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Thread: 38 Special Home Defense Only

  1. #1
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    Default 38 Special Home Defense Only

    Some questions, or uncertainties. First of all, should I use a HP bullet?

    If I donít need HP bullets, I could use my regular HC SWC field loads.

    Iíve been able to find only Winchester HP loads at the places Iíve gone to. They are either 110 grain, or 125 grain. The 125 grain loads are +P

    It seems to me that 110 grain is too light, but I donít know about that.

    I have 2, 38 Special revolvers and I donít want to use +P in either I guess. One is a S&W ďJĒ frame, and the other a Colt ďDĒ frame.

    I donít know for certain if either is rated for +P, but Iíve been told that a few of them wouldnít be so bad. Anyway, I decided to use NON- +P loads.

    Yes, I can handload 38 Special and I do, but I thought it would be simpler to use Factory Loads for this purpose, since I wouldnít be shooting a lot of them, but I would probably shoot a box or two of them initially, in each gun, for practice. And do the rest with my handloads.

    Any advice on which way to jump would be much appreciated.

    Smitty of the North
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  2. #2
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    Default Home defense loads

    Smitty,

    For home defense, it is always nice to have loads that would not be able to penetrate your home's exterior walls. You don't want a miss to hit someone not involved. I load my housegun with Glaser Safety Slugs or Winchester Silvertips

    One thought to consider. If you are just defending yourself, a 12 gauge is better than anything. The sound of the slide alone is intimidating enough. Just stand behind a closed door, rack the slide and call 911. No one in his right mind would open that door if there is any other exit available.

    That said, 125 grain Winchester Silvertips have a good reputation for one-shot stops. Glasers I mentioned already and there were some bullets on the market a few years ago that opened up in a petal pattern cutting a wide wound channel that were supposed to be pretty good. "Golden Saber" I think.

    Solids may do a better job at penetration, but you don't want a kill shot that might take some time. You want a stopping shot that works immediately. Expanding bullets result in a non-killing fast stop more often than solids. Solids are more deadly but take longer. All this is second hand information from reading books and magazines, so is subject to furthur education. After you pick your chosen defense load, research it fully.

    Last thought:
    Duplicate the ballistics of your chosen bullets (just a little lighter) with handloads for practice. Use only commercially made bullets for real shooting. If you ever have to answer this question in a deposition or a witness stand, "Did you manufacture your bullets yourself for extra deadliness?", pointing to a commercial maker with a good reputation is helpful.

    Larry

    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    Some questions, or uncertainties. First of all, should I use a HP bullet?

    If I don’t need HP bullets, I could use my regular HC SWC field loads.

    I’ve been able to find only Winchester HP loads at the places I’ve gone to. They are either 110 grain, or 125 grain. The 125 grain loads are +P

    It seems to me that 110 grain is too light, but I don’t know about that.

    I have 2, 38 Special revolvers and I don’t want to use +P in either I guess. One is a S&W “J” frame, and the other a Colt “D” frame.

    I don’t know for certain if either is rated for +P, but I’ve been told that a few of them wouldn’t be so bad. Anyway, I decided to use NON- +P loads.

    Yes, I can handload 38 Special and I do, but I thought it would be simpler to use Factory Loads for this purpose, since I wouldn’t be shooting a lot of them, but I would probably shoot a box or two of them initially, in each gun, for practice. And do the rest with my handloads.

    Any advice on which way to jump would be much appreciated.

    Smitty of the North
    Last edited by Lost Sheep; 02-02-2008 at 22:19. Reason: Add extra thought about solids

  3. #3

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    Smitty, check this out. It's the normal pressure ammo that I load my .38 special with. I don't know if it's the best, but many government agencies use Hydra-Shok. Seems to work out ok in my gun. It's a 110 grain hollow point bullet with low recoil loading. As far as bad guy performance, I haven't been there and haven't done that and I hope I don't have to.
    http://www.federalcartridge.com/ball...firearm=2&s1=1
    I sometimes use 158 grain SWC for practice because it's cheaper but I'm told that SWC is also a very good defensive load. Funny how most stores only sell the +p .38 special ammo. What are they thinking?

