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. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain SJSP Ammunition

    37 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain SJSP Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $19.75 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 39.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38C
    • UPC 754908107018
  2. Remington 38 Special +P Ammo - 500 Rounds of 125 Grain SJHP Ammunition

    16 In stock now

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    Image For 500 Rounds Of 125 Grain SJHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $199.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Defense
    • 39.8¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU RTP38S21 - 22283
    • UPC 047700427010
  3. Winchester 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 130 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    40 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 130 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Winchester Ammunition
    $20.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 40¢ Cost Per Round
    • Winchester SKU Q4171
    • UPC 020892201927
  4. Remington 38 Special Ammo - 100 Rounds of 125 Grain SJHP Ammunition

    1 In stock now

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    Image For 100 Rounds Of 125 Grain SJHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $40.00 Price

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    • 100 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 100 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Defense
    • 40¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU L38S2B
    • UPC 047700363202
  5. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 125 Grain FMC Ammunition

    18 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 125 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $20.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 40¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38Q
    • UPC 754908184118
  6. Federal LE 38 Special +P Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain LSWCHP Ammunition

    3 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain LSWCHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Federal Ammunition
    $399.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Federal

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Federal
    • American-made Self-Defense
    • 40¢ Cost Per Round
    • Federal SKU 38G
    • UPC 50029465084139
  7. Remington 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain LRN Ammunition

    8 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain LRN Boxer Nickel-Plated Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $20.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 40¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU RTG38S5
    • UPC 047700424606
  8. Fiocchi 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain LRN Ammunition

    11 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain LRN Boxer Brass 38 Special Fiocchi Ammunition
    $20.50 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 41¢ Cost Per Round
    • Fiocchi SKU 38C
    • UPC 762344704937
  9. Magtech 38 Special +P Ammo - 50 Rounds of 125 Grain SJSP Ammunition

    13 In stock now
    Image For 50 Rounds Of 125 Grain SJSP Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $20.50 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Hunting
    • 41¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38D
    • UPC 754908108015
  10. PMC 38 Special Ammo - 300 Rounds of 132 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    15 In stock now

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    Image For 300 Rounds Of 132 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special PMC Ammunition
    $125.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 300 Rounds
    • Made by PMC

    • New Condition
    • 300 Rounds
    • Made by PMC
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 41.7¢ Cost Per Round
    • PMC SKU 38G-BP
    • UPC 741569050401
  11. Fiocchi 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 148 Grain LWC Ammunition

    17 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 148 Grain LWC Boxer Brass 38 Special Fiocchi Ammunition
    $21.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 42¢ Cost Per Round
    • Fiocchi SKU 38LA
    • UPC 762344002057
  12. Magtech 38 Special +P Ammo - 50 Rounds of 125 Grain SJHP Ammunition

    31 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 125 Grain SJHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $21.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Defense
    • 42¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38F
    • UPC 754908109012
  13. Fiocchi 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain JHP Ammunition

    2 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain JHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Fiocchi Ammunition
    $420.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi
    • Foreign Discount Defense
    • 42¢ Cost Per Round
    • Fiocchi SKU 38B
    • UPC 762344863078
  14. Remington 38 Special Ammo - 600 Rounds of 125 Grain SJHP Ammunition

    10 In stock now

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    Image For 600 Rounds Of 125 Grain SJHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $255.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 600 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 600 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Defense
    • 42.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU L38S2B
    • UPC 047700363264
  15. Federal 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 148 Grain LWC Ammunition

    51 In stock now
    Image For 50 Rounds Of 148 Grain LWC Boxer Brass 38 Special Federal Ammunition
    $21.49 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Federal

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Federal
    • American-made Range
    • 43¢ Cost Per Round
    • Federal SKU GM38A
    • UPC 029465089412
  16. Remington 38 Special +P Ammo - 50 Rounds of 125 Grain SJHP Ammunition

    54 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 125 Grain SJHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $21.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Defense
    • 44¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU RTP38S21 - 22283
    • UPC 047700427003
  17. Fiocchi 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 125 Grain SJHP Ammunition

    1 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 125 Grain SJHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Fiocchi Ammunition
    $22.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi
    • Foreign Discount Defense
    • 44¢ Cost Per Round
    • Fiocchi SKU 38F
    • UPC 762344706436
  18. Remington 38 Special Ammo - 500 Rounds of 125 Grain +P SJHP Ammunition

    8 In stock now

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    Image For 500 Rounds Of 125 Grain SJHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $220.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Defense
    • 44¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU L38S2
    • UPC 047700356419
  19. Remington 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 125 Grain TCJ-FN Ammunition

    28 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 125 Grain FNEB Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $22.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 44¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU LL38S17
    • UPC 047700355306
  20. Winchester Train & Defend 38 Special Ammo - 500 Rounds of 130 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    1 In stock now

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    Image For 500 Rounds Of 130 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Winchester Ammunition
    $220.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester

    • New Condition
    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 44¢ Cost Per Round
    • Winchester SKU W38SPLT
    • UPC 00020892220522
  21. Winchester 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain LRN Ammunition

    47 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain LRN Boxer Nickel-Plated Brass 38 Special Winchester Ammunition
    $22.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 44¢ Cost Per Round
    • Winchester SKU X38S1P
    • UPC 020892200180
  22. Winchester 38 Special Ammo - 100 Rounds of 130 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    48 In stock now
    Image For 100 Rounds Of 130 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Winchester Ammunition
    $45.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 100 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester

