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Old 09-15-2011, 08:50 AM
donniedee donniedee is offline
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Default 38s&w more powerful than a .380?

which would be a better carry round? out of these two? the 38s&w looks like a bigger thumper of the 2? thoughts? i plan on carrying a lil i frame 38s&w terrier as a back for the remainder of my carrier and will use off the shelf loads. heck i wouldnt wanna be shot with it. better that a flat rock?
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Old 09-15-2011, 09:16 AM
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The .38 S & W has really a dismal performance record, despite how many guns were chambered for it. The commercially available 146 grain lead bullets for the factory is around 750 fps whereas a 90 grain bullet from a .380 is about 1,000 fps. It's tough to say which is better because one weighs half of the other. Personally I would get a snubbie .38 Special and be done with it. .38 S & W could not be fired in .38 Special because of the bullet diameter difference. On a side note, Teddy Roosevelt was shot in the chest at point blank range with a .38 S & W and the bullet was slowed quite a bit, some say by his folded speech, others an eyeglass case. The bullet did get his chest, but Teddy finished the speech anyway. Not exactly the best in stopping power.
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Old 09-15-2011, 09:22 AM
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I've watched this argument go back and forth for decades. It really comes down to shot placement so whatever gun you shoot the best, go with that. Load it with modern self defense ammo, train and hope you never have to find out what the real answer is.
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Old 09-15-2011, 10:47 AM
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I do not think there is much practical difference between 380 ball and 38 S&W. There is what, 15ft lbs +/- between the two? 38 S&W probably does beat 32 ACP ball though, which a lot of people carry. I suspect that the lead projectile of the 38 S&W is more effective in soft tissue than either ball ctg though.
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Old 09-15-2011, 11:53 AM
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I have shot both rounds a lot over the years. I also reload for 38 S&W. I found that the Fiocchi 38 S&W FMJ has quite a bit more get up them the lead ball Remington you can buy off the shelf.

I have carried my Terrier and my Walther PPK/s. Both are comfortable, but I actually shoot the Terrier better then the Walther.

So, as has already been mentioned, carry the one you shoot best and hope you never have to use it.
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Old 09-15-2011, 01:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geneboy View Post
...Ball ammo is a bad choice for defense in any caliber
Ball isn't a bad choice in weak rounds. .380 HP, even the newer stuff, just don't work consistently. The best way to deal with the .380 is sell it and buy a much more effective little 9 or .38.
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Old 09-15-2011, 11:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geneboy View Post
MODERN AMMO, That is what makes the difference in the performance of the 38sp and the 380. I have clocked 125gr +P at 1250ftps out of my 4in 64, That is deadly in any circumstance. But for a really small auto for carry the 380 is PERFECT stoked with corbons. you would be well armed with either. Ball ammo is a bad choice for defense in any caliber
BUT, the OP is talking about the .38 S&W, not the .38 S&W Special.

The only way I would carry a .38 S&W is with ammo of my making, not with anything currently available form the factory manufacturers.
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Old 09-16-2011, 04:06 AM
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The best thing you can do with that Terrier is to trade it for an equivalent Chiefs Special. .38 S&W ammunition isn't commonly found and pretty well never is cheap. There is not much choice in bullet design (round nose lead versus round nose full metal jacket) or weight.

The .38 Special round of the Chiefs Special is perhaps the most widely available revolver round in the country. Huge number of bullet designs, weights and velocities to choose from. There are inexpensive loadings that allow you to shoot the gun regularly, and I believe that bullet placement will matter most if you ever need the gun for serious, so frequent practice is a good thing..

Plus, you can shoot .38 Special ammunition in your .357 Magnum.

While ANY gun is better than no gun in a crisis, the .38 S&W has pretty well reached the level of a hobbyist item these days. Nothing horribly wrong with it but there really hasn't been any ammunition development for it in 65 years or more. The last big leap forward was non-corrosive primers, which is nice, but doesn't matter at all in a gunfight.
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Old 09-16-2011, 06:34 PM
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I agree with "BUFF". If you don't reload where you can customize your load you would be better served with a .38 Special revolver.
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Old 09-16-2011, 06:52 PM
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Every off the shelf .38 SW I have seen is still the old failure lead round nose bullet. I would think if you could find some that had at least something like a flat round nose of some sort that might make a difference. If a SWC could be found for it then I would be much more at east with that. But again, I have never seen such ammo loaded in .38 SW. You could always try casting your own. I bet you could buy a cheap Lee two cavity mold, cast a pair of bullets, coat the mold cavity with a mild abrasive, drill the back of the two bullets to hold some screws, and use a drill bit to slowly spin them and check every so often until you get the desired cast diameter from them. It would take some work but the results might really be worth it in the long run. You could even sell the mold as being good for .361 or .362 diameter bullets after you cast enough of them for your needs. And reloading or casting equipment sells pretty well even used.
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Old 09-16-2011, 07:19 PM
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Barrel Length 4" - 4" - 4"

