Caliber Comparison: 9mm vs. .38 Special

Caliber comparison 9mm vs. .38 Special

Josh Wayner for TTAG

When we look at different cartridges there is often a focus on the disembodied numbers that describe them. All too often there’s a mental disconnect between the numbers and reality, and in many cases the numbers are skewed to make one cartridge look “better” than another it ostensibly competes against.

Reality is far different than what’s printed on the ammo box and a great example of this is our topic for today’s State Your Case: the .38 Special and 9mm Parabellum.

The interesting part of this debate is that there isn’t a very clear way to look at these rounds next to each other without talking about their host guns. The .38 Special is, almost universally, a revolver cartridge (though it can be used successfully in some lever action rifles). The 9x19mm, on the other hand, is primarily found in semi-automatics. A clear exception to this are guns like the Ruger LCR in 9mm, which is the same size as Ruger’s .38 Special version of the same gun.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to talk about these calibers in a concealed carry context, as that’s where these two rounds intersect the most and the playing field is far more level. It would be somewhat unfair to look at a specialized GLOCK 19 with an RMR and mag extensions and say that it’s easier to shoot at 50 yards when compared to a hammerless J-Frame. On the other end, we could say that a little SIG P938 isn’t as precise or versatile as a Model 686 Plus from Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center.

Caliber comparison 9mm vs. .38 Special

Josh Wayner for TTAG

It isn’t really possible to avoid the revolver vs. semi-auto thing in this discussion. The .38 Special is probably the most common revolver cartridge in use today, and is certainly the most carried, frequently in pistols that will accommodate .357 Magnum rounds. Carrying a revolver makes a great deal of sense for a large number of people who don’t want to or physically can’t use a semiautomatic.

On the whole, revolvers are substantially more reliable than semi-automatics. Yes, I know that modern autos are great, but the revolver doesn’t need recoil to operate and instead is powered by your finger. There’s no slide to pull back, which helps people with weak hands, and they can’t stovepipe or accidentally drop their magazine when fumbled.

Many people who want a gun with decent stopping power to load and forget about choose a small, reliable .38 Special. Unless something is mechanically wrong with the gun — which can happen with any man-made device — it’s almost guaranteed to fire when you pull the trigger. The simple nature of the revolver means that if a dud primer is struck, you can just pull the trigger again and move to the next round.

Caliber comparison 9mm vs. .38 Special

Josh Wayner for TTAG

A semiauto has its own advantages and they are very widely carried. One of those advantages is greater capacity and spare magazines (i.e. quicker reloads). Revolvers can be loaded with speedloaders, but they aren’t nearly as fast and easy as magazines. A disadvantage to automatics is that they can have more complicated stoppages that require both hands to clear. This can be difficult for some people to master.

According to some surveys I conducted and ran here on TTAG a while ago while researching people with physical disabilities who carry, most people only carry what they can load into their gun. That means for a majority of people out there, they’re only carrying between five and eight rounds in either .38 Special or 9mm. Of course there are exceptions like the SIG P365, which holds a staggering 10+1 rounds in a gun hardly larger than an LCR. 9mm rounds gain points there which can’t be denied.

Looking at the ammo itself presents a challenge as well. The .38 Special in a compact snub-nose carry gun is coming out of a barrel that’s usually less than two inches, where many small 9mm pistols have barrel lengths up to an inch longer for a gun of similar size. In general, a 9mm pistol will be able to fire similar sized bullets slightly faster.

As an example, both standard pressure 9mm rounds and .38 are typically found with 124/125gr bullet weights. In a .38 SPL S&W 64, a typical 125gr bullet will leave the 1 7/8-inch barrel at around 850fps, where a typical 124gr 9mm coming from a GLOCK 43’s 3.4” barrel (or, say a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield) will fly at about 1,000fps. There are many, many variations of this, as both cartridges have a wide projectile weight range and velocities. Bullets for the longer case length .38 are .357” diameter, while those for 9mm are .355”.

These two cartridges are, for the most part, more similar than they are different. Granted, 9mm has a wider range of guns that chamber it to choose from and it’s more popular in general, but it isn’t exactly superior to the .38 Special in compact carry guns. The .38 Special (or .38 Special +P) JHP is no slouch by any standard, and very capable for its intended roles as standard FBI ballistic tests reveal. It would have faded a long time ago if it was no longer effective.

