Smith & Wesson Forum

Go Back   Smith & Wesson Forum > >


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 03-11-2017, 11:51 AM
Skydog67 Skydog67 is offline
Member
Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo  
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 29
Likes: 0
Liked 10 Times in 9 Posts
Default Please educate me on .38 snub ammo

I got a PC 642 about a week and a half ago...have not even had a chance to shoot it yet. But I've been spending a lot of time researching holsters and ammo, both on this forum and the rest of the internet. I'm looking for some help/advice with the ammo choices for EDC/self defense...and frankly, a lot of the advice I'm finding on the various forums and internet searches is inconsistent/contradictory...and therefore somewhat confusing to someone who is new to the .38 short barrel world. I've been carrying a 9mm for the past several years. So...here are my questions...

1) Is the increased recoil of the +P loads really worth it? Do they significantly improve the performance of the round enough to justify the increased recoil? I've read a lot of stuff that urges snub users - and especially users of the Airweight aluminum/alloy frames - to stay away from the +P loads...mostly because of recoil, control, and the ability to make quicker/better follow up shots. But then again, I've also read a lot of recommendations for using +P. I don't consider myself to be overly sensitive to recoil. I've shot plenty of +P 9mm ammo out of my Glock 43 (I have no idea if that is a valid comparison), but if I can get the same/similar performance out of a standard pressure .38, then why not use it and avoid the recoil of the +P. What say ye?

2) I've read a lot about the "FBI load". From what I understand this is pretty much any 158 gr +P lead semi wadcutter hollow point from Federal, Remington, Winchester, etc. Is that right? Some folks seem to swear by this and won't use anything else. Others say it is outdated and has been far surpassed by the more modern loads such as the Speer 135 gr +P Gold Dot hollow point especially made for short barrels. What say ye?

3) What's the deal with Buffalo Bore? Again, some folks love it, some folks hate it. Hard to find consistent info. I don't mind paying the premium price if it is really worth it.

4) As for cheap, practice ammo...are there any brands I should stay away from? Or will any of the usual suspects from Gander Mountain, Cabela's and Wal-mart be OK for punching paper?

And last but not least...can you please provide a few specific recommendations for EDC/SD, for both standard pressure and +P (since I am not sure which route I am going to go yet)? And also, a few alternates/back ups that will work if the preferred ones can't be found? Seems like some of the more popular loads can be difficult to find at times. So what are some reliable "go to" loads that are typically easier to find and can get you by until your preferred loads are available again?

Thank you in advance!

And by the way...I realize there is no right answer, and that the forums will always have varying opinions and the debates will continue. But for some reason it just seems like the info about .38 snub SD ammo is really all over the board - and very contradictory at times -even more so than with some of the other debates.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 03-11-2017, 12:16 PM
apollo99 apollo99 is offline
Member
Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo  
Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: ARIZONA
Posts: 543
Likes: 33
Liked 698 Times in 306 Posts
Default

There have been much improvements in bullet technology in the last few years, there are some ammo designed to expand at the lower speeds of the short barreled pistols and revolvers. I would be looking for that ammo or bullets if you reload, that are specifically designed for short barrels. As far as +P, I think the law of diminishing gains comes into play, a standard 38 load is good, a +P is a little better, if it takes .357 magnum rounds a little better yet. The problem is with the magnums and +P loads is the increase in recoil worth the small amount of gains in velocity. Try the standard 38 spl., than try the +P, if you can accurately make the follow up shots, than you are good to go.

Last edited by apollo99; 03-11-2017 at 12:17 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 03-11-2017, 01:01 PM
BC38's Avatar
BC38 BC38 is offline
Member
Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo  
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Spokane, WA
Posts: 4,282
Likes: 136
Liked 4,092 Times in 1,795 Posts
Default

1) Actual recoil is related to the power of the load. So more power equals more recoil. Physics is physics and it takes X amount of energy to accelerate Y amount of bullet mass to speed Z. The total recoil reaction (equal and opposite) to the same amount of power is going to be the same no matter how you change any or all of those variables. Perceived recoil is more subjective and is dependent on a multitude of factors. The weight of the gun, the height of the bore axis, the grips, how heavy the bullet is, how fast the powder is, and of course how much powder is used all enter into how much recoil you feel. Opinions on whether or not the extra recoil of +P ammo is "worth" it vary so much for all those reasons - plus the individual sensitivity to perceived recoil also varies from person to person. All that to say whether it is "worth it" or not is an individual opinion. The best way to make up your mind is to try some. Most people agree that it isn't worth the extra expense and extra wear and tear on your gun to shoot +P as regular practice ammo, but it may be worth it to carry and shoot a limited amount of it for use as self defense ammo. The key is to figure out whether YOU can shoot it well and see if YOU can handle the increased recoil and still get back on target quickly enough to make good follow up shots.

2) The old FBI load is still pretty good - if you can find it. General consensus by those that have tried it seems to be that the short barrel Speer 135gr load is about as good as it gets for a snub, but again, it can be hard to find (or so I've read - a lot).

3) Buffalo Bore is good ammo, but it is generally loaded really really HOT. Like at or even just above the pressure limits hot. Expect stout recoil, and excessive use will likely shorten the life of your revolver. However it is expensive so it is unlikely that most people will shoot enough of it to wear out their gun.

4) For general target practice any factory ammo will do. You don't need much power to punch holes in paper. However you do need to shoot enough rounds of your chosen SD ammo - or some ammo with the same bullet weight and similar power level - to get VERY comfortable with it. You have to get to know what to expect in terms of POA vs POI, and to have a good "feel" for how you shoot it in your gun.

As for specific recommendations, my recommendation would be to try a variety of ammo and figure out what you shoot well and make your decision on that basis. You need to do a fair amount of practice with your chosen EDC/SD gun anyway, so try a bunch of different brands, bullet weights, and power levels to find what works well for you in your gun. That is such an individual thing that nobody can tell you the "right" answer, though some will try. You really have to shoot the gun enough and try enough different ammo to discover the "best" one for you.

Last edited by BC38; 03-11-2017 at 11:18 PM.
Reply With Quote
The Following User Likes This Post:
  #4  
Old 03-11-2017, 02:13 PM
TAC TAC is offline
Member
Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo  
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: S.E. Michigan
Posts: 826
Likes: 274
Liked 484 Times in 256 Posts
Default

I use Remington Golden Saber, 125 GR BJHP. I've never heard one complaint!
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 03-11-2017, 03:32 PM
ContinentalOp's Avatar
ContinentalOp ContinentalOp is offline
Member
Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo  
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,718
Likes: 2,755
Liked 1,704 Times in 684 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skydog67 View Post
1) Is the increased recoil of the +P loads really worth it? Do they significantly improve the performance of the round enough to justify the increased recoil? I've read a lot of stuff that urges snub users - and especially users of the Airweight aluminum/alloy frames - to stay away from the +P loads...mostly because of recoil, control, and the ability to make quicker/better follow up shots. But then again, I've also read a lot of recommendations for using +P. I don't consider myself to be overly sensitive to recoil. I've shot plenty of +P 9mm ammo out of my Glock 43 (I have no idea if that is a valid comparison), but if I can get the same/similar performance out of a standard pressure .38, then why not use it and avoid the recoil of the +P. What say ye?
I would say in general +P probably won't affect service calibers in compact or full-size guns, but I think it does provide enough of a performance boost in .38 snubs to be worth it, presuming you can shoot it well. The only way to find out if +P is too much for you is to try it. There are some good standard pressure loads available, so if those meet your needs then they should be fine.

Another thing to consider is that the grips you use can have an effect on how well you can handle +P ammo. For example, I have a noticeably easier time controlling +P rounds in my 642 using Spegel boot grips than the factory rubber grips. This is another area where you'll likely have to experiment to find out what works for you.

