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Trapper7 08-18-2011 03:13 PM

Stopping Power
In your opinion, what would have more stopping power, a 38 Special 158 grain bullet, or a 9MM?

Mr. 16 gauge 08-18-2011 04:26 PM

What type of bullet, in each? HP, lead, expanding, FMJ? Velocity is important, what barrel lengths are we talking about?

popplecop 08-18-2011 06:51 PM

Both calibers have some very good loads available for them. Personally I used a hotter lighter HP in a .38 sp. As Mr. 16 ga. said not enough info supplied to make a suggestion. I've personally used both calibers over the years and have handguns in both calibers yet.

GoodOlBoy 08-18-2011 09:22 PM

Yeah even I (a known 9mm disliker) have to agree that's a REALLY open question. As mentioned are we talking about lead, Softpoint, FMJ, Hollowpoint, combination point(like the hollow points with the little plastic ball in them), saftey slugs, shot shells..... And what kind of grain weights do you want to compare? If lead, are you talking round nose, round nose flat point, Keith, wadcutter? Is your target wearing FBI Heavy cloth of equivalent (IE is it cold outside) or a t-shirt? Of course sometimes there is no way to know the answers because if we KNEW trouble was on the way we could just avoid it, but you CAN make educated guesses. IE it is august here and 109F+ every day. I can make the educated guess a t-shirt is gonna be about it, etc.

And while there are 100+ myths and theories on stopping power one of the questions asked in this should be what is the most accurate of X type bullet with Y type load power in my particular firearm?

You can carry a civil war cannon on your hip, but if you can't hit a barn with it in an emergency you better hope you can throw it hard enough to save yourself.

My favorite for hot weather ccw is a stainless 5 shot 38 special with hornady XTP 158 grain hp factory loads. I have never had to shoot this at a human being (Thank the good Lord and I pray I never have to) but I CAN tell you that they will tear the beegezeers out of a coyote eating on a dead calf, and most importantly through my firearm they are accurate. This is just an example btw I am not saying these are the best for your particular situation.


skeet 08-18-2011 11:07 PM

For some unknown reason I carried an old and ugly S&W 64..about a 4 incher even in summer small of the back gun. Stainless and ugly anyway. Carried with if i remember correctly 38 spec 125 gr hollowpoints. Course I never had to shoot anybody with it thankfully but I got it used for a 100 bucks..sold it many years later for 200 and it wasn't any prettier than when I bought it.. I shot foxes groundhogs and a couple of close deer with it. Never failed. I dispatched a rabid coon with my S&W 669(??) and with all the jumping around etc etc had to shoot the blasted thing 6 times with 9mm hollowpoints. That gun resides in someone else's house these days and I carry a 6 inch 5 screw Highway Patrolman(or my Wilson combat) around the ranch most of the time stoked with 125 gr 38 Spec hollowpoints. Dispatched every coyote I have shot with round one kill. I have even killed Jacks out to almost 100 yds with it.....somehow.

Jack 08-19-2011 07:38 AM

Other posters have quite validly pointed out that the specifics of what load is used in any caliber makes a lot of difference.
Beyond that, the 'stopping power' field is full of opinions, and not a lot of facts. There are all kinds of formulae out there that were derived by someone who already knew what answer they wanted, and set up a formula to suggest the formula writer was omniscient.
One actual fact I will bring up: expanding ammunition for handguns has improved to a startling degree in the last 20 years or so. 30 years ago (give or take) soft points and hollow points in handgun cartridges often didn't expand. That's according to me shooting them into a bunch of different test medium, so, you may have a different opinion. Handgun ammo today, a lot of it, actually does expand like the makers say it will, and quite consistently, too. Again, my observation.
The only advice I'll give on the subject of what's best is: pick a firearm you have confidence in, and practice a lot. Only hits count. You can have the newest, fanciest, most powerful, loudest firearm in the world, and if you miss with it, it does you no good at all.

buckhunter 08-19-2011 08:00 AM

I always compared a 38 spec to a 9 mm. If you are using a like bullet in a like weight I always thought they were were pretty much the same. The fmj in 9 mm has given it a bad rap and rightly so. I suspect that a fmj bullet in a 38 special would bet a bad rap also. Whatever you choose use good bullets and pratice, pratice, pratice.

Adam Helmer 08-19-2011 09:20 AM


The guys gave very good replies about "stopping power." Much depends on the type of ammo, where you hit the target and how many times you shoot. Far too many folks expect a one-shot-stop, like in the movies. I suggest a double-tap, at minimum, before you decide the situation is neutralized when using a 9mm or .38 Special.


Trapper7 08-19-2011 01:44 PM

Right now my carry handgun is a S&W 637, 38 Special +P, 2 inch barrel. I'm currently loaded with 158 grain Winchester FMJ. I also reload for all my handguns, rifles, and shotguns. I don't have a 9MM, but have thought about one for a different carry handgun.

