38 special target loads

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Thread: Favorite 38 special target load?

  • 03-22-2010, 09:36 PM#1

    Cheshire Dave is offline
    Boolit Buddy Cheshire Dave's Avatar

    Favorite 38 special target load?

    I just got a mint late 70's vintage S&W model 14-3 k frame with 8 3/8" barrel and would like to know your favorite loads. I've allready got a RCBS 162swc gc. and a Lyman 358477 on the way. Just traded off a RCBS wc mould,wish now I'd kept it. Want to keep it mild and cheap to shoot so plain base prefered. Thanks for the help.

  • 03-22-2010, 09:59 PM#2

    shooting on a shoestring is offline
    Boolit Master

    Ahh, nice piece. Congrats.

    You have some good boolit moulds as well.

    My favorite .38 spl loads are 3.5 grains Bullseye, any standard primer, any boolit from 140 to 175 gr, wadcutter, SWC whatever. They all seem to go into little bitty groups from either of my K-frames. No leading, no fuss, just cute little groups. A blast to plink .5L water bottles at 50 yds, a bit challenging at 100.

    Enjoy yours.

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  • 03-23-2010, 06:29 AM#3

    Southern Son is offline
    Boolit Master

    5.4gr of AP-70N (I think that is Universal over there) under a 120Gr flat point (it is a +P, but I use to use it for a match that needed a power factor).


  • 03-23-2010, 06:54 AM#4

    NickSS is offline
    Boolit Master

    I shoot a Lyman 150 gr PBSWC over 3.5 gr of Red Dot for years and years with excellent results in a great number of 38s including K frame S&Ws

  • 03-23-2010, 10:44 AM#5

    Wayne Dobbs is offline
    Boolit Buddy

    Cheshire Dave,

    It's really hard to find a BAD standard pressure .38 Special load, assuming the gun is in good shape and the bullets fit the cylinder throats and bore. Here are some suggestions:

    3.0 Clays; 158 grain cast or swaged bullet
    3.0 - 3.5 Bullseye; "
    4.0 - 4.5 WW 231/HP-38; "

  • 03-23-2010, 12:01 PM#6

    I have a 14-3 6" that does it's best work with a H&G 158 rn and 4.2 of Bullseye which gives about 900 fps. It really does well with just about anything, IF you have a good one they are not fussy.

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  • 03-23-2010, 12:34 PM#7

    Dframe is offline
    Boolit Master

    Cast 158 grain bullet and 3.0 to 3.5 grains of Trail Boss. Mild and fun!

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  • 03-23-2010, 07:51 PM#8

    MT Gianni is offline
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    5.4 gr Unique is over the current handbooks but a previous listing by Lyman with the 358477. My Mod 14 loves it.

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  • 03-23-2010, 08:46 PM#9

    Cheshire Dave is offline
    Boolit Buddy Cheshire Dave's Avatar

    Thanks guys. I don't think this Smith is going to be fussy. I had some commercial cast 158 swc's loaded with both Tite-group and WW231 and both loads shot well. I think with a softer alloy and sized to fit my gun I can do better. Just thought there might be a go to load. I'll have to give Bullseye a try. Finally was able to stock up on Unique so will give that a try also.

  • 03-23-2010, 10:12 PM#10

    shooting on a shoestring is offline
    Boolit Master

    Whoa, "commercial cast" now thats a red flag in my book. I suppose there could be good stories out there about commercial cast, but I haven't heard any.

    "Time and money don't do you a bit of good until you spend them." - My Dad

  • 03-23-2010, 10:51 PM#11

    QuoteOriginally Posted by shooting on a shoestringView Post

    Whoa, "commercial cast" now thats a red flag in my book. I suppose there could be good stories out there about commercial cast, but I haven't heard any.

    Uhmmmm...over the years, I've shot more'n a few (thousand!) commercial 148 gr WCs through both my 6" K-38 and my old M586 PPC gun...not counting the ones that went downrange from the wife's 4" Diamondback... and can't recall a single issue with accuracy or leading. Unfortunately, my source retired several years ago and the guy who bought him out promptly screwed the business into the ground.

