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Old 01-26-2010, 02:00 PM   #1
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Ammo for 38 snubbies

As I was doing some research for a piece I'll put in my corner a little later I came across this:

Firearms Tactical Institute Tactical Briefs #9, September 1998
" 2-inch .38 snubs"

"There seems to be no JHP bullet cartridge that is capable of providing a reasonable balance of adequate penetration and reliable expansion. A bullet that expands will not penetrate deeply enough, whereas a bullet that does not expand will probably overpenetrate.

As a result, we feel the best cartridge for .38 snubbies is the 148 gr. wadcutter target load."

The "WE" is the International Wound Ballistics Association and the writer is almost surely Dr. Martin Fackler.

Actually I came to the same conclusion independently some time ago, but I haven't tested some of the newer loads and don't know if it still holds although I suspect it does. Anyone have any new data?
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Old 01-26-2010, 02:54 PM   #2
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

On another forum today, a poster said he'd just bought his somewhat recoil-sensitive wife a Ruger LCR for personal defense and he was gonna start looking for an "accurate, light-recoiling" load to stoke it with. Guess what I advised him to do?
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Old 01-26-2010, 07:48 PM   #3
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

I have been shooting some 38+ P in my Ruger LCR and I have been getting some trigger slap on my finger. It smarts at first and then it goes away. It is a very acurate snubbie for what it is and I like it I just drop it in my pocket when I leave the house and most of the time I can't even tell it's there. But I know it's there and that's a comfort.
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Old 01-27-2010, 03:17 AM   #4
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snake45
Guess what I advised him to do?
I HOPE you advised him to let her pick her OWN gun when shopping.
They're like shoes, man. I can love Nikes 'til the cows come home, but I shouldn't by you a pair...
You need to find what fits you best by trying everything yourself. You might like Gloc....er...Reeboks best.
Nodimesane?
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Old 01-27-2010, 04:02 AM   #5
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Invisible
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snake45
Guess what I advised him to do?
I HOPE you advised him to let her pick her OWN gun when shopping.
She HAD picked the thing. He just paid for it.
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Old 01-27-2010, 04:27 AM   #6
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Invisible
I HOPE you advised him to let her pick her OWN gun when shopping.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snake45
She HAD picked the thing. He just paid for it.
Well, now see... you didn't say *that*!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snake45
said he'd just bought his somewhat recoil-sensitive wife a Ruger LCR for personal defense
:P
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Old 01-27-2010, 05:00 AM   #7
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

I DID say that. You just didn't interpret it right.
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Old 01-27-2010, 05:31 AM   #8
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snake45
I DID say that. You just didn't interpret it right.
You're the "word guy"... you could step up your game a little.
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Old 01-27-2010, 06:00 AM   #9
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

now kiddies play nice... :P

I might have worded my question better too... does anyone have good data that would make me change my mind?
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Old 01-27-2010, 10:25 AM   #10
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

My wife has an old model 649 and I have advised her to keep FMJs in it. we do have some 125 semi jacketed HP+Ps that would probably be ok . IMO you cant go wrong with a FMJ in a short barrel. just my .02
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Old 01-27-2010, 10:57 AM   #11
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

I'm under the impression that NYPD has been very happy with the 135 gr. Gold Dot short-barrel load they asked Speer to design for use in nominally two-inch revolvers. I have no idea how many shootings they've actually had with it. I do know that the remaining officers who still carry revolvers as duty guns are issued the same load.

I also know that Evan Marshall and many of the others who post on his site, including myself, spring for the extra bucks for CorBon's 110 gr. DPX load. A major part of my decision to do so is that winters at the high altitude where I live in Arizona cause people to bundle up and this load is reported to be the most reliable in expansion in gelatin covered with four layers of denim.

While I would take the 135 gr. Gold Dot load over the old 158 gr. FBI load, I feel that the Gold Dot load has a slightly snappier recoil. The DPX load always seems to be rated as "soft-shooting," despite being +P, an opinion I would echo.

