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38 Special Ammo

About 38 Special Ammo

Initially produced in 1898, 38 Special ammunition was designed to be a higher velocity round with better penetration than the 38 Long Colt.

Over the years, the cartridge received more and more demands for improvements, given its accuracy, manageable recoil, and versatility.

Today, 38 Special ammunition is used for target shooting, personal defense, and small-game hunting.

Common Names for 38 Special Ammunition

Since its initial production over 120 years ago, 38 Special Ammo has had many different name variations. Some of the most common include:

• 38 Special• 38 Spl• .38 Special
• 38 SPC• 38 S&W Special

Regardless of your preferred terminology, 38 Special Ammunition has maintained high popularity over the years and is available from nearly every major American ammo manufacturer.

38 Special Ammo Benefits

Due to its popularity, 38 Special ammo is relatively inexpensive. In most cases, the price per round is comparable or cheaper than competing rounds when purchased in bulk quantities.

In many ways, gun enthusiasts consider 38 Special ammo the top choice for revolvers. The ammunition can easily be found and purchased online and throughout most gun shops.

Regarding performance, 38 Special ammo is renowned for its accuracy (although this is also largely dependent more on the shooter's skill). Additionally, 38 Special ammunition offers low recoil compared to other cartridges without sacrificing penetration power.

What Guns Shoot 38 Special?

Smith & WessonTaurusRugerCharter Arms
Model 642Model 856LCRUndercover
Model 442Defender 856LCRXUndercover Lite
Model 638Model 85SP101
M&P Bodyguard

Types of 38 Special Ammo

Like similar firearm cartridges, 38 special ammunition comes in a variety of variations. However, unlike many other firearms, most 38 Special revolvers can reliably fire a variety of cartridges and loads without mishap, even when a variance is loaded into the same cylinder.

For this reason and more, many gun owners opt for pistols chambered in 38 Special simply for its variety of load options.

Additionally, many handloaders have come to appreciate the 38 Special cartridge and has proven to be a favorite among them.

Some of the most common 38 Special loads include:

  • Full metal jacket (FMJ): These standard load cartridges feature a lead bullet covered in a harder metal, fitted in a casing made of brass, steel, or aluminum.
  • Jacketed hollow point (JHP): Made for self-defense, .38 Special JHP ammo cartridges have a bullet designed with a hollow point in the middle, increasing their ability to expand when they hit a target.
  • +P: Originally designed for the FBI, .38 Special +P ammo is loaded under a higher pressure, increasing velocity and power.
  • +P+: Loaded under more pressure than the +P, this ammo is often reserved for those on duty, including law enforcement and military.
  • Frangible: Unlike JHP rounds, frangible bullets don’t expand on impact; instead, these particular type of .38 Special ammo explodes and shatters into tiny fragments (if the target is harder than the bullet), eliminating the risk of over penetration; also referred to as Advanced Energy Transfers (AETs).
  • Round nose: While most ammo comes with a round nose, standard issue .38 Special ammo features a flat tip that became popular with the 1909 Colt, but the option is still available for those who want it.

38 Special Ammo FAQ

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