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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.

Remington’s Express load was the most accurate ammunition (1.0 in. at 25 yards average) with good penetration (15 inches). The bullet expanded to 0.617 inch and retained almost all its original weight. (The piece to the right of the main slug didn’t detach, so we counted it in the expansion number and in the retained-weight calculation.) It’s the best choice for a lower-recoil .38 Special ammo, in our estimation.
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…

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