Which round is the best for you? READ MORE
Jay L., of Greenbrae, CA was a car collector who had amassed an array of 1970s-era cars in the past, but being 90, Jay had been selling off most of his collection. He dwindled down his cars to owning a 1996 Mitsubishi and a 2005 Ford.
One morning, around 10:45 a.m., a criminal entered Jay’s home, detained him at gunpoint, and searched the residence for valuables.
During this time, the burglar told Jay there was a contract out on him. Jay asked, “How could there be a contract out on me?”
To which the burglar replied, “I understand you’re the guy with all the expensive cars.”
At one point, the burglar led Jay at gunpoint to the bedroom, which he ransacked for valuables while 90 year old Jay sat on the bed concocting a plan.
Next, Jay told the burglar he needed to use the bathroom, which is where his five guns were hidden.
When the burglar refused, Jay pulled his pants down and said he would defecate on the spot.
The burglar let him go into the bathroom but would not let him close the door. Jay then asked the burglar, “Do you like to watch people?”
Then the burglar let him close the door and Jay went for his Smith & Wesson .38 snubnose.
As Jay exited the bathroom, the two men exchanged gunshots, resulting in Jay being shot once in the jaw and the burglar being shot three times in the abdomen.
Both men emptied their firearms and the burglar ran from the home.
The burglary suspect drove away from the scene before calling 911 and claiming he had accidentally shot himself.
He spent nine days in the hospital before he was taken to jail and charged with attempted murder, burglary, robbery and firearms offenses by a felon.
Clearly, Jay did exactly what he had to do that day to make sure he made it out alive.
There is no question the criminal was targeting Jay since he believed there was large sums of money in the home because Jay collected cars.
The thing is, many people who may be similar in age to Jay prefer to own revolvers since they are so simple to use and you don’t need the hand strength to rack the slide like you do on a semi-auto.
With that in mind, I often hear the debate about which handgun caliber is the best between .38, .38+P, or .357.
For that reason, here is a breakdown on the different calibers and what may be best for you and your situation.
.38 Special. The .38 Special is a classic revolver caliber and it’s impossible to go into any gun store and not find a selection of revolvers chambered in this round.
It has a history as a workhorse and gained popularity among law enforcement in the 70’s and 80’s.
Today, .38 special rounds are still carried by some law enforcement as a back up weapon, and are used by citizens who want a small revolver that can still deliver effective rounds. .38 Special rounds are great for new shooters and can be a very effective self-defense round in close quarters.
From a ballistics perspective, the .38 operates at a maximum average pressure of 17,000 PSI, with typical penetration being around 12 inches depending on all the variables.
Of course, the .38 special round is going to create less recoil compared to the other two rounds below.
While the .38 is still effective, it wouldn’t be my first choice for home defense since I would rather have a bit more power in my home defense round.
.38 Special+P. Prior to the development of the .38+P round, there was the .38 Special High-Speed round, which was intended for use only in large frame revolvers.
Nowadays, the .38 Special+P round is suitable for most medium frame revolvers and delivers a maximum average pressure of 20,000 PSI, and typical penetration of 13-14 inches, which is a significant, but not massive increase over the .38 special.
The .38 special+P is a moderately powerful round that is easy to shoot for reasonably experienced shooters.
In addition, the .38 special+P muzzle blast is louder than standard pressure .38 loads, but far less than .357 Magnum loads.
For many years, the standard FBI service load was the .38 Special +P cartridge. Their lower recoil and muzzle blast make them faster for repeat shots than full power .357 loads.
They are also less blinding and deafening when fired indoors at night. This is the round that I recommend for most people who want to carry a revolver.
.357 Magnum. The .357 was the first magnum handgun cartridge. The .357 rounds are loaded to a maximum average pressure of 35,000 psi, and typical penetration is well over 16 inches.
The recoil from full power loads is sharp and the muzzle blast definitely gets your attention. Fire a full power magnum load at night and the flash looks like the gun exploded.
Experienced shooters can generally learn to control the .357 size revolvers and with practice, very fast and accurate shooting can be accomplished with .357 loads.
In a survival situation, the .357 could be effective for hunting game for food.
There is no question that revolvers are still effective for self-defense situations.
While semi-automatics are highly reliable, they still have to deal with stovepipes, jams, and failure to feed issues on occasion. Some semi-autos are also prone to the pickiness of ammunition.
Revolvers don’t care about that. This is why revolvers are and will always be a solid choice for defensive purposes.
Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author of Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life. To get a free copy of his book, visit www.SpyEscape.com.