Caliber comparison 9mm vs. .38 Special

Josh Wayner for TTAG

I believe that the 9mm vs. 38 Special argument is settled not by the cartridges, but rather the guns. I think the .38 Special is still very relevant today, despite the fact that the 9mm easily dominates virtually every single field of the market from pocket pistols to duty guns. Snub-nose revolvers are very popular for the fact that they’re so simple and many people go that route regardless of what’s available in semiautomatics.

Unlike the other articles in the State Your Case series, I can’t really pick a “winner” on this one. To have a winner, I would need to make it so that the cartridges have some real and discernible differences in a similar field. 9mm vs. .40 S&W is a real discussion because the two offer very different things in a guns that are externally identical, like the G19/G23.

If we were to look at five-shot compact revolvers only — the only true place that 9mm and .38 intersect — we’d have to look at Ruger’s LCR series or the like and it would be a toss-up in that case. The two are so close that there’s no real advantage unless you own other guns in one cartridge or another, which makes it a battle of logistics, not ballistics.

At the end of the day, both the .38 Special and 9mm have a place in the modern carry scene. I think the .38 is outclassed on a broader scale by the 9mm, but it will never really be replaced in self-defense guns. Pick what’s best for you and get comfortable with it, be it a GLOCK 43 or a Smith & Wesson 642.

comments

  1. avatar Tec's Dad says:

    Well written article

  2. avatar T-diggity says:

    So why not compare two guns, one chambered in each caliber, but being otherwise identical?

    You listed one of these guns in your article… the Ruger LCR.

    You could have almost ended it there… “9mm massively outperforms 38spl out of very short barrels”.

    The end.

    1. avatar Dude says:

      Here’s a comparison that looks pretty close.

    2. avatar JBS says:

      Look at the Ruger SP101 revolver with 2.25″ barrel available in both 9MM and .357 Mag.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        The .257 magnum? Is the parent case the .9mm? 🙂

        1. avatar Darrin says:

          Winning.

        2. avatar edward kenway says:

          Winning is owning a 9mm and .357 and liking both for cartridge versatility.
          Can’t find 9mm or .357 in the right load? There’s always .38+P, and with a 5in. barreled 686-2 the ballistics are comparable with the right round.
          Can’t lug around a long L-frame? You can’t beat a SIG239 or 225 and couple spare magazines. Owning a 9, .44, .357, and .45 covers all the handgun calibers and some in between. Get ’em all if you can.

      2. avatar Rifleman762 says:

        This would be a truer comparison of the cartridges because revolver barrel length and semiauto barrel length are measured differently, something the author omitted.

        Revolver barrel length is measured as the distance from the muzzle to the opening of the forcing cone.

        Semiauto barrel length is measure as the distance from the muzzle to the breech face.

        In other words, the barrel length for a revolver does not include the length of the chamber, whereas the barrel length for a semiauto does include the length of the chamber.

        Therefore, a 5″ 1911 and a 5″ S&W Model of 1917 have different barrel lengths.

        1. avatar Tired of the bs says:

          I don’t know why no one ever mentions that. After subtracting the case length then you know the true barrel length where the pressure is acting on the bullet. And then theres cylinder gap

  3. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    Without getting into the age old caliber wars either and or, both will work.

  4. avatar Juice says:

    I don’t doubt that modern advances in bullet design and construction have done the .38 a lot of favors, but I wouldn’t buy one to carry over something like an M&P Shield 9.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      J-frame fits in a front pocket better than a Shield. Shield is easier to shoot well. I have owned both and like both. When I fell on hard times a few years ago, I sold the Shield and kept the 642.

      I do want another Shield

      1. avatar The Green Bastard says:

        I have a Shield that I’m not really fond of. Send me a stamped, self addressed envelope and it’s yours.

    2. avatar 5.7 Creedman 5.7 is the future says:

      Both are irrelevant. 5.7 is now the king of the handgun rounds. 5.7 is faster, shinier, prettier, and newer then either of these old fudd rounds. Professional shooters and regular carriers alike are all tossing their 9s and 38s into the dumpster and rushing out to buy 5.7 chambered guns by the day.

