The .38 Special isn’t the most powerful handgun cartridge out there, but it has been a stalwart choice for self-defense revolvers for many Americans since it was introduced by Smith & Wesson in 1898.
It was also the standard service cartridge of most American police departments from the 1920s all the way into the 1980s until semi-autos in 9mm, .45 ACP, and later .40 S&W gradually replaced revolvers in police holsters.
Though some see it as an antiquated cartridge, the .38 Special, along with super easy to concealed, hammerless revolvers, are making something of a resurgence among concealed carriers, as we reported.
Today, subcompact handguns can be chambered in the reasonably powerful .38 Special, and handle +P loads, while still maintaining a light carry weight and sleek concealed-carry optimized lines and features. But anyone carrying a six-shot .38 should strive to get the most out of every round in the cylinder that they can.
Enter the new .38 Special +P HST Micro loads from Federal Premium ammunition. The brand-new rounds are designed especially for micro pistols. The HST line of hollow-point ammo has a reputation for consistent expansion, optimum penetration, and superior terminal performance and accuracy in small handguns. The bullets are specially designed to retain their mass and energy while carrying it to the target.
The company has announced they are expanding the line this year to include a new 130-grain .38 Special +P load with a visually distinctive deep-seated bullet. Federal says this is done to “eliminate excess air space in the case for the most consistent velocities” by reducing inconsistent powder burn rates.
The ammo is perfect for self-defense applications, and rounds out Federal’s family of subcompact HST ammo, including 99-grain, 380 Auto HST Micro; and 150-grain 9mm Luger HST Micro loads.
Federal began developing its HST load in 2000 for law enforcement. Once it became available to the public, it was rebranded as “Personal Defense.” It was specifically engineered to pass the FBI’s rigorous “barrier test,” which mandates that bullets traverse layers of denim, windshields, and other torturous mediums, while holding together and expanding inside the target.
Once the new ammo hits the market, it’s likely there will be an HST Practice & Defend Combo Pack in .38 Special +P on the shelves soon, so .38 carriers can train with affordable, ballistically similar ball ammo and have premium HST ammo to carry. See our range test of Practice & Defend ammo here.