Quote:
2) I've read a lot about the "FBI load". From what I understand this is pretty much any 158 gr +P lead semi wadcutter hollow point from Federal, Remington, Winchester, etc. Is that right? Some folks seem to swear by this and won't use anything else. Others say it is outdated and has been far surpassed by the more modern loads such as the Speer 135 gr +P Gold Dot hollow point especially made for short barrels. What say ye?
I would say the Speer Short-Barrel Gold Dot is probably the gold standard for snub .38 loads (pun intended ). It's had a good track record with NYPD, and I believe Chicago PD. It's what I carry in my 642. It does have some kick, but it's not too bad. It can be difficult to find, but keep in mind that it gets produced in 3-4 month cycles, IIRC. The best approach is to get on the e-mail list of a good online vendor (I like SG Ammo) for updates when they get them in stock.

My second choice is the FBI load. Some may say it's outdated, and to a certain extent it is when compared with modern loads. However, it established a very good track record in LE service for many years and I would not ignore that history.

Quote:
3) What's the deal with Buffalo Bore? Again, some folks love it, some folks hate it. Hard to find consistent info. I don't mind paying the premium price if it is really worth it.
I like Buffalo Bore, at least their standard pressure 158gr LSWCHP. It's my preferred FBI round. The thing to keep in mind is that they do load their rounds hot. The standard pressure version is generally at the same, or higher, velocity as the +P FBI loads from other makers. I've found it to be comparable to the Speer SBGDHP in terms of controllability, maybe even a little easier (the BB load is more of a push, while the Speer load is more of a snap, at least to me). Also, even though BB says it's a standard pressure load, I still treat it as +P.

I personally think it's worth the cost. While you still need to test your carry ammo for reliability in a revolver, it doesn't require as much as a semi-auto. What I did was put one box of BB ammo through my gun to make sure I could shoot it well and that it functioned reliably, then kept another box on hand for carry ammo.

Quote:
4) As for cheap, practice ammo...are there any brands I should stay away from? Or will any of the usual suspects from Gander Mountain, Cabela's and Wal-mart be OK for punching paper?
I don't think you have to be too picky with practice ammo. I do most of my shooting with PMC 132gr FMJ, as well as some Speer Lawman 158gr TMJ +P. I've never had any issues with them. I don't have experience with WWB, but in general I've heard it can be particularly dirty and I've seen reports of occasional reliability issues.

Quote:
And last but not least...can you please provide a few specific recommendations for EDC/SD, for both standard pressure and +P (since I am not sure which route I am going to go yet)? And also, a few alternates/back ups that will work if the preferred ones can't be found? Seems like some of the more popular loads can be difficult to find at times. So what are some reliable "go to" loads that are typically easier to find and can get you by until your preferred loads are available again?
As I said before, Speer SBGDHP is my first choice, with BB 158gr LSWCHP standard pressure being a close second. If I couldn't find either of those, I'd probably look for Winchester Ranger SXT 130gr JHP +P or PDX1 JHP +P (basically the same ammo, Ranger comes in the more economical 50-round boxes while PDX1 comes in 20-round boxes, if I'm not mistaken). The Remington FBI load is another good option. Federal and Winchester have made them in the past, but I don't know what their current availability is. Also, I believe the Remington version had the softest lead of the three major makers (BB's lead bullets are supposed to be fairly soft, and the reason they use gas checks). Softer lead gives the bullet a better chance for expansion.

For standard pressure loads I like Federal 125gr Nyclad, though I have not seen it offered for quite some time and I wonder if it's been discontinued (again). Winchester's 130gr Defend load seems to offer good performance, and would probably be my next choice for a standard pressure round. I believe Hornady offers some good options, but I have to admit I'm not that familiar with their product line.

My general philosophy with regard to self-defense ammo is to stick with medium- to heavyweight JHP as they seem to provide a good balance of penetration and expansion. In .38 Special I would consider that to be 125-158 grains. The lighter loads tend not to penetrate adequately, though there are exceptions. However, the most important factor is how well you can shoot them. The latest, greatest high performance JHP load isn't worth much if you can't get quick hits on target with it. If you can't shoot the heavier loads well, then the lighter loads may be a viable option. You'll just have to experiment to find out what works best for you.

