1911: .38 Super vs 9mm


June 6, 2006, 05:05 PM

I was wondering what the general thoughts were, nowadays, on the superiority (real or not) of .38super vs 9mm (epsecially in +P & +P+ loadings) in the 1911 platform for self defense using currently available commercial SD loadings.

I must admit to seeing little light between the hotter 9mm and .38super SD loadings. Heck, the Winchester 127-grain +P+ JHP exceeds most .38super loads in the 115gr-130gr range.

Am I incorrect in thinking that there is no advantage to the .38super in commercial SD loadings?

My wife & I are getting a couple more quick access handgun safes to sprinkle around the house. My wife's platform of choice is a 1911 & has a Springfield Armory Ultra Compact Lightweight (3.5" bbl, OACP grip, alum frame, 9mm) of her own. Our other 1911 is my SW1911 in .45ACP. We lack one 1911 platform for the last handgun safe.

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June 6, 2006, 05:43 PM
Maybe not in most commercial rounds, but case volume is case volume, and if you reload you will see the difference.


Otherguy Overby
June 6, 2006, 05:48 PM
Why not split the difference and try a 1911 in .40? Or maybe a 10mm...

You'd have to hand load if you want more from .38 Super.

Brian Williams
June 6, 2006, 09:54 PM
Get a switch barrel setup and have both...

June 7, 2006, 06:44 AM
One other possibility is the 9x23 Winchester round, a round that ballistically exceeds both .38 Super and 9x19 while fitting in a round very similar to .38 Super. In fact, many people have found that .38 Super chambered pistols handle the 9x23 Winchester with just a recoil spring change. Others need slight chamber cleanup, a new barrel, and/or a new extractor.

The key to this round is the much higher pressure of the 9x23 Winchester and the brass wall thickness. Winchester loads the 124-grain Silvertip in this round that makes about 1450 fps from a five-inch barrel.

June 7, 2006, 07:47 AM
I do reload, but not for SD ammo. I doubt I would reload 9mm of any kind, since I can get Blaser for less than $5/box herebouts.

My wife likes the 1911 platform, but the recoil of .45ACP is more than she wants to shoot, even in a GM sized steel 1911. I'd like this to be her full-sized 1911, so recoil must be kept within her tolerances. Thus, 10mm is not an option & .40S&W is not either. Heck, the hotter 9mm +P or .38supers may be ruled out due to recoil, but I bet they would be OK, since she handles 9mm just fine in her alum frame little 1911 (SA UCLW mentioned above).

Jim Watson
June 7, 2006, 08:55 AM
The main advantage of .38 Super is that it is a longer cartridge - same as .45 ACP - and can be expected to feed through the long 1911 action smoother than 9mm.

But I own and have seen others' 9mm 1911s that work just fine. They are popular in IDPA ESP for the cheap ammo. I have a SA UC like Hers and a Colt; and our club psychologist has a Kimber. All shoot well. Our club attorney has one of the Kimber Tactical Pro II lightweights that is a neat little gun fairly close to the original Colt Commander in size.

Cocked & Locked
June 7, 2006, 10:18 AM
Did someone say 1911 .38 Super? :uhoh:



June 7, 2006, 04:07 PM
"get a 40". I don't see much difference in the recoil of a 40 and a 45 in identical guns. The 9 is definitely softer shooting in an identical gun. Practice and practical type match fmj ammo is very inexpensive and almost not worth reloading.

If one is after a pragmatic cartridge, the 9 seems like the best choice to me. If you are after a little more power or game type comped guns, then a 38 super might light your fire. Personally, I'd just as soon build a 9 game gun.

Just my 2 cents worth.

June 7, 2006, 11:33 PM
Greetings, having been exposed to this caliber in my part of the country, I'd say 38 Super does have a place in your home. some loads out there do significantly compare to 357 loads.....plus, as some of these great folks have stated, you can get a 9x23 barrel for even greater punch:evil:

Zach S
June 8, 2006, 11:07 AM
While .38 super and 9x23 are great calibers, I'd go with a 9mm for the availability.

Otherguy Overby
June 8, 2006, 12:14 PM
I've a 1911 in 9x23. It's VERY accurate and shoots with little muzzle rise or flip. The recoil is easily controllable inspite of the .357 mag performance.

My two greatest problems with it are:

1. It is LOUD, louder than a hot .38 Super.

2. By far, the biggest problem is getting it back after letting someone try it.

Sure I wish Q4304 was more available, but the bang really is worth the buck... :)

Zak Smith
June 8, 2006, 02:54 PM
Longer cartridges, like 1.18" - 1.23", will likely feed and run better in a 1911, which was designed for 45ACP-length cartridges.

Just based on case capacity and initial volume, anything 9mm +P / +P+ can do, .38 Super or 9x23 can do in less pressure. If you reload, you can get here by loading 9x19 cases "long" and making sure your barrel throat will accept that length.


June 8, 2006, 10:40 PM
My LW Colt Commander has a 9x23 barrel that does just as well with 38 Supers. I have a 9mm barrel fitted to it also. There is very little difference between 9mm and 38 Super, but you will notice a 9x23 round going off.

You can get improved 38 Super loads. Keep in mind this cartridge is loaded to specs to keep it safe for the ones Colt built back in the 30s. Metalurgy has improved, powders have improved, you can do better than 9mm with it.

The only problem I have with 9mm in a 1911 is that the mags will allow the shorter 9mm round to inch forward. The round just below the one being chambered moves forward as the slide drags against it. If you perform a tactical or speed reload, the shorter 9mm round can slip out of the magazine and fall to the ground.

Otherwise, its not an issue at all.

But, for the cheap WWB cases for practicing, I'll deal with it.

June 8, 2006, 11:05 PM
I've got both a Springfield "Loaded" stainless 9mm full-size, and a Springfield "Mil-spec" 38 super full-size.

I tend to shoot the Super downloaded to 9mm power-levels anyway. 9mm pretty much restricts you to 9rd magazines -vs- 10rd in 38 Super. Some people have gotten 10rds of 9mm to feed in CMC 10rd Super magazines, but its never worked for me.

My 9mm definitely doesn't feed as well as Super. Even loaded long. Especially when the gun and / or magazines are dirty.

That said, it's the 9mm that gets shot the most. My wife loves it and it ALWAYS goes to the range with us. Great for new shooters also.

Lately I've been toying with the idea of replacing my Springfield Micro-Compact .45 with a Colt Lightweight Super Commander. Maybe even try 9x23.

As an aside, I've got some of that Hertenburger 9mm +P+ submachinegun ammo, but I haven't tried it in the Springfield.


June 9, 2006, 12:37 AM
Hmm, it looks like the most compelling reason to go .38super/9x23 would be feed reliability.

I have never had a failure on my wife's 9mm SAUC & she had one, once. [But then, her Chip McCormick (factory) mags have a spacer welded in the back]. I bet they may have started life as .38super mags until they met a welding torch.

I will give this some consideration. It may be worth the extra theoretical reliability. I will weigh this vs the availability of quality commercial defensive rounds.


From what y'all have written, if you think of buying a new .38super, you might as well buy 9x23? Is this correct? If a mild (for 9x23) commercial defensive load exists for social purposes, perhaps a case could be made for this being my wife's trail gun when stoked with hot handloads. I think the 9mm equivalent of a nosler partition would have the desired characteristics. If such a projectile exists.

June 9, 2006, 12:43 AM
Winchester 9x23gr 125gr Super-X Silvertip Hollow Point says 1450fps / 583 fpe at the muzzle.

The same 125gr Super-X Silvertip Hollow Point is listed as 1240fps / 427 fpe in 38 Super.


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