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Old 05-29-2020, 08:10 PM
38SPL HV 38SPL HV is offline
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Default Favorite factory standard velocity 38 Special ammunition

Although I shoot primarily reloads, my favorite factory 38 Special (standard velocity) ammunition is Remington’s 38 Special 158 gr RNL (both UMC and nickel cased versions). They are very accurate out of my 38 Special S&W J frames and do not lead up these short barrels. Importantly, these bullets are firmly crimped by Remington and will not jump crimp in S&W Airweights.

The 38 Special 158 gr RNL is still a very effective round, and I have confidence in its superb accuracy and reliability.

What is your favorite standard velocity factory 38 Special ammunition?

Last edited by 38SPL HV; 05-29-2020 at 09:04 PM.
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Old 05-29-2020, 08:20 PM
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I still like shooting round nose 158 grain lead .38 Special ammunition. I don't have a favorite factory load. I load 'em up over 4.8 grains of Unique and am happy.
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Old 05-29-2020, 08:32 PM
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For range use I generally prefer 130gr FMJ. Currently using PMC 132gr FMJ, but that's mostly because I've still got some boxes left from a case I bought a while back. I'm not particularly picky about practice ammo.

For self defense, my favorite standard pressure load was Federal 125gr Nyclads. Unfortunately, it went out of production a few years ago, after having been reintroduced from a rather long hiatus. Hopefully, they will return to production at some point in the near future. I still have a few 20-round boxes left.

I have been experimenting with some 148gr WC ammo as a possible standard pressure defense alternative to my preferred Speer SB-GDHP +P.

I tried some Sellier & Bellot, but got some crazy long vertical tears in the target at close range, about 5 yds. At first, I thought they might've been keyholing, but after mentioning it in another thread it was suggested it might have had more to do with the free-hanging nature of the targets. Jury's still out on that one.

Last week I ran about half-a-box of Fiocchi 148gr WC through my 642, and actually got good results with that load. Nice, clean holes even in free-hanging paper targets at 5 yds. I don't have a chronograph, but my guess is that the Fiocchi load might be at a higher velocity. Just a guess.

Both WC were easier to control in my 642s with PGS Hideout grips than +P loads.

For quite a few years I've been wanting to try Winchester's 130gr Defend JHP load, which is standard pressure. From what I've seen, it seems to offer acceptable performance in gel. However, every time I've gone looking for it, I could never find it. Oh, well.

I'm a fan of Buffalo Bore's 158gr LSWCHP standard pressure load, and I would not hesitate to carry it in my 642s if I couldn't find any SB-GDHP. In fact, I still have a partial box left. However, even though it's labeled as standard pressure, I pretty much consider it +P due to the velocities it generates. Similarly, I equate their +P loads with +P+ by other makers and treat them accordingly.

Last edited by ContinentalOp; 05-29-2020 at 08:33 PM.
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Old 05-29-2020, 09:00 PM
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The best price between 130gr FMJ Winchester , Remington and Fiocchi. Remington 125 gr +p performs well with 686 snub , Model 10 does better with 130 gr than 148 gr WC .
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Old 05-29-2020, 10:10 PM
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I've been reloading .38 Special since 1964. Although I've fired countless thousands of 158 grain .38 Special loads since then, I haven't bought a box of factory 158 grain ammo since the 1960's. At that time I usually chose W-W over Remington because I liked the yellow box and the Lubaloy bullets better! Not very scientific, but I think it's difficult to tell the difference in performance between different brands of this type of ammunition, especially when you throw in lot-to-lot variation and differences among revolvers.

Back in those days, my favorite carry load was the W-W 200 grain Super Police load. I liked the blunt RN bullet (similar to Lyman 358430). Now I carry the Speer 135 grain Gold Dot short barrel load. I still have the Model 37 that I bought new in 1965, but now carry a Model 342 PD that I bought in 2004.
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Old 05-29-2020, 10:42 PM
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Seems like all they sell for standard .38 Special fodder these days is the 130 grain fmj loads. They always proved to be feeble and inaccurate anytime I tried them. A pretty sorry and worthless load compared with 158 grain lead round nose or 158 grain lead semi-wadcutters handloaded to standard velocity performance levels in my opinion.
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Old 05-29-2020, 10:54 PM
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Sellier & Bellot 158gr FMJ truncated cone, SB38P
"38 SPECIAL – FMJ 158 GRS SB38P – Sellier & Bellot" 38 SPECIAL – FMJ 158 GRS SB38P – Sellier & Bellot

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Old 05-30-2020, 06:19 AM
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Like most who have posted I primarily shoot reloads, 158 grain lead bullets over 4.3 grains of WW 231. However in my Smith 642 snub I load 148 grain wadcutter ammo, either WW or Remington. I prefer these as they have the highest velocity of factory made wadcutter ammo.
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Old 05-30-2020, 06:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 38SPL HV View Post
Although I shoot primarily reloads, my favorite factory 38 Special (standard velocity) ammunition is Remington’s 38 Special 158 gr RNL (both UMC and nickel cased versions). They are very accurate out of my 38 Special S&W J frames and do not lead up these short barrels. Importantly, these bullets are firmly crimped by Remington and will not jump crimp in S&W Airweights.

