Q. I inherited a .38 Special S&W Model 10 that my dad bought for home defense back in the mid-1960s. I’ve used it as my home-defense gun, but I’m wondering if I should trade it in for the more powerful 9mm semi-auto that our local police carry. Is the .38 Special obsolete?
– Steve Redding, Fort Smith, AR
A. Not exactly. Law enforcement agencies began switching to 9mm semi-autos back in the early 1970s as gangs and drug dealers began to increasingly use high-capacity firearms. In addition, a 9mm +P load does deliver about 36 percent more energy than a .38 Special +P when both are fired from a 4-inch barrel. When a friend asks my advice for personal protection, I often suggest a 9mm, as long as he is willing to practice enough to master the more complex manual of arms required to use a semi-auto.
On the other hand, a large number of .38 Special revolvers are sold every year. They are easy to operate, have a good record on the street when loaded with +P JHP ammunition and can be used with speedloaders. Small-frame .38s are also very good for concealed carry.
So for many people, the .38 Special is definitely not obsolete. If you live in a relatively quiet neighborhood or find that operating a semi-auto is a bit too complicated, the .38 Special may be as good a choice for you as it was for your father.
– Dr. Martin D. Topper