Thursday, July 15, 2010


Some of my earliest recollections (What? 2.5 years ago?) of which ammo to select for use in a .38 snubbie was "Go for SWCHP!"

Huh? Whazzat? Well a little looking back then found that SWCHP or even LSWCHP stood for Lead Semi-Wadcutter Hollow Point.

What is that type of projectile supposed to do? Well, the semi-wad-cutter part means the bullet has a little shoulder on it. Like other wadcutters this will make a neater hole in the target paper, but in a defense situation it will supposedly punch through tissue better, leaving a more permanent hole in the bad guy. In other words it will make a more effective wound and be more likely to stop the fight and put the bad guy in the hospital and let the good guy go home.

The hollow point does something similar in increasing effective hurt. It helps the projectile flatten out when it meets resistance. When it meets meat. An expanded bullet makes for a more effective wound. An expanded bullet also is more likely to not exit the bad guy and travel on to hit bystanders.

All good things. You want the most effective way to conclude a deadly confrontation in your defensive favor, and the marketing for SWCHP projectiles indicate that they may be in the top tier of what you can select. Is it the best? I dunno! I'm just a blogger. The other hollowpoint ammos developed to FBI standards are presumably good too. Here's the thing: fewer ammo companies pay as much attention to .38 special development since the FBI and other police orgs don't use revolvers much anymore.

So finding SWCHP can be a problem. I currently carry 129 grain Hydra-Shoks, and I am sure they are fine. Mostly. They were certainly available everywhere. But with my expanded mail-order abilities, I can look around and notice a specialty maker does indeed have SWCHP with a thought toward snubbies. Buffalo Bore. The bullet weight is higher at 158, and that is good. So is the stated muzzle velocity of 1000 fps and 351 muzzle energy. [Note, that that is still half the muzzle energy I am probably getting with my .357 magnum in my S&W 686 6" barrel. Yikes.]

Still I may give this a try. It may be too hot a +P for me, but we will find out. No word on whether there is excessive flash with the powder... Or if they get that 1000 fps out of a 2 inch barrel or a 4 inch barrel... A lot of known unknowns here.

So what IS the better ammo type, designed specifically, for a 2 inch .38? Everything I look at are either inappropriate, or THEY say, 'this is ok, I guess.' Folks have no problem warning you away from marginal performers but can never agree on the exemplary ones. No one knows FOR SURE what is best, and they aren't going to make my choice for me and they aren't going to be there in the dire situation where I'd actually use said ammo, 'for keepies.'

Other reviews? Well, maybe Speer Gold Dot. Many different sources have a high opinion of this one. 125 Federal Nyclads are also highly regarded. I'd try one of each type (buffalo, hydra-shok, gold-dot, nyclad), but what is that going to tell me apart from flash and felt recoil? Not enough after action reports where bad guys said, "I HATED getting shot with brand X... More than all the others I was shot with... Brand Y almost tickled, and brand Z was kinda middling." If there was that kind of information out there the choice would be easy.

What Would Tam Do? In 2003 she said, "I, too, prefer 158gr LSWC-HP +Ps." but that was then. I wonder if she has changed her mind or sold off all her .38s and uses .41's and .327's now?

[I know, I know, I've talked about this before. But I never resolved it. And I'm shopping.]


Murphy's Law said...

Here's an article on point from Handguns Magazine that you might like:

In my opinion though, the best option for the snubbie--at least until I perfect my short-barrel handload--is the Remington FBI load here:

Mas Ayoob put me onto this round 10 years ago and I haven't seen any better one come along.

Boat Guy said...

I bought 500 rds of .38 +P LSWC from Ammoman last year. Federal Lawman I think.
One theory I read posited that the "hard edges" of the wadcutter tended to "cut" flesh better than round nose ... which seems to make sense

Crucis said...

LSWCHP is, ARAIK, available from two sources---Remington (it's not labeled as LSWCHP, though) and Buffalo Bore. BB has the round in +P and non +P versions.

Of the two brands, I prefer Buffalo Bore and it's what I use in all my .38/.357 revolvers. This round is specifically formulated for snubbies to produce a higher velocity and low-flash.

I've fire Speer, Range Ammo and BB in low light conditions and the BB has noticeably lower flash.

The last comment I've read from Tam is that she uses the Remington version of the LSWCHP. That was a few months ago, IIRC.

Tam said...

I have Winchester and Remington 158gr +P LSWCHP in bulk quantities.

Also, Federal loaded a 147gr +P+ Hydrashok intended to offer identical performance, but it's best relegated to Magnum revolvers or modern .38 Specials that you don't mind beating to death.

The 135gr +P Gold Dot "Short Barrel" load gets good reviews and is also designed to emulate the old 158 LSWCHP as closely as possible.

Ritchie said...

When I inherited Mom's 2" .38Sp I discovered I would have to handload for it, since all the 158 gr. LSWCHP I could find was +P and the owner's manual specified standard pressure loads. When I ordered these bullets, the box arrived empty except for 2 or 3 bullets that could not find their way out of the torn corner. I imagined the trail of horror and panic the escaped slugs might have left. Now I have a source of factory ammo noted in a comment above, should I actually carry the cute little thing.

Tam said...

FWIW, Hornady loads a standard pressure XTP JHP in both 125 and 158gr weights.

Crucis said...

Buffalo Bore sell a non+P version of their 158gr LSWCHP. It's especially forumated for older snubbies according to their website. You can order directly off their website (local law permitting.)