Colt Official Police in 38 S&W...


September 13, 2005, 12:02 AM
The other day, I picked up a very nicely re-blued Colt OP that was marked "38-200" on the barrel. It had been converted to 38 spec., but the shop owner test fired it with 38 S&W for me, so I knew it would work with that ammo. Well, today I got it to the range and now I am grinning from ear to ear! :D

This little revolver is a tack driver! And 38 S&W in the OP frame is just a baby to shoot. I'm trying to get my GF interested in guns and this will be an excellent choice for her first center-fire handgun experience.

I already had a Colt OP in 38 spec that got named "Rylla", now the 38 S&W has been dubbed "Dalla". (I'll but you a virtual beer if you can name the sci-fi book those names come from. ;) )

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September 13, 2005, 10:19 AM
Are you sure it's not a Police Positive or Police Positive Special rather than the Official Police? I have never heard of the OP in this caliber and your description ("This little Revolver...") does NOT sound like an OP which was built on the larger ".41 frame" and is not a little revolver. The PP and PPS on the other hand were based on the smaller D frame and are commonly found in this caliber.

Gotta love those old Colts.

September 13, 2005, 12:22 PM
Yes, it IS an OP. It is clearly marked so on the barrel and is identical to my other OP. These are uncommon, they were ordered by the British Gov't during WWII to supplement the Enfield MkII Rev. Relative to a New Service, or an N frame Smith, it is a "little" revolver, but that .41 cal. frame is what makes it such a sweet shooter with 38 S&W.

September 13, 2005, 01:22 PM
That's a really interesting piece. The British Purchasing Commission ordered 50,000 Colt OPs in .38-200 between mid-1940 and mid-1941 prior to passage of the Lend-Lease Act, along with an unimaginably long list of Colt autos, Colt revolvers, H&R and Smith revolvers, and others.
Your BPC OP should be blued, with (I think) checkered wood grips?

September 13, 2005, 02:22 PM
Mine has been re-blued to a VERY high gloss. While it looks great, it has lost some of its value and a few of its markings. The grips on it now are replacments. The lanyard ring has also been removed.

This what mine "should" look like.

September 13, 2005, 05:49 PM
Well, learn sumptin' new everyday. I knew the Brits were buying everything in sight when Hitler was threatening to overrun them but I didn't know that Colt made any OPs specifically for them (the 38/200 caliber). I would suspect most got lost during the war and many of the rest were confiscated and destroyed by the enlightened English government.

A pretty rare bird. If it has been reamed to .38 Special I wouldn't shoot that ammo in it. The cases often swell and split and that's never a good thing. The .38 S&W is a snap to reload and .358 lead bullets work fine in my Enfield.

I still can't call an OP a little gun, though. ;)

September 13, 2005, 08:22 PM
You can rely on it to shoot much more accurately than with .38 S&W Special. Period! Besides, you'll enjoy it much more than a modern .38 Special revolver.


September 13, 2005, 09:25 PM
Like I said, I have an OP in 38 spec., so I'm quite happy to stick to 38 S&W in this one. The only drawback to a new cylinder would be matching the high gloss blue that is now on the gun. But it shoots fine as it is, if it were any more accurate it would be scary.

September 14, 2005, 03:23 AM
I saw your post on this on gunboards so I can't fairly answer the trivia, do I still get the virtual beer though? Make it a Guiness please though and not a black and tan!

Never heard of an OP in 38S&W but I did pass a police positive with RHKP markings (Royal Hong Kong Police) in the same caliber. $165, I should have bought it but it was rather worn.

Did I misread the post but did yousay the gun will fire 38 special as well as 38S&W?

September 14, 2005, 03:51 AM
The chambers have been modified to accept 38 Spec. But it is very hard to eject them after firing. The 38 S&Ws however, work fine and shoot quite accuratly. I would compare it to shooting 38 spec. in a .357 mag. I would prefer to have an un-modified cylinder, but I'll take what I can get.

September 14, 2005, 06:10 AM
I presume you are referring to Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen

Gosh I read that back in High School (class of 73)

Pretty heavy stuff for back then.

I wonder if all of the Hubbub over firing .38 special in these guns is much ado about nothing.

Didn't Colt use the exact same steel in the cylinder for both models.
(Why yes, as a matter of fact, they did)

Isn't the .38 S&W very similar in dimensions?
(Why yes, it is. In fact some reloading die manufacturers sell a set that is labeled for both .38 S&W and .38 Super.
Only the shellholder is different.)

