38 Special Ammo

The .38 Special cartridge is world-renowned and one of the most common self-defense cartridges in use today. A sought-after advantage is that it can be chambered in small revolvers that are easily concealed, but are still very powerful and accurate – ideal for personal protection. Learn More

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  1. MBI 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    40 In stock now
    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain PRNFP Boxer Brass 38 Special MBI Ammunition
    $254.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by MBI

    • Reloaded Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by MBI
    • Reloaded Range
    • 158 Grain
    • PRNFP Bullet
    • Brass Casing
    • Boxer Primer
    • 25.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • UPC MBI-47954
  2. 38 Special - 158 gr FMJ - Fiocchi Perfecta - 1000 Rounds

    50 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Fiocchi Ammunition
    $270.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 27¢ Cost Per Round
    • Fiocchi SKU PF381580
    • UPC 814950017281
  3. MBI 38 Special Ammo - 100 Rounds of 158 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    46 In stock now
    Image For 100 Rounds Of 158 Grain PRNFP Boxer Brass 38 Special MBI Ammunition
    $27.49 Price

    Qty:

    • 100 Rounds
    • Made by MBI

    • Reloaded Condition
    • 100 Rounds
    • Made by MBI
    • Reloaded Range
    • 158 Grain
    • PRNFP Bullet
    • Brass Casing
    • Boxer Primer
    • 27.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • UPC MBI-47897
  4. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain LRN Ammunition

    6 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain LRN Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $299.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 29.9¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU MP38A
    • UPC 754908189502
  5. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain LRN Ammunition

    15 In stock now
    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain LRN Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $299.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 30¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38A
    • UPC 754908161201
  6. CCI 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain TMJ Ammunition

    3 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain TMJ Boxer Aluminum 38 Special Blazer Ammunition
    $305.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Blazer

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Blazer
    • Discount Aluminum
    • 30.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Blazer SKU 3475
    • UPC 10076683034752
  7. Federal 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 130 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    18 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 130 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Federal Ammunition

    Price $329.99

    Price $314.99

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Federal

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Federal
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 31.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Federal SKU AE38K
    • UPC 50029465091908
  8. Fiocchi 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 130 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    2 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 130 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Fiocchi Ammunition
    $315.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 31.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Fiocchi SKU 38A
    • UPC 762344860336
  9. Remington 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 130 Grain MC Ammunition

    7 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 130 Grain MC Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $319.95 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 32¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU L38S11A
    • UPC 047700386041
  10. Sellier and Bellot 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    3 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Sellier and Bellot Ammunition
    $320.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Sellier and Bellot

  11. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 130 Grain FMC Ammunition

    8 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 130 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $320.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 32¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38T
    • UPC 754908190010
  12. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain FMC Ammunition

    14 In stock now
    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $320.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 32¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38P
    • UPC 754908170302
  13. Federal 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain LRN Ammunition

    8 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain LRN Boxer Brass 38 Special Federal Ammunition
    $325.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Federal

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Federal
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 32.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Federal SKU AE38B
    • UPC 50029465085013
  14. Speer Lawman 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of +P 158 Grain TMJ Ammunition

    15 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain TMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Speer Ammunition
    $324.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Speer

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Speer
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 32.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Speer SKU 53750
    • UPC 10076683537505
  15. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain LSWC Ammunition

    7 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain LSWC Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $325.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 32.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38J
    • UPC 754908161706
  16. Speer Lawman 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain TMJ Ammunition

    3 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain TMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Speer Ammunition
    $325.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Speer

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Speer
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 32.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Speer SKU 53899
    • UPC 10076683538991
  17. PMC 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 132 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    5 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 132 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special PMC Ammunition
    $334.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by PMC

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by PMC
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 33.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • PMC SKU 38G
    • UPC 90741569070105
  18. Federal 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain LSWC Ammunition

    4 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain LSWC Boxer Brass 38 Special Federal Ammunition
    $339.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Federal

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Federal
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 33.9¢ Cost Per Round
    • Federal SKU 38C
    • UPC 50029465084030
  19. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain LRN Ammunition

