BB 158 grain SWCHP-GC .38sp+p, j-frames and k-frames


Senior Member
Thread starter #1
As I'm sure anyone who has read my posts on the firearms forum knows, I am a big fan of S&W Revolvers, especially j-frame and k-frame .38 specials. There was a discussion awhile back, started by me, that included comparisons of .38 special vs. .380 in terms of velocity, energy, and stopping power. Without a doubt, even the anemic .38 sp +p loads put out by the major manufacturers, the .38 sp wins the power contest hands down. There is a load out, though, that takes the .38 sp., even in two inch barrels, to a higher plain. That is Buffalo Bores 158 grain swchp gas-checked +p load. It is loaded with a very soft lead bullet with a huge hollow-point cavity, with a gas-check to relieve leading concerns.

Here is what the BB website says about the load:
Item 20A: 158gr., very soft cast, semi wad cutter, (Keith) hollow cavity, with a gas check. This bullet will mushroom violently on impact and will penetrate roughly 14 inches in human flesh. Again, this bullet is gas checked and will not lead your barrel.

S&W mod. 60, 2 inch- 1040 fps (379 ft. lbs.)
S&W mod. 66, 2.5 inch- 1059 fps (393 ft. lbs.)
Ruger SP101, 3 inch- 1143 fps (458 ft. lbs.)
S&W Mt. Gun, 4 inch- 1162 fps (474 ft. lbs.)

Those are actual chronographed velocities in real guns.

There are threads on the S&W forum describing two different sets of tests run by long time members, and their figures almost mirror those from the BB website.

I don't have a chronograph, but I'm willing to take the word of BB and two more sources. I do have some S&W Revolvers, and have been wishing for a little more powerful load for the Model 60 I carry in my pants pocket practically all the time. I ordered up 100 very expensive rounds of the ammo. Figures to about $1.50 per round including shipping. Then, I did some testing of my own.

On Saturday afternoon late, I took my Model 60(nd) snubby and Model 10-7 four-inch standard barrel out in the brutal heat and humidity. I set up a target stand with a piece of cardboard with a one-inch red sticky dot and fired the Model 10. All six shots were right on laterally, but all were five to seven inches high at a stepped off 45 feet. Two-hand hold, single-action, with sweat pouring off me, by the way. I was a little disappointed, because I was excited about having low-end .357 numbers from the four-inch k-frame.

Next, I tried the 2" j-frame from a paced off 12 feet. I consider that to be just about my maximum range for that gun as a personal defense weapon. Same drill, two hands, single action, six o'clock hold. I was elated when the first two shots clipped the red sticky. Actually, they were both inside the one-inch stick-on. The other three shots clustered right around the first two. I reloaded and fired five shots double-action aimed rapid fire. The group opened up, of course, but was still well within what I call combat accuracy. By now, I was literally soaked with sweat, so I called it off until Sunday afternoon.

Sunday afternoon I took a three-inch Model 36-1 and a four inch (of course) Model 15-3 and gave them a try. I first shot the Model 15 from 45 feet with some 146 grain handloads. It printed a couple of inches high. I ratcheted down the elevation adjustment pretty much, in anticipation of the high shot. Sure 'nuff, the first shot with the BB load was still about four inches high. I ratcheted down the screw some more, and tried again. The second shot was only about an inch high. A few more clicks of the screw, and the last three (I had only loaded five) shots were acceptable, although I was by this time pretty well sweated out and nearly used up. Temp was still around 95, down from a high of 99, and no telling what the humidity, as thunderstorms had been in the area, missed us, but provided plenty of moisture for the air.

I was anxious to try the 3-inch Chiefs Special, so I dried off with a towel, and sat in the truck with the air running for about five minutes. I loaded five, and fired from the 12 foot mark, just as I had with the 60. Again, the first two shots clipped the red target. I fired off the last three in rapid aimed fire, got in the truck, and headed for the house and some iced tea.

I hope to be able to do a little more testing of the ammo when the weather moderates a bit, but at a buck-fifty per shot, not too much. I was well pleased with the shoots-to-point-of-aim feature with the j-frames. After all, wasn't the load designed for snubbies? These rounds make me feel a lot better about carrying a 2" pocket pistol. 1000fps and 375 fp ain't to be sneezed at. I am assuming (yes, I know) that velocity/energy figures the manufacturer lists for the 3" SP101 will transfer to the 3" Chiefs Special. 1143fps/458 ft.lbs is moving into serious self-defense power territory. I pocket carry my Model 60, and I hope I will be able to do so with the 36-1. I really want to shoot the Model 15-3 some more, preferably from a rest at about 50 feet, to see if I want to adopt the load for that particular weapon as a truck gun and a side arm when deer hunting with a rifle or shotgun.

Recoil. Recoil was very manageable. Both the k-frame guns have PC Magnas with tyler t-grips, both square butt guns. The Model 60 has round butt magnas with a T-grip, and the 36-1 is square butt with magnas and a t-grip. If anything, I thought the j-frame guns were more comfortable to shoot. I think I must just have a j-frame style hand, because they have always felt better in my hand than any other guns, as long as there is a t-grip. The recoil with the k-frames was not nearly as punishing as a 4" Model 19 with full house .357 158 grain loads. Recoil in the snubbies was stout, but very manageable, and I'm not a recoil junkie. I was very pleasantly surprised. Fired hulls dropped out of all cylinders with little effort. I am anxious to try a cylinder full in my daughter's 442.

Conclusions: I will carry the BB load in my Model 60 regularly now, and have a whole lot more confidence in the little snubby. Same for the 36-1. I am withholding judgement on the 15-3. When it cools off a little, and I can save a little money to order a few more rounds, I'll try it again, and probably a couple more j-frames I carry some times.