And isn't Taurus hawking it soon to be released Triad as cabable of firing .38 Special/.357 Magnum and (with moonclips) .9mm Luger and .38 Super.
(Yes they are and it'll be proof tested for .357.)

Now it looks like the Taurus Triad will have cylinder chambers that look suspiciously like the modified .38 S&W cylinder in SMLE's revolver.

The much ballyooed Phillips & Rodgers Medusa revolver could fire .357 and .38S&W from the same cylinder. I personally have done so.

So what makes one safe to fire and the other a ticking time bomb.

Does anyone have any non-anecdotal evidence of one of those converions failing while firing .38 Special?

Go ahead and shoot .38 S&W in it. It'll be like a time machine. Besides, .38S&W ammo is fun.
If you reload it's even cost effective.

Try a piece of triple-aught buckshot (000B) over 1.3gr of Bullseye.
It's like a .38 BB Cap.

And if you fel like firing some standard .38 Special ammo, go right ahead.
You can be sure you aren't the first person to do in with that gun.

Old Fuff
September 14, 2005, 09:15 AM
The problem in shooting .38 S&W cartridges in a revolver originally chambered for that round, but later reamed out to .38 Special, isn't with the .38 S&W, but rather that the .38 Special cases sometimes split at the neck when fired. How bad the consequences might be depends on how hot the .38 Special is loaded, and the circumstances under which the shooting occurs.

It should also be taken into consideration that the rechambering was sometimes badly done.

I have fired .38 Special mid-range wadcutters and standard 158-grain loads through S&W .38-200 revolvers that were so converted, and yes, some of the cases split - but nothing worse. If one is plinking & playing I don't see any serious effects (other then the loss of good brass), but such a revolver should never be used as a defensive weapon.

September 14, 2005, 10:09 AM
Conversely, .38 S&W will fit in some .38 Spec. chambers and not in others, depending on manufacturing tolerances.
Not a single chamber of my Colt Army Special (predecessor to the OP) made in 1912 will accept a .38 S&W, while every chamber of my Ruger OM Blackhawk accepts the cartridge. My S&W Victory, on the other hand, has two chambers that accept the round, and four that will not.
They are all very nice sixguns and a joy to shoot.

September 14, 2005, 11:51 AM
All that's done in "converting" the S&W to Special is deepening the chamber. Unless it was done very sloppily, shooting .38 S&Ws should cause no harm. Like shooting .38s in a .357.

The S&W bore is a tad larger than the .38 Special but like I said mine shoots lead bullets sized for the Special just fine.

I would shoot this gun with proper .38 S&W ammo and not worry about it at all.

September 14, 2005, 11:56 AM
Well here is virtual half & half for Blues Bear. :D

Now as for the issue of shooting 38 Spec. in a converted 38 S&W. The 38 S&W is slightly larger in diameter. 38 Spec. cases strech to much and at the very least are hard to eject. Also, the .357 bullet doesen't engage the rifling as well an is often not as accurate. I have no fear that the revolver will fail, just the ammo. And since I have an OP that was originally chambered for 38 Spec., if I want to shoot that caliber, I can just use the other revolver. So it's the best of both worlds. :D

September 14, 2005, 03:06 PM
You should consider handloading some of the original .38 S&W/200's. I know one fellow who did and mentioned it was an amazing tack driver of a round out of the old lend/lease revolver. It also hits pretty hard. That big slug makes up (somewhat) for the .38 S&W's weak power.

September 14, 2005, 04:13 PM
Beartooth Bullets has .360 diameter cast bullets in 200 grain weight.

Lone Star
September 15, 2005, 03:50 PM
In a war book called, "The Hundred Days of Lt. MacHorton", the author mentioned that MacHorton, a Chindit serving in Burma, had one of the OP Colts along with his Tommy gun.

I've also seen them on a desk in one photo, taken in Britain.

Some, at least, were marked Colt Commando. Also made in .38 Special for US forces, the Commando was a military-finished OP. Most of these .38 Colts were furnished to Britain in five-inch barrel length, probably to conform with Webley, Enfield, and S&W .38/200 guns, so all couid use the same holsters. Exceptions do exist, especially in S&W's.

Lone Star

Harve Curry
September 15, 2005, 07:52 PM
I have an old 4" Colt O.P. in 38 special and it is a tack driver.
Mine slugs .356" groove diameter.

What does your 38-200 S&W slug?

