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Thread: .38 special For Home Defense

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    Captain kflo01's Avatar
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    Default .38 special For Home Defense

    What is your IMO on using a .38 special for home defense over a .357. Yes I know the .357 can also fire .38 rounds. I was looking at a Ruger SP101 but I might be able to get a good .38 at a awesome price point instead.

    What do you think. Taking everything into consideration like cost of ammo, cost of the gun, follow up shots, recoil, stopping power. Which would you go with?

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    Colonel Tim1's Avatar
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    Nothing wrong with the .38 special. I used to load .38+p in my GP-100 over .357 because the neighbors house was right behind the doorway to our bedroom where an aggressor would be standing if coming after us. I had the fear that a .357 would over penetrate and wind up in the neighbors house. The .38 is obviously inferior to the .357 in terms of stopping power but it will still get the job done if you do yours. Some people also advocate it because it will have less muzzle flash and noise though I question if you would actually notice either of those things during a home invasion scenario in the midst of fight-or-flight.

    Cost of the ammo is another point in favor of the .38. I can buy a box of .38 special for around $15-$20 from my local FFL. .357 magnum goes for $25-$35. I'd still tell you to look for a .357 because it's essentially two guns for the price of one but if you can get a deal on a quality .38 special go for it. You won't be sorry.
    Last edited by Tim1; 04-07-2011 at 04:06 PM.
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    I've fired .357 revolvers (Smith & Wessons, both 2.5" and 4") in the past and I personally wouldn't choose that caliber for home defense if other options were available.

    The blast (noise) and muzzle flash from a .357 Magnum is more than I'm willing deal with in a dark, closed-in area such as my bedroom, hallway or living room. That being said, if the only other alternative you'll allow yourself to consider is a .38 Special, I'd choose the .357 Magnum and load it with .38 +P defensive loads for nightstand duty (that way you'll have the flexibility of upgrading to magnum loads for other applications).

    Over both of those, however, I'd choose a solid, high-capacity 9mm for home defense (a used Beretta 92 or Glock 17 can typically be had for cheap).

    From a shootability perspective, I find auto pistols to be much more ergonomic (and therefore much easier to hit with) than double-action revolvers. Also, the perceived recoil of a typical 9mm is less than that of a typical .38 (and way less than that of a .357 Magnum). This is especially true when we're talking about lightweight .38s with small, alloy frames and two-finger grips.

    From a firepower perspective, a 9mm will typically provide 14 to 18 rounds without reloading, whereas a typically revolver will provide just 5 or 6 (a huge drawback in my opinion). Even if you don't secure a pre-ban magazine for your 9mm auto, you'll still have 10+1 rounds on deck with its post-ban mag. On top of that, almost all 9mm loads are more powerful than almost all .38 Special loads, and hitting the bad guy with a little something extra can only be a good thing.

    Finally, from an economic perspective, 9mm practice ammunition is typically far less expensive than .38 Special or (especially) .357 Magnum ammunition. For example, the local Wal-Mart offers Federal Champion 9mm 115gr FMJ for $10.49 per 50 rounds. The cheapest .38 Special they offer is somewhere around $16 per 50 (keep in mind they offer far fewer revolver loads than auto loads, and they're often out of the revolver loads they do offer). Practice is extremely important, and if your ammo is hard to find or it costs a lot, you won't be likely to practice as much as you otherwise would have (a very bad thing).

    keep in mind the above is just my opinion so please take it as such.
    Last edited by linebaugh500; 04-07-2011 at 04:36 PM.

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    Major RDFABSREP's Avatar
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    Tough decision, to be honest with you... Here's my "IMO:"

    The common Remington UMC .38spl rounds are 130gr and I can buy anything from 115 to 147gr for my 9mm Glock for comparable (if not less) money. I'm no ballistics expert, but I would assume the 9mm is going to be less likely to travel through walls as it's powered by less powder (versus the .38)

    Handguns take time to be an expert at, which means you have to shoot...A LOT. I'd MUCH rather pay for 9mm practice ammo on my Glock than .38spl on my S&W K-frame. Plus, you can always look into hollow point 9mm rounds for even more stopping power.

    Food for thought: if your wife may be using this for home defense as well, it might actually rule out a semi-auto. My wife can rack the Glock, but it's not as easy (for her) as simply pulling the trigger on the .357
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    Got a S&W 438 .38+P. A 158 grain going damn near 1000 fps will get the job done. But it's been said before. If you are worried about going thru walls ya can't beat a 12 Gauge! IMO

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    Quote Originally Posted by RDFABSREP View Post
    I'm no ballistics expert, but I would assume the 9mm is going to be less likely to travel through walls as it's powered by less powder (versus the .38)
    There seems to be a lot of misconceptions out there regarding the power level of the .38 Special vs. the 9mm. This is probably due to the longer case of the .38 Special; because the .38 cartridge is bigger, many folks assume that it must be more powerful.