(Because the Gold Dot load, the first of what became a line of short-barrel loads, was for a law-enforcement contract, Speer produced a Technical Data Package for it, which includes photos from the various gelatin-testing protocols. If anyone needs it, I have a digital copy I can share. e-Mail me at spwenger@spw-duf.info if you need it.)
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:05 PM   #12
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

Quote:
you cant go wrong with a FMJ
I just don't see that. If your talking about Atlanta Arms FMJ 148 gr wadcutter, yes. I've shot a couple of cases of it and smacked some small game - works great!

If it's the 130 grain ammo (WWB), disagree strongly.
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Old 01-29-2010, 01:39 PM   #13
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

I agree, the copy of the old GI .38 ball load is plinking only and not too great for that.

The Speer TMJ wadcutter isn't bad, but the HBWC seems to be more accurate.

Years ago I fell into the seat backwards trap. We keep hearing about that to the point that it probably qualfies as an urban myth. When I tried it accuracy was not great and very little expansion. I certainly looks mean but I wonder if anyone has ever really been shot with it
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Old 01-30-2010, 09:08 AM   #14
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlie Petty
Years ago I fell into the seat backwards trap. We keep hearing about that to the point that it probably qualfies as an urban myth. When I tried it accuracy was not great and very little expansion. I certainly looks mean but I wonder if anyone has ever really been shot with it
A fellow told me that back in the 1970s, he loaded some HBWCs backwards for the owner of a rural Tennessee beer joint. The fellow shot a man once in the abdomen and the fight was over. The reloader told me that even back then, he was a little concerned about legal problems if the shooting had not been justified.

My own experience with the backward HBWCs was that they probably expanded too much. My "testing" back during the Carter Administration involved wet newspapers. I recall that conventional hollowpoints penetrated much deeper.

Around 1980, a friend gave me some .38 Specials with three 0 or 00 buckshot pellets loaded into Speer shotshell capsules. I loaded one in a Charter Arms Undercover, so it would be the first rounds to be fired. Months later, I encountered a very large rattlesnake. I decided to save the buckshot round, so I manually rotated the cylinder to bring up one of the JHP rounds. The recoil from the +P caused the shot to break the plastic capsule and a plastic fragment locked up the cylinder. I finished off the snake with a stick and after getting my pistol back into operation, reloaded with more conventional rounds.

Now, I generally keep a box of Remington 158gr LHP's to load my revolvers. I found that jacketed rounds work better in speedloaders than the sharp shouldered LHPs, so I carry JHPs for reloads. As most of my revolver shooting involves reloads, a couple boxes of factory ammo lasts for years.
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Old 01-30-2010, 09:41 AM   #15
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

Quote:
Originally Posted by JRWnTN
Now, I generally keep a box of Remington 158gr LHP's to load my revolvers. I found that jacketed rounds work better in speedloaders than the sharp shouldered LHPs, so I carry JHPs for reloads. As most of my revolver shooting involves reloads, a couple boxes of factory ammo lasts for years.
For whatever it's worth, neither the Gold Dot 135 gr. short-barrel load nor the CorBon DPX load have sharp-shouldered bullets. I would have have no qualms about carrying the +P 158 gr. "FBI load" in a four-inch revolver but prefer one of the other two I have mentioned for a shorter barrel, particularly if it's shorter than three inches.

