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All I carry are 38 specials, I have two that I rotate, a 1974 Colt Det Spl nickel plated and a new S&W 637. Right now I am using Winchester 130gr JHP +P.

My question (concern) is about over penetration. I've read volumes about the 158gr semi wad cutter being probably the best round for a 38 special. My greatest fear in a SD scenario is the impacting round penetrating through the BG and hitting an innocent bystander.

Your thoughts????
 

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.38 Specials, leaving aside the old lead roundnose or the FMJ practice rounds, are not known for over-penetration, so I think you can set that concern aside.

The "FBI" or "Chicago" round - 158 grain, semi-wadcutter hollowpoint in +P flavor - has a fine track record of stopping fights. But the more modern JHPs are well-designed and apparently effective as well. I carry both... the lead SWC-HP in the gun and JHPs as spare ammo.

I think in a self-defense shooting the rounds that don't hit the intended target are a far greater risk than rounds that penetrate the BG. Just use good defensive ammo (such as you are) and practice lots.
 

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I've related the story here before but have seen the results of a 158 grain jacketed soft point Federal factory .357 Magnum load that struck a wall after penetrating an assailant through the heart. The bullet left a deep dent in the sheet rock but didn't penetrated it. The bullet itself was scarcely damaged, the soft nose only being slightly deformed. Dimensionally, it could have almost been handloaded and fired again. My lawman friend later gave me some of the ammo from the box used and it chronographed 1306 fps from a 6-inch barrel so probably was going 1250-1275 fps from the 4-inch barrel from which it was fired. This bullet was of a design to be a fairly good candidate for excessive power after over-penetration. Despite the lack of expansion the assailant was DRT.

This is only one example and would not necessarily hold true for each instance. A much greater concern would have to be the missed shot. In this incident, the woman firing the revolver missed her assailant with the first shot. That bullet traveled unimpeded through a opened kitchen door and the long length of the living/dining room to exit the front of the house above a living room window after completely penetrating interior sheet rock and exterior wood siding.

I've both taken a deer and finished off one that was severely injured when hung in a fence with .38 Special +P 158 grain factory loads. The load gave complete broadside penetration in both instances.

While over-penetration has to be a concern, too much is made of it in forum discussions in my view. Unfortunately, one must be aware and responsible for each bullet fired, even if shooting is justified, so must consider the area down range from the assailant in addition to the other concerns thrust upon him in an attack. There's a lot to think about in the crowded moment of an attack.

Personally, I'm not going to compromise penetration performance out of fears of over-penetration.
 

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Give the new Hornady CRITICAL DEFENSE 110gr +P a try. I carry it in all my BUG's now.

A few months ago I shot a coyote on my property and it worked fantastically well. It expanded visciously, and didn't over penetrate.

I like the CorBon 110gr JHP +P also.
 

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I carry THIS in my Airweight® and Ultra-Lite™ 38 special guns. In my steel J frame size guns THIS LOAD gets carried. IMHO Buffalo Bore® produces THE BEST 38 Special defensive ammunition there is.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks so much to all for that info. I think I will go with a non +P load. And y'all are so correct, when you squeeze the trigger, you are taking full responsibilty for the projectile. I am not sure there is any justification for harming an innocent bystander, regardless of situation. It's very easy for one to claim collateral effects in a SD scenario, however, for me, I'm more concerned about the safety of others that might be in the area than I am about the BG. Hopefully I never get placed in the situation.
 

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I tried that BB 158 grain +P stuff. I only shot one, that's right, one round through my 442, and that was enough :embarassed:

Call me a pansy, but I can't shoot that stuff. After my dismal failure, I promptly ordered the low flash, short barrel 158s. They're plenty stiff, too.

Let us know what you end up with; I'm definitely gonna try some of these lighter suggestions.
 

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FWIW, I agree (as usual :) with bmcgilvray, even though I don't have his experience level nor any such illustrative anecdotal evidence. But I just have to believe that a close-range gunfight is liable to be so very, very chaotic, and experience shows that lots of shots miss altogether under such stress. These misses are far more dangerous than pass-throughs could be. I'd avoid any old metal-piercing ammo you might find :) Also avoid 158g LRN target ammo, which used to be a police & SD standby. Otherwise, any hollowpoint should prove a responsible choice that appropriately addresses your concern. Lightweights such as 110g bullets are VERY unlikely to overpenetrate, but for my money they are also too likely to underpenetrate. I feel comfortable with 158g factory or 200g handloaded LSWC, but not everybody does because they penetrate very well but don't expand. For most scenarios, I think the 158g LSWCHP +P is the most well-balanced choice.
 

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All I carry are 38 specials, I have two that I rotate, a 1974 Colt Det Spl nickel plated and a new S&W 637. Right now I am using Winchester 130gr JHP +P.