    I'm down to less than 1000 loaded WCs and, two unopened 500-rounds cartons of ready-to-load boolits. Guess I'll have to either go the 147 gr. RNs for plinker/practice loads or start casting my own WCs again.


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  • 03-23-2010, 11:44 PM#12

    Le Loup Solitaire is offline
    Boolit Master

    38 special target

    For the S&W M52...H&G 251 with 2.6 grains of 700X. For the S&W M14's,6 and 8+3/8....same bullet or H&G #50 (also 148 grains) with 2.7 grains Bullseye. Very light recoil, minimal smoke, no leading and good accuracy at 25 and 50 meters. Also groups well out of two M 28's. There are many other possible powder/bullet combinations, but these have done very well for me so I stuck with them. LLS

  • 03-24-2010, 12:15 AM#13

    wistlepig1 is offline
    Boolit Master wistlepig1's Avatar
    QuoteOriginally Posted by MT GianniView Post

    5.4 gr Unique is over the current handbooks but a previous listing by Lyman with the 358477. My Mod 14 loves it.

    This is the same one I shoot in my 27-2, 8 3/8 n-frame all day long with nice results. I was playing around at 100 yds with this load from the bench and hitting an 8x11 target every time, for an old man with old eyes, not bad.

  • 03-24-2010, 12:26 AM#14

    358477 is a great design, I have the 150 gr version. I like and use 3.0 Clays, just because
    I won an 8 lb bottle of it. Good clean powder for this cartridge. Bullseye and Unique, and
    W231 also are excellent.

    The Model 14 is a wonderful, accurate pistol - you'll love it.


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  • 03-24-2010, 09:22 PM#15

    Firebricker is offline
    Boolit Master

    2.8 gr of bullseye under H&G double ended WC.

  • 03-24-2010, 09:38 PM#16

    Cowboy T is offline
    Boolit Master Cowboy T's Avatar
    Here's my powder-puff load for .38 Spl. My g/f likes this load a lot, since it doesn't kill her hand.

    Boolit: "105gr" Lee LSWC (actual weight 108-110gr), cast from WW, sized to 0.358"
    Lube: Liquid Alox
    Powder: Bullseye, 3.9 to 4.0gr
    Primer: Any small pistol, makes no real difference at this level
    Crimp: light roll crimp, right in the crimp groove

    Tested in Ruger Security-Six, Taurus Model 75, and S&W Model 19. Shoots fine in all of them, very mild, but still sounds "manly enough" at the range. If you want that little bit of extra accuracy, bump the powder up to 4.2gr.

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  • 03-24-2010, 10:44 PM#17

    For general plinking I like a 158 SWC (mine is a SAECO #382) over 4.2 grains of Universal Clays. For a pure target load I use the Speer 148 HBWC with 2.8 grs of Bullseye.

  • 03-25-2010, 10:13 AM#18

    Archer is offline
    Boolit Buddy

    I use a Lee TLSWC 158 gr. in front of 3 grs, 3.5 grs of bullseye, or 4.7 grs of Unique all with good results in a Taurus 66 357 6" barrel, and a Taurus 85 38spl +p. Puts them plumb center, if I do my part.

  • 03-26-2010, 11:37 AM#19

    Glen is offline
    Boolit Master Glen's Avatar

    My favorite plinking/general purpose .38 Special load is at 150 grain cast SWC (either the RCBS or the old 150-grain version of the Lyman 358477, not the newer version that weighs 158 grains) over 5.4 grains of Unique, for about 950 fps. VERY accurate and it does everything you can reasonably ask a .38 Special to do.

    My favorite varmint load for the .38 Special is the 154 grain Keith HP (358439) cast to a BHN of about 8, loaded over 8.5 grains of HS-7, for about 1050 fps and very good accuracy.

    That long barreled Model 14 you got is a very special sixgun. Enjoy shooting it!

  • 03-26-2010, 05:44 PM#20

    jeff423 is offline
    Boolit Buddy jeff423's Avatar

    2.8 gr of bullseye under H&G double ended WC.