    42 In stock now
    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain LRN Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $17.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 34¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38A
    • UPC 754908105014
  20. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain LSWC Ammunition

    53 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain LSWC Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $17.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 34¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38J
    • UPC 754908161713
  21. Speer CleanFire 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain TMJ Ammunition

    37 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain TMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Speer Ammunition
    $17.49 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Speer

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Speer
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 35¢ Cost Per Round
    • Speer SKU 53899
  22. Remington 38 Special Ammo - 500 Rounds of 130 Grain MC Ammunition

    40 In stock now

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    Image For 500 Rounds Of 130 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $175.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 35¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU L38S11
    • UPC 047700076119
  23. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 125 Grain FMC Ammunition

    2 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 125 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $350.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 35¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38Q
    • UPC 754908184101
  24. Speer Lawman 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 125 Grain TMJ Ammunition

    3 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 125 Grain TMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Speer Ammunition
    $350.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Speer

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Speer
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 35¢ Cost Per Round
    • Speer SKU 53733
    • UPC 10076683537338
  25. Remington 38 Special Ammo - 500 Rounds of 158 Grain LWC Ammunition

    10 In stock now

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    Image For 500 Rounds Of 158 Grain LRN Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $175.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 35¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU RTG38S5
    • UPC 047700424613
  26. Blazer 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 125 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    1 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 125 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Blazer Brass Ammunition
    $354.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Blazer Brass

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Blazer Brass
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 35.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Blazer Brass SKU 5204
    • UPC 10076683052046
  27. Remington 38 Special Ammo - 500 Rounds of 125 Grain TCJ-FN Ammunition

    1 In stock now

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    Image For 500 Rounds Of 125 Grain FNEB Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $179.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 35.8¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU LL38S17
    • UPC 047700355313
  28. Remington 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain LRN Ammunition

    33 In stock now
    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain LRN Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $17.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 36¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU L38S5
    • UPC 047700067704
  29. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain FMC Ammunition

    41 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $17.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 36¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38P
    • UPC 754908170210
  30. Speer 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain TMJ Ammunition

    16 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain TMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Speer Ammunition
    $17.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Speer

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Speer
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 36¢ Cost Per Round
    • Speer SKU 53750
    • UPC 076683537508
  31. CCI 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain TMJ Ammunition

    10 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain TMJ Berdan Aluminum 38 Special Blazer Ammunition
    $18.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Blazer

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Blazer
    • Discount Aluminum
    • 36¢ Cost Per Round
    • Blazer SKU 3475
    • UPC 076683034755
  32. Fiocchi 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 148 Grain LWC Ammunition

    2 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 148 Grain LWC Boxer Brass 38 Special Fiocchi Ammunition
    $360.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 36¢ Cost Per Round
    • Fiocchi SKU 38LA
    • UPC 762344002057C
  33. PMC 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 132 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    30 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 132 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special PMC Ammunition
    $18.49 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by PMC

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by PMC
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 37¢ Cost Per Round
    • PMC SKU 38G
    • UPC 741569070102
  34. Federal 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain LSWC Ammunition

    45 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain LSWC Boxer Brass 38 Special Federal Ammunition
    $18.49 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Federal

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Federal
    • American-made Discount Defense
    • 37¢ Cost Per Round
    • Federal SKU 38C
    • UPC 029465084035
  35. Winchester 38 Special Ammo - 500 Rounds of 130 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    2 In stock now

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    Image For 500 Rounds Of 130 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Winchester Ammunition
    $184.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester

    • New Condition
    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 37¢ Cost Per Round
    • Winchester SKU USA38SPVP
    • UPC 50020892214854
  36. Blazer 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 125 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    1 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 125 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Blazer Brass Ammunition
    $18.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Blazer Brass

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Blazer Brass
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 38¢ Cost Per Round
    • Blazer Brass SKU 5204
    • UPC 076683052049
  37. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain SJHP Ammunition

    5 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain SJHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $380.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Defense
    • 38¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38E
    • UPC 754908164707
  38. Federal American Eagle 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 130 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    38 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 130 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Federal Ammunition
    $19.25 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Federal

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Federal
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 38.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Federal SKU AE38K
    • UPC 029465091903
  39. Remington 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 130 Grain MC Ammunition

