Monday, March 08, 2021

Classic Reevaluated

 There was a time, back when I first got this Model 12-2, that I was skeptical of its utility as a carry piece due to my reluctance to fire +P ammo through early alloy-framed Smiths.

While it will probably hold up to an absolutely normal level of shooting, I'm scarred by having seen a couple early Airweight J-frames crack their frames, probably due to having the barrels torqued in too tightly. 

Most vividly was the little flat-latch Model 37, a very early gun in absolutely pristine condition, that an elderly gentleman brought in for a trigger job. He'd finally gotten a carry permit for the revolver that had sat unused on a shelf for decades, and decided it could use a better trigger pull. 

Gunsmith Bob did a great job on the trigger pull and took it out on the range to verify that it would reliably light off primers still by putting a couple of cylinders of ammunition through it. The test ammo was standard pressure .38 Special, probably American Eagle FMJ, and the frame cracked there at the barrel shank. 

Smith & Wesson replaced the gentleman's Model 37 with a brand new Airweight J-frame, a stainless 637, and the customer was overjoyed. I guess from a practical point of view it was an upgrade, and we all tried not to actually cry in front of him.

At any rate, these days I am less inclined to seek any sort of expansion out of loads from a .38 Special snub. The only way to get it reliably seems to be to use light bullets with the velocity boosted via +P chamber pressures. So you get more blast and recoil and then a bullet that, if it does expand, tends to underpenetrate. If it doesn't expand, it pokes a hole just like a wadcutter. 

The fact that most of the switched-on dudes I know who still utilize .38 snubs all carry standard pressure wadcutters in them is what I would call a clue. Plus, Federal's Gold Medal Match has quality control that's second to none and has sealed primers just like premium defensive ammo.

Knowing what I know now, I'd have no hesitation to throw a Tyler T-grip or a set of boot grips on this thing and carry it with a cylinder full of 148gr wadcutters.

We live and we learn.



Anonymous said...

Buffalo Bore 150-grain hard cast wadcutters with low-flash propellant.
Boat Guy

JM Gavin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

Back in '93 when I had to shoot a robber who was attempting to wrest my 640-1 from me I fired a single 148-grain wadcutter into his abdomen at contact distance, which took all the fight out of him and destroyed his spleen, which had to be removed surgically before he wen to prison for a stretch. I was using wadcutters based on the advice I read in Mas Ayoob's In the Gravest Extreme.

Tam said...

Boat Guy,

Federal GMM

Frank F said...

Great post! This takes me back to the Eighties... Bodyguard/Author Leroy Thompson used to write in Combat Handguns magazine that his favorite load for his S&W Model 38 were 148 grain wadcutters, standard velocity.

Will said...

I talked to a S&W rep at SHOT back in the 00's, and he stated that (+P) was verboten in my 442-0. Something about it becoming an expensive paperweight if I was foolish, or desperate, enough to attempt to run a cylinder full of +P through it. The early versions had a weak alloy in the frame.
Couldn't stand to shoot 148gr wadcutters with the boot grips it came with. I cut down the rubber Italian grips to the bottom of the frame, which gives two fingers on the gun, and shoot 125grHP standard ammo. Shoots to point of aim at 40yds. I can shoot a box in one session with those overmolded grips.
Bought the gun due to an article by Ayoob.