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  #1  
Old 12-06-2010, 10:38 AM
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Default Why wadcutters for self-defense?

I see a lot of references on the 'net, this forum included, where people specify that they use wadcutters in .38 Spec. in their revolvers for for self-defense. Why use wadcutters for SD? Just wondering.....

I do know that I can get off a second shot faster from my Model 37 Airweight when using 148 gr. wadcutters than when using 158 gr. loads.
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Old 12-06-2010, 10:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Triggernosis View Post
I see a lot of references on the 'net, this forum included, where people specify that they use wadcutters in .38 Spec. in their revolvers for for self-defense. Why use wadcutters for SD? Just wondering.....

I do know that I can get off a second shot faster from my Model 37 Airweight when using 148 gr. wadcutters than when using 158 gr. loads.
Wadcutters are always more accurate, for me, than any other ammo.
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Old 12-06-2010, 11:02 AM
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A hardcast wadcutter is preferred in underpenetrating mouse guns because it permanently cuts through flesh and bone, rather than temporarily just pushing it aside as FMJ does.

Here are a couple of wadcutter examples:

1. Most 380 ACP HP’s are not good penetrators and a hardened wadcutter can make up the difference with deeper penetration into the vitals.


************ 380 Auto / ACP ************

Buffalo Bore:
100-gr. Hardcast Flatnose Wadcutter Standard Pressure @ 910 fps in 2.75” barrel (Item #27E). Deep (Cutting) Penetrator. Use FMJ if you have feeding problems.

380 Auto Standard Pressure Pistol and Handgun Ammo


2. Same principle applies to the 38 Special, where in snubnose form, a heavier bullet or tougher hardcast wadcutter load might be needed to ensure adequate penetration.

Buffalo Bore Short Barrel:
* 150-gr. Standard Pressure Hardcast Wadcutter (20D) @ 868 fps in 2” barrel. For barrier penetration & protection in the mountains.

In short, hardcast wadcutters CUT a clear path during deep penetration into the vital areas from underpowered handguns.

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P.S. In lightweight 38 Special 2" barrels, standard pressure 158-gr. FBI loads can recoil less than +P loads with smaller projectiles. Example.........


Buffalo Bore Short Barrel:
** 158-gr. Standard Pressure Lead Semi-Wadcutter HP (20C) @ 854 fps in 2” barrel. Less recoil & similar velocity as Speer’s 135-gr. Gold Dot @ 860 fps in S&W J-frame and Ruger LCR.

Last edited by 147_Grain; 12-06-2010 at 11:04 AM.
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Old 12-06-2010, 11:03 AM
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If your favorite handgun load typically struggles to reach 10" - 12" of penetration into Gel, 4-Ply Denim, or Heavy Cloth, consider upgrading to a heavy duty bonded HP, hardcast wadcutter, or use FMJ.
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Old 12-06-2010, 11:03 AM
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They are accurate and supposedly cut a hole rather than bore one thru like a roundnose. My dad was on an auxillary police department (civil defense) in the late sixties, they carried wadcutters in their model 15's.
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Old 12-06-2010, 11:51 AM
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Nothing wrong with using full Wadcutters for SD. They are already expanded to full caliber and will do considerable damage to any bad guy who decides to step in from of one. As we all know shot placement is important so if you can shoot them well you are ahead of the game already.
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Old 12-06-2010, 12:00 PM
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Many years ago before te advent of the currently available expanding bullets a favorite for 38 Special "belly guns" was the 148 gr. LHBWC loaded with the cavity exposed and a gas check on the other end.
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Old 12-06-2010, 04:35 PM
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Generally when people say they use wadcutters for self defence they are not referring to the factory, mid-range match ammunition. They are talking about the bullet itself with it's full caliber, sharp shouldered meplat. Either a hard cast or soft cast/swaged bullet will work very well if driven at higher velocities. There is a disadvantage though if you have to reload as they can be difficult to load in a hurry.
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Old 12-06-2010, 04:47 PM
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What I'd really like to settle on is a load for my M-37 that I can tote with me on the farm for shooting varmints, rabbits, etc. and still use for S.D. purposes. Any recommendations?
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Old 12-06-2010, 05:22 PM
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I see a lot of ink regarding this question. For one shot stops get a baseball bat, aside from that it is all about shot placement. Get a round you can use accurately and practice often. Personally I use Buffalo Bore 158 grain HP +P in my 638 and practice as much as possible.
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Old 12-06-2010, 05:30 PM
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The standard pressure softcast 158-gr. FBI load and 150-gr. / 158-gr. hardcast wadcutters referenced by Jellybean and myself from Buffalo Bore are two great performing loads out of your 38 Special snubnose. +P loads in lightweight revolvers are much more difficult to control.

