.38 Super 1911


November 2, 2007, 09:34 AM
What is anyone's opinion of the .38 Super? I hear some good things about it. Also, who makes a good .22 LR conversion kit for a .45 1911?

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November 2, 2007, 10:26 AM
Basically a 9mm magnum, super 38 ACP is a handloaders cartridge, as factory ammo is fairly anemic, but with simple recoil spring changes can be loaded from 115gr at 1150fps to 130 gr 1500fps, or 150+ gr loads. Older pistols headspaced off of the semi-rim, newer pistols headspace off of the case mouth. It is an inherently flat shooting accurate chambering, and a favorite of many folks here, myself included. Recoil s very mild in a heavy 1911

As far as a 22 conversion, ciener and kimber make the best kits I have used IMO, much like having a couple different uppers for an AR, you can have a 38 super, 45ACP and 22 slide/spring barrel assm. and mags.

Ghost Tracker
November 2, 2007, 10:44 AM
+1 on the .38 Super! Popular as a Action Pistol Racegun caliber. Effective as a Self-Defense (think ~.357 Sig ballistics) caliber. In-the-know pistoleros have loved 'em for decades.

As for 1911 .22 conversions? There is ONLY ONE! The Marvel Conversion is ideally named. On a well-tuned lower, the little marvel will cut .5" groups at 50 yards if you're capable. It's the BEST I've ever shot.

November 2, 2007, 10:59 AM
I was thinking about the RIA nickel .38 Super. How does the 40 S&W cartridge compare with the .38 super?

November 2, 2007, 11:01 AM
Marvel makes the best 22lr 1911 conversion. Nobody else even comes close.

38 SA is a blast. I personally reload 9x23 Winchester, which is arguably just a modernized 38 SA. I would get a 9x19 1911, and have another barrel reamed for 9x23 or 38 Super Comp.

38 Super Auto also has a historical cool factor associated with it.

40 S&W is a bigger bullet going slower. Recoils more. Larger, so less capacity.

November 2, 2007, 11:17 AM
I love the .38 Super out of a 1911 platform. Very easy to shoot with little recoil and fast follow up shots. Higher capacity than a .45 (although some mags don't give you much more). Its no weakling though. The round is hot and quite loud. Often other shooters at the range will come and ask what monstrosity I'm shooting when they hear the report.

As previously mentioned, most Super loadings right now are fairly anemic. .357 SIG will almost always give you a hotter load, out of a shorter barrel. You can load the Super hotter, but most major ammo makers won't do this. There's also not as great a choice in modern HP design for self defense rounds in the Super as compared to the .357 SIG and .40 S&W.

9x23 is another animal. It's also quite fun, easy to shoot, and very hot and fast. Much harder to find ammo, and guns for than either Supers or .45's.

Modern designs make the Super quite accurate. Only early pistols suffer from the headspacing issue.

All in all, one of the greatest round/pistol combos is the 1911 in .38 Super. You can also find some SIG P220's as well as EAA's in this round if that's more your cup of tea.

November 2, 2007, 03:56 PM
Another Super 38 lover here:D The factory self-defense ammo stinks, so I roll my own. I currently use Speers 124gr Gold Dot behind 11.1gr of Blue Dot for 1460fps. This is a great round. I love it.

Its the one on top.

November 2, 2007, 05:41 PM
Do current Colt Supers use a ramped or unramped barrel? I assume they are unramped, but I'm curious as I'd like a Lightweight Commander to run 9x19 and 9x23 through, and I'd rather start with a cut frame for a fully supported 9x23 barrel.

November 2, 2007, 05:47 PM
They are unsupported. Some barrels will chamber 9X23...mine wont. So some people just swap out barels to a Nowlin unit. They say it works fine. When I started the Super38, I wanted to duplicate .357 performance (ie. 125gr@1450fps). I thought I may have to resort to the 9X23 for this, but my loads give me just what I wanted. So Im happy. There is no need for me to switch out now.

November 2, 2007, 06:38 PM
I had a colt series 70 .38 super that was a piece of junk. It was a typical colt of it's day. They were the only game in town. I couldn't get it to group and had trouble jamming. I traded it to Bill Rogers for a .45gm which I had it tricked out. Don't get me wrong the .38 super made it's debut when the gansters of the 20's era. It was wonderful for shooting thru car doors and bullet proof vests. I doubt many colt automatics left the factory back then that wern't 100%. For that matter very few guns left any factories that wern't "right". Now that everyone makes 1911's the competion is so stiff that most are fine out of the box. You lucky guys.

November 2, 2007, 09:01 PM
Love mine. This is my Colt Custom with lazer grips. This is not my better shooting, but this is 5 shots of Remington factory ammo. Recoil is mild, accuracy is very good, and the Super is just cool.

November 2, 2007, 09:36 PM
I know that I posted this before on another Super 38 thread, but back in '73, Jeff Cooper built a lightweight Super 38/9mm Magnum. He used a Colt LW Commander frame, a 6.5" BarSto non-ramped Super 38 barrel, and cut down .223 brass. They were getting 1750 fps with 125 gr. Speers, and 2000 fps using 90 gr. Sierras. Compare that to the 110 gr. .357 max load out an 8 3/8" S&W Model 27 which top ends at 1750 fps, and the 125 gr. max load which just makes it to 1550 fps. Definitely, the Super 38 can really sizzle if you're inclined to try some experimentation with it to get it moving.

