.38 Super . . . It Really Is!!


August 19, 2007, 10:49 PM
Being a 30 year veteran of handgun shooting, I must say I have owned and shot most calibers over the years. Somehow the .38 Super never crossed my path.

I bought a new Colt 1911 (recent manufacture) in .38 Super, one of the "EL" series in bright polish stainless. Out of the box this gun is a work of art, truly a beautiful pistol, with great fixed high visibility 3 dot sights combined with a really great overall fit and finish.

I finally decided to shoot this thing at an indoor range. I was amazed at the out of the box accuracy of this pistol. I shot a 5 shot 3/4" group at 21 feet with a crude rest and really bad eye sight. Recoil, although more than a 9mm, is very controllable. The .38 Super feels very powerful and being a long time reloader, I feel this cartridge is possibly a handloaders dream. Load it up, down, or in between.

There were no failures of any kind during my shooting stint. I also have a never been fired Colt XSE Commander in .45 that I will be taking to the range soon.

All I can say is, the .38 Super feels like a 9mm Magnum. If I were to wade off in a fire fight (God forbid), I feel the Super would be the better caliber (compared to the 9mm) to be armed with.

Hats off to Colt and a thanks to Colt for keeping the Super going.

This is going to be a ton of fun. I encourage others to think outside the box!!

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August 19, 2007, 11:15 PM
Rock island also makes a nice 1911 in 38 super, like 350-400 range.

Novus Collectus
August 19, 2007, 11:21 PM
Just out of curioustity for reasons of comparison, every shoot Sellier and Bellot 7.62x25 out of a CX52?
If you have, how was accuracy and how did recoil feel compared to the .38 super?
If you fired any Tokarev ammo out of a TT33 or a CZ52, then I would still be interested in a comparison of experiences.

August 19, 2007, 11:33 PM
.38 Super is one of my favorite rounds. I discovered it about 4 years ago. Since then, I've sold off all but two of my .45 1911's, and have purchased quite a few more supers, including the one that you have.

My collection of Supers as it stands today:


August 20, 2007, 02:28 AM
You're out of control. I'm jealous!

August 20, 2007, 08:25 AM
It sounds like you have the "El Presidente" model perhaps? A truly beautiful gun in every sense. Early Colt Super 38's were sometimes erratic in terms of accuracy due to having the round headspace on the rim of the cartridge. But when the popularity of the combat pistol shooting competitions took off in the seventies and eighties, new interest in the Super 38 did too. That's because the Super could be "pushed" or handloaded to make major caliber status in terms of scoring, and give you more rounds in your magazine as an added bonus. All this new interest in the Super had Colt rethinking their accuracy problems, and resulted in later models utilizing the case mouth for headspacing. However, you'll want to be careful in handloading because without a supported chamber, weak brass and a hot load could cause some serious problems. Keep it on the safe side and have fun, you've got a real beauty there. And ccmdfd: I think the BDA is truly the "sleeper" of your magnificent collection.

August 20, 2007, 09:02 AM
I've never owned or fired a .38 super auto. May have to get around to that now.

Charles S
August 20, 2007, 09:15 AM
ccmdfd, very nice collection.

I love the 38 Super, but then I have always been a sucker for a great round that is not all that popular.

I really like the 41 Remington Magnum also!

August 20, 2007, 11:24 AM
BTW, EAA makes the Witness in 38Super. I have been thinking about on off and on for years. I have thought that the 38 Super has never gotten the respect/defensive ammo is deserves, due to the "38" in the name, and it's huge popularity in an unpopular country. $489 MSRP ain't too bad.

August 20, 2007, 11:54 AM
I always enjoyed the big muzzle flash of the Colt Super .38. :)

August 20, 2007, 12:00 PM

That Colt in the right hand column on the bottom is the one I have. I am now thinking about getting another "Super". The Rock Island would be a great way to get into the Super without spending "Colt" money.

Power, accuracy, and reliability are hard atributes to argue with, combined with the beauty of the 1911 platform.

It's like a new girlfriend, I think I'm hooked :rolleyes:

John Holbrook
August 20, 2007, 12:29 PM
Here are a couple of "Super" Super .38s

The top one I built for myself as a shooter, and it does just that!!

The lower one is an original early example that was owned by a Texas Ranger.


August 20, 2007, 01:28 PM
If only they'd named it 9mm magnum :)

The existence of old .38 ACP chambered guns usually means factory ammo is loaded well below its potential.


August 20, 2007, 02:02 PM
I love that lower one John.

One of these days I'm going to have to break down and buy one of the older, pre-70's Colts. They are just so classy looking!


