Lower-powered "carry" ammo

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M3 Mitch posted this 18 July 2019

Just a general question.  Particularly for someone who is not a shooting enthusiast but needs a carry gat - probably a revolver - would it be nuts to consider for example 148 grain wadcutters in a .38 Special?  For someone who might well be shooting inside their own house, and who is not particularly hardened to recoil (I am thinking about my little sister, to be specific).  I have heard that the wadcutters "punch well above their weight" - but on the other hand if somebody comes into the house uninvited with bad intent, there certainly is a school of thought to hit them as hard as you can.

Related question- just picked up a S&W lightweight M39 with 3" barrel, 5-shot .44 Special.  In the same vein would I be nuts to load it for carry or to put on the night stand with something like Black Hills "Cowboy" ammo - a cast flat point 210 grain at nominal 700 fps - idea being again ranges will be short, the gun is light and short barreled, have not shot it yet but imagine it recoils pretty vigorously, and with that 3" barrel the flash and blast are expected to be pretty impressive.  But there are considerably more powerful loads like just for example Winchester Silvertips available. 

I already have my ideas that neither above scenario is nuts, but, if I am inclined to take a bad road here, so to speak, maybe you guys can talk me out of it. 

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beagle6 posted this 18 July 2019

Wadcutters have been used for self defense for a long time in 38 revolvers. A hollow base wadcutter loaded upside down is about as good as it gets in a snub nosed revolver

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RicinYakima posted this 18 July 2019

Absolutely the full loaded, or even factory 38 WC is better than any HP across the room for a non-enthusiast. As a firefighter/medic for 28 years, I never saw a 38 special HP expand in a human body from a 2" revolver. Placement, flat nose and penetration are the answers, expansion is a myth. Not counting FBI naked gelatin for the gunzines. 44 special RN/FP should be very effective, but I have no personal experience with 44's on humans.  

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David Reiss CBA Membership Director posted this 18 July 2019

I would not recommend .38 wadcutter for self defense. Heavy clothing can defeat the flat nose of the wadcutter and it's is even worse with the hollow base out. Penetration is the key to providing a good, or bad depending on which side of the gun you are on. Despite popular belief, a semi-auto can be easier to teach a novice to shoot than a revolver. Especially now there are so many good semi-autos that don't require a safety to be operated before discharging the gun, one of the things that was a detriment to many early designs. 

Also there are many 9mm rounds now that give good penetration, but have little recoil. In addition they often have magazine capacities above 10 rounds. So for someone such as your sister this is the route I would go. 

While I agree with Ric that the .44 special is an excellent round for self defense, it does have more recoil than that of most any ,38 special rounds. But for you it would be ideal. I have a lightweight Taurus 3" .44 special which I absolutely love. Using 429421 with 9 grs. of Unique puts you in the 1100 fps range and a pretty potent load. 

David Reiss - NRA Life Member & PSC Range Member Retired Police Firearms Instructor/Armorer
-Services: Wars Fought, Uprisings Quelled, Bars Emptied, Revolutions Started, Tigers Tamed, Assassinations Plotted, Women Seduced, Governments Run, Gun Appraisals, Lost Treasure Found.
- Also deal in: Land, Banjos, Nails, Firearms, Manure, Fly Swatters, Used Cars, Whisky, Racing Forms, Rare Antiquities, Lead, Used Keyboard Keys, Good Dogs, Pith Helmets & Zulu Headdresses. .

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shjoe posted this 18 July 2019

I use a non +P version of the old "fbi" load of 158gr lead semi wad cutter over unique in my 4" model 10 without feeling under gunned. it also is a good working gun load around the farm. I had a charter arms bull dog 44spl years ago and liked that as well. best, john

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David Reiss CBA Membership Director posted this 18 July 2019

John,

I agree with you, the semi-wadcutter is a much better choice than the wadcutter, Something like the Lyman 358429 with a 5.5 gr. load of Unique puts you into +p territory, but with a bullet that weighs 173 grs, well as my ole pappy use to say, "Now you cooking with gas".  

 

David Reiss - NRA Life Member & PSC Range Member Retired Police Firearms Instructor/Armorer
-Services: Wars Fought, Uprisings Quelled, Bars Emptied, Revolutions Started, Tigers Tamed, Assassinations Plotted, Women Seduced, Governments Run, Gun Appraisals, Lost Treasure Found.
- Also deal in: Land, Banjos, Nails, Firearms, Manure, Fly Swatters, Used Cars, Whisky, Racing Forms, Rare Antiquities, Lead, Used Keyboard Keys, Good Dogs, Pith Helmets & Zulu Headdresses. .