Caliber 380 Auto 380 Auto 38 S&W

Energy 100yds 146 - 130 - 125

Energy 50 165 - 160 - 135

Energy Muzz 191 - 190 - 150

Vel 100yd 868 - 785 - 620

Vel 50yds 920 - 865 - 650

Vel Muzzle 990 - 955 - 685

Wt grs 88hp - 95fmj - 146lrn
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Old 09-16-2011, 08:21 PM
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In the past I was issued a .380acp with PMC JHP ammo.
The test with this ammo was IMPRESSIVE!
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Old 05-11-2012, 05:38 PM
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I think it would be difficult, and too risky anyway, to try to load a .38 S&W up to modern 380 ACP self-defense ammo capability...especially now that there are +P 380 factory loads that can kick out 250 ft. lbs. or more of actual, measured, muzzle energy for use in guns that can withstand it.
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Old 05-12-2012, 04:38 AM
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You do realize the last answer this thread was 8 months ago, right?
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Old 05-12-2012, 09:56 AM
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Quote:
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You do realize the last answer this thread was 8 months ago, right?
Yes they are dated at the top. What's your point?
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Old 05-12-2012, 09:53 PM
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They make some darn good .380 rounds these days.. I'll go with that.
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Old 05-14-2012, 10:27 PM
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They do. I tried Buffalo Bore +P and got a solid, chonographed 229 ft. lbs. muzzle energy average from a 2.75 inch barrel. That's 52% more power than from my 5" barrel Webley Mark IV with 38 S&W 146 gr factory loads. If one could find the right bullets in .360" or about that size, and IF the cartridge case and gun would take the pressure, the 38 S&W could probably be loaded to almost 9mm levels because of its case capacity, but in reality, even if the cartridge case held together and didn't explode out the rear, the gun would probably explode.
Just mentioned for the sake of interest. I stumbled on this thread while looking for 380-200 load data for that same Webley .38.

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Old 05-15-2012, 01:46 AM
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No one has raised the issue of the autos' reliability. Berettas usually run well, but many other .380's don't.

I'd carry the .380 if reliable, and carry a spare magazine or two.

I much prefer the small .38 Special revolver. I've read Massad Ayoob's article about shooting pigs in a slaughterhouse with snub .38's and with .380's.

He found the lead HP PLus P .38 to be much more effective on living animals. Penetration was a factor in taking head shots and hitting the brains.
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Old 05-15-2012, 06:43 AM
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Penetration is an important factor. This rubber target was hit with a factory loaded 38 S&W at about 25 yards. While it probably isn't the best medium for testing bullet performance, I thought it was interesting!
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:04 AM
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Quote:
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No one has raised the issue of the autos' reliability. Berettas usually run well, but many other .380's don't...
True that. As for comparing the 38 S&W and the 380 ACP, I am assuming a reliable auto. If I'm carrying a small revolver, I much prefer the .38 Spl. to the S&W. But if carrying a reliable, very small pocket auto, the 380 is a pretty good choice these days, in my opinion.

