38 SPECIAL

38 Special Ammo in ballistic gel

We shot 15 different loads of 38 Special self-defense ammo into ballistic gel

See the results below

38 Special ammo is a legendary round and is probably one of the longest lasting rounds for police service there ever has been. The cartridge has been around for more than 110 years! 38 Special as a caliber is the derivative of several different kinds of 38 Special, which all eventually settled into the mainstream SAAMI spec-cartridge that we use today, more or less.

Up until the 1980’s police officers could still be found with Smith and Wesson K frame 38 specials. These six shooters became symbols of the lawman, long after being retired from military service. With the explosion of concealed carry those who prefer the wheel gun can’t go wrong with a snub nose 38 special. The 38 spc has been around so long it has a wide variety of different rounds, including oddballs like wax and snake shot.

Today, you’ll find 38 special rounds for target practice as well as self-defense. Most shooters opt for a full metal jacket bullet for training or plinking while the jacketed hollow point rounds with an expanding bullet are better for self-defense/protection.

Major ammo companies are still tweaking the 38 special design to get the most they can out of it. Look for rounds in-stock from well-known manufacturers like Hornady, Winchester and Federal.

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21 - 40 of 94

  1. 1000rds - 38 Special Speer Lawman Clean-Fire 158gr. +P TMJ Ammo 1000rds - 38 Special Speer Lawman Clean-Fire 158gr. +P TMJ Ammo
    $339.95
    $0.34/ppr

    3 In Stock

  2. 600rds - 38 Special +P Remington UMC 125gr. SJHP Ammo 600rds - 38 Special +P Remington UMC 125gr. SJHP Ammo
    $204.95
    $0.34/ppr

    8 In Stock

  3. 50rds - 38 Special Speer Lawman 158gr. +P TMJ Ammo 50rds - 38 Special Speer Lawman 158gr. +P TMJ Ammo
    $17.49
    $0.35/ppr

    56 In Stock

  4. 50rds - 38 Spec Remington UMC 158gr. Lead Round Nose Ammo 50rds - 38 Spec Remington UMC 158gr. Lead Round Nose Ammo
    $17.95
    $0.36/ppr

    73 In Stock

  5. 50rds - 38 Special Fiocchi 130gr. FMJ Ammo 50rds - 38 Special Fiocchi 130gr. FMJ Ammo
    $17.95
    $0.36/ppr

    169 In Stock

  6. 500rds - 38 Special Remington UMC 130gr. FMJ Ammo 500rds - 38 Special Remington UMC 130gr. FMJ Ammo
    $179.95
    $0.36/ppr

    19 In Stock

  7. 50rds - 38 Special PMC 132gr. FMJ Ammo 50rds - 38 Special PMC 132gr. FMJ Ammo

    ☆☆☆☆☆ 1 Review(s)

    $18.49
    $0.37/ppr

    86 In Stock

  8. 50rds - 38 Spec. Federal 158gr Lead Semi-Wadcutter Ammo 50rds - 38 Spec. Federal 158gr Lead Semi-Wadcutter Ammo

    ☆☆☆☆☆ 1 Review(s)

    $18.49
    $0.37/ppr

    174 In Stock

  9. 1000rds – 38 Special Magtech 158gr. SJSP Ammo 1000rds – 38 Special Magtech 158gr. SJSP Ammo
    $374.95
    $0.38/ppr

    1 In Stock

  10. 50rds - 38 Special Federal American Eagle 158gr. LRN Ammo 50rds - 38 Special Federal American Eagle 158gr. LRN Ammo
    $18.95
    $0.38/ppr

    105 In Stock

  11. 50rds - 38 Special Fiocchi 125gr Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point 50rds - 38 Special Fiocchi 125gr Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point
    $18.95
    $0.38/ppr

    34 In Stock

  12. 50rds - 38 Special Speer Lawman Clean-Fire 158gr. +P TMJ Ammo 50rds - 38 Special Speer Lawman Clean-Fire 158gr. +P TMJ Ammo
    $18.95
    $0.38/ppr

    42 In Stock

  13. 500rds - 38 Special Remington UMC 125gr. FNEB Leadless 500rds - 38 Special Remington UMC 125gr. FNEB Leadless
    $189.95
    $0.38/ppr

    2 In Stock

  14. 500rds – 38 Special +P Remington HTP 125gr. SJHP Ammo 500rds – 38 Special +P Remington HTP 125gr. SJHP Ammo

    ☆☆☆☆☆ 2 Review(s)

    $189.95
    $0.38/ppr

    4 In Stock

  15. 500rds - 38 Special Remington RTP 110gr. SJHP Ammo 500rds - 38 Special Remington RTP 110gr. SJHP Ammo

    ☆☆☆☆☆ 1 Review(s)

    $189.95
    $0.38/ppr

    3 In Stock

  16. 50rds - 38 Special Winchester USA 130gr. FMJ Ammo 50rds - 38 Special Winchester USA 130gr. FMJ Ammo
    $19.05
    $0.38/ppr

    179 In Stock

  17. 1000rds - 38 Special Magtech 158gr. SJHP Ammo 1000rds - 38 Special Magtech 158gr. SJHP Ammo
    $384.95
    $0.39/ppr

    1 In Stock

  18. 1000rds – 38 Special Magtech 148gr. LWC Ammo 1000rds – 38 Special Magtech 148gr. LWC Ammo
    $385.00
    $0.39/ppr

    1 In Stock

  19. 50rds - 38 Special Federal American Eagle 130gr. FMJ Ammo 50rds - 38 Special Federal American Eagle 130gr. FMJ Ammo