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shjoe posted this 18 July 2019

david, your "ole pappy" was right. that load would have some reach and penetration. if shot placement is king, then penetration is queen. lots of folks tend to overlook the 38spl for being marginal but I don't know of anyone who would volunteer to stand in front of one. a versatile caliber. I think the CAS folks use it to good effect. john

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max503 posted this 18 July 2019

It's a fact that my hands do not tolerate recoil like they used to.  My Dillon is set up to load wad cutters with 3.5 grains of Unique. After 50 of those out of a J Frame I have trouble writing with that hand for 20 minutes or so.  I wouldn't want to get hit with one (or more) of those.

A female shooting friend thinks those are too heavy for her.  She always asks me to load them lighter.

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David Reiss CBA Membership Director posted this 18 July 2019

Max503's comment on his female shooting pal  supports my earlier comments on female shooters. Most of you know I spent 33 years instructing fellows police officers to shoot. They were and/or are no different from the average citizen when just starting out. That experience has given me plenty ammunition to back up my words.

David Reiss - NRA Life Member & PSC Range Member Retired Police Firearms Instructor/Armorer
-Services: Wars Fought, Uprisings Quelled, Bars Emptied, Revolutions Started, Tigers Tamed, Assassinations Plotted, Women Seduced, Governments Run, Gun Appraisals, Lost Treasure Found.
- Also deal in: Land, Banjos, Nails, Firearms, Manure, Fly Swatters, Used Cars, Whisky, Racing Forms, Rare Antiquities, Lead, Used Keyboard Keys, Good Dogs, Pith Helmets & Zulu Headdresses. .

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Squid Boy posted this 18 July 2019

Forget the handgun entirely especially a snubby. For someone that doesn't shoot a lot to get competent and then shoot accurately under pressure is almost an impossible task. Get a 20 gauge pump and load it with heavy bird shot. Everyone on the planet knows the sound of one being racked and it's way more effective at close quarters than a small handgun. You don't need magnums either and recoil is controllable and they are easy to master. You won't have to worry about hurting someone in the next house if you miss either. Just my humble opinion. Squid Boy

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beagle6 posted this 18 July 2019

I thought that this conversation was about a recoil sensitive person and a short barreled 38 revolver. Now it seems to have evolved into heavily loaded semi wadcutters, etc., which is way off the point. Also, does anyone want to don heavy clothing and let me shoot them with a wadcutter? I thought not.

beagle6

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M3 Mitch posted this 18 July 2019

Gentlemen, thank you to each and every one who weighed in here, some good food for thought.  For my sister, yeah, for inside the house a 20 gauge pump is probably best, but, the house itself is relatively easy to break in to, (6 doors in a 1500 sq ft house!) (and none of the doors are security doors, 5 are on the back of the house where someone could kick them in with almost no risk of being seen) - anyway I have been thinking about what she could carry with her, particularly if I can convince her to get CCW qualified.

David, you do bring up a good point that she might be better off with a 9mm Glock or similar.  It is true that you can buy over the counter pretty much whatever you might want in terms of a defensive load

I personally have some preference for a revolver for the night stand, if I wake up from a deep sleep to find a miscreant in the house already, I don't really trust all the training I have done with a 1911 to "work" right away.  With that .44 Smith, if I can manage to aim and pull the trigger, it should always work. 

It is a good point that sometimes we hear of multiple person break-ins, and an automatic would deal a lot better with that.  The 5-shot Smith would be plenty for a solo, OK for a duo, but beyond that I would be wishing for either a 1911 or Glock. 

All this is good and I have some stuff to think about.  That's what I really like about this site, various guys with various view points, backed up with considerable experience, look at a question from different angles. 

