Is a .38 a good CCW gun?

This is a discussion on Is a .38 a good CCW gun? within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I bought a Smith & Wesson .38 Special, +P 5 shot air weight revolver with a 2 inch barrel. It occurred to me today that ...

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Thread: Is a .38 a good CCW gun?

  1. #1
    Member Array jimtem's Avatar
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    Is a .38 a good CCW gun?

    I bought a Smith & Wesson .38 Special, +P 5 shot air weight revolver with a 2 inch barrel.
    It occurred to me today that its a bit odd for a self defense gun.
    I am very new to guns and do not know much about them but from what I understand its the diameter that matters with self defense right?
    But the .38 Special is not exactly a large diameter; just a lot of powder.
    Also isn't this much powder more for accuracy in a longer distance but the SD pistol is used up close?
    Third point: Doesn't this amount of powder pull you off your target with the recoil making it even worse for self defense?
    Last edited by jimtem; April 30th, 2010 at 10:36 AM. Reason: for clarity

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    Distinguished Member Array razor02097's Avatar
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    I bought a .38 air weight S & W 5 shoot revolver with a 2 inch barrel.
    Congratulations are we talking about a .38 S&W or a .38 special because they are very very different.

    It occurred to me today that its a bit odd for a defense gun.
    I don't think it is odd, what do you find odd about it?

    I am very new to guns and do not know much about them but from what I understand its the diameter that matters with self defense right?
    not necessarily. It depends more on the energy delivered and the design of the bullet.

    But the .38 is not exactly a large diameter; just a lot of powder. Also isn't this much powder more for accuracy in a longer distance but the SD pistol is used up close?
    With a 2" barrel you aren't going to have a screaming velocity listed in many ballistic tables. You loose around 100fps for each inch of barrel shorter then listed on a table, you would then have to recalculate the energy delivered.

    Third point: Doesn't this amount of powder pull you off your target with the recoil making it even worse for self defense?
    Anything can be overcome, it takes practice. It won't be the powder that pulls you off target it would be the gun weight, gun's balance, and shooter (stance, grip, and experience) that would determine if the recoil is manageable.
    There is something about firing 4,200 thirty millimeter rounds/min that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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    Member Array jimtem's Avatar
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    (Sorry looks like you posted a reply at the same time I posted this)

    It is a .38 Special

    So what do you think about the diameter of the caliber being small in proportion the the grain amount?

    1) Small hole in perp?

    2) 158 grain may be more than needed for a close proximatiy defensive situation especial with a small diameter bullet?

    3) 158 grain causes to much recoil in an airweight so its not a good SD handgun?

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    Member Array can2boy's Avatar
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    did someone asked if .38 SP is good enough for SD????? grandma can tell you, it's more than enough!. YES that's a .38!!!! and YES that's a revolver!!!!

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    Senior Member Array Andy W.'s Avatar
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    It's a darn good personal defense gun!
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    Distinguished Member Array razor02097's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimtem View Post
    (Sorry looks like you posted a reply at the same time I posted this)

    It is a .38 Special

    So what do you think about the diameter of the caliber being small in proportion the the grain amount?

    1) Small hole in perp?

    2) 158 grain may be more than needed for a close proximatiy defensive situation especial with a small diameter bullet?

    3) 158 grain causes to much recoil in an airweight so its not a good SD handgun?
    Something you should realize is the effects a bullet would have entering a body. Yes the entry hole would appear small but using a JHP the bullet would expand to between .5 to 1.5 times the size depending and possibly even fragment (usually bad) basically you want the bullet to dump all it's energy into the body. Yes there will be a hole but many time that isn't what would drop a bad guy it is the trauma the bullet inflicts.

    In other words if someone punches you in the stomach it isn't just the skin that feels the blow. You feel it in your muscles and organs causing the intense double over pain and even possibly causing the person to collapse on the ground. The impact of the bullet is going to be extremely traumatic. The bullet energy is going to ripple through the area it struck damaging tissues and possibly leading to bruising, hemorrhaging and internal bleeding in tissue the bullet didn't even physically touch.

    Of course depending on where the person was shot it may have a bigger or smaller response.


    In short to answer your question the .38 special is a proven round that is a fine self defense choice.
    There is something about firing 4,200 thirty millimeter rounds/min that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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    Member Array jimtem's Avatar
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    Thanks razor :)

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    Member Array Jcabin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimtem View Post
    I bought a Smith & Wesson .38 Special, +P 5 shoot air weight revolver with a 2 inch barrel. It occurred to me today that its a bit odd for a self defense gun. I am very new to guns and do not know much about them but from what I understand its the diameter that matters with self defense right? But the .38 Special is not exactly a large diameter; just a lot of powder. Also isn't this much powder more for accuracy in a longer distance but the SD pistol is used up close? Third point: Doesn't this amount of powder pull you off your target with the recoil making it even worse for self defense?
    The overwhelming majority of self defense situations occurs at under 10 yards. Your 2 inch barrel will be fine. To be honest, these are concerns you should have addressed before you bought a gun. None the less, I have a S&W 642 +p 5 shot j frame myself, and though it is limited in its capabilities compared to the XDm 9 I carry, it will probably work in a self defense situation.

    The difference between 38/9mm 40 and .45 is about 1mm each, so it really makes no difference which caliber you have(of the "big three"), so long as you can hit your target. That is why practicing is most important, get some training if you can. Learn to hit COM from a variety of angles, while moving, with your weak hand, etc.