    Amen to this load. I have used 2.7 - 2.8 gr Bullseye with HBWC's, DEWC's and BNWC's and they have all been accurate. I've standardized on the DEWC's because they are easier to load.


    Last edited by jeff423; 03-27-2010 at 11:07 PM.

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    Bullseye is a fast, versatile powder and is consistent, but isn't very clean at low pressures. I used to use Bullseye, and have loaded thousands of rounds in a half dozen calibers, but switched to Unique and won't be going back. Unique is a little slower and seems to be a little more friendly with cast bullets. It is very clean and cnsistent, good for moderate and light loads. I use 4gr under a 158gr Rainier flat point, nice mid range practice load that runs clean, no lead and very little powder fouling. I can clean a revolver spotless in 10 minutes with a bore brush, some CLP and a lead wipe no matter how many rounds I fired, or how many times I didn't clean the gun after previous range trips. The load is very accurate and velocities are actually more consistent than bullseye. I like flat point plated bullets better than SWC, they load easier, especially with speed loaders and moon clips, punch clean holes just like a SWC, are plenty accurate, the bullet is softer than cast, so it takes rifling and seals the bore well, but the plating makes it more forgiving of hot loads, and eliminates leading, they don't build up copper much either, the plating being softer than a jacket, they are almost as cheap as decent cast bullets too.

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    Reloading 101: Lee Classic Turret Press 38 Special Target Load with 158gr Lead Bullets.mts

    Smith & Wesson introduced .38 Special ammo back in 1898 to feed their new revolver, which the U.S. military adopted for their standard issued sidearm. Like most firearm products, the military handgun and cartridge became popular among civilian shooters and police. Although the military rarely uses revolvers nowadays, they're still extremely popular in the civilian world, especially for concealed carry.

    Today, .38 Special is one of the most common revolver cartridges available. Part of the reason is that early popularity and a nearly 70-year preference by police, but another reason is its size. The 38 Special bullet is actually .357 caliber, so it's very common for gun makers to chamber their revolvers up for the more powerful .357 Magnum. Constructing a handgun for the heavier load will ensure the less expensive 38 Special round works just fine for target practice. However, revolvers designed only for 38 Special ammo will not fire .357 Mag loads.

    Find .38 Special ammo by major handgun ammo brands like Remington, Winchester, and more on OpticsPlanet. The cartridge is available in a variety of grains, loads, and bullet tips. If you're unsure about what you need, check out our guide on How to Buy Ammo and then get a box today!

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    Special target loads 38

    .38 Special

    Revolver cartridge designed by Smith & Wesson (S&W)

    This article is about the firearms cartridge. For the band, see 38 Special (band).

    .38 Special
    38 Special - FMJ - SB - 1.jpg

    .38 Special cartridge

    Place of originUnited States
    DesignerSmith & Wesson
    ManufacturerSmith & Wesson
    Parent case.38 Long Colt
    Case typeRimmed, straight
    Bullet diameter.357 in (9.1 mm)
    Neck diameter.379 in (9.6 mm)
    Base diameter.379 in (9.6 mm)
    Rim diameter.44 in (11 mm)
    Rim thickness.058 in (1.5 mm)
    Case length1.155 in (29.3 mm)
    Overall length1.550 in (39.4 mm)
    Case capacity23.4 gr H2O (1.52 cm3)
    Primer typeSmall pistol
    Maximum pressure17,500 psi (121 MPa)
    Bullet mass/typeVelocityEnergy
    9.53 g (147 gr) Cor-Bon FMJ900 ft/s (270 m/s)264 ft⋅lbf (358 J)
    8.1 g (125 gr) Hornady JHP900 ft/s (270 m/s)225 ft⋅lbf (305 J)
    8.1 g (125 gr) Underwood FMJ +P1,000 ft/s (300 m/s)278 ft⋅lbf (377 J)
    10.24 g (158 gr) Grizzly JHP +P975 ft/s (297 m/s)333 ft⋅lbf (451 J)
    6.48 g (100 gr) Cor-bon PB +P1,150 ft/s (350 m/s)294 ft⋅lbf (399 J)
    Test barrel length: 4 in (vented)
    Source(s): [1][2][3][4][5]

    The .38 Special, also commonly known as .38 S&W Special (not to be confused with .38 S&W), .38 Smith & Wesson Special, .38 Spl, .38 Spc, (pronounced "thirty-eight special"), or 9x29mmR is a rimmed, centerfirecartridge designed by Smith & Wesson.

