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Discussion Starter · #82 ·
You roll your own, and I'm guessing are willing to tinker with loads, so you can do this. You just have to hope your .38 revolvers aren't built to the SAMMI specs (which, one way or the other, you would have found out by now.) But given the number of people carrying now, I suspect the vast majority carry factory loads.

And I agree with your assessment of shock factor. It's not in play for pistol caliber rounds. But what I want is a good combination of expansion and penetration. What I look for is at least 13-14" penetration and expansion to .6" or better. In smaller guns, I can get this out of a few different factory 9mm loadings. The same can't be said about .38.

Yes. That pretty much covers it.
I’m not really desiring to try and get in to 357 mag velocity with a 38, but in a pinch, one could.

However, older 38 spl data is quite a bit more potent than what we see with factory ammo today....same with the 357 magnum on average; probably because of the popularity of the j magnums.

There is another work around possible with the 38 spl, which is one that I use, and that is to use lswc bullets driven to low velocities. I prefer this approach because it guarantees penetration to the goods, and is low recoil and easy on the guns.

I don’t put a lot of value in velocity or the notion of a shock factor if the bullet is moving below 2000 fps.
 

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The 9mm is more effective than those .38 Special loads you mention BBMW, but consider those loads. Those loads are crummy, weak loads. I have chronograph tested them and similar. The only thing "+P" performance about them is the amount of ink it took to print "+P" on the end flaps of the boxes for there is no performance there. There's no way those loads should be considered as best of the breed for snub use. Both manufacturers and and consumers have relegated the .38 Special to second class citizen in the handgun defense world with most current factory choices. Serving up the .38 Special primarily in stunted, light weight, alloy-framed snubs as this current market does has contributed to that second class status.

The .38 Special was, and is more than that. It can be had in factory loadings that make 9mm at 1117 fps eat dust. Selection of loads by Underwood or Buffalo Bore (I even like ol' Remington +P 158 grain lead SWCs or similar handloads) can be had that give that sort of velocity and and do it with heavier 158 grain bullets to boot. With judicious handloading, using published data from the olden days, the .38 Special can positively run off and hide from the 9mm. And, the loads can be used in J-Frame snubs made of steel. Folks have done it for decades. It's not something I'd use for general shooting in a J-Frame and isn't particularly pleasant to fire, but the right loads can put the .38 Special back where it belongs.

Folks buy these 9mm revolvers and micro automatics and sing their praises in amongst some complaining about the sharp recoil. Well, the .38 Special isn't so comfy cozy either when it's treated with loads that equal those 9mm revolver ballistics, but there are .38 Special loadings that will "stand up to salute ya'." Now I don't know how 9mm revolvers and short barreled automatics perform with various popular loads, but I've chronographed 9mm load in full sized guns and the cartridge isn't all that impressive so it can't be even better in short barrels or snub revolvers. Just because so many embrace 9mm today doesn't mean the cartridge and its ammunition hasn't become overrated.

The .38 Special achieves 9mm performance and without 9mm pressures. Nobody's done any laboratory testing of this that I know of, but the .38 Special possesses greater case volume than the squat 9mm with its low case capacity which results in higher pressure to gain performance. The .38 Special certainly can be improved upon without high pressures and it has been through the years. It's just not popular these days. The British did this in the early days of smokeless powder cartridges used for dangerous game in Africa. They liked the notion of low pressure in double rifles that were being used in hot climes that possessed less positive extraction capabilities than a bolt-action. Winchester duplicated any of several British over long .45 caliber heavy game cartridges ballistics with its .458 Magnum in a shorter cartridge case, but with attendant higher pressures.

Sure, it's easy to look up velocity testing by other people. One can fabricate impressive charts favoring the 9mm if he limits his .38 Special testing to only light bullet loads traveling at snail's pace. Compare the best available 9mm with the best available .38 Special, factory loads or handloads. The .38 Special will still come out looking pretty shiny.

