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I make a habit of counting the number of reloads I make by keeping a tally of primer and bullet boxes. I’m not a hoarder and I don’t keep them, but I am detailed in my process. I reached an interesting number the other day. I realized that I had hit a very special count for a very special cartridge: 20,000 rounds of .38 Special.

I’ve done the majority of shooting in .38 Special in my Smith & Wesson 642. The gun has appeared here before and has remained unchanged as far as accessories. Unlike many other guns I’ve owned and carried, this little snubby really can’t be modified much beyond factory configuration. As a result, I’ve been able to spend far more time practicing with it rather than fussing with it.

But this piece isn’t about the gun, but rather the cartridge. I never really set my sights, in a manner of speaking, on the .38 cartridge like I did other rounds. There have been guns I’ve bought for the caliber, but the .38 wasn’t one of those. I wanted a good carry gun that was light and reliable, so I decided that the .38 would fit and I just went with it. Reloading for it came next and it has since become my favorite pistol cartridge.

The stuff you learn shooting 20,000 reloads (on top of thousands of rounds of factory ammo) can be pretty interesting and I feel that I’ve got a very good picture of what the .38 Special. looks like today.

The reason I love the .38 SPL so much is because it’s so elastic in function. Most people have one general power level for their semi-autos due to the fact that the guns won’t function with ammo that’s not energetic enough to cycle the slide. A revolver shooting .38 SPL only requires the power of your finger to make it fire and can thus be loaded with ammo that is extremely mild or hotter than hot.

1.)   The majority of my shooting with .38 has taken place with soft lead bullets. In my time with the cartridge, I have come to appreciate the mid to low end of the power spectrum and thus have made extensive use of Trail Boss powder and bullets such as Hornady’s .358” 158gr SWC. I load these bullets to the edge of the shoulder and use anywhere from 3-4 grains of TB. This produces about 550-650fps from a 1 7/8” barrel and feels like shooting a very powerful .22LR.

2.)   Over 20,000 rounds, I’ve found that there’s rarely a wrong way to do .38 SPL. I have used everything from simple lead to the most advanced machined copper bullets and found them all to be extraordinarily easy to load and shoot. When I say that there’s rarely a wrong way to do it, I really mean it. If you can follow simple instructions, you can safely load this cartridge.

3.)   When I teach other people the basics of reloading, I teach them on the .38 SPL. The cases are large enough that they can be easily manipulated by inexperienced hands and yet small enough to not require much force in the sizing stage.

4.)   The powder charges used for .38 are forgiving. Because we have no action to cycle, the novice reloader can afford to be off a bit if they have an entry-level scale or powder dispenser. Most modern revolvers chambered for .38 SPL are rated to +P, so there is room for error, but care must still be taken.

5.)   Anything goes with bullets. I routinely use only two powders: Trail Boss and Titegroup. These two can cover the entire performance spectrum up to .38+P. I really enjoy Trail Boss and use it extensively for plain lead and plated bullets. I have tested lots and lots of different bullet and found them all to be great. The beauty of shooting a .38 is that you can easily practice at the ranges you’d fight at using basically any cheap bullet at minimal expense.

6.)   Case life is excellent, especially for mild loads. I have tested both brass and nickel-plated cases using mild loadings and have not yet worn out a case. I have one that has been loaded about sixty times and it is still in use today. Using higher pressure loads will wear brass out faster and it will become brittle with time.

7.)   Bullet seating depth is very forgiving. Since we are working with a gun that doesn’t have a magazine, we can afford to mess with this dimension at will. I’ve loaded some wadcutters to the point of being flush with the case mouth and big lead bullets almost to the front of the cylinder.

8.)   Brass collection is easy since it doesn’t eject. The best part about this is that not only do you never really lose your fired cases, but you they are always in great condition. I don’t bother polishing my .38 brass because I just don’t let it fall in the mud or dirt.