    54 In stock now
    Image For 50 Rounds Of 130 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $19.50 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 39¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU L38S11
    • UPC 047700076102
  40. Prvi Partizan 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain LRN Ammunition

    57 In stock now
    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain LRN Boxer Brass 38 Special Prvi Partizan Ammunition
    $19.75 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Prvi Partizan

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Prvi Partizan
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 39.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Prvi Partizan SKU PPH38SL
    • UPC 8605003800194
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According to Cartridges of the World, the .38 Special cartridge was officially introduced in 1902, and has been a significant part of the world of firearms for over 100 years. A rimmed, centerfire round, the .38 Special is most often seen in revolvers. But other firearms, including carbines and semi-automatic pistols, have been chambered for this caliber.

Throughout the times, it’s been known as the .38 Smith & Wesson Special, the .38 Colt Special, 9x29.5mmR, or 9.1x29mmR. In its standard round, the .38 Special weighs 158 grain (gr), features a total cartridge length of 1.455 inches, and travels at 755 feet per second (fps).

Before the conception of the .38 Special, the United States military’s primary cartridge was the .38 Long Colt, which had limited stopping power and had proven itself ineffective as a combat load. The military needed ammunition that was more powerful, more accurate, and more versatile. The firearm manufacturers set out to beat the standard, which they did with the .38 Special.

With its power and punch, the .38 Special has demonstrated its effectiveness and is still popular today.

The Development of the .38 Special

From 1892 through 1911, the .38 Long Colt served as the official revolver of the U.S. Army, but as time progressed and the M1892 revolver went through six model modifications, it became evident that the cartridge was less than sufficient. This was discovered first during the Spanish-American War, and then again during the Philippine insurrection after the turn of the century.

While the ammunition wasn’t accurate, it had more problems than just limited stopping power. In one account from 1905, it was reported that a prisoner on the island of Samar attempted to escape and ended up in hand-to-hand combat with the American soldier who was guarding him. The prisoner was shot four times at close range, three bullets entering his chest and one his hand, yet it was the following blow to the forehead, administered from the butt of a Springfield carbine, that eventually stopped the man.

Due to the military’s discontent with the options of the time, gun manufacturers were designing and creating new cartridges, trying to get the power and force the military needed while still keeping cartridges safe, lightweight, and affordable. In 1902, Smith & Wesson released the .38 Special in its Military and Police model revolver, and it quickly rose to its well-deserved fame.

In 1909, Colt released its own revolver chambered for the .38 Special. While most aspects of the .38 Colt Special cartridge were the same as the .38 Smith & Wesson Special, the Colt featured the flat-pointed bullet that became the classic .38 Special shape.

As time passed and the cartridge demonstrated that it was effective and efficient, firearm manufacturers started moving chambering beyond the revolver and a number of lever-action rifles were chambered in the caliber, including Winchester models 1866, 1873, and 1892.

What Are .38 Special Cartridges Used For?

The .38 Special had a rich service life and was used by all branches of the military in the years between 1935 and 1985. Most frequently used as a self-defense and survival weapon by aircrew members, it was also issued as a duty sidearm to military police and security personnel.

From the 1920s through the 1990s, police departments across the country utilized the power and function of the .38 Special cartridge, and it was used in many sidearm firearms throughout World War I and World War II.

Beyond the military and law enforcement, the .38 Special was, and still is, highly acclaimed as an accurate cartridge and remains popular among target shooters – with the revolver being the most common type of handgun used for target shooting .38 Special rounds.

Because the .38 Special has stopping power and limited recoil, it’s become a favorite among those who train for self-defense situations and concealed carry. With the availability of small, snubnose revolvers chambered for the caliber, there’s little doubt why so many carry it. These snubnoses can easily be carried in an ankle or pocket holster without any hassle or discomfort, making them readily accessible if and when the need strikes.

While the .38 Special cartridge isn’t considered hunting ammunition and most would struggle to take down big game animals with it, the cartridge is effective on small to medium game animals and varmint.

What Is a .38 Special Wadcutter?

