The mighty 38 spl

The mighty 38 spl

This is a discussion on The mighty 38 spl within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; This has got to be the Superman of cartridges for which there is no kryptonite for. Consider the numerous reasons the 38spl should not even ...

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  1. #1
    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    The mighty 38 spl

    This has got to be the Superman of cartridges for which there is no kryptonite for.

    Consider the numerous reasons the 38spl should not even exist. Hi cap guns, wunder nines, larger cartridges, j frames now rated for 357 magnum cartridges, blah, blah, but yet, it refuses to go away.

    As a matter of fact, sales in all things 38 spl are strong, and that may be an understatement. Ammo, reloading, guns, you name it, if it's got to do with a 38 spl, it's a hot item.

    So whats the big deal with the 38 that makes it endure and still come out in the top 5 selling cartridges and handguns of today, despite competition from all comers? While many newcomers to SD gravitate more to the autoloading pocket pistols, or hi cap service type weapons, there is I believe, a certain reason it is still so popular.

    The reason in my opinion is not complicated at all. For starters, it's what I would call a real working handgun. What I mean by this is that, whether it be used for target practice, competition, SD applications, or accompanying one on a hike in the outdoors, it is up to the task.

    For an utterly reliable pocket gun with ample power, the j frame fits the job. It can be carried in a pocket holster, all day, allowing the user to have a firing grip on the piece in a public place, with noone the wiser.

    Then there's the magnificent k frames of latter days, the M10, which has the greatest out of the box DA trigger pull of any production model ever produced. With fixed sights, it's usually perfectly regulated to a 158 weight bullet. A natural pointer, with the stock grips forcing a high purchase on the piece, the experienced shooter can easily draw and pump six into a humanoid target faster than you would think. Rugged, requiring little care, IMO, it's the finest example of a combat handgun.

    Then there's the M15. With adjustable sights, it may be the perfect example of a trail gun.used with light loads, it can handily take squirrels, rabbit, turkey, and other such edibles with more authority than a 22 rimfire without meat destruction, but still be better suited to larger animals such as coyote, feral dogs and such.

    Even larger game such as whitetail deer can be had with the right bullet, if the pistolero is up to the task, and knows his limitations.

    The cartridge itself is amazing. Loaded with a good lswc, it is good for everything one needs to do. If needed, the k frame revolver can be stoked with ammo approaching the limits of the 357 mag by the handloader who knows what he is doing.

    Speaking of 357 magnums, one of the most ridiculous gimmicks I have seen is the new snub revolvers chambered for the 357 magnum. The loss of velocity due to barrel length( or lack of), combined with the hard kicking, muzzle flashing, ear splitting, discharge of such, has not enough advantage over a properly loaded 38 snub to justify it to exist. In my testing of both the snub 357, and the 38 spl, over the chrono, and in test medium, I have not been impressed.

    I suppose, after a weekend of shooting, testing, and analyzing, I just wanted to get some thoughts off my chest.

    Maybe it's age, or experience, or just opinion, I really don't know.
    But I can see no advantage to be had by any other caliber for all practical purposes over the 38spl. Apparently, according to handloading component sales, I am not alone.

    There's much more to be said, and I haven't even scratched the surface of this topic. But I know I can't wait to load up another batch of a do it all combo of 38 spl handloads and hit the shooting range, or field again.

    It's truly an all round workin mans gun/ cartridge combo.
    Anyone else here as crazy over the 38 as I am? I'd like to here your thoughts.
    " Blessed is that man, who when facing death, thinks only of his front sight"
    -Jeff Cooper

  2. #2
    Array msgt/ret's Avatar
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    Myself and I am sure many others started reloading with the 38SPL.
    When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
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  3. #3
    VIP Member Array zonker1986's Avatar
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    If shot placement is king, then I'm a fan of the .38 over the .357Mag any day of the week. I can shoot .38 +P very quickly and accurately.....wish I could say the same for the .357Mag.
    Funny how things kinda materialize in print after a weekend of shooting.....its kind of a Zen thing. Thanks for the thoughts Gman.
    Give to them according to their deeds and according to the wickedness of their endeavors; give to them according to the work of their hands; render to them their deserts. Psalm 28:4