    The .38 Special is most commonly used in revolvers, but also finds use in semi-automatic pistols and carbines.

    The .38 Special was the standard service cartridge for the majority of United States police departments from the 1920s to the 1990s. It was also a common sidearm cartridge used by United States military personnel in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In other parts of the world, it is known by its metric designation of 9×29.5mmR[6] or 9.1×29mmR.[7]

    Known for its accuracy and manageable recoil, the .38 Special remains one of the most popular revolver cartridges in the world[8] more than a century after its introduction. It is used recreationally for target shooting, formal target competition, personal defense, and small-game hunting.


    First model M&P revolver designed in 1899 for the .38 Special cartridge. This particular revolver left the factory in 1900.

    The .38 Special was designed and entered production in 1898 as an improvement over the .38 Long Colt which, as a military service cartridge, was found to have inadequate stopping power against the charges of Filipino Muslim warriors during the Philippine–American War.[9] Upon its introduction, the .38 Special was originally loaded with black powder, but the cartridge's popularity caused manufacturers to offer smokeless powder loadings within a year of its introduction.

    Despite its name, the caliber of the .38 Special cartridge is actually .357 inches (36 caliber/9.07 mm), with the ".38" referring to the approximate diameter of the loaded brass case. This came about because the original .38-caliber cartridge, the .38 Short Colt, was designed for use in converted .36-caliber cap-and-ball Navy revolvers, which had untapered cylindrical firing chambers of approximately 0.374-inch (9.5 mm) diameter that required heeled bullets, the exposed portion of which was the same diameter as the cartridge case.

    Except for case length, the .38 Special is identical to the .38 Short Colt, .38 Long Colt, and .357 Magnum. This nearly identical nature of the three rounds allows a .38 Special round to be safely fired in revolvers chambered for .357 Magnum. It also allows .38 Short Colt and .38 Long Colt rounds to be safely fired in revolvers chambered for .38 Special. Thus the .38 Special round and revolvers chambered for it have a unique versatility. However, the longer and more powerful .357 Magnum cartridge will usually not chamber and fire in weapons rated specifically for .38 Special (e.g., all versions of the Smith & Wesson Model 10), which are not designed for the greatly increased pressure of the magnum rounds. Both .38 Special and .357 Magnum will chamber in Colt New Army revolvers in .38 Long Colt due to their straight walled chambers, but this should not be done under any circumstances, due to dangerous pressure levels up to three times what the New Army is designed to withstand.


    The .38 Special was designed and produced in 1898 to be a higher velocity round, with better penetration properties than the .38 Long Colt that was in Government Service in the Philippines during the Spanish–American War. The .38 Long Colt revolver round would not penetrate the insurgent Philippine Morro warrior shields, and the Government contracted the new revolver round to Smith & Wesson. The .38 Special held a minimum of 21 grains of black powder, which was 3 grains more than the current .38 Long Colt, and it was 100 to 150 feet per second faster with a 158 grain bullet.

    During the late 1920s, and in response to demands for a more effective law enforcement version of the cartridge, a new standard-velocity loading for the .38 Special was developed by Western Cartridge Company. This .38 Special variant incorporated a 200 grains (13 g) round-nosed lead 'Lubaloy' bullet, the .38 Super Police.[10]Remington-Peters also introduced a similar loading. Testing revealed that the longer, heavier 200 grains (13 g) .357-calibre bullet fired at low velocity tended to 'keyhole' or tumble upon impact, providing more shock effect against unprotected personnel.[11] At the same time, authorities in Great Britain, who had decided to adopt the .38 caliber revolver as a replacement for their existing .455 service cartridge, also tested the same 200 grains (13.0 g) bullet in the smaller .38 S&W cartridge. This cartridge was called the .38 S&W Super Police or the .38/200. Britain would later adopt the .38/200 as its standard military handgun cartridge.