      I mean, When’s the last time you’ve seen 9mm on the shelf? That’s right, it’s pretty much already faded into history. 5.7 is still there waiting for you to get on board. Join the bandwagon today!

      1. avatar edward kenway says:

        5.7 x 28 is an unappreciated little round but not very common – or cheap.
        Alabama Arsenal did a review on the CMMG 5.7 Banshee. Not quite the ballistics of the Flying Ashtray, but still interesting in a SBR or PDW out to 100-200m.

  5. avatar jwm says:

    Why not have both? I do. Guns are fun. The more you have the more funner they are.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      Another vote for both….

      I’ve owned and carried both. Snubs fit better in a front pocket, and I can draw them faster from concealment. But 5 is all ya got….

      1. avatar Art out West says:

        I also vote both
        J-frame for pocket carry
        G-19 for serious carry

    2. avatar enuf says:

      True that!

      Nothing wrong with carrying a .38 snubbie as a backup to a main gun. Or just enjoying the ownership and plinking with a variety of whatever you want.

      And if some old .38 short barreled five shooter is all a person’s got, well it beats the sharp stick all day long.

  6. avatar GunnyGene says:

    What someone manufactures, carries, or owns is largely dictated by nearly a century of politicians, bureaucrats, and gun controllers. Imagine what our choices in modern firearms and ammo would be if they had not infringed at every opportunity. They have effectively stifled a great deal of innovation among other things.

    You know what they don’t try to squash? Anything that gives them more power to control us. 20,000+ laws that make life a PITA for everyone. Ubiquitous surveillance and massive databases, and proposing things like “smart guns”.

    And we’re left with discussing the pros and cons of technology that hasn’t signficantly changed in 120 years.

  7. avatar Duane says:

    Gun writers have to write.

  8. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    My favorite .38 Special self-defense loads are 150 grain full wadcutters. Even at their modest muzzle velocity of about 825 feet-per-second coming out of a snubnosed revolver, they are serious fight stoppers because they make a pretty huge hole (about twice the non-expanded bullet diameter) in human attackers. The closest equivalent in 9mm Luger would be 147 grain hollowpoints with a muzzle velocity of about 900 feet-per-second (out of short barrel sub-compact pistols). While those 9mm bullets would expand to similar diameters, they would not make the same gaping hole as those .38 Special full wadcutters because the 9mm bullets would have significantly rounded edges. I honestly expect those .38 Special full wadcutters to definitely outshine 9mm 147 grain hollowpoints.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      I am a fan of wadcutters in the small revolvers, but I don’t think the data supports your claim.

      A quality JHP 147 grain 9mm will expand to around .65-.75 inches and penetrate around 15 inches.
      A wad cutter punches a nasty hole, but it’s a .355-.358 inch hole, with typically similar to slightly better penetration numbers.

      Disclaimer: I have never performed any autopsies involving either caliber mentioned. I’ve only looked at the mountains of ballistic test data available for both calibers….

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Joel,

        I appreciate your commentary. Here are a couple more data points:

        My understanding is that 9mm Luger 147 grain bullets would not typically expand to 0.7 inches coming out of a sub-compact pistol. The barrel is too short and they just don’t develop enough velocity out of short barrels to expand like that. If someone manufactures such a cartridge which does reliably expand at such low velocities, let me know because I want to buy it!

        Second point: while .38 Special full wadcutters create 0.357 inch (or thereabouts) holes in paper, sources report that they create significantly larger holes in mammals. The mechanism is two-fold. For one, full wadcutter bullets have sharp edges which cut tissue as opposed to expanded hollowpoints which have rounded edges and tend to stretch and therefore slip/slide past tissue rather than cutting it. (Tissue is surprisingly stretchy.) Second, the flat face of a full wadcutter bullet redirects liquid (in tissue in its path) to the sides at significant velocities — apparently enough to also cut/destroy tissue. (Think of a water-jet cutter.) The end result: when you combine those two mechanisms, they are supposed to create a nasty permanent wound channel that is on the order of twice the bullet diameter.

        For reference, while I have not personally inspected any wounds from full wadcutter bullets, I have seen photos of wounds from hardcast lead bullets with wide, flat meplats which are close to full wadcutter profile. They create huge holes in the animals which those hunters shot. (I saw a photo of the exit hole in a bison — it was approaching one inch in diameter — coming from a .45 caliber hardcast lead bullet which impacted at something like 900 fps according to the poster.)

