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Posted: 8/20/2017 7:52:11 AM EDT
I have been reloading for some time now, but have been reloading for rifle calibers mainly. Got a Smith and Wesson military and police 38 special pre 10, 4 inch barrel for the wife.
Going to reload some ammo for it and need a good defense bullet and powder suggestions. Or maybe some loaded ammo off the self. Just like to hear your opinions  Thanks guys
Link Posted: 8/20/2017 8:28:01 AM EDT
It takes a warm load in .38 Special to get a hollow point bullet to expand effectively, and it would be a shame to subject that old war horse to that kind of treatment.  (Not that it won't take it for a while, but warm/hot loads definitely accelerate wear on a handgun).

So, I would consider the classic .38 wadcutter, over a powder charge just slightly better than what is, (or was), typically used for target shooting.

Use a fast burning powder, like Bullseye or 231, (yes, I know I am dating myself, old school powders are what I was using last time I loaded .38s, I use newer powders for my auto pistol loads, I promise).

Just work your way up closer to the max loads recommended by powder or bullet manufacturers.

Not a wonder bullet, but it will make a larger hole than more conventional style bullets, yet still penetrate well.

It is an accurate choice, with light recoil and flash, and its modest pressure levels should let you enjoy that gun for a long long time.
Link Posted: 8/20/2017 8:49:37 AM EDT
Just flip a 148 grain HBWC and load it backwards.
Link Posted: 8/20/2017 8:57:39 AM EDT
A warm/hot load with a 110 or 125gr SJHP would work well in that pistol. Being for SD use, it hopefully would never have to be used but could handle it.

A similar, lead bullet loaded lighter could be used for practice and not beat up her or the gun.
Link Posted: 8/20/2017 11:26:31 AM EDT
Link Posted: 8/20/2017 11:52:56 AM EDT
My load is 3.85 grains of WW-231 under a 158 grain semi-wadcutter. This is a maximum load in my firearm producing 850 fps from my S&W M10 with a 4" barrel.

A 110 or 125 grain hp loaded hot will work too. Find out what your wife shoots the best with. A hit with any bullet works a lot better than a miss.

I can shoot all day long, literally close to 600+ rounds of my 158 grain swc loads and not suffer any I'll effects from a day at the range. I can't say that about any magnum I own.
Link Posted: 8/20/2017 12:19:17 PM EDT
Link Posted: 8/20/2017 1:23:24 PM EDT
I used to use 125gr HP in my stub nose 38 loaded with Bullseye. It was surprisingly accurate and performed well on a pesty farm house intruding groundhog.

Personally (not for the old law suit storys that always float around) I like factory defense specific ammo for my carry gun. Like Hornady Critical Defense. Just pay attention to weather it's +P rated and match the ammo to what is best for your gun.

Link Posted: 8/20/2017 4:17:40 PM EDT
My recommendation is to replicate the old standby:  A soft 158 Semi wadcutter hollow point at +p speeds.  Its the old FBI load....

A non-jacketed soft lead bullet with a LARGE hollow point will typically expand well at 4" revolver speeds, especially at +p levels.  Furthermore, its got enough weight to penetrate decently.  The real key here is a soft, non jacketed bullet.  Even when it doesnt expand fully, the front end will sort of expand to  a 'rivet' shape, still providing a larger wound diameter.

Speer, Hornday and remington all sell a lead semi wadcutter hollow point. All will work.  The best bet of the three is the Remington.  Its softer than the other two, soft enough that you can often deform the bullet nose with hand pressure alone.  This softness means it opens easier, with less issues, at .38 speeds than a harder bullet.  Other makers often sell a non-HP HARDCAST SWC.  Not recommended!  Hard cast, even if its a hollow point, will not open.  And a non HP will NEVER open....

If you load the remington 158 LSWCHP to a speed of about 875-900 fps out of a 4" revolver, you will have replicated the FBI load.  Its no modern super magnum, but its historically and statistically proven as a decent defensive load, and its about as reliable and effective as any .38 Special revolver can be...
Link Posted: 8/20/2017 4:45:32 PM EDT
As a former member of probably the very last department to transition to 9mms from .38 spl, consider the last duty load for .38 revolvers that our dinosaurs still use.

.38 Spl +P Gold Dot Hollow Point 135 grain SHort Barrel.
Link Posted: 8/20/2017 7:25:20 PM EDT
If fixed sights, likely set for 158 grainers.  Wouldn't advise light weight plus p's, but might give consideration to standard pressure/velocity with 160 fnpb from Cast Performance.  Big flat meplat for a 38, might shoot to sights, adequate penetration and mild enough to practice to proficiency with. Without beating up the old gun (or your wife).

If was a more modern firearm with adjustable sights would try out newer, lighter and faster loads.
Link Posted: 8/21/2017 9:55:48 AM EDT
These loaded to 950 FPS.


These loaded at 900-950 FPS (out of a 4" barrel).

Note: RimRock is the only bullet manufacturer making a true copy of the FBIs SWCHP. Any other 158gr SWCHP you find on the market will have too much antimony and be too hard/brittle. This will result in poor expansion at low velocity, and sheering of petals at velocities that cause it to expand.
Link Posted: 8/21/2017 3:57:32 PM EDT
6gr Power Pistol with a Speer 158gr LSWCHP is what I use
Link Posted: 8/21/2017 5:12:16 PM EDT
A 158 gr LSWCHP or 135 gr gold dot short barrel.
Link Posted: 8/21/2017 8:27:09 PM EDT
Your revolver is not rated for +P loads. It will loosen up relatively quickly if you use them. Try loading full velocity cast wadcutter for your best results, including a revolver that gets to continue growing old. Here are my usual reference articles for 38 Spl. Some will hang their heads, sigh deeply, and mutter something about "not again".

So, again, again, and again...


Link Posted: 8/22/2017 7:00:10 AM EDT
Have very similar line of thinking, but went with the LBT style heat treated lead FNPB from Cast performance.  Mainly because most available wad cutters are swaged.  Have since sold my older 38 special, but still keep some loads around for the snubby.  Would have to check, but think they are loaded between 750-800 fps from 2 incher.  Like everything else in life, it be a compromise.
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