September 15, 2005, 10:46 PM
As I recall the Colt Commando was nothing more than a parkerized Colt Official Police that was marked Commando on the barrel..
I know they made about 50,000 of them from 1942-1945 in 2", 4" & 6" barrels.
But I didn't know Colt produced them in any chambering other than .38 Special.

September 15, 2005, 11:24 PM
I also thought the Commando was a .38 Special revolver, whereas the S&W "Victory" model was the one made in .38-200 in large numbers for the Brits.

September 16, 2005, 03:29 AM
Victory models came in 38spl as well as 38S&W for the Brits. I think that S&W made them a million dollars worth of them to make up for the failed 9mm rifle project they had made for them. I stupidly passed an ok looking 38S&W chambered Victory model for $145 and bought of all things instead a Helwan 9x19 NIB Interarms import for $150!

Just figuered with the cost of 38S&W I would get the 9mm. Gun sort of sucks anyways and I still regret passing the Victory model. I'm kind of holding out for a top break Enfield or Webley in 38S&W anyways.

September 16, 2005, 05:40 AM
In the Standard Catalog Of Smith & Wesson, Second Edition, by Jim Supica & Richard Nahas, thre is a "variation" listed under the description of the .38/200 British Service Revolver (Model K-200, S&W Pistol #2) -- "Pre-Model 11".

It states:Non-factory converted tp .38 Special: Will detract from the value, and should be checked out by a competent gunsmith, as some of these conversions are poorly and unsafely done. Note that the .38 Special cartridge is slightly smaller in diameter than the .38 S&W (38-200), and a .38 Special will usually crack or bulge if the conversion was not properly done. Many were done by "Parker Hale" in England.

"a .38 Special will usually crack or bulge if the conversion was not properly done"
Now that would lead one to believe that the authors are of the opinion that using .38 Special would be safe IF the conversion was performed PROPERLY.

Could this explain why some have had no problems while others have?

October 16, 2005, 03:20 AM
I still can't call an OP a little gun, though. ;)My Mother once referred to my S&W model 27 as a "sweet little pistol" :D Of course her idea of a "pocket pistol" was a Colt Commander in 38 Super. :eek:

October 22, 2005, 01:42 PM
Say, that pic of the OP in .38-200 looks awfully familiar to me........


October 24, 2005, 10:18 AM
Slightly OT question: I once picked up a "parts" gun. It is an old Police Positive (.38 Colt New Police/.38 S&W chambering), but the barrel has been replaced with a .38 Special Detective Special 2" bbl. I picked it up for a song, and it definitely has the original cylinder.

My question: Is the .38S&W bullet, as factory swaged & loaded, dangerously oversized to squeeze through the .38 Special barrel? I've never fired it! Just stuck it in the back of the safe after purchasing on a whim. :rolleyes:

October 24, 2005, 11:59 AM
The .38 S&W Special employs a .357" diameter bullet. The .38 S&W uses a.361" diameter lead bullet. Using a .361" lead bullet in a .357" bore may work, (if the alloy is sufficiently soft.) It will likely be prone to lead the barrel, which is best avoided. If you load the .361" lead bullet in a .38 S&W Special case, you'll definitely see signs of excessive pressure at lower-level loads.

Either the barrel cut to accommodate the .361" slugs and learn to load for the.38 S&W round, or exchange the cylinder for one chambered in .38 S&W Special.


October 24, 2005, 01:12 PM
You'll find the groove diameter of most American made .38 S&W caliber revolvers will be between .359" and .361".
Factory loaded .38 S&W ammunition fired through a standard .38 Special barrel will cause no problem. If the forcing cone is smooth you shouldn't even see any excess leading.

.38 Short Colt ammunition works just fine in a .38 Special and the Winchester version used an outside lubricated bullet that was the same diameter as the case. I used to shoot a lot of it. It was accurate even in my 1976 Python that had a .3555" bore. I recently fired some in a Taurus 651 and it performed very well. Which is good considering it's 30 year old ammo.

Of course if you reload you'll probably use standard .38/.357 bullets anyway.
Just make sure your expander plug isn't oversized. All of the .38S&W die sets I have seen recently (yes I have been looking at them) have a standard .38 Special sized expander plug.

October 24, 2005, 04:21 PM
I'm reloading for my 38 S&W Colt using .358" LRN bullets. They seem to be shooting fine even in the .361" bore, so such a load should do fine in your revolver with its .38 Spec barrel. Also, factory 38 S&W is loaded pretty light in consideration of all the old top-break revolvers out there.

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