Any of the 110-gr. jacketed copper HP's from Barnes will also work. In my S&W J-frame, the Speer 135-gr. Short Barrel load had the most recoil of 7 loads tested in my two snubnose revolvers.


Buffalo Bore Short Barrel:
** 158-gr. Standard Pressure Lead Semi-Wadcutter HP (20C) @ 854 fps in 2” barrel. Less recoil & similar velocity as Speer’s 135-gr. Gold Dot @ 860 fps.

Buffalo Bore Short Barrel Low Flash 158-gr. FBI Load

* 150-gr. Standard Pressure Hardcast Wadcutter (20D) @ 868 fps in 2” barrel.

Buffalo Bore Short Barrel 150-gr. Hardcast Wadcutter


Other good choices are:

Double Tap:
** 110-gr. +P Barnes Tac-XP Copper Jacketed HP @ 1,125 fps in 1.875” barrel.
Double Tap 110-gr. +P Barnes Tac-XP

* 158-gr. +P Hardcast Semi-Wadcutter @ 900 fps in 1.875” barrel.
Double Tap 158-gr. +P Hardcast wadcutter

Corbon – Dakota Ammo:
** 110-gr. +P DPX [Barnes XPB] Copper HP (DPX38110-20)
See also: 38 Special: Hornady FTX vs. Speer 135-gr. Short Barrel vs. CorBon 110-gr. DPX

Speer Short Barrel Gold Dot:
* 135-gr. +P Gold Dot HP (23921) @ 860 fps. See also: Speer Short Barrel Ammo Website
Performance Tests of Speer Short Barrel 135-gr. +P
38 Special: Hornady FTX vs. Speer 135-gr. Short Barrel Gold Dot vs. CorBon 110-gr. DPX


Winchester Supreme Elite: Civilian version of bonded Ranger T
* 130-gr. +P Bonded PDX1 (S38PDB) @ 950 fps / 835 fps actual in snubnose

Winchester 130-gr. +P Bonded PDX1

Winchester White Box USA Brand: Low-Budget Load at Walmart – When That’s All You Can Find!
150-gr. Lead Round Nose (Q4196) @ 845 fps
130-gr. FMJ (Q4171) @ 800 fps
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Old 12-06-2010, 07:46 PM
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Thanks, guys. BTW, my M-37 has a 3" barrel - is that still considered a "snub"?
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Old 12-07-2010, 12:03 AM
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When I started in law enforcement in 1970, I saw a lot of older plain-clothes officers carrying airweight revolvers loaded with standard factory mid-range wadcutters.

They were not "gun people" and wanted a light weight gun with no recoil. I'm sure they would have carried a 32 S&W if the department would have let them.
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Old 12-07-2010, 01:03 PM
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To supplement what has already been said, some ammo that does well in longer barrels simply lacks sufficient velocity to reliably expand and to reliably penetrate far enough when shot from 2" barrels.

One such example is the well-regarded 158 gr +p lhp. Out of a true "snub" it often does not expand and does not penetrate all that well, and if the tip collapses in on itself, it is then a less effective semi-pointy-nosed round.

For this reason, many knowledgeable folks say shoot a bullet with a full .357 diameter shoulder that is more likely to penetrate sufficiently and make a better hole while doing so. A hard cast or jacketed bullet will maintain its sharp shoulder better than a soft lead bullet.

An additional issue when shooting hot rounds in an airweight 2" chief is blast, flash and recoil. Even if you can "handle the recoil," such rounds can limit accurate follow-up shots especially at night and with no hearing protection.

In your 3" barrel the 158 gr lhp +p should be satisfactory, but you may find the commotion caused when you fire one to be a more than you care for, especially in an airweight.