Senior Member
I am anxious to hear how the recoil is in the 442, and especilly if there is any evidence of crimp jumping. Sounds like a new round for my 642. I too have switched back from bottom feeders to revolvers, no real reason other than I like them. Thanks for doing the expensive tests for us.


Gone, but not Forgotten
I am anxious to hear how the recoil is in the 442, and especilly if there is any evidence of crimp jumping. Sounds like a new round for my 642. I too have switched back from bottom feeders to revolvers, no real reason other than I like them. Thanks for doing the expensive tests for us.
I don't have any experience with the BB loads, but several years ago I shot some Cor-Bon +p+ loaded with the same style of bullet out of a 442 and the bullets would pull out of the case enough to lock up the revolver by the third round.

With the popularity of small frame lightweight .38s I'd bet BB has taken this into account, though.


Top Chef
S&W is running a $50 rebate on J-frames right now!!!!

158 gr moving over 1,000 fps from a 2" That is great that your point of impact was dead on.

That is some serious penetration, too.:cool:

The only J-frame I currently have is the 442. I just got my GDsb135gr from Midway. I'll keep running these as my carry load in this 15oz. gun.

I was looking at model 60's the other day....3" & 4". I thought they'd make great HD guns with some +P loads. This BB load sounds nasty, though.....woods gun worthy.

Thanks for sweating it out on the range for us and posting the results. That was a costly endeavor, I'm sure. Those BB loads aren't cheap. I remember looking at some of their .44RemMag loads last year and thinking what an investment they were.


Senior Member
Fair Price?

Thanks for the the testing work Red.

Another example of the informative and dedicated contributors to this forum. After reading your post it occurred to me that I saw this ammunition listed last night in the Cabela's Bargain Cave flyer that I received last night in the mail. They have this ammo marked down a couple of bucks. It’s $23.99 for a box of 20. Sounds like that is a fair price.


Senior Member
Thread starter #6
Yeah, I was concerned about the rounds jumping crimp, too. I think the only time I ever had a revolver tie up was way back in the early seventies when a super-vel bullet jumped crimp in a Model-36. Looking closely at a BB .38 sp 158 gr +p round reveals that there is an aggressive crimp. Again, when the weather moderates some, I am going to shoot a few cylinders of the stuff in my model 60 and leave a couple of rounds in the chambers for multiple shots. I don't foresee any problems, though.

Dub, the thing is that you can safely load .44 Mag rounds to velocities high enough to get the job done, whether for protection or hunting, or there is plenty of commercial ammo available from the major manufacturers that is much cheaper than BB ammo. That isn't the case with .38 special. The best adjective I can think of to describe .38 special +p loads from the majors is "anemic." Here is a quote from one of the threads I linked to above:

I have just conducted some chronograph testing of my own using a S & W model 60 (2" barrel) and a bunch of different Factory Loads that are typically used for self defense purposes. The equipment I used was the Master Chrony that I have always found to be reliable, and the weather on the test date was about 55 degrees and sunny. I have to say that after seeing the results with my own eyes, I was BLOWN AWAY! The results below were an average of 10 shots out of a 2" S & W Chief Special.


Winchester 158 Gr. SWCHP +P (FBI load) ............751 fps
Remington 158 Gr. SWCHP +P (FBI load)...............746 fps
Winchester 158 Gr. SWC Standard Non +P Load .....692 fps
Federal 158 Gr. LRN Standard Non +P Load............701 fps
Speer Gold Dot 135 Gr. JHP +P ("short bbl. load")...880 fps
Buffalo Bore 158 Gr. +P SWCHP-Gas Check.........1,025fps
Buffalo Bore 158 Gr. Std. Non +P 158 Gr. SWCHP.....835fps

Note the velocity of the BB Non+P load is 80-90 fps higher than Remington or Winchester +p loads. I have a copy of a page out of an old Speer #8 reloading book somewhere that had special loads for 2-inch guns. Most observers now warn against using those loads, as Speer only had them in their book that one year, so I don't think there is a viable 1000fps handload, either. Now, though, with the availability of the BB loads, the short-barrelled Chief is a much more potent defensive weapon.

All contributions toward the testing endeavors gladly accepted! I'll be sure to post the results. Being retired gives me the time to spend, but not enough money to spend.:D


Senior Member
Thread starter #8
Rim Rock Bullets has a similar bullet for loading your own.
That looks like it might be the bullet BB uses in their ammo--very soft lead, gas check, and improved crimping groove.

Problem is, the powder BB uses isn't available to the reloading public. There is speculation that BB is using some kind of blend of powders. If you tried to load to those velocities with the powder available to handloaders, you would go way over pressure.

I'm glad you pointed them out, though. I might get some to load some .357 magnum loads to 1100 fps or so from a four inch barrel. Nice to not have to worry about leading with the gc.


Senior Member
Cor-Bon used to make a '+P+' 158 gr load, I tried a box in my J-frame but was leery of overstressing the gun. Its a handful!

I carry the Speer 130 gr 'Short bbl' Gold Dot load now, also have handload data to reproduce it with Alliant Power Pistol.


Senior Member
What kind of weight retention are these soft lead 158s showing? 14" of penetration is good as long as the projectile holds together. What about penetration through more than just soft tissue? Heavy denim, down jackets, automotive glass? I would be concerned about a very soft projectile expanding and penetrating reliably with these very common variables.

Edit to add: The "best" (I know that is subjective) projectiles are retaining 95% or more of their mass. I'd be afraid of more fragmentation than anything else with such soft projectiles.