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Wadcutters for .38 S&W??

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by TarDevil, Nov 6, 2011.

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  1. TarDevil

    TarDevil Member

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    Would WC make this caliber a better SD cartridge? At le ss than 700 fps, would it reduce penetration (already minimal) to ineffective?

    Just curious...
     
  2. MMCSRET

    MMCSRET Member

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    I have an old Ideal mold for the 38 S&W that drops a wadcutter style boolit, #360344S, should drop about 150 gr. I shoot 38 S&W from two different S&W revolvers but have never tried that old mold, in my opinion your idea has merit.
     
  3. Minnesota Wild

    Minnesota Wild Member

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    Full wadcutters (148 gr) have historically been used for self defense in 38 Special at similar or slightly higher velocities than you mention (700-850 FPS) with poor results. The big issue is that the wadcutter bullet doesn't expand at all, but the low velocity doesn't help things at all.

    The benefit of expanding bullets isn't just that they get bigger when they hit their target, thereby causing more damage; the size increase also works to provide more resistance to the bullet, so more of the bullet's energy remains in the target. The less a bullet expands the more it will simply go though the target without expending energy inside the target, leading to a lack of "knockdown" power. The idea of slowing the bullet down so much that it doesn't have the power to clear the target, while perhaps safer for those that could get hit due to overpenetration, leads to a pretty underpowered round.

    In the end, the cartridge you're talking about would of course be capable of inflicting a fatal wound, which is really the first step in a self defense loading. But is it ideal? Not in relation to modern self defense rounds with high-performance expanding bullets.
     
  4. 918v

    918v Member

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    How so?

    Any 38 S&W factory load will shoot through and through from any angle.
     
  5. PRD1

    PRD1 Member

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    Maybe...

    It certainly wouldn't be less effective than the fairly anemic factory stuff. I shoot a variety of revolvers in .38 S&W and the British equivalent .38/200. Because the groove diameters are larger than is standard for other .38/.357 revolvers, I decided to try the standard .38 hollow-based wadcutter, which can expand enough to fit most barrels. They shoot extremely well, though I use a .38 Special sizing die and expander to properly size the case for the smaller diameter bullet. Because I shoot these guns primarily for fun and informal matches, I keep the load and velocity near the factory level: 2.7 gr Bullseye gives appropriate velocity and excellent accuracy, and is also safe in most top break pocket revolvers in good mechanical condition. I use the Hornady HBWC bullet, which has no grease grooves and is lubed with a dry wax - I load the round to an overall length of 1.140", which leaves about half of the bullet length out of the case, lightly crimped. It makes an impressive-looking round, sort of like the old .455 'Manstopper'. It would be possible to step-up the velocity in stronger military revlovers, but you really can't make a .38 Special out of it, and too-high pressures can blow the skirt off the bullet.
    Still, it ought to work fairly well as a SD load: years (many!) ago, I and others often used the HB wadcutters, sometimes loaded upside down, and at higher-than-standard velocities, in short barreled .38 Special revolvers. I still recommend the factory wadcutter load for those revolver shooters who are especially recoil sensitive: a good hit with a soft, flat wadcutter is better than a miss with a high performance load the shooter can't handle.
    PRD1 - mhb - Mike
     
  6. GCBurner

    GCBurner Member

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    The British load for the .38 S&W, which they termed the .380-200, used a blunt, rounded bullet of 200 grains in a very soft lead alloy, fired at a moderate velocity. They seemed satisfied with its effectiveness through the end of WWII, when they eventully switched to .38 Specials and 9mm for military and police use.
     
  7. robhof

    robhof Member

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    I used a 38 wadcutter to drop a 90+Lb feral dog acting agressive on My property. One shot to chest, bang flop... The wadcutter imparts alot of kinetic energy upon impact for knockdown and leaves a fairly large hole. My shot exited below rt. rib area and animal bled out rapidly, would suspect a human at 15yds wouldn't fair any better.
     
  8. 918v

    918v Member

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  9. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    The .38 S&W with a 150 grain full wadcutter would be way better then a sharp stick I betcha!!

    Just don't plan on doing any speedy reloads!

    rc
     
  10. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Three points:

    1. The standard .38 S&W load is downloaded so that it will be safe in post 1800's top-break revolvers. If one is reloading the cartridge for use in a 20th Century hand-ejector or Webly the load can be safely increased.

    2. If you own (or buy) a Colt Police Positive, chambered in .38 Colt New Police (which is for all practical purposes identical to the .38 S&W), you will find that the bore run around .356" and the chamber throats around .358". Consquently, you can use any of the .358" diameter bullets usually used in .38 Special or .357 Magnum's with no negative results.

    3. At low velocities, which will be lower still from short snubby barrels, hollow point bullets seldom expand very much, while a full wadcutter bullet will do what it's intended too do. They should not be discounted for defensive purposes.
     
  11. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    As posted, they cut a full diameter hole. Shoot pretty dang good as well from my Victory Model and my Police Positive.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2011
  12. PabloJ

    PabloJ Member

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    Limeys used Webley & Enfield .38 revolvers with 200gr slugs at about 650fps. Far superior combo then sainted 1911, FN HP or P38.
     
  13. Japle

    Japle Member

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    Wadcutters in this caliber at the velocities you can get in a .38 S&W cut a full caliber hole on target paper, but not flesh. I tested this on a fresh road-kill javelina and the bullets made holes that looked like they were made with a pencil.