August 20, 2007, 02:04 PM

Yes, most .38 Super ammo these days is far from the cartridge's potential. That despite the +P you see on the ammo boxes.

I'm told, although I've never owned or shot any, that you can load the Super to rival the .357SIG/.357Mag. Not beat, but close to it.


August 20, 2007, 02:48 PM
Here are a few pics of a 38super, 9x19, 9x23 I recently finished.





John Holbrook
August 20, 2007, 02:48 PM
Here is the Colt and the display placard I use in my displays.


August 20, 2007, 03:11 PM
I remember Jeff Cooper doing something with a Super 38/Super 9 about 35 years ago. Using a Colt Commander frame with a 6.5" Bar-Sto barrel, they were able to go 1750 fps with 90 grain bullets, and nearly 1600 with 125's. Of course, they also began blowing out cases at this point because of the unsupported chamber. They did come up with an interesting solution to the problem; they started using cut down .223 brass, which provided them with thicker case walls and greater sectional density near the cartridge base. As the .223 can go to 52000 psi, they were able to take the 90's up to 2000 fps and the 125's to 1750. This was definitely putting the Super 38 ahead of the .357magnum and doing it in a smaller, lighter package with a couple of more rounds for good measure.

August 20, 2007, 04:55 PM
Factory WW9x23 124gr JSP gets 1500fps from a 5" barrel!

August 20, 2007, 10:29 PM
John Holbrook,

That Caspian framed Super you built is beautiful. I absolutely love a "blank" slide with no markings. This is one of the things I really liked about my new Colt Super.


That's a really different, fine looking 1911.

I agree with the comment that if the Super were to be renamed to 9mm Magnum, it would probably take off, especially if thicker walled brass was used to allow higher chamber pressures and muzzle velocities of 1600-1700+ fps. With a 110-125 grain bullet, this would be more energy in ft. lbs. than a good .357 revolver, since an auto has no barrel cylinder gap to bleed off gas pressure.

I would like more info on the cut down .223 brass. I think the Super is great as is, but as a reloader, different, while being safe, is always more fun.

August 20, 2007, 10:36 PM
Factory WW9x23 124gr JSP gets 1500fps from a 5" barrel!

I'm going to have to try some of that!

Thanks, and beutiful Super BTW.


August 20, 2007, 10:44 PM
9X23? sounds like fun

August 20, 2007, 11:57 PM
Oh, so THAT'S what 9x23 is...

Cocked & Locked
August 21, 2007, 12:43 AM
Here are my Super .38 1911's, none of which are Colts. :cool:

Springfield Armory factory nickled Super .38...(my main squeeze)


A couple of Rock Island Armory factory finished shiny Super .38's...one is nickel, the other polished hard chrome.

This is the polished hardchrome RIA

August 21, 2007, 02:06 AM
Ooohh those hardchrome 1911's are nice!

Novus Collectus
August 21, 2007, 03:25 AM
Oh, so THAT'S what 9x23 is...Careful, there is something like three or four different 9x23's out there. I think they are the 9mm Steyr, Largo, Winchester and the .38 Auto and Super.
Some will fire in the others....some will blow up the gun or damage it, as I have read.

August 21, 2007, 03:27 AM

I hope you have a good time with the Colt 1911 in .38 Super. I really enjoyed the thread because it reminded me that it doesn't matter how long you "play guns" as an adult that there is always something "new" and interesting waiting to be discovered. Now you have my interest peaked and I'll be checking out the .38 Super ballistics. Never owned one...... here we go. Thanks

August 21, 2007, 08:49 AM
To schmeky: the info I posted came from a magazine article I saved from way back when because I've been a big fan of the Super 38 for a very long time. Jeff Cooper wrote that Whit Collins had suggested that .223 brass could be used. Head diameter was .378" vs. .380" for the Super 38, rim depth .044 vs. .047. Brass was cut to .897" in length. Only problem was in the extractor; it wouldn't work on the .223 brass nor would a 9mm extractor work either. A handmade extractor would be needed. Cooper never listed any particular loads or powder combinations, and noted that some sort of recoil buffer would be necessary if you wanted the gun to hold up to such high powered rounds. I don't ever remember any follow up articles to this one so I don't know if they ever got everything working properly. Still, I think this one could have been considered the ultimate Super 38, in terms of horsepower, but even Cooper wrote that: " What we have now is a new combination, superior to and different to anything in its class. Lets call it the SUPER NINE."