    5 rounds of +p .38spl, modern ammo such as speer gold dot short barrel (yes, many manufacturers design ammo specifically for short barrel applications, just look for it on the side of the box), and you WILL stop whoever is trying to kill you. So long as you do your part (hitting him where it counts), the ammo will do its part(if you buy quality ammo, this is true for any caliber, buy quality hollow points, not the cheap junk. The cheap stuff falls apart).

    If you want a gun that you can hit someone reliably at 30 yards out, well a 2 inch barrel j frame was not designed for that, though it can be done. I can hit out at 30 yards with my j frame, it takes alot of practice to get good groups there. I would rather use my XDm, full size gun, with a 4 and 1/2 inch barrel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimtem View Post
    I bought a Smith & Wesson .38 Special, +P 5 shoot air weight revolver with a 2 inch barrel. It occurred to me today that its a bit odd for a self defense gun. I am very new to guns and do not know much about them but from what I understand its the diameter that matters with self defense right? But the .38 Special is not exactly a large diameter; just a lot of powder. Also isn't this much powder more for accuracy in a longer distance but the SD pistol is used up close? Third point: Doesn't this amount of powder pull you off your target with the recoil making it even worse for self defense?
    Actually the bullet diameter is not small. It is the same diameter as a .357 Magnum and is actually larger than a 9mm.

    Just remember, the police carried .38 Specials for MANY years, as the standard side arm. Even after the .357 Magnum came into existence, the .38 was still the standard for many departments.
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    Distinguished Member Array razor02097's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jcabin View Post
    The difference between 38/9mm 40 and .45 is about 1mm each, so it really makes no difference which caliber you have(of the "big three"),
    the .38 in .38 special refers to the overall diameter not the diameter of the bullet. The bullet is .357 which is .003" or .06mm more then a 9mm.

    The .40 is 10mm
    The .45 is about 11.5mm

    .44 magnum actually uses .43 caliber bullets....

    This is one of the reasons not to get hung up too much on caliber. For the most part cartridge manufacturers name it pretty much whatever is catchy but if you break down the round into its components you realize that in the end half the claims are false or over stated.
    There is something about firing 4,200 thirty millimeter rounds/min that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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    VIP Member Array jwhite75's Avatar
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    It is actually a very popular SD gun. It will go pretty much in any pocket and any holster will conceal it well on your person. Get your self a good SD load such as Hornady Critical Defense or Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel in a +p loading and you will be fine.
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    Member Array Jcabin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by razor02097 View Post
    the .38 in .38 special refers to the overall diameter not the diameter of the bullet. The bullet is .357 which is .003" or .06mm more then a 9mm.

    The .40 is 10mm
    The .45 is about 11.5mm

    .44 magnum actually uses .43 caliber bullets....

    This is one of the reasons not to get hung up too much on caliber. For the most part cartridge manufacturers name it pretty much whatever is catchy but if you break down the round into its components you realize that in the end half the claims are false or over stated.
    Exactly, and we have to hammer that home for newbies and even current gun owners who don't know better. No caliber is magical and is any more special than another caliber (when talking about the big 3). I would clearly recommend any of the big 3 over carrying a .22, but if a .22 is all you can handle, it's better than nothing.

    When it comes to 9mm, 40sw, and 45acp, there are only a few things that should affect your decision:

    Price of ammunition: I was originally going to go with a gun chambered in 45acp when i was looking to buy my first handgun, but the price of ammo turned me off. At the time I was a full time college student, and couldn't afford to shoot very often, but spending $7-8 for a box of 50 rounds of 9mm was alot cheaper than spending $24+ for the same amount of bullets in 45acp. In fact, I could, and still can, shoot 2-3 times the amount of 9mm that I can shoot 45acp.

    Price of gun: Generally two guns of the same model, one chambered in 9mm, and one chambered in 45acp, will be relatively close in price. The 45acp chambered gun is usually about $50 more in price. This should mean nothing though, if you have the money to burn on 45acp ammo.

    How the gun fits your hand: If you can't get a grip on it, don't buy it. Get something that feels good and fits well. That has nothing to do with caliber

    Recoil: Shoot all 3 calibers on the same platform if you can, whatever you can handle the best, get back on target with the fastest, get the best groups with. Well you've found your caliber.

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    Distinguished Member Array Madcap_Magician's Avatar
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    It's perfectly acceptable. It's on the low end of acceptable in most people's opinions for power, but all this means is that you have to be more careful picking carry ammunition.

    I recommend 135-gr. +P Speer Gold Dot short barrel loads, Corbon DPX 110-gr. +P loads, or Federal Nyclad.

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    Senior Member Array Freedomofchoice's Avatar
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    The gun you purchased is an enormously popular self defense gun. I have one and carry it often when pocket carry (in a pocket holster) is the call of the day.

    Are there better choices? Perhaps, it all depends on your ability, and willingness to carry the largest gun you can skillfully handle.

    I grew up in an error when the 38 special was the only gun carried by police, and it seemed to serve well enough at the time.
    .

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    READ ME

    Unlike rifle bullets, handgun bullets, regardless of whether they are fired from pistols or SMG’s, generally only disrupt tissue by the crush mechanism. In addition, temporary cavitation from most handgun bullets does not reliably damage tissue and is not usually a significant mechanism of wounding.

    Bullets that may be required to incapacitate aggressors must reliably penetrate a minimum of approximately 10 to 12 inches of tissue in order to ensure disruption of the major organs and blood vessels in the torso from any angle and through excessive adipose tissue, hypertrophied muscle, or intervening anatomic structures, such as a raised arm.
    That is the most important part of the article I linked to. Handguns wound by destroying tissue, there is no shock wave that destroys tissue.

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