Best 38 Special Revolvers – 2020 Complete Round-up

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Are you looking for the best .38 Special revolver? If so, you’re in the right place. This specific caliber of the revolver family has long been popular among pistol owners and enthusiasts. But having one on hand for a few good applications might be necessary for you.

In order to help you find the best .38 Special revolver for your own use, we’ve put together a list of the seven best revolvers currently popular on the market as of today.

Before we get to the list, we’ll talk about how the .38 Special revolver compares to most concealed carry pistols and how you can choose one based on your own personal use.

Comparison Chart of the Best .38 Special Revolvers

PRODUCTDETAILS
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Smith & Wesson Model 586 .357 / .38 S&W Special +P

  • 6 round capacity
  • Barrel measured at 6 inches
  • Best overall .38 Special Revolver
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Colt Cobra

  • Polymer stock
  • Barrel measured at 2 inches
  • Runner-up for best overall .38 Special Revolver
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Ruger SP101

  • 5 round capacity
  • Available in different barrel lengths
  • Best .38 Special Revolver for the money
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Smith & Wesson 442

  • Synthetic grip
  • Single and double action
  • Best .38 Special Revolver for home defense
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Smith & Wesson Bodyguard

  • Fixed magazine type
  • Barrel measured at nearly 2 inches
  • Best .38 Special snub nose revolver
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Taurus 608 6.5" 257 Magnum

  • 8 round capacity
  • Matte stainless finish
  • Best Taurus .38 Special Revolver
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How Does a .38 Special Revolver Compare to Other Concealed Carry Guns?

The .38 revolver is not just for the old-school Hollywood cops you see on TV and in movies. These revolvers are pretty much a favorite among concealed carry users. But what makes them stand out over the handfuls of pistols used for such a purpose? For one, the revolvers have a low capacity (typically six to eight rounds in the revolver itself). 

How does it fare accuracy-wise? It can be effective at close ranges. Specifically, it can hit targets accurately from 25 to 50 yards. The velocity of an average .38 Special round will usually travel from 900 to 1000 FPS. So, in essence, it’s pretty dang accurate for applications that involve close-range shooting.

How to Choose a .38 Special Revolver

There are some characteristics and features you should look for in a .38 Special Revolver that will make it stand out. You should be able to distinguish a great revolver from one that might be considered sub par in reliability and quality. Here are some things to look for while choosing a revolver:

What's Your Budget?

If you are one of many shoppers currently on a budget, you’ll need to find a revolver that is the best you can afford in terms of performance and quality. As a rule, you must never sacrifice quality just to save a few dollars. Doing so can only result in disappointment.

How Many Rounds Do You Need?

Not all revolvers are created equal. One of the reasons is the capacity. Some can carry six rounds, while there are some that have a maximum capacity of eight or even ten rounds. The number of rounds will depend on your own personal preferences. If you believe more rounds is what you need, there are some revolvers that will stick out as a favorite of yours.

Your Intended Purpose

Most revolver owners need a revolver for the purpose of concealed carry. Of course, it never hurts to carry something for the purpose of using it when you get caught up in a life and death situation. Alternatively, you can use a revolver for target shooting purposes (both casual and competitive).

Quick Take - The Best .38 Special Revolvers

These are our recommendations for the best .38 Special revolvers:

  1. Smith & Wesson Model 586 .357 / .38 S&W Special +P
  2. Colt Cobra
  3. Ruger SP101

Review of the Best .38 Special Revolvers

The following are a list of seven .38 Special revolvers which are currently the best on the market. Your mission is to find one that fulfills your personal needs and purposes. Be sure to note the characteristics and features of each one so you can find one that matches the description of your ideal revolver. Now, let’s take a look at the first .38 Special revolver on the list - our best overall choice:

Pros

  • Easy to load
  • Excellent for EDC use
  • Smooth hammer cocking
  • Solid, durable construction
  • Fits in most concealed carry holsters

Cons

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of new users were satisfied with the revolver. Many of them were able to load it rather quickly with ease. Their uses ranged from target shooting to home defense. One user said he uses this for everyday carry and is confident that he’ll be able to use it should he end up in a dangerous situation.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This Smith & Wesson Revolver is one of the many models manufactured by a brand known for its reliability. They make no exception here with this .38 Special revolver. The overall construction is solid and the overall use is quite easy. You can load it, cock the hammer back, and fire without any reliability issues or anything that may hinder your shooting abilities. So if you're looking for a revolver that will get the job done in any given application, this revolver will definitely stand out as a great choice for you.

Who Will Use This Most

This revolver would be perfect for those intent on finding one of the best revolvers on the market in terms of reliability. From loading to firing, this pistol is quite straightforward. And it’s actually pretty enjoyable to fire off six rounds at the range, as well. If you want a revolver that is quite useful and accurate at various close distances, this might be what you need.

Bottom Line

The Smith & Wesson Model 586 proves itself as to why it belongs in the top spot of our list. You can use this for just about any application and be able to quickly reload a new set of six rounds when needed. Don’t be surprised if this revolver stays reliable for quite a while.