We might as well look at all these fancy bullet offerings these days and their promised performance which is suppose to elevate 9mm to be equal to even the .45. Does bullet construction truly make up the difference? While it all may be marketed as "Critical Duty," "XTP," "Zombie Max," "Gold Dot," "Black Talon," "Golden Sabre Bonded," or Winchester's "Silver Tip," "Defender," or "Dual Bond," a name and a jacketed hollow point design in a slick package just ain't as special as we're led to believe by marketing, buttressed by both published and forum repetition.

We heard it all before, even back in the 1970s with the famous Speer 200 grain "Flying Ashtray" .45 bullet, available factory loaded or as components. Sierra's light 110 grain jacketed hollow point bullet was touted as the do all and end all of .38 Special handloaded defensive ammunition back at a time when folks didn't dither over use of handloads for personal defense. Super Vel was there with its light bullet factory loads that achieved much more velocity than modern .38 Special light bullet +P loadings. Same holds true for the "Treasury Loads." We were treated in the gun rags and in manufacturers' advertising with bullets showing fearsome mushrooming capabilities back then too.

Only they sometimes mushroomed as pictured and sometimes they didn't. At least they didn't in the contrived non-tests I attempted. Oh and then there's the tests and formulas on parade. Tests that come and go, yet are quoted as gospel ... for a while ... until the next test gains currency. Why we can go back to 1904 with the Thompson-La Garde tests and march forward. Taylor's KO values and kinetic energy, Fackler, Marshall, Sanow and One Shot Stop, Strasburg Goat Tests, FBI Tests, Ballistics By the Inch, Lucky Gunner, YouTube videos, and that's not to mention Joe Blow and his forum pontifications.

Stopping power really is a marketing tool more than anything else. Fancy jacketed expanding bullets still don't make up for poor hits. Too much stock is placed in trick bullets and not enough on good hits.

Both the .38 Special and the 9mm are middling cartridges, yet good 'nuff with the right loads and proper shot placement. The 9mm should be thought of as a ".38 Special Automatic" for it's not truly one whit better ballistically. Of course the 9mm handgun can the advantage of holding lots'a bullets. But when it's a micro-9 or snub revolver? Not so much.

I had time to pontificate this morning in the spirit of Forum debate. I started at 6:30 this morning, had to meet an appointment and only now got back to it to finish. I realize that I enjoy championing the .38 Special and its capabilities against the 9mm and its capabilities. I'm being a closet troll here, stirring the pot, attempting to provide food for thought. I don't really care which choice others make.

Me? If I gotta do stunted back up guns I'm sticking with the reliable revolver and the .38 Special with good heavy loads for a back up. No micro-9mms and fancy lightweight bullets need apply.
 

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One last thing....are these photographs of your actual carry gear? I am asking because my leather gear/holsters and guns are scratched and/or worn and are ugly compared to what I see in these photographs?
Taa daa!



 

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You roll your own, and I'm guessing are willing to tinker with loads, so you can do this. You just have to hope your .38 revolvers aren't built to the SAMMI specs (which, one way or the other, you would have found out by now.) But given the number of people carrying now, I suspect the vast majority carry factory loads.

And I agree with your assessment of shock factor. It's not in play for pistol caliber rounds. But what I want is a good combination of expansion and penetration. What I look for is at least 13-14" penetration and expansion to .6" or better. In smaller guns, I can get this out of a few different factory 9mm loadings. The same can't be said about .38.
354329


As seen, factory loads can be found that put the snub on equal ground with the 9mm, and that is from a 1 7/8 inch barrel with a cylinder gap....so handloading is not needed if one doesn’t want to go that route, and these loads are safe for any gun rated for +p.

My own handloads are only pushing 700-750 fps and I can depend on 18-20 inches of penetration in ballistic gel.
Expansion? No, my loads are not designed to expand. To tell the truth, I don’t value expansion, or trust that expansion will happen in live organic matter. My goal is penetration from any angle the shot is presented... thru bone, muscle and organ. Making those blood engorged organs bleed is the key to dropping blood pressure quickly. A hit, or very near hit to the spinal area is another way.

I may not get expansion, but then again, there is no guarantee a HP will expand either, so my goal is the sure bet.
 

