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Old 03-17-2017, 01:58 PM
el_bradfordo el_bradfordo is offline
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I'm sure this is been asked many times before, but it is sometimes hard to search through… and some of the threads are really old. What would you say is the best defensive round for a .38 snubnose? I have a 642 and it is rated for plus P. In a lot of my guns I use Hornady critical defense, but I wonder with the short barrel if I should be going for a heavier bullet

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Old 03-17-2017, 02:25 PM
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Speer designed the 135 grain, .38 +P Short Barrel ammo specifically for snub noses. (For the NYPD as I recall.)

Mas Ayoob has reported that police departments that have used it report very good results.

Bill
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Old 03-17-2017, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by CA Escapee View Post
Speer designed the 135 grain, .38 +P Short Barrel ammo specifically for snub noses. (For the NYPD as I recall.)

Mas Ayoob has reported that police departments that have used it report very good results.

Bill
Does it have another name without "short barrel" in it? Or is all of their 135 gr hollow points by default for short barrels? I've never seen any with "short barrel" in the name.
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Old 03-17-2017, 02:53 PM
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If you like the Critical Defense, use it. I've found it to be very accurate in my Centennials. I use the standard pressure 110gr version in my Airweights.
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Old 03-17-2017, 02:59 PM
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Thank you...and forgive my awkward phrasing in my first post. I was using talk to text and it didn't come out quite right haha
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Old 03-17-2017, 03:02 PM
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One of our members has experimented a lot with his snub Chiefs Special, and his data points to Buffalo Bore +P's. Don't remember exactly which, but he might come along with an answer. I'd guess the 158 gr. L.S.W.C.H.P.

Heavy 38 Special + P Pistol & Handgun Ammunition

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Old 03-17-2017, 03:04 PM
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When I carried my 640 Pro I had Speer LE 135 grain 38 HP's in it. I've seen boxes marked short barrel but never bought them since they had less rounds then the LE boxes. My 642 has been in the safe since I bought the 640 Pro but I did use the same round in it also.

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Old 03-17-2017, 03:18 PM
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I also saw that they make Hornady Custom FTX with a heavier bullet
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Old 03-17-2017, 03:41 PM
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Another vote for the Hornady "Critical Defense" in standard pressure 110gr...

...and though I'm not currently carrying it I have some Winchester "Ranger" 130gr +P on hand as well.
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Old 03-17-2017, 04:02 PM
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I'm guessing that the difference between any of the reputable defensive manufacturers is pretty minimal. I try to find a good +p load (the heavier the weight the better) that shoots to POA with my fixed-sight snubs. The 135s work pretty well. Right now I have 129 gr Hydra-Shoks in it. I think they'll do the trick if need be.

I truly believe we tend to over-analyze this a bit. But it's fun!
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Old 03-17-2017, 04:20 PM
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I know I over-analyze, but that's just my nature lol. I think I feel pretty good with any of the above
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Old 03-17-2017, 04:28 PM
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another vote for 110 critical defense standard pressure. Very controllable with excellent expansion and penetration.

I'm no rocket scientist but it's my understanding most +p loads don't burn fast enough in short barrels to utilize the additional pressure.
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Old 03-17-2017, 04:53 PM
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Those of you who are suggesting the standard pressure… Do you believe there is a detriment to using the plus P, or do you just believe you won't get much out of it? I don't think there's much if any difference in price
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Old 03-17-2017, 05:18 PM
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I use Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 38 Special +P 135 grain. It will be marked "Short Barrel" on the box. It is only available in 135 gr.
Speer does make a Gold Dot 38 Special +P for standard barrels but it only comes in 125 gr. The box is not marked "Short Barrel."

You can differentiate the two cartridges by sight. The Short Barrel has a hollow-point bullet that is divided into seven segments while the standard version is divided into six.
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Old 03-17-2017, 05:18 PM
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Additional recoil making it more difficult to get back on target and flash from barrel could cause a problem at night. Not worth it for me. I'm accurate with 110 critical defense and I know how the bullet expands so no use in adding potential issues with +p. For me at least..
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Old 03-17-2017, 06:03 PM
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Cor Bon DPX.
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Old 03-17-2017, 06:16 PM
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The Speer 135 grain loads were originally marked for short barrels. However, it is my understanding that boxes of more recent manufacture do not have that description printed. The understanding is that this ammunition is that which was originally marked for short barrels. Either way, I think it is a very good choice (among others) for use in snubby revolvers.