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Ed Harris posted this 18 July 2019

A "full-charge" wadcutter load should perform better than the midrange target wadcutter load and is my preferred carry in snubbies.  The factory target ammo is more manageable in the very light Airweight guns.  Some gel tests from various blogs give penetration data which may be helpful if you are ever attacked by The Jello Man.

http://mousegunaddict.blogspot.com/2014/01/federal-gold-medal-match-38-special.html

https://forums.brianenos.com/topic/244329-38-wadcutters-for-self-defense/

https://www.luckygunner.com/lounge/wadcutter-ammo-self-defense/

In the 1970s both Remington at Bridgeport, and Winchester at New Haven, CT loaded "full charge" wadcutters, originally intended as training and practice ammunition by the NYPD. The rationale, according to Frank McGee who headed the firearms unit back in the day, was that they didn't want cops practicing with "light target loads" but wanted the wadcutter bullet assembled into the case using the same powder charge then common for 158-grain LRN service ammo, so that the recoil would be similar. Velocity was about 800 fps from a 4" S&W Model 10 or Colt Police Positive, blue square-butt .38 Special "cop gun" as then issued.

The story told to me by Bill Allard, was that Jim Cirillo and others in the Stakeout Unit realized a good thing when they saw it and took this new practice ammo to the street, where it performed better than the "official" LRN service ammo. When questioned by the shooting review board, to a man they stuck with their story, "we came from the range and the wadcutter ammo was what we had with us" and the rest is history.

Buffalo Bore loads a similar non+P round today. 

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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beagle6 posted this 18 July 2019

Over the last several years I taught several women to shoot who did not have enough strength to pull back the slide on a 380. much less a 9mm. Sometimes a revolver is the best answer. FWIW, Bill Jordan thought that the 22 Magnum Rimfire was a wicked round out of a revolver.

beagle6

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Ed Harris posted this 18 July 2019

A .22 WMR fired from a concealable handgun has about the same energy as standard velocity .22 LR fired from a sporting-length rifle.  Bullets which are fragile enough to expand penetrate poorly.  This link has data from most of the current brands.  I would not give up my .38 snub or .380 ACP:

https://www.americanrifleman.org/articles/2015/6/8/the-22-magnum-for-self-defense/

 

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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beagle6 posted this 18 July 2019

Ed

I tend to agree with you. Bill Jordan made the comment in his book, "No Second Place Winner". He was chief firearms instructor for the Border Patrol,and a combat veteran. I have to take him seriously, but I'm keeping my wadcutters too

beagle6

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RicinYakima posted this 18 July 2019

 When I was doing undercover drug work in 1970, I had a Hi-Standard over/under .22 Magnum DAO in each front pocket of my stripped bell bottoms. Tie-dyed T-shirt covered down to mid-thigh.  Never felt unarmed, but college drug dealers were not the violent gangs like we have today.

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Brodie posted this 19 July 2019

When High Standard brought out their 22 wmr Derringer my friend Ed Davenport (now deceased) took one and tried it on a police issue soft vest (no plate).  The round zipped right through the "bullet proof " vest.  Ed also tried some of the, then new, CCI Minimags in 22rf.  Those rounds also zipped right through the "bullet proof" vest.  Ed did this research as part of his job as Armorer for the LBPD Swat team.  Ed was not too happy about the results when he told me about the tests.  Ed had worn one of those vest since they first came out.

There was also a story related by a Long Beach Sargent (who shall remain nameless).  According to the Sargent a lady of "negotiable virtue" was plying her trade on Long Beach Blvd in the neighboring city of Compton when an Individual approached her and demanded that she give him her purse.  She said: "Can I just give you my wallet?". The robber replied in the affirmative.  Our Negotiable Virtue lady then took out her High Standard double barreled derringer and shot him in the chest.  The bullet went through the Sternum, through the Heart and removed a vertebrae from his spine.  The robber was dead when he hit the ground.  According to my source the investigating officer reloaded her weapon and returned it to her. 

B.E.Brickey

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RicinYakima posted this 20 July 2019

Always about shot placement and penetration.

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Brodie posted this 20 July 2019

There are people down here who think that the Elk got armor plated 20 or so years ago.  But  I dropped a big cow last fall with a 7x57 Mauser with one shot.  Like the Game Warden told me: " They kill them up here all the time with a 22rf.".

B.E.Brickey

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shjoe posted this 21 July 2019

great information gentlemen. the only time I felt under gunned was during an investigation where the uniform was business casual. with the exception of my wallet id, I carried a light weight 38 snub nose in an ankle rig. better to have it and not need it. the work and the job was very routine, but it is what you unsuspectingly step in that livens things up. visited a guy right address, but wrong adjacent town. place was a dump. I  stepped on a loose board down the tenement hall way and the hall way lights went out. I slowly back tracked out of that hall way with 5 shot 38 snubby in hand. not enough gun if things had rapidly turned into cacalella. a compact 9mm with 2 extra mags went with me next time.

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