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I wonder why anyone would bother with hot rodding a .38 when they can just get a .357?
probably because they probably can......safely or not is another question.

the 38 has from my understanding has been watered down by the factory compared to decades-old loads.....maybe out of consideration for some old designs....and especially some of the newer ones as well....there is a reason that they do not make a smith std aluminum airweight in 357.....it can't handle it. And the aluminum Smith airweights to my understanding are their No. 1 selling revolvers.

i also pamper my old colt agent.....nothing warm is going thru it.

now here is an article about hotrod 38's.......the 38-44.......and they ran them in the N frame.

 

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I wonder why anyone would bother with hot rodding a .38 when they can just get a .357?
Various reasons. Guns that are pocket carried for instance are found to be too abusive with 357 for most people.
Or, it’s just to find a happy balance for the gun you carry vs the performance you desire within that range.

People do it with the 9mm all the time, they are just buying some one else’s loads instead of doing themselves.
 

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1. You realize that small auto's by Browning among others predate the J frame, right? By a lot. The J frame was the answer to small autos.
While this is entirely true there is more to it. The slightly lenghtened and thickened J-Frame introduced in 1950 is a modification of the I-Frame Smith & Wesson which was the small frame champion for years, even to predate small autos, for the I-Frame's origins were from 1896, to be revised in 1903. The I-Frame could be had in a five-shot .38 S&W chambering too, as substantial as a modern .380 auto.

Until one of you guys have a primer back out a bit you have no idea how useless it will be . You can't open it with out perhaps bending the crane or rotate the cylinder . Its a rock .
While this is true, it's just not common enough to warrent concern more than trying to run an automatic in "tap-rack-bang"mode. I'm more willing to take my chances with the revolver.

The only time I ever had a revolver tied up for a backed out primer was when I completely abused a vintage .32-20 Smith & Wesson K-Frame with a heavy charge of IMR 4227. The revolver complained about it by backing both primers and the tapered shoulder .32-20 cases themselves. Once the revolver was freed up it appeared none the worse for wear. Didn't do that load again.

there is this.......too much of a good thing when it comes to expansion it would appear...
This backward hollow base wadcutter load was of some repute when I was a young handloader back in the 1970s who sought the most atomic powered defense/field loads possible. Loads that would cause it to cloud up and rain fur for miles around for the hapless critter on which it was unleashed.

The backwards wadcutter just didn't pan out in any non-test I tried: wet soaked Fort Worth phone books, dry Fort Worth phone books, gallon paper milk cartons full of lake water, sand, hard clay. Sometimes they'd open up some. Sometimes they'd break up. Sometimes they'd turn sideways after striking the medium. Sometimes they'd mash the hollow base flat. No consistency. Heavy Unique powder charges fueled them.
 

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I wonder why anyone would bother with hot rodding a .38 when they can just get a .357?
Why did the chicken cross the road?

All I can come up with.
 

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bmc I'll still hunt with a revolver and still enjoy shooting a full size revolver but I'll carry a pistol . I do have to say I have had one handgun fail to function and that was a primer backing out in a revolver and locking it up . I've never had a failure to function with a pistol in the 33 years of CC and 45 years of shooting centerfire pistols so what you do does not matter to me .
 

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bmc I'll still hunt with a revolver and still enjoy shooting a full size revolver but I'll carry a pistol . I do have to say I have had one handgun fail to function and that was a primer backing out in a revolver and locking it up . I've never had a failure to function with a pistol in the 33 years of CC and 45 years of shooting centerfire pistols so what you do does not matter to me .
Are you trying to say in 45 years of shooting, you have never had a failure to feed, faulty magazine, dud round, stove pipe jam, or any other malfunction with an autoloader?

I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting either you have done very little shooting in that time period, or you have a very selective memory...
 

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Ok hardluk1.

If it doesn't matter to you then it doesn't matter to me.
 