If so, try the Speer short barrel 135 gr +p (a bit unpleasant to shoot in my opinion), the Corbon DPX +p 110 gr. or a suitable wadcutter.

I have also read that Winchester 130 gr bonded +P JHP and Hornady 110 gr standard pressure and +P "Critical Defense" perform well in 2" barrel revolvers.
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Old 12-07-2010, 03:36 PM
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I don't plant to shoot +P in my 37.
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Old 12-07-2010, 03:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Triggernosis View Post
I don't plant to shoot +P in my 37.
Neither do I and hence my prior recommendation of two standard pressure loads that perform very well in Gel, 4-Ply Denim, and Heavy Cloth from snubnose 38's:

Buffalo Bore Short Barrel:
** 158-gr. Standard Pressure Lead Semi-Wadcutter HP (20C) @ 854 fps in 2” barrel. Less recoil & similar velocity as Speer’s 135-gr. Gold Dot @ 860 fps.

Buffalo Bore Short Barrel Low Flash 158-gr. FBI Load

* 150-gr. Standard Pressure Hardcast Wadcutter (20D) @ 868 fps in 2” barrel.

Buffalo Bore Short Barrel 150-gr. Hardcast Wadcutter
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Old 12-09-2010, 05:48 PM
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Question for 147 Grain and Jellybean

Have either of your experienced the bullet moving forward out of the case when shooting 158 g standard pressure in a lightweight revolver ?
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Old 12-09-2010, 06:46 PM
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No issues whatsoever with both BB standard pressure 158-gr. and 150-gr. loads in my S&W 637-CT (16.5-oz) and Ruger LCR (13.5-oz) snubnose revolvers that shoot to Point of Aim at 21'.

These two BB loads are toned down and made especially for short-barrel snubnose handguns and are hot like some of BB's other +P loads are.

Standard Pressure Short Barrel Low Flash Heavy .38 Special Pistol & Handgun Ammunition
Standard Pressure Short Barrel Low Flash Heavy .38 Special Pistol & Handgun Ammunition
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Old 12-09-2010, 07:02 PM
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accuracy, penetration, expansion..............148gr DEWC.... a good SD cartridge....especially for snub nose revolvers.
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Old 12-09-2010, 07:44 PM
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First Rule of Self Defense: Only the hits count. Second Rule: A hit with a low power caliber hurts a lot more than a miss with a high power one. Third Rule: Center of Mass hits hurt more than peripheral ones. Fourth Rule: If the first shop doesn't stop the enemy, try a second. And a third.
Fifth Rule: A low power handgun you can control in rapid fire is better than a high powered one you can't.
Perhaps because we associate the WC with Bullseye shooting we don't think of it for other purposes. Like our friends the 38 S&W and 32 S&W (or Colt) cartridges, not our first choice but as Elmer Keith said, it sure beats your fists.
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Old 12-09-2010, 08:13 PM
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thanks 147 Grain
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Old 12-10-2010, 12:20 PM
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My CCW J & K-frames are loaded with the first two out being 148gr WC and the rest being 158gr SWCHP+P rounds. I like the WC loads because I shoot them WAY better! (bad grammer!)
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Old 12-11-2010, 07:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by armadillo View Post
When I started in law enforcement in 1970, I saw a lot of older plain-clothes officers carrying airweight revolvers loaded with standard factory mid-range wadcutters.

They were not "gun people" and wanted a light weight gun with no recoil. I'm sure they would have carried a 32 S&W if the department would have let them.
I remember the same thing when I went on in 1971. One of our old guys shot an idiot with a knife at the auto desk one night during a squabble over an impounded vehicle. One of the officer's 148-grain wadcutters struck the suspect in the wrist and lodged there, failing to penetrate through and strike the suspect's chest.

Another of the officer's WC bullets barely made it into the suspect's lung after penetrating a heavy winter coat and the suspect's chest wall. The suspect turned and ran down the corridor to the central desk officer at the front door. He stood there rubbing his wrist and loudly demanding to see the sub-station OIC about his car. He wasn't aware he'd been shot in the chest until they got him to the ER.

