What is S&W, or a Pistolsmith's opinion about .38 +P in older K-frames?


October 1, 2005, 07:48 AM
I have a 1972 model 15, and have heard so many conflicting stories about their ability to shoot +P ammo.

They range from:
"I wouldn't shoot more than 50 +P rounds through it."
"I have shot +P ammo though my K-Frame for dang near 50 years, to no ill-effect."
"S&W said not to, as the chambers were not built for that sort of pressure."

So from the mouth of a Gunsmith, or second-hand from S&W, which one is it? Was +P ammo around in 1972?

Also what would be the maximum allowable, and reccomended chamber pressure on a gun like this.

I know the model 15 was issued within various police departments, so surely they shot some +P rounds?

Well, thanks for any respones.

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October 1, 2005, 08:53 AM
K-frames made after WWII are fully capable of firing a lifetime of .38 spl +P rounds.

Old Fuff
October 1, 2005, 10:05 AM
Plus-P ammunition is safe to shoot in S&W revolvers that have model numbers, and are so marked on the frame under the yoke. However extensive use may accelerate a condition called “end shake” where the end of the yoke barrel, on which the cylinder revolves, is battered to the point where the cylinder develops back and forth movement (as opposed to rotational play) until the cylinder face rubs on the back of the barrel. This condition can be fixed, but it is not desirable.

Police departments, for whom +P ammunition was originally developed, were willing to take this accelerated wear in exchange for the additional cartridge performance. If their guns showed excessive wear they simply exchanged them for new ones – you’re tax dollars at work so to speak.

If you use your model 15 as a weapon there is no reason to not carry +P ammunition in it, but for ordinary shooting and practice, using standard pressure ammunition may increase its service life.

+P+ ammunition is another matter. It was developed exclusively for law enforcement use, and while it will not blow up an older S&W or other mid-frame revolvers, it will cause accelerated wear and loosen the gun up.

October 1, 2005, 10:26 AM
Old Fluff,

You may remember me and my gun, you reccomened "The S&W Revolver - A Shop Manual" by Jerry Kuhnhausen to me, awhile back.

Anyway if you remember I was also inquireing as to it's finish. Well now that I have it in my possetion, you were right, it has been hard chromed.

Also, they are not my tax dollars hard at work ;) . My tax dollars are going towards buying my own guns back from myself (and every other law-abiding owner).

Majic & Old Fluff,
Thanks for the replys. I have about 65 rounds of fairly potent +P ammo, but apart from that only ever intent to shoot very light wad cutters.

So I guess it's ok for me to have a muck about day with the +P stuff, and bring some fruit and cans of coke up to the range :D

October 1, 2005, 10:28 AM
I have never seen a Bangor Punta or later made .38 K frame worn out from shooting +P ammunition.
I wouldn't shoot +P in an early production K Frame.
Simple rule of thumb, if it is adjustable sighted and wearing Diamond grips and the serial number is stamped on the back of the cylinder, OR if it is fixed sight with half round front sight and serial number stamped on the back of the cylinder DO NOT shoot +P in the gun.

October 1, 2005, 11:18 AM
Opinions vary. Factory says (on advice of counsel) that guns with model numbers are OK. Funny since no changes were made to the guns when they started stamping model numbers other than stamping model numbers. The last gun made without a model number is exactly the same as the first one made with the model number except for the model number being there.

I think maybe I just like saying model number?

Other people say post WW II is OK. I can't argue with that. Makes a nice dividing line.

My opinion is that factory +P isn't all that hot. A 125 at 945 FPS? Hardly setting the world on fire, you know? Will it accelerate wear? Sure. Don't shoot the gun at all and it last forever. Factory +Ps will increase wear and tear a small amount over standard loads. At 755 FPS standard loads are just about like not shooting the gun at all.

Tempering on revolvers wasn't even done until around 1920. Then it was iffy until sometime in the late 1920s. In my revolvers made before 1930 I stick with soft target loads. After that date I don't worry much about factory +Ps.

October 1, 2005, 11:38 AM
Good points.

According to my loading manual, my current loads should be screaming along at 650 fps :rolleyes: Um, I plan to keep the gun for a long time...lol.

October 3, 2005, 03:40 PM
Steel frame K frames made after model numbers were put on (1957) should be ok with +P as per the factory. I'd maybe take it easy on a late 1940's model.

As mentioned, +P is not all that hotter than standard. Fiocchi standard pressure even seems like a +P load when I fire it.

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