On Tuesday, we looked at the first essential part of carry gear for your J-frame or other compact revolver – holsters. Today we’re going to look at the 2nd most important part of the equation, and that’s ammo. It doesn’t do you a whole lot of good to remember to carry your J-frame if you’ve got it packed with ineffective ammo. While any ammo is certainly better than no ammo, there are some loads that are optimized for the short-barreled revolvers.
One of my personal favorite defensive loads for short-barreled revolvers is the Hornady Critical Defense round. In .357 Magnum, this load has reduced recoil compared to other .357 loads and offers guaranteed expansion by using a polymer tipped bullet. This is one of very few .357 Magnum cartridges that I’ll carry and shoot in my compact revolvers. My usual recommendation for carry ammo, even in guns that can handle .357 is to use .38 Special +P loads. For short-barreled revolvers, there are some great options in the .38 Special chambering.
The gold standard for .38 Special carry ammo is probably the 125-grain +P Remington Golden Saber load. This round has been around for years, and it’s still going to be one of the best choices for personal defense in your compact revolver. However, in recent years there have been some challenges to the Golden Saber. The Cor-Bon DPX Solid Copper +P load offers controlled and reliable expansion as well as a high muzzle velocity out of a .38 Special revolver. There are quite a few options out there for your defensive ammo in a .38 Special, so make sure you try a few out to find one that you’re comfortable shooting and can get reliable hits with.
One of the things that I try to do is make sure that my carry ammo is the same grain as my practice ammo. If I practice with 130-grain ammo, I’ll try to be as close to that weight as possible, which means my carry rounds are usually 125 grains. If I practice with 158-grain ammo, then I’ll try to select a carry round in that weight. The reason is that this keeps my point of impact consistent between guns. Whether I’m shooting practice ammo at the range, +P ammo at a match, or using my gun to defend myself, I’ll have the same point of impact for all of my rounds.
On Thursday, we’ll take a look at the final two pieces of the compact revolver puzzle – sights and reloads. While ammo selection is important, it’s just as important after you’ve picked your defensive rounds to be able to get those rounds in the gun when you need them and make sure they go where you want them to go. That’ll be this Thursday, so make sure to check back in.