Factory .38 Special for competition

We’ve talked previously about the dilemma that .38 Special shooters face when looking for competition ammo that makes the appropriate power factor for their game.  The short recap is that most factory loaded.38 Special ammo doesn’t make “minor” power factor, so competing with ammo that is “legal” is often difficult to do.  I have scoured the internet for loads that do make power factor, and here’s what I’ve come up with for people that can’t reload but want to shoot!  For a load to qualify, it’s factory stated muzzle velocity has to give it a power factor of at least 125 (mv times bullet weight divided by 1000).

This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are several loads from Cor-Bon and DoubleTap that make the power factor as well, although those are “defensive” loads and are probably more expensive than what the average IDPA shooter wants to pay for ammo.  From looking at the list above, I see that the Euro .38 loads seem to be loaded a lot hotter than their American counterparts, or the Euro factories are misrepresenting their MVs.

If I were picking off that list, I’d buy the Fiocchi 158 grain LRN or the Prvi Partisan 158 grain LRN.  Both of those are good, solid loads and should perform quite well out of a Ruger GP100 or a Smith & Wesson 686.  The lead round nose bullet is the easiest bullet to get into the cylinder quickly, and since those loads are clocking in around a 140 power factor they will have more than enough knockdown juice to take down the most stubborn of pepper poppers.

Make sure to chronograph any load you plan to use in a major match before you get to the match! There is nothing worse than travelling to an IDPA match only to find out that your .38 Special bullets are making a 120 power factor and that you can’t compete.


  1. I shot some of that 158gr Fiocchi out of a buddy’s j-frame on Monday. We both agreed it was about six bazillion times more recoil than 230gr hardball from my HK45. It was actually less pleasant than shooting 135gr +p Gold Dot out of the same j-frame.

  2. I have about 100 rounds of it sitting on my desk, right next to some Prvi Partisan and S&B 158 grain stuff. I’m going to shoot it out of a 627 which weighs about 3,229 pounds so that should tame the recoil…I hope.

  3. Speer Lawman Cleanfire 158 P – soft Federal primers, feels softer than it’s power factor would lead you to believe and flat easy recoil.

  4. I agree, the Speer Lawman is pretty good practice ammo. I will say that I tend to be partial to LRN ammo for competition because it slips into the chambers a lot easier than flat nosed bullets.

    And the lead tastes like delicious candy.

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