Modern Shooter: .38 Special
First introduced way back in the early 1900s, the world-famous .38 Special is but one of the tools that helped propel America to where we are today. The Special was once the primary a law enforcement round used by police. It still has a place today in certain hunting applications, with both revolvers and rifles, and is still used in self-defense over 110 years later.
Something that is little known about the .38 SPC (or SPL), is that it doesn’t actually fire a “38” caliber bullet as you’d think about modern bullet measurements. Rather, the .38 is a “35” caliber bullet, which is why you can fire it through a .357 Magnum revolver. I want to point out here, however, that while you can shoot a thirty-eight through a gun chambered in the Magnum cartridge, you should never reverse that.
While they share many similarities, the Magnum’s cartridge is loaded to much higher pressures and cannot be fired in a gun only chambered in .38. Furthermore, the Magnum is a bit longer so they might not even fit in your gun. Either way, don’t try it.
Even though the .38 Special is as popular as ever, it lacks terminal ballistics associated with many of the other modern self-defense cartridges on the market. In a world where you and I defend ourselves with a gun, .38 Special is one of the least powerful you would want to use (to include .32 Mag, .380 ACP, and .327).
I can almost hear you thinking, but it has such a huge case! How could such a big round be so “eh” in its performance?
Well, things aren’t always what they would seem. Sure, the case is big. Much bigger than many of the semi-auto self-defense pistols on the market. But, just because it has a big case, doesn’t mean it’s filled all the way to the top with gun powder.
Because the .38s are only rated for 17,000 PSI (which is really low), it can only hold so much powder, safely.
Furthermore, there are essentially two trains of thought for self-defense guns. They are as follows:
- Big, slow bullets create a bigger wound channel, and, are thus better for self-defense even though they move much slower.
- Small, faster moving bullets do more damage because they travel further into the body.
There are positives to both. The .38 Special packs a slow moving, medium sized bullet. Generally speaking, they can be found from 110 grains up to 158 grains. They move at lackluster speeds, with most, if not all of them (including the +P rounds) staying below the 1,000 FPS mark.
Many of the more popular thirty-eight loads move much slower than that in the 750 FPS range.
Again, in terms of self-defense, this is the lowest you’d want to go. If you don’t believe it, keep in mind a Defensive Gun Use story just covered by Eve Flanigan where a mother successfully halted a robber in her house to save her kids. She used a .38 Special revolver, and seemingly placed 5 shots on her attacker.
He walked back to his car and drove off before needing medical attention, and lived to tell the tale.
On the other hand, she did stop the attack with the gun. Had she not had it with her, the outcome would have been remarkably different. I own and carry a .38 revolver so I believe they are sufficient. What about you? Is the .38 SPC good enough for you? Let us know in the comments below. Then, make sure you like Gun Carrier’s Facebook Page.