  4. #4

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    I also only load the HydraShok bullets in my .45 and .38 Special for home defense. They work, and very efficiently.

    The reason most stores only sell the +P and ++P is that is what sells. It is a by-product of our ever-reaching for more and more power from standard loads without increasing the caliber.
    Now just why in the hell do I have to press "1" for English???

  5. #5

    Default Run What you Brung

    The lead bullets you practice with will work fine, for your application. No criminal, fiend or burgular is going to rub his belly and say" that wasn't a Hollow point and it didn't hurt".
    He's going to haul butt as fast as his legs can carry him in the opposite direction from the BIG BANG and flashing lights.
    So save the money you planned on spending on HP ammo and use it for extra practice; she'll have more fun and be a better shot too.
    " Americans will never need the 2nd Amendment, until the government tries to take it away."

    On the road of life..... Pot holes keep things interesting !

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    Everyone:
    Thanks for your thoughts.

    I guess I will either do what Brav01 suggests and not use HPs. OR go with the 110 grain Winchester HPs.

    I wanted to use Factory Loads.
    I wanted to use HPs.
    I wanted to avoid +P loads.
    I wanted to use a 125 grain JHP.

    It's seems that if you want 38 Special, 125 grain JHPs, instead of 110 grain, the loads are all +P. There must be a reason for this.

    Maybe, I've been buckin the tide here.

    I live and learn. I hope I can remember too.

    Smitty of the North
    Walk Slow, and Drink a Lotta Water.
    Has it ever occurred to you, that Nothing ever occurs to God? Adrien Rodgers.
    You can't out-give God.

  7. #7

    Default Gotta agree with Lost Sheep

    on the "manufacturing your own" argument. It sounds like you're already looking that direction, but for those that recommend anything but factory ammunition for home defense are just asking to get burned with all the lawsuit crazy people out there these days. If it's something you can buy at a store, they really can't argue that you intentionally manufactured some sort of demon ammunition made to kill that person and their next of kin. That is something that was mentioned in an NRA sponsored personal protection class I took a few years back.
    NRA Life Member, Prior F-16 crew chief.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    ...It's seems that if you want 38 Special, 125 grain JHPs, instead of 110 grain, the loads are all +P. There must be a reason for this.

    Maybe, I've been buckin the tide here. ...
    I think Hawken54 nailed it. People think they need +P so the gun shops sell it to them. The other thing I have read is that the hollow point ammo needs the extra velocity of the +P to mushroom and function effectively. I don't totally buy that argument but it is plausible.

    You could argue that the lighter 110 grain bullet will achieve higher velocity due to its weight and that makes the hollow point bullet open up properly. I have a feeling that if you're defending your home, just about any well placed .38 special load will ruin someone's day.

  9. #9

    Default NEVER shoot to scare!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I know some will shudder and think I am a neanderthal, but if you shoot, shoot to kill. Aim for center mass. If someone is in your house, they are not intiminated and won't just run off when you shoot. Far from it. Too many people have been overcome by the very intruder they shot, but "shot to wound" or scare.
    That is a surefire recipe to the morgue for the hapless homeowner that didn't want to hurt the burgler. Kill them. That is your best defense, and you may just have saved your own butt plus your families.

    I had some friends die just like this, and will never shoot to scare or wound. Break into my house, you are dead meat. Double-tap center mass until you drop.

    There is also something to consider about using reloaded ammo for self defense. Lawyers don't care what the reason was you shot the burgler if they think they can squeeze dollars out of you. Stupid, but the way it is in the sue-crazy world we live in.
    Now just why in the hell do I have to press "1" for English???

  10. #10

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    Never shoot to scare and never show your gun to scare!!! The intruder does not think like you, so if he is in your domain he is very dangerous so do your neighbors and society the job you need to do to insure he will pray on no one else, start and finish the fight the intruder started when he broke in. Don't fire a shot and then see what happens but instead unleash controlled shots to the vitals, call 911 and ask for the ambulance and help!!

  11. #11
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    Default .38 Spl for home defense

    While the Euopeans go down in a civilized manner when hit by a 9mm a doped up thug in this country may not be so co-operative if you shoot him with a .38 Spl. Remember the expereinces of our armed services in the Phillipihines in the 1890s and why we went back to the .45 caliber as our standard handgun. Also recall that almost no police force uses the .38 Spl anymore and a lot have went from the 9mm to .40 or 10mms.

