AR15.Com Archives
 Snub Nose .38 Special or Ruger .380 LCP
sspbass  [Member]
1/10/2010 6:42:25 AM EST
I've always wanted a snub nose .38 special for everyday carry but my buddy picked up a Ruger LCP this weekend and that thing looks like a pretty good deal.
Any thoughts from people with experience carrying and shooting these guns or ones similar?

ETA: Poll
Paid Advertisement
--
Slopes-2-Shores  [Member]
1/10/2010 7:13:25 AM EST
S&W 442.



It can be fired from a pocket. Ammo is better and easier to find. It's a practical , reliable gun that can be carried undetected almost anytime. I just don't trust little pocket autos , even the .380. Plus it's your post # 38 - it seems like it's meant to be..................

-JC
BillofRights  [Team Member]
1/10/2010 7:19:39 AM EST
The Ruger will carry easier, because it's thinner. I also like the option of having a quick reload or two.

Both guns can be surprisingly accurate, with some practice and good technique.
GLOCKREAPER  [Member]
1/10/2010 7:19:49 AM EST
LCP
Redbone  [Member]
1/10/2010 7:23:35 AM EST
These small guns are meant for up close contact shots. That being said, I prefer the j frame for 38+P and it's ability to shoot reliably should the gun be shoved in an assailant's chest/stomach.
SGB  [Team Member]
1/10/2010 7:38:23 AM EST
The .38 special is an acceptable self defense choice, the .380 acp is a poor one.
topgunpilot20  [Team Member]
1/10/2010 8:03:07 AM EST

Originally Posted By SGB:
The .38 special is an acceptable self defense choice, the .380 acp is a poor one.

Agreed. I have an LCP, but carry it strictly as a backup. A .38 snubby is the smallest gun I was feel comfortable carrying on its own.
unclemoak  [Team Member]
1/10/2010 8:27:20 AM EST
I find the LCP to be extremely awkward to shoot if you have medium to larger sized hands.
mcnielsen  [Team Member]
1/10/2010 8:44:06 AM EST
From a reliability and user friendly standpoint, it's hands down the J-frame.
slacktide  [Member]
1/10/2010 8:50:02 AM EST
Get both. I did.
bnielsonak47  [Team Member]
1/10/2010 10:23:33 AM EST
Originally Posted By Slopes-2-Shores:
S&W 442.

http://i274.photobucket.com/albums/jj248/joonyacat/442.jpg

It can be fired from a pocket. Ammo is better and easier to find. It's a practical , reliable gun that can be carried undetected almost anytime. I just don't trust little pocket autos , even the .380. Plus it's your post # 38 - it seems like it's meant to be..................

-JC


This is why I bought my 442!

sspbass  [Member]
1/10/2010 11:34:28 AM EST
I'm looking for something that is the easiest for carrying. How well does the snub nose carry and in what rig?
Redbone  [Member]
1/10/2010 11:45:01 AM EST
Depends on how you want to carry. Many folks here carry their j frame in some sort of leather or fabric pocket holster. I carry mine AIWB because it offers a fast draw while seated, standing or lying on my back or stomach and it does not print at all. I don't tuck in my shirts though. If you tuck in your shirt, pocket carry can't be beat.
Bhart89  [Team Member]
1/10/2010 11:57:04 AM EST
I didn't vote because I don't have either yet but I did order a Ruger LCP on Friday (should be in on Wednesday). I went with the LCP because it's thinner, lighter and faster to reload.
sspbass  [Member]
1/10/2010 12:26:53 PM EST
Does going to a .357 magnum add any noticeable size compared to a .38 special?
Many also recommended the S&W, what do you guys say about the Ruger LCR?
SGB  [Team Member]
1/10/2010 12:59:14 PM EST
.357 in anything less than a 4" barrel gains nothing but increased muzzle blast and flash.

ViniVidivici  [Team Member]
1/10/2010 1:37:23 PM EST
Option one, hands down, for so MANY reasons.
John_Wayne777  [Team Member]
1/10/2010 2:05:16 PM EST


The LCP has a few things going for it. Firstly, it's very small and very light, which means it's about as easy to carry as any handgun can be. It's capable of reasonable accuracy, especially with the addition of a laser module:



...but as an everyday carry gun, I wouldn't use it. There are multiple reasons why:


  1. Caliber - The .380 ACP is certainly better than harsh language, and it certainly can put somebody down if you hit them in the right spot. (Difficult to do with these tiny guns) That being said, it has a track record of pretty poor performance on the street relative to service calibers like the 9mm or .38 special.

