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9mm vs .38 Special: Which Is Better for Home Defense?

1945 logo 1945 1/7/2023 Brent M. Eastwood
Best 9mm Firearms Glock 19X © Provided by 1945 Best 9mm Firearms Glock 19X

9mm vs .38 Special: Which Is Better for Home Defense? You highly value your house and belongings and know you must take an extra step to protect yourself and your family. Violent crime has spiked around the country. You are looking for a pistol round that has superior attributes for home and self-defense. You have likely heard of the 9mm round, and even the .38 Special because of a southern-fried rock band of the same name. But which round is better to stop intruders? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at both rounds so you can make an informed decision.

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The Ubiquitous 9mm

Over the last 40 years, the 9mm has been the most popular caliber in the United States for striking back against intruders during home invasions. This round has advanced as bullet-making technology has improved over the years. It is easy for newcomers to learn their first shooting fundamentals with the 9mm. Users can hit targets over and over in a short amount of time. Practice gives shooters of the 9mm the confidence to fire at intruders at night. The 9mm round is also preferred by civilians for self and home defense because it has low recoil for easier handling. It is not going to surprise you and disturb your sight picture and aim for follow-on shots when first fired.

Right Bullet – Right Answer

Another reason to use the 9mm for self and home defense is that it flies flat up to 50 meters. This is the kind of shot that you would take during a break-in at your home. You can buy the 9mm in different grains of bullets depending on your preference after you train at the range. With the right bullet, you can have the stopping power of a .40 Smith & Wesson and other calibers that are often associated with thwarting an intruder.

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Specialized Bullets for Self and Home-Defense

Choosing the correct type of bullet is critical when it comes down to you or the bad guy. The Winchester Defender is a heavy-duty 9mm round that can penetrate an intruder’s heavy clothing. Its mantra is “Stop the Threat.” This comes in a 147-grain and 124-grain load. Both have high muzzle velocity with comparable foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. Hornady Critical Defense is another bullet with a 135-grain that is made for concealed-carry pistols. Federal Personal Defense Punch is an additional option for self-defense that requires concealment. This is a 124-grain bullet that can be fired at 1,150 feet per second that creates 364 foot pounds of energy.

The Word on .38 Special Rounds

Now, how about that .38 Special? In case you didn’t know this is a round for a revolver, so you don’t have to worry as much about malfunctions or jamming. The .38 Special used to be the go-to round for police officers decades ago. For a snub-nose revolver, the .38 Special has moderate recoil so it is still good for beginners. This is a medium-heft bullet with medium velocity, so you need to be well-practiced to deliver the round where it needs to go to stop an intruder.

Penetrates Well for Stopping Power

The .38 Special, depending on load size, is also a good choice when it comes to penetrating several layers of clothes. Alien Gear Holsters wrote a review on the .38 Special round versus the 9mm. The review said the best load for “snubbies” is the 148-grain wadcutter. This is a solid round that can achieve 12 to 18 inches of penetration – good enough to power through four layers of denim. The wadcutter has comparatively light recoil even for a snub nose.

Dance With Who Brought You

While most pistols on the market are now semi-auto and one of the most popular calibers is 9mm, you might not ever choose a .38 Special, But if you already have a revolver, why switch over? Chances are you prefer revolvers already for their simplicity to load and unload. They may also feel better if you have a smaller hand. The snubbie may be more comfortable for you to carry in a holster.

.38 Special © Provided by 1945 .38 Special Image: Creative Commons.

You can’t go wrong with either caliber for home or self-defense. It comes down to whether you like semi-auto or revolvers. You may be old school and prefer the gun of your grandpa’s era, and that’s ok. Or you like the feel of a Glock 17 9mm. Just make sure you figure out the type of bullets you buy. There are different grains that specialize in home or self-defense and if it comes down to you or the intruder, you want to stop the fight with one shot.

9mm Ammo For Glock © Provided by 1945 9mm Ammo For Glock 9mm Ammo For Glock. Image: Creative Commons. Ruger American Pistol © Provided by 1945 Ruger American Pistol Ruger American Pistol Beretta-APX-9mm © Provided by 1945 Beretta-APX-9mm Beretta-APX-9mm Beretta M9A3 © Provided by 1945 Beretta M9A3 Beretta M9A3

Expert Biography: Serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

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