First consideration is whether there are any legal requirements for specific caliber.
Personally, the .38 Special with any offering of ammunition will do fine. The Plus-P, or, the Standard Velocity, are okay. The vast array of LSWC, SJHP, and the lowly wad cutter in 148 grains that makes a wicked cookie cutter hole in flesh. They’re all good. You must be able to consistently hit the target. You must practice and not go plinking.
I happen to like blue steel over stainless. A bit more care involved.
Selection, is a matter of taste. Model-36 or Model-60; Model-10 or Model-64. You like five shots or six? Model-19 or Model-66. There are tons of other revolvers in the mix from many manufacturers, and a budget gun can be okay without too much demand placed on it.
I will say this, a two inch barrel while good, not much different than a service revolver barrel of four inches, and more concealable, has an issue. When the revolver is fired, as police are trained, and the reloading of the cylinder is involved, the thumb piece is pushed, while the left hand middle and ring fingers open the crane. The thumb ejects cases while the torso rotates. Two inch barrel revolvers have a short ejector rod. Practice the ejection, and keeping the cylinder chambers clean is important because you do not want any cases hanging up or, Murphy’s law coming into the scene, the cases getting under, the cylinder star, especially in stressful combat. A three inch barrel or even a 2.5 inch barrel, helps eliminate that problem tremendously.
Get training. Many good trainers are out there. If it’s a revolver that you like, learn to shoot like a cop. Reloading operations. Fast acquisition of the front ramp. Five points to the draw, aim, fire. Reverse to holster. Learn to keep the finger off the trigger. Learn to understand and know the trigger weight and why your revolver has whatever it has for pull weight, if necessary, adjust, because street guns are not paper punchers. Street guns are killers. Make certain that you are not the one to be killed by your own gun, and be extra careful around others, especially your family.
Today, a Model-19 S&W, gives versatility of caliber and safety when using .357 or any .38 Special offering. Nice sight picture, when you consider aging eyes. Extra meat on the barrel. If you really want extra meat to tame recoil, stainless, should be your choice. Let your hand, select the butt configuration and grip selection. All I need, is a Tyler T-grip. I prefer regulation holsters of OWB style with covered trigger guard and thumb break safety. I like an opening at the bottom of the holster to allow rain and dust to get out and, if no hole is present, my pocket knife with awl, spins a nice hole opening and then dressed from the inside of the holster to neat things up. I wrap the revolver in Saran Wrap, to check fit. If needed, I spray WD40 all over the holster and then insert the revolver and work the thumb break. Sometimes it needs to be done twice or thrice.
There is a lot of controversy out there about shooting .357 Magnum cartridges out of small revolvers, especially snubbies. Some would contest that there is little to me gained from a .357 out of a short, 2 inch barrel except muzzle flash, noise and recoil. Some will swear a .38 lacks the power to stop an angry tree squirrel.
Justin, over at the Revolver Guy blog takes a stab at this issue by trying to apply some common sense, logic and actual range testing (link). I definitely encourage anyone interested in this topic to take a look at what he has to say.
My own personal, non-scientific, opinion says that neither is a bad choice and I will stick with my .38 Specials. In part because I only own one .357 Magnum, an all steel Ruger SP101. While I love shooting it, I don’t really plan on using…
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