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G-man

I don't buy practice ammo from the big boy ammo companies and rifle hunting and and HP purchases have been from two smaller companies going back 40 years . Learn to plunk test some of what you do buy and learn to roll your own ammo when or if practical and check new loads for cartridge gauge and plunk test then fire a few mags full to test , That should cover most problems , then maintaining your firearms , mags included . Yea I don't shoot much , over the last year its been only about 1000 rounds do to primer purchase issues but for 30 years I tried to average 6000 rounds a year . I always had a at home handgun range and started reloading back in '76 . So believe what you will , not my concern .
 

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Discussion Starter · #97 ·
I don't get to shoot very much, but I've had one or two.

But given that in a defensive shooting situation, you're auto owes you one or two (or however many you carry) mags of flawless operation, where does the fact that you get one failure per XXX or XXXX rounds, cease to be relevant. This is especially true if the failure might be in a triple digit session, where the gun is hotter and dirtier than it would ever get with the one or two mag defensive shooting.

Are you trying to say in 45 years of shooting, you have never had a failure to feed, faulty magazine, dud round, stove pipe jam, or any other malfunction with an autoloader?

I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting either you have done very little shooting in that time period, or you have a very selective memory...
 

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I don't get to shoot very much, but I've had one or two.

But given that in a defensive shooting situation, you're auto owes you one or two (or however many you carry) mags of flawless operation, where does the fact that you get one failure per XXX or XXXX rounds, cease to be relevant. This is especially true if the failure might be in a triple digit session, where the gun is hotter and dirtier than it would ever get with the one or two mag defensive shooting.
Im not concerned with the reliable mechanical functioning as much as the possible self induced malfunction while under extreme duress; which is the bigger issue as far as I’m concerned.

But beyond all of that; I shoot a lot. Probably much more than most, because I can shoot at home.
And I have found small autos to have more issues when used a lot. Things like mag catches wearing out, or small parts breakage due to using beyond what they were designed for. Many factors affect reliability other than feeding issues.
If I cant shoot a carry gun as much as I want or need to, then I’d rather have something that I can.

Your mileage may vary...
 
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Discussion Starter · #99 ·
If you worry about issue of mishandling the gun under stress, induce stress in training (think BUG match training on a timer.)

As far as mechanical issues, Everything in life is a trade off. If someone is willing to deal with the issues of carrying a medium sized gun (lets say G19 size, or for the wheelie guys, a 3"+ K-Frame equivalent) or bigger, then this thread is pretty moot. But there are a lot of people who can't or won't carry a gun, in at least some situations, that isn't small enough to be at least marginally pocketable, whether they pocket carry or not. These people then need to deal with the trade offs of small guns. As long as they understand what they are and deal with them, it's not a problem.

Im not concerned with the reliable mechanical functioning as much as the possible self induced malfunction while under extreme duress; which is the bigger issue as far as I’m concerned.

But beyond all of that; I shoot a lot. Probably much more than most, because I can shoot at home.
And I have found small autos to have more issues when used a lot. Things like mag catches wearing out, or small parts breakage due to using beyond what they were designed for. Many factors affect reliability other than feeding issues.
If I cant shoot a carry gun as much as I want or need to, then I’d rather have something that I can.

Your mileage may vary...
 

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If you worry about issue of mishandling the gun under stress, induce stress in training (think BUG match training on a timer.)

As far as mechanical issues, Everything in life is a trade off. If someone is willing to deal with the issues of carrying a medium sized gun (lets say G19 size, or for the wheelie guys, a 3"+ K-Frame equivalent) or bigger, then this thread is pretty moot. But there are a lot of people who can't or won't carry a gun, in at least some situations, that isn't small enough to be at least marginally pocketable, whether they pocket carry or not. These people then need to deal with the trade offs of small guns. As long as they understand what they are and deal with them, it's not a problem.
Yeah, you can try and simulate stress, but it is still not the same as rolling with someone when it’s real.
Not knocking training, but I think it’s important to understand the differer realities of both.

Not much more for me to state. I have expressed why I carry what I carry most of the time. I train continuously to that end several times a week.

In the end, everyone has to use their own minds, and experiences to formulate their own conclusions and therein, choices.
 
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