Light .38 Special Self-Defense Loads: We Pick Remington
Our tests of commercially available .38 Special revolver cartridges from Federal, Winchester, and Remington show good to acceptable accuracy results and very manageable recoil.
The .38 Special continues to be one of the most popular revolver cartridges in production, in part because the load can be made hotter with higher-pressure +P loads, but also because it can still do a viable job of self-defense, even when loaded for standard pressures.
But one additional area of .38 Special performance is our focus here: lower-pressure, lower-recoil ammunition. Because the .38 has been popular for decades, there are many older revolvers which can’t shoot higher-pressure +P loads (consult your gunsmith) safely. Also, there are many Gun Tests readers with new .38 Special or .357 Magnum revolvers who are very recoil conscious, and who might prefer a .38 round with softer recoil.
We decided to see if the lightest commercially loaded .38 Special rounds met our self-defense standards, and we added in a couple of handloads to take it down another notch or two.