August 21, 2007, 09:36 AM

Thank you, that is exactly the type of info I was looking for. As a precision reloader (vernier calipers, case trimmer, powder trickler, etc.) and a volume reloader (Dillion RL-550) I enjoy all aspects of shooting. Sounds like a good try with the .223 brass but the extractor problem is just that, a problem. Best to stick with what works, i.e., Super brass.


I have always looked for the differences in life. I loaded a Ruger in .45 Colt years ago and slowly worked up to safe, Speer Reolading manual heavy loads. That pistol was and still is a joy to shoot. It always attracted attention at the range when the heavy loads went off. Others would think it was a .44 mag and were surprised to find out it was not.

For me, the Super has been a new discovery. Right there all the time, I just never took the time to check it out. Glad I did, now I have a new "something different", which I enjoy.

I really appreciate the responses and pictures. I need to post a pic of my Colt Super with a 5 shot cluster that will make you want to buy one too !! :banghead:

Everyone shoot safe.

August 21, 2007, 10:27 AM
They are a nice gun. The 9x23 is just Super 38 brass without the semi-rim, IIRC. There is a similar cartridge called 38 Super Comp that is about the equivalent to 9x23.

The one guy I knew that had a Comp said his would shoot either semi rimmed or rimless as I recall.

August 21, 2007, 12:13 PM

I like my RIA .38 Super, have new sights coming for it though. It now has Sambar grips on it.

August 21, 2007, 12:53 PM
Nice Knife.


August 22, 2007, 08:26 PM
Ain't it purdee ? Click on it and see !

August 22, 2007, 10:20 PM
im thinking about a beat down Llama. but gotta talk the shop down on the price. maybe a Rock River

August 22, 2007, 11:37 PM
This is a tale of woe, but I recently bought a brand new Colt GM in .38 Super, NIB for a little over $900. It hasn't made it to the range yet, so I can't really say it's so hot, but it's a very pretty handgun out of the box.
I had gone into my local, and they had a Colt 38 super auto for an outrageous sum, and couldn't explain to me when it was made or why it should cost so much. It had more than some surface rust. Everyone harumphed and told me about how rare they were. They thought it was a late 80's gun (it was a 1969) and were still overcharging. I will omit my reaction, which was apparently counterproductive, for the convenience of other CT residents.
Long story short, went to Valley Firearms in Shelton, got a NIB .38 Super for under 1/3 the competition's price out the door, and love it. Go get a .38 Super, there are people out there that will sell you new Colt product for MSRP or under. Ammo cost isn't fun, but it's not an impulse buy... and don't even think about paying 3k for someone's beater .38 Super, when you can get 3 GM's and half an XSE Commander for that NIB.

August 23, 2007, 09:55 AM
It's kind of funny, but back in the seventies and even early eighties, most gun shops would price Super 38 and 9mm Colts well below retail just to move them. Dealers probably had to take so many of the "slow movers" to get the in demand models. The Super 38 was kind of obscure to most shooters and the 9mm was more associated with Lugers and P-38's. The hot ticket back then was the .45, and Colt couldn't make enough of them to keep up with demand. That's also the time SA came into the market with perfect timing, offering a decent product at a significantly lower price. My low priced favorites were the 9mm's; easily converted to Super 38 with a barrel, recoil spring, and magazine, giving you two guns in one.

August 25, 2007, 06:48 AM
Here's another Super that is just that.


August 25, 2007, 06:59 AM
Here's a pic of my gal:


August 25, 2007, 09:27 AM
They are a nice gun. The 9x23 is just Super 38 brass without the semi-rim, IIRC. There is a similar cartridge called 38 Super Comp that is about the equivalent to 9x23.
Not exactly.

Compared to 38 Super Automatic, 9x23 Winchester is/has
Much thicker brass
Not as much taper.

That being said, I used to shoot 9x23 in my 38SA Witness. No problems. I also reload 9x23 on 9x19 dies. Comes in exactly at the tight end of Winchesters specs for 9x23.

August 25, 2007, 02:33 PM
I took my Colt Super to the range again yesterday. I added a Crimson Trace Lazer grip sight.

Holy moly. This thing is a shooter. Wish I would have done this much sooner. I have a bunch of .45's and find the Super just as much fun, if not more fun in a different way, than my trusty .45's.

My Colt Super has been 100% so far.

August 26, 2007, 08:33 PM
Something very satisfying about 18 rounds of what is basically 357 mag on tap.


Peter M. Eick
August 26, 2007, 08:46 PM
The Super just is. Sort of like the 38 Special. Some rounds and guns are just appropriately named.

August 26, 2007, 09:00 PM
What exactly is that Atblis?


August 26, 2007, 09:20 PM
Never shot a 38 Super until a week ago. Friend of mine has a custom built 1911 with red dot sight, compensated, tuned and beautiful. Wish I had never shot it. Have a feeling of what my next firearm purchase may be.