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Penetration is an important factor. This rubber target was hit with a factory loaded 38 S&W at about 25 yards. While it probably isn't the best medium for testing bullet performance, I thought it was interesting!
I always like to say, "expansion is nice, but enough penetration is essential." Neither of these calibers are exceptional in this regard, but if I had to shoot through a car door or glass, I'd take the 380 FMJ +P and hope for the best.
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:38 AM
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There are several good older auto pistols out there in .380 like the old Colt 1903 design, some of the early Brownings, and I had an old Browning 1903 (bigger version of the Colt 1903) that was pretty reliable even though it was nearly 100 years old. As far as .38 S & W revolvers go I have had two and I did alot of testing before I did an article on the caliber for an article in Gun Digest. I had an old metal kids sled that was nothing more than cheap sheet metal, only one round even went through it and if I recall that was the faster Fiocchi. Most of the revolvers out there for it are the break open relics that were iffy at best for reliability, you can find a Smith Terrier but really for the price you might as well get a Smith 36 or other J frame snubbie.
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Old 05-15-2012, 03:51 PM
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A Terrier would be a very nice example of that old caliber. I'd love to have one but have been unable to find one locally, except once at a gun show for a pretty penny. As far as 380 goes, my LCP seems to eat anything I feed it.
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Old 11-15-2015, 04:27 AM
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Buffalo Bore puts out a .38 S&W that works well and places its perfromance in the early .38 S&W Special range. If you have a solid-frame .38 S&W revolver, you can load it with BB's ammunition. Place your shots well my friend, and you'll comeout well ahead of the .380 ACP.
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Old 11-15-2015, 03:24 PM
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I reload .38 S&W for my commercial Webley Mark III. I don't know the bore diameter for the Terrier, but my Mark III is .357. I load 158gr Match Missouri Bullet SWC that are .358 dia. Works just great. Remington match is .357 and Privi Partisan are .358. Both work well for me. I can't load hotter since it's a top break. I use Titegroup and W231.
Since the Terrier has a top strap, reloads may be the way to go since you may be able to exceed the factory ammo, and choose the bullet.
I have shot the Mark III a lot and certainly would not want to catch any.
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Old 03-08-2016, 09:01 AM
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i do my own loads same charge,from 38 spl in a 38 smith and wesson shell is so powerful ,i use magnum smokeless powder to reload. i do the old school for gunsmithing my colt positive never fail with my loads,still same power as 38 spl in a short shell 45 years in gunsmithing made parts by hand thank,s so much if somebody needs some helph Lionel
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Old 03-08-2016, 09:26 AM
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Since this thread started 5 years ago, Buffalo Bore has come out with a decent SD round. It does for 38S&W what Buffalo Bore's 32 S&W Long offerings did. Move it up from marginal for SD to reasonable.

The BB 38 S&W load has about the same muzzle energy as 380 acp, but there are many more good factory offerings in 380 acp.

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Old 03-08-2016, 01:43 PM
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Some threads don't die, they just fade away... and come back.

The thing I don't get is, all this talk about .38 S&W and so little talk about the .38-200 and the later 180 grain bullet and loads developed by the British to get a tumble effect. As far as under powered handgun rounds go, the big stupid slow rounds the British army used had one of the best track records of them all. If one had to use a .38 S&W for self defense, or chose it out of want, why not use the caliber's best loading? Lyman makes a mold for the 200 grainer, and if you reload, you could replicate it.

The .380 has an advantage in piercing solid barriers, like a car window in a car jacking self defense situation, but non expanding bullet to non expanding bullet, I think the .38 actually has the advantage otherwise.
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Old 03-08-2016, 05:23 PM
M E Morrison M E Morrison is offline
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Quote:
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Every off the shelf .38 SW I have seen is still the old failure lead round nose bullet. I would think if you could find some that had at least something like a flat round nose of some sort that might make a difference. If a SWC could be found for it then I would be much more at east with that. But again, I have never seen such ammo loaded in .38 SW. You could always try casting your own. I bet you could buy a cheap Lee two cavity mold, cast a pair of bullets, coat the mold cavity with a mild abrasive, drill the back of the two bullets to hold some screws, and use a drill bit to slowly spin them and check every so often until you get the desired cast diameter from them. It would take some work but the results might really be worth it in the long run. You could even sell the mold as being good for .361 or .362 diameter bullets after you cast enough of them for your needs. And reloading or casting equipment sells pretty well even used.

Then you need to look at Buffalo Bore ammo. They have a flat nose/SWC round at 1000 FPS, IIRC.
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Old 03-08-2016, 05:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Powder Burns View Post
They do. I tried Buffalo Bore +P and got a solid, chonographed 229 ft. lbs. muzzle energy average from a 2.75 inch barrel. That's 52% more power than from my 5" barrel Webley Mark IV with 38 S&W 146 gr factory loads. If one could find the right bullets in .360" or about that size, and IF the cartridge case and gun would take the pressure, the 38 S&W could probably be loaded to almost 9mm levels because of its case capacity, but in reality, even if the cartridge case held together and didn't explode out the rear, the gun would probably explode.
Just mentioned for the sake of interest. I stumbled on this thread while looking for 380-200 load data for that same Webley .38.

Where did you ever get such a wild idea? It's obvious you know very little about firearms, so please educate yourself to avoid future embarrassment.
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Old 03-08-2016, 05:42 PM
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Well, since nobody has mentioned it, in this zombie thread, a Terrier is 5 shots, I have a Grendel P-10 .380, which has a blind magazine, so reloading would be sketchy at best in a defensive situation, but it holds 10 rounds, and has gone bang every time I've pulled the trigger on it. Even after it sat for over 5 years, fully loaded.
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Old 03-08-2016, 05:43 PM
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Beating on an Old Old thread here. A handloader using a more modern solid frame revolver, not a top break, can duplicate .38 Special ballistics in the .38 S&W safely. Factory .38 S&W loads (except for BB) are anemic because of the many thousands of weak old break-top revolvers from the black powder era still around. I think BB warns against using their heavy loadings in top break revolvers.