    In fact, the opposite is true; the 9mm is a much higher-pressure cartridge than the .38 Special (35,000 CUP compared to 17,000 CUP) which allows it to achieve higher velocities with similar bullet weights. Therefore, a 9mm will be more likely to penetrate a barrier (such as a wall) than a .38 Special.

    To be honest, this would be my last concern when it came to home defense as just about everything projected from a firearm will go through the interior walls of a house.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ValueTeck View Post
    Got a S&W 438 .38+P. A 158 grain going damn near 1000 fps will get the job done. But it's been said before. If you are worried about going thru walls ya can't beat a 12 Gauge! IMO
    If you don't mind me asking, what load is giving you almost 1000 fps with a 158 gr bullet in a .38 Special?

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    Just did some checking around. Looks like the average velocity for 158 gr bullets in standard-pressure .38 Special loads is around 755 fps.

    In the +P loads from the major manufacturers, however, that same bullet weight is listed at 800 to 890 fps.

    One load really stands out, though, is the Buffalo Bore lead semi-wadcutter 158 gr hollow-point. It's listed at 950 fps and basically achieves the ballistics you mentioned above.

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    Another quality reply from you Tim. I am looking at a SP100 from buds. It is 464.00 free shipping. 25.00 FFL fee when it gets to ny just dont know if I want to go thru the whole shipping thing. If I get it local. I am looking at 499.99 plus tax. If I can find a .38 I want that is at least 100.00 difference (in my eyes that would be a considerable savings) Then I will jump on it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim View Post
    Nothing wrong with the .38 special. I used to load .38+p in my GP-100 over .357 because the neighbors house was right behind the doorway to our bedroom where an aggressor would be standing if coming after us. I had the fear that a .357 would over penetrate and wind up in the neighbors house. The .38 is obviously inferior to the .357 in terms of stopping power but it will still get the job done if you do yours. Some people also advocate it because it will have less muzzle flash and noise though I question if you would actually notice either of those things during a home invasion scenario in the midst of fight-or-flight.

    Cost of the ammo is another point in favor of the .38. I can buy a box of .38 special for around $15-$20 from my local FFL. .357 magnum goes for $25-$35. I'd still tell you to look for a .357 because it's essentially two guns for the price of one but if you can get a deal on a quality .38 special go for it. You won't be sorry.

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    I want to add I do currently own 2 semi autos a Glock 30 and Ruger P95 (with pre-ban 15 round mags). I just wanted to add a revolver because of how simple it is to use and not as many moving parts, no slide to rack or forget to rack or safety to flip or forget to flip in the heat of the moment. I figured it wouldn't hurt to have one on hand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ValueTeck View Post
    Got a S&W 438 .38+P. A 158 grain going damn near 1000 fps will get the job done. But it's been said before. If you are worried about going thru walls ya can't beat a 12 Gauge! IMO
    Just about anything you fire from a 12 gauge shotgun is going to go through multiple walls. Chris from MDTS hosted a guy that had a video about just that. (Always forget his name, so I can never find the video) 00 buckshot penetrated a few walls in a row.

    Edit: Rob Pincus. Still can't find the video. But, anyway, the point is it's better to know what is behind your target than to hope whatever you are shooting isn't going to go though the wall.
    Last edited by JStarX7; 04-07-2011 at 09:38 PM.
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    Most of your major caliber handgun bullets are great for stopping power and wonderful for modern day wall penetration.

    The best option for home defense is a .223.......

    Second would be a shotgun loaded with #4 buck.

    Avoid 00 buck and slugs.

    I did a demo where I made a section of wall and place a cardboard target 12 feet behind it. Shot the wall with a .223 and had a nice neat hole in front, a 2-4" hole in the back and a perfect sideways profile impact on the target. Well, it was only a bit more than a dimple..the bullet was found about 6 feet behind the target
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    Quote Originally Posted by RochPersDef View Post
    Most of your major caliber handgun bullets are great for stopping power and wonderful for modern day wall penetration.

    The best option for home defense is a .223.......

    Second would be a shotgun loaded with #4 buck.

    Avoid 00 buck and slugs.

    I did a demo where I made a section of wall and place a cardboard target 12 feet behind it. Shot the wall with a .223 and had a nice neat hole in front, a 2-4" hole in the back and a perfect sideways profile impact on the target. Well, it was only a bit more than a dimple..the bullet was found about 6 feet behind the target

    So... an AR Pistol then...lol
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    In my house we used to use a .38 s&w(not special) for home defense, I'd say that with todays modern ammunition and a decent firearm with a 3-6 inch barrel(my preference) .38 special would get the job done just buy some good hollow points. If it were me personally I would up the wheel gun to .357 capable and then just load .38's if you are worried about noise blast over penetration, for the extra 50-100 bucks the magnum will cost you over a plain .38 is money well spent and later down the road will end up saving you money when you ware wanting the magnum. I don't know what size revolver you plan on getting but if it's strictly for home defense/range gun I would avoid a snubby.

    The above is just my opinion, good luck in your purchase.

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    The Revolver would be strictly for home defense and a range gun. I wouldn't carry is concealed. I was thinking a 4" barrel would work.