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  5. #4
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    Great post! I love rediscovering old truths that still hold true. The .38 truly is the working man's gun, and one my favorites to shoot. Long live the .38 spl!
    gottabkiddin likes this.
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  6. #5
    Ex Member Array Yankeejib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonker1986 View Post
    If shot placement is king, then I'm a fan of the .38 over the .357Mag any day of the week. I can shoot .38 +P very quickly and accurately.....wish I could say the same for the .357Mag.
    Funny how things kinda materialize in print after a weekend of shooting.....its kind of a Zen thing. Thanks for the thoughts Gman.
    The .38 out of the big .357 feels like a .22 squib. Holes inside of holes on the target. I much prefer .38 in my SP101 as well. I save my magnum rounds for a gun than can use them, like a 6" barrel 686.

  7. #6
    VIP Member Array Rollo's Avatar
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    If I could comfortably pocket carry a jframe I would do it in a heartbeat over by P3AT
    -It is a seriously scary thought that there are subsets of American society that think being intellectual is a BAD thing...

  8. #7
    Distinguished Member Array RevolvingMag's Avatar
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    I shoot more .38spls than .357mags. Mostly, due to cost. I do understand where you're coming from, GMan... I need to get the stuff to start reloading, but it's just a little too expensive an investment at the moment. And I don't have anywhere to actually do the work.

    .357mag is my favorite 'handgun' caliber (I desperately want a lever-action .357mag), but the .38s are more affordable, and easier on the hands. The .38 is a wonderful round- 'easy shooting', hard hitting, do it all round. I would feel comfortable that .38spls could do the job from my snub nose.

    But, I REALLY love the big ball of fire and sound of all hell crashing down on something from just in front of my hand.
    Brady and Recon1342 like this.
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  9. #8
    VIP Member Array wmhawth's Avatar
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    Maybe it's age, or experience, or just opinion, I really don't know.
    But I can see no advantage to be had by any other caliber for all practical purposes over the 38spl. Apparently, according to handloading component sales, I am not alone
    You are definitely not alone. I don't bother my head too much with ballistics facts and figures but I have little doubt that .38 Spl will meet my SD needs. What is a truth that I'm sure of is that there is nothing I've shot that puts rounds on target for me as well as a 4" 38 Spl S&W K frame revolver.

  10. #9
    VIP Member Array OldVet's Avatar
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    Amen, Glockman. There're a lot of dead folks who would disagree with those who say the .38 Special is obsolete as a SD round.
    Retired USAF E-8. Curmudgeon at large.
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  11. #10
    Ex Member Array rammerjammer's Avatar
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    I recently bought an LCR for my first pocket revolver. I started carrying semi Autos and will.still.carry them but the reliable LCR will get the most.holster time.

    I never considered the 357 version because of the extra weight for the pocket and 357 can't be utilized to its full potential in such a short barrel.

  12. #11
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    They're apple pie in my book. If I had enough presses, one would stay set up for 38 at all times. But watch, soon you'll hear about this as a low capacity 9. Carry on brother.
    Savage Heartland

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  13. #12
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    Excellent post. I agree 100%. I love my M10 and it is a dream to shoot. Thanks for stating what many of us believe.

  14. #13
    Distinguished Member Array craze's Avatar
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    I started pocket carrying a 642 snub daily 6 or 7 years ago. I guess partly due to all the hype decided I need one of the new superlight polymer autos for that task, bought a lcp then a pf9 (both of which I like and have been reliable) however lately I'm back to pocket carrying that same 642 got it on me right now. I don't find that my two pocket autos are that much easier to pocket carry and find that the snub is much easier to draw from the pocket. Thats why it and the crusty ole uncle mikes pocket holster are riding in my khakis right now. I feel quite comfortable packing the ole "5 bean salad".
    Ransom and RKflorida like this.
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  15. #14
    Member Array Sarisataka's Avatar
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    I was/am a dyed in the wool auto fan. Unfortunately for my beliefs I gave a j-frame a try. It is now my BUG, and in hot weather my EDC. It is so easy to conceal, easy to carry and with the right ammo very effective. I don't see being choosy about ammo as an issue because that hold true no for any caliber coming out of a handgun.
    S&W 638 riding my hip today.
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  16. #15
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    Array bmcgilvray's Avatar
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    First rate narrative, GMan! Count me in as a believer in the might of the .38 Special, even in the face of modern handgun and bullet developments.