Having spent the last ten-plus years in rural Arizona, I would have to say that the general consensus in these parts is that a hoe or a shovel is the best way to deal with a rattlesnake that does not want to leave of its own accord.
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Old 01-31-2010, 07:11 PM   #16
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlie Petty
Years ago I fell into the seat backwards trap. We keep hearing about that to the point that it probably qualfies as an urban myth. When I tried it accuracy was not great and very little expansion. I certainly looks mean but I wonder if anyone has ever really been shot with it
Charlie, years ago I loaded HBWC wadcutters backwards over a charge of SR4756 that would probably give conniptions to the gun manufacturers. I found that the Hornady old style wadcutters were reasonably accurate and expanded very reliably in wet newspapers (no calibrated gelatine with industry standard denim covering back then!) and produced impressive results when shooting a 4x4 at 50 feet. Speer's HBWCs were OK too, but not as good as the Hornady. (The newer Hornadys with the knurled outer surface worked poorly, even when loaded normally.) The original Hornady bullets had a couple of narrow circumferential grooves, and I found that seating the bullets out about 1/8" or so allowed me to crimp directly into one of these grooves. Overall, it worked well.

The closest thing to a "street" result I saw was when my father used one to administer the coup-de-grace to a wounded whitetail doe . . . it worked extremely well in that instance. A friend loaded some up for his buddies at the Cook County Sheriff's Department and one of them was involved in a shooting were he fired it at a van and it "rocked the van." (Which is no doubt nonsense; there's not nearly enough momentum from a handgun to do this, but I'm guessing it deflected the sheet metal like a drumhead, and that was interpreted as rocking the vehicle.)

If you look back in your loading data archives, check out the Speer #8 reloading manual; they have a section specifically devoted to handloading for snubbies.

Hmmm . . . didn't one of your gunwriter colleagues at American Handgunner magazine have a writeup about backward HBWCs within the last year or two? I think it may have been JDJones . . .

As regards the lightly-loaded .38 wadcutter load being the best choice out of a snubbie . . . let's just say I'm a skeptic.
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Old 02-01-2010, 05:39 AM   #17
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

I don't get Handgunner anymore but if J.D. did it I bet it was loaded up to the speed of heat...

Quote:
let's just say I'm a skeptic.
That's OK... you have the right to be wrong
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:23 AM   #18
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

I also had decent results with the HBWC loaded backwards-until Speer changed their skirt design (in the early 1970's?). I couldn't figure out what they did different, but there was a noticable change in the profile. Naturally, I didn't have any of the previous ones left to compare. The changed design didn't group worth beans.

Prior to the change in design, a friend working in the Ballistics Research Lab at Aberdeen mentioned my loads to the techs. Having spare time and government supplied ballistics gel, they did some testing. Instrumental velocities were right around 700 fps and expansion was over 2 calibers (calibres if you read a post in a different thread). The techs called it the "TV load" (if you shot someone carrying your TV out the door, it [supposedly] wouldn't hurt the TV) and loaded up a batch big enough for everyone to get some.

I found some leftovers in .357 back in April of '09 and clocked them: 1440 fps. After seeing the resulting leading, I'll be pulling the rest.

Today, there's a lot better ammo out there.
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:41 AM   #19
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

I still have some boxes of the original "Hydra-Shok" brand ammunition, in .38 Special and .357 Magnum. The .38 load uses what is essentially a reversed HBWC, plus the Hydra-Shok post. Reportedly, the post, in addition to enhancing expansion, placed enough additional weight forward to stabilize the bullet in flight. I also have at least one box of Albers swaged bullet of this design but I never had any call to load them.

As an aside, the semi-jacketed "Copperhead" .357 rounds were touted for their low velocity because the novel post made true Magnum velocity unnecessary to obtain bullet expansion.

As I recall, the loaded ammunition was purchased sometime around 1982 and the bullets around 1986.
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Old 02-01-2010, 10:38 AM   #20
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Re: Ammo for 38 snubbies

I had to use some DEWC out of a 3 inch J frame on a wounded deer a couple of years ago. it was struggling so it had its adrenalin pumping, but it took all five to put that deer down. I was unable to get a safe head shot, so all were in the chest, close range, and only two went thru the ribs.

I had some remington double 000 buck balls in a .38 case that was an over the counter thing for a while. I had some when I was in Guatemala, and they worked,
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