    Smith & Wesson M&P in .38 Special produced in 1899
    Air Force issue Smith & Wesson Model 15–4 in .38 Special

    In 1930, Smith & Wesson introduced a large frame .38 Special revolver with a 5-inch barrel and fixed sights intended for police use, the Smith & Wesson .38/44 Heavy Duty.[12][13] The following year, a new high-power loading called the .38 Special Hi-Speed with a 158 grains (10.2 g) metal-tip bullet was developed for these revolvers in response to requests from law enforcement agencies for a handgun bullet that could penetrate auto bodies and body armor.[14] That same year, Colt Firearms announced that their Colt Official Police would also handle 'high-speed' .38 Special loadings.[15] The .38/44 high-speed cartridge came in three bullet weights: 158 grains (10.2 g), 150 grains (9.7 g), and 110 grains (7.1 g), with either coated lead or steel jacket, metal-piercing bullets.[16] The media attention gathered by the .38/44 and its ammunition eventually led Smith & Wesson to develop a completely new cartridge with a longer case length in 1934, this was the .357 Magnum.

    During World War II, some U.S. aircrew (primarily Navy and Marine Corps) were issued .38 Special S&W Victory revolvers as sidearms in the event of a forced landing. In May 1943, a new .38 Special cartridge with a 158 grains (10.2 g), full-steel-jacketed, copper flash-coated bullet meeting the requirements of the rules of land warfare was developed at Springfield Armory and adopted for the Smith & Wesson revolvers.[17] The new military .38 Special loading propelled its 158 grains (10.2 g) bullet at a standard 850 ft/s (260 m/s) from a 4-inch (100 mm) revolver barrel.[17] During the war, many U.S. naval and Marine aircrew were also issued red-tipped .38 Special tracer rounds using either a 120 or 158 gr (7.8 or 10.2 g) bullet for emergency signaling purposes.[17]

    In 1956, the U.S. Air Force adopted the Cartridge, Caliber .38, Ball M41, a military variant of the .38 Special cartridge designed to conform to the rules of land warfare. The original .38 M41 ball cartridge used a 130-grain full-metal-jacketed bullet, and was loaded to an average pressure of only 13,000 pounds per square inch (90 MPa), giving a muzzle velocity of approximately 725 ft/s (221 m/s) from a 4-inch (100 mm) barrel.[18][19] This ammunition was intended to prolong the life of S&W M12 and Colt Aircrewman revolvers equipped with aluminum cylinders and frames, which were prone to stress fractures when fired with standard .38 ammunition. By 1961, a slightly revised M41 .38 cartridge specification known as the Cartridge, Caliber .38 Ball, Special, M41 had been adopted for U.S. armed forces using .38 Special caliber handguns.[19] The new M41 Special cartridge used a 130-grain FMJ bullet loaded to a maximum allowable pressure of 16,000 pounds per square inch (110 MPa) for a velocity of approximately 950 ft/s (290 m/s) in a solid 6-inch (150 mm) test barrel, and about 750 ft/s (230 m/s) from a 4-inch (100 mm) revolver barrel.[20][21] The M41 ball cartridge was first used in .38 revolvers carried by USAF aircrew and Strategic Air Command security police, and by 1961 was in use by the U.S. Army for security police, dog handlers, and other personnel equipped with .38 Special caliber revolvers.[21] A variant of the standard M41 cartridge with a semi-pointed, unjacketed lead bullet was later adopted for CONUS (Continental United States) police and security personnel.[19] At the same time, .38 tracer cartridges were reintroduced by the US Navy, Marines, and Air Force to provide a means of emergency signaling by downed aircrew. Tracer cartridges in .38 Special caliber of different colors were issued, generally as part of a standard aircrew survival vest kit.