9.)  Beginners to shooting can use a full size revolver or their carry gun with light to mild loads to become confident and familiar with marksmanship and trigger control. I love a nice, full-size .357 Magnum on the range because it is so easy to train new shooters on. There is almost no recoil and the student can increase power level when they feel ready using the same gun.

10.) Lastly, the .38 SPL has a very large following and materials can be had readily. It’s easy to load in progressive presses and has commercially available options from virtually all modern manufacturers. Reloading supplies and load recipes are available everywhere.

If you haven’t taken a look at what the .38 Special offers, you’re selling yourself short. The cartridge offers a great deal of zest and has thousands of possible load combinations.

In my time spent with the .38, I’ve come to greatly appreciate it for what it is and does. Despite being well over one hundred years old, it still has perfect relevance for today’s shooters, both novice and advanced.



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      • What’sa USPSA match?
        How’z that?
        Ten years ago I bought my wife a Lady Smith, 5-round.
        Titanium. WOW, it’s light! It bites a little when fired.
        She does load it with Hornady Critical Defence!
        I reload for it and use 158 gr—round or flat nose projectiles. Nothing special as far as defense loads. But the bullets I do use will make you leak!

  1. The .38 is also a very accurate revolver. I have yet to find any decent quality .38 that will not shoot well. The .38 is an old round. But so are most of the rounds we use today. 9mm? .45acp? .357? The .357 is a young round and it is still 80 years old.

    Set aside Red Dawn or Zombie Apocalypse scenarios and the vast majority of citizen gun owners can handle their self defense needs with 2 revolvers. A snubby .38 and a duty sized .38. Throw in a pump shotgun and you’ve got just about all bases covered.

    Before anybody gets butt hurt I am not saying we should be restricted in our gun choices. I’m just saying that the vast majority of us will survive just fine if all we had was the old police standby. .38 revolver and shotgun.

    • I have a favorite of each major firearm platform in my personal collection. My fave revolver is a trusty .38 SPL in a full size model formerly used by a major CA LE Dept. Mrs Haz likes it because it’s heavy, solid, and doesn’t flinch when she pulls the trigger.

      • I have an ex cop Model 10. Made in the 60’s with a lot of holster wear. But it is rock solid and is more accurate than I am capable of.

        • Flinch = heavy muzzle rise in the hands of a smaller-handed person.

          For example, Mrs Haz did *not* like shooting a .45 ACP Officer model. Too much of da flinch.

      • LAPD issued me a Model 15 in 1971 and I bought it from them when I retired in 1994. Still my favorite carry. ( Altered to DAO, LAPD thought was safer.)

    • I would throw a rifle of some sort in there somewhere,
      And maybe .357 instead of .38spc, just my preference,
      But essentially you are correct.

      Not that the extra power of the .357 is absolutely necessary,
      But it is nice to have the option.

      This minimal brace could also benefit from a couple of .22s,
      A handgun and rifle.

  2. Agree with all points in the article. I also reload .38 special and have found the same results. When I take the grandkids to the range they can’t wait to shoot my 6 inch .357 loaded with .38s. No more recoil than a .22 and accurate as hell.

  3. The 642 makes a great concealable backup in my opinion. My reloading will likely end up including .38spl at some point. I’m just more interested in other calibers at the moment.

  4. I, obviously agree.

    While I enjoy shooting other rounds, I have fired more 38 special than all other center fire rounds combined.

    It lends itself to pud rounds for plinking and introducing shooting to a newb ….. and can be a formidable defensive round in many platforms.

    My most favored trail gun is a model 60 with 158 grain SWC. Accurate and effective for a variety of tasks.

    Long live the 38 special.

    • “Long live the 38 special.”

      I was given to understand that .38spl ammo was all noticeably under 1000fps. Is that really sufficient for self-defense?

        • “Yes it is.”

          In my teen years, even, stories went around about .38spl bullets embedding in, or bouncing off the winter coats of NYC cops. As an adult, issued a .38 S&W revolver for a side arm as a combat pilot, I felt completely out gunned. With only 25rds issued with the pistol, I thought that was 24 more than necessary.