The 38 Special 158 gr RNL is still a very effective round, and I have confidence in its superb accuracy and reliability.

What is your favorite standard velocity factory 38 Special ammunition?
Like you I roll my own loads for my J frame S/W air weight. I never by factory .38's . I have some load data for the .38 short barrel J's. They are a lot milder in the small, light framed guns. I also load the shot cartridges with #4 shot that works well.
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Old 05-30-2020, 06:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmcgilvray View Post
I still like shooting round nose 158 grain lead .38 Special ammunition. I don't have a favorite factory load. I load 'em up over 4.8 grains of Unique and am happy.
Like you, I load several different weights .Never buy factory for a long time. Last year I bought 2000 lead bullets around 147 gr. if I remember correctly. a few years back when the shortage was rageing, I found some FMJ bullets at Bass pro .They only had a few boxes but I didn't buy all them, thinking someone else may be needing some.
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Old 05-30-2020, 08:10 AM
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I still have about 500 or so Factory Remington 148 grain Wad Cutters that were made in the late 1960's (dark green box). The are powder-puff loads and very accurate! When they are gone - I also have a bunch of 158 grain RNL that I have to go through.
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Old 05-30-2020, 08:18 AM
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My preference: 148gr WC.
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Old 05-30-2020, 12:10 PM
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The 158gr LRN load can be enjoyable to shoot in the 38 and also quite accurate.

It also does well loaded with Trail Boss for my J frame snub nose revolver.

I agree that the Remington ammo is some good stuff but in these times, I will also pick up any 50 round box that is close to $14, for 38 special ammo.

Factory stuff is a good option if you don't load......
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Old 05-30-2020, 11:49 PM
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If you do load, it costs about six bucks / 50.
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Old 05-31-2020, 04:34 AM
kaaskop49 kaaskop49 is offline
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Anything I can get, 1000 round case preferred. I need a lot of .38 practice ammo, me being a J-hound and all... I've heard that the old military .38 FMJ ammo was a weak sister. I shoot Federal's version of that load and it seems pretty punchy.

The CCI Blazer LRN load used to be problematic: it would jam one Model 36 while another 36 swallowed all I fed it and begged for more. Modern mfg of this load has improved. Like everything else, .38 practice ammo is going up in price. Here in the valley, it's difficult to find a case price under $300. YMMV

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P.S. I agree with the OP: the R-P LRN service load is the gold standard.
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Old 05-31-2020, 10:27 AM
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38 special 158 LRN will usually outgroup the 158 SWC ammo . Bargain ammo that's accurate try the Magtech 158 RN . For paper punching , casual plinking , pests OK . To call the " Widowmaker " load effective or a Gold Standard is quite a reach in my book . Another plus is you can shoot a standard pressure lead bullet load in older pre war guns without putting undue stress / wear on older softer barrels .
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Old 05-31-2020, 11:39 AM
kaaskop49 kaaskop49 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boatbum101 View Post
38 special 158 LRN will usually outgroup the 158 SWC ammo . Bargain ammo that's accurate try the Magtech 158 RN . For paper punching , casual plinking , pests OK . To call the " Widowmaker " load effective or a Gold Standard is quite a reach in my book . Another plus is you can shoot a standard pressure lead bullet load in older pre war guns without putting undue stress / wear on older softer barrels .
You said it, partner! Paper punching, ...plinking, pests OK." For serious social use when a better option is available, of course not. It was also advantageous to have a clean burning load like the R-P LRN for LE practice and qualification. If you knew how many LEOs did not always clean their weapons back then... I speak from experience. Good shooting!

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Old 05-31-2020, 11:41 AM
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Default 38 SPL accuracy

As a previous PPC Open Revolver shooter and also Distinguished competitor our department issued Winchester Ranger Target 148 LWC and 158 LRN. The 148 was capable of 1" groups at 50 yards in my purpose built Tanaka and Davis guns. My Distinguished gun is a 1964, 6" K-38 capable 0f 2" groups at 50 yards with the 158 grn LRN.

I was able to duplicate these loads via reloading but only by using Winchester bullets and Federal Match Primers.

Not everyone needs "handspan" accuracy at 50 yards but it's nice to know you can!

These are hollow base bullets and are a hoot to shoot where there is high humidity. They leave a vapor trail from the muzzle to the target!

I get great accuracy using 130 grain RNFP at 800 fps to duplicate military specs. Of course we're not talking match accuracy here!

Smiles,

Last edited by jjfitch; 05-31-2020 at 11:42 AM. Reason: Syntax
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Old 05-31-2020, 04:52 PM
38SPL HV 38SPL HV is offline
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“To call the " Widowmaker " load effective or a Gold Standard is quite a reach in my book.”


....I never called it the “Gold Standard” but I bet Lee Harvey Oswald would attest in hell, that it was very effective! Even the lowly 22 short will stop a threat.

I wouldn’t feel inadequately armed with 38 Special 158 gr RNL rounds...but I use them for practice and for a historical appreciation when it was the time classic round of our great police.

Last edited by 38SPL HV; 05-31-2020 at 04:53 PM.
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