    A request for more powerful .38 Special ammunition for use by Air Police and security personnel resulted in the Caliber .38 Special, Ball, PGU-12/B High Velocity cartridge.[20] Issued only by the U.S. Air Force, the PGU-12/B had a greatly increased maximum allowable pressure rating of 20,000 psi, sufficient to propel a 130-grain FMJ bullet at 1,125 ft/s (343 m/s) from a solid 6-inch (150 mm) test barrel, and about 950–1,000 ft/s from a 4-inch (100 mm) revolver barrel.[20] The PGU-12/B High Velocity cartridge differs from M41 Special ammunition in two important respects—the PGU-12/B is a much higher-pressure cartridge, with a bullet deeply set and crimped into the cartridge case.

    In response to continued complaints over ineffectiveness of the standard .38 Special 158-grain cartridge in stopping assailants in numerous armed confrontations during the 1950s and 1960s, ammunition manufacturers began to experiment with higher-pressure (18,500 CUP) loadings of the .38 Special cartridge, known as .38 Special +P (+P or +P+ designation indicates that the cartridge is using higher pressures, therefore it is overpressure ammunition). In 1972, the Federal Bureau of Investigation introduced a new .38 +P loading that became known as the "FBI Load".[22] The FBI Load combined a more powerful powder charge with a 158-grain unjacketed soft lead[23] semi-wadcutter hollow-point bullet designed to readily expand at typical .38 Special velocities obtained in revolvers commonly used by law enforcement.[22] The FBI Load proved very satisfactory in effectively stopping adversaries in numerous documented shootings using 2- to 4-inch barreled revolvers.[22][24] The FBI Load was later adopted by the Chicago Police Department and numerous other law enforcement agencies.[22]

    Demand for a .38 cartridge with even greater performance for law enforcement led to the introduction of the +P+ .38 Special cartridge, first introduced by Federal and Winchester. Originally labeled "For Law Enforcement Only",[25][unreliable source?] +P+ ammunition is intended for heavier-duty .38 Special and .357 Magnum revolvers, as the increased pressure levels can result in accelerated wear and significant damage to firearms rated for lower-pressure .38 Special loadings (as with all .38 Special loadings, the .38 Special +P+ can also be fired safely in .357 Magnum revolvers).[26]


    .38 Special bullet coming from a Smith & Wesson 686, photographed with an air-gap flash
    .38 Special wadcuttersloaded cartridges and 148 grain hollow-base wadcutter bullet, used for target shooting

    Due to its black-powder heritage, the .38 Special is a low-pressure cartridge, one of the lowest in common use today at 17,500 psi. By modern standards, the .38 Special fires a medium-sized bullet at rather low speeds. In the case of target loads, a 148 gr (9.6 g) bullet is propelled to only 690 ft/s (210 m/s).[27] The closest comparisons are the .380 ACP, which fires much lighter bullets slightly faster than most .38 Special loads; the 9×19mm Parabellum, which fires a somewhat lighter bullet significantly faster; and the .38 Super, which fires a comparable bullet considerably faster. All of these cartridges are usually found in semi-automatic pistols.

    The higher-pressure .38 +P loads at 20,000 psi offer about 20% more muzzle energy than standard-pressure loads and places it between the .380 ACP and the 9mm Parabellum; similar to that of the 9×18mm Makarov. A few specialty manufacturers' +P loads for this cartridge can attain even higher energies than that, especially when fired from longer barrels, produce energies in the range of the 9mm Parabellum. These loads are generally not recommended for older revolvers or ones not specifically "+P" rated.