    If I was going to use the .38 S&W as a defensive round and had a gun that would handle decent pressures, I’d load a 110 gr JHP.
     
  14. Ratshooter

    Ratshooter Member

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    I have never heard that before. Wadcutters have been recommended for many years as controllable, effective loads. On one of the satellite police shows (Justice Files, American Justice) a woman shot her husband with a 38 special using target WC loads and both bullets shot completely through and bounced around the house. The cops only found one of the bullets. Oh, and the man died right there.

    A WC at 750fps would be about the same velocity as the 38 long Colt but with a flatnosed bullet should be more effective.
     
  15. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    A 200 at 650 better than the 1911's .45 230 Gr at 840 FPS? Ah cmon now. ;)
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2011
  16. Rail Driver

    Rail Driver Member

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    I like wadcutters in my J frame. They make the airweight revolver with that tiny grip much more manageable.

    I tend to alternate between moderately loaded wadcutters and SWC loaded +p. I carry +P SWC in my 1911 as well (another low pressure, "slow" round with a flat point... hmm where can I find jacketed SWC for my G26 without handloading?)...
     
  17. NoAlibi

    NoAlibi Member

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    Are we talking .38 S&W or .38 S&W Special?

    The posts are going back and forth between the .38 S&W and the .38 S&W Special.

    I'm assuming the OP knows the difference, so I'll point out that the bullet diameter of the .38 S&W is .361

    I have a S&W Victory model as well as Walkalong that I wanted to shoot wad cutters with. I rarely cast bullets and I solved this problem by using Zero Bullets 148gr. hollow base wad cutters seated to the lower crimping groove causing the bullet to extend well out of the case.

    The skirt on the bullet obturates and takes care of the 3 thousandths larger bore and gives excellent accuracy out of my gun. I found that the max loading of WW231 gave only fair accuracy and I had to go slightly over the published loads to get the results I now have. Remember that the hollow base and seating out the bullet in effect increase the case volume over solid-cast wad cutters that are seated flush. The higher loading, IMO, still keeps the pressure in the safe zone. As per the required safety warning USE EXTREME CAUTION and the reloader assumes all risks.....Doc
     
  18. Ratshooter

    Ratshooter Member

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    I think it is more about matching the 38 special with the 38 S&W round.

    The Speer #10 manual shows a solid WC bullet getting right at 800fps with 3grs of Reddot powder. That from a 3" barreled model 33. That should be a decent SD load.

    Remember even the 38 Colt gave a good account of its self until it was used against the drug crazed Moros. And not only did the 38 colt fail to stop but so did 45 colts and 30-40 Krag rifles. Per the article I read written by Jack Lott the only sure stopper was a 12ga shotgun.
     
  19. OpticsPlanet

    OpticsPlanet Member

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    Many years ago, I felt that carrying "special purpose" wadcutters for my .38 spl service revolver was a good idea... until I tried to use them! I had an angry possum in a yard with a small dog and its hysterical owner. Once dog and master were safely indoors, I proceeded to load a wadcutter into my revolver. At point blank range (roughly 3 feet), through a chain link fence, I hit the possum square in the shoulder, and it just stood there looking at me! Finally after about a minute, it started to become unsteady and it slowly rolled on to its side. Now that was just a possum and not a human home invader! Needless to say, wadcutters never went back into my guns unless it was to punch nice clean holes in paper targets as originally intended!

    George P.
     
  20. 918v

    918v Member

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    Do you not understand the difference between people and animals?
     
  21. Jim K

    Jim K Member

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    "The British load for the .38 S&W, which they termed the .380-200, used a blunt, rounded bullet of 200 grains in a very soft lead alloy..."

    That describes the old .38/200 "manstopper", but the Hague convention bans lead bullets. In WWII, the British used a 178 grain jacketed bullet of .357" diameter in their Enfield, Webley, and American S&W revolvers.

    Jim
     
  22. waidmann

    waidmann Member

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    Old Western Scrounger offers the .38-200, if you have to have them.
     
  23. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Concerning performance...

    Keep in mind that the .38 S&W cartridge is downloaded by American manufacturers because of the large number of inexpensive top-break pocket revolvers that were made of questionable material during the late 1890's up too about World War Two.

    If you have a quality top-break (Enfield or Webley) or hand ejector (Smith & Wesson or Colt) you can safely handload the round to .38 Special levels. If you want more velocity drop the bullet weight to around 125 grains.
     
  24. Pete D.

    Pete D. Member

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    .38/200

    I handload for my Webley revolver. I use one of two bullets - either the 195 grain Lyman 358430 (at .360" and similar in profile to the Mark I bullet) or the NEI 149a 200 grain (at .362") which reproduces the profile of the Mark II jacketed bullet but at a heavier weight.
    Three grains of Unique gives them 700 fps through the chrono, IIRC.
    Pete

    PS - Walkalong: where'd you get that wadcutter bullet? Nice looking item.
    Pete
     
  25. Ratshooter

    Ratshooter Member

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    Pete D. those look like Berry's plated bullets.

    http://www.berrysmfg.com/product-i14487-c13-g8-b0-p0-.38_Cal_148gr_HBWC.aspx

    Notice they need to be pushed harded than lead to prevent the bullet from sticking in the barrel. With the slightly larger bore on most 38&W guns that shouldn't be an issue. Also the Berry's bullets are sized exactly to the size listed for them. If they say .357 you can bet they are .357.
     
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