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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8 Responses to Personal Defense Ammo for a 38Spec

  1. DAVID RUPPEL says:

    Good article! Thank you for the info.



  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.


  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!


  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.


  5. Jay Runkles says:

    Dear Phil, Please check out the Sportsmaster #8325 @ 1050 fps from a357 mag. Concerned about over penetration and underexpansion.


    • Lazlo says:

      I’ve said this a million times–A miss is the ultimate in ‘over penetration.’ Do you worry about missing? If so, you’ll never take a shot because most shots fired in an encounter ARE misses..

      Same thing with expansion. You cannot count on it, ever. To stop an aggressor, you’ve got to hit the central nervous system and it makes no difference what you hit it with, RN, JHP, or SWC.


  6. Jay Runkles says:

    Does be the #8320 have a thinner jacket than the 8325?
    Thanks, Jay-NRA


  7. Jay Runkles says:

    Dear Philip, if the 140 gr #8325 could be pushed at 1050 fps it should expand as well as the 110 gr assuming that they have the same jacket thickness. That appears to be not the case. I really like your 140 gr #8325 for the 357 mag. Do you think 1100 fps would get the job done with the 140 gr.? Jay- NRA, again
    P.S. Model 60, 3″ barrel


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