Those 148-grain WC loads are the darlings of the gell-o shooters, for sure. But their popularity quickly evaporates among those who carry a snubbie for serious purposes. The 148-grain WC's duplicate the old black powder 150-grain .38 Long Colt load that the U.S. military attempted to use on the Moros during the Phillipine Insurrection. I think we all know how that turned out.

I'm not sure why anyone would choose something of that performance level when there are snubbie loads, like the 135-grain +P Gold Dot, that are proven performers with agencies like NYPD, LAPD and others.
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Old 12-16-2010, 08:19 PM
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Wadcutters may not be ideal for use in speed loaders, but they can certainly be the first-line cartridges already in the cylinder.

If you shoot all six and then need to reload, you may well want to go to something a little more potent anyway.
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Last edited by Jack Flash; 12-16-2010 at 08:22 PM.
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Old 12-17-2010, 06:23 PM
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Wouldn't trust wadcutter at std.vel. Have a good friend who's a vet. Ocassionally he'll have to put a steer down. One one animal he used target wadcutters to the cows forehead. After 2 rounds that failed to penetrate he had to resort to a centerfire rifle (only other gun he had with him).
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Old 12-18-2010, 08:13 AM
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In my opinion, NONE of the new whiz-bang bullets on the market today can hold a candle to the damage a wadcutter can do to flesh. After you see your first wadcutter hole in guts, you will always have a cylinder full of them at your disposal.
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Old 12-26-2010, 08:35 PM
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I read somewhere that wadcutters tend to tumble when the get into a body. Wheter or not it's true I don't know!
That said I think you should know that Federal is reintroducing the old "Chiefs Special" load the S&W pioneered a long while back! What it is, is a dead soft 125gr HP coated in nylon (hence the name "Nyclad") that does expand out of snubbies and was designed with airweights like your model 37 in mind.
I have used this load in my model 60 and 49 before realizing they'd take a little +P without turning to dust. But if I owned a 37 or any other airweight, I load it with these Nyclads!
For use on critters, either will do the job. Dale
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Old 12-29-2010, 03:17 PM
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Just ordered some Fiocchi .38sp 148gr WC from Bud's to play around with since I have been using mostly 130gr FMJ(Winchester/Remington) junk from Walmart for target shooting. Hope I bought a decent product since I have no experience with WC's. The price seemed right. I read a BB advertisement in which they said theirs would cause a hell of a wound but that was a 158gr WC.
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Old 12-29-2010, 03:48 PM
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I've been trying a Green Dot equivelent behind a 148 DBWC at about 700fps. The load is accurate but the recoil is harder than I expected from a WC.

Is a faster burning powder better for WC's when aiming for higher velocity - I guess 800-850fps is about the limit?

Racingsnake
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Old 12-29-2010, 07:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jellybean View Post
Generally when people say they use wadcutters for self defence they are not referring to the factory, mid-range match ammunition. They are talking about the bullet itself with it's full caliber, sharp shouldered meplat. Either a hard cast or soft cast/swaged bullet will work very well if driven at higher velocities. There is a disadvantage though if you have to reload as they can be difficult to load in a hurry.
True this. It's all about the meplat.

As far reloading, you could have other type of rounds in your speedloader.

Joe
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Old 12-30-2010, 09:49 AM
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I first heard of wc as a sd option for 38 Special in 1955 or 56. The only other common load was the rnl. There has been a lot of progress and now we have better options.

Regards,

Tam 3
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Old 12-30-2010, 10:10 AM
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Subscribed to a very informative thread.
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Old 02-05-2012, 07:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 10ring View Post
"the well-regarded 158 gr +p lhp. Out of a true "snub" it often does not expand and does not penetrate all that well"
Fast forwarding through 8 years of truth & denial, the Remington .38 LSWCHP +P from my 2" barrel revolver penetrated 12"-14" in bare gel with .58" expansion. In gel with 4 layers of denim it penetrated 11" to 12" with same expansion. It expanded every time in the bare gel and it expanded more times than not into the denim. On the rare occasion when it didn't expand after the denim it penetrated 16"-18" which is still ok. So with Hornady’s failure to fire’s and Speer claiming that their 38 +p 135 gr Short Barrel “EXCELS THROUGH FBI PROTOCOL TESTS” only because it does a penetration in bare gel of 11” and in IWBA Heavy Clothing [denim] of 13” I will stick with the LSWCHP's. They are ready to go right out of the barrel, no fuss, no muss, no worry. I got them in my 2" revolver and my 4" revolver.
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Old 02-05-2012, 10:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Odenthor View Post
and Speer claiming that their 38 +p 135 gr Short Barrel “EXCELS THROUGH FBI PROTOCOL TESTS” only because it does a penetration in bare gel of 11” and in IWBA Heavy Clothing [denim] of 13” I will stick with the LSWCHP's.
The claimed stats for the Speer GDHP seem virtually identical to the results you saw using the 158 LSWCHP. Why would that make you decide in favor of the LSWCHP?
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Old 02-06-2012, 11:03 AM
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The term "wad cutter load" usually refers to target loadings in the 38 sp. These are OK for farm pests, but not great for SD carry.

