Recreating something approximating the .38 Special "FBI Load"

Having recently scored a lot of .38 Special cases, I thought I might try and put together a competition load with a bit more punch and have been looking into the “FBI Load”; in other words the .38 Special loading used by the FBI and many other US law enforcement agencies back in the heyday of police revolver use.

There’s a lot of discussion on the internet about it, but the general consenus is that it was essentially a .38 Special +P load firing a 158gr lead hollowpoint projectile, and that most of the major ammunition manufacturers produced some variant on it (and a couple still do).

Further internet searching suggested that 5.2gr of Unique behind a 158gr lead projectile was widely considered the closest approximation of the loading, so I loaded up a batch with 158gr LRNFP Spartan cast projectiles, and another batch with 158gr JHP projectiles.

Interestingly, Alliant themselves list 5.2gr of Unique as the max powder loading for .38 Special +P, but I’ve got data from other published sources saying 5.4 and even higher (from some of the 1930s/1940s manuals).

When I got to putting the rounds downrange, I noticed the LRNFP projectiles performed more accurately than the JHP ones, despite being the same weight.

There’s still a bit of tweaking to do (I need to adjust the sights on the revolver, for starters), but I noticed this load had a more significant feel to it when fired than the usual .38 Special loads (around 4.7gr of Unique behind a 158gr projectile), which usually seem a bit lacklustre to me.


What sort of velocity are you trying to reach with the 158 LRNFP?

Around 900fps or so. I’m less focussed on velocity and more on accuracy, and I find the hotter loads more satisfying to shoot.

Respectable. I wouldn’t call it +P though. My typical loads are around 860fps using 158gn RN. Very controllable from a 4" 686, so 900 doesn’t feel like a “+”. To me. But it does sound like a lot of fun. Although, that’s only a little away from 1000, in which case why not just go with 357? Probably easier on the cylinder chamber too.

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Mainly because I have a lot of .38 Special cases :stuck_out_tongue:

Solid reason!

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Ahhh the ‘Dallas’ load with the 158g semi wadcutter.

Make the ‘Darwin’ load with full wadcutter :slight_smile: