Some may disagree as to importance in the age old question of what is more important expansion or penetration. I for one feel penetration trumps expansion by a long shot, without penetration you won’t get to the vitals. The best commercial defense plinking load that is low cost and penetrates greatly from a sub 2” J frame is the Hornady 125 XTP. 13 - 17 inches of penetration with minimal expansion a true 900 fps load from a sub 2” that is not a +P.
I've almost 100% positive that it's against the law in at least 46 states, and a few territories, to shoot anything but lead out of a 38 special.