Runner-up:
Colt Cobra

Pros

  • Loading ability is easy
  • It provides an excellent grip
  • Reliable right out of the gate
  • Construction is solid and durable
  • Hammer cocks back quite nicely

Cons

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of new buyers were quite happy with the revolver overall. They were using this for the purpose of concealed carry purposes. They said the pistol is at the perfect size for carrying in most OWB holsters. One user said it’s one of the most concealable revolvers he has owned to date.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This revolver is by far, one of the most suited to concealed carry of all options in this review. While the overall length is just slightly above seven inches, it’s still at the best size for concealed carry purposes. This means you can go just about anywhere and feel confident in knowing that you have your trusted revolver handy in case you’re in a dangerous situation.

Who Will Use This Most

This revolver will mostly be used for the purpose of concealed carry. However, a lot of users will rely on this revolver for the purpose of target shooting or home defense. If you want something that’s solid and at the right weight and size for EDC, this revolver might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Bottom Line

The Colt Cobra is a nice-sized revolver that lives up to its name. It’s cooled and ready to strike when you need it. With six rounds at your disposal, you’ll have a dandy time using this across many applications. 

Best .38 Special for the Money: 
Ruger SP101

Pros

  • The trigger is easy to pull
  • Great for target shooting
  • Affordable for most budgets
  • The grip allows for excellent handling and control
  • It can hit larger targets situated from 100 yards out

Cons

  • Sight cotter pin may shift over time
  • Some spent rounds may stick after firing
  • Adjustments for rear sights may be stiff at first

What Recent Buyers Report

Most new users were quite satisfied with the revolver. They were using this mostly for the purpose of casual and competitive target shooting. They managed to get some good, accurate shots from various distances. With smaller targets, they were effective at 40 to 50 yards, while they managed to hit larger targets at longer distances. One user said for a revolver that is affordable, he was not disappointed.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Ruger is best-known for making some pretty great revolvers. Indeed they live up to that reputation with this model. This revolver packs on quite a bit of firing power, thus making compatible rounds travel a bit faster. If tighter shooting groups are a must for you, this revolver might be what you’ll want on hand.

Who Will Use This Most

If you fancy yourself a target or competitive shooter, this revolver might be the right choice for you. These will fire accurate shots from just about any distance up to 100 yards. So if you need something that will give you a good amount of range, this might be the revolver worth investing in.

Bottom Line

The Ruger SP101 might be the revolver you’re looking for if you want one that is accurate, dependable, and affordable. It might also be your best friend out on the shooting range. Once you put in the time with this bad boy, you probably won’t want to deal with any other revolver.

Best for Home Defense: 
Smith And Wesson 442

Pros

  • Super-concealable
  • Insanely lightweight
  • Really durable construction
  • Easy to load, takes a few minutes
  • Sights allow for consistently accurate and precise shooting

Cons

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

Most new users were really happy with the overall size of this revolver. Most of them were able to fit this in most smaller-sized CCW holsters. One user said it’s so small that it doesn’t even create a bulge to make it obvious that he was carrying something.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pistol is nicely constructed from one end to the other. The grip is made from high-quality polymer that provides some of the best gripping ability of any revolver currently on the market. And since it’s smaller than some revolvers, this can be the model to have if you need something concealable and perfect for everyday carry. So if you’re planning on using a revolver that is perfect for EDC use, you would be hard-pressed to find anything else quite like this.

Who Will Use This Most

This will likely be used by most concealed carry users. Obviously it’s at the perfect size. So now you’ll need a good-sized holster that will hold it in place and won’t create any unwanted bulges. If you want a great revolver that will be so small you won’t even notice it’s there, this is it.

Bottom Line

If you want the perfect home defense revolver that will also be perfect for EDC carry, the Smith and Wesson 442 might be right up your alley. You’d be surprised how such a small revolver can pack such a powerful punch.

Best .38 Special Snub-Nose Revolver: 
Smith and Wesson Bodyguard

Pros

  • Aesthetically sharp
  • Fits in most OWB holsters
  • Great for most applications
  • Super-durable construction
  • Excellent for concealed carry purposes

Cons

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

Most recent buyers were quick to report that the revolver was really easy to use. The hammer was easy to cock back and the trigger pull was smooth and crisp. One user said he managed to get a few quick shots off in a matter of a few seconds at the range.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Snub-nose revolvers are much shorter than regular muzzles. As a result, they are typically more accurate than their regular counterparts. Not only that, the size makes it a bit better for concealed carry purposes. So if accuracy and concealability are two things you want in a revolver, this could be the one you’ll want in your arsenal of firearms.

Who Will Use This Most

This revolver will likely fit with newbies the most. So if you have never used a revolver before, this would be a good one to start out with. It’s small, accurate, and easy to control so it won’t give you any grief when you start using it.

Bottom Line

The Smith and Wesson Bodyguard might just be the kind of revolver that will best fit you if you want something that’s stout, accurate, and reliable in applications where you need it most. You can do some serious damage with this revolver at close range.