    CartridgeBullet weightMuzzle velocityMuzzle energyMax pressure
    .38 Short Colt135 gr (8.7 g)777 ft/s (237 m/s)181 ft•lbf (245 J)7,500 CUP
    .38 Long Colt150 gr (9.7 g)777 ft/s (237 m/s)201 ft•lbf (273 J)12,000 CUP
    .38 S&W158 gr (10.2 g)767 ft/s (234 m/s)206 ft•lbf (279 J)14,500 psi
    .38 S&W Special Wadcutter148 gr (9.6 g)690 ft/s (210 m/s)156 ft•lbf (212 J)17,500 psi
    .38 S&W Special158 gr (10.2 g)940 ft/s (290 m/s)310 ft•lbf (420 J)17,500 psi
    .38 Special Super Police200 gr (13 g)671 ft/s (205 m/s)200 ft•lbf (271 J)17,500 psi
    .38 Special +P158 gr (10.2 g)1,000 ft/s (300 m/s)351 ft•lbf (476 J)20,000 psi
    .38 Special +P+110 gr (7.1 g)1,100 ft/s (340 m/s)295 ft•lbf (400 J)22,500 psi[26]
    .380 ACP100 gr (6.5 g)895 ft/s (273 m/s)178 ft•lbf (241 J)21,500 psi
    9×19mm Parabellum115 gr (7.5 g)1,300 ft/s (400 m/s)420 ft•lbf (570 J)35,000 psi
    9×19mm Parabellum124 gr (8.0 g)1,180 ft/s (360 m/s)383 ft•lbf (520 J)35,000 psi
    9×18mm Makarov95 gr (6.2 g)1,050 ft/s (320 m/s)231 ft•lbf (313 J)23,500 psi
    .38 Super130 gr (8.4 g)1,275 ft/s (389 m/s)468 ft•lbf (634 J)36,500 psi
    .357 Magnum158 gr (10.2 g)1,349 ft/s (411 m/s)639 ft•lbf (866 J)35,000 psi
    .357 SIG125 gr (8.1 g)1,450 ft/s (440 m/s)584 ft•lbf (792 J)40,000 psi

    All of the above specifications for .38 loadings, and the .357 Magnum, are applicable when fired from a 6-inch (150 mm) barreled revolver. The velocity is reduced when using the more standard 4-inch (100 mm) barreled guns.[28] Power (muzzle energy) will, of course, decrease accordingly.

    Although only a few US police departments now issue or authorize use of the .38 Special revolver as a standard-duty weapon, the caliber remains popular with some police officers for use in short-barreled revolvers carried when off duty or for undercover-police investigations. It is also widely used in revolvers purchased for civilian home defense or for concealed carry by individuals with a CCW permit.

    Terminal performance and expansion[edit]

    .38 Specials come with a range of different bullet types.

    There are many companies that manufacture .38 Special ammunition. It can range from light target loads to more powerful defensive ammunition. Because of the relatively low pressure that the .38 Special cartridge and even its more powerful +P version can be loaded to, most 38 Special bullets do not expand reliably, even when using hollow-point designs, especially if fired from a short-barreled or 'snub-nose' revolver. In 2004, Speer Bullets introduced the Gold Dot jacketed hollow-point .38 Special cartridge in an attempt to solve this very problem. Another solution is to use an unjacketed soft lead hollow-point bullet as found in the FBI Load.[22] The latter's 158-grain soft lead hollow point is loaded to +P pressures and velocity, which ensures more reliable expansion in unprotected flesh, even when fired in a 2-inch short-barreled revolver.[22]


    The .38 Special is particularly popular among handloaders. The cartridge's straight walls, headspacing on the rim, ready availability of previously-fired cases, and ability to be fired in .357 Magnum firearms, all contribute to this popularity. Additionally, the .38 Special's heritage as a black powder cartridge gives it a case size capable of accommodating many types of powders, from slower-burning (e.g., Hodgdon H-110 or Hercules 2400) to fast-burning (e.g., Alliant Bullseye, the traditional smokeless powder for this cartridge). This flexibility in powders translates directly to versatility in muzzle energy that a handloader can achieve. Thus, with proper care, a suitably-strong revolver, and adherence to safe handloading practices, the .38 Special can accommodate ammunition ranging from light-recoiling target loads to +P+ self-defense rounds. The .38 Special, handloaded with premium to regular lead bullets can be loaded safely to equal the now popular 9x19mm Parabellum round. The round is as viable today as a self-defense round as it was back in 1898.[29]

    See also[edit]