    I recall several stories last time when I was living in the Houston area and and the police went up against thugs with their 9mms. One officers shot a crazy 5 times in the chest at close range before the thug finally fell and dropped the machette. In another case an office empitied his 13 shot 9mm into an illegial alien point blank and hit like 11 times before the crook stopped and finally expired. When questioned on the stand as why he shot the perp so many times the officer replied that the rounds had no effect - he couldn't tell if he was hitting the alien. While these were case with the 9mm the ballistics of the .38 Spl are very similar.

    One other thought - the Brits loaded their .38 S&W with 200 gr slugs and must have had reasonable sucess. They had a lot of expereince shooting colonists in the days of the British Empire.

    Trade the .38 Spls in on a .44 Spl or .45 ACP reveolver - they are proven to work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrWoodsWalker View Post
    I think Hawken54 nailed it. People think they need +P so the gun shops sell it to them. The other thing I have read is that the hollow point ammo needs the extra velocity of the +P to mushroom and function effectively. I don't totally buy that argument but it is plausible.

    You could argue that the lighter 110 grain bullet will achieve higher velocity due to its weight and that makes the hollow point bullet open up properly. I have a feeling that if you're defending your home, just about any well placed .38 special load will ruin someone's day.
    MrWoodsWalker:
    I was thinking along those lines when I said that there must be a reason.

    Like you say, at 38 Special non+P velocities, a 125 grain might not expand enough, but a 110 grain at a higher velocity would.

    Also as you mention, one cannot totally buy that argument, because the velocity isn't that much different. and the velocities vary with barrel length etc. Then again, maybe they think that all 38 Specials are snub-nose.

    We'll be using 158 grain HC SWCs for field use, but I wanted Factory Load JHPs for home defense use for the reasons

    that MToutdoorsman mentioned,

    and for over-penetration reasons mentioned by Lost Sheep.

    Itís probably not a biggy, but I might as well take this stuff into consideration.

    Smitty of the North
    Walk Slow, and Drink a Lotta Water.
    Has it ever occurred to you, that Nothing ever occurs to God? Adrien Rodgers.
    You can't out-give God.

  13. #13

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    Hawken54, old guy and tvfinak made some good points but I was not advocating shooting to wound or scare nor showing a gun to scare. I agree that any home intruder should be taken out as quickly as possible because chances are they are prepared to kill and home invasion is probably a way of life for them. I was just saying that a well-placed .38 Special could be effective whether it is Hydra-Shok, SWC or round nose or whatever. But it sounds like you guys don't think the .38 Special is a good enough man stopper. I agree that .44 special, .357 magnum or .45 ACP are all better than .38 Special but if the .38 Special is all someone has or can afford, I think they should buy some speed loaders and make the best of it. Personally, I use my .38 mainly as a backup gun. If someone can't afford a bigger handgun, I recommend buying a Mossberg 500 12 gauge and using the .38 as a backup for the shotgun. New 500s can be bought for under $300.

  14. #14

    Default 158 Lhp

    My 640 J frame is always loaded with 158 gr. +P lead hollow points. I do not know if they would expand much with the 2" barrel. But, if I put it in the right place from 10' or less it should work. It has proven to be a darn fine halibut "stopper"!

  15. #15

    Default Years ago I read an article on handloading

    38's for defence and the bullet that did the most damage was a inverted hollow base wadcutter.....it was shot into a thick telephone book and the result was that it shredded the book....very impressive..

  16. #16
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    Default

    Some police officers in NY took that one step further. With a solid lead wadcutter bullet that had a single cut from the nose back to the brass, it opened up on entry into a devastating wound channel. They actually got to use their experimental ammo (this was back in the 70s) on a bad guy and attended the autopsy to see what it did. The primary wound channel was a couple inches in diameter and the bullet didn't exit. It was interesting stuff, but didn't go anywhere after the politicians and department lawyers got involved.