There is absolutely no doubt that a heavily loaded .38 S&W is ballistically superior to any .380. Everyone seems to think that 0.360"-0.361" bullets are necessary when reloading for the .38 S&W, but that is absolutely false. .357-.358 lead bullets will work fine, I have fired thousands of them. In fact, the SAAMI minimum bullet diameter specification for the .38 S&W is 0.355"
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Old 03-08-2016, 05:48 PM
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My question concerning the .38 S&W is what is the bore diameter specified in manufacturing? I've shot .355, .358 and .361 through my Victory, and they all seem to do equally well as stated above.
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Old 03-08-2016, 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by fkienast View Post
My question concerning the .38 S&W is what is the bore diameter specified in manufacturing? I've shot .355, .358 and .361 through my Victory, and they all seem to do equally well as stated above.
The modern SAAMI spec (which really does not mean much regarding old revolvers) for bore (land) diameter is .350+.004" and groove diameter is .359+.004". SAAMI bullet diameter spec is .355-.361"

Last edited by DWalt; 03-08-2016 at 06:00 PM.
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Old 03-08-2016, 10:05 PM
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Thanks for the information. I been wondering if Victory barrels in both .38 Special and .38 S&W were the same specifications.
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Old 03-10-2016, 02:22 AM
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Since I discovered that Wild Bill Hickok had no problem with his 51 Navies taking care of business, I quit worrying about the effectiveness of lead bullets in cartridges that produce similar ballistics.
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Old 03-10-2016, 05:41 AM
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I own one of the Colt Official Police in 38/200 that was made under contract for the British in 1940/41. Good solid Colt OP revolver in very good condition. I feel confident that it could handle more powerful loads with ease. However I have no intention of subjecting the OP to that. I've fired a few dozen 146 grain LRN loads through it since I brought it home last summer. I have a modern Glock 19 and a Model 49 bodyguard for my real world applications.
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Old 03-10-2016, 10:59 AM
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i do my own loads same charge,from 38 spl in a 38 smith and wesson shell is so powerful ,i use magnum smokeless powder to reload. i do the old school for gunsmithing my colt positive never fail with my loads,still same power as 38 spl in a short shell 45 years in gunsmithing made parts by hand thank,s so much if somebody needs some helph Lionel
You brought back a very old thread then gave an incorrect answer. The OP in 2011 was asking about the 38 S&W, not the 38 S&W Special. It's also not a good idea to use "magnum" powders in a .38 Special because of the danger of going over pressure and possibly causing injury to those around you. If you want magnum velocities shoot a .357 Magnum.

That poor Colt, such a nice .38 S&W...
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Old 03-10-2016, 04:40 PM
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38s&w more powerful than a .380?

None of the above. Neither is powerful.
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Old 03-10-2016, 06:25 PM
M E Morrison M E Morrison is offline
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38s&w more powerful than a .380?

None of the above. Neither is powerful.

That wasn't one of the options - it's a relative thing.....
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Old 05-31-2016, 09:00 PM
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I shot alot of 38sw in Webleys using a158swc with 2.7 grs of red for a average of near 800fps out of the 5" barrel. This is way more powerful than a 380. The only 380 Load that came close on Penetration was S and B fmj ball ammo. HP is a waste in the 380 or 38sw. You need at least 1000+ fps to open a hollow point and the way they get is to reduce bullet weight and this reduces the chances of hitting vitals. So hp is useless in 380. The 158swc lead bullet hauls the mail!!

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Old 05-31-2016, 09:09 PM
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I shot alot of 38sw in Webleys using a158swc with 2.7 grs of red for a average of near 800fps out of the 5" barrel. This is way more powerful than a 380. The only 380 Load that came close on Penetration was S and B fmj ball ammo. HP is a waste in the 380 or 38sw. You need at least 1000+ fps to open a hollow point and the way they get is to reduce bullet weight and this reduces the chances of hitting vitals. So hp is useless in 380. The 158swc lead bullet hauls the mail!!

That's not 100% true - the 45 ACP manages to get expansion out of 230 gr bullets.
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Old 06-03-2016, 04:47 AM
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I bet that donniedee, the OP of this resurrected thread, has retired from law enforcement since he first posted this.

I have. I think jimmyj has, too!

Last edited by BUFF; 06-03-2016 at 04:48 AM.
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