Another very good choice is the 158 grain LSWCHP (the original loading called the FBI load for the .38 Special). Recent manufactured ammo of this type is, I think, found only made by Remington and Winchester. This ammo is reported to be somewhat less powerful than the original loadings. Buffalo Bore does indeed make this ammunition in what they call Standard Loads as well as in +P Loading. Their website shows performance information for this ammo in several different barrel lengths and is stated to result from shooting the specific gun used to obtain the results. I think the standard load is fully the equal of the original loadings and perhaps a bit better. Buffalo Bore states emphatically that it is safe for any revolver chambered in .38 Special. In my experience, it is a great, if slightly expensive, and effective loading for the snub nosed revolver. It shoots to point of aim in my guns, but so does the Speer loads. I like both, but it's hard for me not to prefer that 158 grain lead bullet!
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Old 03-17-2017, 07:42 PM
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I have considerable experience with all of these loads.

Both the Buffalo Bore and the Remington editions of 158gr+P .38
Special LSWCHP seem to be optimal IME.

The Winchester version, however, is both quite dirty and very hard (the bullet, that is), so that expansion of the bullet is considerably less likely than with the softer lead alloy bullet examples from Remington and Buffalo Bore.

FWIW.
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Old 03-17-2017, 08:10 PM
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Every video on the WWW where people test the "FBI" load out of a snub the bullet FAILS to expand. Every time. Might as well use a full wad cutter round. In fact, it would probably perform better out of a snub.

The only two rounds that seem to perform reasonably well from a 2" or less barrel are:

Speer 135gr +p GD
Hornady 110gr +p FTX
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Old 03-17-2017, 08:15 PM
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Buffalo Bore for sure.

Buffalo Bore Ammunition | Strictly Big Bore - Strictly Business
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Old 03-17-2017, 08:18 PM
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Exclamation Western 38 Special 200 grain Lubaloy

I use Western 38 Special 200 grain Lubaloy...kind of hard to find it...not made anymore...awesome looking 200 grain bullet...was told it was used in certain sheriff's departments for its stopping power...
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Old 03-17-2017, 08:21 PM
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During my 30 year LEO days I had to use my duty weapon more than once. Our issued load was the 158 +P HP or FBI load and all I know is that it worked. My EDC is the M&P 340 and I have the Speer 135 grain in it now b/c I got a box in a recent trade.
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Old 03-17-2017, 08:30 PM
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I vote for the Speer Short Barrel 135 grain +p's. I like the fact that they feel to me like the 158 grain FMJ's that I practice with among other things, like expansion and penetration!

Another plus is that Doctor Gary K. Roberts recommends them!

Oh, and they seem to shoot to POA in all my .38 and .357 snubbies!

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Old 03-17-2017, 08:50 PM
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Quote:
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I use Western 38 Special 200 grain Lubaloy...kind of hard to find it...not made anymore...awesome looking 200 grain bullet...was told it was used in certain sheriff's departments for its stopping power...
Hahaha, great minds think alike!

I carry 1200 grains of lead in my old Detective Special. Why? Because I like them!

Also, if I pop off a round at someone by mistake, I can jog after the bullet and knock it down before it does any damage.

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Old 03-17-2017, 11:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by el_bradfordo View Post
Those of you who are suggesting the standard pressure… Do you believe there is a detriment to using the plus P, or do you just believe you won't get much out of it? I don't think there's much if any difference in price

Less recoil. Easier to control. Just as accurate. Probably a slight sacrifice in penetration but I'm ok with that.
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Old 03-18-2017, 12:01 AM
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I have two different ammo selections based on the gun. For my home defense gun, I have a 15-4 loaded with the Buffalo Bore 158 LSWCHP +p load. From a 4" barrel they are right at 1100fps with my model 15.

For a J frame I carry the 135+p Gold Dots that I found in a 50rd box at a local gun store. They are marked Law Enforcement but I think they're the same as the ones that come in the 20 round box.