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    Look at getting a EAA windicator 2 inch or 4 inch , they are heavy as hell but i've never had a problem with mine shoots .357 mag and .38's. You can get one for under $300.

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    If going with the .38, whether using a .357 loaded with .38s or just a .38, get the best +p ammo available. The name of the game is don't shoot unless you know you will hit the BG. That way there is no worry about over penetration anyway. You need ammo that will penetrate and hit theBGs vitals, in order to stop him. You don't want to shoot and the bullet strikes the BGs arm, and stops right there. That will not stop a deranged crack head. Check out Corbons DPX .38+p. I used to use critical defense, then gold dots, but have resaerched, tested, and found that you cannot beat the penetration of the DPX (nor can the reliability of the bullets expansion be matched by any other round). As mentioned above, any round will go through walls, so don't compare ammo by that standard. Use what you shoot best (must hit and not miss, that solves the over penetration issue), and find a round that will penetrate enough to stop the BG (ammo should pass the FBI minimum requirements for penetration, otherwise you will just piss off the crack head), and a round that will not make you go blind and deaf, therfore severly limiting your ability for an accurate follow up shot.(.357) With all these factors weighed, I have chosen the corbon DPX .38 +p for my GP100 6" .357 revolver. And you can't go wrong with a wheel gun, in the middle of the night you don't want to worry about jams or safeties and such. If you need more than 6 rounds (ie a semi-auto etc) then you probably haven't practiced enough or your in a world of trouble that a Glock probably wouldn't help you get out of anyway.

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    I think if you have a situation where deadly force is needed the cost of the ammo or firearm should be the least of your worrys. Buy and shoot what you

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    New member,new computer lost the last part of my post. I ment to say buy what you shoot well and to hell with the cost. Saving a few bucks wont mean much if you wind up a victim instead of a survivor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kflo01 View Post
    I want to add I do currently own 2 semi autos a Glock 30 and Ruger P95 (with pre-ban 15 round mags). I just wanted to add a revolver because of how simple it is to use and not as many moving parts, no slide to rack or forget to rack or safety to flip or forget to flip in the heat of the moment. I figured it wouldn't hurt to have one on hand.
    My opinion is to keep your glock loaded and racked as a home self defense weapon, than if the situation happens you have a gun your used to, in .45, you won't have to worry about racking the slide bc it will already be ready to fire...

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    My home defense guns are (and I have many long & short guns to pick from)

    1st gun, Rem 870 12 gage, Slug barrel, pistol grip, extended mag tube to hold eight rounds, one in the pipe and seven in the tube. Loaded with 2 rounds #7 target loads followed by 6 rounds of high base BB. I did some reading and found a lot of home defense trainers recommend #7 or #8 shot in light target loads. They say the bird shot will have a tighter pattern with more pellets then say OO Buck shot, be just as lethal at close range and the lighter loads have less chance to make it through the drywall into the next room where your family may be hiding which all makes sense to me. I figure if the 2 rounds of bird shot doesn't keep them from advancing, time for the heavy stuff!

    2nd gun is my Beretta FS92 9mm loaded and in my Don Hume IWB carry holster, I can quickly grab that, stick in my waste so it's ready as a backup.

    Both of these are kept in my bedroom ready for middle of the night, "Oh shiz, what's that noise" Time to grab the guns and go check it out. Also have a high Lum tactical light ready to go.

    3rd gun is one of my 1911's 45ACP loaded with some nasty hand loaded 230gr HP, this one is hidden up high and out of sight near the main entrance door with two extra mags right next to it. This one is in case someone knocks at the door and then tries to force their way in.

    My Daughter and two little Grandkids live next to us so they come to our house almost every day, I make damn sure these loaded guns are hidden up high and out of sight. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if they ever got ahold of one of my gun and got hurt, or worse.

    To address your question on a .38 or .357 revolver, the .38 would be just fine but do stay away from .357. They have a terrible ear piercing CRACK when fired outside, I wouldn't want to touch one off inside! Of course you can load your .357 with .38 rounds. If I was going to use my .38, I would load the first two rounds with light 148gr full wadcutter target loads followed by 158gr hollow points. If you had to fire, those target loads at center mass will do more damage then you think, the report will be much kinder on your ears plus less muzzle flash in the dark. Remember most defensive shots are at a matter of feet, not yards. I would also keep a couple speed loaders next to it with the HP rounds for quick reloading.

    Some food for thought, as I expected your getting a lot of different answers which is good, there is no "one fits all" answer because everyones home situation is different and we use what we have. If all you have is an old .22 rifle, then use that! Or you can choose to just dial 911 and hope help gets there before your dead....... LoL

    Take Care, Guy
    Last edited by Benellinut; 04-17-2011 at 08:13 AM.

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    As long as you load it up with the right SD ammo.

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    The 38 is reasonable, you should be able to hit exactly what your aiming at although a good shotgun with the 38 cannot hurt.

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    The Ruger SP101 is a nice gun ( just bought one). Solid stainless & well built. Hitting the perp in the head with it would probably be a kill

    IMO, Go with the .357

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