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Why are .38 wadcutters not considered a good carry load?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by NoirFan, Mar 14, 2011.

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  1. NoirFan

    NoirFan Member

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    From listening to experienced shooters I get the general idea that .38 special target wadcutters should not be considered a viable carry load, because it lacks "stopping power". What I'd like is a reasonable explanation for this and to this end I've listed some pros and cons I've heard about.

    The Pros:
    - Most importantly, they penetrate to about 20" in gelatin, exceeding the FBI standard.
    - They have very low recoil, which is very important in a snub revolver.
    - They cut a slightly larger hole than a lead round nose or FMJ bullet.
    - They are cheap, so one can practice with the same load that one carries.

    The Cons:
    - They do not expand very much
    - They are low velocity (but as long as they exceed the penetration standard, does this matter?)

    I can't really think of any other disadvantages to the .38 wadcutter, and it seems to me the pros outweigh the cons. Can experienced shooters and concealed carriers weigh in?
     
  2. xXxplosive

    xXxplosive Member

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    I like'em..............."J" Frame.
     
  3. 627PCFan

    627PCFan Member

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    I believe you carry what you practice with and I shoot semiwad cutters. Wadcutters will work. Just mind your distance, they drop.
     
  4. Lucky Derby

    Lucky Derby Member

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    While WC's were not designed nor intended as SD rounds, they do serve that purpose quite well.
    I personally don't use them for SD, but I would never fault someone who did.


    ETA:
    "Shot placement is king. Penetration is queen. Everything else is angles dancing on the heads of pins."
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2011
  5. joneb

    joneb Member

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    Wad cutters are slower to reload.
     
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  6. brnmuenchow

    brnmuenchow Member

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    Wadcutters are great for practice and comp. shooting's, and I do believe you should carry with what you practice with. However, they don't as stated before expand in tissue very well and that would make me question their ability in that situation. As for the distance factor they may drop in trajectory at distance, but statisticaly most personal defense firefights happen within 30 yds (per my retired peace officer CHL instructor). I carry the Winchester PDX1 130 gr. JHP .38 Special +P round's, I do practice with it from time to time only becouse it is expensive and can't afford to simply shoot hundreds of practice rounds so every shot counts! I am not for or against using wadcutters for personal defense but I am however against using FMJ rounds for that due to overpenetration (no-expansion) properties. I have continued to hound my father about his carrying .45 ACP FMJ's rounds in his CHL pistol, and his only defense seem's to be "If I have to pull my pistol in a firefight, my first thought is not who is standing behind the assailant, but put the #$x*% down before he shoots me"! That in my opinion is exactly why I wish people would simply take the time and practice with HP, & SP's for CHL purposes. My father believes the same practice and he practices with FMJ's therefore he carries FMJ's. There is no guarantee that even my JHP's won't over-penetrate and injure an innocent bystander, but I at the very least know that I tried simply by my choice in ammo I am using.
     
  7. snooperman

    snooperman Member

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    They work fine if shot placement is effective..

    Long before we had jacketed hollowpoints , all we used were lead bullets including wadcutters and semi-wadcutters.They were effective on game too.
     
  8. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    A hard cast, blunt nosed bullet is favored by many folks.

    In fact, the more I read on the subject my opinion is turning that way. (although I am leaning towards semi-wadcutters like Bwana Elmer Kieth would suggest)

    (He CAN be taught!!! :eek:)
     
  9. BigMak

    BigMak Member

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    I also feel very strongly that a wadcutter with it's "cutting/crushing" and deep penetration would serve fine for self defense.

    Their soft recoil is a big bonus.

    My concern with target wadcutters is that the lead might be too soft and their sharp shoulders might not stay that way and "cut" like they should.

    I'm thinking hardcast like the BB 150gr. wadcutter would be better because of this. However, you're back to heavier recoil and they're costly.
     
  10. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    Got to agree with jibjab in that WC's are slow and somewhat difficult to reload. But I think they do make for an excellent practice round, and they can used for SD if someone is recoil sensitive.

    The only problems I have nowadays is that it seems to be in short supply (locally and online), and that it costs as much (or more), than a lot of the SD loadings that are currently available.

    I went to a couple of LGS today and none of them had any WC ammo. I also checked a couple of ammo dealers online and the least expensive WC ammo was $18.44/50 (Out of stock), going all the way up to $33.26/50 (in stock). Three other brands which fell in price between those two, were also out of stock online.
     
  11. Water-Man

    Water-Man Member

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    The Buffalo Bore 150gr. Hard Cast Wad Cutter WILL do the job.
     
