or strait on and they struggle.
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  17. Rodfac

    Rodfac Member

    Dec 13, 2012
    If you load them hot enough...800 fps or better, they'll do the job. Jim Cirillo, famous for his service in the NYC "stakeout squad", liked them loaded hot. From my personal, non-LEO experience, they are good close in for putting down game...these are handloads, and I don't use them for carry purposes...another way of looking at them is: if you like the performance of LSWC's...full WC's are just that much better.

    YMMv Rod
  18. ThomasT

    ThomasT Member

    Sep 27, 2007
    I like wad cutters in my snubs and wouldn't have any problem with them in a 4" gun either. I carry them in my 442 most times. I am not all that sold on hollow points and prefer penetration and in my own simple test with WC loads they penetrate very well. But I don't use the target variety WC loads. I'm talking loads where a 148gr solid base bullet is getting 850fps+ from a snub revolver. They blast the crap out of 2 liter bottles of water.
  19. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

    Oct 19, 2010
    East TN
    If you get by using reloads for self defense or have a source for “factory” ammunition like Buffalo Bore, then 38 caliber wadcutters in a short barrel revolver would be a good source.

    Solid base wadcutters can be driven fairly hard.

    But, for gun reloads, something better than a wadcutter is needed to make the reloading go easier.

    Since a handloader can tailor a 158 grain SWC bullet to shoot to similar point of aim as a 148 grain wadcutter load he has a reloaf that will perform well and be easy to reload the gun.

    The SWC may not be as effective as the wadcutter but it will not be far off.

    Anyway, this thread has got me thinking.
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  20. joneb

    joneb Member

    Aug 18, 2005
    Waddcutters for SD from a 2" 38spl makes sense to me. I like predictable results
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  21. defjon

    defjon Member

    Oct 22, 2005
    I agree with the 110 grain hornady critical defense standard pressure 38 specials.

    I've got steel plates and pins holding my wrists together. I had to move from a 22 lr to a 38 with wadcutters, the 22 snub didn't impart much confidence . I agree with the poster that there is no recoil difference in wadcutters to standard pressure 38s.

    According to Paul Harrell, lucky gunner and numerous others the critical defense do not fail to expand to at least .4, and still go over 12 inches.

    I choose the jhp standard pressure. It has replaced the wadcutters for me. They go right where the front site looks, and with no muzzle rise you could double tap or alternate targets. It's a good load for airweights or even steel frame.
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  22. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

    Dec 30, 2002
    Deep in the Ozarks
    I used them in my Colt M357 in Viet Nam. They worked, but leaded ferociously due to the very high velocities I loaded them to.
  23. GeoDudeFlorida

    GeoDudeFlorida Member

    Dec 1, 2020
    Living in a rural area and mostly being concerned with four-legged predators - but still aware of the reality of two-legged predators - I do not concealed carry but I do holster carry quite often. I use handloads designed to stop or at least deter pretty much any fast, large, dangerous animal I might come across; even when it is sick, cornered, frightened, or completely insane from the ravages of rabies. It's terrible that people discard their domesticated pets out here but they do and those animals are not at all capable of surviving in the wilds. If some "ham" prosecutor decides to go after you, they need no excuse to do it. Making claims about ammo - FMJ is military therefore you must be some kind of anti-this or anti-that "militia" extremist, etc. - is just one avenue and it is unavoidable now. There is no longer any kind of controlling authority over prosecutors in far too many places. Out here in the sticks they'll have a hard time getting a jury to convict but even that will change with demographics changes. Use what works and let the lawyers argue over Castle Doctrines in the law and whether a reload is more lethal or shows greater intent than a factory FMJ or if a factory "Defensive" load means your were playing vigilante... keep a good lawyer on retainer and talk to them about your options. Any lawyer who tells you using factory, boxed, "self-defense" ammo will absolutely protect you from prosecution or help your case in any way is out of touch with reality. There are now far too many examples of the opposite happening.

    A full-power, hard cast, 148gr. DEWC - 3.5gr. of Bullseye in a .38Spl or 6gr. of Unique in a .357Magnum - will do most jobs you'd want a .38 to do and do it well enough but, a heavier LSWC - 158 to 170gr. - will do it better. In my experience hunting small, fast, dangerous animals. The old FBI load was actually pretty good for an all-around "duty" load, IMO.
  24. Strainer

    Strainer Member

    Feb 7, 2017
    Are those hardcast bullets (148 gr DEWC)?

    Am interested because although I load 38 Spl with 158 gr LRN and LSWC Hornady bullets (over 3.8 gr W231) am curious about a 148gr DEWC as good all around load that might kick less than 158gr in an airweight. Would be interested in your experience on that.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2021
  25. flightsimmer

    flightsimmer Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    S.E. Indy
    This is the load I used when I shot a prowler on my property, he survived but it put him in the hospital.
    ThomasT likes this.
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