Wadcutters are a special type of cartridge that feature a flat-fronted bullet. Designed specifically for shooting targets, the .38 Wadcutter creates a small, clean hole in paper, allowing for easy scoring in target shooting competitions.

In the .38 Special, the wadcutter has also become popular with self-defense enthusiasts. Because of the short barrel in snubnose revolvers, the wadcutter design improves velocity, as well as lethality. Like other loads, there is a wide range of wadcutter ammo, from full wadcutters for target shooting to semi-wadcutter hollow points, which make a great all around bullet for just about everything – including plinking in the backyard and self defense.

What Are the Types of .38 Special Ammo?

Like other firearm cartridges, .38 Special ammo comes in a variety of forms and functions. Unlike many other firearms, most .38 Special revolvers can and will reliably fire a variety of cartridges and loads, from grains to pressure, without mishap, even when this variance is loaded into the same cylinder.

Because of this, many shooters opt for guns chambered in .38 Special simply for its variety of loads. Also, many handloaders have come to appreciate the .38 Special cartridge and it’s proven to be a favorite among them.

Some of the most common .38 Special loads include:

  • Full metal jacket (FMJ): These standard load cartridges feature a lead bullet covered in a harder metal, fitted in a casing made of brass, steel, or aluminum
  • Jacketed hollow point (JHP): Made for self defense, these .38 Special cartridges have a bullet designed with a hollow point in the middle, increasing their ability to expand when they hit a target
  • +P: Originally designed for the FBI, the .38 Special +P is loaded under a higher pressure, increasing velocity and power
  • +P+: Loaded under more pressure than the +P, this ammo is often reserved for those on duty, including law enforcement and military
  • Wadcutter and semi-wadcutter: These flat-tipped bullets are primarily used in shooting at paper targets, as they improve the judges’ ability to score without errors due to cutting clean through the paper
  • Frangible: Unlike JHP rounds, frangible bullets don’t expand on impact; instead, these .38 Special bullets explode and shatter into tiny fragments (as long as the target is harder than the bullet), eliminating the risk of over penetration; also referred to as Advanced Energy Transfers (AETs)
  • Total metal jacket (TMJ): Similar to FMJ ammo, the difference with .38 Special TMJ is that the lead bullet is completely encased in copper and leads to less lead exposure; in the FMJ bullet, on the inside of the casing, there’s a spot that isn’t covered in the hard metal jacket
  • Round nose: While most ammo comes with a round nose, the standard issue .38 Special features the flat tip that became popular with the 1909 Colt, but the option is still available for those who want it

Popular Brands of .38 Special Cartridges

Most ammunition manufacturing companies make .38 Special cartridges. Some of the most  popular brands include:

How Did the .38 Special Revolver Get So Popular?

There are many things that contribute to the success of the .38 Special cartridge and the firearms that are chambered for it. Some of the most influential factors include the ammo’s accuracy and its minimal recoil.

Many handguns chambered in .38 Special are small revolvers, which are easy to carry and to conceal. These pistols tend to be reliable and have a lower failure rate than many semi-automatic firearms, simply because there’s less to go wrong. This combination of factors makes .38 Special revolvers a popular choice for many people, but especially those who carry concealed for self defense and women, who often look for firearms that are powerful, accurate, and easy to use.

What’s more, .38 Special ammunition is fairly inexpensive, especially when purchasing bulk ammo, and it makes the revolvers that house it a popular choice among those who like to shoot regularly. In many ways, the .38 Special cartridge is to the revolver what the 9mm cartridge is to the semi-automatic pistol – the best, all-around ammo and top choice for many gun enthusiasts.

Some of the most popular guns chambered in the .38 Special include:

What Is a .38 Special Snubnose?

Discussions of the .38 Special will no doubt include references to the iconic .38 Special snubnose revolver. These “snubbies” are short-barreled revolvers and are often carried as a backup gun in a pocket or calf holster by law enforcement and civilians alike. The Smith & Wesson Model 642 Airweight snubnose is a great example of this classic weapon that still gets use today.

Although today’s gun manufacturers make factory snubnoses, that wasn’t the case with the originals. At some point, someone, somewhere decided to take a risk and remove the end of their revolver. Perhaps they recognized the benefits a short-barrelled revolver could bring, from the quicker draw to the ability to conceal. Regardless of the reason, it broadened the concept of the revolver and what could and could not be done with it.