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  12. snooperman

    snooperman Member

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    Bannockburn, my latest price sheet from Mastercast..

    in Enon Valley , PA has 38 special wadcutters and semiwadcutter bullets for about $56.00 / 1000, if you reload. Their ammo is about $8.00 a box of 50 with your brass. That said, I agree they are more difficult to reload and takes more time. I used to mold all my wad cutters with wheel weights years ago but now reload by buying the bullets and using 3.5gr bullseye. I also carry the semi-wadcutters and have taken much game over the years with lead bullets in 45 Colt, 38 special , 44 special , and in single-shot rifle 38-55 and 45-70. Lead bullets work fine.
     
  13. snooperman

    snooperman Member

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    The average chest diameter for a large man, from sternum...

    to back of the vertebral column is about 13.5 inches. Too much velocity with a wadcutter may give too much penetration . In a 148 gr wadcutter or 158gr semiwadcutter 3,5 gr of bullseye at 750-800ft/sec is fine for a carry gun.
     
  14. Japle

    Japle Member

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    The Pros:
    - Most importantly, they penetrate to about 20" in gelatin, exceeding the FBI standard.
    Which goes to show that they don't deliver their energy (what the is of it) in the target, where it belongs.

    - They have very low recoil, which is very important in a snub revolver.
    They have low recoil because they have low power. Is that what you want in a SD gun?

    - They cut a slightly larger hole than a lead round nose or FMJ bullet.
    Well, they cut a larger hole in target paper. Flesh is flexible. I've shot game with RNL and lead wadcutters and couldn't tell the difference.

    - They are cheap, so one can practice with the same load that one carries.
    This is important only if you shoot a lot of people.

    The Cons:
    - They do not expand very much
    They usually don't expand at all.

    - They are low velocity (but as long as they exceed the penetration standard, does this matter?)
    Low velocity = low power.

    In a gunfight, you want ammo that will turn the guy shooting at you into a thin red mist. Poking a pencil-size hole all the way through him doesn't seem like the best way to do that.
     
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  15. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    I have had a couple dismal failures with a snubby & mid-range wad-cutters when adminstering the coup de grâce on wounded coyotes.

    My preferance is 158 grain Keith SWC's.

    At least I know they will not glance off a coyotes, or BG's skull at three feet.

    rc
     
  16. mnhntr

    mnhntr Member

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    opinions are like ............... well you get the idea. There are no great studies to show that they are not. The wadcutter is a good bullet for just about anything, targets, varmints and SD.
     
  17. Water-Man

    Water-Man Member

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    Low velocity??? I don't consider almost 900 fps out of a snub to be that.
     
  18. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Most all mid-range match 148 grain wad-cutter ammo will do well to break 650-700 FPS out of a snubby.

    rc
     
  19. Water-Man

    Water-Man Member

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    I mentioned Buffalo Bore above.
     
  20. StrawHat

    StrawHat Member

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    The only way wadcutters would not be good is if you miss your target. Prior to loss the memory in my computer I had an article from a Coroner saved in which he commented on his view of the effectiveness of various bullet shapes. He mentioned he carried wadcutters in his 38. If I can find the reference, I will post it as it was an interesting article.

    I have used hard cast wadcutters loaded to 900 fps for hunting and found them to be more than adequate.
     
  21. Steve C

    Steve C Member

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    Wad cutters are solid nose bullets and while solids will kill they are not as effective as modern JHP's that make up for the smaller caliber by expanding and making a larger hole. For target loads WC's are generally low velocity but can be loaded faster with solid base designs.

    There is no particular advantage to the WC over the SWC or RN though many imagine that the flat nose bullet do more damage and would be more effective, a position that is not supported by any data or real world evidence. Needles to say if the WC design which has been around for over 100 years had superior effectiveness to other solid bullets they would have been carried by the majority of law enforcement and sold by ammo companies as self defense man stoppers.

    If you want ot carry WC's for self defense then go ahead, they're not likely to be any less effective than LRN or SWC but don't think that you are any better armed than with either of those two.
     
  22. cookekdjr

    cookekdjr Member

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    I'm sure it has happened, but i've never witnessed a hp bullet fired from a handgun expand. Don't know how many autopsies I've seen, but its a lot. I noticed this and asked some of the ME's who conduct autopsies on gun shot wounds every week if they have ever seen a handgun round that expanded, and none ever had. In all the bullets I've presented to the jury in evidence in homicide cases, none expanded.
    Anyway, do with that info what you will.
     
  23. HGUNHNTR

    HGUNHNTR Member

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    I guess you don't advocate carrying a handgun as a concealed carry weapon.
     
  24. rondog

    rondog Member

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    I wouldn't be skeered to carry SWC's, especially if I loaded them. I'd make 'em as max hot as possible, for hardcast lead.
     
  25. forgetitohio

    forgetitohio Member

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    I have 125GR. LSWCBB in my S&W37 carry.
    I use the same for targets with my .357 and 9MM.
    I reload and own a chrony so I can control FPS in each gun.
     
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