TTAG Exclusive Ammo Test: Steinel .38 Special 125 gr +P Snub Nose Pro
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TTAG Exclusive Ammo Test: Steinel .38 Special 125 gr +P Snub Nose Pro

In this TTAG exclusive, I will be taking a look at the brand new, purpose-made Steinel 38 Special +P 125 gr Snub Nose Pro ammunition. I have the honor of being the first to use this new load and put it through its paces at the range. I love to see new ammo that’s specifically made for one of my favorite types of guns, the snub-nose revolver, which is also a perennial favorite and the EDC choice of many people.

General Background

Steinel Ammunition, a relatively new company on the ammo scene, has been making interesting developments in several areas, especially in personal defense loads. Instead of jumping right into the game with a generic offering, they decided instead to focus on a very common, yet rarely exploited, gap in the ammo market: .38 Special +P loads for short barrel length concealed carry guns.

These guns are often called ‘snubbies’ or ‘snub-noses’. Hence Steinel’s new Snub Nose Pro JHP round.

TTAG Exclusive Ammo Test: Steinel .38 Special 125 gr +P Snub Nose Pro

The Snub Nose Pro is the result of lots of research, and it is made expressly for common carry guns like the Ruger LC, Smith & Wesson J-Frame and Kimber K6s. These guns generally have barrels less than two inches in length, and this ammo was built from the ground up to perform and deliver impressive wound channels at the velocities generated by such short barrels.

These self-defense loads have an MSRP $32.00 for 25 rounds on the Steinel site. They consist of a brass case with a solid copper expanding bullet.

Accuracy and Basic Performance

I tested this load in a Smith & Wesson Model 642, a very common, widely-used carry gun that has a fully enclosed hammer and a double-action pull. It’s the quintessential snub-nose wheel gun. Many people I know carry this same gun and it has a long and proven track record of concealable reliability.

TTAG Exclusive Ammo Test: Steinel .38 Special 125 gr +P Snub Nose Pro

For testing, this gun was fired with the Snub Nose Pro load at a distance of ten yards for accuracy off the bench. I achieved five-shot groups measuring an average of two inches. This was great considering the double-action trigger and the gun’s rudimentary sights.

Velocity for this load was tested over my Oehler 35P chronograph at a distance of five feet from the muzzle. Average muzzle velocity was very close to the advertised 990fps, coming in just shy out of my gun at 975 fps.

I had no issues with it as far as reliability. If I pulled the trigger, it went bang.

Ballistic Performance

I received a 10% FBI gel block from Clear Ballistics for this section of my testing. The rounds were fired into the gel at a self-defense distance of ten feet.

I was very surprised by the performance these rounds delivered. The gel shook hard when shot, much harder than when fired on by other .38 ammo. I attribute this to the total amount of energy being completely dispersed into it.

TTAG Exclusive Ammo Test: Steinel .38 Special 125 gr +P Snub Nose Pro

An interesting note is that this ammo was designed to expand and penetrate in a limited amount of space at a comparatively low velocity. Many types of ammo out there are meant for either speed or mass, but this one rides that line perfectly. I experienced no over-penetration with this ammo.

Depth of penetration was remarkably consistent at 13”. The Snub Nose Pro wasn’t designed with FBI requirements in mind, although they were observed as a baseline. This ammo was made for concealed carry applications and the needs of the armed civilian. As such, it’s made to create tremendous damage by mechanical expansion in a short distance.

Permanent wounds were wide at nearly .6 inches, which was incredible considering this is a .38, not a .45.

TTAG Exclusive Ammo Test: Steinel .38 Special 125 gr +P Snub Nose Pro

The bullet relies on its monolithic construction to achieve consistent penetration depth. When the mechanical action ends, the tough, solid projectile still drives into tissue with excellent results.

I fired it through a variety of common fabrics, denim, and leather. I experienced no issues when it came to bullet expansion, even through tougher materials. I had a couple of bullets where some of the petals didn’t open, but they were the exception, not the rule.

Wounding Capacity

The monolithic construction of this propriety-design bullet is something that I have seen before in other products, but the Snub Nose Pro JHP differs in that it is not hollow in the base. Instead, the shank of the bullet is long and solid, thus allowing it to maintain its mass without shattering. In the event a petal sheers off, the bullet body will continue traveling into the tissue.

TTAG Exclusive Ammo Test: Steinel .38 Special 125 gr +P Snub Nose Pro

The wounds generated by this round show that most of the damage happens almost instantly, with the expansion occurring just after contact. The mechanical action of the petals creates violent and sudden tissue damage that results in a wide path of permanent wounds.

The best part of this round, in my mind, is that it’s designed to deliver its damage in a short amount of space and at relatively low velocity. Many other rounds out there are designed to expand and work at higher speeds than can be achieved from a snubby. That’s unfortunate because it means that many people are carrying ammo that will not function as advertised from their carry gun of choice.

Overall Impressions

This round’s performance truly wowed me. I love .38 Special and have always wanted to see companies bring out products dedicated to the snub-nose guns that so many of us carry. Many makers gear their loads around the old four-inch standard (which produces higher velocities) , which is disappointing considering that the vast majority of .38 revolvers out there that people carry are two inches or less.

I’m very impressed with the performance that this round delivered and am pleased that so much testing and real-world development have gone into it. The .38 Special is still a widely-used personal defense round and Steinel hit the nail on the head with Snub Nose Pro delivering a purpose-built, modern load that’s intended for concealed carry scenarios.

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy: * * * * *
Most snub nose revolvers are shot double-action in self defense scenarios (and my J-frame is DAO). That said, I know how to wring good groups out of this little gun and the Snub Nose Pro put up very respectable groups at ten yards.

Handling: * * * * *
Recoil on these +P loads is on the snappy side, as it is with all .38 +P. The gun I was using was a typical carry pistol and it was easily mastered. I was able to make very fast follow-up shots and point shoot with no problems.

Reliability: * * * * *
I had no issues with this ammo. Extraction was easy and consistent, which isn’t always the case with +P ammo.

Terminal Performance: * * * * *
Penetration is deep and over-penetration was non-existent. The rounds stop in the gel at a consistent 13-inch depth and deliver wide, lethal wound channels.

Overall: * * * * *
The .38 Special is a truly, well, special round. I have tens of thousands of rounds downrange with it over the years and really appreciate what it can do. I love what Steinel has done with the Snub Nose Pro. They have delivered a modern, effective solution to an age-old problem and did it without excessive recoil or blast. As far as .38 Special JHP is concerned, this should be the one of the concealed carriers top choices for EDC personal defense ammunition.

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    • Taper crimped=crimp jumped bullet. The fact 9mm is not roll crimped keeps me from trusting it to function 100% in an airweight snubbie.

      • True. That’s why the Ruger LCR in 9mm is built on the 357 class frame at 17oz.

        Works really well at that point though.

        Use a hard-sided sunglass case on your belt to hold at least three loaded moons discreetly.

        • Then what do you do with your sunglasses when you go inside? You either wear them or hang them from your shirt while wearing a sunglass case.

          Seems conspicuous.

          I’d make you in minute.


    • Hey! She DID say she has some wheelguns of her own, she just doesn’t necessarily recommend them for women.
      Fine with me. My edc is still my SP101 but the wifey is head-over-heels for her Walther CCP.

  1. Buffalo Bore and Speer have been making short barrel ammo for 38s and 357s for several years and I have shot quite a bit of it. Preforms like it should. That is what we carry in our LCRs

  2. Going to have to try this stuff. .38+P in 125-140 grain has long been one of my favorite loads for snubbies. The lighter bullets take some of the sting out of the recoil in these light guns. I prefer the heavier bullets in the .357, or for the .38 too in larger guns, like the S&W M10.
    I also prefer a bobbed hammer instead of a shrouded one, but that just a personal choice. I have the skill of using the trigger to bring the hammer back enough to cock it all the way with the off thumb for a SA pull. It just gives me a little more versatility in case a long shot does prove out to be needed, even though unlikely.

  3. Just scanned article so maybe I missed this but did you put any denim fabric or the like in front of the gel to make it more realistic to normal usage ?

    • When was the last time you saw a bad guy in a Denim jacket? From my personal experience this year alone the bad guys wearing a T-SHIRT or no shirt.

        • From the article “I fired it through a variety of common fabrics, denim, and leather. I experienced no issues when it came to bullet expansion, even through tougher materials. I had a couple of bullets where some of the petals didn’t open, but they were the exception, not the rule.”

  4. Nice review – I try to go with nickel cases in my carry ammo, which is fairly common these days. Disappointing to see defense rounds with a cost over $1.00 each that don’t have that feature. Underwood’s cases are particularly good.

  5. Sounds like good ammo and similar in performance to the Federal 130gr HST Micro, which averaged 13″ penetration and .73″ expanded diameter from a 2″ snub in the LuckyGunner tests. Plus, lead poisoning if you’re into that whole long term damage aspect…


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