        • “As an adult, issued a .38 S&W revolver for a side arm as a combat pilot, I felt completely out gunned.”

          Against an AK, hell, yeah.

          My dad was issued the same when he has flying 130s in ‘Nam refueling helicopters…

      • lol. as others have commented it is sufficient.
        from a 2 inch gun – 125 hp like golden Sabres- will expand and penetrate. 158 grains hp are less like to expand but will certainly penetrate.
        moving to 4 inch gun – standard loads move close to 1000 fps and real +p loads like Buffalo Bore or Underwood can easily, break 1100 fps.

        regardless- it’s easy to find controllable loads that will penetrate 12 inches. muzzle flash and noise is much less than 357 or even 9mm.

        • “muzzle flash and noise is much less than 357 or even 9mm.”

          Thanx, guys. Learned a good deal from the conversation.

        • Sam, if you go with a pocket .38, don’t get the utra-light ones like the scandium or ‘Airweight’, go all-steel, the extra weight really softens the recoil…

        • Geoff:
          I have a S&W 642 (scandium) that I use for concealed carry when I need to carry in a (winter) coat pocket. I put a Hogue grip on it, which makes the recoil tolerable with +p loads. I also have an SP101 (stainless steel) snubby chambered for .38 special, and very much I like it. But to me it’s just too heavy for everyday carry.

  5. All of what the author writes is spot-on. .38 Special will do the job in a package that is relatively easy to learn to shoot, and potent daughter cartridge .357 can fill in where necessary. Having one set of dies, bullets etc. can fill in a lot of other needs and wants and is very easy as well as inexpensive to reload and gains effectiveness exponentially when used in a longer barreled firearm such as a carbine length lever action.

    I’ve got a few sidearms in various calibers and love them all and vary my carry, but a five shot .38 S&W Special revolver is my current sweet spot for all the reasons the writer points out.

  6. I too enjoy the 38 Special. After 50+ years, I have to agree that for many uses, a quality 38 revolver is “enough gun”. As a handloader, being able to load oddball rounds, like a SPEER shot cup with either 7 1/2 shot or 3 of the #1 Buck balls, just adds to the versatility of the 38 Special. Note – the #1 Buck loads were due to a pack of feral dogs attacking kids and chickens. Same #1 Buck loads worked great on skunks as well. Now with 357 rifles so widely available, can only imagine how many more people will enjoy the 38 Special.

    • i have several hundred brass cases (mostly remington) imhave reloaded 20 times. never trimmed.
      I check the cases after tumbling with my fingernail to see if the mouth is developing splits. I have noticed more splits with winchester vs Remington or federal cases.
      I have all the split cases and will trim them if ever needed.
      I load +p loads in nickle cases for easy identification. with heavier loads I notice more case mouth cracks (after 5 or 6 loadings) – keep in mind the higher pressure and heavy crimps.

      not really worried as I have thousands of 38 spl cases. often when I shoot with friends who don’t reload – they give me their cases.
      I also offer to load for them if they buy the bullets and primers. primers at 80 dollars per 1000 make 9mm much more attractive to hobby shooters.

      • Now tumble all my brass using a Harbor Freight Rock Tumbler and a mix of DAWN and LEMI SHINE. (Swapped out 18 gage wire Brads for Stainless Steel Pins.) Once rinsed and dried, makes it much easier to examine the condition of the brass. Under a bright light, cracks and/or splits quickly show up when the brass is clean and bright. Found 38 Special (non +P) and 45 ACP brass seem to last forever when kept clean between loadings. LYMAN Tumbler now saved for the really dirty brass, before de-priming and going into the Harbor Freight Tumbler.

        • never used the needles for polishing but am curious.

          I’m still using corncobbs and walnut shells.

          does it affect the poly tubs on the tumblers?

          is it louder with the steel pins ?