    • New Condition
    • 100 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 45¢ Cost Per Round
    • Winchester SKU USA38SPVP
    • UPC 020892214859
  23. Fiocchi 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain JHP Ammunition

    46 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain JHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Fiocchi Ammunition
    $22.50 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Fiocchi
    • Foreign Discount Defense
    • 45¢ Cost Per Round
    • Fiocchi SKU 38B
    • UPC 0762344709901
  24. Sellier and Bellot 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain TMJ Ammunition

    51 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain TMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Sellier and Bellot Ammunition
    $22.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Sellier and Bellot

  25. Magtech 38 Special +P Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain LSWCHP Ammunition

    50 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain LSWCHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Federal Ammunition
    $22.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Federal

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Federal
    • American-made Self-Defense
    • 46¢ Cost Per Round
    • Federal SKU 38G
    • UPC 029465084134
  26. Remington HTP 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 110 Grain SJHP Ammunition

    42 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 110 Grain SJHP Boxer Nickel-Plated Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $22.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Self-Defense
    • 46¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU RTP38S16
    • UPC 047700427102
  27. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain FEB Ammunition

    9 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain FEB Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $23.50 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 47¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU CR38A
    • UPC 754908177417
  28. Winchester 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 150 Grain LRN Ammunition

    14 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 150 Grain LRN Boxer Brass 38 Special Winchester Ammunition
    $24.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 48¢ Cost Per Round
    • Winchester SKU Q4196
    • UPC 020892201934
  29. Sellier and Bellot 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain SJSP Ammunition

    19 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain SP Boxer Brass 38 Special Sellier and Bellot Ammunition
    $24.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Sellier and Bellot

  30. Winchester 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 130 Grain FMJ Ammunition

    11 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 130 Grain FMJ Boxer Brass 38 Special Winchester Ammunition
    $24.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 48¢ Cost Per Round
    • Winchester SKU W38SPLT
    • UPC 020892220515
  31. Remington 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 125 Grain SJHP Ammunition

    46 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 125 Grain SJHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $24.25 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Discount Defense
    • 48.5¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU L38S2
    • UPC 047700356402
  32. 38 Special - 125 Grain JHP - Remington Golden Saber - 500 Rounds

    12 In stock now

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    Image For 500 Rounds Of 125 Grain JHP Boxer Nickel-Plated Brass 38 Special Remington Ammunition
    $245.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Remington

    • New Condition
    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Remington
    • American-made Self-Defense
    • 49¢ Cost Per Round
    • Remington SKU GS38SBB
    • UPC 047700474410
  33. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 1000 Rounds of 158 Grain SJSP Ammunition

    1 In stock now

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    Image For 1000 Rounds Of 158 Grain SJSP Boxer Nickel-Plated Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $499.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 1000 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Defense
    • 49.9¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38N
    • UPC 754908170708
  34. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 125 Grain LFN Ammunition

    13 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 125 Grain LFN Boxer Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $26.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Range
    • 52¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38U
    • UPC 754908193011
  35. Winchester USA 38 Special Ammo - 500 Rounds of 125 Grain JHP Ammunition

    1 In stock now

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    Image For 500 Rounds Of 125 Grain JHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Winchester Ammunition
    $260.00 Price

    Qty:

    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester

    • New Condition
    • 500 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester
    • American-made Discount Defense
    • 52¢ Cost Per Round
    • Winchester SKU USA38JHP
    • UPC 50020892213178
  36. SinterFire GreenLine 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 110 Grain Frang. Ammunition

    18 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 110 Grain Frang. Boxer Brass 38 Special SinterFire Ammunition
    $26.49 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by SinterFire

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by SinterFire
    • American-made Range
    • 53¢ Cost Per Round
    • SinterFire SKU SF38110GL
    • UPC 856086004667
  37. Magtech 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain SJSP Ammunition

    6 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain SJSP Boxer Nickel-Plated Brass 38 Special Magtech Ammunition
    $27.50 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Magtech
    • Foreign Discount Defense
    • 55¢ Cost Per Round
    • Magtech SKU 38N
    • UPC 754908170616
  38. Black Hills Ammunition 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 158 Grain CNL Ammunition

    18 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 158 Grain #1 Shot Boxer Brass 38 Special Black Hills Ammunition Ammunition
    $28.50 Price

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    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Black Hills Ammunition

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Black Hills Ammunition
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 158 Grain
    • #1 Shot Bullet
    • Brass Casing
    • Boxer Primer
    • 57¢ Cost Per Round
    • Black Hills Ammunition SKU DCB38N1
    • UPC 612710107018
  39. Winchester 38 Special +P Ammo - 50 Rounds of 125 Grain JHP Ammunition

    8 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 125 Grain JHP Boxer Brass 38 Special Winchester Ammunition
    $28.99 Price

    Qty:

    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester
    • American-made Discount Defense
    • 58¢ Cost Per Round
    • Winchester SKU USA38JHP
    • UPC 020892213173
  40. Winchester Super-X 38 Special Ammo - 50 Rounds of 148 Grain LWC Ammunition

    18 In stock now

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    Image For 50 Rounds Of 148 Grain LWC Boxer Brass 38 Special Winchester Ammunition
    $33.99 Price

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    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester

    • New Condition
    • 50 Rounds
    • Made by Winchester
    • American-made Discount Range
    • 68¢ Cost Per Round
    • Winchester SKU X38SMRP
    • UPC 020892201361
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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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