August 26, 2007, 11:32 PM
It's the race car version of this

Which is an EAA Witness (made by Tanfoglio). You can get the base version in 38 Super Auto for $350ish NIB. Very pleasant shooting and surprising accurate pistol.

Seven For Sure
August 26, 2007, 11:52 PM
The 357sig is better (more powerful) and able to fit in a smaller weapon. For a weapon the size that 38super requires, I'll take the 10mm (heavier, larger and WAY more powerful). I guess I don't get it. 1911 thing?


Seven For Sure
August 26, 2007, 11:57 PM
And if you want a really powerful .355...

August 27, 2007, 12:37 AM
I have become smitten with the Super .38 just a few years now. I started casting for the Super just a few months ago. The factory loaded Super is mild and great for range use but it comes into it's own at the loading bench.
Here are my 3 Supers and they are all Colts. All have been flawless and I wrote an article on the Special Combat Government.
Hardchromed Special Combat Government
Bi tone Gold Cup National Match
Stainless 1991.

August 27, 2007, 03:05 AM
I'm a 38/357 revolver guy but after reading about the 38 Super I might have to look into this... At least I'm now reloading...

August 27, 2007, 03:48 PM
Looks like a new nickel !

August 27, 2007, 04:16 PM
Wow it is required by law that 38 Super's are all beautiful guns?

That being said as intrigued as the caliber is to me, i have never once seen 38 super ammunition at a gunshop. That alone makes it not worth owning, since i don't reload and don't intend to.

August 27, 2007, 04:37 PM
That being said as intrigued as the caliber is to me, i have never once seen 38 super ammunition at a gunshop. That alone makes it not worth owning, since i don't reload and don't intend to.

thats the wonder of the internet! you can get ANYTHING. ( unless ofcourse you live in MA or i understand detroit sucks aswell)

though a gunshop would probibly do a bulk order for you

August 28, 2007, 06:39 PM
That being said as intrigued as the caliber is to me, i have never once seen 38 super ammunition at a gunshop. That alone makes it not worth owning, since i don't reload and don't intend to.
You've got some sucky gunshops in your area then. 38 SA can be had cheaper than 357 SIG. Look for Aguilla.

I think 9x23 Winchester beats out 357 SIG velocity wise (and thus powerwise). 9x23 is pretty much just a modernized version of the 38 Super. It's a straight walled case which is nice too. You can fit more of them in a mag too!

We really should be talking about 9x23 instead of 38 SA.

Of course 10mm is more powerful, but it most definitely recoils more, and it takes up more room in magazines. Those things are particularly important for the pistol games (IPSC, IDPA, etc.).

My 38 SA Witness was perhaps the most pleasent to shoot pistol I had, and one of the most amusing. Using 9x23 Win brass, and 125 gr bullets, I was getting 1550fps. 18 rounds of that in a mag. Good times!

August 29, 2007, 01:15 AM
Did someone say 38 Super?

the wee tiny pic is of a RIA 38 Super and a Colt "EL TENIENTE"

There, finally fixed the pic


August 29, 2007, 02:53 AM
...Great Pictures, and great information.

1911 Platform:
.38 Super , 9x23s and of course the 45ACP and some folks have to ask why some of us "never warmed up to" .40 cal? :D

All 3 are Old Ctgs, we keep telling folks Old stuff is still better...


John Holbrook
August 29, 2007, 12:58 PM
Here is another early Super .38. This a second year production pistola, 1930...



August 29, 2007, 05:06 PM

Damn nice collection!

August 29, 2007, 05:35 PM
The super is a cool round, but saying that it's an auto version of 357 magnum is completely misleading. A short trip to a reloading manual will show you quite the opposite.

9x23 is certainly a contender, but still no 357 magnum.
Neither can match the bullet weight:velocity of the 357

However, the 38 super is a great round with a wonderful reputation in the ranks of idpa and shooters all over. With less or more manageable recoil than a 45 acp round, the super is great and the 9x23 is even better.

August 29, 2007, 07:03 PM
Not exactly. But in similar pistol sizes, and bullet weights, they are about the same.

A 125 gr 357 out of a 4" is about the same as a 9x23 124gr out of a 5" 1911. I believe the 125s are the ones of interest for self defense.

August 29, 2007, 07:40 PM
John H.

That is one of the best looking 1911's I have ever seen. The simple small lettering should be used on todays Colt's.

August 29, 2007, 09:56 PM
My Super with lazer grips. That's 5 shots from a rest at 21'.

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