        At this point you might be wondering, if full wadcutter bullets are so much better for self-defense than other bullet designs, why isn’t everyone using them? I think the answer has a few components. First of all, full wadcutter bullets decelerate much sooner than rounded bullets when travelling through air which greatly limits their range. Many people do not want such limited range. Second, at very close range, full wadcutter bullets could over-penetrate. Third, almost everyone thinks (whether right or wrong) that hollowpoints are the best possible bullet design so that is where the market is and that is what ammunition manufacturers produce.

        Personally, I am not worried about over-penetration from full wadcutters at close range and would take those in a heartbeat over other .38 Special bullet designs. The trouble is actually finding any full wadcutter factory ammunition with muzzle velocities above 800 fps out of snubnosed revolvers. If I ever find such an offering, I will buy it.

        1. avatar hawkeye says:

          Fourth, it would be a rare autoloader that could cycle through a mag full of wadcutters without choking. That’s arguably the most important reason most folks won’t use them for defense purposes–they want to carry autoloaders. Are wadcutters even available for anything other than traditional revolver cartridges?

        2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          hawkeye,

          All excellent and truthful points. Bravo!

    2. avatar Joseph says:

      Massive hole? You haven’t seen many gunshot wounds huh?

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Joseph,

        In my original comment above, I said:

        … [.38 Special full wadcutter bullets] make a pretty huge hole (about twice the non-expanded bullet diameter) …

        In my mind a 0.7 inch diameter hole in a human body is indeed a “pretty huge hole”. You are welcome to disagree.

        With respect to seeing actual bullet wounds in people, I am happy to report that I have never seen any bullet wounds in person. I have seen photos of bullet wounds from credible sources. More importantly, I have seen photos of bullet wounds from hardcast bullets with large, flat meplats (which are very close to full wadcutter profile) and those bullets made “pretty huge holes” in the affected game animals. If you have photos of small holes from full wadcutter bullets, by all means share them with us.

  9. avatar OldProf49 says:

    First, a nit to pick… The Ruger LCR 9 mm is not the same gun as the 38 special version. Ruger chambers the 9 mm in their magnum framed LCR along with 357 magnum and 327 Federal magnum. All three cartridges have much higher chamber pressures than the 38 special +P so Ruger beefed up the frame and cylinder for these guns. Don’t believe me? Check their respective weights on the company’s website.

    I have the LCR 38 +P and I recently acquired a pristine S&W model 940 (steel frame Centennial in 9mm) which I haven’t fired yet. Two advantages that I see for the 9mm revolver are: 1) it generates higher velocity from a short barrel, and 2) bullets lighter than 125 grains are (somewhat) easier to locate. People who like to use nothing less than 158 grain +P 38’s will not see that as an advantage. The other possible advantage may be the ability to reload with moon clips.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      And the minor disadvantage of the 9mm LCR is that it requires moon clips for a practical reload.

      It still might be the best option.

      1. avatar hawkeye says:

        Moon clips can be simpler to use than speedloaders, because they eliminate the last step of using a speedloader–putting the empty loader in your pocket or picking it up from the ground later. If you are accustomed to using speedloaders, then moon clips can shave a mite of time off your reload.

        In my mind, the only significant downside of moon clips is the relative difficulty of doing a partial reload if you’ve fired only a couple rounds and want to replace only the spent cartridges. Gotta monkey with the loaded and partially spent moon clip, or replace it with a full one and place the partial in your pocket, for later messing around.

        Ok, I thought of another downside that is significant. I have some snap cap rounds, and I discovered that they are held too loosely in the moon clips to be able to reliably practice loading and unloading the cylinder of my LCR. The case heads of the snap cap rounds are slightly smaller than those of real brass. I’ll need to make up some dummy rounds consisting of fired brass and seated bullets, since I kinda don’t want to play around with live rounds.

  10. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    All other things being equal i.e. bullet weight/construction, muzzle velocity, etc. The terminal ballistics are so close between the two calibers that there is no practical difference.

