> 3" Barrel: I like 135 Grain JHP's by Gold Dot.
< 3" Barrel: 158 Grain LHP's and 135 Grain JHP's.
Those are in 38 Special only. I have other weights/bullets that I like for .357 Magnum. Right now my only 38 Special is a "Snubbie" and it has Gold Dot 135 Grain JHP's in it. My .357 Magnum carries 125 JHP's in .357 Magnum.
I shoot almost exclusively 158 grain .38 special. Had some problems with the 125 grain WWB that I didn't have with 158 grain ammo. So, I've been stuck on that. I've been pretty satisfied with 158 gr lrn or lswc. Guess it is a matter of which weight you have confidence in. I guess I ought to try something else just to see.
I don't own any 38's but have 357's since age 21. Why get excited about drinking when you can buy a handgun? Anyway, I have recently switched away from the king of 357 ammo, the Federal 125 gr. jacketed hollow point, due to concerns about my hearing in closed places if needed to fire one off. I am now using a 38 load instead for SD. My first box is the Remington 38 Special +P 158 gr. HP. The +P all lead HP is regarded as the best 38 available for SD by many who study shootings on the street and in lab test. It is called the "FBI load". May not matter which brand you choose but, Remington has the softest bullet, Winchester is the hardest, and Federal is in the middle. Studies have shown this load to compare well with a GI .45 hardball round. No difference has been found with regard to barrel length with the reading I have done.