        • Harbor Freight is a “wet” Tumbler. Use a 1/4 teaspoon of DAWN and same amount of LEMI SHINE in ~30 oz. of hot water. In the Harbor Freight Drum, fill it about 1/2 – 2/3 full with cases, then add a 4 oz package of wire brads and then fill with the DAWN & LEMI SHINE mix, leaving about 1/2″ spacing from top of Drum. Depending on how dirty, running cases for 2 – 3 hours is sufficient. I pour dirty water through a coffee filter to separate brass and brads from dirty water. Rinse and dry cases, but brads can just be dried, but even though rusty, still can be used over and over.

      • “not really worried as I have thousands of 38 spl cases. often when I shoot with friends who don’t reload – they give me their cases.”

        I *love* finding once-fired .38 and .357 nickle-plated brass on the ground at the gun range, it’s kinda like surprise little Christmas presents… 🙂

  7. When I set out to be a gun owner 7 years ago, I thought I had purchased all the firearms I would ever need: a G43, a G17, and a Remington 870.

    Now, I have added 2 rifles, and several more pistols. No revolvers. Have never even fired a revolver. The next purchase will be a Bear Creek 10mm carbine. After that, maybe a revolver. But the constant barage of family medical necessity makes the next firearm purchase a Tantalusiian enticement.

    In the meantime, I train every day, and God help anyone who threatens my family. And God bless all of you at TTAG who have taught me more that I ever expected when I joined.

    We are careening toward Christmas!!

    • LifeSavor,

      I highly recommend acquiring a revolver at some point. This coming from someone whose “everyday carry” handgun is a semi-auto pistol.

      First of all, revolvers are stupid-simple to operate in every possible regard:
      — Firing is easy (just “point and click”).
      — There are no “limp wrist” concerns.
      — Malfunctions are easy (just pull the trigger again).
      — There is no slide which can be hard to rack.
      — You don’t have to “break-in” your revolver.
      — You don’t have to verify that self-defense ammo will cycle.
      — Cleaning is crazy-easy.

      Second, revolvers are fun and easy to shoot in recreational applications.

      Third, revolvers still function even if you end up pressing your barrel against your attacker in a self-defense event.

      If finances are tight, consider a quality used revolver. Alternatively, consider a less expensive brand such as Taurus Arms. I have more than one Taurus revolver and would not hesitate to purchase more.

      And, consistent with the theme of this article, I recommend revolver’s chambered in .38 Special +P or .357 Magnum (which can fire .38 Special +P and standard .38 Special ammunition).

      Get one–you won’t regret it.

      • My thoughts exactly. I’m currently on this kick to buy vintage–1970s to early ’80s–Smith revolvers, met a guy who’s unloading a bunch of blue boxes. The workmanship and functionality is very appealing. Picked up a 29-2 .44 barely fired in original box, and then a Highway Patrolman in .357 doesn’t look like it was ever carried. Extremely faint turn lines on both. Next up is the Mountain Gun, it’s in the same condition. The 686 I bought in 1988 has turned vintage since I bought it.

  8. Since i’ve discovered wadcutters, i’ve really become interested in carrying a revolver. Primarily because they’re lighter in weight compared to a lot of semi auto 9mm’s.

    I’ve got a 38 and a 32HR magnum.

    • Get a .327 Federal Magnum. It’ll still accommodate a .32 H&R Magnum, as well as a .32 S&W long, .32 S&W, AND in a pinch a .32 ACP although extraction from the cylinder may be an issue in the latter. As stated, IN A PINCH!

      • I am here to officially second that .327 Federal Magnum comment. In addition to the stated good things, I’ll add one more. The 100 grain Federal American Eagle hollow point rounds out of a 4 inch Ruger SP101 at 15 feet blew holes in a treated 4×4 pine post that looked like a 30 Carbine went through it. And I mean it blew holes out the back of it as it passed through. That cartridge has some HORSE POWER.