  2. Reliability - I've put a significant number of rounds through my LCP and it's been perfectly reliable so far with JHP and FMJ ammo. That being said, small semi-auto pistols in general aren't known for their spectacular reliability.

  3. Shootability - This may seem odd given the target I posted, but that target reflects ideal conditions. I was stationary shooting at a stationary target with the luxury of a good grip and no real stress. Once the moment gets real these itty bitty guns become VERY difficult to shoot with reasonable accuracy because their diminutive size makes it very easy to grossly misalign the weapon. Without a reasonable aiming reference when point shooting in the dark, misses by yards at a distance of feet are possible.



It's a decent little pistol for what it is, and it certainly fills a niche in someone's carry arsenal...but I wouldn't rely on it as a primary unless you have no other choice. As an everyday carry gun I would much prefer a J frame loaded with good ammo. Now a J frame is not exactly earth-shattering firepower in and of itself...but .38 does have a decent track record in shootings when loaded with proper ammo. For decades the J frame was the concealed carry gun everybody used. The J frame, loaded properly, passes minimum terminal ballistics performance benchmarks, meaning that if you get a round on target that round has a better shot of doing what needs to be done than one from the .380. They are generally supremely reliable...I say "generally" because the S&W lawyer lock has a track record of sucking mightily. They can be easily removed, however.

J frames are hard to shoot well thanks to poor sights and a heavy trigger...but not, in my opinion anyway, appreciably harder to shoot than the LCP. They are difficult to aim in low light without a laser...but so is the LCP. They only hold 5 shots and that isn't much in a gunfight. That being said, I can point to numerous instances where a guy armed with a J frame managed to solve a problem with what was in the cylinder. J frames are harder and slower to reload than the LCP. Even with practice it likely won't be as fast to do a speed reload as with the LCP. (The LCP isn't blazingly fast to reload either)

The J frame is unquestionably the more versatile of the two weapons.

As a primary daily carry piece, both, frankly, leave a lot to be desired and I would encourage you to seek out a better option like perhaps a Glock 26 (if size is imperative) or an M&P 9C. I personally consider the J frame (a S&W 442, in my case) to be the bare minimum for a primary carry gun in 99% of situations in my life. I'll carry the J frame as a primary when forced to by circumstances because a 5 shot .38 is better than fingernails and harsh language any day. If it's a choice between a J frame or no gun, the J frame is obviously superior. Ditto the LCP. If I truly can't pull off something bigger than the LCP...like when I take my strolls through the neighborhood in nothing my hot pink thong...then the LCP is obviously better than nothing.
sspbass  [Member]
1/10/2010 2:34:37 PM EST
Thanks for the good info John_Wayne777. I have a Beretta PX4 in the .40 flavor so this isn't my only option. I live in rural South Dakota where serious crime is virtually non-existent and the full size Beretta is not what I would consider a convenient daily carry weapon. I find myself not carrying b/c it's not comfortable even with a nice Minotaur holster, especially during the summer. My goal is to get something that's nice and small that I can put in a pocket holster or ankle holster and wear it all the time and use my Beretta for higher risk situations.
shootsenmeister  [Team Member]
1/11/2010 12:41:56 AM EST
I do not understand why anyone these days would buy a revolver in 38 special. If I were buying I would get a revolver in .357 even if I intended to use it for 38 special. At times ammo can be hard to find and should a store only stock one of the two calibers listed above you are good to go. The size difference from a Ruger SP101 and S&W J frame in 38 special vs .357 is very small.
The cylinders on the .357s are slightly longer meaning the frame is too, but again it is only a slight increase in length, with the added advantage of more calibers to choose from.
My .02
packingXDs  [Team Member]
1/11/2010 1:04:06 AM EST

Originally Posted By Redbone:
Depends on how you want to carry. Many folks here carry their j frame in some sort of leather or fabric pocket holster. I carry mine AIWB because it offers a fast draw while seated, standing or lying on my back or stomach and it does not print at all. I don't tuck in my shirts though. If you tuck in your shirt, pocket carry can't be beat.