    I've always liked the idea of the .44 Special, .45 ACP, and .41 Magnum cartridges. I never really set out to like the .38 Special. It was just the cartridge for which my first handgun was chambered. Even as other handguns were added to a growing menagerie, it was the .38 Special, mostly used in the same Smith & Wesson Model 10 Heavy Barrel, that was on hand when things were happening, both in the field on hikes and hunts, and for personal defense.

    Here's a link to a tired narrative which was old when I "retreaded" it here on Defensive Carry in 2007. The original post has acquired some sort of gremlin in it since it was posted that has turned some numerals into gobbledy-****. It can't be further edited at this point.
    S&W Model 10: A Revolver For the Long Haul

    K-Frame .38 Special revolvers are just to stubborn to die. My old favorite has seen a lot of shooting use since the 2007 article was posted. It was out at the range last week and still sees regular use several times a month. It still goes along for hikes and chores to our old family place. I've taken up regular dry-firing with it again this year just to tune up a bit.

    "But watch, soon you'll hear about this as a low capacity 9."

    Yeah svgheartland, they will appear with their comments but they would only be partially correct as the .38 Special is fully as good as the 9mm but has an added dimension. The .38 Special cartridge and the revolvers in which it is chambered can well handle heavier 158-200 grain bullets and won't choke if bullet nose shape doesn't meet the more narrow parameters necessary for proper feeding with 9mm bullets in a semi-auto. Since the introduction of the .38-44 loading in 1930 there have been .38 Special factory loads available that don't take a back seat to the 9mm in velocity performance, given projectiles of the same weight range. The .38 Special handloaded can walk away from the 9mm if one does't only rely on current sissy, watered down data but chooses to use reasonable data previously published with a modicum of caution in working up his loads.

    Four High-Performance .38 Special Handloads

    Personally, I'm willing to use handloaded ammunition in self-defense handguns and am not interested in debating the advisability of doing so.

    Most of this generation of shooters can only see the snub as the home of the .38 Special and that's the wrong way to look at the cartridge. A 3-inch or 4-inch .38 Special may be concealed and offers greater shooting ease and more performance from the cartridge. Alas, such revolvers are too heavy to the modern way of thinking in which "smaller and lighter" is valued above all other attributes.

    For the fellow who doesn't have total faith that the expansion, touted as so effective in the lighter weight 9mm JHP loadings, is to be relied on so completely, the .38 Special answers with it's lead 158 grain semi-wadcutter bullet, loaded to mimic the old "FBI Load." Just because such a load is not so popular currently doesn't mean it is less effective, despite what many believe. In my view the 9mm got a shot in the arm when the 147 grain loadings were introduced. On the very infrequent occasions I carry a 9mm I chose a 147 grain loading.

    And, for the handloader, the .355 diameter component bullets available the 9mm may be handloaded and fired from the .38 Special revolver with its .357 diameter bore with good results. Similar velocities to 9mm will be attained with decent accuracy at reasonable self-defense ranges. Though why one would want to do this can't be said as the .38 Special with bullets designed for it can work so well. The .38 Special isn't restricted to lighter weight bullets as some other lesser cartridges are and I value bullet weight.

    For old geezers like me the .38 Special is still "special." I'm about to walk down to my wife's office to bum a cup of coffee and will carry the Model 10 in its IWB holster beneath a black T-Shirt. Even at my age I'll bet the weight won't wear me out before I get the 3 1/2 blocks.
    WHEC724, wmhawth, DanielC and 7 others like this.
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