S&W 642 question...
Just bought a 642 Airweight for the little woman and was hoping for some input from the board on which ammo to use as defensive loads. She is only 4ft 10in 105lbs so I have no desire to have her blasting +P's. Is there a standard pressure round that could be used with confidence in a defensive scenario?
Also, what exactly is a semi-wadcutter? Are they good for defense? thank you in advance for your comments.
I'm sure you can get some good reg ammo but from my experience there is not much difference. Range ammo is reg anyway. I still hate the recoil.
For SD you have Speer Gold Dots short barrell 135 gr or my carry ammo Corbon DPX 110 gr.
I would look to upgrade the grip as it will probably absorb some of the recoil.
I have a CTC laser on my gun and the grip is supposed to absorb 30% of the recoil. Jeez it's a good thing. Without it, the first time I shot it I hit the clip holding the target and everyone at the range had a good laugh. Yes even me.
There are several good non +P loads for the .38 spl. Look here:
HOLLOW POINT Ammo : Ammunition To Go
The 110 gr Hydra Shok and 110 gr Silvertip have been around for a while, the Hornady Critical Defense is brand new and looks interesting. I might try it. The Remington is out of stock every time I try to order it. I'm not a big fan of the XTP bullets that Fiocchi now loads. The Glasers are too expensive for me.
The Nyclad is back from Federal, it was out of production for a long time. Supposedly will be announced officially at SHOT. I plan on buying and stockpiling a case for myself. This was always the #1 non +p load and lots of snubbie shooters are glad it's back in production.
Federal Premium - Handgun Details
If she won't shoot +P or if the gun is uncomfortable or kicks too much she won't shoot it or practice with it and it will do her no good. Put comfy grips on it and keep the loads mild. The 130gr FMJs, the light LRN or LFP "Cowboy" loads, and the 148gr wadcutters are very mild practice loads. Some people (not me) recommend the 148gr wadcutters for SD, too. If that works for you you might consider that. I think they're a bit weak for SD myself.
Oh, a pic of a semi-wadcutter:
a sharp shoulder like a wadcutter, but with more weight forward. The 158gr lead semi-wadcutter HP (+P) is a great SD round, but has a bit of recoil to it. The plain lead SWC is a target bullet.
I would have her practice with the wad-cutters like Superhouse said and carry 158gr. LSWC +P HP and have her shoot at least a round of them at the end of the practice secession. You also might want to try Speer GD 135gr. +P HP Short Barrel ammo.
Also like jframe said the grips will make a big difference on the felt recoil. Get something that covers the whole back-strap.
practive with 148 gr wad cutters. shoot five rounds at the end of the carry ammo. for the carry ammo i would look for some +p.
There's a reason . . .
...why people are recommending doing some +P rounds at the end of a range session - it's because in an emergency situation, the extra recoil of the +P will not be noticed. So the idea is to practice with something else, but then acclimate to the +P for carry.
It's a good suggestion. The +P will give better performance in a SD situation, with minimal difference in aiming at the typical distances of a SD shooting.
I use a 638 with the +P 135 Gold Dots for carry at my shop. Starting her out with standard wad cutters would be a great idea. I did try the 110 HS load and the recoil was pretty mild, at least to me. It's probably going to be a practice thing and seeing where her comfort level is. I wouldn't just hand her a handful of +P right off the bat. Better to start easy and see where her limit is. Aftermarket grips may or may not help her as well. I found the addition of non rubber, slightly extended grips improved my abilities with it a lot and didn't harm concealment. It's an individual thing though.
I wouldn't recommend +P for someone 4'10" and 105 lbs--unless you want her shopping for another gun altogether.
There's a lot of big guys who depend on wadcutters (or other non +P ammo) because they allow for quicker and more accurate follow-up shots while still being an effective round. Sure, +P is a more powerful round. And a .357 is an even more powerful round. That doesn't mean a .357 is the right round for most people shooting lightweight guns. Load her gun with the round she can shoot quickly and accurately. That will almost certainly be a non +p round.
Wadcutters, Fed Nyclads, or Hornady's new Critical Defense. If you insist on +P, try Corbon's 110 gr. DPX. It's not horrible for recoil.
I'd also get a slightly bigger grip that covers the backstrap. Hogue or Pachmayr. Lot's of people swear by Crimson Trace's grips for absorbing recoil.
Did she actually shoot the 642 before you bought it for her? The little Airweight is a handful even with non +p rounds. I can do hundreds of rounds in my XD40 in a session, but usually only about 50 non +p and 2 cylinders of +p per session in the 642.
After shooting my 642, my wife said she'd keep looking for a bottomfeeder in 9mm.
I have a 637 and I find the recoil pretty nasty, others do not find it objectionable. The other members gave great input so basically my only comment is that I would not use the wad cutters as defense ammo. You also asked about lead semi wad cutters. In 1980 the 158 gr lead semi wad cutter ( Std Pressure ) was NYPD's issued round, I personally thought it was underpowered as a defense round. They eventually switched to the 158gr Lead Semi Wad cutter Hollow point +P which were good.. The Gold Dot 135+P and the CorBon DPX appear to be a good rounds but your wife may find the recoil pretty strong. The best grips I had on the gun were the Crimson Trace ( LG305 ) Laser grips. I am not a fan of the laser but the grips were comfortable, expensive too.