  9. I started reloading on the 38 with the Lee kit that you hammer bullets into the case. I love the 38 Special. I like 115 grain cast lead over 3.2 grains of HP38 (equivalent to W231 as I recall). Makes about 600 fps out of a 6″ revolver. Very soft, very accurate, more satisfying than 22 LR.

    The only concern I have reloading 38 Special is the possibility of double charge with so much case capacity. Most charges for 38 Special don’t use half of the available case.

  10. I’ve reloaded likely over 10K rounds of .38 Special/.357 mag with 5K+ being on a Lee single stage. A few things I’ve learned:
    -A nickel case is good for about 15 loadings, they tend to split down the side after IME. unplated brass doesn’t seem to suffer this.
    -Unique works well, but is dirty. I’ve done everything from 3 up. Bullseye is also good. Not a fan of Titegroup, never tried Trailboss. I’d also shoot IMR PB if they ever made it again.I’ve also used Blue Dot but prefer to save that for 9mm as it’s about as performant as you’ll get out of a long barrel. Overall a nicely tolerant round for powders.
    -It’s a super easy case to reload. No taper makes it feed through the press really nicely.
    -It’s very tolerant of COAL which IMO makes it an easier reload than semi auto rounds. There’s a lot of development there.
    -Don’t be afraid of the roll crimp. I tend to go pretty heavy on mine honestly.
    -You can start loading it super cheap. Lee single stage, some dies, a decent powder scale (NOT the Lee) and a scoop and you’re off to the races.
    -You can make a ton of ammo with a single stage and this round. Don’t be afraid of doing it if that’s what you’ve got. In some ways I like it better than a progressive. Better QC IMO and less priming headaches overall.

    Other stuff related:
    -Lee 105 SWCs are awesome for this round. Don’t work worth squat in a 9mm despite their claims. Cheap plinkers for the home caster!
    -Powder coat bullets are great if you cast your own.
    -I could make ammo cheaper than 22LR until primers and powder went through the roof. Good days.

  11. I had some pretty good reversed 148gr semiwadcutters worked up. Quite impressive in my ballistics mud test. Then one night 3 guys and I got into an altercation, I certainly was wishing I’d have loaded the 125gr .357’s.
    Same as the faith I had in the Single shot .410 and the .177 pellet loads I’d made. Until one night going to help my dog who had something treed and I met a blind buck deer. That .410 got real small in a hurry exspecially when your within snot blowing distance and he was smelling and blowing snot.
    Just a what if.
    What if We The People were only allowed one gunm. What would be your choice? I’ve got a lot of favorites and each has its place but I’ve narrowed my choice down to a 12 guage pump action shotgunm.
    #7 for Quail and steel ball bearings for Bear.
    It would suck to have to make that choice however I do not have much faith in my shooting abilities to knock a quail on the fly down with a .300 Weatherby or Winchester Magnum , my second choice, but shooting at doves would have me with more time at a reloading bench then at the hunting field.
    A 30 caliber rifle with sufficient velocity and the right bullet can pretty much take care of any animal on earth.
    Pistols, damn that’s a tuff one. .44 Mag here, although .357 has its merits.
    However its a only one gunm allowed.
    My choice12 guage, improved cylinder, modified, and full.
    I’m very proud Our/My president molest adolescent children. I’m sure other countries dictators are jealous. President theBiden, He’s special, way over 38 times.
    FX or CGI has come a long way. I’ve never seen the puppets strings, and I’ve got HD propaganda TV.
    One of these days a little dog is going to pull the curtain back.

    • “What if We The People were only allowed one gunm. What would be your choice?”

      A 4-inch barrel stainless .357 revolver…

    • One? I’d say the 12. Handgun? .357. Rifle? One of my original Marlins, 30-30 or .44.
      Love my semis, but in this case pump, double-action, or lever for simplicity.

    • “So if I type an essay I get moderated.

      It showed up, Marsupial One… 😉

  12. “I realized that I had hit a very special count for a very special cartridge: 20,000 rounds of .38 Special.”