    ☆☆☆☆☆ 1 Review(s)

    $19.49
    $0.39/ppr

    41 In Stock

  20. 50rds - 38 Special Fiocchi 158gr. Full Metal Jacket Ammo 50rds - 38 Special Fiocchi 158gr. Full Metal Jacket Ammo
    $19.95
    $0.40/ppr

    22 In Stock

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21 - 40 of 94

38 Special Ballistic Gel Test Results

About This Data

Used firearms icon
Firearm Used S&W 640
Barrel length icon
Barrel Length 2.125"
Distance target icon
Distance to Target 10 Feet
Barrier icon
Barrier 4-layer cloth
Ammo 5-shot average penetration depth 5-shot average diameter 5-shot average velocity
500rds - 38 Special Black Hills 125gr. +P Jacketed Hollow Point Ammo 50rds - 38 Special Black Hills 125gr. +P Jacketed Hollow Point Ammo
  22.12"
0.35" 822
20rds - 38 Special +P Federal Personal Defense Micro 130gr. HST JHP Ammo 200rds – 38 Special +P Federal Personal Defense Micro 130gr. HST JHP Ammo
  12.66"
0.72" 872
20rds - 38 Special Federal Hydra-Shok 129gr. +P HP Ammo
  19.56"
0.35" 828
20rds - 38 Special Federal Hydra-Shok 110gr. HP Ammo 200rds – 38 Special Federal Hydra-Shok Low Recoil 110gr. JHP Ammo
  14.52"
0.51" 936
50rds – 38 Special Fiocchi 158gr. JHP Ammo 1000rds – 38 Special Fiocchi 158gr. JHP Ammo
  15.5"
0.35" 686
25rds - 38 Special Hornady Critical Defense 110gr.+P FTX HP Ammo 250rds - 38 Special Hornady Critical Defense 110gr.+P FTX HP Ammo
  14.64"
0.47" 961
25rds - 38 Special Hornady Critical Defense 110gr. FTX Ammo 250rds - 38 Special Hornady Critical Defense 110gr. FTX Ammo
  14.78"
0.46" 829
25rds - 38 Special Hornady Critical Lite Defense 90gr. FTX Ammo 250rds - 38 Special Hornady Critical Defense 90gr. FTX Ammo
  13.9"
0.45" 910
25rds - 38 Special Hornady 158gr. JHP XTP Ammo 250rds - 38 Special Hornady 158gr. JHP XTP Ammo
  18.58"
0.35" 675
50rds – 38 Special +P Remington HTP 125gr. SJHP Ammo 500rds – 38 Special +P Remington HTP 125gr. SJHP Ammo
  14.78"
0.44" 898
20rds - 38 Special SinterFire Special Duty 110gr. Frangible HP Ammo
  16.3"
0.35" 1060
50rds - 38 Special Speer LE Gold Dot Short Barrel 135gr. +P Ammo
  13.74"
0.57" 886
200rds – 38 Special +P Winchester Defender 130gr. PDX1 Bonded JHP Ammo
  17.86"
0.51" 843
50rds - 38 Special Winchester Silvertip 125gr. +P JHP Ammo 500rds - 38 Special +P Winchester 125gr. Super-X Silvertip Jacketed Hollow Point Ammo
  15.96"
0.49" 871
20rds - 38 Special Winchester W Train and Defend 130gr. JHP Ammo 200rds - 38 Special Winchester W Train and Defend 130gr. JHP Ammo
  20.28"
0.38" 857
50rds - 38 Special Federal LE Hi-Shok 125gr. +P Hollow Point Ammo 1000rds – 38 Special +P Federal LE 125gr. Hi-Shok JHP Ammo
  15.82"
0.35" 841

Recent 38 SPECIAL Reviews

  • ☆☆☆☆☆
    The accuracy was terrific and the clean. Just what I was looking for in match ammo!
    Brad on 500rds – 38 Special Remington Performance WheelGun 148gr. TMWC Ammo
  • ☆☆☆☆☆
    I'm surprised by how well it did, honestly. The Hornady FTX bullets in most calibers have failed to impress me in the tests I've seen. I am astonished that four of the five bullets expanded at such low velocities. Penetration and weight retention are likewise really good for a .38 snubby load, especially one that's not even +P. Hornady's muzzle velocity claims are, as usual with their revolver ammo, totally out to lunch. 1200 feet per second? Really? Maybe from a lever-action rifle with a 24" barrel. From a 2" snub-nose revolver it looks more like right around 900. And this might be for the best, because if you pushed them any faster they might overexpand and fail to penetrate adequately, and, of course, there would be more recoil too. Expanding bullets that are ultra light for caliber tend to have that problem. I kind of wish Hornady would print the correct velocity on the box, though.
    Fwank on 25rds - 38 Special Hornady Critical Lite Defense 90gr. FTX Ammo
  • ☆☆☆☆☆
    ...........
    My number one ammo is federal 130 grain HST 38 special p from micro guns if they don't have that I use 38 special p from federal on 20rds - 38 Special Federal Hydra-Shok 129gr. +P HP Ammo
  • ☆☆☆☆☆
    I carry this round in my model 60 non +p rated J-Frame instead of hollow points. It offers deep penetration with some deformation being that it is also soft lead. Hollow points in non +p rounds offer almost zero deformation with not enough penetration. With these you get the best of both worlds. You also ensure penetration through thick clothing with the ability to penetrate to the vitals.
    Paul McKee on 50rds - 38 Spec. Federal 158gr Lead Semi-Wadcutter Ammo