My question (concern) is about over penetration. I've read volumes about the 158gr semi wad cutter being probably the best round for a 38 special. My greatest fear in a SD scenario is the impacting round penetrating through the BG and hitting an innocent bystander.

Your thoughts????
Well First Sergeant, this old Chief Warrant Officer has carried a J frame of some sort for 40 years. In all those years I've probably shot every iteration of 38 Special ammunition known to man. My advice to you would be to carry the most accurate JHP or LSWCHP you can find. For the last four years I've used the Buffalo Bore® 158gr LSWCHPGC as my carry load. It is highly accurate and has the energy to do the job. I use the standard pressure load in my Airweight® and Ultra-Lite™ guns. In my steel frame snubbies I use the +P version. Buffalo Bore® makes the very best 38 Special defensive ammo there is IMHO.
 

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It's a load old guys use. :smile:
Actually, it's a lead bullet with a square shoulder above the rim, leading up to a round nose. "Wadcutters" are used primarily for target practice. The semi was designed many years ago and is still considered one of the best non-JHP rounds to carry.
 

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I have found that both CorBon & Hornady factory 110 Grain + P in SP or HP will do the trick and expend all its energy in the intended target, without overpenetration. If you are a handloader, any 110 grain in JHP or SP, with the proper charge (please consult reloaders manual) of Blue Dot or Unique, will duplicate the velocity & energy of the original Lee Juras Super Vel factory loads of the '70s, with groups of under 2 inches at 15 yards, even with "snubbies".
 

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Hey there Top, the round you selected is Winchester's take on the Chicago load, originally Speer's Gold Dot 135-gr. +P. I would not worry over much about overpenetration with the Winchester Ranger 130-gr +P. Penetration according to Winchester was 11-12", IIRC. I posted a thread with the data somewhere.
 

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I carry the Hornady CD in .38SPL standard load in my Model 12 Airweight. S&W says don't shoot +P though it and that's good enough for me (I know other's run +P through theirs, but if the manufacturer says don't do it, then that's who I'm going to listen to).

The BB "standard" 158g .38spl load is hot....hotter than any other standard load I've run down this gun. It's not bad to shoot, but it has much more bite than the standard load 158g SWC that I plink with at the range. I haven't chrono'd the CD out of the gun yet, but will and let you know how it compares to the published numbers. I should be averaging Hornadys numbers since my 12 is a 4" bbl, so we'll see how close they actually come to it. I do, however, feel comfortable using the ammo as my defense ammo in this gun.
 

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All I carry are 38 specials, I have two that I rotate, a 1974 Colt Det Spl nickel plated and a new S&W 637. Right now I am using Winchester 130gr JHP +P.

My question (concern) is about over penetration. I've read volumes about the 158gr semi wad cutter being probably the best round for a 38 special. My greatest fear in a SD scenario is the impacting round penetrating through the BG and hitting an innocent bystander.

Your thoughts????
Well as one soldier to another I can offer that on 05/22 I will celebrate 40 years of concealed carry with a 38 Special and 357 Magnum; both snub nose guns. In all those years I have learned that only hits count, and standard pressure ammo allows a much faster return to battery (recovery from recoil with sights back on target/perp). I've never found any factory standard 38 Special load to "Over-Penetrate"; and that includes FMJ loadings. In my older standard pressure 38 Special guns I carry...........
Buffalo Bore® Standard Pressure Short Barrel Low Flash Heavy .38 Special Ammo - 158 gr LSWCHPGC
Federal® Premium® Personal Defense® 38 Special 125gr Nyclad HP

If I want a +P loading in one of my 357 Magnum snubbies I choose.........
Buffalo Bore® Heavy .38 Special +P Ammo - 158 gr LSWCHPGC over any 357 Magnum loading.
 

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Well as one soldier to another I can offer that on 05/22 I will celebrate 40 years of concealed carry with a 38 Special and 357 Magnum; both snub nose guns. In all those years I have learned that only hits count, and standard pressure ammo allows a much faster return to battery (recovery from recoil with sights back on target/perp). I've never found any factory standard 38 Special load to "Over-Penetrate"; and that includes FMJ loadings. In my older standard pressure 38 Special guns I carry...........
Buffalo Bore® Standard Pressure Short Barrel Low Flash Heavy .38 Special Ammo - 158 gr LSWCHPGC
Federal® Premium® Personal Defense® 38 Special 125gr Nyclad HP

If I want a +P loading in one of my 357 Magnum snubbies I choose.........
Buffalo Bore® Heavy .38 Special +P Ammo - 158 gr LSWCHPGC over any 357 Magnum loading.

I am wondering why you would choose the above over any .357 mag load.
 

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I am wondering why you would choose the above over any .357 mag load.
I think the swc +p in 158 grain persuasion is the best compromise of power, penetration, and shootability (as in quick follow up shots) for carry in the snub nose revolver. My question is why would BB use a gas check on a bullet driven at 38 spl velocities?
 
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