38 Special

Discussion in 'Handguns' started by rigrat, May 7, 2018.

  1. rigrat

    rigrat Semper Fi

    Is the 38spl still good enough for defensive use today compared to the other calibers? In the past the FBI had dismal success with them but was using inferior bullet styles at the time. Loads today from the factory tend to be watered down and or really light say 110gr bullets.

    So is it really still a viable cartridge for self defense?
  2. jakeg823

    jakeg823 Distinguished Poster

    Yes, especially in +P loading. The only downsides to .38s are bulk and capacity. A 7 shot .380 is much thinner/concealable than a 5 shot snubbie.

    IMO, since we don’t really wear heavy layers in MS, we don’t need 36” of penetration or whatever the hell people want now. I carry a .380 everyday. I’d consider a .38 loaded with +P as a good upgrade, if it came in an LCP size package.
    94LEVERFAN, rigrat, Quickeye and 3 others like this.

  3. TwangBanger

    TwangBanger Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

    I carry a J-frame Model 638 Smith (either front pocket, or OWB with untucked shirt) almost every day, stoked with 158 grain Hornady XTP that I load myself. I also carry 2 Bianchi Speed Strips in a belt pouch. I consider myself to be much better armed than when I'm carrying my LCP.
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  4. Dave

    Dave Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

    .38 special isn't great for going through barriers. It puts holes in people quite well. Modern loads are different from what was used in the 50s and 60s. If the gun will handle +P ammo even better.
  5. Hoot G

    Hoot G Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

    Less punch than a 9mm, much more than a .380, from a short barrel. Good loads seem to be adequate for self protection. That's what I remember reading.

    I have an S&W Model 38 that I carried sometimes, but a small 9mm is much easier to carry, so I kind of quit following 38 Special developments.
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  6. Vick

    Vick Distinguished Poster

    Factory loaded .38 Specials with modern JHP's in 125 gr. to 158 gr. should do well as anti-personnel rounds, as would comparable handloads. After conducting a bunch of tests in the late '60's and early '70's, I settled on 125 gr. Winchester Silvertips at that time for factory loads or 148 gr. lead HBWC's backwards (Biggest hollow point you're likely to come across!) at around 700 fps. These expand to at least double the bore size on pretty much anything they hit and don't penetrate to the point that you have to be very concerned about people behind the one you're shooting. I still use these presently in my wife's .38 or when I carry one. Another bonus it that recoil is mild with this load.

    Another load to consider if the shooter is recoil sensitive is the standard 148 gr. wadcutter target load. it is soft lead, low recoil, and that flat point will impart all of it's energy to the target. I have long recommended these for at least a beginning load for ladies and youngsters without a great deal of shooting experience.
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  7. Dave

    Dave Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

    Those 158 grain hollow based wadcutters loaded backwards do expand a lot. I loaded them back in the 70s as well for self defense loads. I believe they were loaded to nearly 800 fps. I know I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of one of them.
  8. rigrat

    rigrat Semper Fi

    Where do you guys buy the Hollow base wadcutter's? I've looked but have only found 1 place that sold them and that was a while back.

    I think most of the loading's today are severely watered down for the 38. Most run about 800fps when it would be quite easy to run them in the upper 900's. I prefer soft HP's for loading in mine.
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  9. Lefty2Guns

    Lefty2Guns Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

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  10. Vick

    Vick Distinguished Poster

    Rig, I've used mostly Hornady or Speer 148 gr. HBWC's over the years, and the list TwangBanger provided gives pretty good sources. If you load them at the factory target ammo's stated velocity or higher, you should do OK, but remember that these are dead-soft lead bullets, so you can easily push them to the point that they strip thru your rifling and leave a lot of lead in the barrel.

    They are probably mostly a special-order proposition now since bullseye target shooting is not nearly as popular as it once was, and the bullseye shooters were the biggest customers for these bullets. Southern Reloading should be able to provide all you want.
    Mesquite and rigrat like this.
  11. ThatGuy

    ThatGuy I could only pick one, extra money, or guns.

    Well you know as I've stated before I'm not a caliber warrior.
    I think a .38 special will do just fine long as you hit with it.
    Many men in a permanent sleep be cause of the .38
    Brewerk38, Mesquite, melmerf and 2 others like this.
  12. Soonered

    Soonered Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

    In MS, yes. If I lived in Minnesota where someone might be dressed in enough closes to look like a bear, not so much so.
    Mesquite, Quickeye, para40 and 2 others like this.
  13. Chicknman

    Chicknman Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

    I feel well armed with a 38 special loaded with modern hollow point ammo. I prefer +p. I do prefer a larger pistol with longer barrel than the j frame snubs. I only carry this occasionally though. I prefer my glock 19 for day to day carry. Mostly because I don't mind grinding it into the dirt and scratching the heck out of it. I save my nicer handguns for going to town. Kind of like a nice watch or a nice pair of boots.
    Mesquite, Cliff731, DEADEYE 1 and 3 others like this.
  14. ThatGuy

    ThatGuy I could only pick one, extra money, or guns.

    I wear a fancy leather holster when i go somewhere nice and I think that's kinda funny because no one will ever see it.
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  15. Chicknman

    Chicknman Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

    makes you happy though don't it?
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  16. rigrat

    rigrat Semper Fi

    Truth be known the 38 spl is one , if not my favorite round. I love the little round but as a hand loader I can squeeze the max potential out of it. I personally load my +P up to 20k as they did in the old days. I haven't checked lately but know at one time it was down graded to 18.5K.
    I think a good load @ about 1k fps with a good HP of about 158 grains is about as good as the ole girl will ever get.
    I curently have 4 of them my favorite being a m64 snub, second the m10 skinny that I want to cut the barrel to 3" and upgrade the front sight to a night sight. The m10 skinny has already been converted to DA only by me.

    IMG_3938 (Small).JPG

    What I want it to look like , but night sight on front and have it converted to a round butt.
    cut  view.JPG
  17. DEADEYE 1

    DEADEYE 1 Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

    I think they are still a viable caliber. I have shot some snub nosed 38s that surprised me how accurate they were. It is like a old friend once told me. He was a stout man. He was a pipefitter by trade putting in sprinkler systems. He showed me the first NORTH AMERICAN ARMS minature 22 magnum around 30 years ago. He told me he was sitting up at the bar at a watering hole.
    Something was said with a guy sitting next to him. My friend reached over in his front pocket and pulled the little 22 mag revolver out. To which the other guy started laughing, said that looks like a toy , My buddy leaned toward him with the little gun and said; let me put this in your ear and pull the trigger. He said the other guy turned a little pale and shut up .
    Look I don,t claim to be a bad-ss. I studied karate and martial arts for years,pressure points and nerve strikes and I have shot guns since about age 5. If you hit someone with a 22lr bullet or a knee or a thumb with enough power or speed.In a Nerve point . If it doesn,t kill them they will be incapacitated a little or a long time. A little pressure in the right spot and you can lose your vision. Ease up and it will come back. It is not always the raw power, it can be where it hits.
  18. DEADEYE 1

    DEADEYE 1 Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

    One other thing, if you research police calibers going back 120 years. You will find several that a lot of people today would feel did not have enough power. I love the older 32 S&W and 32 Long Colt, and 32/20, and 32 acps.
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  19. DEADEYE 1

    DEADEYE 1 Distinguished Poster MSGO Supporter

    We got bears down here where I live. They don,t cover their face, do they??
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