More accurate? 38 Super or 9x19?


March 22, 2005, 03:13 PM
This is for a bullseye-type gun.

Need a "Centerfire" round between .32 and .38. (NO .45!)

Looking at 1911s in both .38 Super and 9mm Lugar (9x19) as well as the S&W Model 952 in 9x19.

Prefer the 1911 because I'm already familiar with them, have one in .45.
But between the .38 Super and the 9x19 cartridges in a 1911, which one can be made more accurate? (Including handloaded cartridges...I expect to have to handload them.)

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March 22, 2005, 03:36 PM
.38 Super. Ask any open class IPSC shooter about the groups they get. Granted these guys shoot dot-sighted raceguns, but a good .38 Super, with the correct chamber that headspaces on the case mouth instead of the almost non-existent rim (older Colts had barrels like this) will shoot like a house afire, and give 9mm+P ballistics.

Just my .02,

March 22, 2005, 03:40 PM
Hello, buy the S&W 952 in blue! The only gun close to the Smiths accuracy is one of the AMU custom Berettas (about $4K) compared to around $1K for the 952.

March 22, 2005, 07:27 PM
I just bought a 952-2 (stainless) and it's the most accurate 9mm that I have ever shot by a good bit.

March 22, 2005, 09:15 PM


March 22, 2005, 10:39 PM
Mr. Camp's discussion of both the 9MM and .38 super is an excellent article and is referred to above. I think he has job a very good job of presenting an unbias opinion. My Trojan in 9MM is about the sweetest 1911 I have to shoot. Virtually no recoil, accurate in the extreme and a very acceptable cycle time. If you have not shot a 1911 in 9MM you are missing something. That said .45acp's in 1911 keep following me home.

I have the CZ85 which would be my go to gun if I had only one to choose from for self defense, 15 rounds of readily assessible ammo, comparatively light and very dependable. If I wasn't expecting a collapse of our society then for self defense either of my .45acp 1911's would do nicely. My worked on NOrinco would be my first choice followed by my Para then my NOrinco Commander for concealed carry.

Zak Smith
March 22, 2005, 11:30 PM
IPSC Open shooters use 38S because it's easier to make Major Power Factor with, and until recently, it was not "legal" to "make Major" with a 9x19. Nothing to do with accuracy.

Since bullseye typically does NOT have a power requirement, I'd think the larger case of 38S would be a liability.

However, also note that the standard 9x19 OAL in 1911's is generally less reliable than rounds loaded to 1.185" or longer (cartridge OAL, regardless of case length).


March 23, 2005, 03:16 AM
Both are very accurate.

But with the .38 Super you have the option of using heavier bullets.
I used to get very good groups out of a Lightweight Commander with a Bar-Sto barrel using 158gr LSWC. Something you just can't do with a 9mm.

Since todays .38 Super barrels are all chambered to headspace on the case mouth instead of the rim like the old barrels did every recent .38 Super I've encountered over the past 20 years has been wonderfully accurate.

If I needed a centerfire target auto .38 Super would be my first choice.

March 23, 2005, 08:53 AM
My .38 Super caliber pistols have always impressed me for their accuracy. My current .38 Super Kimber Pro Carry HD II is a tack driver, despite the short barrel length. It makes me look like a marksman and that I am not. The lack of recoil is also impressive, given the heavy bull barrel. It has the fastest sight recovery of any gun I own. It is going to pain me greatly to put it up for sale, but I just acquired a CDP Pro in 45 and just cannot justify keeping both when there are other projects I want to fund. I think the .38 Super would serve you well, but then I have also seen some tack driving 9mm 1911s, BHPs, and Sigs. I hear wonderful things about the above mentioned S&W as well. Either caliber has great potential for your intended use. Perhaps you should choose based on the platform (rather than caliber) you like the best for ergonomics, style, features, etc.


March 23, 2005, 10:49 AM
Ranger-In Layne Simpsons book "The Government Model Pistol" he asked 5 of the top pistolsmiths in the country this question "If you were to build a custom Government Model comp gun that would be pitted against custom guns built by other pistolsmiths and the builder of the most accurate gun would win a million dollars, what caliber would it be?" All five named the .38 Super. ( page 465)

Jim Watson
March 23, 2005, 11:26 AM
Fecmech - I thought of that quote, too, but that book is 13 years old and there has been a lot of brass on the ground since then. 9mm is doing real well in NRA Service Pistol in those highly tuned Berettas Ultima mentions and the various S&W 9mms rule in PPC autoloader competition, with custom and semi-custom 1911 9mms trying hard to keep up - see the article in the last or next but last American Handgunner.

If I wanted a new BULLSEYE-TYPE gun as Ranger specifies, I would first make nice to my friend at the PD and see if he would get me a S&W PPC 1500. They only sell those to cops because they do not have all the safety devices of the S&W commercial lineup and they are concered over the liability of giving an American a gun that will shoot when you pull the trigger. Failing that, I would look for a M952 or 952-1 (blue) before paying the extra money for the stainless 952-2.

Me? I have a P210 and a M52-2 and don't need a new NRA centerfire gun. I shoot my 9mm 1911s at IDPA ESP.

March 24, 2005, 08:58 AM
You are probably right Jim--I myself see no reason that a 9x19 set up by a good "smith" could not stay well inside the 10 ring on a 50 yard target but I remembered the quote and thought I'd put it out there. I don't think there are too many shooters out there actually pushing the accuracy limits of of their cartridges. I'd bet with good ammo the.38,9mm,or.38 Super out of a good barrel in a test fixture would group 1-1.5" @ 50 yds.

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