Personal Defense Ammo for a 38Spec

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin

This is a continuation of my last post giving my results from my 1911 chambered in 45ACP. I’ll be reporting on my Smith & Wesson Model 10 chambered in 38Spec with a snubbie barrel and it was a tough go, but I have picked a winner from our lineup to use in it.

#8325 Sierra 140 gr JHPThe first bullet I found when I initially purchased this firearm was Sierra’s 140 gr jacketed hollow point #8325 and it shot very well for me. Even though it gave me accuracy, I never could get any kind of velocity from it. My accuracy load only gave 750fps, but I never pushed it over 800. At 750fps, it didn’t expand at all through my water test as you can see in the photo. After the initial examination, I picked out the layers of jug plastic from the hollow point cavity. It went through and stopped in the 6th jug for a whopping total of 27” or so worth. Needless to say, it wasn’t going to work for the job of self defense, so I had to find another.

#8300 110 gr JHP BlitzWhen I considered another (preferably a lighter one), I did look over Sierra’s  125gr JHP #8320 but decided to go all the way to the lightest one we offer. Sierra’s 110gr JHP Blitz #8300 bullet was going to be the choice test subject for this firearm. I was able to test a few powders but none gave the accuracy I wanted or the velocity I needed (or thought I needed) from it except one. The velocity I hoped to achieve was 1,100fps and I was able to but I had better accuracy from a load that gave 1,050fps and actually gave an exact replica of bullet expansion as the faster velocity did so I kept it at the lower charge. The bullet you see stopped in the third jug so it went around 12” or so. It expanded to a 0.6” diameter and retained 100% of its weight. Needless to say, I have found a winner.

On a side note, there have been shooters call and ask what kind of velocity loss they will see from this length barrel compared to data specs. Of the velocities I chronographed from my firearm compared to several other sources, here is the rundown. From a 7.7” test barrel, I found a 300-350fps loss; from a 6” test barrel, I found a 180-200fps loss; and from a 4” test barrel, I found a 60-90fps loss depending on what manual I was looking in. Unfortunately, this is not set in stone and your results may vary but you could use this as a rule of thumb if you like.

In conclusion, I am going to use Sierra’s 110gr JHP Blitz #8300 Blitz bullet from my backup but please remember you may not get the same velocities from your firearm as I did. If your gun also has a short barrel and is not rated for +P loads, you definitely won’t so don’t push it. I may do another post on how this bullet works at slower velocities as well as how our heavier bullets work at faster velocities.

Till next time, have fun shooting.

 

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4 Responses to Personal Defense Ammo for a 38Spec

  1. DAVID RUPPEL says:

    Good article! Thank you for the info.

    Rupe

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  2. Zbigniew says:

    Never been a fan of expansion in ‘normal’ pistol cartridges, such as the .38 Special. I have nothing against it IF you can get the same penetration as a solid. But that’s just it–you can’t.

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  3. Dana Mangham says:

    Interesting info, for cetain. Can you divulge the powder that worked well for you in this application? Also, I look forward to whatever you can provide us about these bullets’ performance at other velocities, since I am looking at them for use in .38 Special (4″ Mod. 12, non-+P); and in .38 S&W (2″ and 4″ steel solid-frame Smiths). I missed your .45 ACP article, so will go back and find it.
    By the way, I also load .38 caliber bullets in the 9mm Browning Long, for a Swedish MILSURP Husqvarna m/07 in excellent condition. 110g at 1100 fps duplicates its original ballistic performance, and the Sierra 110g Blitz bullet obviously performs beautifully in that velocity envelope. GREAT to know!

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  4. Steve says:

    How much effect will shooting this type of 38 load out of a snub 357m? I have found 357m to be quit a bit to handle for defense. It is a pussy cat with 38s and I would like to use them instead of 357m. 38s are much faster back on target. I am more concerned about penetration and expansion than accuracy as it will only be used at 10-20 feet.

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