I am sometimes surprised at the lengths that many go to in order to be poorly armed. Second quality firearms have always existed in greater quantity than good firearms but some find way to make an art of a race to the bottom line. It is good to choose a quality handgun and protect your own hide. This is in opposition to those who look to the government for their safety and bleat like sheep at every emergency. Choosing the handgun isn’t easy and demands lots of thought. In many situations a snub nose revolver works best.
Load, close the cylinder, aim and fire. Simple as that. Some shooters are directed toward a handgun that doesn’t fit their skill level. A 9mm compact isn’t for everyone. Beginning and experienced shooters alike often choose the revolver. They are well armed if they practice. Those who do not practice are in the poor position of deploying a deadly weapon they cannot use well. While the .38 Special is a respectable caliber the .357 Magnum offer greater wound potential. While the slow burning powder used in the Magnum doesn’t generate as much velocity in a two and one half to three inch tube the increase over a .38 Special is respectable. The advantages of the revolver make the short barrel Magnum an attractive choice. Reliability is one advantage.
A further advantage of the revolver is that the revolver can be placed against an opponent’s body and fired repeatedly as a contact weapon. The automatic pistol would jam after the first shot, tying up with blood or clothing material blown into the slide. An automatic may also short cycle due to a less than perfect grip. With a full size grip but a short barrel the user has good leverage against a gun grab attempt.
The Magnum operates at some 40,000 copper units of pressure compared to 18,000 for the .38 Special, and 20,000 for the .38 Special +P. This gives the magnum a great advantage in power, and the ability to use heavier bullets than the .38 Special. .357 Magnum revolvers are nearly as compact as the snubnose .38, but with a heavier frame and a heavy barrel, offer a good platform for the magnum cartridge. I have often regarded the lightest .357 revolvers as simply nice heavy barrel .38s. With a heavier barrel and good sights and a hand filling grip these handguns take away the sometimes sharp recoil of a lightweight .38. Medium frame snub nose .357 revolvers are docile with .38s and manageable with Magnum ammunition.
With a mechanical advantage in reliability the ability to use the weapon with a less than perfect grip and the ability to fire with the handgun pressed into an opponents body the snub nose .38 is a credible choice for personal defense while the Magnum is even better- for those who practice! The Magnum loses velocity when fired in a two- to three-inch barreled compact revolver, but it remains far more powerful than the snubnose .38 Special as the accompanying table shows. Just the same- the Buffalo Bore 158 grain lead hollow point is a counterpoint to the short barrel Magnum and gets the tired old .38 off its knees! Recoil of J frame five shot Magnum revolvers is sharp. The revolver must be held firmly for control. There is a sharp jolt not to be underestimated. The person deploying this revolver must engage in practice and use the proper techniques to master this revolver. As for practice- twenty rounds of .38 for every Magnum is a good standard.
Another advantage of the revolver is superb accuracy. The Smith and Wesson Model 19 I often carry has been in service for four decades. A combination of excellent high visibility sights and a smooth trigger make for fine accuracy. Most quality ammunition will cut a 1.5 inch group at 25 yards. However this 2.5 inch barrel revolver has once fired a three inch 50 yard group at 50 yards, from a solid benchrest and the MTM K Zone firing rest. Ammunition was the Black Hills Ammunition 148 grain .38 Special wadcutter. Firing a 2.5 inch barrel revolver even a very good one for accuracy at 50 yards is something of a stunt but the Smith & Wesson Model 19 was up to the task. Modern Smith & Wesson revolvers actually have superior barrel throat fit and tighter tolerances although I don’t like the mix of an action lock and MIM parts. What most of what is needed in personal defense the hardy revolver is a good choice.
Results in Smith&Wesson 640.38 Special
- Hornady 110 grain Critical Defense: 949 fps
- Fiocchi 125 EXTREMA: 909 fps
- Speer 135 grain Gold Dot Short Barrel: 844 fps
- Winchester 158 grain LSWCHP +P: 829 fps
- Buffalo Bore 158 grain lead SWC hollow point: 1,014 fps
( A good choice for short barrel Magnum revolvers) .357 Magnum
- Remington 110 grain JHP: 1290 fps
- Remington 125 grain JHP: 1190 fps
- Hornady 125 grain Critical Defense: 1177 fps
- Winchester 145 grain Silvertip: 1039 fps
- PMC 158 grain JSP: 990 fps