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The .38 Special
Nation Year Max. press.
U.S.A. 1902 18000psi
Great practice round for your hand smashing .357, and a pretty good round in it's own right for those not afflicted with magnum fever. This was THE duty cartridge for several generations of police officers and is still used by a diminishing number of departments. The round itself is easy and comfortable to shoot in all but the smallest revolvers. I fire the soft spoken 38 in my .357 revolvers far more often than I use the Magnum round. Since a magnum cartridge depends upon slow burning powders and long barrels to generate it's impressive ballistics, the advantage is less pronounced out of shorter guns, and almost negligible out of a snubbie unless proper loads are tailored for the shorter guns. For this reason I would not own a .357 snubbie, but do have a Colt Detective Special 2" in .38. A standard .357 load which leaves an 8 3/8 " barrel at 1370fps, only manages about 900fps out of a 2" barrel. Out of this same 2" barrel, the .38 will accelerate to about 850fps. Along with the slight increase in velocity, the .357 produces a marked increase in flash, blast, and recoil. With the proper fast burning powder (Bullseye) the .38 will leave a 2" barrel at 900+fps; the same as the vaunted .357. This is by far my favorite round to reload, and to shoot, both activities being easy with the .38. It's relatively low pressure, and the strength of the .357 arms in which I fire it, make for a most forgiving cartridge. I can also make very low pressure loads, which I would dare not load into a .357 case. These are good practice loads, or plinking loads, which make a heavy revolver feel like a .22. The .38 can also be loaded up to .357 levels, and this was the round with which the .357 was developed, but this should not be done even if the rounds will be fired in .357 revolvers. There is some overlap particularly with the lighter bullets, but for all practical purposes use the .38 for energy levels of 450fp or less, and the .357 brass for loads above this, even if all rounds are to be fired in the same gun.

Standard Load
Bullet Powder Measure Velocity Energy Comment
158gr RNL Bullseye 4.9gr 850fps 254fp
Bullet Powder Measure Velocity Energy Comment
110gr JHP Bullseye 5.4gr 1100fps 296fp
158gr JHP VV N350 7gr 1020fps 365fp
158gr RNL VV 3N37 7.3gr 1083fps 412fp
160RNL VV 3N37 6.8gr 1115fps 442fp
125gr L-SWC VV 3N37 8.2gr 1296fps 466fp
110gr L-SWC Bullseye 4.8gr 1000fps 244fp
110gr L-SWC VV N350 9.2gr 1399 478fp
158gr RNL Bullseye 3.4gr 750fps 197fp