    1. ^"Federal Cartridge Co. ballistics page". Archived from the original on 26 June 2007. Retrieved 25 September 2007.
    2. ^"SAAMI Pressures". Archived from the original on 21 June 2007. Retrieved 25 September 2007.
    3. ^"SAAMI Pressures". Archived from the original on 16 November 2007. Retrieved 25 September 2007.
    4. ^"Load Data << Accurate Powders". Retrieved 25 September 2007.
    5. ^"Cartridge Loading Data – Hodgdon". Archived from the original on 16 November 2007. Retrieved 25 September 2007.
    6. ^Hogg, Ian (1989). Jane's Infantry Weapons 1989–90, 15th Edition. Jane's Information Group. p. 514. ISBN .
    7. ^Jones, Richard (2009). Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009–2010. Jane's Information Group. p. 621. ISBN .
    8. ^"What are the most popular calibers in the US? - Knowledge Glue". Knowledge Glue. 14 September 2015. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
    9. ^Barnes, Frank C. Ken Warner, editor. Cartridges of the World, 6th Edition. Northbrook, Illinois: DBI Books, 1989. ISBN 978-0-87349-033-7. The failure of the .38 Long Colt as a service cartridge caused the U.S. Army to insist on a .45 chambering for its 1907 pistol trials.
    10. ^Sharpe, Phil, The New Smith & Wesson Heavy Duty .38, The American Rifleman, November 1931
    11. ^Sharpe, Phil, The New Smith & Wesson Heavy Duty .38, The American Rifleman, November 1931: "..the destruction of this load was terrific..Every shot showed evidence of key-holing after the first half of the penetration had been accomplished."
    12. ^Shideler, Dan, Is This the Greatest .38 Ever, Gun Digest, 4 August 2008
    13. ^Sharpe, Phil, The New Smith & Wesson Heavy Duty .38, The American Rifleman, November 1931: Chambered in .38 Special, the .38/44 was built on the old S&W .44-calibre Hand Ejector frame.
    14. ^Shideler, Dan, Is This the Greatest .38 Ever, Gun Digest, 4 August 2008: The new .38/44 load developed a maximum allowable pressure of 20,000 pounds per square inch (140 MPa), producing a velocity of about 1,100 ft/s (340 m/s) from a 5 in (130 mm) barrel with a 158 gr (10.2 g) metal-tipped bullet.
    15. ^Ayoob, Massad. "The Colt Official Police: 61 years of production, 99 years of service", Guns magazine. BNET Web site – Find articles. Accessed 2 April 2011: Because of their heavy frames, these revolvers could withstand the higher-pressures generated by the new loadings.
    16. ^The metal-penetrating bullets were often described as Highway Patrol loads.
    17. ^ abcBrown Jr., Edwards, "DCM Shopper's Guide", The American Rifleman, (April 1946), p. 18
    18. ^Scarlata, Paul, "Smith & Wesson's Model 12 Airweight", Shooting Times. Retrieved 3 April 2011. Archived 31 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine
    19. ^ abcTM 43-0001-27, Army Ammunition Data Sheets – Small Caliber Ammunition, FSC 1305, Washington, D.C.: Dept. of the Army, 29 April 1994
    20. ^ abcMilitary .38 Special Ammunition, The American Rifleman (March 1982), p. 68
    21. ^ abTM 9-1305-200. Small Arms Ammunition, Washington, D.C.: Departments of the Army and the Air Force (June 1961)
    22. ^ abcdefAyoob, Massad, "Why are We Still Using the .38 – It's Still A Good Cartridge", American Handgunner, San Diego: Publishers Development Corp., Vol. 6, No. 30, September/October 1981, p. 64
    23. ^Typically, the FBI Load utilized a very soft lead alloy of 5.5–6 as measured on the Brinell hardness scale to ensure reliable expansion.
    24. ^Ayoob, Massad, The Gun Digest Book of Combat Handgunnery, Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books, ISBN 0-89689-525-4, ISBN 978-0-89689-525-6 (2011), p. 98
    25. ^"FEDERAL Premium - 38 Special High Velocity (+P+) (image)". 19 August 2014. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014.
    26. ^ ab"Miscellaneous Questions". frfrogspad.com.
    27. ^"Federal Ammunition - 38 SPL 148GR LEAD WC MATCH". federalpremium.com.
    28. ^Ballistics By The Inch .38 special results.
    29. ^Chuck Taylor (May 2000). ".38-44 HV: The Original Magnum - revolver round". Guns Magazine. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007 – via Find Articles.

    External links[edit]

    Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.38_Special
    .38 Special Wadcutter Experiment


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