.38 Special and .357 Magnum revolvers are very versatile but they have one annoying down side in the short-barreled guise: a considerable muzzle flash. That’s not surprising, considering that the same cartridge may end up in a 2″ subcompact wheelgun and a 20″ lever action carbine. In order to maintain useful velocity in longer barrels, there rounds have to use powders that burn at medium speed. They simply don’t have the time to consume all of the powder in a short barrel. One way around that problem is to use dedicated short barrel loads. The other is to load your own.
.38 Special is a low pressure, straight case cartridge and can be reloaded fairly easily even with a single stage press. Knowing that the ammunition would only be used with a specific short barreled weapon, we can use a fast powder and avoid most of the muzzle flash that comes with the slower-burning factory loads. Since compact alloy revolvers also generate strong felt recoil, we can help with that as well by picking a lightweight bullet. 110gr is the lightest common .357 projectile and it can be propelled fast enough to expand with a reasonable, not maximum load. Corresponding Federal load is rated for 980fps — though that number was probably achieved in a longer barrel. By using the fast powder (such as Bullseye), we can achieve similar velocity from a 2″ tube. The resulting terminal performance is surprisingly good.
Since this cartridge is sparing of powder and the cases may be re-used several times, the cost of loading fairly high-performing ammunition is not too steep. Although you have to factor in the cost of your own time, that’s also true for shopping the empty store shelves.