The Box O’ Truth #30 – Snakeloads O’ Truth

I’ve been surprised to have had several guys contact me and ask me about snakeloads in a pistol as a defense load.

One guy said: “My step-Dad assured me that .38 Special shotshells are the BEST for home defense and NOTHING else can come close. He didn’t elaborate on why. Maybe he thinks it is for safety reasons. I was wondering if you guys could do something on shotshells for pistols? Thanks.”

Well, it just so happens that I’m going to the range today.

First, let’s look at these loads. You can buy factory shotshell loads for pistols, but I like to roll my own. I load both .38 Special and .44 Magnum shotshells.

I have used these shells as snake medicine on hunting leases here in Texas where we had problems with rattlesnakes that wanted to share our blinds with us, or that wanted to hang around the yard of the house.

They work great on snakes.

Speer makes empty shot capsules for reloading in both calibers.
You can see one main difference in the shotshells; their relative size.

I have loaded them with shot as small as #10 shot and as big as #8 shot. Smaller has a denser pattern, while bigger hits harder.

Speer recommends 5.5 grains of Unique in the .38 Special for 1128 fps. They recommend 7.5 grains of Unique in the .44 Magnum for 1254 fps.

My experience is that they both work well for snakes, but the .44 has a much better shot pattern.

30-1To load the shells, I take the empty capsules and place the shot in the capsule.

30-2…. then seal it with the plastic plug.


Keep at it until you have enough to reload a batch.

You resize and reprime the empty brass as normal, charge it with powder, and place the shotshell in the case.

It is seated on the powder and crimped tightly.

You’re ready to go.

30-4Notice how deeply they fit into the case.

30-5The overall length is very important, as they must fit the pistol’s cylinder.


First, let’s see how they work on snakes.

Here’s a target and we will be shooting at around 8 feet with the .38 Special out of a snub nosed revolver.


As the shot capsule goes down the barrel, the rifling tears the plastic capsule and it comes to pieces upon exiting the barrel.

Here's the result on the target.

Here’s the result on the target.

Looks like 17 hits, counting the base plug.

Then we will try the .44 Magnum out of my S&W Dirty Harry pistol.

Same distance, 8 feet.


It did a fine job.

49 hits, plus the base plug.
I can tell you from experience that a snake shot with these rounds is a dead snake.

And with the .44 Magnum shotshells, the snake looks like it was run over by a Big Mac truck.

But how deeply do they penetrate?

Even big Texas rattlers are usually not more than a couple or three inches thick, and their vital organs are only an inch or so deep.


They penetrate enough to ruin a snake’s day, but how about a bad guy?

Having experience with these rounds, I knew that they would not penetrate a gallon of water, which is 6 inches thick.

So, I brought a couple of Coke bottles filled with water to see if they would penetrate the 4 inch thick Coke bottles.

First, the .38 Special.

30-11It ventilated the first bottle, just fine.


But when I turned the bottle around…

It failed to go through to the back.

That means less than 2 inches of penetration into flesh.


How about the .44 Magnum?


Tman caught me busting the jug.

It also only penetrated the jug, but did not completely go through.

Plenty of penetration for a snake, but not nearly enough for a bad guy.

If a bad guy is trying to kill you or a family member, the last thing you would want to do is make him “madder”.

And stinging him with these tiny shot will only make him mad. It will not STOP him.

To do that, you need a well-designed JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point) round.


Some have suggested shooting a bad guy in the face with hopes of blinding him, but this is a bad idea.

You might not have a shot at his face, but even if you did, blinding a bad guy would only open you up to law suits.

If you have time to shoot, make it count. Use a modern, well-designed JHP and shoot for the center of his torso or head, if that is the only shot available.

If you or your family members lives are at stake, this is no time to be playing around with weak and ineffective snake loads.

Use the best available loads. Your life depends on it.

Lessons learned:
  1. Snake loads are great for their designed purpose… Shooting snakes at close range.
  2. They are poor “Stoppers” against bad guys, due to insufficient penetration.
  3. Use modern, well-designed JHP rounds for personal defense.
  4. It’s fun to shoot snakes.

10 Comments on The Box O’ Truth #30 – Snakeloads O’ Truth

  1. Steve Weir // April 9, 2016 at 2:39 pm // Reply

    Where is the best place to buy the 38 special snake shot ammo

  2. My dear departed Dad once shot a bad guy that was trying to muscle his way into his patio door one night. Dad pointed his Charter Arms Undercover at the punk and his two friends and ordered them to vamoose. They did not.
    Dad fired and hit him square in the chest with Speer factory snake shot.

    The bad guy fell backwards out of abject fear while his accomplices ran away squealing like little girls that had just seen a snake. The bad guy was apprehended by the cops and taken to the hospital where the shot was picked out of his skin.

    The first round in his revolvers was usually snake shot – he didn’t wasn’t to kill anyone – unless he was really really forced to shoot again.

    Dad was a decorated (two bronze stars) WWII Vet and said he’d seen enough killing to not want to do it again. I didn’t even know about his medals for valor until it was recently uncovered in a genealogical research project by my wife.

  3. Just imagine the damage that could be done to a bad guys snake! Make ya think twice!

  4. James e Collins // August 16, 2016 at 4:19 pm // Reply

    While agree with you about snake shot and bad guys, but the fact that you use snake shot as the first shot and the second shot a real load and finish it.

  5. Guy Anderson // August 18, 2016 at 10:41 am // Reply

    Carl and James, our minds are running on the same track. The first round: snake shot to get their attention and let the know you’re armed and mean business. The remaining 4: 38 Special to stop them. My primary home defense gun, which I keep near my bed, is a Taurus Judge w/.410 gage defense shells as the first shot, and then Colt 45’s in the remaining 4. I’m going to start keeping my Ruger LCR-X .38 Special beside the bed also, and loaded with 1 round of snake shot and 4 .38 special hollow points. That way, I’ll have a backup in the unlikely event that I empty the Judge and still need to shoot.

  6. Can you make me some for 38 special
    I have rattlesnakes

  7. Can you send me some

  8. What size shot did you use? CCI sells some in #4 shot:
    Which would, I think, have more penetration than what you’re using, which looks like #6 shot, maybe.

  9. The purpose is in the name “Snake loads”

  10. Snake shot loads are for use on snakes.

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