    I would strongly echo the sentiments about NEVER using home loads for self defense. After a self-defense shooting, you WILL be in court trying to defend your actions. Always use factory purpose made ammo, but choose good stuff. The exact bullet and load won't really make a difference out of a .38 Spl, but a general rule is to go with a heavy HP.

    And one last point, do not "shoot to kill". Get this phrase into your head, "shoot to stop". If you say the word, "kill" when talking to the dispatcher, police, or the court, you risk losing the case. Always shoot to STOP the threat. Yeah, they'll probably die, but just remember that's not your "official" intent. It's just word play, but it will be very important after the fact to say the right things.
    Winter is Coming...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    Everyone:
    Thanks for your thoughts.

    I guess I will either do what Brav01 suggests and not use HPs. OR go with the 110 grain Winchester HPs.

    I wanted to use Factory Loads.
    I wanted to use HPs.
    I wanted to avoid +P loads.
    I wanted to use a 125 grain JHP.

    It's seems that if you want 38 Special, 125 grain JHPs, instead of 110 grain, the loads are all +P. There must be a reason for this.

    Maybe, I've been buckin the tide here.

    I live and learn. I hope I can remember too.

    Smitty of the North
    Smitty,

    If I could I'd like to offer some "pointers" about a couple of points that have been brought up.

    First, the generally concept by the experts is to use only factory ammo due to legal ramifications of "home cooked" ammo. The fact is that the legal ramifications of deadly force are huge anyway. I have been involved in two of these unfortunate situations and neither time was the ammo made an issue. Once was hand loads once was 45 ACP silvertips.

    In a home defense situation, penetration is not a desired quality of the ammo in use. The 38 spcl is a very good home defense caliber and the 125 grain HP's are a good choice, +P or not, I think there is so very little difference in the performance of the loads especially in short barrrels, giving no more than 100 fps extra for the +P loads. I know of one situation where a home cast 170 grain 357 SWC penetrated through three walls and came to rest in the bed post of the 'duplex' neighbor, after passing through the badguy.

    Good 125 grain HP's are available in factory ammo. There is a lot of speculation about this or that bullet and there is very little difference in any of them in a handgun. There are three basic bullets. The Speer Gold Dots, the Federal Hydra-Shock and the Sierra made bullet that everyone else uses. (CorBon, Triton, etc.) One is as good as the other, none of them will perform miraculously and there is no such thing as a one shot stop. Also, only through premeditation would an individual who "feared for their life" shoot only once.

    I disagree with the shotgun except as a behind a locked door and that is a deterrent. A home defense weapon must be accesable and usable with one hand when the other is twisted behind your back.

    I think you're on the right track here, this is a sensable approach. You should buy ammo that can be used safely in all your guns. I don't think any commercial +P ammo would be unsafe in any modern 38 spcl. Also home defense places different requirements on ammo over concealed carry or vehicle guns and of course, field and trail ammo would be different yet.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



  18. #18

    Default I have always thought otherwise....

    "And one last point, do not "shoot to kill". Get this phrase into your head, "shoot to stop". If you say the word, "kill" when talking to the dispatcher, police, or the court, you risk losing the case. Always shoot to STOP the threat. Yeah, they'll probably die, but just remember that's not your "official" intent. It's just word play, but it will be very important after the fact to say the right things."
    __________________

    I have always thought the chant was "I was in fear of my life". That's the phrase that saves you...that's the self defence mantra....

  19. #19

    Default

    Many years ago I went about seriously testing a wide variety of calibers and bullets for their "stopping" abilities. Deer seemed like a better test medium than ballistic gelatin and phone books. And since we had a 7 deer limit in those days, I got the chance to shoot a whole mess of them with a total of 28 tags in the house and a project running for several years.

    Never tried a shorter barrel, but I whapped several deer with 38 special from a 4" model. The conventional lead RN "service" load led to some serious tracking jobs, while 158 grain standard velocity SWCs did a better job of "stopping" than any bullet I tried in 45 ACP. Deer died with single shots from either, but just did it a whole lot faster with the FN bullet in the 38. No ballistic theory involved, just holes in hides. I'd never use 45 ball ammo for stopping, but the newer expanding stuff might actually expand. I'd nonetheless feel quite confident with a 38 and 158 grain SWCs for home defense.