The same bullet when loaded to over 900 fps makes an excellent SD load, IMHO. It will have the same bark and recoil of any other full 38 sp load, but it will cut a better hole without the need for expansion.
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Old 02-17-2012, 12:22 AM
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Quote:
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The claimed stats for the Speer GDHP seem virtually identical to the results you saw using the 158 LSWCHP. Why would that make you decide in favor of the LSWCHP?
Eight reasons: [1]Using the Rem .38 LSWCHP +P, I don’t need 2 types of ammo, (one for my 4” barrel and one for my 2” barrel). [2]The Rem .38 LSWCHP +P is all soft lead with no copper jacket so in a Snubby I don’t have to worry about will it or won’t it open due to velocity. [3]SPLAT! that soft lead either opens up big and wide or even if it don't open it will flatten out bigger and wider than a failed copper HP will. [4]I don’t like being lied to; Speer says “Our 38 +p 135 gr Short Barrel EXCELS THROUGH FBI PROTOCOL TESTS”. Actually 11”of penetration in bare gel is 1” LESS than the FBI minimum so no “EXCELING” there and I would hardly call 13” penetration in the IWBA Heavy Clothing [denim] “EXCELING”. I called Speer and asked them: Why did it penetrated more in the denim test than it did in the bare gel test? Their answer was “because it failed to open up in the denim”. Huh! [5]The Rem .38 LSWCHP +P has a long successful track record, it was the first hollow point. [6]That big 158gr hunk of lead gets the job done. Several lesser reasons are, [7]The Speer .38 +p 135gr Short Barrel costs 40% – 50% more than the Rem .38 LSWCHP +P. [8]Even if somebody wants some Speer .38 +p 135gr Short Barrels, there has been none available for the last 3 months. Good luck
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Old 02-17-2012, 05:36 AM
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Back in the early 80's my buddy and I were shooting +P's out of our snubbies into a 50 gallon drum. They left nice holes in the drum and we were all happy. His dad came out with his .38 and promptly popped off a round that left a nasty gash the size of a thumb. As he walked away he mumbled "nice little holes boys, I prefer wadcutters". That really busted our chops and showed that the harder to shoot rounds may not be the best to use if you really want to stop a fight. One of life's lessons this man taught me.
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Old 02-24-2012, 11:45 AM
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Although it has been stated that the old FBI loads do not expand well from snubs,I've never personally seen any testing on it,but have seen some people shot with it.When we started using it in the seventies,it dropped several incorigible people post haste. Did so from 2 inch guns also.
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Old 02-24-2012, 05:07 PM
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As to reloading dificulties when using LSWC's-either with or without speed loaders, or moon clips, try chamfering the cylinder bores.
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Old 02-24-2012, 08:54 PM
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One of the best visual representations of what various bullet types do in ballistic gelatin can be viewed in slow motion at High Speed Video.

Solids in general are poor self defense rounds, they can work but they are far from the best choice. Watch the slow motion video of the .38 spl Federal wad cutter from a snub nose and compare it to the .380 solid round nose or the PMC JHP along with the 9x18 Silver bera JHP that fialed to expand. You will see essentially no difference in performance. Then compare it to the . 38 spl 135gr Gold Dot and the 110gr +P+ treasury load and any of the other JHP's in .380 acp, 9mm or .357 mag.

If you still think solid non expanding bullets are the way to go then so be it.