A fellow firearms instructor carries a 40 Caliber and feels a 9MM is too light for stopping power in any bullet weight or design. I wanted another opinion.

Sometime ago I saw where Federal was making a round that looked impressive with a bullet called hydrashock. I liked the bullet design. Do they still make it and what's your opinion of it?

Larryjk 08-19-2011 05:29 PM

I would compare based on normally carried bullet weight in each caliber. 158 is "normal" in the 38 Spec in semi-wadcutter or hp and 125 or 127 is "normal" in the 9mm with a fmj or maybe hp. Velocity is not much different. Even if you go to the 147 gr. in the 9mm you still have less energy. However, hitting the target still beats missing it rapidly.

Mr. 16 gauge 08-19-2011 05:44 PM


A fellow firearms instructor carries a 40 Caliber and feels a 9MM is too light for stopping power in any bullet weight or design. I wanted another opinion.
O.K., here is my opinion: I've worked in E.R.s, ICUs, and the O.R. for going on 30+ years now.....I can't comment on 'stopping power', but I CAN tell you that any round that is 9mm/38 cal (diameter) will NOT do your assailant any good with a 'good' (vital) hit. Remember: this is my personal opinion based on what I've seen and experienced.
Problem is, you can argue 'stopping power' till the cows come home, and the bottom line is....there is no way to definetively "prove" that one round is better than another.....each situation is different.
As for your 637: Check out the thread on this forum (concealed carry) called "More requests for CCW training" started by Adam Helmer. In it, you will see the round I carry in my .38 special (Colt Detective special); it is the old "FBI" load, and I feel quite confident that it is better than the FMJ you are currently carrying. I strongly suggest that you try a box....I think you will be pleased.

Jack 08-19-2011 09:47 PM

In a 2 inch 38, I'd look at a few loads. Hydra shock bullets are good, IMO. I believe Speer makes a load specifically for short barrel 38's, with a bullet of around 135 grains? Check that one out. The classic 38 load called the FBI load is a 158 SWC-HP lead bullet. I would also see what's available in the Winchester Silvertip line- those expand, IME.
There are a number of expanding bullet loads available, which, IMO, any of them are a better choice than the FMJ bullet you're using now, Trapper.
Try a few loads, see what shoots to the sights of your revolver.

Mr. 16 gauge 08-20-2011 03:06 PM


There are a number of expanding bullet loads available, which, IMO, any of them are a better choice than the FMJ bullet you're using now, Trapper.
+1 on that. Also, the "FBI load", I believe, is a +P loading.

I've had good luck with expansion testing on the Speer GDHP in all calibers, and some of the others I've tested (Federal Hydrashok, Winchester Silvertip, PMC Starfire, Remington Golden Saber, ect) have all performed well...the only ones I didn't get to expand at all were some .380 Remington Golden Sabers and some foreign .38 Super +P ammo that was somewhat anemic on the velocity side. The .380's I don't think expanded because of how the twist was in the firearm I tested (Walther PPk/S)

Adam Helmer 08-21-2011 01:01 PM


Who advised you to carry "158 grain Winchester FMJ" in your S&W M637? I did not know you could buy 158 grain FMJ .38 Special ammo in 2011. You would be better equipped with 148 grain Wadcutters in your M637, IMHO!

One of my CCW students recently bought a S&W M637 2-inch 5-shot revolver. I took several boxes of factory .38 Special rounds to the bench and we checked where the fixed sights hit at 25 yards. The 158 grain LSWCHP "FBI Load" printed about 2 inches high. The 150 grain lead RN load was on point of aim, but is not a preferred defensive load in my view. The Super-Vel 110 grain JHP printed right on point of aim. We fired 10 rounds to confirm and I donated the remaining 110 grain JHP and WW 158 grain LSWCHP ammo to the student for duty carry.

I would advise that FMJ ammo is my last choice for Social Purposes, unless you wish to adhere to the Geneva Convention in which case the Bad Guy you encounter may be using jacketed hollow points! Load up with a better defensive round out of your M637. Since you reload, the Lyman Reloading Manual has a great 148 grain WC load with Unique that is a "stopper." I know of no law enforcement agency outside of the military that uses FMJ ammo.

Hope this helps.


Trapper7 08-23-2011 03:01 PM

I bought the 158 grain FMJ at a local Gander Mountain store in my area. The brand is Winchester. I was actually looking for Federal in the hydra-shok because I 've heard so much about them. I was unable to locate just the bullets for reloading, so I went looking for the entire round. Gander was low on ammo and this was the only 158 grain shells they had at the time.

I made a shooting range in my backyard and I shoot a lot. So, it's no big deal to shoot them up. I would like to find the Federal or maybe these FBI shells to replace them, though.

For stopping power, I really like my 357 Colt King Cobra. That is a mighty fine, accurate shooting handgun. But, as a carry handgun attached to my belt, it would pull my pants down with all the weight.

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