Appendix IWB? What kind of holster do you use?
Mr-L  [Team Member]
1/11/2010 2:15:48 AM EST
Considering the purpose of this gun,
and the two choices, the reliability of
a revolver I would go with the Wheel gun.

L

John_Wayne777  [Team Member]
1/11/2010 2:25:24 AM EST
Originally Posted By shootsenmeister:
I do not understand why anyone these days would buy a revolver in 38 special.


...because the airweight S&W revolvers are considerably cheaper than the scandium .357 revolvers.


nhsport  [Team Member]
1/11/2010 2:37:00 AM EST
Originally Posted By sspbass:
Does going to a .357 magnum add any noticeable size compared to a .38 special?
Many also recommended the S&W, what do you guys say about the Ruger LCR?


There are some light 357's that carry about the same as the 642 . They will give you the option of more power .
I have shot both and for me the 357 creates so much extra recoil that my rate of fire and accuracy is downgraded by a considerable amount.
38+P in pocket carry is my best bet. YMMV
John_Wayne777  [Team Member]
1/11/2010 3:22:34 AM EST
Pretty much. In snub-nosed revolvers .357 loads don't offer superior terminal ballistics to good .38 +P loads...only more recoil and muzzle blast. Most .357 loads, remember, are designed for 4" revolvers or greater.
jerz_subbie  [Team Member]
1/11/2010 4:18:28 AM EST
Originally Posted By SGB:
The .38 special is an acceptable self defense choice, the .380 acp is a poor one.


Exactly my feeling as well. I won't carry anything smaller than a 9mm. From looking at FBI tests, the .380 just doesnt cut it, an S&W .38 revolver is a tried a trued platform and perfect BUG IMO.
TMA  [Member]
1/11/2010 8:03:17 AM EST
Originally Posted By sspbass:
I've always wanted a snub nose .38 special for everyday carry but my buddy picked up a Ruger LCP this weekend and that thing looks like a pretty good deal.
Any thoughts from people with experience carrying and shooting these guns or ones similar?


Get whichever one you think you are most likely to carry everyday. It doesn’t matter what gun you choose If you aren’t carrying it when it is needed, it is worthless. And it doesn’t matter which you choose; if you are ever forced to use it, you will wish you had more gun.

My knowledge is dated, but back in the 1980's I remember reading a study of actual human shooting results and the .380 performed better than the snub-nosed .38 (even though the ballistics tables said they shouldn’t). I believe the study’s conclusion was that the .380 ammunition was designed for use in short barreled weapons, while the .38 (then available) was designed to be fired out of 4" barreled revolvers. Because the .38 wasn’t designed to be used in snub-nose revolvers, it performed below expectations.

I know there have been many changes in cartridge design in the last 20 years. If I were to choose the .38 snub-nose, I would try to find a cartridge that was specifically design to be used in the snub-nose revolver. I know that such loadings have been developed, I just don’t remember which ones they are.

My gut instinct is that the .38 snub-nose loaded with cartridges specifically designed for the gun will outperform a .380. But if you use .38 ammunition designed for a 4" revolver, the .380 might still do better.

I am sure somebody will be along shortly to tell you I am wrong.



Aloxite  [Team Member]
1/11/2010 9:29:06 AM EST
Get both?

Seriously. I've got a 642 and a P-3AT. I regard the 642 as a much better choice of the two. But the P-3AT gets carried more often since it is so much thinner.
NVGdude  [Member]
1/11/2010 11:46:26 AM EST
I find that the flat .380 autos conceal much better in a pocket holster than the lumpier 5-shot snubs.
scotchymcdrinkerbean  [Team Member]
1/11/2010 1:22:33 PM EST
Originally Posted By topgunpilot20:

Originally Posted By SGB:
The .38 special is an acceptable self defense choice, the .380 acp is a poor one.

Agreed. I have an LCP, but carry it strictly as a backup. A .38 snubby is the smallest gun I was feel comfortable carrying on its own.


Yep. And there is good ammo designed for snub nosed revolvers out there (Speer Gold Dots in 135+P.)
scotchymcdrinkerbean  [Team Member]
1/11/2010 1:24:39 PM EST
Originally Posted By sspbass:
Does going to a .357 magnum add any noticeable size compared to a .38 special?
Many also recommended the S&W, what do you guys say about the Ruger LCR?