    I whacked a whole lot more deer with an assortment of 357's than that 38. It turned out that the 125 grain Remington and Federal were better than anything else all the way out to 50 yards. They expanded well and killed like lightning. You won't be starting 125's anywhere near as fast from a 38, but I'm betting that at home defense distances they'll be going at least as fast as my 357's were at 50 yards.

    Especially for J frames with short barrels, I'd be inclined toward the 125's for a little more control in rapid fire than 158's. I probably wouldn't bother with any +'s in the load description, since all they are going to do is add noise and flash while decreasing control. I've got a J shorty, and even with standard velocity stuff, I was "inspired" to put on a set of Pachmyer grips for more control.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    While the Euopeans go down in a civilized manner when hit by a 9mm a doped up thug in this country may not be so co-operative if you shoot him with a .38 Spl. Remember the expereinces of our armed services in the Phillipihines in the 1890s and why we went back to the .45 caliber as our standard handgun. Also recall that almost no police force uses the .38 Spl anymore and a lot have went from the 9mm to .40 or 10mms.

    I recall several stories last time when I was living in the Houston area and and the police went up against thugs with their 9mms. One officers shot a crazy 5 times in the chest at close range before the thug finally fell and dropped the machette. In another case an office empitied his 13 shot 9mm into an illegial alien point blank and hit like 11 times before the crook stopped and finally expired. When questioned on the stand as why he shot the perp so many times the officer replied that the rounds had no effect - he couldn't tell if he was hitting the alien. While these were case with the 9mm the ballistics of the .38 Spl are very similar.

    One other thought - the Brits loaded their .38 S&W with 200 gr slugs and must have had reasonable sucess. They had a lot of expereince shooting colonists in the days of the British Empire.

    Trade the .38 Spls in on a .44 Spl or .45 ACP reveolver - they are proven to work.
    I have some disagreement with some of this particularly the comment about the 38 spcl being inadequate. I agree it isn't my preferred caliber but it is, in modern loadings, superior to the 9x19, and has always been. It isn't the stopper of the 44 spcl/45ACP class of gun but it is far more shootable for many shooters. No disagreement, bigger is better but no caliber can insure a quick stop.

    The 38 in use during the phillipine insurrection was the 38 short colt caliber, about the equal of the light bullet load for the 38 S&W, both far more anemic than the 38 spcl.

    I think that all "standard defensive calibers" are rather ineffective against determined adversaries. Something with a "four" in it's title is better and has a proven track record to support it, as you said. An important note I think is that even with two or three center hits with larger calibers (particularly the 45 ACP) there is very little liklihood of the opponent dropping. I've never seen a one shot drop from any handgun and I have seen shootings. I saw two neighbors get into a gun fight in the street in front of my house one Sunday afternoon. One was shot through the chest with a 44 magnum the other was shot in the ankle with a 357 after he was wounded by the big 44. Both lived. The 44 entered below the right nipple and exited the left arm pit, then flattened the right rear tire on a Caddillac. Lots of blood. (From the guy, not the Caddie.) He remained on his feet and emptied his 357.

    There are many stories of multiple hits needed to stop an opponent and I would venture to guess that this could be most likely contributed to the fact that the shooter just kept shooting. One, well placed, will do it but it just takes so much more time than it does in the movies. So many people don't understand that. And of course, if not disabled, he can shoot back. I also know of one hapless individual who took something like 27 hits from five police shooters, then fell from a 3 story balcony on a concrete slab, yet still lived. Maybe the number was 23 hits but certainly a lot and he still survived.

    I think home defense is different form street defense, be it civilian or police and tactics and equipment should be different. I think the Glaser safety slugs are worth a look and they probably offer the best in some situations. They do seem to help the marginal calibers. They were issue ammo back in the '70's when riding aircraft an looking for trouble. They work well but require center hits to be quick. There will be no exit.

    As with most of these subjects, this is mostly conjecture. I hardly think there is a large source of experienced perveyors of this sort of information so decisions must be made based on what we can shoot and what common sense dictates. If you hunt whitetail deer with a handgun, you have a pretty good idea of what effect the round of choice will do. I am absolutely certain that a human adversary is more difficult to stop than a whitetail deer.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



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