    1. avatar Stump T’gallants says:

      Another consideration for .38SP vs 9mm in a light revolver is bullet pull. I sold my LCR 9mm after repeatedly experiencing a jammed cylinder with Hornady, Sig, and Win 9mm ammo. I occasionally experienced bullet pull with my 9mm S&W 929 Miculek.

      Ruger makes an excellent revolver, but a cylinder jam makes for a gunsmith level problem, two hands aren’t enough to “unstuck” that issue.

      1. avatar hawkeye says:

        Yes, bullet creep can happen, although I’ve not had it happen in my LCR without forcing it to happen. Mark a cartridge, load the cylinder, shoot all but the marked cartridge, reload and leave the marked cartridge in place, and again shoot all but the marked cartridge. In my gun at least, I had to run a cartridge of my carry ammo through a couple of those shooting cycles before the bullet moved out enough to become worrisome, and so far none of the ammo I’ve shot had enough creep to notice with a single go-around. I no longer consider it to be a problem with my gun, at least with the ammo I shoot, because how often am I going to recycle rounds? I think it’s more a function of poorly crimped ammo, and maybe limp wristing, than it is a problem with an individual gun. Could be wrong, but I don’t see how it could be caused by a problem with the gun itself, compared to another of the same.

    2. avatar Montana Actual says:

      Holy shit, I was expecting your usual “muh .45” comments.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        (snicker)

  11. avatar Someone says:

    “A disadvantage (of revolvers) to automatics is that they can have more complicated stoppages that require both hands to clear.”
    Yeah, often both hands of a qualified gun smith.

  12. avatar Matt in Oklahoma says:

    It’s not an either or it’s a yes please

    1. avatar Montana Actual says:

      This. All of the above.

  13. avatar 50 cal (Amy Coney)Barrett says:

    Found a good backcountry load for the 38 LCR x 3″
    Unique powder drives 170 grain hardcast at 900 fps
    Good penetration for any threatening Mtn lions, wolves or bears where I recreate
    Gun weight is less than one lb (bit less than a comparable 9) for those hikers counting ounces
    Nice trigger too.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      There you go!

      That has to be the absolute best possible self-defense load in .38 Special.

      I have the equivalent in .357 Magnum: 180 grain hardcast lead bullets with a muzzle velocity around 1250 feet per second.

  14. avatar gus says:

    38SPL has max PSI of 17,000 while 9mm has max psi of 35,000. that’s about twice as much.

    however, 38SPL has a case capacity of 23.4 grams H2O while 9mm has a case capacity of 13.3 grams H2O. that’s about half as much.

    given that, they have roughly the same total energy available, but due to the large case capacity of 38SPL, and the fact that it uses much less dense gunpowder to fill it (half the energy density), the nominal barrel length is 7.5″ while that of 9mm is 4.7″

    the 38SPL was, after all, designed for black powder and use in a full size revolver.

    to truly compare them at their full potentials, the 9mm should be in a 4.7″ semiauto and the 38SPL should be in a 7.5″ revolver. then they would be on an equal footing.

    to compare them in a Glock 43 and Smith & Wesson 642 puts the 9mm at a small disadvantage and the 38SPL at a huge disadvantage.

  15. avatar =TW= says:

    A better comparison might be .38SPL vs. .380ACP.

    1. avatar former water walker says:

      What I was going to type! I’ve had both and sold them. Weak sauce IMO. Better than pepper spray…

      1. avatar gus says:

        put them in a 3″ barrel and you have a contest.
        put them in a 7″ barrel and the 38 smokes the 380.

        1. avatar =TW= says:

          After consulting BBTI, I must respectfully disagree.
          According to the MV and ME charts it looks like about a toss-up. (Allowance for the heavier .38SPL bullets.)
          I am not aware of any .380ACP pistol w/ a 7″ barrel. No handgun of similar size be ideal for EDC.
          Comparing .380 pocket pistols to .38 snubbies would seem more reasonable.

  16. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Now do a comparison between .375H&H and 9.3X64.

    ‘Course, since I have a few of one and not the other, I’m a bit biased, but still….

  17. avatar Manse Jolly says:

    This is darn interesting….TTAG should review it as this round may be the Creedmoor of pistol ammo.

    https://www.ammoland.com/2020/10/dangy-dagger-9mm-round-defeats-level-3a-body-armor/

  18. avatar CentralVirginian says:

    9mm for the indoor range where i can sweep brass, 38 special on the outdoor range. Locating semi auto brass in grass isn’t much fun.

