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).
- CCI Blazer 158 grain FMJ +P
- Remington Express 158 grain LSWHP +P
- Sellier & Bellot 158 grain JSP
- Black Hills 125 grain JHP +P
- Aguila 158 grain JHP +P
- Hornady 158 grain XTP
- Magtech Guardian Gold 125 grain JHP +P
- Sellier & Bellot 158 grain FMJ
- Prvi Partisan 158 grain LRN
- Winchester 158 grain LSWHP +P
- Magtech 158 grain JHP
- Fiocchi 158 grain LRN
- Fiocchi 158 grain FMJ
- Sellier & Bellot 158 grain LRN
- Cor-Bon Performance Match 147 grain FMJ
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.