All you are doing is adding recoil and noise below 3 inches. I do carry a 640-1 .357 magnum snub nose from time to time (I always carry a .38 649 as a backup,) but it is loaded with the aforementioned Speer .38+Ps.
tbonifie  [Team Member]
1/11/2010 1:41:01 PM EST

Originally Posted By unclemoak:
I find the LCP to be extremely awkward to shoot if you have medium to larger sized hands.

It does take some practice. I really need some practice, my last time at the range I was in the "broad side of a barn" category...

And the LCP makes my Glock 21 feel like a warm, oiled, massage...
mcnielsen  [Team Member]
1/11/2010 6:49:08 PM EST
Also, in cold weather where you can simply throw your J-frame in your heavy coat pocket, you can also reliably shoot THROUGH that coat pocket 5 times whereas small autos will malfunction.
haLfLiFe  [Member]
1/11/2010 9:02:19 PM EST
Wheel gun
John_Wayne777  [Team Member]
1/12/2010 3:11:29 AM EST
Originally Posted By TMA:
I know there have been many changes in cartridge design in the last 20 years. If I were to choose the .38 snub-nose, I would try to find a cartridge that was specifically design to be used in the snub-nose revolver. I know that such loadings have been developed, I just don’t remember which ones they are.


Speer's 135 grain Gold Dot +P loading was designed to work specifically with snub-nosed revolvers because so many police departments authorize them as backup or off-duty weapons. It works very well from reports in the field.

I wouldn't put much faith in what you may have read in the 80s, because we now know a hell of a lot more than we did back then. The science of terminal ballistics was in its infancy back in the early to mid 80's. It's much more mature almost 30 years later. (....God...saying that makes me feel really old.)

sspbass  [Member]
1/12/2010 8:05:30 AM EST
does anyone have any experience with a snub nose and an ankle holster?
scotchymcdrinkerbean  [Team Member]
1/12/2010 9:17:34 AM EST
Originally Posted By sspbass:
does anyone have any experience with a snub nose and an ankle holster?


Yes––-I carry a S&W 649 in one daily.
What ya wanna know?
TMA  [Member]
1/12/2010 9:25:30 AM EST
Originally Posted By John_Wayne777:
Originally Posted By TMA:
I know there have been many changes in cartridge design in the last 20 years. If I were to choose the .38 snub-nose, I would try to find a cartridge that was specifically design to be used in the snub-nose revolver. I know that such loadings have been developed, I just don’t remember which ones they are.


Speer's 135 grain Gold Dot +P loading was designed to work specifically with snub-nosed revolvers because so many police departments authorize them as backup or off-duty weapons. It works very well from reports in the field.

I wouldn't put much faith in what you may have read in the 80s, because we now know a hell of a lot more than we did back then. The science of terminal ballistics was in its infancy back in the early to mid 80's. It's much more mature almost 30 years later. (....God...saying that makes me feel really old.)



If by terminal ballistics you mean bullet (cartridge) design, I am in full agreement with you.

I suspect the 1980's study (of results from actual shootings) was comparing .380 FMJ to .38 Spl 158 gr LRN.


sspbass  [Member]
1/12/2010 2:00:58 PM EST
Originally Posted By scotchymcdrinkerbean:
Originally Posted By sspbass:
does anyone have any experience with a snub nose and an ankle holster?


Yes––-I carry a S&W 649 in one daily.
What ya wanna know?


Is that you're favorite way to carry? That would seem the best way to me.
what are the pros and cons?
sspbass  [Member]
1/12/2010 2:39:03 PM EST
I'm looking at a Smith and Wesson 360 scandium Airweight .38 SPL.
I like it b/c it has a scandium frame and it has a hammer.
It's selling locally for $485, is that a good price?
scotchymcdrinkerbean  [Team Member]
1/12/2010 3:36:36 PM EST
Here goes:


I don't like the scandiums because they are so light they are tough to learn to shoot well or to shoot on a regular basis. I would advocate a steel .38 over one of them purely on that basis.

As far as ankle carry––-I use it for backup carry, and do not really suggest it for the carry of a primary weapon. Even when those occasions arise that I carry a J-frame as my primary, I carry it on my waist with the 649 still on my ankle as a backup.