  19. avatar Al Bondigas says:

    Next week: 8mm Berthier vs. 11mm Mauser. Stay tuned for the latest.

  20. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    There are several aspects where the .38 Special can do things the 9×19 cannot:

    – The .38 Special can be loaded with significantly heavier bullets than the 9×19; the common defense load for the .38 is a 158 grain JHP, but if you cast your own, there are bullet molds that will allow you to cast bullets over 200 grains

    – The .38 Special is chambered in at least one semi-auto, the S&W Model 52, which likes a diet of 148 wadcutters seated flush with the case rim.

    – The .38 Special can be loaded far hotter than what you see in SAAMI specs. After all, it started as a black powder cartridge, which meant that the MAP had to be kept low when it was loaded with smokeless powder to prevent failure in BP-era revolvers. But in the 1930’s, Elmer Keith and S&W loaded the .38 Special to near-.357 power levels in the S&W .38/44 revolver before there was a .357 Magnum. You’d better know what you’re doing before you go hot-rodding a .38, though.

    I’d say that, for someone who wants to handload or cast their own bullets, the .38 Special has options and flexibility that the 9×19 does not – but for most shooters today, who just want to buy something off the shelf, the 9×19 wins. The 9×19 has twice the MAP of the .38 Special in original loads, so of course the 9×19 will win on velocity in a canonical loading.

    1. avatar Ll says:

      Also the coonan 357 full size with a change of the recoil spring will supposedly cycle .38

    2. avatar OldProf49 says:

      What Foghorn said… I think both cartridges can stand on their own for self defense use, so long as you choose a loading that plays to the strengths of each.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        OldProf49,

        … so long as you choose a loading that plays to the strengths of each.

        Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!

        We have a winner!

  21. avatar David Smith says:

    Picked up a Taurus 692 recently which shoots both with easily switchable wheels. I took my daughter out to the range and we shot it with 9mm. Lots of fun. Looking forward to trying .38/.357 when ammo becomes available again (I have a boatload of 9).

  22. avatar Darkman says:

    All things being considered I rather doubt anyone would want to be shot by either and that is the gist of the story…Move Along

  23. avatar sound awake says:

    ammoseek:
    9mm jhp 37 hits 72-260 cents a round
    .38 spl jhp 5 hits 175-350 cents a round

  24. avatar Specialist38 says:

    I agree that 38 special rides the coat tails of the guns that chamber it.

    A 38 snub defines ease of carry.

    Pocket, IWB, OWB, AIWB, Shoulder Holster……its just easy.

    Easy to carry and put to use…..until you need to reload…then it’s a bit fussy. One draw of a 38 snub is a choice of bullet weights and power levels not seen in most other cartidges. 90-158 grain pills in -P to +P+. From 380 power up to light 357 – if you can stand it.

    I carried a snub as my primary for several decades until I bought an LCP. Now, I sometimes carry a snub as backup to the LCP.

    1. avatar gus says:

      yep. if you reload, 38 and 357 are awfully flexible.

  25. avatar Virgil Caldwell says:

    38 revolver may be pressed into a body and fired time and again and will not jam

    Buffalo Bore 158 grain lead +P over 1000 fps in two inch barrel if you can handle, steel frame only
    Handload with 200 grain flatpoint 809 fps same gun

    9mm— 1198 fps with Black Hills 115 grain EXP- not a +P- controllable in SP 101.
    You need both. .38 is a great back up

    Dont put the 9mm in a revolver. In competition use some are tying the gun up as the crimp isnt intended to handle revolver type intertia, the bullet is jumping the crimp.
    The 38 in the revolver unless you want to shoot national match with the .38 AMU, rimless .38 Special
    Good story

  26. avatar Virgil Caldwell says:

    Sorry about that

    i meant CZ P01 9mm, not SP101.

    Time to go to sleep out of gas

  27. avatar Tom Worthington says:

    Either will work, or NOT work, as the case may be. Everybody will say “shot placement”. Well, at least for me, shot placement is center mass. If I accomplish that much, I figure I did pretty darn good.

  28. avatar CLT Slicer says:

    I see these revolver vs semi comparisons. One thing is never addressed during the “hand strength” statements.

