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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey need some advice;
I bought an American Derringer many years ago. Why I can't remember! I know most of the negatives about vs. a revolver but now I was trying to find a bullet or load that might actually expand in .38 special. It has .357 capability but it's a bear to shoot practice rounds. I was thinking about keeping it in my car door as an anti-carjacking device. I have a concealed carry license. The top barrel shoots high at
Seven yards. I've tried an old dbl. ball loads but heard all they do is enrage your adversary. I was hoping there is some hope for this gun besides as a paper weight. Any feedback or ideas about a low velocity load? I'm all ears.
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Hmmm. Low velocity load in a Derringer? 2" barrels? I think I'd go with a double ended wadcutter over a stiff load of a fast powder (my house gun is loaded with a DEWC over a near max. load of W231). I wouldn't expect much though from that short barrel, even with "higher velocity" light expanding bullets...
 

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Fast powder is necessary because the short barrels will give you poor velocity consistency otherwise. For actual self-defense, I would look at commercial load work-ups designed for short barrels. Buffalo Bore makes one and Speer makes one. Neither will likely be fun to shoot in the Derringer, but light target loads with same-weight bullets will roughly match point of impact for practice purposes.

An old expanding trick is to load lead hollow base wadcutters backward. The lead is so soft they expand easily at fairly low velocities. They also come apart easily for the same reason, so you don't want to run them too hot. A number of folks use these for vermin to have a load that doesn't carry too far and still kills humanely. A point of caution, though, is that you generally don't want to load a HBWC backward and flush with the case mouth, because it is longer than a DEWC, and when the hollow base is not the end over the powder, seating it flush will reduce powder space a little. In many makes the difference is not critical, but in some designs it can be an issue, so it's best to avoid the potential pressure problem. The difference is small enough that you can make up for it by using .357 brass instead of .38 Special brass. Or you can seat the bullet base out some. If you seat it out very far, you can use more powder, but the tendency to disintegrate the softer swaged versions of these bullets may make that unattractive.

Then you have one last question to answer: do you really want an expanding bullet for a Derringer? You will already be running at a fairly low velocity, and that means penetration will be pretty limited with a solid bullet. Having the bullet expand will reduce its penetration further, and may make it impossible to reach vitals from some angles. For that reason, Mikld's suggestion of a solid wadcutter is quite possibly best. Again, use the .357 brass, and you will be able to get enough powder in to run that rather warmer than a standard target load, even when seated flush. If you cast, the Lee Tumble Lube wadcutter is a great choice for loading up as any one of its numerous small lube grooves may be used as the crimp groove, letting you seat it out as far as you need and still crimp enough to mitigate bullet back-out in the second round when firing the first. Put lube only on the grooves below the one you will crimp into in order to prevent accumulating dust and dirt. The flat nose should be a good compromise between crushing surface area and penetration for a shorter barrel.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks Guys for reply;
What do you think about loading two 75grain flat base wad cutters stacked? Then shoot them over a standard 150 grain load? I found some 75 grain wad cutters on Matt's Bullets. Sounds like it might be an interesting last ditch defensive load for my derringer. Correct me if I'm wrong.
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Thanks Guys for reply;
What do you think about loading two 75grain flat base wad cutters stacked?
Well, an unusual load I found to be surprisingly accurate in my M637 S&W, is a Speer shot capsule with three #1 buck in a stack over Red Dot.

If you want a bullet actually designed to expand at .38 speeds, the Sierra 110gr Blitz will do that. As your Derringer is rated for .357 levels, a .38+P would be a reasonable option.
 
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