    I’m trying to figure out why “20,000 rounds” is an “interesting number” and a “very special count”. Was it a life goal?

    • 20,000 is half of 40,000 then add some more and you hit 50,000. 500,000 is one half a million. When you say you’ve shot 1/2 of a million .38Special hanloads people have a tendency to vote for the presidential nominee or government official that can spread the bullshit the deeepest.
      Bad news a SCJ kicked the bucket. Slip and falls are the new thing.
      President Biden is the greatest president America has or ever will have
      President Biden is the greatest president America has or ever will have
      President Biden is the greatest president America has or ever will have
      Long live theBiden forever and ever Amen.

      • “President Biden is the greatest president America has or ever will have“

        “Be n’t angry with this fellow, I protest
        That many a true word hath been spoke in jest”
        Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth

        • Carter is in hospice now, won’t be long for him, his sweetie died on him.

          I was glad to see he was able to attend her funeral…

  13. I’ve never shot and thought wow I should download this so that it just falls outta the barrel. Then next I can make mods so my truck runs slower

  14. I learned nothing from this poorly written meandering story.

    Comments are interesting.

    I have probably not fired 20,000 rounds of .38 in my entire life of constant shooting and police work. But hey the robo writer is a different breed. Those of us who know what an aluminum frame looks like after firing 5,000 rounds or so will not be impressed.

    • “I learned nothing from this poorly written meandering story.”

      Were I you, I’d demand my money back.

      What? You read it for free? 🙂

  15. With the advent of the .357 magnum the 38 special has been constantly denigrated by know nothing Gun Writers. In reality the .38 special is more powerful than the ubiquitous 9×19 Luger cartridge which still seems to be the universal standard military and police cartridge.

    On the other hand who in their right mind would carry a low capacity revolver which on average is harder to conceal, deadly slow to reload, heavier in weight on average (unless its plasticky) and harder to shoot accurately if you are carrying a 2 inch barreled revolver. Practically speaking it makes no sense for concealed carry or even home defense.

    At the risk of sounding Misogynistic, yes, women like the resolver because its less complicated to learn how to use and in some ways safer to handle and carry than an auto pistol especially the unsafe pre-loaded striker fired guns that have no manual safety which are accidents waiting to happen and happen they do. I will not bother to write pages of tragedies with this type of weapon because people who like the pre-loaded striker fired guns with no manual safety will tell you with a straight face that they never made a mistake in their life and they never will so who needs a manual safety? Famous last words.

    You would think the Far Right Paranoids would avoid the revolver like the plague since they are terrified of hordes of Commies parachuting into their backyards at dawn or legions of border crossing starving illegal immigrants (too poor to buy food let alone guns). But then again the Far Right fought laws outlawing outside toilets for years as well.

    • Sad, sad, sad. How far the public education system has fallen in this country. One comment and he condemns the system for its failure.

  16. I cannot fathom shooting 20,000 rounds (of JUST reloaded ammo) through a 5-shot snub nose. That would be 4,000 cylinder reloads, and would take a very long time to accomplish. I would think that a light weight revolver would suffer considerable wear after that. It seems one would have to live very near a range (and spend LOTS of time there) or be able to shoot from one’s back porch (wish I could!) to reach that level.

    • pretty certain the author hasnt fired anywhere near 20,000 rounds either. It is a catchword like the guys doing 10,000 round burnouts on the AR- and the gun doesnt seize up or get too hot to hold. Banality playing on gullibility.

  17. My go-to concealed carry gun is an 18 oz Smith & Wesson Model 12-2 Airweight in .38 Special with 140 grain hard cast lead bullets from Double Tap Ammunition. Thanks very much, Josh, for an excellent article.

  18. The first handgun I ever purchased was a S&W Model 19, 4″, .357. I have not kept count of the rounds through it but, I’ve had it for nearly 40 years so, I’ll just go with “a lot”. Like many a .357, most of the rounds that have gone down the pipe are actually .38 spl. I too find it to be a very versatile cartridge and also roll my own in a variety of configurations.