    How is someone without the hand strength to operate a slide on a semi-auto with both hands going to pull a 12 pound trigger with one finger?

    1. avatar De Facto says:

      Single action. If you own a revolver with a 12lb DA, I strongly suggest a qualified gunsmith. There is no reason to have a NYPD style trigger.

  29. avatar De Facto says:

    BBTI settled this already. Standard pressure 9mm VASTLY outperforms .38 special in a handgun.

    9mm Luger; Standard ammo to +P vs. .38 Special; Standard ammo to +P
    2″: 220~330 FP’s =/= 2″: 110-175 FP’s
    3″: 260-400 FP’s =/= 3″: 180-240 FP’s
    4″: 300-440 FP’s =/= 4″: 250-320 FP’s
    5″: 320-480 FP’s =/= 5″: 250-360 FP’s
    6″: 340-500 FP’s =/= 6″: 255-375 FP’s
    Sources:
    http://ballisticsbytheinch.com/9luger.html
    http://ballisticsbytheinch.com/38special.html

    Even accounting for loss of velocity due to cylinder gap, it’s still not even close. .38 Special is a legacy cartridge that soldiers on because there are so many guns chambered in the round. 9mm outperforms it at every barrel length that you would conceivably carry.

    1. avatar busybeef says:

      Cool, you’re looking at performance in a lab without any medium to hit, and most BBTI tests are just done by chopping down metal pipe.

      Try actual data with actual guns in gel:

      https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/self-defense-ammo-ballistic-tests/#9mm

      https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/revolver-ballistics-test/

      1. avatar De Facto says:

        Cool, I looked over the data you linked, and 9mm still beats .38 special with 9mm being the top performer for penetration, expansion, and velocity out of a 3.5″ barrel. .38+P comes close, but falls short, despite the test .38 special having an extra half inch of barrel(4″). We’ll just say that the extra half inch accounts for any cylinder gap loss. 9mm still beats .38 special.

        Incidentally, those BBTI tests were done with actual firearms for both tests, they’re listed and if you had bothered to look at the source material you would have known that. Foot pounds is not a perfect measure of lethality but it does typically correlate with penetration, which your own data backs up. Try doing a little research and critical thinking next time before trying to make “gotcha” posts on the internet.

        1. avatar OldProf49 says:

          Actually, I think the 4 inch 38 revolver probably has closed to 1 in. more rifling than a 3.5 in. 9 mm barrel. If I’m correct, a 4 in. revolver barrel may or may not include the forcing cone, but does not include the chambers in the cylinder. A 3.5 inch 9 mm barrel includes the chamber which means the rifling is less than 3 in. long. If I’m wrong, please advise.

          Since 38 Special is a direct descendant of 19th century black powder revolver cartridges, I think we should look at what worked back then: longer barrels and heavier bullets. The best self defense/police load in 38 has long been the 158 gr. +P semi-wadcutter lead hollow point. And this performed best from barrels of at least 4 inches. Even the revered 357 magnum is at its best in 4 inch or longer barrels. Although 9 mm and 38 special are similar in size, they are very different cartridges, designed for different firearms. I think it’s a bit like apples and oranges. I like both, but they aren’t typically interchangeable in recipes.

  30. avatar Ted Unlis says:

    My wife and 2 of 3 daughters carry 5 shot revolvers because of simplicity of operation for folks with no interest in spending enough time on the range to become competent and comfortable with a semi-auto pistol. A quality 38 special revolver is perfect for novice and inexperienced shooters. Anyone with basic or advanced experience running a semi-auto pistol knows it’s a no brainer to choose a modern 9mm pistol over a 38 spl revolver. I own many of the top old and new pistols and revolvers, but my go to defensive carry pistol is a stock Sig P365 with two 12rd mags loaded with Federal HST 124gr standard velocity ammo. On rare occasions when a full size pistol is practical I carry my ever reliable Sig P226 DAK 9mm with two 20rd mags loaded with Federal HST 124gr +P.

  31. avatar beaky says:

    I have a 38 snub and a modern 9mm, both great but the 38 is my bedtime gun, with the hammer cocked back the pull is light switch short and easy. Outside the house, camping on BLM roads etc, its the 9mm all the way.

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