Best Taurus .38 Special Revolver:
Taurus 608 6.5” 257 Magnum

Pros

  • Great for most applications
  • Super-durable construction
  • Easy to pull back the hammer
  • Trigger pull is smooth and crisp
  • Can hit larger targets accurately at 50 yards

Cons

  • Loading may be a challenge at times
  • Some trigger work may need to be done to ensure better operation
  • May need to be cleaned and polished a bit more often than some revolvers

What Recent Buyers Report

As expected, a lot of new users were speaking nothing but good things about this revolver. A majority of the users were target shooters (with a small percentage of them also identifying as competition shooters). One major thing they were impressed with was the accuracy. They were effective with small targets situated at about 25 yards. With large targets, they were able to be accurate from about 50 yards out.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Taurus revolvers might be among some of the most accurate on the market. They can reach out and touch something from various distances (depending on the size of the target). So if you enjoy target shooting at the range, you’ll probably want to give this a go.

Who Will Use This Most

This will be perfect for all kinds of target shooting. So if you do it casually or compete in shooting competitions, you’ll love having this revolver around. This will give you the best accuracy and reliability of any revolver built for the range.

Bottom Line

The Taurus .38 Special Revolver is probably going to be your go-to revolver if you need something for some good, old-fashioned target shooting. It has a good deal of accuracy and power to ensure you hit your targets quickly and with precision.

Pros

  • Great for concealed carry
  • Perfect for home defense
  • Really durable construction
  • Hammer and trigger pull are both smooth and easy
  • The grip is solid, you can easily retain its hold in bad weather

Cons

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of recent buyers were looking for a revolver that was built tough and just at the right size for concealed carry use. They managed to fit these in most OWB holsters. Best of all, they also reported no bulging. Performance-wise, it can be pretty accurate at various distances. Most were able to hit targets accurately at about 40 yards.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Ruger brand once again delivers an excellent pistol that is rugged, reliable, and is one of the best for the purpose of concealed carry. With a smaller barrel than most, it can be ridiculously accurate most of the time. This is a definite plus if you need a revolver for self-defense applications.

Who Will Use This Most

This will be great for concealed carry and self-defense purposes. It’s small enough to give you the best concealability possible. So you won’t give away the fact that you are carrying a revolver. If concealability is what you look for in a revolver, this might be one of your best possible options.

Bottom Line

The Ruger LCR .38 Special might just be the one revolver that you’ll end up with if you want a great EDC handgun that will give you great firing power and exceptional accuracy. You’d be crazy to pass up the opportunity to give this a closer look.

Perks of Getting a New .38 Special 

If you invest in a .38 Special revolver, you’ll be more apt to get some great perks as part of the deal. Not doing so will obviously cause you to miss out. Here are a few perks that you’ll get to enjoy:

Better Concealability

Right off the bat, we’ll be talking about concealability. You’ll most likely find a handful of revolvers of the .38 Special caliber that will be small enough to be concealed. Most importantly, they will fit most OWB type holsters, as well.

Superior Reliability

If you’re looking for a revolver that is proven to be reliable, the .38 Special is known for being one of the most reliable out there. This means that from loading to firing, you’ll be able to get smooth shooting without ever having to deal with any jamming or other reliability issues. So long as you take excellent care of your revolver, your reliability will be consistent.

Better Accuracy

Of course, accuracy is important for those who are using revolvers. If you place it at a high standard, then the .38 Special will, in all likelihood, be one of those calibers that will specialize in it. So if you are a target shooter or conceal carry user, know that a revolver like this will make every shot count.

Conclusion

Finding a .38 Special revolver will take time and effort. But it shouldn’t be a painstakingly long process. So find one that will fit your needs and personal preferences and you’ll likely be quite impressed with the way it performs. Remember, the one you choose will stick with you for the long term. So if you have to choose one, choose the one that best sticks out to you most.

People Also Ask

To help you find the best .38 Special revolver, you can refer to the following frequently asked questions as your guide to help you better understand how these revolvers work. Be sure to note the answers so you have a good idea of what to expect. Here are the following questions:

Is a .38 Special a Good Carry Gun?

Ideally, yes. But some may not be of a sufficient size. So it is important to find one that measures at the right size so you can conceal carry in your favorite holster.

What’s the Difference Between a .38 and a .38 Special? 

Given the name, the .38 Special has similar measurements of .357 caliber rounds. Of course, .38 caliber rounds are smaller in size compared to .357 rounds and also .38 Special rounds. 

Is a 9mm More Powerful Than a .38?

The answer depends on the type of ammo you’re using since both rounds are similar in size. However, a 9mm will certainly win the battle against a .38 when it comes to velocity. 

Is a .38 Special Good for Home Defense?

The short answer is, yes. To give you something more detailed, the .38 Special is great regardless of whether the pistol is designed for concealed carry or not. But nonetheless, it does have excellent stopping power in such situations. 

How Effective is a .38 Special? 

The .38 Special rounds, particularly when fired from short-barreled pistols, tend to be more effective compared to other revolvers like the .22 caliber or .357 caliber. The .38 Special +P rounds tend to have a slightly better effect than the initial .38 Special rounds. 

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