March 2013

Boot-Gun Revolver Showdown: 38 Specials Take on 9mms

Like the 49erís Super Bowl read-option offense, Charterís 9mm Pitbull revolver is a new solution to an old problem. But can the 9mm wheelgun beat the proven 38 Special at crunch time?

The 38 Special revolver has long been a standard as a back-up and concealed-carry handgun. As part of our new Bargain Hunter series, we wanted to challenge the conventional notion that a wheelgun chambered in 38 Special should be the de facto winner of any boot-gun showdown simply because it has always won those battles in the past. In the same power range as the 38 Special is the 9mm Luger (aka 9mm Parabellum or 9x19mm), which has the added benefit of being loaded more widely, often at less cost per round, than the 38 Special. Also, many carbines are chambered for 9mm, which makes it a handy choice for a long gun/handgun duo, even if the handgun is a revolver. To be fair, the 38 Special is also chambered for long guns, primarily lever guns. On the 38 Specialís side is the fact that dozens of revolvers from Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Rossi, Charter, Taurus, and many others are chambered for the round, compared to a paltry few 9mms, some of which must use half-moon or moon clips to function. In this two-way test, we evaluated four handguns, three revolvers chambered for 38 Special and two revolvers chambered for 9mm Luger. Certainly, the best gun would win and earn our favor. But we also looked at the cost of consumables to see if, over time, one cartridge had an edge.

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