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More Bang For Your Back.

The .38 Special remains popular as a home defense gun for those not into autos, and in a traded-in service revolver, a .38 is the best dollar value you can get in a defensive handgun today.

In recent years hundreds of thousands of police .38s have been traded in on autos, glutting the market. The 2" small-frame .38 revolver remains the most potent of the popular small concealment guns.

The best load for it remains the all-lead hollowpoint 158 gr. Bullet at +P velocity. Even out of a 2" barrel and even after going through opens up in underyling flesh where a copper-jacketed projectile might not.

Known colloquially as the "FBI load," the "Metro load," and the "RCMP load" -- always named after big police departments that shot many people with it and had spectacular fight-stopping success in the context of .38 ballistics - this round is one of the "old values" that hasn't gone out of style.

Those who follow the "ammo wars" have noted that even Evan Marshall and Marty Fackler agree this is the top choice in the caliber, which is like getting George W Bush and Al Gore to agree on something. (Marshall likes the Winchester brand, and Fackler seemed to focus on the Federal; what the heck, try the Remington version, with which the DEA had splendid success over the years. All those companies, plus CCI, still produce the round.)

This is all I carry in my 2" .38 backup guns. In slaughterhouse testing, I often had this or that highly touted .380 Auto load nail a hog square in the head, only to make it squeal obstinately. I would draw my 2" Smith with the other hand, shoot the hog in the same place with an FBI load, and kill it instantly. Every time, the big lead .38 slug tore through the massive skull, smooshed the brain, and lodged, mushroomed, in a basal skull fracture. This performance on a hog's head mirrors the performance of the rounds that have the best track record of stopping humans on the street.

Evan Marshall, in his studies of actual gunfights, found this .38 round about equal to the GI .45 ball cartridge for stopping power. Most departments who used it in actual shootings pretty much agreed. It stings your hand to shoot it from an Airweight snubby, but as world champion Ray Chapman used to say, "It stops hurting when you stop shooting,." This is not the case on the other side of the 158 gr. lead semiwadcutter hollowpoint bullet.
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Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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