November 2, 2007, 10:06 PM
RIA in 38 super, and my kimber custom in 45


38 super can do everything a 9mm can do, and then some. It can be double stacked to a capacity of 18 or so in a full size, or down to 7 in a compact. Unfortunately it is one of the cartridges that has taken a back seat in popularity to ones that are arguably inferior, but like the 10mm and 7.62 tokarev it can be a handloaders dream. These are some of the most rewarding calibers one can fire, and should not be forgotten.

Compare that to the 110 gr. .357 max load out an 8 3/8" S&W Model 27 which top ends at 1750 fps, and the 125 gr. max load which just makes it to 1550 fps.

these are actually fairly mainstream 357mag loads, a 110 gr can be loaded to about 2000fps, and a 125gr can approach 1900fps staying within saami specs, all else being equal a 357mag has more capacity, and being a revolver chambering is not reliant on recoil to control feeding, or springs to keep the frame from getting hammered. The loads Cooper came up with were well above safe limits in an unmodified gun, and should not be attempted without a great deal of caution, as damage to the firearm and shooter could easily result. The super 38 can be loaded wih a 158gr hardcast flatpoint to around 1200fps for a potent and deep penetrating hunting load, or you can also go the other way and load down to a 115gr hardcast over clays for a clean and mild plinker load that is relatively cheap, accurate, and easy for newbies and kids to shoot.

November 2, 2007, 11:44 PM

The loads I listed for the .357 are the maximum loads listed in the Hornady Manual; I don't think it would be advisable to push those loads any hotter than that. Case capacity notwithstanding, the problem with too much pressure is the weakest area of the brass itself. This was the reason Cooper started using the .223 brass; they were blowing out the back end of Super 38 cases with loads that weren't even close to the numbers they were getting with the rifle brass. And since they were doing this long before the advent of fully supported barrels, they were relying on the stronger rifle brass to keep everything together; which they did.
The whole point of the Super 38/9mm Magnum experiment was the idea of a lightweight, but powerful trail gun. So what they ended up with was a 10 round, 27 oz., 6 1/2" semi auto with .357 Magnum power, compared to a 6 round, 47 oz., 8 3/8" barrel Model 27.

November 3, 2007, 10:20 AM
There are several load manuals other than hornandy, not including the long lost black art of developing one yourself, assuming you have some plastigauge, a mic, and a chrono. A strong 125gr bullet can and has been pushed to 1900fps in a 6" 686, with standard mag brass, nothing special, and without signs of pressure, but you know you have fired something special. The load is now published in Hodgdons manual, but it drops in velocity rapidly with shorter barrels. Out of a 4" 686+ 125gr will reach 1775fps. I cant think of anything outside of a rifle that I would feel better armed with aggainst 2 legged critters than 7rds of this in a combat revolver, or 9 rounds of AK-KEVs (also not published) load in a 1911. For the best in a potent and light trail gun, I hate to say it, but a glock 29, or 3" 629 would be a little higher on the list when in blackbear country

November 5, 2007, 07:48 AM
thanks all. now i have another question.

is it possible to purchase the upper components in .38 super and use them on a .45 frame or does the entire gun have to be designed for the .38?

I have a .45 RIA 1911 and I would like to swap out the parts vice buying another gun.

The .22 conversion units sound good. I think I might get a marvel.

November 5, 2007, 09:08 AM
btw, what is the difference between .38 super and .38 super comp?

November 5, 2007, 10:06 AM
Super Comp is rimless and a little beefier in the web. Case volume is smaller and loads need to be adjusted accordingly. Use a 9mm/.223 shell plate/holder when reloading.

November 5, 2007, 10:43 AM
Super Comp is rimless and a little beefier in the web. Case volume is smaller and loads need to be adjusted accordingly. Use a 9mm/.223 shell plate/holder when reloading

9mm plate for the semi rimmed 38acp/38super
.223/380acp plate for rimless 38comp/9x23win

the two case shapes are not completely interchangeable, you can get FTE with the rimless in a gun designed for semi-rimmed, and FTC with the rim hanging up on the extractor on pistols tuned for rimless. 9x23win also runs at a higher saami pressure.

November 5, 2007, 12:56 PM
Gunner4h1r3 said:

is it possible to purchase the upper components in .38 super and use them on a .45 frame or does the entire gun have to be designed for the .38?

It depends.

The feed ramp shape and angle are different. So unless the barrel is ramped, it can't be done to work reliably. If it is ramped, that's solves problem #1.

Problem #2 on the frame is the ejectors are different. It can be made to work using one ejector for both caliber sizes, but it's got to be done by someone highly skilled in these kinds of set-ups.

Problem #3 is the slides are completely different. So you're going to have to buy a new slide, have it fit to the frame. "Drop in" parts rarely do . . .

It's possible. I've seen it done. I've watched those kinds of conversions built by a world renowned gunsmith. It ends up it costing more than the price of simply buying another gun.


This one started out as a .45 LW Colt Commander. Jim Garthwaite made it into a 9x23, and supplied a 9mm barrel with it for me. It took a lot of work, but I find I enjoy shooting 38 Supers and 9mm's more than .45 ACP's through a 1911. The only reason I had it done this way was I couldn't find a decent (read: unaltered and unmolested) 9mm/38 Super LW Commander for under $800. Because it doesn't have the sight cuts and beavertail profile I specifically like, I'm not found the current Colt model, or else I would have simply bought Colt's current gun. Older Colts are just much easier to modify.

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