Are There Differences Between a .38 Special and a .357 Mag Cartridge?

When it comes to the .38 Special and the .357 Magnum, there are differences in the cartridges, but not the bullets. As a matter of fact, the .38 Special, .38 Short Colt, .38 Long Colt, and .357 Mag all have the same sized bullets, which measure .357 inches in diameter (making them technically .36 caliber or 9.07mm bullets). The .38 in .38 Special references the .38-inch diameter of the cartridge casing.

If you compare the .38 Special to the .357 Mag, it’s easy to see that the .357’s casing is about one-tenth of an inch longer than the .38 Special, and that small space holds a whole lot of power. For instance, in one comparison, the same type of .38 Special and .357 Mag loads were fired from the same revolver. Where the .38 Special came in with a velocity just over 940 fps, the larger .357 Mag cartridge traveled over 1,350 fps. The .357 had deeper penetration and a bigger impact.

Interestingly enough, any firearm chambered for the .357 Mag can fire a .38 Special cartridge without issue, but the reverse is NOT true. It is unsafe to fire the larger ammunition from the gun chambered for the .38 Special. There are many reasons to opt for the less powerful ammo when shooting a firearm made for the .357 Mag – including less recoil, a quieter boom, and cheaper ammo. These revolvers are also easier to handle with .38 Special cartridges, especially for small-framed shooters, including women and teenagers.

Throughout the last century, the .38 Special has rightfully earned its place among the best firearms cartridges in the world through its qualities of accuracy, power, concealability and availability. It’s proven itself effective as a weapon for law enforcement, military personnel, and civilians who wish to carry concealed.

38 Special Ballistics: Chart of Average 38 Special Ballistics

Today, bullet weights for the .38 Special range from 95 to 158 grains. These cartridges generate between 150 foot pounds of muzzle energy on the low end, to almost 300 foot pounds at the high end. Commonly used for concealed carry, the .38 Special is available from many manufacturers in their premium self-protection lines.

Note: This information comes from the manufacturer and is for informational purposes only. The actual ballistics obtained with your firearm can vary considerably from the advertised ballistics. Also, ballistics can vary from lot to lot with the same brand and type load.

38 Special Bullet WEIGHT Muzzle VELOCITY (fps) Muzzle ENERGY (ft. lbs.) Mid-Range TRAJECTORY (in.) Barrel Length (in.)
  Muzzle 50 yds. 100 yds. Muzzle 50 yds. 100 yds. 50 yds. 100 yds.  
100 Grain 950 900 n/a 200 180 n/a 1.3 n/a 4-V
110 Grain 945 895 850 220 195 175 1.3 5.4 4-V
110 Grain JHP 995 n/a n/a 242 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
125 Grain JHP 1000 n/a n/a 278 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
130 Grain 775 745 710 175 160 120 1.9 7.9 4-V
140 Grain Cowboy 800 767 735 199 183 168 n/a n/a 7.5-V
140 Grain Multi-Ball 830 730 505 215 130 80 2 10.6 4-V
140 Grain JHP 950 n/a n/a 281 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
148 Grain 710 635 565 165 130 105 2.4 10.6 4-V
158 Grain 755 725 690 200 185 170 2 8.3 4-V
158 Grain JHP 900 n/a n/a 284 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
95 Grain +P 1175 1045 960 290 230 195 0.9 3.9 4-V
110 Grain +P 995 925 870 240 210 185 1.2 5.1 4-V
125 Grain +P 945 900 860 250 225 205 1.3 5.4 4-V
125 Grain +P 975 929 885 264 238 218 1 5.2 4"
129 Grain +P 945 910 870 255 235 215 1.3 5.3 4-V
130 Grain +P 925 887 852 247 227 210 1.3 5.5 4-V
147 Grain +P 884 n/a n/a 264 n/a n/a n/a n/a 4-V
150 Grain +P 884 n/a n/a 264 n/a n/a n/a n/a 4-V
158 Grain +P 890 855 825 280 255 240 1.4 6 4-V
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