For 2013, Hornady is introducing a reduced recoil .38 Special load in the Critical Defense line of ammunition. Â The Critical Defense Lite is a light weight .38 load loaded to standard pressures specifically designed to minimize abuse to the shooters of small, light revolvers.
Seemingly everyone carries a snub nose revolver in their pocket. Â I’ve got a J-frame Smith & Wesson in mine as I write this. Â They are easy to carry and have numerous advantages when compared to other guns and style of carry. Â But, small revolvers carry at least one significant disadvantage: Â recoil. Â That’s where the Critical Defense Lite comes into play.
It uses a 90 grain FTX bullet and makes for 1200 fps out of a 4″ test barrel. Â Out of a 1 7/8″ barrel J-frame, expect a lot less speed. Â I’d guess about 950 or so fps. Â At these speeds, this light bullet isn’t much of a powerhouse, but that isn’t what it is designed for.
Probably one of the hardest recoiling .38 loads out of a lightweight revolver is the old FBI load: Â a 158 grain LSWC-HP loaded up to +P pressures. Â Before the Speer 135 grain Gold Dot SB and the Corbon 110 grain DPX rounds, the old FBI load was the only thing I would consider carrying. Â I would still carry it (because it performs,) but there are less harsh-on-the-shooter alternatives now.
For anyone with chronic hand or wrist problems, the FBI load is likely too painful to shoot. Â Likewise the other loads I mentioned can be too harsh for someone with aÂ physicalÂ limitation. Â For these folks, the Hornady low recoiling .38 Special could be considered.
One of the things I do not like about this load is the pink packaging and support of breast cancer research through its sales. Â It seems to suggest that only women shoot thisÂ ammunition, and they can’t handle full-power loads. Â How many men might benefit from shooting this ammo, but will not even consider it because of the marketing? Â For women, does this send a message that they can’t shoot the same ammo as men?
I’m positive that Hornady had no ill intention, and values all of their customers. Â I just hope Hornady comes out with alternative packaging to avoid alienating some of their potential customers.
There have been several other low-recoil rounds to make the dealer shelves in the past. Â My favorite light load is the Federal Nyclad: Â a standard pressure, 110 grain soft lead bullet that is “jacketed” in polymer. Â The Nyclad line used to be very popular, but fell out of favor when the more modern bullet designs started coming onto the market. Â Federal reintroduced the .38 Special Nyclad a few years back, but I don’t know what the sales numbers might look like.
Regardless of the packaging, this ammunition can be a real life-saver for shooters with significant recoilÂ aversion. Â If you fall into thatÂ category, check out the Critical Duty Lite and see if it makes sense for you.