By Ian B.

I was looking over some photos on my computer and thought this might interest the group, as the topic of what is an effective .38 Special snub load seems to be a perennial one…

Like probably most people who’ve carried a snub (though there may be more than the average here, with the large numbers of current or retired LEO’s in this group…), I’ve (thankfully) never had to fire a gun at a human being. Over the last couple of years I have however used my S&W Model 38 to dispatch a couple of medium-large mammals.
Photos show what’s left of a Buffalo Bore standard pressure “FBI Load” 158gr LSWCHP after it was used to slaughter a c. 300lb domestic hog. For comparisons, the BB “standard pressure” load gets about the same velocity (800 – 900 fps from a snub) as the major manufacturers (“RemChesterAls”, as a friend puts it) +P FBI Loads do.
(Story – just under 2 years ago, as the initial covid shutdowns were kicking in, I got a text from a relative a couple hours north of me – “Do you want a pig?”. A farmer in his town was facing having to euthanize c. 2500 hogs as all the meat-packing plants were closed. rather than euthanize and waste them all, he offered them free to anyone who could pick them up live (Federal regulations mean most farmers can’t slaughter except for personal use…). Another farmer he knew had taken 25, put them in a paddock and said he’d keep them over the weekend for anyone to pick up. So, I talk to a friend, borrow his truck, drive up there, shoot a hog with my .38, bleed and gut it there, bring it back to my friends barn and the next day we butcher it together…)

The hog was shot just above the eyes from c. 2ft away. The bullet you see was found in the bottom of the neck muscle when we butchered the hog, having entered and exited the (fairly thick) skull and gone several inches through the tough neck muscles of a mature hog. Probably 12-13 inches of penetration in all, but obviously much tougher than ballistic gelatin – or most self-defense scenarios. It expanded to just over .5″ and lost nearly half its weight – down to 82 gr (I’d guess that was smashing thru the skull). Shot was an instant kill.

The other round in the pictures, is the other one I’ve carried regularly recently, the Federal Micro HST 130 gr JHP, the “flying trashcan” flush-loaded ultra-wide hollow point. I don’t have photos, as the bullet wasn’t recovered, but I used one of those to dispatch a yearling deer I hit with my car a couple years ago. The deer was conscious and looking at me, but its front leg was mangled so rather than have it jump up and run off to be pulled down by a coyote or die of infection I shot it. Shot just behind the shoulders from 4 or 5 yards, the shot penetrated side-to-side and exited, probably 14-15 inches. Deer dropped instantly. When I butchered it at home (hey, waste not, want not…) the shot had clipped a rib on entering, left about a 2 inch exit wound and extensive damage to the lungs. Seems to have worked as designed on a thin-skinned mammal probably weighing 70-80ls… (it was a yearling).

Anyway, thought this might be interesting to some.