Apologies for the novel. I do tend to get long-winded.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 03-12-2017, 12:53 AM
hostler hostler is offline
Member
Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo  
Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Southcentral PA
Posts: 247
Likes: 73
Liked 420 Times in 158 Posts
Default

Since you've been shooting 9mm, I'll put it to you in these terms, 38+P out of a 2" barrel is very close in ballistics to standard pressure 9mm. Standard 38 is just a .... hair better than a 380.
I carry +P in my J-frame, I feel that the added velocity aids in reliable expansion. I also use (almost extensively) anything with the XTP bullet.
This is just one man's opinion and should be taken such.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 03-13-2017, 04:40 AM
ArchAngelCD's Avatar
ArchAngelCD ArchAngelCD is offline
Member
Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo  
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Northeast PA, USA
Posts: 5,146
Likes: 254
Liked 1,578 Times in 973 Posts
Default

I shoot Speer 135gr SB .38 Special ammo in my M442 and the FBI Load in my M36 because it's most accurate in those revolvers.

You correctly described the FBI Load.

Most current ammo will do what it's designed to do so find the one that is most accurate in your revolver and practice. The best ammo in the world will do you no good unless you make accurate hits.
__________________
Freedom is never free!!
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 03-13-2017, 07:49 AM
Skeptic 9c's Avatar
Skeptic 9c Skeptic 9c is offline
Member
Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo  
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Northern Florida
Posts: 1,431
Likes: 2,463
Liked 5,193 Times in 834 Posts
Default

I use 130 gr ball ammo from any major mfg. for practice.
I carry Hornady low recoil .38 Special because my wife hits well with it in her M-38. If she has to use my M-638 we're good.
Geoff
Who notes any of the current SD ammo from major mfgs are good, the nitpickers are pole-vaulting over mouse turds discussing differences.
Reply With Quote
The Following 2 Users Like Post:
  #9  
Old 03-15-2017, 10:32 PM
Skydog67 Skydog67 is offline
Member
Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo  
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 29
Likes: 0
Liked 10 Times in 9 Posts
Default

Just wanted to say thank you to all who responded...this is very helpful information!
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 03-15-2017, 10:35 PM
Skydog67 Skydog67 is offline
Member
Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo  
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 29
Likes: 0
Liked 10 Times in 9 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by ContinentalOp View Post
Apologies for the novel. I do tend to get long-winded.
Haha..no apology necessary. I really appreciate the time and thought you put into it. Great information.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 03-16-2017, 07:57 PM
Brasso4 Brasso4 is offline
Member
Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo  
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Alabama
Posts: 60
Likes: 6
Liked 60 Times in 30 Posts
Default

Many people also like the Hornady 110gr Critical Defense load. It comes in standard and +p pressure.

This load (+p) hits POA in my 649 and recoil is not bad.
__________________
Qoheleth 12:13-14
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 03-16-2017, 08:06 PM
Cal44 Cal44 is offline
Member
Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo Please educate me on .38 snub ammo  
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Northern California
Posts: 2,403
Likes: 2,733
Liked 3,274 Times in 1,100 Posts
Default

Your new 642 can handle +p just fine. The caution against using +p in air weight guns applies to older models that were no rated for it.

I believe the LEOs on the board will agree that modern bonded bullets like Gold Dots are the way most police agencies go these days.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Snub nose ammo Cal44 Ammo 29 03-02-2015 10:19 PM
38 Defensive Ammo for Snub gto364cid Ammo 26 03-19-2011 08:18 PM
Please educate this newbie on 342PD ammo ltn2010 Ammo 1 11-26-2010 03:36 PM
.38 Snub Nose Ammo Ky Bob Ammo 22 05-04-2010 10:58 PM
Please Educate me on Ammo. CraigStill Smith & Wesson Semi-Auto Pistols 15 01-22-2009 07:57 PM

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3
smith-wessonforum.com tested by Norton Internet Security smith-wessonforum.com tested by McAfee Internet Security

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 05:08 AM.


S-W Forum, LLC 2000-2015
Smith-WessonForum.com is not affiliated with Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (NASDAQ Global Select: SWHC)