Why is 38 Special Feeling Inadequate Next to 9mm?

Why Is 38 Special Feeling Inadequate Next To 9mm?

If you’re a fan of handguns or a gun connoisseur, you know that picking the right caliber for your firearm is essential. But the world of firearms can be complicated and overwhelming to those outside it. If you’re not well-versed in the lingo, caliber, and bullet technology, you might feel confused or left out of the conversation.

If you’ve ever shopped for a revolver, you might have noticed that the .38 Special and 9mm calibers are both popular choices. However, the 9mm seems to get all the attention, while the .38 Special often falls to the wayside. Why is that? This article will delve into the reasons why the .38 Special might feel inadequate next to the 9mm and whether or not it’s justified.

A Brief History Of The .38 Special

Before diving into the reasons why the .38 Special feels inadequate next to the 9mm, let’s take a brief journey back in time to understand its history.

The .38 Special was introduced in 1898 by Smith & Wesson with its Model 10 revolver. It quickly became a popular choice for law enforcement officers and civilians alike. At the time, the .38 Special was considered a powerful and reliable caliber, making it a go-to for self-defense.

However, as technology continued to advance and firearms became more sophisticated, gun enthusiasts began to seek out more powerful and effective calibers. The rise of semi-automatic pistols also contributed to the decline in popularity of revolvers, and the .38 Special began to feel like an outdated relic.

What Is The 9mm And Why Is It Popular?

The 9mm is a cartridge that was developed in the early 1900s in Germany by Georg Luger. It quickly became a popular caliber due to its combination of power and accuracy. The 9mm is now considered the standard military caliber for NATO countries.

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In recent years, the 9mm has become a popular choice for law enforcement officers and civilians. The development of hollow-point bullets has made the 9mm even more effective for self-defense, as they expand upon impact and create a wider wound channel.

Reasons Why The .38 Special Feels Inadequate Next To The 9mm

Now that we have a bit of context, let’s dive into the reasons why the .38 Special might feel inadequate next to the 9mm.

Reason #1: Greater Magazine Capacity

One of the primary reasons why the 9mm is so popular is that it can hold more rounds in a magazine than the .38 Special. This is because the 9mm cartridge is shorter and narrower than the .38 Special, allowing for more cartridges to fit into the same space.

According to The Armory Life, most .38 Special revolvers hold between five and six rounds, while a standard 9mm magazine can hold anywhere from ten to seventeen rounds. This gives the 9mm a significant advantage in situations that require multiple shots.

Reason #2: Greater Stopping Power

Another reason why the 9mm has soared in popularity is its stopping power. While the .38 Special was once considered a powerful caliber, it pales in comparison to the 9mm.

The force exerted by a bullet is measured in foot-pounds of energy. The .38 Special typically generates around 200 to 300 foot-pounds of energy, while the 9mm can generate anywhere from 300 to 500 foot-pounds of energy. This means that the 9mm is more effective at stopping a threat than the .38 Special.

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Reason #3: Greater Availability

Another factor contributing to the decline of the .38 Special is its availability. While it’s still a popular and beloved caliber, it’s not as widely available as the 9mm. This can make it more difficult to find ammunition or firearms chambered in .38 Special.

In contrast, the 9mm is one of the most widely available calibers on the market. It’s easy to find ammunition and firearms chambered in 9mm at most gun stores or online retailers.

Reason #4: Greater Accuracy

The 9mm is also more accurate than the .38 Special. This is due in part to its shorter cartridge, which produces less recoil and allows for faster follow-up shots. Additionally, modern 9mm ammunition is often designed with precision in mind, making it even more accurate in the hands of a skilled shooter.

Reason #5: Greater Modernization

Finally, the 9mm benefits from modern technology in a way that the .38 Special does not. As previously mentioned, hollow-point bullets have made the 9mm even more effective for self-defense. Additionally, advancements in bullet design and manufacturing have resulted in 9mm cartridges that are more reliable and consistent than ever before.

Is The .38 Special Really Inadequate Compared To The 9mm?

While it’s true that the 9mm has several advantages over the .38 Special, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the .38 Special is inadequate. The .38 Special is still a reliable and effective caliber for self-defense, and many gun enthusiasts prefer it for its simplicity and ease of use.

Additionally, the .38 Special has a lower recoil than the 9mm, making it a better choice for shooters who are sensitive to recoil or who are new to shooting. Furthermore, the .38 Special is often more affordable than the 9mm, making it a good choice for those on a budget.

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At the end of the day, the choice between the .38 Special and the 9mm boils down to personal preference and individual needs. Both calibers have their strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to each shooter to decide which one is the best fit for them.


In conclusion, the .38 Special may feel inadequate next to the 9mm due to factors such as magazine capacity, stopping power, availability, accuracy, and modernization. However, it’s important to remember that the .38 Special is still a reliable and effective caliber for self-defense, and it has its own unique set of advantages over the 9mm.

When it comes to selecting a caliber for your firearm, it’s important to do your research and consider your individual needs and preferences. Whether you choose the .38 Special, the 9mm, or another caliber altogether, make sure that you’re comfortable with your choice and that you practice safe and responsible gun ownership.


  • Ramage, K. (2019, August 15). Why .38 Special Is Still A Great Caliber For Self Defense. Concealed Carry Magazine. https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/blog/why-38-special-is-still-a-great-caliber-for-self-defense/
  • Shooting Illustrated. (2021, January 4). .38 Special vs. 9mm: Which Is Better for Personal Defense? https://www.shootingillustrated.com/articles/2021/1/4/38-special-vs-9mm-which-is-better-for-personal-defense/
  • The Armory Life. (2021, April 23). .380 ACP vs. 9mm vs. .38 Special vs. .357 Magnum. https://www.thearmorylife.com/380-acp-vs-9mm-vs-38-special-vs-357-magnum/