In Praise of the .38 Special

Discussion in 'Centerfire Pistols & Revolvers' started by Pistolenschutze, Mar 17, 2006.

  1. On a forum like this, inhabited by very knowledgable firearms people, there is always much discussion about handgun calibers new and old. That is to be expected, and indeed it is a great deal of fun. I would like to focus for a bit, however, on the virtues of a very old caliber, the .38 Special, a caliber so often neglected with all the talk we hear about the 9mm, .45 ACP, .40 S&W, and countless others.

    I would argue that if viewed on an overall basis, there is simply no better nor more versitile handgun caliber on the market today, especially for self-defense purposes. It may be over a hundred years old, but like the .45 ACP, it just keeps on truckin'. As I see it, here are its primary virtues:

    1. It is inherently accurate, ballistically speaking.
    2. The recoil generated by the .38 Special is easily managable by almost anyone capable of shooting a handgun in the first place.
    3. Loaded with good bullets (which is true of any handgun caliber), it is a more than adequate "stopper."
    4. It is a revolver cartridge, which means it can be (and is!) chambered in small, easily concealable handguns, like the J-frames, but can still deliver reliably, every time, and without excessive recoil.

    Input, anyone?
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 17, 2006
  2. 22WRF

    22WRF Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2004

    I'm a big 38 Spl fan.
    I load more and shoot more 38 Spl than any other pistol cartridge.

    2 Smith 10's. and a 19, 28
    Security 6, Colt Officers Target
    When there is money on the line at the range I drag out the Colt Officers
    It is a revolver cartridge unless it in a Smith 52 which is my favorite semi to shoot.

    The 38 Spl is not neglected at this house
    I don't own a .40 or 9MM and probably never will because I don't need one cuz I got 38's :D

  3. Marlin

    Marlin *TFF Admin Staff Chief Counselor*

    Mar 27, 2003
    At SouthernMoss' side forever!
    My S&W M60 1 7/8" that I carry daily in my oxygen case since it's small and manageable, is a .38 Special.

    My favorite handgun over the years, which was stolen with the group several years ago, was a S&W M15 with beautiful wood grips. I carried the M15 for years on the streets of Montgomery back in the mid-sixties. I bought it for that purpose rather then carrying the issued M10.

    That said, though, I love my 1911 .45 ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! :) :) :)
  4. I have one of those too, with a 6-inch barrel, Marlin. It's probably the most accurate revolver I've ever shot.

    I can't really say I blame you, Marlin. For all my joking about the Glocks-- and I do indeed love them--and for all of the ribbing of my 1911 fanatics around here, the 1911 .45 will always hold a special place in my gun safe. It's a fine weapon for some purposes. My only objection to it is, and has always been, its weight and bulk for concealed carry.
  5. wolfgang2000

    wolfgang2000 New Member

    Dec 10, 2005
    Mountain Grove MO.
    I'm not a fan of the 38spl. I don't have anything against it, I'm just not a fan. I prefer the 357 mag. or the 41 mag..
  6. delta13soultaker

    delta13soultaker New Member

    Dec 26, 2003
    Depends on Uncle Sam's whim every 3 yrs.
    The first handgun competition I ever went to I was maybe 13 years old, just outside Conway, Arkansas. Had some cash but no pistol. A cop from the shooting club back home saw me watching the steel "dinner plate" target line, where each competitor must knock down 5 plates for the fastest time at 7 yards. He handed me a S&W K frame .38 with a 4 inch barrel and dark walnut grips, a speedloader, and a pocket full of mixed HP and cast shells. "Just go get in line and sign in. No fees for kids. Fight the targets, not the clock." I jumped in line determined to be the fastest.

    My first run I fired six shots and hit 3 targets, fumbled the speedloader while everyone gave me advice from the sideline all at once, and finally picked off the last 2 dinner plates. My time was over 20 seconds. I went to a tree and dry fired a while, just like with my deer rifle. My second run I hit 5 targets with 5 rounds. That hefty blue gun just floated from target to target. "Eleven point thirty three," the timer shouted. The man after me ran in 4 seconds. I went through the line until I was out of ammo. Never beat that second run, but it was faster than some adults so I was proud and humbled all at once.