Last edited by Steve C; 02-24-2012 at 08:56 PM.
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:05 PM
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One of the best visual representations of what various bullet types do in ballistic gelatin can be viewed in slow motion at High Speed Video.

Solids in general are poor self defense rounds, they can work but they are far from the best choice. Watch the slow motion video of the .38 spl Federal wad cutter from a snub nose and compare it to the .380 solid round nose or the PMC JHP along with the 9x18 Silver bera JHP that fialed to expand. You will see essentially no difference in performance. Then compare it to the . 38 spl 135gr Gold Dot and the 110gr +P+ treasury load and any of the other JHP's in .380 acp, 9mm or .357 mag.

If you still think solid non expanding bullets are the way to go then so be it.

The primary reason for recommending the wadcutter is to increase the probability of effective shot placement. The best wonder bullet in the world will do us no good if we can't hit the target (and there is no doubt that some cannot hit the target using 135gr Gold Dots in an Airweight but they can using the wadcutter).
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:24 PM
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I'm wanting to try a box of Buffalo Bore's 150gr. wadcutter as a carry load in my M49 Bodyguard. I bought a "value-box" of UMC 125gr. JHP +P when I purchased the gun, but I"m definitely going to use another round for it after my CCW comes in.
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Old 02-24-2012, 11:14 PM
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It's a good idea to review the difference between 20% gelatin and 10% ordnance gelatin for testing. This can make a great deal of difference in testing results.
I'm all about modern designed hollow points.but the wadcutter has a role for sure ,and is effective due to it's cutting effect and penetration.

Last edited by Stu Honea; 02-24-2012 at 11:17 PM.
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Old 02-24-2012, 11:18 PM
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Wadcutters cut a nice clean hole through whatever they hit.
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Old 02-25-2012, 12:01 AM
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I'm wanting to try a box of Buffalo Bore's 150gr. wadcutter as a carry load in my M49 Bodyguard. I bought a "value-box" of UMC 125gr. JHP +P when I purchased the gun, but I"m definitely going to use another round for it after my CCW comes in.


Be forewarned that even the "standard pressure" Buffalo Bore ammo is very high recoil.

They offer a standard pressure 110gr Barnes load that I've got on order. I look forward to testing that one. Should have less recoil than the heavier loads they sell and the Barnes bullet is the best available in my opinion.
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Old 02-25-2012, 11:10 AM
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Be forewarned that even the "standard pressure" Buffalo Bore ammo is very high recoil.

They offer a standard pressure 110gr Barnes load that I've got on order. I look forward to testing that one. Should have less recoil than the heavier loads they sell and the Barnes bullet is the best available in my opinion.
Agree on the Barnes bullets.Every one I have tested has given great penetration and blossomed out like rose petals.
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Old 02-25-2012, 03:33 PM
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Be forewarned that even the "standard pressure" Buffalo Bore ammo is very high recoil.

They offer a standard pressure 110gr Barnes load that I've got on order. I look forward to testing that one. Should have less recoil than the heavier loads they sell and the Barnes bullet is the best available in my opinion.

I understand about recoil, but I"m also not going to be firing it out of an Airweight, either. Granted, a Bodyguard isn't an N-frame, but the extra weight should help a little bit.
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Old 03-09-2012, 12:35 AM
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Anyone use Hollow based wadcutters and load them upside down?
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Old 03-09-2012, 04:04 AM
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I've done it............and it worked, but you still had to get the bullet into a liquid medium for it to be a consistent expander. At one point I even glued BB's into the hollow to force expansion, it helped but the rounds weren't all that consistent. I shot them into waterlogged phone books, and the wound channels were shallow but still impressive, lots of evulsed "tissue".

I didn't have a snubby back then, so I was using a 4" 357 with seven grains of Bullseye.......pretty hot stuff. Loads as low as four grains still expanded, but not as violently. I still have the bullets somewhere...........

My current snubby load is the 110-grain Critical Defense in warmer weather, but if heavy clothing is likely to be involved I go back to the FBI load for better penetration. The intact slug was fired into denim-covered water jugs, the other two were recovered from wetpack after 5" of penetration.

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Old 03-09-2012, 05:54 AM
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So, you are a big believer in the Critical Defense? I have wanted to try the stuff....
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