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Discussion Starter #1
What’s the current thinking on a good defensive round in 38 or 38+P. I have always relied on Speer Gold Dot short barrel 38+P. But it’s been around a while. Any improvements out there.


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My EDC is a S&W 642 and I keep it stoked with one of two rounds:

1) The Gold Dot 135gr +P
2) Buffalo Bore FBI loads

I feel either would serve well if needed.
 

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I still run a hot flipped over wadcutter in the weapon, but my speed strip or speedloader has the FBI load in it. It's just far easier to get in the cylinder than a wadcutter. The Gold dot is still carried by many as well.

A few folks I know are running the new 90 grain Hornady critical defense light just for the speed (1200 fps)...I haven't tried em yet. I see the idea, but I still like a fat heavy bullet in my J frame
 

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There are a lot of good choices for 38spl and a lot of variety. Right now I'm carrying old school Remington Golden Saber 125gr +P Brass Jacketed Hollow Points. I'll also sometimes carry Federal Micro HST 130gr +P JHPs. I'd also suggest looking at two from Underwood Ammo; either the 38spl 125 +P Grain Bonded JHP (Speer Gold Dot) or 38spl 125gr +P JHP (XTP). Out in the woods I carry Underwood 158gr +P Hard Cast Keith. I'll carry those for not in the woods too, occasionally.
 

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Your Speer Gold Dot 135 grain +P may be about as good as it gets for a 2 inch barrel. I carry the same bullet in some handloads (yeah, yeah, I know.) Sometimes I wonder if a plain old 158 grain SWC might not be as good or better because of its deep penetration. It certainly has worked for a lot of people over the years.
 

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While I agree the 135 +P Gold Dot is probably the best performance in a snubby, it's more than a handful in an Airweight J-Frame.

I've started carrying Hornady 110gr FTX Critical Duty in my J-Frame. It may not have the performance of the Gold Dot, but it's much more manageable and follow up shots are quicker and more accurate.
 

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I can not handle the recoil any longer of the Federal 38 + P 158 grain swc in my LCR so I changed to a 148gr WC and reload with Hornady 110 gr FTX. They make a new 90gr light load but I can't tell the difference. :icon_neutral:
 

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All defensive .38 Special revolvers from 2-inch on up get +P 158 grain lead semi-wadcutters or its handloaded equivalent using heavy charges of Unique. If they are hollow points then that's gravy. I've shot lots of critters including a few large ones. Hollow points don't make up for poor hits. I'm not too concerned about expansion.
 

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I've long been a believer in the venerable 158 gr. LSWCHP, but after a lot of research, I'm convinced that the 135 +P Gold Dot is really the best bet in a snubby. I still have plenty of the 158 LSWCHP's and reload them in both .38 and .357, but they're now more of a woods gun/range load for me. If I'm carrying a snubbie for SD, it's generally loaded with the Gold Dots.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
It is my understanding that the gold dot 135g +P round was developed for the NYC police department for back up snubbys. The goal was to achieve terminal ballistics similar to 9MM. Apparently real world results have held up over the years.


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For 2-3" snubbies, I like HST.
For snubbies less than 2", I like Golden Sabers and Gold Dots.

I prefer to have expansion with my penetration. Better chance of hitting something "Critical" on the way in. (But I do prefer penetration over expansion if given a choice.)
 
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