    As the years have gone by, I have acquired, fired, and even parted ways with a number of handguns but, I still think that old M19 is just about perfect. It has never failed, never really needed anything (I have swapped out a couple springs and lightly touched some surfaces with a fine stone but, it didn’t “need” those changes). One nice thing about .38 through a .357 is you can play around with really hot .38 loads and still be well within the capacity of the firearm – helps keep the reloading fun.

    Sometimes, some of the young bloods at the range will snicker a bit at my old wheel gun. That is, until they shoot it. Many kids a generation or two behind me have left the range after touching off that old revolver thinking one thing – I want one.

  19. Geoff “I’m getting too old for this shit” PR
    “Sam, if you go with a pocket .38, don’t get the utra-light ones like the scandium or ‘Airweight’, go all-steel, the extra weight really softens the recoil…”

    Thanx for that.

    • I carry a Ruger LCR which is light but very accurate and load it with Hornady Critical Defense. I don’t feel undergunned.

  20. @Geoff “I’m getting too old for this shit” PR
    “Against an AK, hell, yeah.”

    Which is why I concluded that the 25rds issued were 24 too many.

  21. PLEASE! The 2″ 38 “J” frame size revolver is not a gun for first time shooters, nor for any number of users. The 4″ 38 “K” size revolver is much better suited for the majority of shooters. Using a 22 – 24 oz. 38 revolver with almost any load is my ideal size/weight for a revolver. Try using a S&W model 642 and then a typical model 36 and see the difference. I do have to admit that my S&W is actually chambered for 357. I don’t think that anyone using a light weight “J” frame size revolver would even be able to fire 5,000 rounds. I do think 20,000 rounds in a “K” size 38 is not unreasonable, as I knew shooters that would shoot ~100 rounds every few weeks, for many years in the same gun. After 20+ years, those revolvers still work fine. Note that the 38 is a “Low Pressure” round, so less wear and tear on the revolver.

  22. I reload pretty much everything I shoot. I don’t know that I’ve loaded 20k rounds of .357/38, but I’m definitely up there (and beyond) for 9mm. I personally don’t think there’s a meaningful difference between reloading 38 Special and 9mm.

    That said, I will disagree with the author on one thing: if you’re teaching beginners to shoot, a reliable rimfire semi-auto pistol (MkIV, P322, TX22, whatever) is way better than any .38 Special revolver, and I say it as someone who shoots a revolver competitively. A few reasons:
    1. Revolvers have long, heavy trigger pulls in double-action mode, and teaching newbies to thumb to single-action every time is going to build training scars. Having newbies pull through DA will often result in performance that makes it difficult to diagnose underlying aim/grip issues.
    2. Revolvers don’t grip like semi-autos, at least in the traditional revolver grip style that gets taught. This tends to result in people not learning to grip high with thumbs forward/up on a semi-auto and shooting poorly until someone fixes that problem. It is easier to go from semi-auto to revolver than the other way around, at least in my experience.
    3. Revolvers don’t tend to break in a way that is easily clearable. I can usually clear a semi-auto jam without drama and tools. This is less the case with revolvers (think bullet set-forward, the oddball high primer, rod backing out, etc.).
    4. Revolvers _can_ be less reliable when using random ammo, especially if you tuned the trigger to not be as odious.
    5. Idiots wrist-flicking the chamber closed. 😛

    That isn’t meant to be a bunch of hate on revolvers – I love my 929 and 625, and I am known to run an optics-equipped R8 at night shoots. But there has never been a time where I’ve been teaching kids to shoot pistol and thought to myself “wouldn’t a 12lb trigger pull make this experience better?”

  23. I have a friend in the pawn shop who learned the hard way to keep a jewelers laupe handy and check every aluminum frame .38 for cracks. He has one today he will sell for parts. For what they are intended to do they are fine. Their service life is limited. Carried much shot little.


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