    I bought more ammo and spent the rest of the day dry firing and going up to the dueling post competition. Eventually the cop came to retrieve the gun. "Think you'll ever be a pistol shooter?" he asked. "I think I'm more of a shotgun shooter honestly." "Nothin' wrong with that."

    After that day nobody had to tell me the .38 was special. I could have fired that stuff all night. I never found another K frame just like that old warhorse, but I got a lot of good to say about a Taurus 85.
  7. JohnK3

    JohnK3 New Member

    May 5, 2003
    My eldest has moved out and is now living at the LBJ Job Corps Center/CCC in NC.

    When she finally moves out on her own, I plan on purchasing a Ladysmith as a "graduation" present. Of course, it will be in .38 Special.
  8. A better weapon for the intended purpose could not be found, John. A snubbie--or even one with a 3" barrel--is peace of mind in a very small package. :cool:
  9. punchie

    punchie Active Member

    Apr 27, 2004
    Chesterfield, VA
    At present I have a Colt Officer's Match, Agent and Detective Special; S&W models 10, 12, 14, 15 and a649. Yes, you might say that I have a fondnest for a 38 Special ( ;) second only to the venerable 45 ACP).
  10. BobMcG

    BobMcG Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2005
    Somewhere in the Twilight Zone.
    I'm another who likes the .38spl very much. It's anything but overlooked at my place. I've loaded and fired many thousands of .38 rounds and a good many factory loads have been used too. More than any other pistol cartridge I've owned including .22s. With very light to heavy loads, and the many bullets to choose from, versatility is what it's all about.
  11. Bill

    Bill New Member

    Mar 31, 2003
    I love the .38 Special. My 8-3/8th barrel Model 15 S/W is my favorite paper cutter. Shoots like a dream, ammo is cheap, reloading is cheaper yet. A fun cartridge in target loads and still pleasant to shoot with defensive loads.
    I frequently shoot 38 Special in my 357 Smith. At the indoor range its much more fun to shoot than the magnum.
  12. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    Feb 23, 2001
    Minn-eeee-sota, ya, sure, you bet!
    While I'm a member of the "Bigger Is Better" School of CCW (.45ACP), there are some occasions where my 1911 & LW Commander are just too bulky to hide.

    On those occasions, I carry the old reliable .38 Special in my Model 49 Smith Bodyguard or Colt Detective Special.....and don't feel seriously undergunned.
  13. Bruce FLinch

    Bruce FLinch New Member

    Aug 27, 2005
    Bay Point, Kali..aka Gun Point
    My first centerfire handgun was/is a S&W mod. 10. Retired Hong Kong PD issue. It is now the house gun. Love my S&W 642. The 38 is my favorite load to shoot. Love those .40's, .45's, but HATE cleaning a revolver! LOL :eek:
  14. X, I think you articulate very clearly my whole point in posting this thread. I too will always choose something more powerful if the circumstances allow for it. In the practical world in which we live, they often do not. The choice of a carry weapon is always a compromise, mostly between size and power. I suspect most of us, if we knew in advance we were going to be involved in a gun fight, would opt for a long gun over a handgun any day, or at least a more powerful handgun than a .38. My choice would likely be a 12 gauge shotgun! Concealing a large weapon is , however, far, far more difficult than concealing a very small one like an S&W J-frame .38 or a Dick Special. That's why I too love the .38 Special and rely on it very often.
  15. denfoote

    denfoote New Member

    Mar 24, 2003
    I'm currently hoofing a Taurus M85SSUL in renowned old special caliber.

    Very soon I will be getting a Smith 65-6 that will probably see it's first firing with the .38spl.

    I feed my Smith 28 nothing but .38spl.

    Yeah, it's a good round!!
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