Ankle carry is handy for concealing a weapon from people who have no idea what they are looking at, but tends to be blatantly obvious to people who know firearms. It is also very hard to draw from in any sort of timely manner––-so much so that when working in uniform or when constrained by fashion to carry a J-frame on my hip as primary and the 649 on the ankle, I will also carry a Beretta 950 .25 in my pocket as another backup, as I can draw and shoot the .25 much more quickly as I head to cover to draw the 649.

Ankle carry also presents unique retention problems, as it can be jarred loose in a poor holster just by running, and is far away from your hands if you need to try to hold on to it.

In short, I find it an acceptable risk for backup carry, but would not suggest it for primary carry. On those occasions when I can only carry a single small wheelgun as my weapon (though that is usually with a 3 inch Model 64,) I choose appendix carry instead.
sspbass  [Member]
1/12/2010 6:17:13 PM EST
It seems like the wheel gun wins leaps and bounds over the lcp but are there any thoughts on a sub compact 9mm.
scotchymcdrinkerbean  [Team Member]
1/12/2010 6:25:45 PM EST
Originally Posted By sspbass:
It seems like the wheel gun wins leaps and bounds over the lcp but are there any thoughts on a sub compact 9mm.


Oh, if you can tote a Glock 26 with as much ease as a J-frame Smith, then the Glock is the way to go.

That said, a friend found that a S&W 3913 (9mm single stack auto) met his needs much better.
John_Wayne777  [Team Member]
1/13/2010 2:49:45 AM EST
I agree with Scotty...if you can pack a G26 rather than the J frame, by all means do so. It's bulkier than the J frame but something like a Glock 26 is a much better primary carry gun, IMO. It holds more ammo, it's easier to shoot, and you can put decent sights on it.
Slopes-2-Shores  [Member]
1/13/2010 3:24:14 AM EST
This thread seems to have gotton off of the LCP/J-Frame comparison. That being so , I entirely agree with the above few statements. I know a question was being answered , but the G26 is in a different category IMO. It's small , but too bulky for pocket and ankle carry. It's a great gun , primary or BU , but it's not in the same group of pocket guns as a J-Frame and LCP. I also have found ankle carry to be less than secure and comfy for me and wouldn't for a second recomend it as a primary carry position.
All good points though indeed........................................................

-JC
OrARGB  [Team Member]
1/13/2010 5:11:22 AM EST
Originally Posted By sspbass:
I'm looking for something that is the easiest for carrying. How well does the snub nose carry and in what rig?



I'll add my experience...
Normal build of 5'10", 175 lbs, ok so I'm a boarderline fatbastard...
I carry the SW 638 in a Desantis Nemisis.
I carry this in a small truck safe so I have a gun when I can't carry a full size or a quick trip to the store.
I also will put this in an Uncle Mikes ankle holster (church, parties, etc...)

I will carry the gun in my front pant pocket using the nemisis but only if I intend to stand most of the time. If I sit I have quite the bulge. Another option is coat pocket.

I'm looking for a LCP or P3AT in 9mm for $400....that functions like a Glock or SW J frame...Common you young whipper snappers, get cranking...
OrARGB  [Team Member]
1/13/2010 5:20:39 AM EST
Originally Posted By sspbass:
does anyone have any experience with a snub nose and an ankle holster?


See my post above but, I have used an Uncle Mikes ankle holster for over 5 years (two sizes SW638/G27).
They are about the only Uncle Mikes holster I will use. This design has been very secure for me and have worn well. I will add that practice on drawing is important.

Uncle Mikes Ankle Holster ~$25

The_Beer_Slayer  [Site Staff]
1/13/2010 5:34:58 AM EST
unless DEEP concealment is need 38spl trumps 380 EVERY time.

ankle holsters for SD are iffy at best. when you NEED a gun taking time to bend down raise your pants and draw is NOT fast nor convieniet. a GOOD pocket or IWB will serve you much better and be practical.

I can NOT be made at the office. my keltec 380 provides at least an option in this environment. beyond that it's a backup gun only. 380 is horribly anemic on man sized target even at contact range.
Bhart89  [Team Member]
1/13/2010 10:25:42 AM EST
Well I finally voted because I just came home with my LCP. It's amazing how slim and easy to conceal it is. My kel tec belt clip arrived too. Once I run the 150 rounds of Remington ball ammo through it i'm going to carry Buffalo Bore in it.
Paid Advertisement
--