It really goes down to what you want to shoot recoilwise and what the platform is. My Father-in-law has his model 15 stoked with 110 critical defense because he likes the silly light recoil, and both of us doubt anyone will enjoy being plugged with one of those.
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Old 03-18-2017, 01:12 AM
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I have the Buffalo Bore 158 gr. SWCHP+P loaded in my M-65 nightstand gun. These are loaded about 200 fps or so faster than the Federal, Winchester, Remington, etc. 158 gr. +P load. I tried shooting these in my 15 oz. 642, and it is a handful(i.e., don't count on any quick followup shots). I keep the Speer Gold Dot 135 gr. in summer, and Federal 158 gr. Nyclad SWCHP+P in winter for my 642.
Whatever load you want to carry, shoot a few cylinders to get a feel for the load.
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Old 03-18-2017, 01:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by revolver686 View Post
I use Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 38 Special +P 135 grain. It will be marked "Short Barrel" on the box. It is only available in 135 gr.
Speer does make a Gold Dot 38 Special +P for standard barrels but it only comes in 125 gr. The box is not marked "Short Barrel."

You can differentiate the two cartridges by sight. The Short Barrel has a hollow-point bullet that is divided into seven segments while the standard version is divided into six.
The boxes of Short Barrel ammo, regardless of caliber, will have a silhouette of a pistol and a revolver in the corner of the end flap, too.

Bill
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Old 03-19-2017, 12:28 AM
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Buffalo Bore also offers a standard pressure 158g SWCHP for use in guns not rated +P. Over my chronograph, out of the same 2" 640 that round matches exactly the velocity of Remington's +P load with the same bullet.

The Remington loads are unpleasant enough to shoot that I wouldn't want to carry the even hotter BB +Ps, and since the Remingtons are less than half the price, they're what I occasionally practice with, and what live in my daily carry 38s.
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Old 03-19-2017, 02:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S&WForty View Post
Does it have another name without "short barrel" in it? Or is all of their 135 gr hollow points by default for short barrels? I've never seen any with "short barrel" in the name.
The 135gr GDHP bullet was specifically designed to reliably expand at the lower velocities associated with short barrel revolvers. There is only one 135gr .357 GDHP bullet made by Speer and its used in both the short barrel .38 Special +P and .357 Magnum ammo. I think the number is 800 fps for that bullet.
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Old 03-19-2017, 01:04 PM
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Has anyone tried the new Ruger ARX 38 Special ammo? It's a standard pressure round that has low reciol and gets 12" to 13" penetration in ballistic gel. It uses hydrostatic pressure to get a good wound cavity. The video says it appears to be "barrier blind" inn penetration. See the video here.


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Old 03-19-2017, 05:36 PM
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I really appreciate all the input... a lot of food for thought
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Old 03-19-2017, 07:04 PM
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Gel results are definitely something to consider, but I prefer to choose rounds that have a good track record in actual shootings, too.

My first choice is the Speer 135gr SB-GDHP (all 135gr Gold Dots are the short-barrel version) and my second choice is the FBI load, with BB standard pressure being my preferred version.

There may be more modern loads available than the FBI load, and it may not perform ideally in gel, but I don't think one should ignore the long track record this type of load has made in LE.

If I couldn't find those loads, I would go with whatever modern, medium-to-heavy-weight HP with a good reputation for reliability I could find.

As far as +P versus standard pressure, I do think that +P can be worth it in .38 snubs. The caveats are that 1) the gun can handle it, and 2) the shooter can handle it. FWIW, even though BB says their FBI load is standard pressure, I treat it as +P because of the velocities it generates.
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Old 03-19-2017, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sigp220.45 View Post
Hahaha, great minds think alike!

I carry 1200 grains of lead in my old Detective Special. Why? Because I like them!

Also, if I pop off a round at someone by mistake, I can jog after the bullet and knock it down before it does any damage.

Pharman/Sig--This is what my dad carried in his 3 inch Md 36. You are taking me back. Rounds always reminded me of some black-powder load. He also liked the old 220 grain round nose in his 30-06. Have not seen those lately either.
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